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Her-story: The Best History Books about Women to Read

As a young woman, one of my absolute favorite things to learn about is powerful women who have lived before me. I especially love learning about women who rose up despite living in a heavily patriarchal society to make their mark on the world. I will admit that most of these books are about women of the ancient world (specifically ancient Egypt). I love hearing the stories of all women, but ancient women and queens are without a doubt my favorites. Everyone has their preferences though! I am for sure hoping to read more about women in American history and of Native American origins. Nonetheless, these books have helped me  learn a lot and have driven me in my studies and endeavors.

When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

I cannot say enough good things about Dr. Kara Cooney’s work. She writes in a way that is both informational and conversational. This book follows the stories of the queens of Egypt: Merneith, Neferusobek, Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, Tawosret, and of course Cleopatra (believe it or not, I was able to list all of those in order off the top of my head). Dr. Cooney has a great way of connecting current events with occurrences of the ancient world, helping to make the stories of these women relatable and present. This book also holds a special place in my heart as it was the source material that got me passionate about ancient Egyptian women and telling their stories.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff

Like everyone else on the planet, I too am fascinated by the story of the last queen of Egypt. What I love especially about this book is how in-depth it goes. Schiff analyses the life of Cleopatra, starting from before her birth and ending  after her death. She includes information about how different events impacted the actions of her life. This is definitely a great book for a closer and more precise look at Cleopatra.

Arsinoe of Egypt and Macedon: A Royal Life by Elizabeth Carney

This year, I became acquainted with Arsinoe II, who has quickly become one of my favorite women of ancient Egypt. Carney’s book on her life is very detailed and provides  a lot of information on this queen whose life is very interesting but hard to find information on. The book is structured more like a textbook but reads like a biography. Carney uses photos and sketches to help make the story of Arsinoe II come alive. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about a queen whose name seems to have been forgotten by the masses.

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

We are lucky enough to be alive in the time that such a strong and influential woman like Malala exists. For those who do not know about her, Malala was a young woman living in Pakistan under the Taliban, fighting for women’s educational rights in the Middle East. While fighting, she was shot in the eye and nearly died. She lived to tell the tale and continues to advocate for women’s education. In I am Malala, she tells her life story; one that is surely one of a kind and important.

The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney

Dr. Cooney strikes again in this detailed story of the life of Hatshepsut! Hatshepsut was one of the only confirmed sole female pharaohs of Egypt. Her life is extremely interesting to learn about, as well as her reign as a pharaoh. Her story went on to pave the way for many other brave strong women who came after her. I recommend this book to anyone who loves a good story of a strong powerful woman making her mark.

These are some of my favorite books to read. I am definitely still chipping away at my reading list and learning more as I go. The women in these books inspire me and are very interesting to read about.

Julia Fuchs

Rutgers '22

Julia is a senior at Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Academically, she is interested in Egyptian archaeology and art history. Outside of classes Julia loves fashion, coffee, art, music and is a dedicated feminist! Her Campus is a way for her to combine all of her interests in a journalistic setting, and an organization she loves being a part of!
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