Interviews, Podcasts

Barbara Kingsolver: ‘every decade of my life has been better than the one before’

To close this season of Bookshelfie in style, our guest this week is none other than this year’s winner Barbara Kingsolver!

The acclaimed American novelist, essayist, poet, and activist has published over a dozen critically acclaimed books, including the bestselling novels The Poisonwood Bible and Flight Behavior. Last week, Barbara became the first author to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction twice – first in 2010 for The Lacuna and this year’s Prize was awarded for Demon Copperhead, a reimagining of Dickens’ David Copperfield set in poverty-stricken Virginia at the height of the opioid crisis.

Barbara tells us about the five books that have shaped her as a writer, how she first became a feminist and why the creation of Demon’s character was fuelled by rage. Listen to this inspiring conversation in full here

Little Women

Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – four “little women” enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England The…

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‘I can remember exactly where I was, when I read it. And why it had such an effect on me. I was nine years old. I was in the back of a station wagon. And I disappeared into that book. I was in another world I was I was well, let’s face it. I was Jo March, don’t we all want to be Jo March.’

Martha Quest

The opening book in the Nobel Prize for Literature winner’s ‘Children of Violence’ series tracing the life of Martha Quest…

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‘When I read it, I was I was a young woman, I was an adolescent bristling against the constraints of my culture, of my place… [Doris Lessing] was writing about racism. She was writing about sexism and segregation. And these bigger issues that I had never really understood could be the substance of literature.’

Shiloh and Other Stories

This stunning fiction debut and winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award has become a modern American classic. In Shiloh, Bobbie Ann…

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‘This book was written by a Kentuckian about people in Kentucky, who worked at Kmart, or the gas station, and they spoke my language and they lived the lives of the people I knew, and this was a very respected book. This was kind of one of the IT books of that year. And once again, in a new way, it blew my mind. I understood all at once that voice comes from authenticity.’

Orlando

As his tale begins, Orlando is a passionate young nobleman whose days are spent in rowdy revelry, filled with the…

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‘What she did with this character who begins as a man and becomes a woman, and passes in both directions actually for the remainder of their 300 year life, was so amazing. And it was was surreal. But it was also realistic. When you read that book, it doesn’t read like science fiction or alternative fiction, it reads as realism.’

Middlemarch

Middlemarch addresses ordinary life at a moment of great social change, in the years leading to the Reform Act of…

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‘If I had to take one thing to a desert island? Well, look, I would take water. Also you’ve got to take a book, and it would be [Middlemarch] because it’s a book of infinite depth.’

To hear more recommendations and creative insight from this year’s Women’s Prize winner, listen to the full episode here. Make sure to  have a look through the Women’s Prize Podcast archives to explore the bookshelves of more inspiring 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.