Break the Bias: A Women’s History Month Reading List
Women writing about women. These are the books that have connected for Sam M, Rebecca G, and Laura. When we started this list, there were over 75 books that we wanted to feature. We have narrowed it down to 31, and each of these books is impactful and resonant. We hope that you add one or two or 30 to your TBR stack.
A vibrantly illustrated primer on modern feminism for the Instagram generation encouraging us to question the insidious narratives that would hold us back from self-acceptance, self-love, and our own power.
For fans of Hidden Figures and Radium Girls comes the remarkable story of three Victorian women who broke down barriers in the medical field to become the first women doctors, revolutionizing the way women receive health care.
In the surprising, often fiercely feminist and always fascinating The Secret History of Home Economics, Danielle Dreilinger traces the field’s history from Black colleges to Eleanor Roosevelt to Okinawa, from a Betty Crocker brigade to DIY techies. These women—and they were mostly women—became chemists and marketers, studied nutrition, health, and exercise, tested parachutes, created astronaut food, and took bold steps in childhood development and education.
Part graphic novel, part memoir, Wake is an imaginative tour-de-force that tells the “powerful” (The New York Times Book Review) story of women-led slave revolts and chronicles scholar Rebecca Hall’s efforts to uncover the truth about these women warriors who, until now, have been left out of the historical record.
From the executive editor of The New Yorker, a riveting, provocative, and revelatory history of abolition and women’s rights, told through the story of three women—Harriet Tubman, Frances Seward, and Martha Wright—in the years before, during and after the Civil War.
Marie Benedict's powerful new novel shines a light on a woman who sacrificed her life to discover the nature of our very DNA, a woman whose world-changing contributions were hidden by the men around her but whose relentless drive advanced our understanding of humankind.
Bestselling author Kate Moore brings her sparkling narrative voice to The Woman They Could Not Silence, an unputdownable story of the forgotten woman who courageously fought for her own freedom—and in so doing freed millions more. Elizabeth's refusal to be silenced and her ceaseless quest for justice not only challenged the medical science of the day, and led to a giant leap forward in human rights, it also showcased the most salutary lesson: sometimes, the greatest heroes we have are those inside ourselves.
An acclaimed, career-spanning collection from a fiercely feminist and revered contemporary rock critic, reissued with new material.
In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a haunting, visionary memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice.
“The story of Tina Ontiveros’ childhood with her family, both before and after her parents divorced, is one of just barely scraping by — but in such a way that her life can inspire envy as well as sorrow. Her lumberjack dad’s outsized personality and way of life is at once riveting, horrifying, and occasionally beautiful, and Ontiveros conveys this masterfully. Her depiction of and feeling for the rich Northwest outdoors is as affecting as that of her youth and coming of age in this world.”
— Georgiana Blomberg, Magnolia's Bookstore, Seattle, WA
In her memoir, Millgate offers an authoritative and balanced look at history-making environmental stories while lending emotional insight into an industry dominated by men in a time when the shift toward outdoor exploration for all is catching fire. My Place Among Men is the story of how one young woman, brought up in the schoolhouse of the wild, becomes an ultimate force to be reckoned with--a mother, a wife, a journalist whose work leads her to the ultimate discovery: finding her place among men is truly about finding her place in the wild.
Diaz defies the conditions from which she writes, a nation whose creation predicated the diminishment and ultimate erasure of bodies like hers and the people she loves: “I am doing my best to not become a museum / of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out. // I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.” Postcolonial Love Poem unravels notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope—in it, a future is built, future being a matrix of the choices we make now, and in these poems, Diaz chooses love.
"With meticulous research and deft prose, Heather Webb crafts an unflinching look at the immigrant experience, an unlikely and unique friendship, and a resonant story of female empowerment. The Next Ship Home is truly a beautiful and powerful book." — Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman with the Blue Star
"Katharine Clark was a pathfinder. From a conservative background, she was anything but as she challenged every obstacle that stood in her way—including the Yugoslavian Secret Police. An interesting read well told." — Nina Willner, author of Forty Autumns
Biblical womanhood--the belief that God designed women to be submissive wives, virtuous mothers, and joyful homemakers--pervades North American Christianity. From choices about careers to roles in local churches to relationship dynamics, this belief shapes the everyday lives of evangelical women. Yet biblical womanhood isn't biblical, says Baylor University historian Beth Allison Barr. It arose from a series of clearly definable historical moments.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A magisterial portrait of Lady Bird Johnson, and a major reevaluation of the profound yet underappreciated impact the First Lady's political instincts had on LBJ’s presidency.
In the spring of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson had a decision to make. Just months after moving into the White House under the worst of circumstances—following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy—he had to decide whether to run to win the presidency in his own right. He turned to his most reliable, trusted political strategist: his wife, Lady Bird Johnson. The strategy memo she produced for him, emblematic of her own political acumen and largely overlooked by biographers, is just one revealing example of how their marriage was truly a decades-long political partnership.
Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall--an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings--asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass--offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.
Divided into four themes—Innocence, Belonging, Love, and Self-Discovery—the unforgettable young protagonists within contend with the trials of coming of age that shape who they are and what they will become. With this tradition in mind, Innocence opens with Jamaica Kincaid’s searing “Girl,” in which a mother offers fierce instructions to her impressionable daughter. This deceptively simple yet profound monologue is followed by Toni Morrison’s first and only published short story, the now-canonical “Recitatif,” about two neglected girls who come together in youth only to find themselves on opposite picket lines in adulthood.
In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
“I can’t recall the last time I’ve been reading a work of nonfiction and woken up excited purely by the fact that, today, I would get to read more. Compulsive and psychologically riveting, Three Women reads like a novel. I couldn’t keep from dog-earing its pages each time Taddeo perfectly expressed something I’d felt but never had the words for. In Sloane, Maggie, and Lina, I recognized aspects of myself — namely the desire for connection and for love. When three women tell their uncensored truth, they can liberate a nation. I feel deeply grateful to Lisa Taddeo for giving us this gift of raw authenticity.”
— Michaela Carter, Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, AZ
Celebrated feminist advocate Caroline Criado Perez investigates this shocking root cause of gender inequality in the award-winning, #1 international bestseller Invisible Women. Examining the home, the workplace, the public square, the doctor’s office, and more, Criado Perez unearths a dangerous pattern in data and its consequences on women’s lives. Product designers use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to everything from pianos to cell phones to voice recognition software, when in fact this approach is designed to fit men. Cities prioritize men’s needs when designing public transportation, roads, and even snow removal, neglecting to consider women’s safety or unique responsibilities and travel patterns. And in medical research, women have largely been excluded from studies and textbooks, leaving them chronically misunderstood, mistreated, and misdiagnosed
With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore apart not just her beloved country, but also her family.
In Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly argues that our anger is not only justified, it is also an active part of the solution. We are so often encouraged to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Approached with conscious intention, anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power—one we can no longer abide.
"Every page of this incredible memoir, Group by Christie Tate, had me thinking 'I wish I had read this book when I was 25. It would have helped me so much!'... We need each other through the good times and the bad. Please read this book with a group of friends you cherish." —Reese Witherspoon
26. The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich, Richard Pevear (Translated by), Larissa Volokhonsky (Translated by)
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The Washington Post • The Guardian • NPR • The Economist • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel • Kirkus Reviews
For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the twentieth century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Nobel Prize, it cited her invention of “a new kind of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions . . . a history of the soul.”
“Reading The National Team, I couldn’t help but laugh, cry, smile, and have an overall warm feeling. I enjoyed it so much I had to force myself to put it down because I didn’t want it to end. Caitlin Murray has done a wonderful job sharing the history, personal stories, and memories of the national team. Everyone who loves a great, original, genuine story will love this book.”
— Brandi Chastain
In Women Rowing North, Pipher offers a timely examination of the cultural and developmental issues women face as they age. Drawing on her own experience as daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, caregiver, clinical psychologist, and cultural anthropologist, she explores ways women can cultivate resilient responses to the challenges they face. “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully,” Pipher writes, “we will experience a joyous time of our lives. If we have planned carefully and packed properly, if we have good maps and guides, the journey can be transcendent.”
In Unwell Women, Elinor Cleghorn traces the almost unbelievable history of how medicine has failed women by treating their bodies as alien and other, often to perilous effect. The result is an authoritative and groundbreaking exploration of the relationship between women and medical practice, from the "wandering womb" of Ancient Greece to the rise of witch trials across Europe, and from the dawn of hysteria as a catchall for difficult-to-diagnose disorders to the first forays into autoimmunity and the shifting understanding of hormones, menstruation, menopause, and conditions like endometriosis.
One of the most important stories of World War II, already optioned by Steven Spielberg for a major motion picture: a spectacular, searing history that brings to light the extraordinary accomplishments of brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters—a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now.
Taking the reader on a fast-moving journey from Billie Holiday’s rough-and-tumble Baltimore childhood (where she ran errands at a whorehouse in exchange for the chance to listen to Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith albums), to her emergence on Harlem’s club scene, to sold-out performances with the Count Basie Orchestra and with Artie Shaw and his band, this revelatory memoir is notable for its trenchant observations on the racism that darkened Billie’s life and the heroin addiction that ended it too soon.