Caroline Criado Perez: ‘No one ever changed the world by being nice’ | Books

The book I am currently reading
Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living. After years of reading almost exclusively men, I’m now addicted to sharp female writers like Levy who write about what it is to be a woman. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the excitement of recognising how I see the world in a book.

The book that changed my life
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way or, All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Shakespeare by Laurie Maguire. Part literary analysis, part self-help book, reading this made me realise I was in an abusive relationship – which was the first step to getting out.

The book I wish I’d written
This is cheating a bit as it’s not out yet, but Helen Lewis’s forthcoming Difficult Women. I always love her writing – an enviable mix of effortlessly erudite and funny – and this book addresses one of the great unacknowledged blocks to female liberation: the tyranny of niceness. No one ever changed the world by being nice.

The book that had the greatest influence on me
I’m going to choose a writer rather than a book: Cordelia Fine. Reading Delusions of Gender and Testosterone Rex made me feel that science writing could be fun, accessible and have a sense of humour. And, crucially, that it could be about women.

The book I think is most underrated
I’m not sure how underrated it is, but it definitely isn’t read enough any more: A Literature of Their Own by Elaine Showalter. If nothing else it’s worth reading for a look at the reviews of George Eliot’s books before – and after – critics knew she was a woman.

The book that changed my mind
Feminism and Linguistic Theory by Deborah Cameron. I didn’t grow up a feminist. In fact I thought feminism was stupid and feminists were embarrassing. This book changed all that.

The last book that made me cry
Like all Margaret Atwood’s novels, The Blind Assassin breaks your heart through a thousand acute observations of the female experience. Specifically in this novel, the tragedy of how women’s lives are disfigured by male violence.

The last book that made me laugh
Don’t Hold My Head Down by Lucy-Anne Holmes. A hilarious, poignant and much-needed book about sex. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud so much reading a book. Every young woman (and man) should read it.

The book I couldn’t finish
Ulysses by James Joyce. I don’t feel I need to explain myself.

The book I’m most ashamed not to have read
There’s no point feeling ashamed of unread books. There are so many brilliant books, you could never hope to read them all. So just take pleasure in the books you have had time to read. That said, the teetering to-read pile in my bedroom does make me feel guilty every day.

The book I give as a gift
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. Hard to talk about it without giving away the plot, but this. It is one for all those wives who were thanked in the acknowledgments of their great husband’s great works…

The book I’d most like to be remembered for
This seems a little premature given I’ve only written two books, but I suppose Invisible Women is the one I’m most proud of. I hope it effects the change women so desperately need.

My earliest reading memory
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t reading. I was definitely one of those head-in-a-book kids. I remember reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles when I was far too young to understand what was going on. I think I thought it was just a tragic love story (to be fair I think Hardy probably thought that too).

My comfort read
When I want to read a book that is like getting into a warm bath I invariably reach for Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, and cheer Linda on as she muddles her way through life, love and a series of terrible men.

Invisible Women (Chatto & Windus) won the 2019 Royal Society science book prize this week.

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