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The Woman Reader

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  100 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
This lively story has never been told before: the complete history of women's reading and the ceaseless controversies it has inspired. Belinda Jack's groundbreaking volume travels from the Cro-Magnon cave to the digital bookstores of our time, exploring what and how women of widely differing cultures have read through the ages.

Jack traces a history marked by persistent eff
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 30th 2012 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jenny McPhee
Sep 04, 2012 Jenny McPhee rated it it was amazing
Recently, in The New York Review of Books, Elaine Blair wrote, “Our American male novelists, I suspect, are worried about being unloved as writers — specifically by the female reader. This is the larger humiliation looming behind the many smaller fictional humiliations of their heroes, and we can see it in the way the characters’ rituals of self-loathing are tacitly performed for the benefit of an imagined female audience.” The novelists she uses to illustrate her trenchant and entertaining ...more
Apr 16, 2014 Shirley rated it liked it
I think I wanted a different book.
This isn't a bad book really but I got quite frustrated with it, I wrongly assumed a greater scope on the history of women readers and started this with gusto. I'm afraid I got bored of the earlier history, lots and lots about the bible. Interesting enough at first but then it started to grate on me. Still I stuck with it waiting to get to the "good bit" the 20th century woman reader. And after more reading about the bible, nuns and the advent of the printing p
Jan 03, 2015 Nicole rated it it was ok
This book wasn't terrible, but it was terribly boring. I stuck with it all the way through, from the saga of Hilga, who read both the books available in Carolingian Europe, through the story of the modern-day Causeries du Lundi, North America's most snobby and elite book club. I kept thinking it would get better, because, women and literature, right?

I like both women and literature a lot, but it turns out that the academic study of the two together is deadly boring. The book wasn't without inte
Girl with her Head in a Book
This was Book-Love at first sight. A book about the history of reading from a female perspective. I was at the fabulous West End Lane bookshop in West Hampstead, one of my all-time favourite bookshops and although it usually takes me an absolute age to decide which book to pick in, this time I was at the till after barely completing the first page. This is a true Book to Treasure. In The Woman Reader, Belinda Jack chronicles over forty centuries of reading and the many, many challenges to female ...more
Jul 12, 2012 Maxine rated it really liked it
As author Belinda Jack shows us in her book, The Woman Reader, the evolution of women as readers has been a long and uneven one. There is little known about the earliest women readers and most of what is known is due to women's own records of what they were reading. Not surprising, most early women readers were from wealthy families. However, what is surprising is how many of these early readers taught their sons and their daughters to read, recommended reading lists even as theses children ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
This was Book-Love at first sight. A book about the history of reading from a female perspective. I was at the fabulous West End Lane bookshop in West Hampstead, one of my all-time favourite bookshops and although it usually takes me an absolute age to decide which book to pick in, this time I was at the till after barely completing the first page. This is a true Book to Treasure. In The Woman Reader, Belinda Jack chronicles over forty centuries of reading and the many, many challenges to female ...more
Oct 23, 2013 Julia marked it as dnf
Recommends it for: Women's studies students or professors
Recommended to Julia by: GR Giveaway
I received this from the Goodreads First Reads program last year and after reading it for a while I put it aside with the intention of coming back in a few months. However, since it's been close to a year since I last picked it up, I have decided to shelve as DNF.

The concept of this book is great. It's a history of women's literacy throughout history from Ancient Babylon and Greece through the present. (I got partway thru Chapter 7 which was around the 17th century IIRC.) However, it didn't hold
‘The Woman Reader’ by Barbara Jack traces the history of women’s literacy, both reading and writing, from the earliest records to the present day. It’s a truly gripping story which encompasses all of gender history; because the way that women have been able to express themselves in reading and writing has had profound echoes on everything they were able to accomplish. Jack presents countless examples of women who re-wrote the rules on what women were allowed to say in public – amazing women who ...more
Adele Symonds
Jul 08, 2012 Adele Symonds rated it it was amazing
This is an obviously extremely well researched book detailing the history of women as readers and writers from pre-BC right through to current times. It details the growth of education for girls and the popularity of reading groups through the ages. There is much detail about the types of censorship which were tried in different countries and continents, the political ramifications and the literacy levels throughout the times along with the types of books which were being read by women and how ...more
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Sep 17, 2012 Bebe (Sarah) Brechner rated it really liked it
Excellent scholarly study of women and reading, starting from the earliest times and dwelling significantly on the middle ages. I was pleased to see some coverage of Asian, Jewish, and Muslim women readers, though these areas definitely need more exploration. The emphasis is on European and especially the British Isles, with finely detailed information culled from many archives and original documents. This is the most comprehensive study on Western women readers up to the 19th century. After ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Tintaglia rated it really liked it
Alla fine del 1700, l'illuminista (si noti bene...) Sylvan Marechal presento un Progetto di legge per impedire alle donne di imparare a leggere: troppo deboli di mente e spirito, non era necessario - anzi, era nocivo - che avessero i mezzi per imparare, studiare, e competere.

Il buon Marechal (che sfortunatamente non vide messi a frutto i suoi saggi consigli) era però l'ultimo di una serie di pensatori che in qualche maniera, per tutta la durata della Storia, hanno tentato di impedire l'accesso a
Nathan Zalf
Jul 31, 2014 Nathan Zalf rated it liked it
Please note that this book was won off of GoodReads giveaways: History is filled with rich and life changing moments. Sometimes they are very memorialized like Confederation while others are lost and forgotten. Belinda Jack’s ‘The Women Reader’ spotlights the struggle and journey of the fight for the privilege that women earned to get the opportunity to read which ultimately allowed them to learn from the information they read and teach others. The story takes you to the very core and beginning ...more
A good history of women's reading which was at times interesting, but the style of writing often lacked any wit or warmth, and seemed to skim over huge swathes of history without any real points being made. Several times I was left with the impression that the author was showing off how much research she'd done without thought for her own readers. The first half of the book really needed a good editor to weed through the pointless and repetitive anecdotes about nuns. By the time I got to the ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Joan rated it it was amazing
Dense, chewy, information-rich microhistory of (if the title isn't a giveaway) women reading. The data is weighted toward western women, although there is some comparison to Islamic, Asian, and South Asian women's reading patterns. Jack covers the sociocultural, political, religious, and sometimes medical attitudes toward women reading; she also examines various strictures against women reading, technological and social advances that put books into women's hands in increasing numbers, and how ...more
Roy Kenagy
Jul 06, 2012 Roy Kenagy marked it as to-read
Guardian review ~"A history of women's reading, & those who opposed it"

"Belinda Jack... in her book on women readers – which is, inevitably, also a book on women writers – covers palaeolithic wall-paintings to 21st-century reading-groups in 300 pages. So she can't include everything... her book repeatedly tells... of the way that the woman reader has persisted and thrived under all kinds of conditions. Ambitions, strategies, arguments, bold moves, curiosity and desire
Jun 10, 2012 ceeeeg rated it really liked it
a fascinating study centering on the history of women as readers...well-executed and well-researched...i especially enjoyed the first few chapters that concentrated on the those women who forged ahead against very difficult social structures designed to keep them 'in their place,' and paved the way for those of us today who enjoy the freedom to read as we please and who, perhaps, take for granted that privilege that was denied to them in their time...

an easy 4 on a scale of 1-5
Mar 10, 2014 Autumn rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A poorly written and edited work that is not entertaining enough to be fun, and not scholarly enough to be educational. Jack tries to cover way too much ground; the book pretends to be global in scope, while actually focusing almost exclusively on England and France. The narrative is weak, and the book reads as a collection of facts and stories about women reader and not a proper history. I learned some neat things, but the overall experience was frustrating.
Dianne Landry
Aug 31, 2012 Dianne Landry rated it it was amazing
I picked this up, thinking it would be a novel, and it turned out to be a fascinating history of women's literacy from biblical times to the present.

It wasn't an easy read and I did google a few of the writers named in it but overall it was an amazing book.

As a feminist and a bibliophile I have to really recommend this.
Aug 19, 2012 dejah_thoris rated it really liked it
Interesting book with a few surprises for the women's history enthusiast. Although Jack does try to cover non-Western tradition, it could use more depth than the nod she gives it. I'm also deducting a star for the length of the chapters because they had few content breaks, making reading each one a serious commitment or you'd lose your place in all the historical detail.
Kate Taylor
Jan 03, 2013 Kate Taylor rated it liked it

See my review in the Globe and Mail. Great on history but not much speculation on the difference between male and female reading.

Aug 29, 2012 GONZA rated it really liked it
I will definitely buy the printed version of this book and I'm so happy to live in the contemporary world that allows me the freedom to read whatever I want.

Kathy Hale
Aug 20, 2012 Kathy Hale rated it really liked it
A very interesting book of the literacy of people around the world and how the ability of woemn to read has changed their and mankind's history. Nice little tidbits of history from earliest prehistoric periods to modern day influences.
Oct 12, 2012 El marked it as to-read
This article from the New Yorker recommended it to me.
Mar 19, 2016 Maureen rated it it was ok
Supposedly a history of women's reading, but really more of a history of reading per se. Unfortunately I found it a struggle to finish, it has some interesting facts, but it failed to move me.
Jun 04, 2016 amy rated it liked it
Touches on a lot of different manifestations of women reading, mostly in English/French history. So instead call it... Some Women Readers? JK that would never sell!
Nov 06, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
Fascinating. There was new information here I'd not read about before. And I liked the author's occasional sense of humour and insight into the topic.
Becky Bone
Becky Bone rated it really liked it
Sep 08, 2016
Maura rated it it was amazing
Oct 21, 2012
Jan 18, 2016 Nancy rated it did not like it
lively story this is not. Reads like a text book.
Alma rated it it was amazing
Jul 02, 2012
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