While the internet may be a magical place with millions of articles, academic essays, and manifestos on feminism, a true feminist knows to pick up a book every once and a while. Reading and understanding the experiences and opinions of other women is essentially how feminist thought and activism first began, therefore it is important for the ladies of today to follow (pant) suit. There are hundreds if not thousands of books on feminism to choose from these days, from broad outlooks on the movement to historical analysis of women’s experiences to more focused discussions on feminist theories and movements. Believe me when I tell you that there is a feminist book out there for everyone (I’m looking at you boys) but here are my top five books that all feminists should read.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bad Feminist is a collection of essays which narrate the experiences of Roxane Gay from her early childhood all the way through her adult life. The title Bad Feminist is aimed to capture your attention, because in many cases as feminists we are always striving to be better feminists, however, Gay admits throughout her book that there is no such thing as the perfect feminist, just as there is no such thing as the perfect woman. Her book is divided into three sections; first being gender, second being race, and third being how gender and race interact with each other. The integration of race into her feminist memoir is extremely important and timely because third-wave feminism is all about connecting intersectional identities of oppression to promote equality on all platforms. Gay’s voice throughout the book is relatable and honest, making it the perfect read for feminists of all kinds.
Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
From the beautiful and twisted mind of the author of Fight Club, Beautiful You is a controversial novel that theorizes male dominance and female sexual oppression. The novel tells the story of Penny, a young, average, and innocent woman who works as an assistant at a top law firm in New York City. She stumbles upon C. Linus Maxwell, a wealthy tech billionaire, and casanova, at her job and he begins to court her. Penny, along with everyone else in the story, is shocked that Maxwell would show interest in someone like Penny considering his history of Academy Award winning actresses, socialites, European royalty, even the first female president, yet the wealthy mastermind has a plan that involves Penny’s help to unveil. It turns out that Maxwell has been engineering a line of sex products which will help women (and their partners) to fulfill their sexual potential and solve the mystery of the female orgasm. However, there is much more to these toys as they have secretly been implanted with nanobots (tiny robots that enter the blood stream) that have the ability to control women and their orgasms. Chaos ensues onto the world and with the help of a hundred-year-old sex witch from Nepal, Penny must save the female race and the world.
The book overall, albeit a fiction story, is extremely interesting especially when inspected under a feminist lens. There are strong themes of male domination and female oppression, which literally become a reality in the story as gender roles are hyper intensified due to these poisoned sex toys. The book as a whole gives the reader a dystopian hypothesis as to what would happen if the female orgasm was as easily understood as the male one, however, I think that most feminists that agree that all women being able to orgasm would not cause an apocalypse. Overall it was an extremely entertaining page turner that played with your head through every twist and turn of the plot and certainly something that feminists should check out for themselves.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Like Bad Feminist, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me is a collection of essays which tell different narratives of female oppression. Unlike Gay, this is not so much of a personal memoir but individualized lessons on feminism and the ways in which gender inequalities are experienced throughout society. She begins her book with an essay on mansplaining (which inspired the title of the book) yet after this she immediately goes on to discuss violence against women, sexual assault, the misogyny of marriage, and police brutality. The book itself reads much more as an academic piece of non-fiction than other collections of essays, yet Solnit’s voice as a writer does come through in the ways in which she explains feminism and female oppression. I think that this book pairs extremely well with books such as Bad Feminist because it shows feminism through two very distinctive writing styles and points of view.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
If you haven’t heard of this book yet, get ready because the movie is already on its way. Often compared to the novel Gone Girl , this book follows a woman named Rachel, who is an alcoholic and divorcee, that becomes involved in the case of a missing woman who lives in the same neighborhood as her ex-husband and his new family. Hawkins takes the reader into the mind of a woman who has literally hit rock bottom through alcoholism and divorce, yet she becomes an unsuspecting hero as she becomes involved in solving the murder of a woman she used to observe on her commute to the city. You’ll need to read this book before it hits theaters on October 7th, but you should also tune into this story because of the way in which it portrays addiction, abusive relationships, and a woman’s struggle for power in her own life.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
You may not have heard of this speech turned essay, but doesn’t Beyoncé’s “Partition” ring a bell? That’s right, remember the woman who defines feminism in the middle of Beyoncé’s anthem, well her part in the song is actually a clip from her speech about why everyone should be a feminist. If you haven’t read this essay or watched this TED speech, I highly recommend that you check out it out, for Beyoncé at least. In her speech, Adichie discusses feminism in a 21st-century context, solving the great mystery of what feminism actually means. She layers her speech with obvious institutes of oppression such a workplace discrimination, but she then goes deeper to examine the “hidden” societal expectations and behaviors that interact the way that girls develop into the world. She takes her experiences as a Nigerian woman and elaborates on the cultural beliefs thrust herself at a young age, but broadens the discussion to address women of all nationalities and backgrounds. She uses this speech to unify and inspire women to join together as feminists and presents feminism as a movement that should not be viewed as intimidating, but liberating and inspiring. If you ever encounter someone who doesn’t believe that feminism is a necessary movement and ideology, have them check out what Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has to say about that.