While you’ll almost always find my head buried in a novel, I have a bit more trouble committing to non-fiction books. But, one of the things I love about fiction is the same thing that I love about this list of feminist books—that a great book will give you perspective, allow for empathy and give words to experiences that are familiar and often, universal.
The truth is, now more than ever, it’s important to engage with a larger community, especially about a topic like feminism. From mansplaining to intersectional feminism, from laugh-out-loud personal stories to thoughtful tomes on emotional labour, here are 7 modern feminist books you should add to your reading list ASAP.
FED UP. by Gemma Hartley
In September of 2017, writer Gemma Hartley penned a viral essay for Harper’s Bazaar entitled “Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up.” To say women resonated would be a massive understatement. The essay dealt with the topic of emotional labour. The unsung, often invisible work that (mostly) women do to keep the household running smoothly and the members of our families comfortable. On top of our day jobs of course. I’m talking remembering to buy birthday cards, keeping track of kid’s appointments and play dates, reminding our partners to mow the lawn or take out the garbage. You know, women’s work. I read this Gemma’s book, Fed Up., and then mentioned it to pretty much everyone I saw for the next several weeks, always leaving in my wake women who knew exactly what I was talking about. It was also a book that made me confront some of the ways that I’m contributing to an imbalance of emotional labour—something which is helping both my partner and I think more about the work we value and how we divide it.
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxanne Gay
Bad Feminist has been on my to-read list for so long I’m embarrassed I haven’t yet read it. Especially because Roxanne Gay has authored several other books in the time since its release. (Basically, I’ve added her entire published works to my list.) When I asked my Instagram audience what books they would add to this list, Bad Feminist was by far the most popular answer. Perhaps it’s because it gave a whole host of women the knowledge that they could still be a feminist and be imperfect, or like things that seemed at odds with feminism.
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger
by Rebecca Traister
For a long time (forever?), anger seemed to be an emotion reserved for men. Women, instead were labeled things like unhinged or bitter or (my personal favourite) hysteric. But, with the explosion of #TimesUp and #MeToo, women’s anger has found a place in public discourse about misogyny. We’re not at Utopia yet—black women in particular still seem to be roundly criticized for expressing the emotion—but discussion about harnessing that anger for progressive change is happening. To help with the context, Rebecca Traister recounts the history of female anger in her book Good and Mad and suddenly you see a picture of a history of rage that gives context to our current moment.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower
by Brittany Cooper
Brittney Cooper digs into the anger of black women in this book that I’ve yet to read, but can’t wait to pick up. In Eloquent Rage, Cooper talks about rage in the context of race as well as gender, and manages to include notes on Michelle Obama and Serena Williams, alongside personal friendships and goals. And, if the reviews are to be believed, this book is going to be laugh-out-loud hilarious.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
I read this book on a picturesque cottage trip and I powered through in that hungry and anti-social way you do when you’ve got your hands on something that just clicks—sunny, beach days be damned. This collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit right off the bat launched a discussion on mansplaining and the women who know things, but downplay it, and the men who don’t know things but assume they do. Men Explain Things To Me is witty and sharp and familiar and covers topics like violence against women, marriage equality and the importance of language in feminist discussion.
We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
We Should All Be Feminists is actually adapted from a TED Talk of the same name, but it’s definitely a touchstone in modern discussions about feminism. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay on what feminism is and what it means to be a feminist now—spoiler alert it means inclusion and awareness—was an instant classic when it was first released, and it’s easy to see why.
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jenkins
Feminism without an intersectional lens is no feminism at all, and so I’m making sure to add materials to my reading list that specifically talk about the intersection of race and gender that leaves women of colour doubly disenfranchised. This 2018 release by Morgan Jerkins recently came onto my radar and I can’t wait to dig into it. In her book This Will Be My Undoing, uses her own experiences to talk about dating, pop culture, sexuality and other issues in a white and male controlled world.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Alexandra Donaldson)