• The cover of the book My Ántonia

    My Ántonia

    A celebration of the strength of the soul. Ántonia Shimerda doesn’t want to be anything other than herself, while the girls who conform, who worry about their skin and their role in life, are fettered and fretful (“The country girls were considered a menace to the social order. Their beauty shone out too boldly against a conventional background”). Ántonia—impregnated and abandoned—survives “in the full vigor of her personality, battered, but not diminished.”

  • The cover of the book East of Eden

    East of Eden

    To widen a definition of feminism—when I read this as a teenager, Cathy Ames astounded me: she was unapologetically evil, willful, utterly independent. But the horrible things she does are according to her own rationale, her own needs and desires and hard past. Frankly, someone that bad, and that powerful, was inspiring. She certainly wasn’t domestic. In the category of California dark, read Raymond Chandler—some people claim young women should only read inspirational books by women, lest they think they need to look like a noir blonde, but I loved counting the ratio of smart bombshells to stupid men.

  • The cover of the book Letters from Yellowstone

    Letters from Yellowstone

    H. G. Merriam invites a botanist named A. E. Bartram along on a Smithsonian expedition to Yellowstone Park in 1898; A. E. arrives as Alexandria, but the expedition is short-handed, and the scientists, despite misgivings, head off into a deadly landscape. Told through letters and telegrams, richly detailed, and often very funny.