Great Books By Women

If I were ever invited to join a secret cabal of culturally wise writers – the kind of club where you'd find Erik Davis, Douglas Wolk, Jonathan Lethem, or Luc Sante all sipping absinthe while deconstructing reruns of Man From Uncle – I imagine it would also host the kinds of women who are writing the books that have ended up in my mailbox this month.

Jessica Helfand's Scrapbooks is a well-documented by highly visual history of the American scrapbook, using photos and scans from books by creative figures such as Zelda Fitzgerald, Lillian Hellman, Anne Sexton, Hilda Doolittle, and Carl Van Vechten. The book is as informative as it is trippy, and chronicles an under-appreciated lineage of smart craft culture.

Columbia complit prof Jenny Davidson just wrote a young adult novel, The Explosionist, with a premise that I was going to use myself for a graphic novel: someone sets off a bomb at a boarding school. Now call it a guilty pleasure, but I like today's young adult novels better than most of what is passing for literary fiction these days. (Blake Nelson's Paranoid Park became a weird Gus Van Sant film, remember.) And in Davidson's hands, the genre transcends expectations for a safe read.

Dubravka Ugresic, the Yugoslavian exile, wrote a collection of essays I hadn't heard of before called Nobody's Home, translated recently from Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac (and having nothing to do with the Avril Lavigne single of the same name). She's best known for her fiction, but this collection of essays puts her on par with Zizek or Baudrillard for observation and critique – and maybe a cut above for courage to speak the truth. There's something decidedly female about this writing as well, which exposes a bit of the bias of the rest of post-modernism.

(Douglas Rushkoff is a guestblogger)