Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Mother of All Questions” as Want to Read:
The Mother of All Questions
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Mother of All Questions

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  5,189 ratings  ·  612 reviews
In a timely and incisive follow-up to her national bestseller Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit offers sharp commentary on women who refuse to be silenced, misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more.

In characteristic style, Solnit mixes humor, keen analysis, and sharp insig
...more
ebook, 180 pages
Published February 12th 2017 by Haymarket Books
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Mother of All Questions, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Suzette The ebook and audiobook are available through hoopla digital. If your local library doesn't give you access to hoopla, I would recommend checking with…moreThe ebook and audiobook are available through hoopla digital. If your local library doesn't give you access to hoopla, I would recommend checking with them to see what ebook services they do offer (overdrive, etc.), and seeing if they carry the ebook through that service.(less)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,189 ratings  ·  612 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Start your review of The Mother of All Questions
Thomas
One of the most intelligent feminist essay collections I have ever read, The Mother of All Questions brought tears to my eyes because of its beautiful language and brilliant ideas. If you want a book to rile up your inner feminist and give you profound insights to smash the patriarchy, look no further. Rebecca Solnit addresses a wide range of important topics with her trademark incisive, fiery prose, including misogynistic violence, how we silence women's pain and men's expression of emotions ot ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I saved finishing this one until January 21, the day of all the women's marches and rallies worldwide. Reading about progress and current status of women's rights is simultaneously terrifying and encouraging.

The book of essays doesn't get five stars from me because there is a fair amount of repetition of ideas between essays. I'm not sure all of them needed to be included because of that, but I definitely think Solnit is an important writer on this subject.

I started marking passages in the intr
...more
Ellie
This book is part of a trilogy that includes the very powerful book, reviewed by me, Men Explain Things to Me, although it is a stand alone volume of essays. Solnit continues to eloquently to describe the current status of women today, both celebrating our victories and calling out for further progress.

Solnit details the violence against women that continues to be a major cause of injury and death of women, especially at the hands of their significant others. She shares the quote that "Men are a
...more
Julie Ehlers
This was good—I especially appreciated "Men Explain Lolita to Me" and the essay about the pressures women feel to have children—but it felt like a bit of a retread of Men Explain Things to Me. Haymarket Books has definitely cashed in on collecting well-known authors' sundry essays from around the internet and publishing them in these little books, but this practice means the contents can be rather uneven. I like Rebecca Solnit, but I thought this one was pretty forgettable.
Hannah
Mar 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I liked this better than Men Explain Things to Me, but as you can see, that's not saying much, lol. Both books made me feel like I wasn't really getting anything out of them, and I think that's partly due to the lack of intersectionality. I don't know how committed Solnit is to certain views that are antagonistic toward trans people and sex workers, so I can't say whether she simply hasn't thought about it enough or if she's actively rejecting what people tell her about their lives. Exampl ...more
Bree Hill
Mar 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book was just what I needed at this time in my life. This is my first essay collection by Rebecca Solnit. I own two others but decided I would read this one first after it was very kindly sent to me by the publisher.

This collection starts off with a BANG and ends with a BANG. It is told in two parts, Silence is Broken and Breaking the Story. Solnit's essays are unapologetically themselves and really have that "COME AT ME BRO" vibe radiating off of them. I was nervous at first that I'd
...more
Callum McAllister
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a legend. Favourite essays were "The Mother of All Questions" and "A Short History of Silence". I want to read everything Solnit has ever written but she's too damn prolific.
Sadie
This is a very powerful, highly intelligent book that impressed me deeply. Solnit presents a collection of various somewhat recent (2014/2015) essays on feminism, patriarchy and everything that comes with it. It's roughly divided into two parts: The first half deals with deeper, more general, profound problems of society, whereas the second half is more specific towards certain aspects of (recent) (pop) culture.

The book starts with a bang, the first essay - the titular mother of all questions -
...more
Kate
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star
Don't read this book from cover to cover in one sitting.

Do reread essays regularly.

Do buy a copy for a friend.

Do make sure everyone you know reads: "A Short History of Silence" and "Men Explain Lolita To Me"

Do follow Rebecca Solnit on the social medias for some refreshing insight in this clusterfuck of a world.
Book Riot Community
This was my first experience reading Rebecca Solnit. I was deeply impressed with the lyricism of her writing and the depth of her thinking. The Mother of All Questions is a collection of twelve feminist essays covering topics as diverse as motherhood, anthropology, literature, film, and sexual assault. While there is some overlap between essays, I generally found this collection to be insightful and thought-provoking.

— Kate Scott



from The Best Books We Read In March 2017: http://bookriot.com/2017
...more
Cátia Vieira
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start this way: The Mother Of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit is a brilliant collection of essays on feminism. I will certainly read everything Solnit has published so far!

These essays explore and develop notions like misogynistic violence, the fragile masculinity of the literary canon, the gender binary, the recent history of rape jokes, and much more. Solnit also gives answers to some common remarks people make to dismiss feminism.

I found Solnit’s ideas about motherhood really interesti
...more
E J
Oct 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanna preface this by saying I adore Solnit. I follow her on facebook for her well informed, measured insights into various sociopolitical issues, and I've read a couple of her other works. My first note on this book was, "I'm probably not going to bother reviewing this because I know it will be thoughtful, observant, well researched, and powerful." And it is. Or at least, it starts out that way. I highlighted a lot of delightful phrases from the first third of the book. It wasn't particularly ...more
Sheila
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-5-stars, feminism
An exceptional follow up to Men Explain Things to Me, I have to say this is my favorite of the three books in this series, and I have highlighted multiple lines and passages in this book.

This book is a collection of stand alone essays on feminist topics of a wide range of issues, such as on motherhood (or the choice not to be a mother), on being silenced, on rape jokes, on violence against women, and on books, including a lovely essay called "Men explain Lolita to me".

Thank you for Rebecca for
...more
Laura Noggle
"Silence and shame are contagious; so are courage and speech. Even now, when women begin to speak of their experience, others step forward to bolster the earlier speaker and to share their own experience. A brick is knocked loose, another one; a dam breaks, the waters rush forth."

Powerful essay collection by Rebecca Solnit. Felt very in line/on par with her other collection, Men Explain Things to Me.

I think the key to fully appreciating this kind of book is preparing your expectations. As a cob
...more
Sarah
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
A collection of feminist essays by Rebecca Solnit. The standout is “A Short History of Silence”, about the ways in which women have been silenced, particularly to prevent them from speaking out about abuse.

“Being unable to tell your story is a living death and sometimes a literal one. If no one listens when you say your ex-husband is trying to kill you, if no one believes you when you say you are in pain, if no one hears you when when you say 'help', if you don't dare say 'help', if you have be
...more
Simon Pressinger
My rule is, if it changes the way I think then... Have 5 stars. Have 10! Bloody stars. Who cares about stars? Reals stars are round. ROUND. Thank you for reading this totally relevant book review. Shall revisit these essays many times.
Mehrsa
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Solnit's writing and her insistence on dissecting and inspecting the language we use to re-create masculinity and sexism. These essays are all readable, interesting, and insightful.
Marta :}
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such an important read, would recommend it to everyone!
Venessa
Mar 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"It was, and still is, a sort of blame-the-victim framework, this insistence that women modify their presence in public space, or just give up and stay in, rather than we transform public space (or men) so that women have the right to walk down the street unharassed. The same blame has been applied to women in nearly every situation in which they are attacked by men, as a way of not blaming men."

Thank you Elle for letting me know of Solnit’s latest work, another slim volume of powerful feminist
...more
Sarah
I loved Men Explain Things to Me when I read it a few years ago (I believe it was my introduction to Solnit’s writing, and also one of the first essay collections I read) and expected to love this collection equally, but a few things stopped that from happening.

The collection got off to a great start with The Mother of All Questions and A Short History of Silence, and I also thought A Short Happy Recent History of the Rape Joke and Men Explain Lolita to Me were strong too. The rest of the essays
...more
Rod Brown
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020-real-books
This book gave my neck quite a work out: I was constantly nodding along to all Solnit's insights and ideas and shaking my head at all the injustices and outrages she details. Highly recommended.

p.s., It's a shame how soon things become dated. In this 2017 collection of essays, Solnit passingly praises Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. for speaking out on behalf of women. If only the many bad things she cites had turned around as quickly.
Lena
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, non-fiction
This book is a collection of essays written between 2015-2017 when the power structures that traditionally silenced stories of abuses against women were falling apart. Written in Solnit's trademark smooth, gentle but devastating prose, the book is full of laser sharp insights about the sea change going on in a world where women have realized that their voices, collected together, along with new mediums like social media have provided them with a power to fight back against abuse that no generati ...more
juliemcl
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not usually an essay-lover, but am impressed with this book, a collection of columns Solnit wrote over the past 2-3 years for various publications. Wouldn't advise trying to read all at one go; the book was due back so had to rush through and got a little bit of an overdose. And, sure, it's a little repetitive, but so what? It's also perceptive, truth-telling, and perspective-shifting. (I saw her interviewed on C-SPAN right after I closed the book and realized she's a revolutionary, despite ...more
missy jean
Apr 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
PERFECTION. This entire collection, and especially "A Short History of Silence" should be required reading for absolutely everybody.
Leah Rachel von Essen
The Mother of All Questions is a very strong follow-up to Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit, a biting collection of essays about feminism and, specifically, about the silencing of women.

There is a little overlap between essays, but that’s the only fault to this collection that brings Solnit’s lyricism and deep, groundbreaking thought into questions that all somehow connect over how women are silenced—systematically, personally, legally. “People get hurt in part because we don’t want to
...more
Abby
I have immense respect for Solnit's work as a writer and activist and I think she is an incredibly gifted prose stylist. The essays in this short book are a powerful repudiation of the many ways in which women are silenced daily and they are unlikely to become irrelevant any time soon (sadly). Solnit is an important feminist voice, and I think anyone who cares about feminism should read her work.

That said, I found that all too often that Solnit's feminism, as articulated in these essays, erased
...more
Ayuko
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I particularly liked "Men Explain Lolita to Me" and "80 Books No Women Should Read", both available on Literary Hub, as the representation of my gender and race in the art is the topic that often agonize me. It is not just Lolita, but also many of the books that are often recommended by notable magazines as "80 Best Books Every Man Should Read", or any "to read" book lists.
Sue Dix
Sep 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes it’s a difficult undertaking to read an entire book of essays written by the same author, but not so with Rebecca Solnit. Her essays are intelligent, informative, thought provoking, humorous, and entertaining. She is a feminist with a strong voice and a strong message. This is the first of her books that I have read. It will not be the last.
Ana Yarí
Rebecca Solnit is one of my favorite writers/thinkers; her books are consistently an exercise in compassion and empathy, always with biting wit and extensively researched resources. The Mother of All Questions , a book of essays, compiles her work of the last 3-4 years.

The title essay explores the question of motherhood that is mainly directed at women and the cultural expectations of what motherhood means to different women and other essays explore the sociohistoric view of women and womenhoo
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
  • The Witches Are Coming
  • Thick: And Other Essays
  • Women & Power: A Manifesto
  • Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women's Anger
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
  • Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
  • Not One of These Poems Is About You
  • Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger
  • Sprache und Sein
  • In the Dream House
  • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy
  • Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence Between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell
  • The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays
  • Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
  • Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men
  • Little Weirds
  • White Flights: Race, Fiction, and the American Imagination
See similar books…
4,546 followers
Writer, historian, and activist Rebecca Solnit is the author of more than twenty books on feminism, western and indigenous history, popular power, social change and insurrection, wandering  and walking, hope and disaster, including  Call Them By Their True Names (Winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction),  Cinderella Liberator,  Men Explain Things to Me, The Mother of All Questions,  and  Ho ...more

Related Articles

Need another excuse to go to the bookstore this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list, we foc...
32 likes · 36 comments
“One of the reasons people lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity is the belief that children are the way to fulfill your capacity to love. But there are so many things to love besides one's own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.” 25 likes
“Love is a constant negotiation, a constant conversation; to love someone is to lay yourself open to rejection and abandonment; love is something you can earn but not extort. It is an arena in which you are not in control, because someone else also has rights and decisions; it is a collaborative process; making love is at its best a process in which those negotiations become joy and play.” 19 likes
More quotes…