17 Brilliant Books To Kickstart Your Feminist Awakening

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17 Brilliant Books To Kickstart Your Feminist Awakening
Self

There’s never a bad time to start your feminist library. If you’re looking for books that will get you impassioned, inspired, and educated, look no further. 

The last number of years witnessing the #MeToo Movement, countless sexist comments by our former President, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the global rise in domestic violence cases during coronavirus lockdown, have taught us that we need intersectional feminism more than ever before. 

But many of the older feminist classics that are taught endlessly on college courses and live on the shelves of avid readers can feel intimidating for those of us who get most of our feminist education from quick news stories or eye-catching social media posts. 

So if you’re in need of some accessible and enjoyable reading materials to warm you up for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, these are the perfect starting books for the modern young feminist. 

Here are 17 books every young feminist needs:

1. The Periodic Table of Feminism by Marisa Bate

If you’re looking for a full, thorough, and gripping run down of feminist history from the suffragettes to Oprah, no book does it better.

Using the periodic table as a categorical device, Bate separates women into catalysts, rejectors, explosives, precious metals, and more as she links how different women’s journeys impact others.  

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2. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Based on Adichie’s famous TEDx talk that later became one of the most recognized samples on Beyonce’s Self Titled album, this short essay-style book is deeply personal and eloquently argued. 

It is an exploration of how feminism benefits us all and ties into every aspect of identity politics. 

3. The Problem with Everything: My Journey Through the New Culture Wars by Meghan Daum

Now that we’re through the crippling haze that was Trump’s presidency, Daum’s attempt to make sense of how our gender politics look now is more relevant than ever. 

Tackling Donald Trump’s presidency, the #MeToo movement, gender wage gaps, the divides between Millenials and Gen Z, and much more, Daum mixes humor with sharp analysis to assess the nuances of our country. 

4. More Than A Woman by Caitlin Moran

This memoir/manifesto cross-over takes on modern feminism, motherhood, sex, and more. It’s a hilarious follow-up to Moran’s seminal novel How To Be A Woman which tackled feminism in the younger years of a woman’s life. 

But Moran’s perspective, and that of her loyal readers, has changed since then and this book is a chance to raise some new questions about femininity and feminism in the modern age. 

5. Sister Citizen by Melissa Harris-Perry

Harris-Perry’s take on the Black female experience will challenge all the stereotypes you didn’t realize you were carrying. 

Harris-Perry examines how depictions of Black women as infallibly strong and independent have deceived us into thinking Black girls and women shouldn’t need help, meaning their issues are so often marginalized and ignored. 

She talks to survivors of Hurricane Katrina and First Lady Michelle Obama to explore how shared struggles unite Black American women. 

6. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

West talks back to those who labeled the #MeToo Movement and modern feminism as a “witch hunt” against men. 

She embraces accountability and unpacks the distortions, prejudices, manipulations, and outright lies that have allowed white men to keep the grip on society. 

West knows that uncovering and confronting the truth about how we see ourselves and others is the key to progress in this book shines a glaring light on that truth. 

7. It’s Not About The Burqa by Mariam Khan

Khan’s book follows frank and honest conversations with seventeen Muslim women as they explore how feminism and Islam interact. 

The women open up about how it feels to have their hijabs misrepresented and heavily politicized, they talk about love and divorce, feminism, queer identity, sex, oppression, and Islamaphobia disguised as liberalism. 

8. Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

This fictional debut novel follows three Japanese women navigating a world stacked against them in working-class Japan. The book reflects on self-image, personal anxieties, and female relationships in a heartbreakingly honest way. 

9. More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth

Welteroth’s inspiring rise from a small-town Californian childhood to the second-ever Black woman to hold an editor-in-chief position at Condé Nast is one heck of a story. 

She takes on the insection of race and gender with such a commanding voice, it’s impossible not to be hook in. This book will teach you how to command attention even when you’re the only woman in the room and become your own boss. 

10. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

After you're done with this make sure to pass it on to your father, brother, boyfriend, or any other man in your life who has ever attempted to mansplain anything to you.

Solnit’s essay collection is short and sweet but still manages to tackle everyday instances of misogyny with a critical lens that will open your eyes up to all the prejudices you’ve been taught to accept. 

The title essay one of the book highlights as Solnit takes a witty approach to the power dynamics that arise in conversations between men and women. 

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11. Make Trouble by Cecile Richards

Richards’s activism began in middle school when her principal called her to the office for wearing an armband in protest against the Vietnam War. 

As a daughter of politician Anne Richards and her civil rights attorney, Cecile Richards was a champion of feminism and social justice from an early age but she has also faced her share of mistakes and obstacles. 

Hilary Clinton praised the book for providing, “Practical advice and inspiration for aspiring leaders everywhere.”

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12. She Is Fierce by Ana Sampson

If poetry is more your thing — or even if it’s not — this is the ultimate feminist collection. 

With 150 bold and brilliant poems by everyone from Maya Angelou and Emily Dickinson to spoken-word star Hollie McNish, you can get a taste of womanhood from this century to the previous. 

13. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Peterson

Only Peterson, an expert on celebrity gossip, could link Kim Kardashian, Serena Williams, and Hilary Clinton and demonstrate their unlikely branch of feminism. 

This is a careful examination of how powerful women break molds, and how they are treated once they do. She defines her feminism as the ability to embrace being “unruly” if it means subverting the barriers and rules forced on women. 

14. The Source Of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Morrison’s collection of speeches and essays that span four crucial decades in the Civil Rights and feminist movement is essential reading for any budding feminist. 

It’s the kind of collection you can pick up and refer back to countless times over the years in search of inspiration, truth, and meaning. 

15. Salt Slow by Julia Armfield

Armfield’s debut short story collection is painful to read in all the best ways possible. She lays her female characters open and takes readers into the deepest parts of them.

This is a collection focused on women and their experiences in society, exploring relationships, sexuality, female bodies, and female fears.

16. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a go-to when it comes to feminist fiction and if you’ve seen the hype for the numerous on-screen adaptations, you’ll know why. 

Set it a terrifyingly relatable dystopia, Atwood’s characters live in a future America where women are reduced to their reproductive usefulness. Acting as servants to the needs of men, the book reminds us how women are shackled in a patriarchal society. 

17. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger by Rebecca Traister

Taking prideful ownership of the title of “angry feminist”, Traister explores how women’s rage and outrage have been a catalyst for change from Greek mythology to the #MeToo movement. 

This book will encourage you to feel empowered by your frustrations and channel anger into meaningful discussions about women’s rights. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.