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The Thinking Woman

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

This deeply thoughtful book urges readers to look anew at what it means to live a good life.




One of the age-old questions of philosophy is what does it mean to live a good life? In this extraordinary book, scholar and writer, Julienne van Loon, applies a range of philosophical ideas to her own experience. Van Loon engages with the work of six leading contemporary thinkers and writers - Rosi Braidotti, Nancy Holmstrom, Siri Hustvedt, Laura Kipnis, Julia Kristeva and Marina Warner - through interrogating and enlivening their ideas on love, play, fear, work, wonder and friendship.


Thinking back to that incident, some months later, I am reminded of feminist philospher Ann Cahill's description of power as a force not solely punishing and authoritative, but also subtle, persuasive and creative. It is a force that is capable of influencing actions on the level of desire and identity, says Cahill, and for this reason it should not be surprising that the body becomes for it a privileged site.

The author's journey is intellectual and deeply personal, political and intimate at once. It introduces readers to six extraordinary women whose own deeply thoughtful work has much to offer all of us. They may transform our own views of what it means to live a good life.



Reviews and endorsements

"There is so much life in these conversations. Words and ideas feel hot, propulsive, uncontained in their implications. Above all else, this feeling of thinking, of thinking out loud, of thinking together, of thinking with and alongside, it’s a very special kind of high."

–Maria Tumarkin, author Axiomatic and winner of the Melbourne Prize for Literature 2018

"It’s heartening to read a book that encourages us to challenge our assumptions. To think expansively, and to look at those who do, and how that may be relevant to our everyday. An invitation to a thoughtful life. Julienne van Loon’s The Thinking Woman is that kind of book."

– Melissa Cronenburg, Feminist Writers Festival


"A compelling portrait of the relationship between thinking and feeling."

–Amanda Lohrey, winner of the Patrick White Award

"The Thinking Woman, the first work of non-fiction by acclaimed novelist Julienne van Loon (whose career began with a Vogel win for her first novel, Road Story, in 2004) is a knotty, charismatic exploration of the intersection between ideas and lived experience, through six central themes...

a surprising and resonant work that cements Julienne van Loon's status as a thinking woman well worth reading and following."

–Jo Case, The Sydney Morning Herald


"A fascinating book that will have us all thinking, whether or not we are women."

–Anne Summers, author Damned Whores and God's Police.

"The Thinking Woman is also much more than a thematically organised collection of essays that bring the dense theories of living feminist and female philosophers to a general readership. In many ways the book is also a revelation, as it marks van Loon as an extraordinary memoirist, able to draw convincing parallels between her own life and the academic arguments of her philosopher subjects without descending into cant or mawkishness. Van Loon manages to move confidently and convincingly between discussing her early love of trees and her first job working at a Dagwood Dog truck, to Julia Kristeva’s theory of subjective horror and Rosi Braidotti’s concept of bios/zoe."

–Johanna Leggatt, The Australian Book Review

"Towards the end of van Loon’s journey through her interviews with these impressive women, she asks: where are you at? It is a question she says we should all be asking each other, not so much for our physical whereabouts — though that can be crucial when a friend is in trouble — but to enquire about our own journey of becoming in the precarious world we inhabit... The Thinking Woman does a lot to help us think about how we can, how we could, even how we should, deal with our own feelings, and find the fluidity of imagination to live thoughtfully and fully.. I await volume two."

–Drusjilla Modjeska, Inside Story

"Show[s] us why and how philosophy matters in achingly personal, human terms...The quiet delight of this book is not just in watching its women think but understanding how and why they slice the world the way they do; locating their ideas in a biographical context, as the unique product of a life. A woman's life."

–Beejay Silcox, The Australian

Buy it now


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