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Best of 500 -- nonfiction history & anthropology

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My reading list is the book “500 Great Books by Women.” It’s edited by Erica Bauermeister, Jesse Larsen, and Holly Smith. They asked for suggestions from women writers, a variety of professionals, women’s studies teachers, and women from many countries. The books are indexed by title, author, chronology, genre, and country. I’ve been reading them randomly. I’ve read around 300. There’s only been one that I’ve didn’t like enough to read to the end. These are some of my favorites.

Greene, Melissa Fay Praying for Sheetrock This true story reads like a novel. Great writing -- colorful description, humor in the metaphors. It's about civil rights in backwoods Georgia. The first 2/3 are an amazing story of people coming together and doing the right thing. In honesty, the last 1/3 is about heroes turning out to be human, and apathy in the face of life day-to-day. Both sides of the "struggle" are kindly and colorfully presented.

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Fernea, Elizabeth Warnock Guests of the Sheik I think this was written in the 70s, but has had some recent attention because it describes the tribal life of Iraq. Following her husband in his work, the author wears a burka and spends her time in the women’s houses. Shows the customs and culture that is a mix of Islam and regional rule.

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Brittain, Vera Testament of Youth The book on the list that affected me most deeply. I cried for about 400 pages. It should be required high school reading because you feel how much is lost by one soldier dying. The author was a nurse during WWI. In addition to her own story, she shares the stories of her fiancé, her brother, and all her brother’s colleagues. The time frame is also a time when women’s roles changed in Britain and women got the vote. The book has a boring start and slow…

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Tuchman, Barbara W. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century Follows the life of one man to illustrate the years when France loses its world superpower status. Author’s voice is entertaining and doesn’t hesitate to show her disappoint in the strength of the (real-life) characters. The century is strangely parallel to our own time, self-absorption disguised by righteousness, and the book gives fascinating detail to some of the most famous, but glossed over, events in history.

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