Winter Ambition: A Reading List for Ballsy Women

With the grey days of winter approaching, it’s time to settle in with a nice cup of cocoa and a cozy hand-crocheted afghan...and plot world domination.  Or something like that.

We are so pleased to join Jen Dziura's* Bullish Blog network with this first post.  Thanks for the invite, Jen!  Here's to ballsy ladies everywhere.

Julie and I are both voracious readers, and considering that this is a joint blog, you are in for twice the suggestions!  So maybe up that cup of cocoa to a vat and throw in a hot toddy and a couple bottles of Malbec while you’re at it...

*And if (this November 13-15) you are looking to combine an escape to a sunny location with some serious inspiration and a sweet spot to plan your empire, join us, Jen Dziura, and a bevy of brilliant ladies at Bullicon 2014!  Vital Voice Training will be sharing our philosophy of authentic authority in communication in Miami, and we can't wait to hear from the other presenters.

Non Fiction

The Second Circle by Patsy Rodenberg -- Excellent thoughts on where effective communication comes from--and how to apply it real life situations--from one of the world’s foremost acting and voice teachers. One of our heroes.

Reading Between the Wines by Terry Thiese -- Ostensibly about wine, but much more an insightful collection of thoughts about our relationship with others, life and beauty.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown -- A transformational look at vulnerability: why we need it and how embracing imperfection and "failure" helps us to live the richest life possible.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – Ever wonder why we do the things we do? The brain science behind habit, habit forming, and habit changing (’cause Mr. Duhigg informs us with great scientific authority that you can’t BREAK a habit–you can only change it to something better or replace it) is absolutely fascinating.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – Like to warm yourself by the fire of righteous anger?  This book will pick you up, spin you around, and set you down with a whole new perspective on the world. Nicholas and Sheryl are NY Times reporters who have made it their mission to illuminate the challenges facing women around the world. That the things they talk about still go on today will shock you and piss you off and hopefully motivate you to get involved.  On my winter reading list is the JUST released sequel, called A Path Appears.

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed -- Every once in awhile, you might need a really good cathartic laugh/sob with your butternut squash casserole.  This book will give it to you.  These are some the most startlingly honest, take no prisoners, heartbreakingly loving, soul-connected words I’ve ever read. A series of advice columns–questions and answers: but SO. MUCH. MORE.

Drink- A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately --  This book is like sitting next to the most interesting person at the bar and getting a look at history through beer, wine, and scotch goggles.  For example:  did you know that a society’s alcohol consumption in Western Culture is almost directly linked to population density?  Or that Queen Victoria loved her Claret and Whiskey (together, in the same glass)? That since water wasn’t safe to drink, entire families would have beer with breakfast?  Or that the Declaration of Independence was written in a bar over three days and with a modern equivalent of a close to $200,000 dollar bar tab? (John Hancock apparently wrote his signature really big so King George could see it… I think I’ve been a at a party with this guy).


Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin (and the rest of the Adelia series) -- Want to shiver over more than just the Manhattan avenue wind tunnels?  If you like a touch of the macabre with your ballsy women, Adelia is the heroine for you.  During the reign of England’s Henry II, one of the only places in the world where women could learn and practice medicine without being accused of witchcraft was in Salerno, Sicily.  So when a beleaguered Henry II begs the King of Sicily to send him his best “master of the art of death” (the earliest form of forensic medical examiner) to help him catch a serial killer in Medieval Cambridge, he gets a “mistress” instead - one who travels with a Jew and a Muslim eunuch to boot.  Adelia is smart as hell and about 900 years ahead of her time, the mystery is twisty and satisfying, the supporting characters rich, and the story packs an emotional punch.

Up From Jericho Tel by E.L. Konigsburg -- Craving a nostalgia trip that doesn't require a puffy snowsuit?  Try this story: a pair of friends (led by feisty misfit Jeanie) that befriend the ghost of a grande dame actress who sends them on an adventure to solve the mystery of her missing jewels.  Smart, quirky, funny writing with the magic combination of memorable characters and good dialogue and story-telling.   E.L. Konigsberg writes across the board about curious, willful young people that are often smarter than the adults in their worlds.  Many know her from her Newberry Book Award Winner “From the Mixed up Files of Miss Basil E. Frankweiler”  but her whole oevre is worth checking out/ revisiting.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde -- When Michiko Kakutani describes your book’s heroine as “part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew, and part Dirty Harry”, you know you’re in for an adventure.  Mr. Fuh-Ford (as I like to call him) transports us to an alternate history England--circa 1985--where literature is taken VERY seriously and both our villain and our heroine can “book-jump”.  When Jane Eyre is kidnapped from the pages of Bronte’s novel, it’s up to Thursday Next (how can you not love a book with a heroine named THURSDAY NEXT??) to save the day.  Slyly clever, surreal, hilarious, with the kind of inside jokes for literary geeks that will make you feel like one smart cookie.

Fiction bonus:  Heard about that Outlander TV show people are calling “the feminist answer to Game of Thrones”?  Read Outlander (and the rest of the series) by Diana Gabaldon, fall in love with Jamie Fraser, and adopt heroine Claire into your personal pantheon of amazing literary heroines.


Casey Erin Clark was raised on a steady diet of nostalgic girl classics and is inclined toward hyperbole and way too many adjectives today because of it. She was the girl who READ on the playground instead of, er, playing. Her literary heroines include Anne of Green Gables and Jo March, among others. She likes her non-fiction sparky and emotionally honest, her characters deliciously flawed, her prose poetic, and though she sometimes prefers heroines come from eras of long dresses rather than skinny jeans, she insists that her damsels don’t distress. She often keeps an eye out for Jamie Fraser on the streets of NYC. She sings the praises of the NY Public Library e-book app, and she and her husband work hard to keep their three giant bookcases from over-flowing.


Julie Fogh spent most of her childhood reading and worked in a library during high school in order to be closer to books (apologies to the city of Tacoma, WA for spending most of her time "shelving" in the basement stacks). She has read something from every number of the Dewey decimal system, and deeply regrets recycling 5 years of Sassy magazine. She loves young adult novels, and her steady college diet of feminist criticism has slowly morphed into memoirs (especially by chefs) and anything about food and drink history and politics. Favorite writers include Tom Robbins, David Sedaris, Chuck Palainick, and Suzanne Rindell.

Casey Erin Clark