Over the last few months I’ve been thinking about keeping a list of books that I found to be especially feminist or that have informed my development in that way. I thought it would be helpful for me to keep track and have it on hand when others are looking for recommendations. I’m finally setting out to do it. So here is my feminist reading list.
It’s not perfect and I’m working harder on adding more women of color and LGBTQ writers to this because I know it’s lacking. But these are the books that have informed my life as a feminist. Sometimes they are good examples of feminism/feminists and sometimes they can be problematic. I’ve split them up into fiction and nonfiction and added some notes to them. I realize this is a bit light on the criticism side but I’m not trying to make a syllabus for a women’s studies literary theory course. Rather, this is what I’ve read that has helped me. I do hope to read (or re-read from the little bit of literary theory I’ve read in college) more bell hooks, Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, Julia Kristeva, and more.
Some of the books are explicity about women’s rights or feminism. Some are not. Some are about other “issues” that I believe are important to feminism like racism (remember as Flavian Dzodan says: “my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit”), poverty, other forms of inequality, and LGBTQ rights.
Again, this isn’t meant to be a prescriptive reading list, but rather the books I’ve read that have informed me and made me think about feminism, gender identities and politics, racism, and related issues. It’s my feminist reading list, not the feminist reading list.
Anything Margaret Atwood, especially The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (YA)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – Yes, post colonialism and racism is a huge problem in the novel but I think the idea of Jane and Bertha as doubles is interesting (I think this is touched upon in Gilbert and Gubar, below). Wide Sargasso Sea is on my to-read list as a counterpoint. And Jane’s proto-feminism is great.
The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal (YA) – A strange, unsettling book with the viewpoints of women in a medieval Scandinavian country and their hardships.
Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova (YA)
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth (YA)
Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine DeLandro (oncoming comic series)
Fault Line by Christa Desir (YA)
Salvage by Alexandra Duncan (YA)
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenidies
An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene – Yeah, not always the best: Nancy is too perfect; everyone is mean to Bess for being a bit chubby; and George never gets to be her true lesbian self, but it started me on the path to realizing girls can have adventures and solve crimes.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (YA)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Stacey Lee’s YA books
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (YA)
Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh (graphic novel)
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Ladders to Fire by Anais Nin
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero (YA)
Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson
We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen (ongoing comic)
J. Courtney Sullivan’s books: Commencement, Maine, and The Engagements
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (graphic novel)
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek by Michelle Tea (YA)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – Perhaps one of the best books about friendships between women that I’ve ever read.
Rat Queens by Kurtis Wiebe and Stjepan Sejic (ongoing comic)
Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona (ongoing comic)
When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sherri Fink (this author has a book about a war hospital in the Balkans that I also want to read….)
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar
Negroland: A memoir by Margo Jefferson
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
Fire in the Ashes: Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Anais Nin’s diaries
Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Shrill by Lindy West
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
A little F’d Up: Why Feminism is not a Dirty Word by Julie Zeilinger
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Blogs I read for Feminism (in no particular order)
Reductress – Like The Onion, but for feminism/ladies
The Toast (RIP you beautiful mermaid!)
Bitch Media – you should really subscribe!