Our Shared Shelf: A Different Kind of Book Club

Emma Watson's feminist book club

Gloria Steinem Discusses 'My Life On The Road'
Gloria Steinem reads from 'My Life On The Road'. Paul Marotta/Getty Images

Emma Watson is a British actress and model best known for her role as Hermione Granger in the worldwide hit Harry Potter film franchise, adapted from the bestselling book series by J.K. Rowling. She has gone on to star in such films as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a page-to-screen adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel by Stephen Chbosky, as well as Noah, based on the biblical story.

There is more to Watson than her film career, however. In May 2014 she graduated from Brown University with a degree in English literature, having also spent some time as a visiting student at Oxford University. More recently, she has become a leading activist for women’s equality and was named Women’s Goodwill Ambassador to the United Nations.

In 2014, she delivered a powerful and impassioned speech before the United Nations General Assembly, one which kicked-off the “HeForShe” campaign inspiring men all over the world to stand up for feminism and equal rights for women. She explains her purpose in that speech by saying:

"I was appointed six months ago and the more I have spoken about feminism the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.
For the record, feminism by definition is: ‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.’"

Emma Watson Starts a Book Club

Early in 2016, Emma Watson took social media by storm when she announced, on Facebook and Twitter, that she would be starting a feminist book club. Soon after, the name of that book club, “Our Shared Shelf,” suggested by a fan, was formally attached to the project and the first book was selected: Gloria Steinem's My Life on the Road. In explaining the impetus for this book club, Emma Watson stated:

"As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on. There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a Feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.
The plan is to select and read a book every month, then discuss the work during the month’s last week."

If you are excited to join Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf book club, check out their website to see what they're currently reading. Past selections have included The Color Purple by Alice Walker and The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. 

Other Suggested Feminist Reads

Here are a few suggestions of classic feminist pieces that would make wonderful additions to any feminist reading list.

  1. The Feminine Mystique (1963) by Betty Friedan
  2. The Second Sex (1949) by Simone de Beauvoir
  3. This Bridge Called My Back (1981) by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa
  4. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft
  5. The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin
  6. A Room of One’s Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf
  7. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984) by bell hooks
  8. The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  9. The Bell Jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath
  10. "Uncivil Liberty: An Essay to Show the Injustice and Impolicy of Ruling Woman Without Her Consent" (1873) by Ezra Heywood

This list includes nine works by women, including women of color and women from different countries and different times periods. It also includes one work by a man, Ezra Heywood, who wrote his essay in 1873. That piece has since been terribly overlooked despite its having been a significant influence on Benjamin Tucker and the suffrage movement in the United States.

Hopefully, Emma Watson will continue to choose striking and illuminating books for the club, but also challenge and encourage her readers to look at some of the most foundational texts in feminist thought alongside the great work that is being written and published today.

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Burgess, Adam. "Our Shared Shelf: A Different Kind of Book Club." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/emma-watson-book-club-738876. Burgess, Adam. (2020, August 27). Our Shared Shelf: A Different Kind of Book Club. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/emma-watson-book-club-738876 Burgess, Adam. "Our Shared Shelf: A Different Kind of Book Club." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/emma-watson-book-club-738876 (accessed January 26, 2021).