SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #35-36

Book #35 was "Two Serious Ladies" by Jane Bowles. I found about this book by reading an article about gay authors' favorite books of all times. Several, both men and women, liked this one. It's the only novel Bowles ever wrote, and she's better known for her plays. The title is like the book, both in earnest and in jest. The two "ladies" in question are Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield, who both are trying to discover themselves in different but absurd ways. Goering is an heiress who moves out of her mansion into a desolate shack on an island, allows her house to be inhabited by gold-digging hangers-on, and finds herself going home with a series of disreputable men. Meanwhile, Copperfield goes to Panama with her husband, only to abandon him in order to take up with a teenage prostitute and the middle-aged proprietoress of a run-down hotel. For being published in 1943, it's quite frank about bodies and sexuality, though any explicit sexual activity takes place "off stage." It does, however, mention bathing in the sea in the nude, dripping pubic hair, and prostitution without much censorship. The book is oddly compelling and amusing, though I wasn't entirely sure what to make of it at times. I do think Bowles and her husband were interesting characters in their own right, and now I'm curious about her plays.

Book #36 was "Herland" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I'd read her novella, "The Yellow Wallpaper" in college English class, and I was curious about her novel about a feminist utopia. My husband listened to it as an audiobook (free via and said he liked it, so I gave it a try. I found it to be quite readable, though it does have the feel of a parable at times, rather than a traditional novel, and I'm sure she did mean it to have a didactic purpose. Published in 1915, the novel starts when three explorers hear a tale about a country of all women. They make an expedition there, assuming that either the rumors are untrue, or if they are, that a country of women would be easily conquered. The men instead get captured and spend a year learning a whole new Herland culture. I liked the book better when it showed interactions between the characters rather than the sometimes lengthy expositions about Herland history and culture, and the whole "Women would run the world better" theme got pounded in a little obviously at times. Overall, I did like it and would recommend it as a highly entertaining feminsit parable.

1. The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood [non-fiction]- James Gleick
2. Stones from the River [fiction]- Ursula Hegi
3. The Penelopiad [fiction]- Margaret Atwood
4. Woman Warrior [non-fiction/memoir]- Maxine Hong Kingston
5. The Son of Neptune [ficiton]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
6. The Poe Shadow [fiction]- Matthew Pearl
7. Nat Turner [non-fiction graphic "novel"]- Kyle Baker (illustrator)
8. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception [fiction]- Eoin Colfer (unabridged audiobook)
9. The Daughter of Time [fiction]- Josephine Tey
10. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) [non-fiction/biography]- Stacy Schiff
11. Gilgamesh: A New English Version [literary criticism/epic poetry]- Stephen Mitchell
12. Back When We Were Grownups [fiction]- Anne Tyler
13. Red Azalea [non-fiction/memoir]- Anchee Min
14. The Mark of Athena (#3 in the "Heroes of Olympus" series) [fiction]- Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook)
15. The Mosquito Coast [fiction]- Paul Theroux
16. The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis [non-fiction]- Arthur Allen
17. The City of Devi [fiction]- Manil Suri
18. The Lovely Bones [fiction]- Alice Sebold (unabridged audiobook)
19. The Office of Mercy [fiction]- Ariel Djanikian (unabridged audiobook)
20. A Thousand Acres [fiction]- Jane Smiley
21. The Snow Queen [fiction]- Joan Vinge
22. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian [fiction]- Sherman Alexie
23. Memoirs of a Survivor [fiction]- Doris Lessing
24. Moral Disorder, [fiction/short stories]- Margaret Atwood (unabridged audiobook)
25. Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father [non-fiction]- John Matteson
26. The Wasp Factory [fiction]- Iaian Banks
27. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony [fiction]- Eoin Colfer (unabridged audiobook)
28. Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing [fiction]- May Sarton
29. What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day [fiction]- Pearl Cleage (unabridged audiobook)
30. Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction [non-ficiton]- Annalee Newitz
31. Free Enterprise [fiction]- Michelle Cliff
32. The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory [nonfiction/memoir]- Kenny Fries
33. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void [non-fiction]- Mary Roach (unabridged audiobook)
34. Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir [non-ficiton/memoir/graphic book]- Roz Chast


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