The Reading List

From the long-forgotten voices of marginalised women to understanding our friendships, marriages and desires, this year’s summer reading list takes you on a journey of self-discovery…

BOOK OF THE MONTH: A World History of Women Photographers
Luce Lebart and Marie Robert
(Thames & Hudson)
As in many fields of art history, the work of women in photography is often overlooked, with few names widely recognised today. This beautiful tome aims to right that. A showcase of work by 300 global photographers, it runs from the invention of the medium to the dawn of the twenty-first century. Diverse work illustrates how women used the camera for emancipation and experimentation, tackling gender roles, breaking down social barriers and expressing their imagination through profound imagery.

The Marriage Portrait
Maggie O’Farrell
(Tinder Press)
Following the phenomenal success of her Women’s Prize for Fiction-winning Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell returns with a novel set to fly off the bookshelves just as fast. Set in sixteenth-century Florence, it’s the imagined story of duchess Lucrezia de’ Medici, as she embarks on a hasty marriage brought about by tragic circumstances. When Lucrezia tries to understand her mystifying new husband, one thing is painfully clear: until she can provide him with an heir, her future hangs perilously in the balance.

Femina: A New History of the Middle Ages, Through the Women Written Out of It
Janina Ramirez
(WH Allen)
This compelling book sheds light on the many women removed from our historical narrative, and seeks to restore them to their rightful place as power players who shaped our world. BBC historian Janina Ramirez examines extraordinary women, such as the visionary medical writer Hildegard of Bingen and the lost Birka warrior woman. Spanning 1,000 years, Femina is filled with vivid and evocative tales, breathing new life into overlooked luminaries.

Letters to my Weird Sisters: On Autism and Feminism
Joanne Limburg
(Atlantic Books)
A midlife autism diagnosis changed everything for Joanne Limburg, allowing her to finally understand why her emotional expression and social discomfort had made her an outsider. So she sought other women who had been misunderstood – her fellow ‘weird sisters’. Through letters addressing topics from autistic parenting and feminism to social isolation, she seeks to humanise women who have been dismissed for their differences.

Bad Relations
Cressida Connolly
(Viking)
Few writers bring to life matters of the human heart like author Cressida Connolly. Already likened to Ian McEwan’s Atonement, Connolly’s latest novel follows three generations of the Gale family: from the battle fields of Crimea, through Australia and Cornwall in the seventies, to present-day England. Connolly carefully and expertly weaves their stories together, creating a novel that is part historical saga and part coming-of-age family tale, which deftly explores the depths of human cruelty and the redemptive power of kindness.

What We Want: A Journey Through Twelve of Our Deepest Desires
Charlotte Fox Weber
(Wildfire)
One question unites us all: what do I want out of life? Psychotherapist Charlotte Fox Weber’s clients came to her with a variety of problems from wholly different lives, but at the root of all their issues lay that simple question. Combining a fly-on-the-wall journey through universal human wants and desires with a practical toolkit for living a happier life, the book explores the profound importance of understanding and articulating our desires.

BFF? The Truth About Female Friendship
Claire Cohen
(Bantam Press)
There are few things more complex than friendships between women – a notion that is the focal point of this debut by award-winning journalist Claire Cohen. Featuring thought-provoking interviews with brilliant women including broadcaster Pandora Sykes, activist Nimco Ali and author Jilly Cooper – as well as intimate stories of friendship from a variety of women – it takes a closer look at these relationships and interrogates what female friendship looks like in the modern era.