I've been trying, for a while now, to put my finger on what, exactly, it is that bothers me about Robert Heinlein's portrayal of women, and I still can't quite figure out why Heinlein pisses me off so much when authors like Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard amuse and delight me. That said, I cannot argue against the fact that Heinlein is one of the best sci-fi writers ever, so I keep reading his books and either ignore his women or try to find books without any. Orphans of the Sky has hardly any women and was a fantastic book. It's the story of a civilization on a lost starship. It's been thousands of years since a mutiny that killed off all of the officers and "the ship" is understood to be the universe and "the trip" to be a metaphor for life. All of the manuals for running the ship are taken to be metaphorical. It's really a great premise and women only wandered by now and then (and never had speaking parts) so my enjoyment wasn't dampened.
Another friend, with whom I hardly ever agree on literary matters but who, nevertheless, keeps sending me books, sent me 5 Stories by Peter Straub. I didn't like it. The stories wandered and ended suddenly, as if Mr. Straub had gotten bored and wandered off to do something else. Some of them had clever premises, but none of them seemed to follow through on their potentials.
A Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon is the story of two people trying to make it big in 1940's (?) Hollywood and all the awful things they do in order to succeed. It wasn't really my sort of book, but it still managed to keep me reading and generally entertained, so it would probably really appeal to the people whose sort of book it IS. (It was grimmer than I like, and with less spaceships).
I'd picked up Being There by Jerzy Kosinski in the hopes that it was the book on which the movie of the same name was based (with Peter Sellers), and it was, so I was happy. This is the story of a man who is good looking but possibly mentally retarded in some way. He's been raised in a big house to be the gardener and is thrust out into the world upon the death of the Old Man. He is hit by a limousine and taken in by the wealthy couple who mistake him for a businessman and all of his attempts to change every conversation to the subjects he knows (what's on TV and gardening) are taken as canny and insightful metaphors. It's really a very sweet book, whether you want to take it as political commentary or just as a nice and funny story.
I also read The Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text about... the nature of karma? I guess? It's in dialogue form, between a prince and Krishna in the middle of a war. I'm not qualified to comment on the texts of another religion, and I'm sure a lot of it went over my head, but I'm glad I read it.
One of the girls the boyfriend tutors lent him The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The boyfriend never reads books that he's lent. He just sits on them for months before realizing he's not going to get around to it and then giving them back. I feel bad about this, so I tend to read them in the meantime, just so they get some use. I'd honestly had no desire to read The Book Thief. I stay away from holocaust literature whenever possible (I know, I'm a horrible person) but this book... I really really liked it. First off, I was wrong, it's not holocaust literature exactly, it's more WWII German Civilian literature with a touch of holocaust here and there. It gets across how awful war is, even in the country that started it. It captures, too, I think, the spirit of childhood (there is no food, this is just a fact, we are hungry, but let's play soccer to keep our minds off it). It's very oddly written, but it works in the end, and it made me cry. It's a beautiful book and I wholeheartedly recommend it. It is not at all my sort of book and I loved it anyway, so you might too.