20 Diverse Books Recommended by Women, for Women
I used to indulge in the fantastical worlds of fiction and nod along to the persuasiveness of non-fiction, mmhm-ing and ah-ing like a knowing, withered old wizard. So how, I ask you, did I go from this to barely making it through a pamphlet?
I have a few theories but Women’s History Month seemed like the perfect time to ask which books you’d recommend to other women. What I received was a range of submissions including graphic novels, historical fiction, and autobiographies.
** Disclosure: Books purchased through the links provided may earn me a wee 10% commission from Bookshop.org, whose sales support independent bookshops. This does not include links directed to Amazon wherein the book mentioned was not available on Bookshop.org.
Roar – Cecelia Ahern
A blend of magical realism and contemporary fiction, Roar examines the complexities of modern womanhood and the importance of self-discovery, empowerment, and community.
“It’s a book of 30 short stories by 30 women. I read a lot of them when I was about 17 and it did a lot to prepare me for the internal and external challenges we face as women in this society. She covers a wide range of female experiences, and it helped me not to judge women for seeming to conform to the patriarchy any more than we judge women who reject it.
I internalised (the message) that my choices are mine to make, and my life is mine to live despite the desire to conform to the male gaze and serve the patriarchy”
Essays In love – Alain de Botton
A tale as old as time; two young people meet and fall in love… with one important distinction: you get to see what happens after the “happy-ever-after.”
Structured as a series of essays, Botton invites you to delve deeper into the cultural norms, expectations, and psychological influences on your understanding of romantic relationships.
Whether you’re currently boo’d up or a single pringle, this book offers a fresh perspective on a universal human experience.
– Recommend by Nellie
Beloved – Toni Morison
Recommended by my mum, she issues this warning: this book is an emotional gut punch.
Informed by the real-life experience of Margaret Garner, an enslaved woman who escaped her captors in the American South, this award-winning novel gives us an unrelenting look at the effects the legacy of slavery continues to impact black women’s lives, even after they have been emancipated.
“It’s such an intense book…I think about it from time to time and it gives me chills.“
– Mama Jisi
The Accidental Socialite – Stephanie Wahlstrom
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a witty, laugh-out-loud, and entertaining break from reality when things get a little too real.
Imagine yourself in a new city far from home only to wake up to your face splattered all over the tabloids. This is what happens to our protagonist, Paige who is catapulted into celebrity status when she literally falls into the arms of a mysterious man on a night out.
Too bad her drunken stumble has been captured by paparazzi who suggest that she’s having an affair with the mysterious man in question: a married footballer.
A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
Mariam and Laila find themselves living together as wives of the same abusive husband. Despite their differences, the two women develop a bond based on their shared experiences of abuse, loss, and survival.
Hosseini’s second novel earns its prestige as a modern classic for its poetic and vivid portrayal of Afghanistan’s history and the endurance of women throughout.
"Already Laila sees something behind this young girl's eyes, something deep in her core, that neither Rasheed nor the Taliban will be able to break. Something as hard and unyielding as a block of limestone."
–Recommended by Amy
Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman
In this subversion of American history the Crosses (dark-skinned people) are the ruling class some time after the abolition of slavery while the Noughts (fair-skinned people) are the oppressed minority.
The novel follows the story of Sephy, a Cross, and Callum, a Nought, who are childhood best friends. As they grow older, they struggle to navigate the societal pressures that keep them apart.
“I think it was the first book I read that had a black female lead who was around my age. Seeing a black girl being the heroine as well as being loved on was an anomaly and I was fully invested.”
This Is How You Lose Her – Junot Diaz
“I’ve read this about three times and could read it again and again.”
A sequence of interconnected short stories that follow the experiences of Yunior, a young Dominican-American man.
The book is renowned for its raw and honest portrayal of the intersection of culture, identity, and masculinity. It also shines a light on how men are often socialized to imagine women as commodities.
Bitch Planet Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro
If you’re a lover of comic books and intersectional feminism then grab a copy of this feminist, dystopian, intergalactic satire
On Bitch Planet, “Non-compliant Women” are incarcerated and forced to compete in blood-sports for their freedom.
What does it take to be labelled “non-compliant”? Well, maybe you’re a murderer, maybe you’re just fat. Oh, and if you’re a woman of colour then yikes for you!
Through its blend of science fiction and social commentary, “Bitch Planet” critiques contemporary issues such as misogyny, racism, and the prison-industrial complex.
“It’s a dense book, I wont lie. But it’s a non-super hero comic written by women with characters that are genuinely diverse. Its provocative but not gratuitous. You need this on your shelf if you’re into comic books.”
Little Weirds – Jenny Slate
Slate’s vulnerability is a refreshing deviation from the tired notion that women who yearn for romantic love are lacking strength and love for themselves.
There is an abundance of beautifully (and funny!) written paragraphs that will make you pause and sigh knowingly as the words penetrate your heart.
“I was born as sweet as that and if I am too sweet for your tastes then just clamp your mouth shut and spin on your heels. I can’t add sourness to my sap anymore just to fit onto a menu in a restaurant for wimps.”
She’s Back: Your Guide To Returning To Work – Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan
Smashing through the glass ceiling of the corporate world takes a lot of resilience and patience so, when you do decide to take a career break, the thought of returning can fill you with uncertainty. A working mother of two young children had this to say about the book:
“I think it’s more useful for those in fast-paced corporate careers going back full-time and managing nursery drop-offs and pickups. I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreaking but it definitely makes you think in a practical structured way instead of feeling all impostor syndrome-esque, More importantly, it makes you realise your feelings are normal and valid, and you’re not alone.”
Big Magic: Creating Living Beyond Fear- Elizabeth Gilbert
If you have a creative mind but you’re stuck in a cycle of doubt then this guide to pursuing your artistic passions can shake you out of stagnation.
There are six chapters: Courage, Enchantment, Permission, Persistence, Trust, and Divinity. Each section includes interviews with other creatives dishing out practical advice to minimise your fear and maximise your inspiration.
-Recommended by Sara Kay
Solutions and Other Problems – Allie Brosh
Brosh rose to popularity with her quirky drawings and hilarious anecdotes on her blog before her debut book, Hyperbole and a Half.
Then, at the peak of her career, she disappeared.
Aware of her battle with acute depression, fans posted concerned comments. Still, silence.
In 2020 – six years later – she reappeared. Turns out, life delivered a series of high kicks to the tits (as it so often does).
You’ll find her unique brand of humour next to the grief and trauma shes endured; it will simultaneously bring tears to your eyes and warm your heart.
Brosh’s work had a major impact on how I viewed personal and creative expression. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Glucose Revolution – Jessie Inchauspe
Let’s pivot our attention to physical health with a book offering clear explanations of complex scientific concepts.
This book is particularly relevant for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes as it offers guidance on how to manage your blood sugar levels through diet.
While many of us are aware of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there’s not as much conversation about gestational diabetes which affects 3-4% of women in the third trimester of pregnancy.
So whether your managing a new diagnosis, managing a pre-existing condition, or you want to improve your health with nutritional information that can be implemented into your daily routine, you can consider this book as an aid.
“The hacks helped me a lot and they are actually pretty simple. Like eating your veggies first in a meal can lower your blood sugar by 30% vs having the same meal and eating the chips first!”
Jenifer Lewis: The Mother Of Black Hollywood
Having listened to an excerpt, this is an auto-biography you won’t forget.
The revered veteran actress and singer chronicles her rise to fame with her typical no-holds-barred exuberance. She has long been an advocate for mental health and gives uncompromising details about her struggles with mental illness and addiction.
I gasped, I laughed, I was gripped! She’s like an auntie that will give you tough love, emphasis on the love.
You Are A Badass (and the Badass Collection) – Jen Sincero
I received a couple of DMs on Instagram recommending You are a Badass and You Are a Badass At Making Money – the first and second installments of the collection. In fact, I was given the first of these books by my neighbour’s daughter!
While I have to agree with Sincero that her advice isn’t revolutionary, her casual tone, transparency about obstacles she’s faced, and actionable steps, set her apart from similar self-help books.
These are best enjoyed with an open mind but a critical eye.