Scarlett Curtis: ‘Books truly saved my life’

This week on the Women’s Prize podcast, Vick Hope chats all things books with author, activist and co-founder of the feminist collective Pink Protest – not to mention former Women’s Prize judge! – Scarlett Curtis. Scarlett reflects on the five books that have shaped – and saved – her life, and confesses to being the ultimate literary fangirl, from plastering her room with posters of Virginia Woolf to copying her favourite character’s perfume.

If you’re as voracious a reader as Scarlett, you’ll want to get out a pen and paper for these brilliant book recommendations. And for all the bookish chat, you can listen to the full episode here – there might even be a cameo from Scarlett’s well-read poodle.

Girls in Love

‘Nadine has a boyfriend. I can’t believe it! How come Nadine’s got a boyfriend before me?’ Ellie, Nadine and Magda…

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It was the first time I realised that books could be exciting. Almost like a little secret you have between you and this thing that you’re reading. I was reading about things I knew I was too young to be learning about’.

I Capture the Castle

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…‘ This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary…

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‘It has one of the most famous first lines in literary history, which is “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink”. And from that line I was bewitched. I’ll probably think about [this book] once a week.’


One woman is called upon to reconstruct humanity in this hopeful, thought-provoking novel by the bestselling, award-winning author. For readers…

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‘Butler wrote some amazing non-fiction about the civil rights movement, about the feminist movement and about her identity as a Black American woman. But somehow, when you’re able to put those themes into fiction, and especially science fiction, I think they can hit more powerfully in some ways.’

Front cover of Mrs Dalloway

Mrs Dalloway

In this vivid portrait of one day in a woman’s life, Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of…

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‘The way a lot of young girls feel about Harry Styles is the way I feel about Virginia Woolf. I’ve read Mrs. Dalloway, I think, upwards of 50 times … She manages to express human life and human emotion, the beauty and pain of being alive, in a way that no one else really does, or has since.’

The Accidental

Arresting and wonderful, The Accidental pans in on the Norfolk holiday home of the Smart family one hot summer. There…

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‘I think Ali Smith is the greatest living writer of our times. She’s incredible. Again, like I was saying about Virginia Woolf being my Harry Styles, Ali Smith is my Taylor Swift.’

…don’t mind us, just rushing off to our nearest bookshop! If you feel like browsing the bookshelves of more incredible women, subscribe to the Women’s Prize podcast and take a stroll through our archives, with guests including Sara Pascoe, Gina Miller and Jameela Jamil.

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.