12 Books to Ring in the New Year

BY: Mikaela Dunkin

In honor of our new book club (sign up HERE, if you want to get in on the fun!), we decided to compile a list of the books we are excited to read in the coming year. Whether you’re a curl up by the fireplace reader or a lounge at the the beach reader, we’ve got your next fem- and steminist books right here.

Facts for your Feminist Agenda

1.Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong -and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini

Women are the inferior sex, right? Wrong! For hundreds of years, everyone believed that ladies were all around the weaker and used that as a justification for their subservient roles. Charles Darwin asserted that women were less evolved than men and for quite a while other male scientists supported him. Even now, science tells us that men and women are different and claim that even on a biological level, we have different tasks hard-wired into our DNA. Angela Saini challenges this and reveals with new data that women are just as smart and strong as men.

 “I first stumbled across this book on @stemminist, a twitter-based book club for feminism and STEM. It’s a great read and will have you often muttering “what the heck” to yourself. While I wouldn’t call it a feel good read, it does feel really good to finally have the myths about us [women] get acknowledged and dispelled in this book. I cannot wait to discuss this at our first book club meeting!”

Caitlyn Cardetti (SBU)

2. Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

If Inferior’s facts aren’t enough for you, consider Cordelia Fine’s analysis with the latest research in neuroscience and psychology, to show that men are in fact capable of making sandwiches and women can be CEOs. She then goes on to explain why men and women appear to have gendered brains – describing our minds as plastic and easily influenced by cultural assumptions about gender. This concept is something we all need to learn and accept, because these assumptions are detrimental to ourselves and to society.

3. Women Kind: Unlocking the Power of Women Supporting Women by Kirstin Ferguson and Catherine Fox

Any girl can attest that one of the most loving and supportive places you’ll find is the lady’s restroom at a bar on the weekend. Now imagine if we could take that haven of peace and love and spread it to the rest of the world. Dr. Kirstin Ferguson aims to do that by showing her readers that women coming together to solve problems and help one another is a powerful experience you’ll have. She also argues the importance of helping groups of women reach equitable ground with men. One at a time, doesn’t cause enough change for her.

4. Stop Fixing Women: Why building fairer workplaces is everybody’s business by Catherine Fox

With all the time and effort spent on breaking the glass ceiling, the wage gap, etc., etc., you’d really thing that gender equality wouldn’t still be a issue. Or at the least not as big of an issue. Lo and behold we haven’t made as much progress as intended, but the reasons why tend to blame women. Women need to fight harder, support one another, balance work and home better, and the list goes on and on. This book stresses that women aren’t the problem and they don’t need to be fixed. Instead, the system needs fixing.

5. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

The Oxford English Dictionary added ‘mansplaining’ this year, and if you want more than a short definition, reading this book is the way to go. Why do conversations tend to go wrong between men and women? Why is there an underlying assumption that women don’t understand? Rebecca Solnit humorously tackles these questions and shares some of her own hilariously awful encounters.

6. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Perhaps you’ve already seen the now infamous TEDx talk of the same name, where Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie uniquely defines twenty-first century feminism and explores what it means to be a woman in this day and age. This is less of a book and more of a rallying cry for the inclusion and awareness we all need right now.

True Stories

7. Hidden figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly

If you haven’t seen the movie, definitely do, but alternatively you could enjoy the story of four women ‘computers’ – Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden – who were more than just good at math. Without them, America’s journeys to space would have been very, very different. These women achieved so much at a time in history where being black and being a woman limited their opportunities.

8. The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone

Like Hidden figures, this story follows the life of Elizebeth Smith, a Shakespearean expert who used her language skills to break codes during World War I. Elizebeth invented modern cryptology with her husband, caught gangsters during Prohibition, was on a covert mission to expose Nazi spies in South America, and finally, was an integral part to America winning World War II. A modern wonder woman, Elizebeth lived an intriguing life, chronicled in this book for the first time.

As a female in the male dominated world of computer science, this book sounds perfect to me. I’ve heard all about Turing’s contributions to the war effort, but I’ve never heard of Elizebeth Smith. The number of women who made major contributions (of similar value to their male counterparts) and are never mentioned astounds me. I look forward to seeing how this book will expand all readers understanding of what women can do, and what we have already done.

Ashley Cliff (UTK)

9. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Many of us know that Madame Curie kept bottles of radium in her desk and even in her pocket on occasion. What you might not know is how radioactive compounds became a wonder drug in the beginning of World War I. It was in lotions and tonics, toothpaste and water. In Radium Girls, Kate Moore uncovers the story of the girls who, covered head to toe in radium, worked in factories that produced the ‘miracle’ chemical. That is, until they fell ill and learned of the true dangers of radiation. Ultimately, their sacrifice saved thousands of people.

For Fun

10. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant

When you want to kick back, relax and enjoy a spirited story about being a woman in America, consider this book by Anita Diamant. Her story follows Addie Baum, the daughter of an immigrant Jewish family that grew up in the North End of Boston. Eighty-five-year-old Addie recounts her life with humor and compassion for the naïve girl she once was.

11. The Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

Regardless of your personal opinion on Einstein the man, you have to agree that he made major contributions to science. This story takes on another twist to the old adage, ‘behind every great man, is a woman’, by telling the (mostly) true story of Einstein’s wife, Mitza Maric, a brilliant physicist in her own right. Her contributions to the special theory of relativity are hotly debated and this story follows her unusual life and how she may have more to do with Einstein’s success than previously realized.

“I have been dying to read this since my grandmother told me about it! Mitza grew up in a time when having a club foot made her parents believe she would not attract a husband so they sent her to school when not many girls continued pursuing an education. I am fascinated by the whole concept of her life, and how a women helped shape some of the most impactful ideas in modern science.”

Ali McCarthy (SBU)

12. Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill

If you don’t have a ton of time and are a fan of short stories, consider National Book Award finalist Mary Gaitskill’s debut collection, Bad Behavior. Her book is filled with powerful stories about dislocation, longing, and desire which depict a disenchanted and rebellious urban fringe generation that is searching for human connection.

Author: sbugwise

We are the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering group at Stony Brook University and we are dedicated to supporting women in STEM fields.

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