Sometimes I feel like I haven’t read enough feminist classics to be a proper feminist. I’ve dipped in and out of The Second Sex, and had a go at The Female Eunuch. They’re interesting enough and thought-provoking, but they’re not exactly light reading. I fall in love with a book much quicker if it’s kind to me. If I can read it in one sitting, or read it with my heart racing wanting to find out more, devastated when I finally have to put it down. I love a book with characters I can relate to and language that’s a dream.
I’ve put together a list of some of my favourite books, which also happen to be full of wonderful women. Books that make me feel like a good feminist, without having a side-order of brain-ache. There’ll hopefully be a mix of poetry, prose, old and new; a bit of something for every last one of you literary ladies, gentlemen and those who identify as non-binary, too. Snuggling up with a brew, a blanket and one of these books is the perfect way to spend a Wintery evening.
1. We should All be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
After watching Adichie’s wonderful TEDTalk of the same name, I was eager to read this essay. I was over the moon to receive it as a Christmas present last year and devoured it in one sitting. The second I had finished, I turned straight back to the first page and read it again; this time more slowly, making notes as I went along. In the essay Adichie defines feminism and sums up why the movement is still as relevant and necessary as ever in the same engaging, and accessible voice she uses in her fiction. ‘The problem with gender’ she says, ‘is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognising how we are.’ Wonderful women like Adichie are everything that is right with this world.
2. Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
Milk and Honey is not simply poetry. Described on her website as a ‘recipe book for healing’, it’s exactly that. I took so much away from it and go back to it for advice and wisdom all the time. It just feels so honest and so relevant. Reading Kaur’s wise words on abuse, relationships and recovery you can tell she is just a young women like any other, trying to make her way in the world. I’ve only had my copy for a couple of months and it’s already dog-eared with post-it notes sticking out of all my favourite pages. It’s a collection to live your life by.
3. Good Bones – Margaret Atwood
Atwood is one of my absolute favourite writers and this collection of short stories and essays showcases just how much she can do with a pen. In ‘Gertrude Talks Back’ Hamlet’s mother is given a witty and humorous voice, and adds a sinister twist to the play we all know. In ‘Let Us Now Praise Stupid Women’ she thanks all the stereotypes of women that litter the history of literature and in her fantastic essay ‘The Female Body’ she tackles very real issues in her typically surreal and satirical fashion. This is one of those books that I insist on lending out to people constantly because it’s just so brilliant.
4. Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates
This book is a hard one to swallow. Like Bates’ hugely popular website of the same name, this book details the cold, harsh realities of being a woman in a world that still has a long way to go. I cried my way through parts of it, particularly the chapter ‘Young Women Learning’. Condensed, it is quite overwhelming just how many experiences of Everyday Sexism are packed into this book, so it’s important that you remember whilst reading, that amongst all of this rubbish we have to deal with there is ten times as much good stuff going on in the world. But… this book is a very important one to read. Divided up into chapters such as ‘Women in Politics’ and ‘Motherhood’ Bates details how gender inequality affects us all and reminds us just how much work we have to do.
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
This book tugs on your heartstrings like nothing before. I’ve read it twice, several years apart, and both times I’ve actually sobbed. Not just a couple of stray tears, but actually heaving sobs. The novel focuses on Mariam and Laila, two Afghan women from different generations who find themselves living under the same roof. Spanning from the Soviet-Afghan war right through to Taliban rule A Thousand Splendid Suns touches upon so many themes. Along the way we encounter illegitimate children, forced marriages, domestic violence, motherhood, female friendship and above all the pure strength of women.
Next week I’ll be writing about five more of my favourite books. If you have any recommendations, comment below!