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

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3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,133 Ratings  ·  249 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, they pla
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Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Harper (first published October 1st 2010)
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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
Indulgence
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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
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Audrey
Aug 03, 2013 Audrey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
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
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El
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
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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
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Laurel
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
Michelle
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
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
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 f ...more
Beth
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 i ...more
Sharon
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
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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
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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
...more
Jay
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
Sheryl Tribble
I haven't read all the books she references, but I knew the biographical details she offers on all the authors except Betty Smith. Still, about halfway through the book I started wondering, "Does this woman like any author whose life was not tragic?" It's kind of depressing, reading them all in a group like that. I also felt Blakemore tended to stress the darkness of the author's lives. Lucy Maud Montgomery might have agreed with Blakemore's perspective (although it's debatable whether she delib ...more
Megan
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 a ...more
Amy
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 di ...more
Jennifer
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 class ...more
Kimberli
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
...more
Evelyn
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 virtu ...more
Karen
Jan 12, 2016 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I read this just after I finished reading How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, and couldn't stop comparing the two books ( which shared some key similarities). I found this book less enjoyable and less enlightening than How to Be a Heroine (trust me, go read that book!) - like a few other reviewers I agree that the premise sounds great, but I think it had not been executed in a very convincing/ compelling way. Each chapter is about a strength / virtue worth having, as exemplified by a literary ...more
Katrina Sark
p.xv – Reading books used to be just as transgressive as writing them. After all, good books sow the seeds of future actions. They feed us when we get divorced, walk out on jobs or unequal relationships, raise uppity daughters, and demand our due. They comfort us when we’re lonely and give us the words we crave.

p.xvii – These heroines’ messages couldn’t exist without the strife from which they were written, and the power of each story is magnified by the triumphs and failures that followed.

p.1
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Becky Holland
Sep 29, 2015 Becky Holland rated it it was amazing
Erin Blakemore: The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder

Walking through the dollar store, you never what what you might find that could be a treasure. Each item on every shelf offers some kind of resource or maybe some kind of pleasure to the buyer.

All you have to do is pay attention.

Kind of like the day I came upon the book, "The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder" by Erin Blakemore. Published in 2011, this little gem
...more
Sarah
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.
Kelly
Aug 11, 2015 Kelly rated it liked it
In "The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder", author Erin Blakemore details the importance of various heroines throughout literature and the character traits she feels best define them. Elizabeth Bennett, for example, is defined by sense of self, Scout Finch is compassion, and Jo March, ambition. In each reflection, Blakemore interweaves details of the author's life, how the heroine relates to her own life, and suggestions on when to read that particular wo ...more
Melissapalmer404
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.

http://melissasbookpicks.blogspot.com
Kate
Jan 19, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
I really liked the concept of this book ... finding lessons in books written by women with strong main characters - lessons from both the character and the author. I've read about 2/3 of the books that Blakemore used as examples. I enjoyed her summary of them and her character and author sketches though didn't always agree with her pithy "when to read this" section at the end of each chapter.

Blakemore also piqued my interest in the 1/3 of the books I hadn't read - or whose authors I didn't know
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Sherri
Feb 07, 2016 Sherri rated it it was ok
While I’m really drawn to the premise of this book, I can’t help but feel like its execution falls flat. Each chapter has the feel of an essay, but they never seem to go very deep into their subjects. There is a lot of time spent discussing the authors, which wouldn’t be a bad thing necessarily, except that there is in turn surprisingly little time spent examining the actual heroines of the novels discussed. The majority of the time it feels more like a look at how the authors turn their lives i ...more
Beth
Apr 09, 2015 Beth rated it liked it
This ended up being a different book than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting more of a memoir (or, at least, some self-reflective passages); instead, it read more like a series of essays you'd write for English class.

That wasn't necessarily a bad thing to me, because I do love a good book discussion, particularly if I know and love the book (and, with a few exceptions, I had read and enjoyed these). The format of each chapter seemed just a little redundant (discussion of author's abys
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Lauren
May 08, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
The first time I read this book, I loved it. The second time I read this book, I read it alongside the books it recommends, and I realised that this book is a really great MA level thesis/dissertation thing, but I'm not sure about its qualities as a book. It seems a little unfocused in a way, dipping toes all over the pond and trying really hard to hit all the social justice warrior buttons and trying to at times justify enjoyment of books with religious characters. This felt a little immature i ...more
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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.” 22 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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