My Three Favourite…Hot Topic Books

21st Mar 2012


“Gertrude Stein, Marlon Riggs, Billie Jean King, Ut, DJ Cuttin Candy, David Wojnarowicz, Melissa York, Nina Simone, Ann Peebles, Tammy Hart, The Slits, Hanin Elias, Hazel Dickens, Cathy Sissler, Shirley Muldowney, Urvashi Vaid, Valie Export, Cathy Opie, James Baldwin, Diane Dimassa, Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Mia X, Krystal Wakem, Kara Walker, Justin Bond, Bridget Irish, Juliana Lueking, Cecilia Dougherty, Ariel Schrag, The Need, Vaginal Creme Davis, Alice Gerard, Billy Tipton, Julie Doucet, Yayoi Kusama, Eileen Myles…Oh no no no don’t stop stop”

Credited as an attempt to bridge the gap between Second and Third Wave feminists, Hot Topic by Le Tigre acts as a fantastic to-read, to-listen, to-love list for any wave feminist (which one are we on now?).

Of course it’s heavily USA, heavily New York centric but I can’t listen to this song without itching for pen and paper to remind myself to re-engage with these angrily creative women.

So what is the Hot Topic paperback equivalent? The books that you can’t read a page of without writing down fifteen things you must research immediately?

The books you never ever finish because you’re too busy listening to The Raincoats for the first time or downloading Daphne DuMaurier?

Here are three of mine:

Riot Grrrl: Revolution Girl Style Now! by Nadine Monem

Black Dog are a publisher known for gorgeously illustrated, achingly eclectic books on contemporary culture, so their take on Riot Grrrl was always going to be superb.

Thankfully the wealth of material and extensive number of contributors saves this from being a hipsters’ coffee table (steel drum? sonogram machine?) book and makes it the modern day riot grrrl’s cultural bible.

Introduced by Beth Ditto, it spans early inspirations like Patti Smith and Kim Gordon, riot grrrl stalwarts Le Tigre, Huggy Bear, Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy, and finishes with its effects on contemporary music.

Music, however, was never the sole focus or impetus of Riot Grrrl and due attention is paid to the diverse fanzines and artwork that sprang up.

My own copy is covered in biroed exclamation marks and apple-sticker bookmarks for things to return to, in the true spirit of Riot Grrrl.

A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists from Brontë to Lessing by Elaine Showalter

It is easy to forget, when reading the mainstream literary press, that female writing hasn’t passed like an Olympic torch from Austen to Brontë to Gaskell to Woolf to Lessing to Atwood.

There are hundreds of fantastic, forgotten female writers and Elaine Showalter manages to champion a decent proportion of them in the first fifty pages of A Literature of Their Own.

Crammed full of half-remembered names and barely-believable anecdotes (George Elliot wrote an essay called Silly Novels by Lady Novelists) this book is a treasure trove.

Controversial, both inside and outside the feminist movement, when it was published in 1982; the 2004 edition of A Literature of Their Own sees Showalter address her critics and re-examine the position of female writers today.

In an ideal world every reader of For Books’ Sake will be given at least two copies this year, one for notes, highlighting, exclamation marks and coffee stains (it can’t just be me who has these accidents) and one to give to her favourite person.

All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem: An Inappropriate Book for Young Ladies by Laurie Rosenwald

I found this book while volunteering at Oxfam Books and spent the rest of the afternoon drifting through it, ignoring the good and not so good works being done around me.

A different beast to the others, there really is no way to describe All the Wrong People Have Self-Esteem without making it sound like a Pinterest collaboration between Miss Haversham and Pippi Longstocking. Which it is.

Volatile colours and statements leap from the page and lodge themselves into the front of your brain. A massive pair of eyes peer out from under a fringe and the caption I hope things are better than I think they are.’

Marketed as a children’s book, every page of All the Wrong People drips with a Muriel Spark-esque nastiness and enjoyment. It won’t leave you with a list of things to investigate but it will make you want to go and make something for someone else to get excited about.

So who gets your synapses crackling and creativity flowing? For more awe-inspiring women writers, creatives and collections come down to the Ladyfest East London book swap on April 1st (for real) at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, 2- 4 Hoxton Square London N1 6NU.

Beulah Devaney