Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Six top books for bookish girls

Janice Hadlow worked at the BBC for more than two decades, and for ten of those years she ran BBC Two and BBC Four, two of the broadcaster’s major television channels. She was educated at Swanley School in Kent and graduated with a first class degree in history from King’s college, London. She is the author of A Royal Experiment, a biography of Great Britain's King George III. She currently lives in Edinburgh. The Other Bennet Sister is her first novel.

At LitHub, Hadlow recommended a reading list for bookish girls. One title on the list:
Sei Shōnagon, The Pillow Book

Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book is a classic of Japanese literature. Written in the ninth century, when Shōnagon was a lady in waiting at the imperial court, it’s a collection of observations and anecdotes written in her own unmistakeable voice: sharp, aloof and infinitely amused. Shōnagon was an aristocrat, but not a very distinguished one; it was the quickness of her mind, and the depth of her learning, rather than her background, that catapulted her into favor and fame. Anyone wishing to be taken seriously as a Japanese courtier was obliged to possess a thorough knowledge of poetry, and Shōnagon’s ability to recognize poetic allusions, to improvise upon them, and to compose her own verse made her one of the court’s most glittering stars. Reading The Pillow Book is to enter a world where, contrary to what we think we know about the past, a sprightly form of female creativity was much prized. It reminds us that ideas of what is considered appropriate for a woman to know have not been fixed and immutable and that cleverness has sometimes been a form of currency that could change a life forever.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue