The Reader

A painting in my home.  She occasionally moves around…but she’s never without a book.

Ten Books I Never Hesitate to Recommend, All Written by Women

In absolutely no particular order of wonderfulness;

Songs in Ordinary Time Mary McGarry Morris


Fall On Your Knees Anne Marie McDonald


The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver

Hannah’s Daughters Marianne Frederikson

The Binding Chair Katherine Harrison

Love In a Cold Climate Nancy Mitford

The Greengage Summer Rumer Godden

.Madness of a Seduced Woman Susan Fromberg Schaeffer

Weeds Edith Summers Kelly

Indian Embers Lady Rosamunde Lawrence

.The Condition Jennifer Haigh


One Last Look Susanna Moore…


and pretty much anything by Dawn Powell but perhaps start with

My Home is Far Away

That was more than ten wasn’t it?

  I welcome readers to weigh in with their own comments or suggestions.

I am not discriminating against the weaker sex, I just felt like showcasing women writers today.

And I love my painting of the little Edwardian girl reading.

Happy Voyages…



  1. This is exciting to me. I have read 3 on your list, and had ‘my home is far away. Now I will add the rest of your
    suggestions. Thanks S. P. Happy Thanksgiving.

  2. Dear Slim
    These titles are the ones I recommend to introduce friends to some of my favorite female authors. One would be Mitford and I’m so happy to see ‘Greengage Summer’ as one of your favorites, too.
    This list is comprised only of women who have left us, however I am quite fond of many living women authors as well.

    Vita Sackville West: ‘The Edwardians’
    Katharine S. White: ‘Onward and Upward in the Garden’
    Rumer Godden: ‘An Episode of Sparrows’
    Muriel Spark: ‘Loitering with Intent’
    Jane Bowles: ‘My Sister’s Hand in Mind’
    Rebecca West: ‘The Birds Fall Down’
    Ann Radcliff: ‘The Italians’
    Edith Wharton: ‘The Custom of the Country’
    Flannery O’Connor: ‘The Complete Stories’
    Austen: ‘Sense and Sensibility’
    Charlotte Bronte: ‘Jane Eyre’
    Shirley Jackson: “We Have Always Lived in a Castle’
    Mary McCarthy: ‘Birds of America’
    Willa Cather: ‘Death Comes for the Archbishop’
    Carson McCullers: ‘The Member of the Wedding’
    Katherine Mansfield: ‘The Garden Party and Other Stories’
    Virginia Woolf: ‘A Room of One’s Own’
    Daphne du Maurier: ‘Rebecca’

    hmmm—was I beholden to 10 titles, Slim? I was? oops

  3. I am taking your list and Dabbsie’s list to the library tomorrow. The last time I went I arrived about 2 minutes to closing. “Please check out your books now…the library will be closing in 2 minutes” I stood there for about one minute and realized that I could not come up with anything under such pressure. I see know that all I needed was a list! And now I have one! Life is so good…………………

  4. I have read 5 of the books on your list. I loved them all but remember getting totally immersed in Madness of a seduced woman… I may have to read that one again… I look forward to reading the rest of your list. Thanks!

    • goodness gracious – totally immersed in The Madness of a Seduced Woman? That’s an understatment. I think one acutally loses weight reading this book, the tenseness and “Heroine’s”

      lack of self control becomes so primal you almost feel you should be looking away. But never do!

  5. O.K… you guys sold me on The Madness of a Seduced Woman, picking it up today!

    We’re having what looks like torrential rainfall here in Vancouver, perfect day to put on the fire and curl up on the couch with a book, and maybe some hot chocolate or a purple martini..

  6. I am reading a book now that someone recommended to me called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Has anybody read it? It is being made into a movie. What I find so interesting are the details of footbinding in 19th century China. What a horrible thing to have done in the name of beauty. It was really just another way to keep women down, from being able to “flee.” They would break the feet of six year old girls, then bend the feet back under their heels, bind them as tight as can be and then force the girls to walk on the “feet” to break the toes and all the small bones in the feet. I mean, we think we have it bad with our Louboutins…..

    • I would highly recommend you read Katherine Harrison’s The Binding Chair, Lady Eve! (#5 on my list) The extended title is “The Binding Chair; or, a Visit from The Foot Emancipation Society”.
      It deals directly with this subject, which is simultaneously horrifying and fascinating. The binding of the feet also catered to certain sexual peccadilloes, and we will just leave that right there. ewww. Louboutin Louboutin Louboutin…there, I feel better. I have heard of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan but haven’t read it- Let us know if it is good!

    • Dear Lady Eve: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is beautifully written book by very fine writer Lisa See. (the movie made of it is a disaster by the way). I’m very proud to say that my best selling book on the subject of bound feet SPLENDID SLIPPERS – A THOUSAND YEARS OF AN EROTIC TRADITION was Lisa’s main source of information. The feet were NOT bound just to keep women down. Confucius took care of that with his ruling a woman must take orders first from her father, then her husband and if they were gone her eldest son — even if he was 6 years old! The custom started in a popular prince’s palace with a dancer who wrapped her feet in white scarves to look sexy when she danced for him according to my 7 years of research before writing my book. She became the favorite of all the prince’s concubines and ladies of the court started copying — and so it started down the line to where even the poorest peasants bound their daughter’s feet. And I still find women in remote areas of Yunnan Province and other places where 80 plus year old peasant women are still working in the fields on three and half or four inch feet. I have pictures of them in my book. I have one pair of dancer’s shoes in my large collection from late 19th century that are three inches from heel to toe and so worn the sole is almost totally gone. They indeed walked on those feet for people who think they couldn’t walk let alone work on bound feet. Also regarding why the “lotus gait” was sexy, since the women were forced to put all their weight on their heels when they walked (only the big toe was left normal, other four toes compressed into sole of foot and broken) it forced them to walk in a swaying way that became named the Lotus Gait. And this walk tightened all the muscles in the pelvic region. I’ve interviewed elderly husbands who told me that even if their wives had had 10 or 15 or 20 children, it was still like making love to a virgin. To this day elderly men in villages will look first at a woman’s feet as she walks by on the street! Face lifts and implants aren’t of any use with them! Incidentally I also recommend THE BINDING CHAIR. A very good book.

  7. Slim, I will have to read the Katherine Harrison book. As of now I am LOVING Snow FLower and the Secret Fan. Knowing you, I think you would like it, too. I’m going to get off now and google sexual peccadilloes of foot binding. Whoa. Ok. WTF?

  8. Ok I’m back from google. Seems that when a woman’s feet were bound it cause the women to walk in a “lotus gait” which men found highly erotic. This was a swaying, slow walk. The men didn’t like to see the feet unbound but this walk, apparently, drove them wild. Wow , what would men back then make of Shakira…..I mean, if a slow sway could move them imagine what Shakira’s hips could do. Hips don’t lie.

    • Sorry Lady Eve; Would that it just have been the sexy walk… (those of a delicate constitution might not want to read this!)

      “Men who loved the bound feet were often referred as the “lotus lovers.” They were aroused by the mysterious covered feet and were thrilled to see it without the cotton cloth. According to Levy, the bound feet aroused the men’s five senses:

      The eye rejoiced in the tiny footstep and in the undulating motion of the buttocks which it caused; the ear thrilled to the whispered walk, while the nose inhaled a fragrant aroma from the perfumed sole and delighted in smelling the bared flesh at closer range. The ways of grasping the foot in one’s palms were both profuse and varied; ascending the heights of ecstasy, the lover transferred the foot from palm to mouth. (Lotus 34)

      Chinese men would eat the watermelon seeds or almonds placed between women’s toes. Drinking from a cup inside the lotus shoes and/or even drinking straight out of the shoe itself, were other common practices. Besides these strange habits, some of the men also drank the water that the bound feet were washed in. The men treasured the bound feet like a precious piece of gold.

      Another reason why the men liked the women who had bound feet was that it influenced a woman’s body. According to a Taiwanese doctor:

      When a footbound woman went walking, the lower part of her body was in a state of tension. This caused the skin and flesh of her legs and also the skin and flesh of her vagina to become tighter. The woman’s buttocks, as a result of walking, became larger and more attractive sexually to the male. (Lotus 34)

      Nagao Ryuzo, a Japanese scholar and sociologist, said that the effect of footbinding on women gave “the same sensation of tightness in intercourse as a virgin” (Lotus 34), perhaps another reason why footbinding was created and lasted for a very long time.”

  9. Pingback: Ladies Who Lit « Slim Paley

  10. I did not expect to find on this list a book I’ve read, only because I prefer literature, and anything else, written before, or about a period before, WWII. In my opinion writers had a better grasp of the language back then. But I was led to the discovery of Nancy Mitford’s novels (first published in 1949) while reading The Saga of the Mitford Sisters by Mary Lovell. It was great fun to read about this fascinating family and to get a glimpse of the witty reparte that was exchanged in their letters.

    I do love to receive book recommendations from people whose taste I admire, and I’ve yet to go wrong following this rule, so please keep this feature on your blog.

  11. Thanks for the reading list. There are several that sound intriguing. I loved the painting in your post and would love to know who the artist is. Your posts and wonderful photographs are always such an inspiration.

    • Thank you Catherine!
      The painting is by the french artist Edouard Gelhay (1856-1939). It’s called “A Captivating Story”

      • Thanks so much for the painting information. I have a small and very old summer cottage I’m renovating and decorating, and I think I need a print of that painting, if at all possible! Once again, thank you.

  12. As an avid reader Slim I love not only your gorgeous painting; your great list of reads as well! There are only three I have read so I see great reading times ahead!!

    Art by Karena

  13. Yes, please keep your reading list going. I agree with Kristin. Its always great to see what someone, whom you admire for so many reasons, is reading. Please keep it going. They look great and I will definitely ‘dig in’. Your post is my inspiration. When I see your name on my screen I cant wait to open it.
    Happy Holidays to you Slim. I am the woman who wrote to you way back in March, fighting breast cancer and it has been a horrible year, but I am happy to report that I went through chemo and radiation (a second horror to chemo for me) and only have four more radiations to go through. Goodbye 2011. Bring on some joy in the year to come for me, for my family, for you and all whom you hold dear and for everyone. I am too much of a “life lover” to be sick.
    All the best, Leslie,
    Cant wait to download some kindles on your list!

    • So glad you are on the upside of all of the treatments. Life is worth fighting for as my mom who fought colon cancer for 3 1/2 years told me. Her docs were amazed at her attitude when she answered their question as to why she was so positive, “I can choose to die now or I can choose to live until I die”. And she did.

      Best wishes for a blessed holiday season and new year. Bring on 2012!

    • Go Leslie! I am so happy to hear from you again, and that you are nearing the completion of your treatments! Fantastic news.
      I so admire your spirit and your strength.
      Have you been over to my dear friend Hollye’s blog “The Silver Pen” yet?

      Hollye, like you, is an inspiration and I think you would enjoy her blog very much.

      Thanks for checking in, please do make a habit of it. Sending Happy Holidays wishes to you and your family!

  14. Great List! I have added those I have not read to my to-read list.
    Below is a list of some I just had to plug:
    March, Geraldine Brooks
    The Historian & The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova
    Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
    The Red Tent, Anita Diamant

  15. Great list. I’m a big reader, but haven’t read any of these except “The Condition.” (I loved her first novel, Mrs. Kimble, much more.) And long ago I tried Songs in Ordinary Time, but gave up. Maybe time to try again! And, I love Rumer Godden.

    I also vote for Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, and anything by Susan Straight, esp. Highwire Moon. Oh, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” mentioned up above. Creepy, wonderful!

  16. What a great reading list. I have read a few of them (loved Fall on your knees) but I’m definitely going to read the one about a “…seduced woman”. It sounds fascinating. About the Bound feet facts, I find it sort of sad the female gender was in a sense “tortured” for man’s pleasure. Although the Asian culture is erotic, I’ve heard (not sure the quality of the source;) that they are quite sadistic so you have confirmed this Slim. Back to Lit, I fell in love with Jane Austen books in University. The first one was Pride & Prejudice and after that I devoured all of them. Sadly I don’t have my original copy of P & P with English notes. Also a favorite of mine is “A Room With a View” by the same author of “Howard’s End” but he’s a man writer…so doesn’t fit in here. I love your painting of the woman reading!

  17. A book list within a book list…a bibliophile’s delight! Dabbsie, I love when you chat about new titles with Mr. Paley. I wish it were more frequent and of longer duration.

Would love to hear from you!