Original Graphic by Viviana Duron
It’s Women’s Equality Day tomorrow—a holiday commemorating women’s right to vote—so it got us thinking about the great female empowerment books out there. Since the passage of the 19th amendment (and before), women have done amazing things for society, including writing inspirational books. We know what it’s like to hit a point in life where you just need a spark of motivation—and thankfully, these female-penned books will give you just that. (We swear, everyone needs a little prompting sometimes).
So we went on to find seven books that will inspire you in every area of your life. The authors range from journalists to social scientists to doctors and even a Nobel Peace Prize Winner (#goals). Follow along with us as we introduce you to the top women’s empowerment books that we think deserve a place on your bookshelf. Cancel your plans—you won’t be able to put them down.
Roxane Gay Bad Feminist ($11)
In a collection of essays, author Roxane Gay explores what it means to be imperfect in this day and age (and why it’s okay). She doesn’t leave anything out—covering race, friendship, feminism, and even Lena Dunham. (FYI: The title speaks to how, as a black woman, she believes in the tenets of feminism, but she feels like it was created to primarily benefit the white community). If you think the tone is going to be preachy, think again. Sitting down with this book will kind of be like having a thought-provoking conversation with your cooler, smarter best friend.
At the beginning of Redefining Realness, author Janet Mock writes, “We need stories of hope and possibilities, stories that reflect the reality of our lived experiences.” Mock’s narrative goes on to detail how she grew up impoverished, multiracial, and transgendered, all with the ultimate goal of finding herself. It wasn’t until the People editor fell in love with a man she was dating that she had to dig deep and open herself up to him—and the possibility of rejection.
If you’re a fan of social scientist Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, then you need to preorder her new book Braving the Wilderness, which is out September 12. If you’re familiar with her work, then you know the author has the amazing ability to seamlessly weave stories with science, and the same is done in this new piece of literature. The premise revolves around Brown’s belief that we’re all disconnected from reality, so she goes on to prescribe four ways to find belonging every day.
Rebecca Solnit Men Explain Things to Me ($9)
Rebecca Solnit’s collection of seven essays begins by recalling a conversation in Aspen with a successful businessman who assumes her opinion about something is wrong simply because she’s a woman. The book’s essays go on to range from the silly (like “mansplaining”) to the serious (gender equality). Solnit’s opinions about feminism, marriage equality, and our society are nothing less than bold (and sometimes totally necessary). But hey, there’s no use in sugarcoating things, right?
Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb I Am Malala ($12)
This memoir penned by the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize tells the tale of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who stood up for education. But more than just that, the book—co-written by British journalist Christina Lamb— doesn’t shield you from Malala’s flaws as she pushes for the right to attend school even in the face of the Taliban. From cover to cover, readers not only see Malala’s true power amidst the political strife but that of her whole family.
Qanta A. Ahmed, MD In the Land of Invisible Women ($10)
This compelling true story revolves around Quanta A. Ahmed, MD, a British doctor of Pakistani descent who takes a job in Saudi Arabia when her U.S. visa renewal is denied. The book’s plot is woven with positive moments like Ahmed rediscovering her Islamic religion on a pilgrimage and cons that include seeing co-workers celebrate during the September 11 attacks on the U.S. Things aren’t always black and white, as Ahmed comes to realize on her two-year stint in Riyadh, but sometimes you just have to find the silver lining.
Jena Lee Nardella One Thousand Wells ($10)
Author Jena Nardella shares how she set out after college graduation to save the world with the hope of building 1000 wells in Africa. The fact of the matter is that she succeeded—as the co-founder of Blood:Water, she’s helped give more than one million African residents access to clean water. But along the way, Nardella faced many challenges, including corruption and serious setbacks that cause her to question herself and her mission. Thankfully, the activist found a way to embrace the world—flaws and all (a lesson for all of us).