In honor of International Women’s Day, Women’s History Month, and all women everywhere, we’re sharing books by female authors that have shaped and changed our lives. From an everyday design guide to a novel about race and identity, to a thrilling family memoir, these titles celebrate the complexities of the female experience and get to the heart of what it means to be a woman.
Men Explain Things to Me
Men Explain Things to Me is critical at a time when our culture is being forced to examine the various ways manhood informs womanhood. One of the most impactful chapters — Woolf’s Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable — was Solnit’s deconstruction of a Virginia’s Woolf declaration: “The future is dark, which is the best thing the future can be, I think.” It’s about re-evaluating our relationship with uncertainty and examining (deciding!) what it would be like were we not to default to either optimism or despair. Solnit offers that both are a form of planning rather than a genuine exploration; one we shouldn’t attribute any value or expectation to. There is something spiritual, Tolle-ian even, about her musings but through her lens, they’re even richer. In short, this book is a must-read for all; woman or man.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey share the astounding story behind their New York Times exposé which took down Harvey Weinstein, advanced the #MeToo movement, and left an everlasting impact on all womankind. This book is an important testament to the journalistic efforts and brave truth-tellers that ignited a fire within us all.
Adichie weaves together themes of love, race, class, identity and the search for home in this sweeping novel with an indelible female protagonist, Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who leaves home for several years to study and live in the U.S. Americanah is a book you’ll return to again and again not only because of the breathtaking writing, searing social commentary, and epic love story at its core, but because Ifemelu–strong, self-assured, funny—is a model for the kind of woman you’ll want to be.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads
After living in a world of survival for six formative years, running for her life across seven African countries, Clemantine Wamariya’s world shifts, and she finds herself spending her teen years in a typical American High School. Her story of reconciling her traumatic past with the affluent, white-washed reality of her U.S. Public School will get under your skin, opened your eyes, and make you question. Clemantine’s strength and tenacity is unmatched. As Clemantine says herself, “Maybe someday… you’ll think of my story. You’ll remember to put your ego in a bag and throw that bag away. You’ll remember to be kind and generous and a better human.”
The Year of Magical Thinking
Joan Didion can do no wrong in our book. The Year of Magical Thinking, in particular, is a beautifully real reckoning of how to make sense out of the most nonsensical. Whether or not you’ve experienced a lot of loss in your life, each time you pick up this book, you’ll take away something new from Didion’s beautiful—as times, brutal—prose to help get you through. Yes, it’s a book about grief, but it’s also very much a book about gratitude. As Didion so perfectly and precisely says, “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it changes.”
As a reader with a penchant for complicated family drama and dynamics, the intricate way that Zadie Smith explores politics, culture, identity, geography, and privilege through the complex webbing of the Belsey family will capture you and keep you engaged page after—funny, emotional, profound—page.
The Glass Castle
The Glass Castle is Jeanette Walls retelling of her insanely dysfunctional and adventure-filled childhood. It is a story of “resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant.” If you’ve ever had big dreams or a crazy family, or if you just love great storytelling, this book is a must-read.
A story of passion, kin, and identity, Lahiri eloquently documents a family’s choice to honor the traditions of their native India all while reconciling with the contradictory American cultural bubble they exist in. Despite the focus on her son’s struggle for identity, this novel honors the grit of Ashima and that of all women who sacrifice their own dreams in hopes of a better life for their children.