In case you haven’t noticed, I like to read. My book tastes range anywhere from British classics to some good old Stephen King horror. (I finally read It last summer. All 1200 pages.) However, in the last year or so I’ve found myself browsing the nonfiction section of the library more often than I used to. I’m hooked on memoirs, biographies, and critical analyses – and I love reading feminist texts, in particular.
I share a lot of what I read on my Instagram, and I FINALLY got a Goodreads account this summer, so it’s easy to pull from those when I want to make a list of my favorite books. So for anyone looking to learn some history on women’s rights, feminism and all its many waves, or just in need of some tried and true girl power, here are my top five picks for feminist texts about women, by women:
1. The Highest Glass Ceiling: Women’s Quest for the American Presidency by Ellen Fitzpatrick
I just finished reading this book, and I felt ignorant for not realizing how many women have run for president of the United States before Hillary Clinton did. Fitzpatrick details the lives and political careers of three women who ran for president: Victoria Woodhull (1872), Margaret Chase Smith (1964), and Shirley Chisholm (1972). She then explains how these women paved the way for Clinton’s own presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2016. The women discussed in this book ran on the Republic, Democratic, and third party tickets, so the writing is well-rounded in terms of political beliefs.
2. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Malala is living proof that you’re never too young to start making a difference in your world. This book tells the rich story of Malala’s family as well as her amazing fight for girls’ education in Pakistan. It made me realize how fortunate I am to live in a place where so much higher education is open to me, regardless of my sex. This is a heart-wrenching and inspiring read.
3. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister
Can I just say how refreshing it is to finally read something that doesn’t explain why women need to get married ASAP? All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister discusses some of the vital women’s rights activists (and everyday women) who were/are single or married later in life. As someone who doesn’t want to get married in my 20s, this book gave me the encouragement I needed to fully enjoy my single life in a world that tells me to do otherwise.
4. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Written in the late ’90s, this book follows the history of young American women from the Victorian era (Suppress, suppress, suppress.) all the way to the turn of the 20th century and how we as a group have come to fixate on our bodies and outward appearances so much. Ever wonder why women started shaving their legs in the first place? Want to know how the modern-day bra came to be? Brumberg gives the whole backstory to today’s social customs and expectations for femininity, which kinda makes you realize that it’s all a bunch of BS in the end.
5. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
Can’t forget fellow Illinoisian Roxane! This was the first “feminist” book I ever read, and it is what got me hooked on so many read-a-likes. This book depicts Gay’s life as a woman of color and uses pop culture as a lens through which to view the state of feminism today. She also introduced me to the wonderful term “intersectional feminism,” which was something I really needed to learn. See? Books CAN make you a better person!