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About Challenge | Join In

This is a blog devoted to the reading challenge Women Unbound. The challenge runs from November 2009-November 2010, but you may join in the fun whenever you wish! Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to the rather broad idea of ‘women’s studies.’ The definition according to Merriam-Webster

the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender.

For nonfiction, this would include books on feminism, history books focused on women, biographies of women, memoirs (or travelogues) by women, essays by women and cultural books focused on women (body image, motherhood, etc.). The topics I’ve listed aren’t mean to be exhaustive; if you come across a nonfiction book whose subject is female-related, it counts! Of course, if you’re not sure you can always ask about it in a comment. And if you need some ideas for specific books, check out the ‘Reading Lists’ page.

It’s trickier to say what is applicable as fiction. Obviously, any classic fiction written by a feminist is applicable. But where do we go from there? To speak generally, if the book takes a thoughtful look at the place of women in society, it will probably count. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to explain in your review why you chose this for the challenge and its connection to women’s studies. Once again, if you need some specific ideas, check out the ‘Reading Lists’ page.

One quick note about author gender. There isn’t a rule if a book’s written by a woman it counts and if by a man it doesn’t count. I firmly believe that men can be feminists and that not all women are feminists. As long as the book adheres to the definition of women’s studies I’ve shared above, it counts.

Interested in participating? Great! There are three levels you can choose as a reader:

  • Philogynist: read at least two books, including at least one nonfiction one.
  • Bluestocking: read at least five books, including at least two nonfiction ones.
  • Suffragette: read at least eight books, including at least three nonfiction ones.

You don’t have to have a blog (if you don’t have one, e-mail me your reviews and I’ll post them here) or choose which books you want to read ahead of time. That being said, if you have a blog, you can sign up via Mr. Linky, preferably including a link to your post about joining the challenge (and your book list if you have one)! Be sure to choose your favourite button to go along with your post.

If you have created a list, be sure to pop over and share it in the comments of the Reading Lists page as well.

If you love women’s studies, and would like to write a guest post for this challenge blog, please e-mail us (astripedarmchairATgmailDOTcom, aarti.nagarajuATgmailDOTcom, or bkclubcareATgmailDOTcom)! It’s not necessary, but I think it’d be fun for the blog to have various discussions of women’s issues.

Also, this whole challenge began thanks to the excitement of people on Twitter. If you’d like to talk about it on Twitter, we’ve been using the hashtag #unbound.

92 Comments leave one →
  1. October 30, 2009 2:10 am

    Hi, Eva! I’m thinking of joining this challenge. One fiction book I highly recommend is So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba. Here’s my review for those interested:

    I also think Unless by Carol Shields would be considered feminist fiction as well.

  2. October 30, 2009 12:24 pm

    Awesome idea…I am in! This weekend I’ll post about it and link back on Mr. Linky. I just read a book that would count a week or so ago…bad timing! But, I’ll add it to the Reading Lists page

  3. October 30, 2009 11:29 pm

    I would love to join in on this challenge. I have posted about this challenge and have a list of books. I have also linked back to you. Have a great day!

    Just Books

  4. October 31, 2009 6:09 pm

    I think I probably signed up for this challenge too many times. Anyway, here is a link to my post about the challenge and the answers to the 3 questions:

    Thanks for hosting. I’m looking forward to reading great women and about great women!

  5. October 31, 2009 10:14 pm

    I’m in. Just heard about this via Eva so I’ll have to put a list together and post my link later.

    Love, love, love this!

    Thanks for hosting this.

  6. November 1, 2009 12:14 am

    I’m in! Just need to think about my books, but I love this idea!

  7. 3rdwaver permalink
    November 1, 2009 2:42 am

    Looking forward to participating in this! What a great idea!

  8. LeaningSun permalink
    November 1, 2009 3:49 pm

    This is a wonderful challenge! Thank you for organizing it. I read about it over at Paperback Reader and will be back soon with my list and a link to my post.

  9. November 1, 2009 11:31 pm

    I’m in. Will post my favorite titles later. It’s nice to be able to read in community!

  10. November 2, 2009 2:46 am

    I’m in! Thanks for this. I love this idea and will bring it up to my students on their book club ning (80% girls). I’ll be looking for more ‘women’s studies’ issues geared for middle school readers and then link back to this.

    • November 5, 2009 6:58 am

      The UT Austin link up above has a middle school list!:)

      • captainmordinary permalink
        November 20, 2009 11:47 pm

        Also, I recommend Laurie Halse Anderson’s “Speak.”

  11. November 2, 2009 6:05 am

    I’m in (yikes)! Will post as soon as I figure out which books & which level. You all are amazing for pulling this together–thank you for allowing a whole year!:)

  12. November 2, 2009 6:50 am

    I am looking forward to the challenge. I will have my answers up to the questions shortly.

  13. November 2, 2009 2:31 pm

    I am definitely in! I got my Masters of Research in Women Studies and have always been interested in this very topic (in fact my Masters in English was heavily slanted towards feminist theory). What a great challenge!! I’m really looking forward to this! Cheers!

  14. 3nine6 permalink
    November 8, 2009 6:32 pm

    I am very excited about this challenge! I had already wanted to read more female authors in the speculative/science fiction genre for 2010, so this is a perfect challenge to keep me on task.

    I just started a book blog and here is my tentative list for the challenge:

  15. November 9, 2009 10:50 am

    I’m joining the challenge. I’m so excited and I actually have most of the books I chose on my To-be-read pile except for one.

  16. November 9, 2009 3:33 pm

    Love this challenge! What a great way to explore some new books! I’ve signed up and will get to making my list! Here’s my post about the Challenge:

    Thanks for hosting! I look forward to reading everyone’s reviews! And checking out some blogs I’m not familiar with!

  17. November 10, 2009 10:06 pm

    What a great idea. I’ve just read through some of the books people have suggested and I’ve spotted loads I’ve wanted to read for ages so this will be a good push to make me get around to them at last.
    Not sure what I’ll read yet, but as the ones I’ve spotted so far are a mix of fiction and non-fiction I might aim for the Suffragette level.
    Can’t wait to discover some new books through this.

  18. November 16, 2009 5:57 am

    I would like to join this challenge. I am a biblical novelist and obiviously am interested in women of the Bible. I believe that in their own way some were great feminists. I am interested in posting a guest post about this. I am also interested in historical novels that celebrate the lives of women. Here is one I can recommend: “The Fruit of her Hands,” by Michelle Cameron.

  19. November 23, 2009 12:08 am

    Yee Haw! Sign me up!

  20. November 24, 2009 10:49 pm

    I’m in — now just have to choose my level! thanks for setting this up. will post.

  21. November 28, 2009 1:36 am

    I’m delighted to join the party. My list is at:


  22. December 7, 2009 10:09 am

    Hi. I’m in, having found you only at the very end of November!

    I’ve done the meme:

    This was interesting to do. I’ve been a feminist for so long, it isn;t something I talk about much any more. So I really didn’t know what I was going to say until it poured out.

    I don’t have a booklist yet, only the first title, as mentioned in my post. I look forward to ferreting around in all those reading lists and finding some books I’ve never thought of reading, perhaps never heard of. Will leave another link when I post the first review and when I read and review more.

    Thank you for starting this.

    • December 11, 2009 5:05 pm

      I’m always ready to read studies about women. Probably, I will stick with fiction, might add a nonfiction in there too. I chose this category. Although, I can’t pronounce it.(:

      By the way I loved SO LONG A LETTER by Mariama Ba. I haven’t read “Speak.” I hear it’s really good.

  23. December 14, 2009 8:33 pm

    I’m finally getting serious about some challenges and I’m going to sit down and look through my books and create my list and post it before the end of the weekend hopefully. I’ve already read one book for it and maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to take some time to jot a few things down about it. Thanks.

  24. December 16, 2009 2:06 pm

    I’d love to join in on this one and I’ll put a list together on my blog today.

  25. December 27, 2009 6:30 am

    I just joined. For some reason my link that I put in Mr. Linky says Wrap up but it’s not. It is my sign up post.

  26. lbrosch permalink
    December 28, 2009 10:21 pm

    Finally made my decision on my list:
    I will of course be a suffragette reading at least 8 books with more than the three nonfiction required. So here goes my list:

    Still Alice by Lisa Genova

    Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

    Between Two Worlds by Zainab Salbi

    Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson

    Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

    girl soldier by Faith J. H McDonnell and Grace Akallo

    Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

    The Second Journey by Joan Anderson

    Some additional books in this theme which I will also be reading during the upcoming months are: In Dependence by Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jasmine and The Holder of the World by Bharati Mukherjee, Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya, Gifts by Nuruddin Farah, The Best of Friends by Sara James and Ginger Mauney, The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson, The Caged Virgin and Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, What I Know Now:Letters to My Younger Self Edited by Ellyn Spragins, The Last Empress by Anchee Min, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, Chosen Forever by Susan Richards, Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, February Flowers by Fan Wu, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts About Being a Woman by Nora Ephron, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanazaki, The Girls, Lori Lansens, and Saving the World by Julia Alvarez. I have quite a few more but I will post more about those if and when I get to reading them. All of the above I hope to complete and blog about. But then if something new comes along I may have to read that first!

    Join me in the discussion at my blog:

  27. December 29, 2009 5:28 am

    Having done a few modules on womens studies during my University days I am keen to get involved in this challenge and expand on my existing knowledge.

  28. January 1, 2010 6:15 am

    My tentative list:

    1. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates
    2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
    3. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) by Stacy Schiff
    4. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
    5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    6. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    7. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
    8. The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Frazier

    If you need ideas for your non-fiction books, I also have a whole bunch posted on my blog.

  29. amcatoir permalink
    January 2, 2010 7:13 am

    This sounds like a wonderful challenge and one I’m going to try!

  30. January 2, 2010 10:35 am

    I finally signed up! Here is my post and my start of challenge meme:

    Thanks for a great challenge:)

  31. January 6, 2010 8:01 pm

    List here!

  32. January 9, 2010 6:17 pm

    Signing up for the Suffragette category:)
    Here’s my post:

  33. angelacraft permalink
    January 10, 2010 11:22 pm

    I’m a little late to the game, but I’m still confident I can make it to the suffragette level!

  34. January 14, 2010 11:16 am

    Great! New Year and all that. Baby number 5 has recently arrived, so I anticipate lots of sitting around breastfeeding with book in my free hand. Was in the library yesterday and picked up The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough. So I have officially started! I am aiming for Suffragette, but best not to make plans, as they rarely work out IMO.:-)

  35. January 15, 2010 3:39 am

    Hey, I came across this challenge yesterday and interested to participate, although I’m two months behind, but I’m willing to give it a try.

    I wrote a post on my blog and put up the books I’m considering so far.

    Thanks for this great challenge:)

  36. Shannon permalink
    January 27, 2010 7:11 pm

    Hi all!
    I’m stoked to join this challenge. I was looking for one that combined feminist memoir and fiction, and this looks like my best bet (though I know selections don’t necessarily have to be “feminist”). I’m going for the Suffragette level and have so far selected by Charlotte Perkins Gilman for starters. Looking forward to it!

  37. January 31, 2010 7:50 pm

    I’m brushing off my bloomers so that I can be a Suffragette. You can find my Join Post here and other related posts and reviews will be tagged. Thanks very much for the Challenge!

  38. got2care permalink
    February 3, 2010 5:05 am

    I’m joining in….count me as a “Suffragette” — 8 non-fiction books. This goes along right with all of my other challenges for 2010. Will post at my blog: Greenspirations–

  39. justicejenniferreads permalink
    February 11, 2010 3:50 am

    I just signed up for this. I’m working on making my list right now. I’m so excited about this! I’d also definitely be interested in writing a piece for the blog. I’ll be in touch.

  40. tarynwanderer permalink
    March 5, 2010 2:13 pm

    I feel like I’m joining quite late, but I just couldn’t help myself–this is a wonderful idea for a reading challenge! I always feel as though I haven’t read enough feminist literature, so this is a great way to motivate myself!

    My post about the Women Unbound challenge is here. Thanks for hosting such a smart and fun challenge!

  41. March 23, 2010 9:44 pm

    I posted a page with ALL current reading challenges. Let me know if you want me to add any other information about yours. I hope it brings even more readers to the Women Unbound Reading Challenge!
    Reading Challenges.

    Rachelle (Bibliobabe)

  42. April 14, 2010 2:17 am

    Hi! I just finished Watermark, by Vanitha Sankaran- here’s my review:

  43. April 16, 2010 3:01 pm

    Hi, just finished A Golden Web- the story of Alessandra Gilliani- a young woman (barely out of her teens) who became the first female anatomist. Fantastic book. Here’s my review


  44. May 5, 2010 1:35 am

    Have read 3 so far of the 5 I hope to complete for this challenge. It might be another couple months before I start the next one, so I thought I might let you know the links to the 3 reviews I have done so far, and will post the other 2 later:
    The 6 Wives of Henry VIII –
    The Lost Book of Salem –
    Eleanor of Aquitaine –
    Happy Reading!

  45. May 31, 2010 3:51 pm

    I’ve finished five books! As we’re only halfway through the year, though, and I know that there’s plenty of books on my to-read list that would fit the bill, I was thinking I might up the stakes and go for Suffragette! Would that be okay?

  46. June 13, 2010 12:50 am

    Hi! Thanks for the challenge. I’m excited to be forced to commit to reading and responding. I’ll get started soon and keep you posted!

  47. reader permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:39 am

    It seems so exciting. I like challenges. But, I do not know how to get books from the list (I live in Croatia). I am looking for Elaine Showalters books for 3 weeks, and our libraries do not have them. I suppose this will be the same case. It certainly kills the joy 😦


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