The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – Book Review

The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore
Published by Harper, an imprint of Harper Collins

I doubt that any reader of this blog would debate the idea that books have much to teach us, perhaps even more, at times, than the author intended. Erin Blakemore certainly believes that this is true, and her goal in “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” is to suss out some of the fabulous female characters created by fabulous female authors who have so much to teach today’s heroines. “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” is divided into twelve sections with titles such as “Self,” “Dignity,” and “Compassion” and covers women like Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, and Lizzy Bennet. Each chapter briefly outlines the life of the author and the premise of the book, weaving in the arguments for why the author and character exemplify and can teach us the stated virtue of the chapter. Additionally, each chapter ends with a bullet pointed list of three times when you should read the book in question, and the literary sisters/kindred spirits of the character discussed.

Oh, “The Heroine’s Bookshelf,” you have earned yourself a permanent place on my bookshelf!

Blakemore’s book is an absolutely lovely and engaging read. I ended up finishing it in less than 24 hours because every time I finished reading about one heroine, I wanted to see what Blakemore had to say about the next one. Each chapter was both nostalgic and informative, bringing me new and interesting information about even the authors and characters who were most beloved by me. I only wish that I had spaced out the chapters and savored the book, because I was very sad when I found I had reached the end. No matter, though, because just like the books Blakemore writes about, “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” is something that I will be able to go back to again and again when I need reminders and encouragements about dealing with life’s difficulties.

I highly, highly, highly recommend “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” by Erin Blakemore. I think the ideal audience is women 15 to 35, but I imagine than many others would enjoy it as well. However, if you have a readerly woman 15-35 on your Christmas list, BUY THIS FOR HER NOW. There, your shopping is done! Whether she has read all of the classics, or is a Twilight or Harry Potter-created reader unsure where to go next, this is sure to be a big hit.


Now for a little game: Can you match the heroines with the virtues they represent (as per “The Heroine’s Bookshelf”)?

Virtue Heroine
A: Ambition 1. Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables”
B: Compassion 2. Celie in “The Color Purple”
C: Dignity 3. Claudine in Colette’s Claudine novels
D: Faith 4. Francie Nolan in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”
E: Family Ties 5. Jane Eyre in “Jane Eyre”
F: Fight 6. Janie Crawford in “Their Eyes Were Watching God”
G: Happiness 7. Jo March in “Little Women”
H: Indulgence 8. Laura Ingalls in “The Long Winter”
I: Magic 9. Lizzy Bennet in “Pride and Prejudice”
J: Self 10. Mary Lennox in “The Secret Garden”
K: Simplicity 11. Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”
L: Steadfastness 12. Scout Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Answers can be found at the bottom of this post.

Buy this book from:
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This review was done with a book received from the publisher.
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Answers: A7, B12, C2, D6, E4, F11, G1, H3, I10, J9, K8, L 5

16 comments to The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore – Book Review

  • This book sounds absolutely wonderful. It’s gone straight on my wishlist – I’d love a copy for myself!

  • This sounds like a lovely book!

  • I can’t wait to read this!!!

  • I loved this book as well! I thought it gave such wonderful snippets of each of my favorite authors!

  • I have a copy of The Heroine’s Bookshelf on its way to me right now. I can’t wait! And what a great idea to give it as Christmas presents…that would cover a significant chunk of my list!

  • Wow, I totally bombed that little matching game! Guess the author and I have different interpretations of these heroines :)

    • I want to know your answers! It is tough, though, because there are some of those heroines for whom a lot of the virtues make sense (Scarlet, for one!).

      • I’ve only read/know about 7 of them, and didn’t want to hazard guesses at the rest – here are the ones I assigned:

        1. I
        2. K
        7. F
        8. H
        10. J
        11. A
        12. E

        I think Scout and Jo were the toughest, but the funny thing is that I’d say “fight” and “family ties” could apply equally to either of them, so I’d have matched those two characters with those two virtues either way.

        • Well, part of it is what aspect of their characters she is pulling out, but I do think part of it has to do with the ones you haven’t read, perhaps. I can pretty much guarantee, though, if you read “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” you won’t disagree with how she characterizes any of them, even if you think that some of the virtues may be mismatched when thinking about them abstractly.

  • Oh, I’m certain. And now another title for the wish list, woohoo! :)

    • Add it to “A Friend Of The Family” and great reading!

      • I will! I’m contemplating making “A Friend of the Family” my November purchase instead of the next Bartimaeus book… It’ll be less expensive, for one, but it comes out earlier, and I’m impatient when it comes to books I really want to read!

  • Definitely need to pick this one up–a read a the books she discusses that I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read.

  • Denise

    This book was a favorite holiday gift for my (teen) daughter—-she read it so happily, with little sighs and giggles, and much stopping to tell the rest of us things about what she was reading. In an odd compliment, I caught her older brother reading it one afternoon.