As a literature type, I sometimes enjoy reading the books-about-books, because I like hearing others’ perspectives on the books they have read. Sometimes, their opinions are insightful or original, or they remind you why you like the books you have read so much. Some years back, The Chancellor bought me Erin Blakemore’s The Heroine’s Bookshelf, which is all about life lessons we can learn from different favorite literary heroines.
Blakemore talks about selfhood, faith, happiness, family, dignity, and magic, among many other values, and she does so with beloved texts, such as Their Eyes Were Watching God, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Color Purple, Jane Eyre, and The Secret Garden. She discusses major themes, characters, and reader responses to enhance her explication of the novels. At the end of every chapter, Blakemore has a “Read this when…” section, for certain seasons and times (when you’re feeling sad, after a breakup, etc.) and “sister” books to read (“If you liked this, read…”), which is perfect for people who have read certain classics and are looking to branch out.
I had to repress my snobby-English-professor-reader side occasionally, but I’m glad I read this book. This book would have been a great fit for me as a college student who was still not super well-read, and I think this is a gentle, enthusiastic rally for books in making our lives better. I came into this reading with low expectations, but found myself nodding in agreement several times. This is no academic tome, but Blakemore makes no academic claims. I found myself charmed by her delight in reading, and gladdened by the way she directs her audience to other themes and books that they might want to explore. This is a perfect gift book to a family member who wants to read more, especially after falling in love with something like Pride and Prejudice or Anne of Green Gables.