Favorite Female Protagonists

My favorite fictional female protagonists! Who are yours?


My friend Anna has a great new section on her blog, which she cheekily dubbed a “lady list” in the great unveiling post earlier this week.   It’s a huge list of books, fiction and nonfiction, that she calls her “feminist reading list.”

This is not a list of my own feminist reading list, although, it would be dang fun to make one, and I could.  A lot of my exploration of feminism started as a way to wrap my mind around body image: both my own and the way the media and culture portray female body image.  I wrote about that a while ago here.   Instead, her list inspired me to make a list of female protagonists who I have loved, and who have influenced my life in big ways and small.

My favorite female protagonists


  • Laura Ingalls Wilder in the Little House on the Prairie Series.
  • Stargirl in Stargirl by J. Spinelli
  • Jo Alcott, particularly in Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
  • Frankie in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart.
  • Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Dicey Tillerman in Cynthia Voight’s Tillerman Homecoming Cycle
  • Meg Murray in A Wrinkle in Time by Madelene L’Engle
  • Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery

Here’s what I realized while making this list

1. Categorizing books on goodreads is too much fun.  Like 45 minutes of mindless fun.

2.  Female protagonists were way more important to me as a tween and teen than they are now.  When I look at the books I’ve loved and the female characters of adult fiction, they don’t resonate with me as deeply as the “girls” I grew up with listed above.  I suppose the notable exception is Kristin Lavransdatter, from the epic trilogy I read last winter.

3. Should I be ashamed (upset?) that my heroines in fiction are so predictable?  I mean, Anne Shirley and Laura Ingalls Wilder top quite a few “best of” lists.  However, that is also why those lists are also “best” lists, because the characters are loveable.

How about you – Who are your favorite female protagonists?


Summer Reading Roundup, Fall Reading Ideas

An apple tree definitely signals back to school - which equals more reading... right? Except no school for me!
An apple tree definitely signals back to school – which equals more reading… right? Except – no school for me! I’m done my MS degree!

Remember when I said I was going to read maybe half of that summer reading list? I read about a third.

But holy cow the ones I read were amazing!

(Except for Babbit. That wasn’t that great.)

I highly recommend Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.  I’m planning on giving it as a gift for Christmas for some special people.  Who knew psychology and economics had so much in common… not me – but now I do. This book is almost dauntingly big, but you can read it 10 page chapter by 10 page chapter as a nightly devotional.

I’ve been reading Metamorpha with my husband, and it’s allowed for some really great conversations about how Christianity is a journey, not a destination, or a past gate we walked through when we were “saved” so many years ago.  I’m loving Kyle Strobel’s overarching framework of a trifecta of worldview informers who help Christians through life: the Bible, good community, and the Holy Spirit.

I re-read the entirety of Lev Grossman’s trilogy – including the final book The Magician’s Land which kicked ass by tying up all the loose ends and being satisfyingly well written. Yep, I recommend all three – and my awesome Librarian friend Anna reviewed the book here.

I just finished Aubrey Daniel’s classic Bringing out the Best in People, which is the popular version of his textbook Performance Management, which I mistakenly thought I wanted to read. I didn’t really feel like reading a textbook. Really. Daniel’s is a huge proponent of positive reinforcement, with reinforcement being used in the psychological sense.  The book makes a lot of sense for both managers, teachers, and parents to read.  It wasn’t exactly scintillating – but I gleaned some important lessons.

The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen was powerful, but oh so sad.  I read it on the plane to and from my brother-in-laws wedding – which helped to not make it as sad as it could have been.  Otherwise it’s the type of book that will depress you for weeks.  The basic premise is that unless violence is alleviated in third world countries with serious justice systems and police accountability there will be no relief from poverty no matter how much money is thrown at the problem.  The stories are really heartbreaking.

Off-the-list reading this summer I really enjoyed included:

  • The Sparrow and sequel Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.  Super thought provoking fiction grappling with the concept of theodicy.
  • Drive by Daniel Pink.  Looks at the idea of motivation and what motivates us.  This is written in the spirit of most pop nonfiction books (think “Blink”).  The book was fascinating with it’s distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation – but what was more fascinating was reading the online venom between Aubrey Daniels and Daniel Pink. Ha.

As always, my “To Read” list on Goodreads is enormous and I’ll never finish it.

But… I’ll try and read these books this fall (significant summer overlap since I reallllllly did want to read the first 4), and hopefully a few others off of it.

  • Big Data at Work – Davenport.
  • Reasons and Rationalizations – Agyris.
  • Cradle to Cradle – McDonaugh.
  • Disunity in Christ – C. Cleveland.
  • The Meaning of Sex: Christian Ethics in a Moral Life – D. Hollinger
  • Kristin Lavransdotter Trilogy – S. Undset.
  • Good Work – H. Gardner.

Summer Reading!

Summer Reading

It’s always fun for me to put together a summer reading list of things I think I should read.  I usually choose nonfiction books that will bring me new insight into myself or my topics of interest (sustainability, psychology, christianity) and some fiction books I’ve heard a lot about in reviews or through friends.

Typically what actually happens though, is that I just read what I feel like reading, and don’t usually finish my list. Here was my reading list from the winter – I read 5 out of 11.  Here is my reading list from summer 2012 – I read 7 out of 15.   I better aim high because past experience seems to indicate I’ll read about 50% of this list.


  • A Fine Balance – Mistry Rohinton
  • NW – Zadie Smith
  • Babbit – Sinclair Lewis
  • Wind up Bird Chronicles – H. Murakami (I’m loving Murakami, one of my new favorite authors I believe).
  • Eleanor & Park – R. Rainbow
  • The Magicians Land – L. Grossman.  (Third book in the Magicians series… and I’m really excited for it.)


  • Thinking Fast and Slow – D. Kahneman (already reading this one, and I highly recommend it).
  • Change Agent – Os Hillman
  • Performance Management – Aubrey Daniels
  • The Wisdom of Crowds – Surowiecki (You’d be surprised how often you hear about “crowdsourcing.”  This book is about some of the psychology of that.)
  • Big Data at Work – Davenport
  • Reasons and Rationalizations – C. Agyris (or any book by him)
  • Micromotives and Macrobehavior – Thomas C. Schelling
  • Cradle to Cradle – W. McDonough
  • Deep & Wide – Andy Stanley
  • Disunity in Christ – C. Cleveland (*Christena writes a fabulous blog about social psychology and christianity. you should check it out.)
  • Metamorpha – K. Strobel
  • The Locust Effect – G. Haugen.

I update my reading progress on Goodreads often – If you use that site, I’d love to be friends with you and see what you read.

goodreads logo


PS:  In other REALLY exciting news – I’m 92% done with my MS degree at Salem State, and therefore might have some more time for blogging in the future!  OR…  I might just read ALL the books and work on my 30 before 30 list.  We’ll see.

Subjective Hierarchy of Popular Novels

I’ve spent most of today, a bit of yesterday reading Gone Girl.  I like it.

I only read about 33% fiction each year (see this bar graph) half of which are probably YA novels and  then a classic or two. I’m still slowly working my way through The Brothers Karamazov; last year I reread The Great Gatsby.  This year I may try for a re-read of Of Human Bondage since I loved it so much five years ago. Re-reading becomes so much sweeter the older I get.

I admit, I really like fiction where the psychological aspects are in your face.  That is… until I find it aggressively in your face, I mean you Cloud Atlas.

I decided to make this little chart I’ve affectionately titled:

Beth’s Subjective Hierarchy of Popular Novels.

Subjective Hierarchy of Novels

Dreaming of Winter Break Reading


8 Books I want to Finish, Read, or Re-Read between December 20th and Spring Break.

  1. Telegraph Avenue (M. Chabon).
  2. Brother Karamazov (F. Dostoevsky)
  3. Sustainability by Design (J. Ehrenfeld)
  4. The Irrational Season (M. L’Engle)
  5. The Change Monster (Jeanie Duck)
  6. Green to Gold (D. Esty)
  7. Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (H. Murakami)
  8. Speaker for the Dead (O.S. Card)
  9. A Better World, Inc. (A. Korngold)
  10. Disunity in Christ (C. Cleveland)
  11. Good to Great (J. Collins)

Other suggestions? I could modify or add on. 🙂

Keeping the Sabbath?

SAbbath KeepingMichael Sleeth came to speak at Gordon College, my alma mater, and I was giddily excited to see him.  I really enjoyed his book Serve God, Save the Planet, and have recommended it to many people since then (here’s the blog post I wrote about it.)

The focus of his talk though, was his newer book “24/6: A prescription for a happier healthier life.”  This book details the benefits and reasons for engaging in a weekly Sabbath which includes practicing several things (eg; hospitality, reflection, study) as well as abstaining from many things (eg: extended travel, commerce, hyperconnectivity, work (however you define it.)).

I agree with him on all those points.  But… bottom line – I can’t incorporate a “full-on Sabbath” into my life right now.  There isn’t a single day of the week that I can set aside to practice ALL of the recommendations AT ONCE (for multiple boring reasons you don’t want to read about.)

BUT, I do work hard at incorporating each principle throughout my week, and my long standing interest in the issue of rest and leisure (stemming from, unsurprisingly, my time in New Zealand wwoofing) means that in the past, I HAVE practiced “full-on Sabbath.”

Here is my short list of Sabbath practices and what they look like during my week, as a contrast to what they can look like on a single day.

Time for Reflection: Knowing that I would be busy during the school year, I purposely scheduled a time to reflect on the week, lessons learned, and changes to make, as well as a time to puzzle out interesting philosophical questions that arose.  For me, this meant giving up one of my son’s naptimes as a time for work, and instead allocate it as a time for reflection.  Adding on one extra hour of study to two other study sessions fixed the time difference with minimal sacrifice.

– No Emails on Saturday – (self explanatory, right.)

Limited hours on social media sites all week.  I have found that I am better able to manage my time, motivation, and productivity when I set aside time to browse ridiculous buzzfeed articles, watch movie trailers, and read blogs rather than taking “breaks” from study by indulging in 10 minutes here and there.  Inevitably I am distracted for much longer than I want.  Furthermore, I NEVER (okay, very very rarely) multitask between spending time with my son and the internet.  I know that won’t work for many others, but I have found it to be extremely free-ing to simply limit my computer hours to those when he isn’t around, or isn’t awake.

– Time for friendships – I agree with Michael Sleeth (and others) that part of the Sabbath should be time spent practicing hospitality and strengthening friendships, and making new ones.  I am sure to set aside at least 1 – 2 nights/afternoons a week for time to actively connect with others.  Generally, I also try to authentically engage with others during these time on more than simply a surface level (ie: ‘tell me about your day’) – though, there is nothing wrong with that if not done exclusively!

Limited Commerce – The average American spends 45 minutes a day shopping, so I read in a recent newsource.  (Whether that’s online, or physical stores I’m not sure, I didn’t dig into the numbers, nor did I dig into whether it included services (like haircuts?) as well.)  That’s about 5 hours a week.  Since I make it my goal to spend less than 5 hours a month in stores, this one is waaay to easy for me to make a habit.  Of all of Sleeth’s suggestions, this one is the easiest for me to see the benefit of.

And you – what are your thoughts on the Sabbath? On rest?  On practicing these elements of life?  Is what I’m doing technically not Sabbath keeping?