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The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  1,166 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews

An exploration of classic heroines and their equally admirable authors, The Heroine's Bookshelf shows today's women how to tap into their inner strengths and live life with intelligence and grace.

Jo March, Scarlett O'Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with intelligent, feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today's women, the

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Harper (first published October 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Jane Greensmith
Dec 18, 2010 Jane Greensmith rated it it was amazing
I only read 7 of the 12 essays but loved all that I read...I plan to read the five books that Blakemore wrote about that I haven't read yet in 2011. My own personal reading challenge.

Here's the full lineup:
Self - Austen, P&P, Elizabeth Bennet
Faith - Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Janie Crawford
Happiness - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of GG, Anne Shirley
Dignity - Alice Walker, The Color Purple, Celie
Family Ties - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Francie Noaln
Julie Ehlers
Feb 19, 2012 Julie Ehlers rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
For a book about literary heroines, this was surprisingly unliterary. The themes are simplistic and the writing is featureless and repetitive. Really, it's like one of those little books of life lessons that are frequently given as graduation gifts. Not what I was expecting.

It was interesting to read about the lives of the authors (which is why this gets two stars instead of one), but the lack of references disturbed, even incensed, me. There is no way Erin Blakemore did original research on the
Dec 07, 2010 El rated it liked it
At first glance I thought the worst of this book. Nonfiction-chick-lit. Oy. Like we need another one of those in the world, another book passing itself off as literary criticism praising grrl-power and womyn writers and whatever else. (Yeah, funny coming from me, a feminist. I have issues on both sides, folks. Suck it.)

But I sat and read this (in one sitting) and actually found myself enjoying it. It's not the deepest thing I've read all year, but then Blakemore never claims it is. What she want
Aug 03, 2013 Audrey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: nonfiction, listens
This book sounds great, right? Blakemore does write with gusto (or maybe that was just the lively audio book reading) and the introduction showed some promise, but unfortunately it just went downhill from there.

I strongly disagree with the author's worldview, and I didn't expect the book to be steeped in such a relativistic, hedonistic, secular ideology. She constantly returns to the theme of self-fulfillment as being the highest good, and "self" as being the only constant. As a Christian, that
Oct 26, 2010 Laurel rated it it was amazing
Behind every unforgettable heroine stands her remarkable creator. Debut author Erin Blakemore explores this theme in The Heroine’s Bookshelf, twelve essays devoted to her favorite literary heroines and the unique correlation between their writer’s life and the character she created. From Jane Austen’s spirited impertinence of Elizabeth Bennet, to the effervescent optimism of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne Shirley, to the dogged determination of Margaret Mitchell’s Scarlet O’Hara, anyone who has ev ...more
For such a small book, The Heroine's Bookshelf packs quite a punch. It is one of those books that makes a reader proud to be female, while also making one appreciate the lessons learned from childhood heroines. It is the perfect novel to read when feeling blue or at a crossroads in one's life because it simultaneously reminds one of all those who have experienced similar thoughts/sensations/emotions while confirming the idea that we are not alone in our struggles. In a book filled with lessons, ...more
Kelly Hager
Nov 28, 2010 Kelly Hager rated it liked it
The idea behind this book is that, in times of trouble, novels can save you. In particular, the heroines from a handful of novels can give you qualities you need to keep going. (For example, Scout Finch can teach you compassion and Jo March can teach you ambition.)

Obviously, this is something that I completely believe. While I haven’t read every novel referenced in this book, I’ve read most of them and it was delightful to get to see my friends again. (And yes, I DO think of Mary Lennox, Francie
Cathe Olson
Sep 07, 2010 Cathe Olson rated it really liked it
Twelve books written by women with strong female characters make up what the author calls The Heroine's Bookshelf. Children's titles like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables made the list, as well as adult titles including The Color Purple and Pride and Prejudice. The author explains how the heroine can help with different life challenges such as: Compassion, Fight, and Faith, and gives related books/heroines that also exemplify that characteristic. I found the insights into the books and ...more
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
Nov 29, 2011 Kathleen (Kat) Smith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
In times of struggle, there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe. Don't you have better things to do? Reading, let alone rereading, is the terrain of milquetoasts and mopey spinsters. At life's ugliest junctures, the very act of opening a book can smack of cowardly escapism. Who chooses to read when there's work to be done?

Call me a coward if you will, but when the line between duty and sanity blurs, you can usually find me curled up with a battered book, reading as if my ment
Cindy Hudson
Dec 09, 2010 Cindy Hudson rated it really liked it
Imagine pairing some of your favorite heroines in literary history with their female authors and analyzing both the similarities and differences in their lives. That’s what Erin Blakemore has done in The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, From Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In her introduction, Blakemore talks abut the need to read and find inspiration, especially when times are difficult. She also mentions how she has turned to literary heroines throughout her own life in times of upheaval
Jun 23, 2015 Megan rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
I love the idea of this book. The author posits that we find strength through reading and that our favorite heroines teach us, inspire us, and help us to go back out and live life. In the introduction she writes, "My literary companions would never live in the ranch house with the atrocious rust-red carpet my parents couldn't afford to replace, but no matter. They accompanied me to my first kiss and my first breakup, through college and into the weird uncharted territory of quarter-life crisis ...more
Oct 11, 2011 Amy rated it it was amazing
Attention all bibliophiles! If you have ever tried to channel your inner Scarlett O’Hara, Jane Eyre, or Scout Finch, this is the book for you! The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore is an ingenious little book. Blakemore deftly combines author biography and character study to create a highly readable look at the females, both real and fictional, that have influenced generations of women. Broken into twelve chapters, each centering on a ...more
Feb 17, 2011 Beth rated it liked it
It suits me that The Heroine's Bookshelf takes Pride and Prejudice as its first subject, since that is my second-favorite book after The Lord of the Rings. And I enjoyed many of the other books it mentions in high school and college. But Blakemore's book is more than a mere summary of these childhood favorites. Not only does the author choose a theme for each chapter ("Self" in the case of Lizzie Bennet in P&P), but she also discusses the authors' lives at length, which for me was the most ...more
Apr 04, 2016 Jay rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all of my girlfriends
Recommended to Jay by: Kath
I loved this book. It delivers a great message and an interesting peek into the lives of some of my favorite authors. The 4-stars is due to the uneveness of the writing. The 'guidebook' structure felt forced in certain passages, veering into the cutesy realm once or twice. The connections and sometime disconnections the author made between famous literary herorines and their real-life creators more than made up for its flaws. I found myself folding down corners to mark passages that resonated in ...more
Kathryn Bashaar
Jun 06, 2015 Kathryn Bashaar rated it really liked it
In this book, the author takes up twelve books that she feels contain inspiring heroines, and draws parallels between the struggles that the fictional heroine and her creator faced. She also points out lessons that each heroine's and creator's life offers to a reader. It was very nicely done. Each chapter was themed to a particular virtue, and I especially liked how she started with Self and closed with Magic. That felt right. None of the other virtues will really take hold if you don't have a ...more
Nov 06, 2010 Sharon rated it it was amazing
Erin Blakemore's "The Heroine's Bookshelf" is a slender volume jam-packed with ideas, inspiration and information. Featuring twelve female authors and their well-known heroines, the book delivers on its promise: there are life lessons here.

With heroines as varied as Scout Finch and Jane Eyre, created by women who have little in common with one another beyond gender, there is much to see here. Blakemore provides some biographical information on each of the authors, talking about some of the diffi
Apr 03, 2011 Kimberli rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-group
I loved, loved, loved this book!

Each chapter is devoted to a life lesson learned from a particular favorite book. We learn about each writer's life & specific book, then Blakemore gently intersperses bits about her own life into the narrative to demonstrate how this book enriched her life. My favorite elements were learning about each writer. I had no idea that L.M. Montgomery suffered so from depression or actually didn't die of heart failure, but took her own life. How Collette's heroine
Feb 28, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it
This was a neat little book. I had only read 4 of the 12 books covered, and had seen films of some of the others, but needless to say, they are all on my reading list now!

I really enjoyed how each chapter started with a little bit about the author and then tied it into her heroine in the second half of each chapter.

I'd read some reviews that thought this read like an essay, but I thought it was a light and fun, and the author's love of reading and these particular books was really infectious.
Jan 11, 2011 Evelyn rated it it was ok
Shelves: modern
I have mixed feelings on this book. The biographical information on the authors was very interesting. Blakemore's examples and conclusions were quite liberal, though. There was a bit too much feminism and girl power going on for my taste. The book is saturated with the opinion that whatever you need to do in your life to 'find yourself' or 'be true to yourself' or some such nonsense is just grand. Her chapters are named for several virtues, but I wonder if Blakemore really understands what ...more
This is a charming little book. I found the biographical information about the authors, full of scandal, heartbreak, death, insecurity, poverty, opportunities taken and opportunities lost, to be more interesting than the actual profiles of the books on Blakemore's Heroine's Bookshelf. The author also provides a kind of quirky reader's advisory service, a "if you liked this book, you might like this one, too," which lead me on a path to discover new-to-me books in addition to the well-known ...more
Nov 29, 2015 Melissapalmer404 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book #137 Read in 2015
The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore

This book is a book for book lovers. The author chronicles major female characters (Jo March, Scout Finch, Jane Eyre) and details what these characters have taught her and brought to her life. She ends each character section with recommendations of when to read these books and what other books readers may enjoy. It was a nice, quick literary read.
Oct 03, 2012 Haylee rated it it was ok
Made it halfway...couldn't make it any farther than that. Kinda felt like I was reading a book report on other books and the authors who wrote them.
Gina (Weena)
May 02, 2011 Gina (Weena) rated it really liked it
This was a wonderful little book. Very interesting facts about female authors of some of the most memorable books. It seems that the best writers must suffer before they achieve greatness.
Corrie Thompson
Oct 23, 2016 Corrie Thompson rated it liked it
This book is really fun if you think of it as sorbet. It's the perfect quick read to learn a few new things about classic authors from a chill perspective. It's no literary analysis, but more of a reminder about why we read, the characters we love, and how every writer has to persevere in a strange world.
Rachel Hugenberg
Nov 22, 2016 Rachel Hugenberg rated it it was ok
It is interesting and a fluffy read, but there is little academic substance to it. While it does have an excellent personal perspective, it does not really hit any new points for people who are already fans of these works of literature.
Dec 02, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it
As comforting as chicken soup. Made me want to reread every book mentioned.
Jul 28, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it

Review originally posted at The Librarian Next Door:

Classical literature is classic for a reason: the stories – and characters – have weathered the changes in time and history and yet have still remained beloved. Fictional characters become real to readers, forging literary friendships and delighting us over and over again with adventures that never seem to grow old. Indeed, where would I be – where would any of us be – without Lizzie Bennett, Anne Shirley or Laura Ingalls? There heroines played
Nathan Albright
Aug 13, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
If someone is looking for matters to criticize in a book, this gives plenty of material to choose from, including the author's decadence and difficulty in accepting the validity of "conservative" characters and their moral and political worldviews. The fact that the author finds it necessary to write as if only women are interested in a book on heroines, an assumption that male writers do not tend to find necessary when speaking of heroes, signifies something as to the outrage culture of which ...more
Ana Mardoll
Mar 05, 2011 Ana Mardoll rated it really liked it
Shelves: ana-reviewed
The Heroine's Bookshelf / 978-0-06-195876-2

In this book, the author has skillfully collected little vignette biographies (no more than 15-20 pages each) of 12 classic authors - all women, who wrote about women. In addition to the author biographies, author Blakemore also engages one of their famous heroines, and then passionately sets forth a case as to what life lesson we can still continue to derive from said heroine, and draws analogies to other similar heroines, ripe for the re-reading. The
May 24, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, reviewed
This book has been on my "currently-reading" shelf for forever now because I've been skipping around reading a chapter here and a chapter there. Each chapter is an essay on a famous heroine who has stood the test of time and inspired generations of women throughout the different stages of their lives. These heroines are the girls and women we turn to when we need comfort or familiarity; they are steadfast companions in our ever-changing lives. Erin Blakemore speaks to the reader like an old ...more
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2016 Reading Chal...: The Heroine's Bookshelf 2 11 Jan 11, 2015 09:20AM  
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Erin M. Blakemore learned to drool over Darcy and cry over Little Women in suburban San Diego, California. These days, her inner heroine loves roller derby, running her own business, and hiking in her adopted hometown of Boulder, Colorado.
More about Erin Blakemore...

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“As women, we are the protagonists of our own personal novels. We are called upon to be the heroines of our own lives, not supporting characters.” 23 likes
“In times of struggle, there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe. Don’t you have bigger things to do? Reading, let alone re-reading, is the terrain of milquetoasts and mopey spinsters. At life’s ugliest junctures the very act of opening a book can smack of cowardly escapism. Who chooses to read when there’s work to be done?

Call me a coward if you will, but when the line between duty and sanity blurs, you can usually find me curled up with a battered book, reading as if my mental health depended on it. And it does, for inside the books I love I find food, respite, escape, and perspective.”
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