Reading in Threes: Wonderful Women

My recent nonfiction reading has been a total gift in terms of books by and about fantastically fierce women. Here are three that stood out strong.

notorious rbg
Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik
Published by Dey Street on October 27th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 240
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I have a serious soft spot for Justice Ginsburg, so I was already a fan of the Tumblr that inspired this book before I opened its pages. While I’m the target market for Notorious RBG, I didn’t expect to love it nearly as much as I did. What I thought would be a fun, pretty coffee table book worthy of display ended up being a great read to boot. Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik have put together a wonderful history of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, work, and relationships that highlights everything making her notorious.


Radioactive by Lauren Redniss
Published by Dey Street on August 4th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 208
Buy From IndieBound

You could read a biography of Pierre and Marie Curie or you could read an oversized, glow in the dark, graphic biography of Pierre and Marie Curie and their impact on science. Radioactive is the latter. Much like the authors of Notorious RBG, Lauren Redniss refuses to sacrifice content for the sake of style—Radioactive is gorgeous, but is still loaded with information about the Nobel Prize winning couple, including modern uses of their work. It’s stunning and highly recommended, even for readers reluctant to pick up nonfiction or a graphic novel.


voices from chernobyl
Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich
Published by Picador on April 18th, 2006
Source: Library
Pages: 236
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Journalist Svetlana Alexievich won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature “for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time”, including Voices from Chernobyl. Created using hundreds of interviews with people affected by the 1986 nuclear disaster, the book is a powerful and eye-opening look at the sprawling reach of Chernobyl’s impact.

More than anything, Voices from Chernobyl is bleak. It’s a book you’ll likely want to read in bits and pieces, as it can be hard to bear in large sections. Thankfully, the structure lends itself to small doses, and Alexievich’s touch shines through in the digestible monologues she pulls together. Stories come from first responders, villagers, soldiers, and refugees, creating a haunting tapestry of quiet victims.

Is there anything more frightening than people?

One time, when I was here already, I was walking down the street and I started looking back, because I thought someone was following me. Not a day went by there when I didn’t think of death. I always left the house wearing clean clothes, a freshly alundered blouse, skirt, underthings. Just in case I got killed. Now I walk through the forest by myself and I’m not afraid of anyone. There aren’t any people in the forest, not a soul. I walk and wonder whether all of that really happened to me or not? Sometimes I’ll run into some hunters: they have rifles, a dog, and a dosimeter. They also have guns, but they’re not like the others, they don’t hunt people. If I hear gunfire, I know they’re shooting some cows or chasing off a rabbit. So I’m not scared here. I can’t be afraid of the earth, the water. I’m afraid of people.


  • Read an excerpt of Chernobyl in The New Yorker and had to get my hands on a copy of the book. The writing was just so honest and raw – it was mesmerizing. I’m asking for RBG for Christmas – just read a great interview with her and Steinem in the NYTimes, so now I want to learn more about her. And Radioactive sounds awesome – I’m really getting into graphic novels lately, so this sounds perfect. Talk about some great reads :)

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    I want to read all three of these! Am already on the library hold list for Notorious RBG. Hope it’s not too long a wait…

  • I know it will be awhile, but I’ve added Radioactive to my 2016 Readathon list; I think this would be a great selection for me to use as an introduction to graphic nonfiction. Thanks for sharing these stories about fierce women!

  • Lindsey

    I loved Notorious RBG as well! Do you listen to the Call Your Girlfriend podcast? They did a great interview with Irin that I would definitely recommend! I have Voices from Chernobyl on hold at the library and Radioactive has been on my TBR forever. It may be time to move it up!

    • I keep hearing about Call Your Girlfriend, but it’s one I haven’t listened to yet – I need to add it to my list!

  • These all sound great, but I’m leaning toward Radioactive – science and history for me!

  • Love the badass ladies category! And – wow – that quote from the Chernobyl book is powerful.

  • Amanda

    Excellent! I always need more books about fantastically fierce women. All the love to Notorious RBG.

  • You had me at “glow in the dark” (since I’m already on the library hold list for the other two books)…

  • Radioactive sounds so fun. Why not make a book about radioactivity glow?!?

  • I loved learning that Marie Curie’s diaries are untouchable due to radioactivity. That poor lady! All radioactivified! All for the sake of Science!

  • OMG, I want to read them all. I’ve already added RBG and Chernobyl to my Goodreads wishlist and now the Curie book goes on, too.

  • I just picked up RBG from the library and can’t wait to get to it, especially after your comments (like you, I expected it to be mostly coffee-table book style, but so glad to hear the content is there to support it). I’m adding the others to my list, though I may have to hold off on Chernobyl for a bit; I’ve been overindulging in bleak reads and it’s starting to get to me.

  • All three sound amazing. I am adding all of them to my wishlist STAT!

  • Interesting quote from the Chernobyl book. Every time 60 mins does a segment on Chernobyl, it always sort of creeps me out. It’s bleak for sure. I think I’d do the book in little snippets.

  • Wow, these all sound so good! Notorious RBG and Radioactive are books I’ve seen in a couple of reviews recently, but Voices From Chernobyl is a new one to me. All of these are going on my to-read list now :)

  • I can only imagine the emotional impact of Voices from Chernobyl. It is high up on my nonfiction list! Thanks for sharing!

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