by Whitney Matheson)
"Hey, Whit" is a feature where I offer long-form answers to your pop-culture questions. If there's something on your mind, please reach out at email@example.com or via Twitter (hashtag #heywhit).
For some reason I've found that most of the lists about the "100 books you should read before you die" seem to include a majority of male authors. Come on, there are a lot of contemporary female authors that are amazing. What would be your top three books to read by a female author? — Meg B.
You're exactly right, and I'm happy to pass on some recommendations ... though man, please don't limit me to three! Here are eight books I love from the last 25 years that happen to be written by women. As you may know, my taste tends to gravitate toward comics and non-fiction titles, so there are several of those:
1. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I hope you've already read it, but if you haven't, you're missing one of the best graphic memoirs ever published. (And actually, I'd say it's one of the best memoirs I've ever read, graphic or not.)
2. Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. I've read most of Roach's books and also loved Bonk (the sex one) and Packing for Mars (the space one). The combination of her sharp wit and fascinating research is irresistible.
3. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. If you just want to get lost in a funny and touching novel for a weekend, try this offbeat mother-daughter story.
4. An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. If you or anyone you love has struggled with mental illness, this memoir could be a comfort ... and perhaps a life-changer.
5. The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry. It's difficult for me to choose one of Barry's books, but this is a good introduction to her world, which will make you laugh as much as it'll make you pause, cry and think. (One Hundred Demons is another great one.)
6. Bird by Bird and Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott. Here's another writer who has penned several memorable titles, but my two faves are her indispensable advice for writers and journal of her son's first year. (In 2012 she published Some Assembly Required, which is about her grandson.)
7. The Chelsea Girl Murders by Sparkle Hayter. Hayter infuses her stories with just the right amount of heart, intrigue and pop culture. One of my personal faves is set at the Chelsea Hotel.
8. The Middle Stories by Sheila Heti. McSweeney's has published a lot of esteemed work by young authors, including this short-story compilation that really spoke to me when I read it in 2002.
Of course, I'm missing so many other women I admire: Joan Didion, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, Jennifer Egan, Jami Attenberg, Sarah Vowell ... I encourage you to share your own recs as well