Women have achieved a remarkable feat over the last century, primarily due to the significant canon of feminist literature that continues to shine on gender disparities. Simply put, feminist books have stood at the cutting edge of feminism throughout history. Contemporary readers of ground-breaking texts, such as The Golden Notebook, The Bluest Eye, and Fear of Flying, were swept up in a revolution forged by radical female writers wielding a pen. Fast forward decades later, a new trailblazing legion of feminist voices released impassioned and audacious books in what feels like a call-to-arms. But one thing stands out – feminist reads fuel the fight for gender equality.
Literature, fiction and non-fiction alike, remains one of the most potent means of conveying our voices. Edifying, incensing, and enthralling (often all in the same paragraph) – feminist books draw to the progress that needs to be made. So, whether you’re looking for inspiration, knowledge, solace, or all of the above, we have identified the ten best feminist books and two books about patience that you should consider reading before the end of 2022.
Must-read Feminist Books of All Times
Literature is studded with spectacular works about feminism. Here’s a list of the best feminist books that inspire, enrage, and educate.
A Room of One’s Own
Written by Virginia Woolf, this masterpiece addresses the status of women, especially women artists, in society. It accentuates the claim that a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write. According to Woolf, centuries of prejudice and financial and educational disadvantages have inhibited women’s creativity. Although she was never keen on feminism, the author passionately and articulately writes about female exclusion from independence, education, and income. He argues that the key to women’s liberation is as valid now as it was then. In a male-dominated world, Woolf asserted her presence and creativity, paving the way for many female authors to follow in her footsteps.
The Bluest Eye
Toni Morrison’s debut novel foregrounds the demonization of Blackness in American culture, focusing on internalized racism. It immerses readers in the tragic, torn life of Pecola Breedlove – a poor, young black girl living in 1940s Ohio. Pecola longs for blue eyes as she internalizes the ugliness imposed on her by society. This unbearable desire compels us to confront how damaging racialized notions of beauty can be, bringing race and youth to the central discussion of gender disparity.
The Handmaid’s Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale is a futuristic dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. The book argues that legally controlling women’s reproductive freedom is politically and morally wrong. Gileadean state’s desire to own and control women’s fertility directly causes the suffering of Offred and the other Handmaids. The book is widely praised for its unnerving prescience in the modern world.
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Breasts and Eggs
This novel by Mieko Kawakami paints a picture of contemporary womanhood in Japan. It recounts the intimate journeys of three women as they confront oppressive mores and their uncertainties on the road to finding peace and futures they can truly call their own. This book is a must-read for those eager to learn more about freedom and the female body.
No list of the best feminist books is complete without the mention of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. It is one of the earliest and boldest examples of feminist fiction. When Edna meets the charming Robert Lebrun while holidaying with her husband and two young children, a flirtation turns into an affair that opens her eyes to a life outside her passionless marriage and the stifling restrictions of 19th-century society.
If you need to provide evidence that gender inequality still rages at a backward-thinking relative, show them Caroline Criado Perez’s exhaustively researched book. Published as recently as 2019, this book describes the adverse effects of gender bias on women. It is a data-based number-crunching read that is a critical tool for change.
The Color Purple
Written by Alice Walker, this book narrates Cecil’s traumas and gradual triumph, a young black woman born into poverty. Cecil resists the paralyzing self-concept forced on her, which projects a positive outcome in life, even under the harshest conditions. Walker breaks the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating women’s lives through their pain and struggle, resilience and bravery, companionship and growth.
The Golden Notebook
Doris Lessing’s ambitious novel is regarded as one of the greatest literary works of the 20th century as it was critical to the women’s movement of the 1960s. The book is a powerful account of a woman searching for her personal, political, and professional identity while facing betrayal and rejection. It is passionate, honest, and experimental in its form and remains with the reader long after its ending.
When God Was a Woman
Merlin Stone explores the ancient worship of the Great Goddess and the eventual suppression of women’s rights. The book offers an in-depth look into how worship of the Goddess was widespread worldwide until patriarchal Judeo-Christian cultures suppressed it. It is a good read if you want to know how the shift from matriarchy to patriarchy came about.
The Power is a ride into dark fantasy by Naomi Alderman that tells a story of a world with reversed gender dynamics. Women are the ones with power over men. They are born with the ability to inflict pain on others simply by harnessing their natural gifts, causing men and boys to live in fear. While it is not the world we wish for, it is a fascinating look at how things can be in reversal.
Feminist Books about Patience
While many feminist books can guide you along the winding path of feminism, we round up with feminist books about patience to inspire and galvanize you.
Communion: The Female Search for Love
At first glance, this book seems to talk about a romantic love story, but guess again. Written by renowned intersectional feminist Bell Hooks, Communion is the third in a series about living through love as a woman of color. It teaches readers how to foster friendship, self-love, patience, and psychological peace.
The Female Eunuch
This 1970 book by Germaine Greer became an international bestseller and an essential text in the feminist movement. Greer argues that the traditional suburban, consumerist nuclear family represses women sexually, devitalizing and rendering them eunuchs. Her fundamental insight about women’s patience while being systematically robbed of productive energy by society’s insistence on confirming them to a passive sexual role makes it a great pleasure to read.
Some of these books narrate the history of feminism, while others dive into contemporary ideas and experiences of being a woman. The list is a mix of modern titles and some older classics, but all of them are inspirational books for women. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the list. I recommend picking one or two feminist books that speak to you and where you are right now and begin from there. You can set a goal of reading one book a month or start a book club with your friends and work through the list together.
We are confident these books will make you feel good – like you-re receiving advice from a trusted friend or inspiring mentor. Enjoy your read!