'Tis the season for summer reading. If you're lucky enough to have a few beach days on the horizon, now is the time to get your bag (or tablet) stocked with some worthy reading material.
The summer kicked off with viral commentary about the "seriousness" of women's magazines. What, exactly, constitutes serious journalism? And can women's magazines produce work worthy of the descriptor?
The overall response from women's magazine editors and writers was a resounding "yes." (For a list of stories that deserve credit, check out #womenatlength). As Elle editor Robbie Myers sharply pointed out in a June 2013 letter, women's magazines have been tackling important, substantive issues for years. And outside of the women's magazines genre, women writers are doing the same.
Sure, the ad-revenue-generating cover stories often hit on the trifecta of fashion, beauty and lifestyle. But women's magazines are aptly proving that these topics and "serious" journalism can seamlessly co-exist.
The Huffington Post's addition to the dialogue included a handy little quiz, asking readers to guess if the lead of a story was from a woman's magazine or a "serious" publication. Turns out, it's often hard to tell, proving that women's outlets and serious magazines are not mutually exclusive.
So this summer, see for yourself the kind of seriously good stories women are producing -- in magazines designed for them and in more general interest publications. Here are a handful of must-reads:
• "From Pageants to Politics" by Adrienne Sanders
In this feature, a Marie Claire contributor argues that the controversial pageant circuit -- long a symbol to feminists of how much work we have left to do -- might just be a pipeline for women in politics. Divisive? Of course. Worth the read? Absolutely.
• "America's Most Colorful Congresswoman: Kyrsten Sinema" by Ann Friedman
Always a go-to for whip-smart commentary on politics, women and everything in between, Ann Friedman's Elle profile of freshman Arizona Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly bisexual member, doesn't disappoint. This is, however, more than a typical profile: It is a message about the changing face of politics and a woman's place in that transformation.
• "The Target" by Marie Brenner
This Vanity Fair piece is a powerful profile of Pakistani-schoolgirl-turned-international-symbol Malala Yousafzai. It outlines how one girl's courage is helping her dream--girls' rights to education -- become a reality.
• "Base Boston" by Janelle Nanos
This Boston Magazine story provides a new angle on a national issue that has for too long been swept under the rug. It is proof that it is not only women in Congress but women in media who are tackling sexual assault in the military.
More of a traditional bookworm than a magazine reader? Trade in lighter beach books or checkout-counter tabloids for these reads that have a hearty dose of substance (all written by women):
• The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family by Madeleine Kunin
• Every Day is Election Day: A Woman's Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House by Rebecca Sive (Look for commentary from Barbara Lee Family Foundation Executive Director Adrienne Kimmell in the book when it launches on August 1).
• How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
• Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti
These articles and books, some new and some that deserve another look, are evidence that beach reads -- and women's works -- can be far from brainless.