How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
I have a small but insistent affection for books about what books people read, and this one is about so many books that I've either read or want to read (and one or two I'm giving a big skip). I won't go into the details of the books -- there's a full bibliography at the end of the book -- and instead tell you a bit about the idea of being a heroine.
In Ellis's life, what a heroine is changes, and because it's important to her to be one, she considers them from many angles. It's not something that I've every really considered, at least not consciously. At a fairly young age I discovered that most of the book characters (and TV and movie characters) I most admired were all male, which sort of denied the whole idea of a woman as hero for me. It was some years before I found enough female literary heroines to think of them as a thing, and I never thought to model myself on them (I was busy trying to me Mr. Spock for too many years). But I can sort of catch onto what she's saying, that we are the authors of our lives and the heroines of our own stories.
It sounds so pat and even trite, but in the context of the book, it isn't. It's important and deep and a thought a lot of women (and men) don't really incorporate.
Above that, Ellis really examines these characters -- Lizzy and Anne and Scarlett, Jane and Laura and so many more. She digs into them within the fictional worlds they inhabit, and she digs into what their authors did with them or didn't do with them, what the authors were saying or not saying. If you have a taste for literary analysis (in a lighter, less academic form), you'll find it here.
I now have to read and reread a number of books to see these heroines for myself.