Wednesday 21 March 2018

The 1000th! (Devouring Books: Bad Women Throughout History by Ann Shen)

Can we just take a moment here to appreciate that this is my 1000th blog post.

That's 1000 things I had to say. 1000 times I wrote a thing about a thing to share with people. 1000 little parts of my brain whizzing out into the internet atmosphere. It took 7 years and a couple of months, and thank you guys for being along for the ride.

Now that we've marked this epic occasion, shall we talk about a book? I feel pretty lucky that I just finished a book that fits my personal brand so well, to mark my 1000th blog post (sorry, I will stop saying that soon, I swear).

My friend bought me Bad Girls Throughout History for my birthday last year, and it is a testament to how well she knows me that she not only bought me such a book, but also apologised that Margaret Thatcher is one of the 'bad girls' because, urgh, Thatcher...

Having said that, this book is all about women who broke down barriers and conquered new arenas for women, and I guess the first female Prime Minister pretty much qualifies for that (*glares at Thatcher in memory, though*). Fortunately for me, most of the rest of the book is bursting with women who smashed through glass ceilings AND did wonderful things, like Beatrix Potter (she left her land to the National Trust!) and Maya Angelou (she's incredible, basically) and Rosa Parks and Oprah and Dolly Parton and so many more amazing women besides.

There were so many things I loved about this book that I'm going to try and be concise for once so that I can get them all out there. Firstly, I loved the layout of the book. What you basically get is a two page spread for each woman, one which has a portrait of said woman on it, in Shen's style which I really really really love, and one which has a paragraph describing the life and achievements of said woman. It's really quick to read (I think it took me a couple of hours) but at the same time I learnt a lot about women I thought I already knew, and was introduced to many more that I didn't. Like, did you know that Marie Antoinette commissioned a female artist to paint her portraits? Or that there is a woman called Diana Nyad who was the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage? Me neither, because NOBODY TELLS WOMEN'S STORIES.

Ahem. It is clear that Shen has done her research, basically, both in choosing the women she wants to talk about, and in extracting pieces of information about them that we otherwise might not have known. One of my favourite things about this book is exactly what Shen finds remarkable about these women- there are their obvious achievements, but Shen also highlights their philanthropy, their kindness, the ways in which they helped others. Margaret Thatcher is rare in this book as a villainous kind of woman (Bonnie, of Bonnie and Clyde is also in there, I guess) because most of the women highlighted are done so for their acts of kindness, as much as their incredible achievements. Hedy Lamarr basically invented wifi and gave the patent to the US government for free, how nice is that?!

Even just from the cover, this is a beautiful book that I am pleased to own. Having now read it, I am thrilled that its insides surpass its outside, and I'm certain it's one I'll be reading over and over again, whenever the world seems like it's just too terrible for women to be in. Shen has another book, Legendary Ladies, coming out in April, which is just too exciting, but also from interviews I've read with her (literally just after finishing this book, because that's what I do when I love something) it seems like she could easily do another volume of this book with more incredible women. If she does, I know I have a few nominees of my own...


  1. Is this the blog that launched 1000 posts? What?! that's great. And this book is really cool, isn't it? my store sells it like crazy.

  2. 1000 posts? That's so many posts! Congrats! That is pretty spectacular

    And this book sounds pretty great so that's fun too