Poorna Bell: ‘If you have a voice, however tiny, it’s important to use it’

This week’s Bookshelfie guest is award-winning journalist, author and lifter Poorna Bell. Poorna has published three non-fiction books and published her debut novel, In Case of Emergency in 2022.

Poorna joined our Bookshelfie host Vick Hope to talk about the five most defining reads of her life from Ronda Rousey’s autobiography to Arundhati Roy’s Booker Prize-winning debut. You can listen to the episode in full here.

The God of Small Things

‘They all broke the rules. They all crossed into forbidden territory. They all tampered with the laws that lay down…

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‘Arundhati Roy, in this book talks about and touches upon something that is so, I think, underrepresented, which is the caste system in India […] I just remember reading it and thinking at that age, this is so unjust. How is this a system that is stapled into a society, where just because of someone’s birth and circumstance, they’re treated in a particular way, it just seems so wrong. But the way she has written this book is so beautiful. It’s so accessible.’


The winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize and a finalist for the 1987 National Book Award, Beloved remains American novelist Toni Morrison’s…

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‘You open [Beloved] to any page, every word, every line in that book has so much meaning and it is so beautifully crafted. But I think, apart from apart from how significant that book was, because from memory, I think it won the Pulitzer, was how it talked about love, and how it talked about grief. So really, Beloved, is the living embodiment of Sethe’s grief, and guilt, that’s been poured into a person.’

My Fight Your Fight: The Official Ronda Rousey autobiography

In My Fight Your Fight Rousey relives the toughest fights of her life. Her journey to the top has been filled with…

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‘It’s her saying that what she has gone through and what she has fought for, and what she continues to fight for is for the rest of us. The other women who are being peddled, pigeonholed and boxed in, by certain tropes, or stereotypes that we have about what is deemed to be feminine and what is deemed to be masculine.’


Longlisted for Women’s Prize for Fiction Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job…

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‘I think Raven is one of the most beautiful writers that I’ve come across in a really, really long time, like it has been a while since I’ve annotated a book as much as I’ve annotated hers. I just think it’s that line between poetry and prose. And she has such an economy with words like she says so much with actually so little, and that is probably the style of writing that I love the most and that I admire the most.’

The Mermaid of Black Conch

March 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch, at the start of the rainy…

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‘The emotions that this book brings up in me is that you can feel that loneliness […] she’s cursed into the body of a mermaid doomed to swim the oceans and be on her own until she meets David. But I think that that sense of loneliness, it sounds completely ridiculous that I’m talking about the loneliness of a fictitious mermaid and relating to that, but I can sense that within her and  that resonates, I think on a really deep level.’

Listen to Poorna’s episode in full here. For plenty more reading inspiration from guests including Mother Pukka, Lisa Nandy and Cherry Healey, have a look through the Women’s Prize podcast archives – and don’t forget to hit subscribe, and rate, it really helps us reach more listeners with brilliant books by women.

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.