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

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  1,322 ratings  ·  282 reviews
A testament to inspirational women throughout literature, Erin Blakemore’s exploration of classic heroines and their equally admirable authors shows today’s women how to best tap into their inner strengths and live life with intelligence, grace, vitality and aplomb. This collection of unforgettable characters—including Anne Shirley, Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, and Jane Eyre ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 19th 2010 by Harper (first published October 1st 2010)
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3.55  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,322 ratings  ·  282 reviews

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Jane Greensmith
Jul 06, 2010 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
Sep 04, 2010 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
Sep 29, 2010 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
Julie Ehlers
Nov 07, 2010 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 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: listens, nonfiction
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
Sep 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016-books
Guess I rated this just one star because I'm feeling blah right now and this book did NOT live up to any of my expectations. (Plus, I spent a good chunk of an Amazon gift card on it. Yippee.) It was bland and boring and I didn't agree with the author's uber-feminist worldview. I skipped maybe a third of the chapters in this book, because I hadn't read the books they featured and the chapters I did read were forgettable. Plus, almost none of the featured heroines were favorite heroines of mine. ( ...more
Silver Petticoat

Review by Elinor Cackett

Overall Rating = 5

The Heroine’s Bookshelf (Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder) is part literary analysis and part self-help. Erin Blakemore is a journalist; this book is her debut and only novel to date. She asserts that though the time in which these books were written gets further away and further away, there is sti
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 27, 2010 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 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
Nov 30, 2011 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.
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I completely and utterly adore this book. Blakemore has composed a beautiful collection of essays that are both thoroughly researched and affectionately written. I too grew up with a deep admiration for the heroines of literature (and the ladies that gave life to them). Similar to Blakemore, these women had a powerful impact on me from a young age; I was always equipped with the answer "a literary heroine" when asked what I hoped to be when I grew up. As someone who frequently struggled to blend ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Loved most of the essays. EB created a lovely mix of an author’s life, her singular character, and personal experience with the novels. She chose some of my most beloved novels. All the authors and characters were women.
Selah Pike
A wonderful collection of 12 short biographies of famous female authors, as well as somewhat gushing “critique” of their most famous heroines. A perfect read for #femmemarch
Kathleen (Kat) Smith
Nov 29, 2011 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 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
Mar 24, 2011 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
Oct 11, 2011 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
Nov 02, 2010 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
Feb 17, 2011 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
Kathryn Bashaar
May 05, 2015 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
Jun 11, 2011 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
Brittany Nelson
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
I think the idea is actually intriguing--the thought how these fictional women or real authors shape different things about you and that you can be a "heroine." The idea got lost in how it was written. The author tried to do too much. I thought it would be a book solely about the heroines, but she chose to tack on the authors too. There is nothing wrong with that, but it did get confusing. The book itself is trying to do too much with not enough room to do so. Each chapter is told from about 1,0 ...more
Apr 03, 2011 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 06, 2016 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
Dec 29, 2010 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
Nov 04, 2011 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.
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
Aug 18, 2015 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.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-reads
This was a delightful read. I was reaquainted with some of my favorite "friends" from my early readiness days. The chapter about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her relationship with her daughter Rose really makes want to reread the whole series.
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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 writing, hiking, and soaking in the scenery of her adopted hometown, Boulder, Colorado.
“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.” 27 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.”
More quotes…