On Our Bookshelves: February 2023

On Our Bookshelves

On Our Bookshelves

We love reading about – everything. And we bet you do too. Our members are sharing what they are enjoying in the world of reading. Come back often to see what’s new from the phenomenal women who make up IFB.

Lessons in Chemistry

Lessons in Chemistry: A Novel

by Bonnie Garmus

‘Lessons in Chemistry’ was a really fun read that felt like a literary equivalent to the scene in Thelma and Louise when the women blew up the truck. Many women who saw that movie identified with the heroines at that moment. Which of us has not had the experience of men in trucks whistling, jeering, and honking as we drive down the highway. Elizabeth Zott, the protagonist, of this book lives in the 1950s. She is a brilliant woman in a world that is not yet ready to accept her as such. Instead, her male peers and many of the women around her would prefer to stop her, undermine her, and see her fail. But she persists, standing up to misogyny, religious zealotry, and social conditioning. Although she faces tragedy, happily, she also succeeds in the most unexpected ways. There were enough surprises to keep the story interesting and engaging.

After 30 years of working as a copy editor, this is Garmus’ first novel. I look forward to what she produces next, as well as the television series that will be based on this book.

Recommended by

Janine Firpo

Co-founder, Invest for Better 

Master, Slave, Husband, Wife

by Ilyon Woo

‘Master, Slave, Husband, Wife’ by Ilyon Woo chronicles the true story of Ellen and William Craft who escaped slavery by Ellen disguising as a young, white, ailing master traveling with his slave. Upending all conventions and stereotypes across gender and race, the couple’s daring flight fools all the white, male powerbrokers along their trip to Boston. Tragically, their challenges continue with the enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act (this book was a great excuse to brush up on my history!) , forcing yet another escape to England. I love how the couple used their story – despite putting themselves at great risk by appearing in public- to encourage abolitionists throughout the North and in England to contribute to the anti-slavery cause. This is a true story that was not well known before the book was written but should serve as an inspiration to all who are marginalized by entrenched self-interested power systems.

Recommend by

Ellen Remmer

Co-founder, Invest for Better

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

by Dr. Ayana E. Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson

At the suggestion of our allies at WISE, I recently picked up a copy of All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Dr. Katharine Wilkinson. It’s a collection of essays and creative works by over 50 women involved in climate change activism, science, finance, and policy. A welcome feminist voice in the climate movement, it offers a range of ideas and perspectives by diverse women on the multi-faceted crisis we’re facing. I loved having the inclusion of more “right-brained” elements (art, poetry & letters) than typical science and policy treatises on this topic. I was also thrilled to learn about the All We Can Save Project, which includes a peer-led reading group model called All We Can Save Circles—a fabulous analogue to what IFB is doing and a testament to the power of women coming together in circles!

Recommend by

Jasmine Tanguay

Program Director, Invest for Better

Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

by Julia Sweig

A book highly acclaimed when it came out, I recall seeing it referenced pretty much everywhere. Reading a review in the Sunday New York Times, I picked up the book as I was impressed with the nuanced portrayal of Lady Bird Johnson by the author Julia Sweig. Most reviews had emphasized Lady Bird’s influence on her husband’s presidency, but what caught my attention was her work on the environment and her friendship with Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Many know of Lady Bird’s effort at beautifying the nation’s cities and highways, but her environmental work was much more significant (she would become one of the nation’s leading proponents of environmental conservation). One of my favorite passages from the book describes a conversation between environmentalist writer Terry Tempest Williams and Lady Bird in 2000. Lady Bird Johnson, at age 88, shares with Tempest Williams: “I’ll never forgive Lyndon’s (staff) for turning my environmental agenda into a beautification project. But I went ahead and talked about wildflowers so as not to scare anybody because I knew if the people came to love wildflowers they’d have to eventually care about the land that grew ’em.” Sweig’s portrayal of the friendship between Lady Bird and Jackie Kennedy Onassis also stands out and showcases Sweig’s writing style (read excerpt). Depicting two women experiencing some of life’s most dramatic moments (the sociopolitical tumult of the 1960’s), Sweig’s documenting of these two women and their relationship is nuanced and complex. Both environmentalism and female bonds touch tangentially on what Invest for Better offer as themes of our work – impact and community.

Recommended by

Ann Yoders

Marketing & Outreach Manager, Invest for Better