Cover Image: How to Think Like a Woman

How to Think Like a Woman

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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic Publishing for allowing me a copy of this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I have to admit that I am not well versed in non-fiction and this was me dipping my toe in.

It was so worth it! I’ve always been interested in how females got into male dominated careers and mostly the history and Penaluna captured that perfectly with her story of philosophy.

Going between her own struggle in modern times and back to the founding mothers of philosophy Penaluna writes about the progress the world has made in terms of having females in most spaces and discussions whilst also acknowledging the still present issues from before carrying over to today.

Penaluna admits that philosophy in itself is a hard career to be successful in even without being a woman but shares her experience in the academic and research world whilst figuring out herself. She goes on a journey to find who she is and who she is in her career and without it.

I thoroughly enjoy this book and would recommend it to all readers with similar interest of feminism and the history of philosophy.

For this I rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

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You don’t have to be into philosophy or women’s studies in order to enjoy this book. I found the book educational, inspiring and I really enjoyed the author’s personal touch in adding her own personal life struggles.

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I was very excited to read this book but the theme wasn't carried through. There was some interesting information about women and the history of philosophy, as well persona stories by the author, but the book was lacking. There is no surprise that white, western men have dictated scholarship and research forever - why is the author shocked? Women have always been thwarted and minimized - but rather than discuss in the context of all women, the author conveys her stories as unique. The book would have been better served by either more internal reflection or more stories from contemporaries.

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This book was electrifying. I devoured it in two days which is a feat for me personally with this being nonfiction. Penaluna beautifully strung her personal story through the biographies of the extraordinary accomplishments of these women and it placed me exactly in her shoes as she researched. I could envision every exciting realization and discovery and place it in relation to my own life as Penaluna invited us to do the same as she did. This will be a book I come back to again and again and again as I think critically about feminist theory, my own personal struggles though this patriarchal world, and how regardless of how imperfect we may all may be, there's strength in our discourse and in caring for one another.

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Thanks to Net Galley and Ms. Penaluna for this ARC. I just put the order in for my desk copy. I am using this book in the Fall for my Truth and Inquiry course. My students are going to be blown away.

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Part memoir, part history, this book weaves the author's struggles with misogyny in academia into an account of four historical women philosophers. I enjoyed learning more about these pioneering women. The audio narration was well done.

Thanks, NetGalley, for the ARC I received. This is my honest and voluntary review.

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Dastardly, outrageous, different?

Before I read this book, I never considered the lack of ancient females in the field of philosophy. I just assumed they were there and then gone once the field was no longer fun, but alas, there just weren’t any women acknowledged during the time of the male greats. Women were there, they just weren’t heard and isn’t that a familiar line? This book is part enlightening story telling and part biography, an intertwining of the two to produce a meditation on what it means to be female in an ancient, male dominated, cisgender, white space. How can women find the space to think when their contributions are being crowded out by a bias judge? Is the question I continually came back to as I read this book.

10/10, would recommend

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I really appreciated this book, at first I was not expecting the memoir quality to it think that rather I would be diving into a nonfiction mini-bios about philosophy. But I was pleasantly surprised to find so much of the author’s journey as an academic within.

For years now I have been struggling to find myself as an intellectual and a person without a set system of religious beliefs, and in this almost post-structuralist (pun intended) new identity I have seldom found books about a philosophical journey or awakening that don’t simply conclude with harsh simple truths about what it means to be a modern woman or person. Or rather how a good modern person should be. This book has helped me healthy question a lot of my thinking and not by discarding it or shocking in any way, but by simply showing me how I can think of myself both as an individual and as a woman, and how I have a responsibility to continue analyzing my life instead of rigidly maintaining it.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in feminist history and philosophy

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this book was very engaging. the points weren’t dry but relatable.

the writing was very clear. i think anyone could read this book regardless of if you’re into philosophy or non-fiction in general

this is a book i would think about throughout life. thank you NetGalley for this arc

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Really enjoyed this book.Part memoir part history I really learned a lot it was so well written interesting so entertaining.#netgalley #groveatlantic.

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part memoir, part history, this is an interesting topic written in an engaging way. i never really thought about it but i've taken a couple philosophy courses at university and couldn't name a single female philosopher before this. i read this book especially for women's history month and i wish we could all learn more about women's contributions in history. i think this is a book i would like to go back to from time to time.

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Regan Penaluna How to Think Like a Woman Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind, Grove Atlantic, Grove Press 2023.

Thank you, NetGalley, for providing me with this uncorrected proof for review.

What a clever and engaging style Regan Penaluna has used to present her chosen women philosophers! She weaves her story as a woman philosopher into that of the four who are the focus of her work: Mary Astell, Damaris Masham, Mary Wollstonecraft and Catherine Cockburn. The reader is encouraged at every step to think like a woman, as, while the main narrative delivers the detailed stories of the four, Penaluna’s story gives them immediacy. Her story provides the understanding that is essential to thinking about women’s lives as a reference for past and present. Penaluna’s presentation gives us an insight into a present that links to the past.

The format irretrievably links the historical situations encountered by the four chosen women philosophers with that of the modern-day philosopher. Their stories become ever present, they are not something that is only of the past, their experiences are not of their time: they are the experiences of women philosophers, whatever the period in which they occurred. This deft weaving of relationships that impinge, children who must be cared for, experiences in the world that tell a woman her abilities are less then, inferior, are easily dismissed as they are not worthy of serious long-term thought are conveyed through the four historical figures and given immediacy through events in present day Regan Penaluna’s life. However, she does not intrude, she is too deft for that, but we are well aware that thinking like a woman infers recognising that history has something to teach, and alas the evidence is all around us.

Although Penaluna is keen to avoid an entirely biographical style, the four women philosophers’ stories are replete with information that would enhance any biography. Her own story begins in a lecture where her ability, along with that of other women, is put in doubt. Could it be that the lecturer whom she had thought of as an ally was suggesting that women were not as good as male philosophers? So, with the author we are flung into a life beginning at twenty-five, a career path chosen, and at a university lecture in that career path. From here, her childhood becomes one of recall about ideas, set into the physical scenery by which she was surrounded. But ideas are the driving force, and these are what resonate through the biographical entries of the other women.

The chapters are: A Woman Thinker; On the Prejudices of Philosophers; Discovery in the Margins; A Room of Her Own; Her Own Enlightenment: The Women behind the Men; “Fitts” and Starts; The Demons of Doubt; Love and Loathing; Heroes; Into the Hands of Virginia Woolf; Bedtime Stories; My Animal Self; Monsters; and Muses. An intriguing map to the book, indeed. There are detailed notes, which include bibliographical information.

Astell (1666-1731) used her philosophical writings to support her living in London away from her family in Newcastle. Her family chose to educate her, unlike the situation for Masham (1659-1708), whose place within an intellectual family highlights the discrimination she endured while superficially leading a life in an enlightened atmosphere. Despite this, the friendship between Masham and Locke flourished through the philosophical debates in their letters. Wollstonecraft’s life becomes a revelation of that of a philosopher beyond the well-known texts. Cockburn, a new mother, highlights some of the experiences of the author, while also making an impact with her modern approach discovered through her letters. An enlightenment thinker, she raises the all too familiar complexity of women’s duty to nurture, which appears in all ages to omit that of a man’s duty to do so. And this from a woman born in 1679.

Philosophy was always an area of study that I found impossible to come to terms with. This book is such a wonderful insight into the difficulties I found – where were the women who would have been enlightening? For those for whom philosophy was a world well understood, Penaluna brings new and valuable insights. For feminists who want to read and understand another part of history and its application to the present, alongside our lives and their application to the past, How to Think Like a Woman Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind is an impactful testimony.

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I love reading about women in fields that are generaly ruled by men. If I think about Philosofie not a single name would come to mind before reading this book. I loved that we got to know the journey of the writer and how it inspired her. Great read.

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Quite the interesting read as before reading this book, I couldn't name a single female philosopher. This book is thought-provoking and an interesting read for all women out there.

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Thank you Net Galley and Grove Press for providing me with an arc in exchange for a honest review.

As someone who took only a few philosophy classes during university, I anticipated that this book may be a challenging read. I was happy to discover a book that was easy to read and included reflections of the authors life as she researched female philosophers throughout history. Locke, Rousseau, Aristotle and many more male philosophers were mentioned in this book. These names were all very familiar to me. During my university experience, I heard these names often. The four women philosophers were names I had not heard of during my academic studies. Mary Astell, Catharine Cockburn and Damaris Cudworth Masham were all names that were new to me. I had come across some of Mary Wollstonecraft works when I was researching about Mary Shelley’s life (as she is the mother of Mary Shelley who went on to write Frankenstein). Though this author focused primarily on these four European middle class women, she did provide information on many other women philosophers throughout history spanning across the world. I hope I can learn more about these women in the future. Perhaps, this author will write some more books about these woman and I would gladly read more of her works.

The authors own personal reflections in the book also helped me connect with this book emotionally. Her providing details about her personal life and connecting to how philosophy helped her through difficult moments was very inspiring. I really appreciate this author bringing attention to how women are treated in the academic world and specifically in the philosophical department. It’s such an important subject that needs to be brought to everyone’s attention.

If you are interested in books about history and learning about historical women’s writing, this is a good book to pick up. The way this author describes writings of philosophers in a way that is easy to understand. Those who only have a basic understanding of philosophy will be able to engage with this book with ease.

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The author of this book saw a hole in the discussion of philosophy and decided to fill it which is amazing. Who we know as the famous thinkers has definitely been skewed by the hands of history and I love how she taught us lessons and gave us insight of the past while also weaving in her own journey with the stories.

I’m excited to hear more from her as she continues to give women the voices they’ve always deserved.

*Kindly received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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<i>Many thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.</i>

What a fantastic, dedicated and inspiring work!

"How to think like a woman" is such a provocative title that I immediately clicked on it, thinking "surely this can't be what it seems, surely we're not still publishing this kind of stuff in 2023". We probably are, but it was not this case. I love works dedicated to expanding the canon to include the forgotten (or ignored) voices of history, so I was grateful and excited when I got this copy.

Penaluna mixes the historical accounts of four influential XVII and XVIII century feminist philosophers with her own memoirs as a contemporary philosopher in a male-dominated field that still ponders "the woman question" in a discussion we're not supposed to take part in. The author, then, takes us on a journey through her days in academia, when she has to struggle with the "male glance", her feelings of inadequacy, her slow realization that she was never going to be able to shake off her identity as a *woman* philosopher and think in the abstract, and the ways in which she found and connected with Astell, Masham, Wollstonecraft and Cockburn through time and space. We're then introduced to each of these philosophers, to their works, their personal lives, their cultural impact at the time and the revelations they inspired in Penaluna.

I found the writing overall to be clear and engaging enough that even someone who doesn't have much patience for philosophy could enjoy. As serious as this book was, it also had a good dose of humour - I choked at the author wondering whether Aristotle liked to tongue ass, or what else we might willingly ignore about him in order to take him as an authority figure even today, even though he didn't think of women as his equals.

At the same time, this carefully created structure feels disjointed when it falls in the cracks, and we get a somewhat disconnected compilation of mini-bios about other important yet generally forgotten/ignored women from history. Here is when my attention drifted and I began to wonder when the chapter would end (since my copy wasn't properly formatted, I had no way of knowing). Maybe it's on me, but I failed to see the connecting thread in those sections, which was a jarring contrast to the clarity with which Penaluna weaves her story with that of our star philosophers.

The issues of formatting also meant that I couldn't check the references as I read along, which is important to me when reading academic non-fiction - I want to see those sources! But I assume (hope) this problem will be solved in the final ebook edition.

While the author is focusing on the struggles of cis women in academia, and the four philosophers chosen are white European women, the author did take an intersectional perspective in her analysis that included critiques to her objects of study, references to non-white philosophers and an acknowledgment of her own limitations, which I really appreciated.

I cannot recommend this book enough, whether you're interested in philosophy specifically or if you merely like learning about interesting women we don't hear enough of in academia.

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How to Think Like a Woman by Regan Penaluna was such a great book! Really interesting and I learned a lot.

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My bare bones knowledge of philosophy comes from the one year I had it in high school, and out of the 4 women Penaluna writes about, I knew Mary Shelley supposedly had sex on Wollstonecraft's grave. I was happy to expand my knowledge but I was taken on a much richer and more personal journey than I expected in this book and I'm pleasantly susprised.

How to Think Like a Woman and its four women philosophers, what I assumed would be a simple account of their lives and work, turned out to be an exemplary work of nonfiction. Penaluna mirrors her personal life story to the lives of these women, weaving in and out of these narratives smoothly, something I don't usually encounter in these types of works. I particularly appreciated that these four were not the only women philosophers included, but that other notable women thinkers outside of Europe got mentioned.

The accounts weren't dry, but to the point, interesting and highly relatable. There's those moments of the subtle (and not so subtle) misogyny being put into words that just click and you feel connected to these women who lived centuries ago.

Whether you're interested in philosophy or not, I highly recommend this book. It's riveting, eye opening, and will have you mad, annoyed and hopeful.

Thank you to Grove Press and NetGalley for providing this ARC.

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"...when I stared into the carnival mirror of the philosophers' words, I took them not as a sign of who I was but rather as a warning: because I was a woman, I would always struggle in this field."

"Whether it's expressed in a thought to yourself or in an essay, to think like a woman, to produce and create like a woman, often involves anger. It's a feature of a woman's psyche as she comes into her own in a world that (still) does not want her to."

This book is a wonderful depiction of the biases and hypocrisies of early day philosophers regarding their opinions about both the women in their life and women in general.

Focusing on four, but mentioning many more women involved in philosophy through time, Penaluna writes of her own journey through her philosophical career, and how the women forgotten to time (either purposefully or naturally) had a huge impact on her own story. These women's writings and experiences had Penaluna questioning her own baises and blind spots when it came to philosophy and life as a whole.

As a reader who isn't a philosopher myself, I feel like I, too, am making this rediscovery of female philosophers along with the author.
It's frustrating and comforting to know women have been exasperated for centuries by men thinking they know everything about women. This mentality pops up in the foundations of most topics, especially scholarly ones. Probably every woman in every college major has had that moment of "what the hell did he just say?" It's both disheartening and somehow calming to realize this has been happening for as long as there has been written (or unwritten) history.

The idea of women being seen through history only in how they relate to a man, and usually in how they are found lacking in relation to men, is horrifying and has had a hand in shaping the world we live in today.
In a similar vein, if you read and liked the book Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, you'll find similar vibes in this book.

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