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Books

8 books written by women that you need on your shelf

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In 1929, Virginia Woolf famously states: “I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman”. Indeed, women were apart from literature for most of history.

Female authors were rare, and would sign anonymously or write under a male pseudonym. Today, despite being able to publish under their own name, they still face many difficulties. Their books are priced 45% lower than male authors, and men continue to dominate book reviews and critic jobs. The publishing industry remains so desperately male-dominated that in April this year, FastCompany released an article entitled “Want to earn more as a book author? A male name will help“.

If you’d like to support female authors, here are 8 of my all time favourite books written by women:

1. A thought-provoking sci-fi about the power of women:

“The Power” by Naomi Alderman

Genre: science fiction
Published: 2017
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.

Why should you read it? What if one day, women all over the world develop a strange power that makes them stronger than men? How would the global system reorganise itself to adapt to this new imbalance? This book has a fascinating premise which develops into beautiful and interesting characters. I loved it because it isn’t naive: this is not a tale about women being better equipped than men when it comes to power and cruelty. This book is gripping, you will not be able to put it down.

2. To immerse yourself into a dystopian universe:

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Genre: dystopia, fiction
Published: 1985
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “Are they old enough to remember anything of the time before, playing baseball, in jeans and sneakers, riding their bicycles? Reading books, all by themselves? Even though some of them are no more than fourteen – start them soon is the policy, there’s not a moment to be lost – still they’ll remember. And the ones after them will, for three or four or five years; but after that they won’t. They’ll always have been in white, in group of girls; they’ll always have been silent.

Why should you read it? This book is gut-wrenching, terrifying and so important. It demonstrates that women’s rights should never be taken for granted, as they could be taken away at any moment, for religious, economic or social reasons. You need to read it because you need to know what could happen if things would go so terribly wrong. This book changed my perspective. 

3. To learn about intersectional feminism:

“Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

Genre: essay, nonfiction
Published: 2014
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying – trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.

Why should you read it? The book approaches many topics such as feminism, privileges, race and politics while being seriously funny, insightful, and quite easy to read. Roxane Gay reshaped my perspective on what it means to be a woman, and helped me understand the intersectionality of life. 

4. A provocative and poignant book all about girls:

“I am an emotional creature” by Eve Ensler

Genre: poetry, nonfiction
Published: 2010
Find it on Amazon here.

This is my favourite book. Why should you read it? I will let Eve Ensler explain why: “This book is a call to question rather than to please. To provoke, to challenge, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite. To know yourself truly. To take responsibility for who you are, to engage. This book is a call to listen to the voice inside you that might want something different, that hears, that knows, the way only you can hear and know.

5. To understand that progress isn’t linear:

“Girl Trouble” by Carol Dyhouse

Genre: history, nonfiction
Published: 2013
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “Historians often smile wryly at the idea of progress. Societies change, but it is not always easy to judge whether this is for better or for worse. Some Victorians thought that they had reached a high point of human civilisation; others, particularly towards the end of the nineteenth century, were haunted by a despair that things were getting worse.

Why should you read it? If you, like me, have grown up with a strong belief that things would always get better. Elected presidents would always implement progressive laws, people would become more open-minded, technology would improve for the better… Since 2016, world events have come to shatter that belief. This book is impressively well-researched while being enjoyable to read, and focuses on the history of women in Britain.

6. To read a classic of literature:

“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf

Genre: essay, nonfiction
Published: 1929
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “Women have sat indoors all these millions of years, so that by this time the very walls are permeated by their creative force, which has, indeed, so overcharged the capacity of bricks and mortar that it must needs harness itself to pens and brushes and business and politics.

Why should you read it? To understand why there are so few female authors, artists, musicians, poets all over history. This book is considered to be Virginia Woolf’s most powerful work, advocating for women’s intellectual freedom and financial independence.

7. To learn about “rebel ladies who rocked the world”:

“Brazen” by Penelope Bagieu

Genre: graphic novel
Published: 2018
Find it on Amazon here.

Find an excerpt of her drawings here.

Why should you read it? I have been following Penelope for a while now, because she has the most delightful and hilarious art. “Brazen” shows portraits of women from all over the world. I did not know about most of them, because history has forgotten their stories and their lives. That is why this novel is so important. I needed it when I was a teenager, to learn about role models and artists and intellectuals and powerful women – to know that they existed.

8. A classic of feminist philosophy and existentialism:

“The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir

Genre: classic, nonfiction
Published: 1949
Find it on Amazon here.

Favourite quote: “It is perfectly natural for the future woman to feel indignant at the limitations posed upon her by her sex. The real question is not why she should reject them: the problem is rather to understand why she accepts them.” 

Why should you read it? This is a classic in feminist literature. The book is long and intimidating but worth the efforts – an intellectual eye-opener on the implications of being a women. Her thesis “one is not born, but rather becomes a woman“, discussing internalised sexism and oppression, feels desperately modern.

What are your favourite books written by women? Share in the comments below!

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