Book Review: “The Heroine’s Bookshelf”

“The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder” by Erin Blakemore

Genre: Adult Non-Fiction

Source: Library

Summary from Goodeads:

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 placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern women.

Full of beloved heroines and the remarkable writers who created them, The Heroine’s Bookshelf explores how the pluck and dignity of literary characters such as Jane Eyre and Lizzy Bennet can encourage women today.

Each legendary character is paired with her central quality—Anne Shirley is associated with irrepressible “Happiness,” while Scarlett O’Hara personifies “Fight”—along with insights into her author’s extraordinary life. From Zora Neale Hurston to Colette, Laura Ingalls Wilder to Charlotte Brontë, Harper Lee to Alice Walker, here are authors and characters whose spirited stories are more inspiring today than ever.


I really like the idea behind the book. What better place to look for heroines than your bookshelf? I didn’t read every essay in the collection. I opted to stick with the books that I’ve read.

Lizzie Bennet and Self– I liked it. It was very reassuring. Lizzie turned down a couple of proposals because they weren’t right for her. She knew that those might be her only chances at marriage but she preferred to be true to her self rather than entering into a loveless marriage. It is cheesy but it’s nice to know that everything will probably work out okay for me since things worked out pretty well for Lizzie. Will I marry a rich and hunky man like Mr. Darcy? Probably not. Will I hold out for a man who is a great match for me even if it means waiting for years? Of course.

Anne Shirley and Happiness– If you’ve ever read Anne of Green Gables you know Anne is one of the happiest people you will ever meet. You almost can’t read the book without catching the happy. Anne is able to remain happy and upbeat despite everything she goes though. Does that mean she’s happy all the time? No, of course not. She has moments of heartbreak and despair. She just makes the decision to keep being happy because things will get better. She’s able to see the good in everything. The essay was just a nice reminder to not give up on happiness. It’s always there if you’re willing to look for it.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Simplicity– This was an interesting essay because the character and author are one in the same. There was obviously a lot of overlap. The message was simple (ha ha). Stuff is stuff. You don’t need all of it. Sometimes it’s best just to cut back and take it easy. Does that mean you need to give up everything? No. You just don’t always need to be wanting more. Learn to be happy with what you have from time to time.

Mary Lennox and Magic– This was the weirdest one I read. Magic isn’t real so I’m not sure how we’re supposed to learn from Mary?

The biggest disappointment/annoyance with the book was the author kept pulling the authors into the essays. I know the authors do have influence on their books but I wasn’t reading this book for them. I wanted a closer look at the heroines of all these books. Sadly I didn’t get that.

The bottom line? The book wasn’t horrible or anything. I just wish there had been a bigger focus on the characters like I was hoping for.

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