Feminism: 10 of the Best Books for Feminists and Seekers

 Best Feminist Books
 

The former English teacher in me still wants to assign everyone homework (which I totally do for my coaching clients) but there's something about a summer reading list that really gets my inner nerd going.

There's nothing I love more than laying down in the hot grass and reading for hours upon end. Summer is such a gorgeous time for slowing down and sucking all the juiciness out of life...which is precisely why no Summer is complete without a list of must-reads for your long afternoons at the beach, in a hammock, and picnicking with rosé.

Regardless of when you're reading this blog, the books contained herein are the perfect way to slow down, snuggle up with your feminine energy, get curious, and smash the patriarchy.


Here are this year's Best Books to Read (For Feminists and Seekers):


Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of An Accidental Activist, by Franchesca Ramsey

 best feminist books

Why You Should Read It:

If you're a denizen of the internet and/or ever use social media, you need to read this book. It's a funny, touching, and educational look at what it's really like to stand up for what you believe in online. Franchesca tells us the story of when her YouTube parody video, Shit White Girls Say to Black Girls, went viral...and all of the opportunities and backlash that came her way as a result of sharing your voice on the internet.

What followed was a crash course in intersectionality, feminism, activism, social justice, and generally how to be a decent person on the internet. In Well, That Escalated Quickly, she shares her (often hilarious) learning curve with us and opens more space for big conversations. And farts. There are several stories about farts.

Favorite Features:

I'm in love with the index/glossary in the back of the book called, "Franchesa's Simple Explanations of Not-So-Simple Concepts" in which she defines terms like "male gaze" or "microagression" or "trigger" and other terms you'll see in comment flame wars but might not know. It's an activist glossary without the mental masturbation and self-satisfied nonsense you often get in these types of discussions.

 

The Power, by Naomi Alderman

 good books to read

Why You Should Read It:

What would the world be like if 5000 years of sexism went the other way? In this novel where women suddenly develop the power to harness the electricity in their bodies to shock people at will, we get to find out. Told from the point of view of a rising mobster, a cult leader, a politician, an aspiring journalist, and a teenager with a dark secret, The Power reimagines our modern world as a place where women are the physically stronger ones...and then examines what that does to the way we think about femininity and masculinity as well as how those thoughts shape our actions.

Who It's For:

Feminists who love a novel with a sharp concept and sense of humor, and curious seekers with a strong stomach. The book is really, really good...and really, really triggering. There's sex, violence, and sexual violence. Naomi Alderman's taste is always spot-on and the heavy parts are purposeful, but the book is truly thought and emotion provoking—expect stuff to come up.

 

White Hot Truth, by Danielle LaPorte

 best feminist books

Why You Should Read It:

I'm gonna be real blunt here; the spiritual, self-development, coachy world is full of goodness, light, and tools for liberation...it's also filled with bullshit. Lots of it. Steaming piles of it. White Hot Truth attempts to dispel some of that circle-jerky stink cloud that can pervade discussions of enlightenment and give us some real talk on how to be a seeker without all the nonsense that often comes with it.

My favorite part about this book is the distinction Danielle LaPorte makes between healthy growth and compulsive self-improvement: one is an expression of a values-centered curiosity and the other is simply another tool of the Patriarchy to keep us in line.

Notable and Quotable:

“NOBODY knows better than you what's right for you. NOBODY. Let me say what I really mean: NOBODY. Advice? Get some. Oracles? Consult them. Friends? Worship them. Actual gurus? Honour them. Final say? YOU. All you. No matter what. No matter how psychic that psychic is, or how rich the business consultant is, or how magical the healer, or bendy the yoga instructor. All that experts offer you is data for you to take into consideration. YOU are the centrifugal force that must filter, interpret, and give meaning to that data.” 

 

The Big Leap, by Gay Hendricks

 good books to read

Why You Should Read It:

You know that feeling you get after a really spot-on tarot reading and you're like "Dayyy-um, cards. You just laid down some truth!"....Yeah, that's what reading this book was like for me: Truth City. In The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks, a coach and psychologist, lays down his theory of the "Upper Limit Problem." It's basically the idea that humans have an internal happiness thermostat, a typical amount of happiness and good fortune that we're used to and comfortable with, and when we excel past our usual happiness preset, it trips our "upper limit" switch, and we begin to self sabotage to get back down to what we're used to.

Who It's For:

Anyone who's ever struggled with self sabotage when they're growing. Anyone who wants more happiness. Anyone who wants to get out of their own damn way.

When Gay Hendricks laid out examples of how this upper limit problem plays out in relationships, work, business, and self care, my jaw dropped. I see this all the time in myself and in my clients and fellow women...we have an idea of how happy, healthy, and content we're "allowed" to be, and if we accidentally grow past that level, we're quick to shove ourselves back in the box our inner patriarch has laid out as "acceptable."

This one internal, self-imposed limit is seriously blocking our ability to enjoy life, which can be a downright revolutionary act when the world tells us there's always something about ourselves we need to fix. If you want to expand your capacity to feel joy, this book is a must-read.

 

There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions, by Audre Lorde

 best feminist books

Why You Should Read It:

Okay, so this one isn't actually a book—it's a bite-sized essay that you can read for free, right away, by clicking here. Even though it's not an actual book, I couldn't resist including it on the list because...come on! Audre Lorde is the bomb! She's an OG feminist queen, and she's been talking about intersectionality even before we had a word for it! In this super short essay, Audre explains how all the different facets of her identity interact and, unfortunately, aren't allowed to coexist in all spaces. She argues for addressing all forms of oppression rather than engaging in pointless division, and the entire thing is gorgeous and still very relevant. 

Notable and Quotable:

"I simply do not believe that one as myself can possibly profit from the oppression of any other part of my identity. I know that my people cannot possibly profit form the oppression of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence…they do not have to become like each other in order to work together for a future they will all share."

 

Sleeping Beauties, by Owen King and Stephen King

 best feminist books

Why You Should Read It:

I tried really hard not to like this book. A girlfriend handed me the 702-page monster and said, "Read it. It's feminist as fuck." Can a giant novel by two dudes (one of whom wrote Carrie, BTW) really be all that feminist in nature? Yes. Yes, it can. It can also keep you up till 4AM reading feverishly because you're desperate to know what happens and whether or not the planet will be saved. 

Who It's For:

Feminists who like a little metaphor action and a touch of the supernatural in their narratives. The premise is that one day, all the women of the world begin falling asleep. They can't be woken without dire consequences, and a thin film begins to cover them, forming a cocoon. As the women sleep, the men become desperate to find a "cure," and a mysterious woman arrives at a local prison, covered in blood and claiming to know exactly what's going on and how to fix it. Will they learn to trust each other? Do the women even want to wake up? It's worth all 702 pages to find out.

 

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

 good books to read

It's easy to be intimidated by poetry, but this book is simply nourishment for the sensitive soul, the girl who's been told she's too much, and the woman who's given up pieces of herself to make men more comfortable....basically all of us.

The book has 4 themes (The Hurting, The Loving, The Breaking, The Healing) and contains a heroine's journey of short, honest poems and illustrations about the female experience. Rupi Kaur basically takes universally female experiences that we're all familiar with, digests and distills them, filters them through the lens of her love affair with words, and then spills them out onto the page. Milk and Honey is best consumed like squares of really good dark chocolate: a little at a time and in the bath.

Notable and Quotable:

Some people really don't like this young brown girl telling the truth of her lived experience. Check out this quote from an article in The American Conservative, an online magazine:

"Yesterday I posted something about the (smutty) erotic poetry of a young Canadian woman, Rupi Kaur, who has become quite popular with younger women and teen girls. A friend of mine’s 14-year-old relative asked for a copy of Kaur’s book Milk & Honey for Christmas. When the friend searched it out online and looked inside, she was shocked by the sexual content in it. It turns out that my friend’s young relative had no idea what was in the book, but had only seen it recommended on Instagram by a friend from Christian camp (!)...I posted about the book because it shocked me to learn that work like this is popular with teenage girls."

What??? Teenage girls are sexual creatures??? Who knew?

I mean, come on. If it makes old Republican ladies clutch their pearls, you know it's good!

 

Forest Bathing, by Qing Li

 good books to read

Why You Should Read It:

This book is just downright cool, and it's the perfect short read for seekers who are curious about how humans and the natural world interact and how to hack your human experience so that it's more peaceful and fun.

As someone who spends hours in my local botanical garden just hanging out with the trees, I was immediately interested in a book that told me that this was a good thing and not procrastination. It turns out that there's actual science behind the idea that being outside feels good. And more than that, it's really good for you. The tome itself is beautifully illustrated, but even the audiobook will change the way you think about nature and health.

Notable and Quotable:

"Let’s think of the earth like a giant battery. It has a natural low-level electrical charge. Whenever we do anything with electrics, like wiring up a plug or fixing a light fitting, we always have to make sure that it is safe by connecting it to the earth. We talk about electrics being ‘earthed’ or ‘grounded.' This is what our bodies are like, too, when we bring them into contact with the electrical charge of the earth. As we evolved, we were in constant contact with the electrical energy of the earth. When we are electrically grounded, we are in harmony with nature."

 

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

 good books to read

Why You Should Read It:

I'll read just about anything Roxane Gay writes, but Bad Feminist is probably my favorite of her books because it covers ALL the territory. Between issues like race (Surviving Django), Beauty (I Was Once Miss America), and Gender (Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them), Bad Feminist is a collection of her best essays + her thoughts on life and what it means to be woman, and especially, what it means to be a feminist. If you've ever wondered if you're doing it wrong (and who hasn't?), this book is for you.

Notable and Quotable:

"My favorite definition of 'feminist' is one offered by Su, an Australian woman who, when interviewed...said feminists are 'just women who don't want to be treated like shit.' This definition is pointed and succinct, but I run into trouble when I try to expand that definition. I fall short as a feminist. I feel like I am not as committed as I need to be, that I am not living up to feminist ideals because of who and how I choose to be."

 

If Women Rose Rooted, by Sharon Blackie

 good books to read

Why You Should Read It:

This book is a combination of traditional Celtic goddess myths and ecofeminist manifestos, and it's downright magical. Of all the books on this list, this one probably had the most profound impact on me personally. I first saw a used copy at my local indie bookstore, and I made a mental note to add it to my reading list and moved on. A few months later, my husband and I were house hunting, and I asked for a sign. When I walked in one of the homes, my eyes landed on this book, sitting alone on the coffee table, and I knew it was the one. The months after the big move were tough on my marriage, my work, and me, and the ancestral wisdom contained in If Women Rose Rooted sustained me.

The main premise here is that women, because of our natural fertility, have a special relationship with the land, as Mother Earth is also a woman. Each chapter is centered around a different natural feature of Sharon Blackie's indigenous land: wells, springs, beaches, bogs, etc, and each chapter contains a related Celtic myth that illustrates indigenous ways of womanhood in Europe before Patriarchy. 

If you have any Celtic ancestry (British, Irish, French, German), it's required reading for understanding your feminine heritage, but even if you don't have Celtic heritage, it's a beautiful look at how women are uniquely positioned to honor and protect the Earth.

Notable and Quotable:

“The world which men have made isn’t working. Something needs to change. To change the world, we women need first to change ourselves – and then we need to change the stories we tell about who we are. The stories we’ve been living by for the past few centuries – the stories of male superiority, of progress and growth and domination – don’t serve women and they certainly don’t serve the planet. Stories matter, you see.” 

 

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