For the past few years, I have been getting more and more into reading feminist literature – both fiction and nonfiction. It is something I really enjoy and something I make a priority when selecting books to read. While I still enjoy male-centric books, I make an effort to seek out female-centric books, too. In fact, this year so far, I’ve read almost three female authors for every male author, which I’m very happy with.
I also love learning about women’s history. As a history major in college, I took two separate women’s history courses (and would have minored in women’s studies if I wasn’t already doing two other minors). I loved them. I loved learning about the history that often falls to the wayside, and the women behind the famous men. And even though I’ve switched gears academically from history to literature, I still adore reading about influential women.
Today, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you. These are books that made a huge impact on me as a feminist, and opened my eyes to the issues women faced throughout history and are still struggling with today. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that these books changed my life, and I highly, highly recommend that you give them a shot.
- A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Wollstonecraft is called the mother of feminism for a reason. This was her response to Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, in which she details, very eloquently, why women are not second-class citizens. This was the beginning of a movement that didn’t yet have a name. I’ve read it twice so far, and plan to read it again, because it’s just so valuable. If you only read one book on this list, pick this one. It’s a great foundation to further reading.
- Madam President: The Secret History of Edith Wilson by William Hazelgrove. Admittedly, I haven’t quite finished this one, but I mean to soon (hopefully this month). Still, I think Edith Wilson is such an interesting – and badass – historical figure because she did essentially run the country when her husband, Woodrow Wilson, was incapacitated. Definitely one of history’s most underrated women.
- My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. This is the book that made me a hardcore feminist, and I loved it. It is largely about Steinem’s own life, but it’s also an exploration of women’s history through time and across the United States. It really opened my eyes to a lot of issues, and definitely changed my perspective.
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This is a graphic memoir about a girl growing up and discovering herself during the Iranian Revolution. I adore this book! It’s funny and clever, but also brings to light a lot of very serious issues. Because it’s a graphic memoir, it’s also really fun to read, and I flew through it.
- I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I really loved this book, which is a memoir about Malala’s experience fighting for girls’ education in Pakistan. She was actually shot in the face by the Taliban for refusing to stay silent, and is such an inspirational contemporary figure. She definitely inspires me personally with her drive, intelligence, and kindness.
Since I have a ton of books that would make amazing Women’s History Month reads on my TBR, so I thought I’d include a few of those as well:
- Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I’m sure you know what this one is about. I adore this story and the women whose stories it tells. I do want to read the book and find out more. (I am slowly making my way through it, but I’m not very far in.)
- Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman. This is a book of stories about the women of history who have been forgotten, or relegated to the sidelines.
- Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich. I love the Amazon show based off of this book. It’s so empowering and fun and interesting, and I just really adore this story.
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Wilson. This is a memoir of a young black girl in the 60s and 70s. I am hoping to get to it sometime in the next month or two, because I keep hearing amazing things about it.
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I have heard so many great things about this book, about a woman whose cells have lived on long after her death and facilitated many breakthroughs in science. All without her knowledge.
Further recommendations: Feminist Fiction
Are there any books about women’s history not on this list that you love? Share your recommendations and/or books on your TBR in the comments!