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The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder Hardcover – October 19, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Marketing consultant Blakemore finds that in moments of struggle and stress she revisits her favorite childhood women authors and their plucky heroines for respite, escape, and perspective. Jane Austen, who broke off an engagement and threw away her last chance at a respectable marriage, poked fun at polite society and its expectations of women in her novels, and she created a self-assured, self-respecting protagonist in Pride and Prejudice's Lizzy Bennet--who also doesn't need a man to complete her even if Lizzy does get a rich, handsome husband in the end. As Blakemore pushes against the boundaries of her own life, she also identifies with selfish Scarlett O'Hara, who, lacking in self-awareness and oblivious to the emotions of others, shoulders life's burdens and moves ahead, "her decisions swift, self-serving, and without compromise." The Little House on the Prairie series reminds Blakemore that when we focus on people and life instead of on material possessions, we learn to acknowledge what really counts. She finds inspiration, too, in Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Color Purple, and Anne of Green Gables, and offers some nuggets of wisdom, but for the most part, her observations are familiar and pat. (Nov.) (c)
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Review

"...Blakemore makes a charming case for rereading."  (The Washington Post)

"A slender volume, The Heroine's Bookshelf packs a lot of information into its 200 pages and will be right at home on any literature lover's bookshelf." (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

"To readers' delight, each chapter examines a leading lady's fictional journey and her real-life creator's own narrative, underscoring both the parallels and contemporary application of meaningful life lessons." (Boulder Daily Camera)

"...a helpful and entertaining conversation starter at book groups."  (Book Group Buzz [American Library Association])

"...a frothy literary latte; rich and sweet and deeply satisfying."  (Austenprose.com)

“[A] delightful guide to what the heroines of some of the great novels by women writers, and those writers themselves can teach us about life.” (Beatrice.com)

“If you’re stumped for your next pleasure book and want to submerse yourself in a literary past sprinkled with powerful, independent women like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott, Blakemore’s book provides the perfect portal.” (New York Press)

“Blakemore finds comfort and inspiration in revisiting the tales of literature’s leading ladies and exploring the lives of the women who spun them. [She] makes a charming case for rereading.” (Washington Post)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006195876X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061958762
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,471,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Diane B. Wilkes VINE VOICE on January 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The concept of THE HEROINE'S BOOKSHELF by Erin Blakemore is terrific: utilize the lessons of various beloved heroines/protagonists to inspire you. The author has chosen 12 particular qualities and uses 12 female protagonists written by 12 different women authors to illuminate them.

The qualities are Self, Faith, Happiness, Dignity, Family Ties, Indulgence, Fight, Compassion, Simplicity, Steadfastness, Ambition, and Magic. The protagonists range from Elizabeth Bennet from PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (Self) to Celie in THE COLOR PURPLE (Dignity). Each section includes examples of how the protagonist exemplifies the particular quality, some biographical information about the author that evinces the quality, along with times in your life when you might most want to read the book. Blakemore then lists three "literary" sisters of the protagonist/heroine, a kind of "If you liked Elizabeth Bennet, you might like..."

It didn't hurt my appreciation of this book that Blakemore's protagonist pool is one with which I am very familiar. I have read all the books she includes, and Elizabeth Bennet, Anne (Shirley) of Green Gables, Francie Nolan (from A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN), Scout Finch (TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD), and Jo March from LITTLE WOMEN are some of my most beloved and revisited heroines. I enjoyed reading about them and their creators. In many cases, I knew a great deal about the authors but in others (in particular, Frances Hodges Burnett), I now want to read and learn more about them. I love books that stimulate the passionate reader in me.

However, not all is paradisiacal in the heroine's bookshelf. By assigning a beloved character a particular quality, it puts her in a sort of box.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Twelve books written by women with strong female characters make up what the author calls The Heroine's Bookshelf. Children's titles like The Secret Garden and Anne of Green Gables made the list, as well as adult titles including The Color Purple and Pride and Prejudice. The author explains how the heroine can help with different life challenges such as: Compassion, Fight, and Faith, and gives related books/heroines that also exemplify that characteristic. I found the insights into the books and what we can learn from them interesting, but what I enjoyed even more was the information about the authors and how the author's experiences shaped the characters in the books. There were several books profiled that I haven't read, but are now on my "to read" list . . . as well as several I want to reread. This is a great little book.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I didn't expect this book to be so good. Sounds like a strange comment for the first line of a review, and I can say with almost absolute certainty not one I've ever used before. But it's true. When I encounter a book about books or authors written by an author I've never heard of before, more often than not I'm disappointed. Either the tone isn't appropriately serious and respectful of great authors and works, or the points mentioned by the author are so well-worn anyone could have written the book. But, in this case, I was pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps it was because I've read all the works mentioned, and that I love all the writers included. I loved revisiting these iconic books and authors, learning new things about them - interesting facts I hadn't known before, save the story of Louisa May Alcott. I know that pretty well from having read a couple biographies of her, and also visiting her former home in Concord, MA.

But it's more than that. The musings of Erin Blakemore were personal, yet universal. I loved the way she wove in plot points, biographical information about the authors and her own reactions. In all cases her insights were intelligent and right on. I could tell she was a true bibliphile, someone who doesn't just love books but also has the capability of expressing herself and how these works had an impact on her personally.

This book was simply a joy, and one I plan to return to in the future. Again, that's not something I can say about just any book, even if I loved the book the first time around. Reading this book felt like discussing literature with a friend, sharing personal responses to books we both loved. This book is a little gem.
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Format: Hardcover
This just wasn't written at a high level: a lot of summarizing, and unnecessary quotations, with little deep analysis. I appreciated the historical perspective, but it didn't make up for the lack of substance. I really wanted to enjoy this book, and fall in love with my favorites again, but after the first chapter I was bored. Just re-read the originals; you won't get any insight here.

Also, she includes odd tidbits about her own life without fleshing them out. In those instances: either tell the story and give it some impact, or leave it out. Finally, I am not a lawyer, but the author essentially insults them as a class. The comment seems to have been born from her experience as a paralegal, but when coupled with lack of style, it made the book come across as a half-baked dream of hoi polloi who read a few feminine classics and fancy themselves Jane Austen. That was harsh, but this book was begging for it.
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