Books that celebrate women, women’s history, and equality; authors we admire, texts that have inspired us. 

Our favorite books, and books we discussed in our podcast on one page!

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Picks by Women Imprint

Jana's Bookshelf

"Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter" by Simone de Beauvoir

I read S.d.B. for the first time when I was 12 and I still read and re-read her. Her memoirs (several books) give us a beautiful insight into her way of thinking and the times she lived in.

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"Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her" by Susan Griffin

A collage of texts, a poetic approach to a very political subject — we accompany Griffin on her foray through centuries of burdening the female body and nature with ideology. 

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"Beyond the Pale.

White Women, Racism, and History" by Vron Ware

Less a book about feminism than racism, but since they are intertwined, an important read.

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"We Should All Be Feminists" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A beautiful short essay – check out her TEDx talk online if you can.

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"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood

A dystopian novel so timely it gives you goosebumps; about gender, religion, and power.

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"If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho" translated by Anne Carlson

A.C. does a wonderful job translating Sappho, one of the few women of her time known to us today, and yet so much of her work is lost. The blank pages remind us of the status of women in the public sphere back then.

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"Longing for Darkness. Tara and the Black Madonna" by China Galland

A very personal and spiritual journey by a woman about religion and its symbols and figures and how we interpret them and the role we give women (or not).

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"Rosa Luxemburg

The Biography" by J. P. Nettl

I'm usually careful about recommending biographies, and there are only a handful of good ones I've read. Not much has been published about R.L., who was an extraordinary woman. This book gives a good overview.

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Kaitlyn's Bookshelf

Dawn by Octavia E. Butler (1987, Part 1 of the Exogenesis Series)

This science fiction novel was really all I could think about for a while. Dawn is the first of three books in the Exogenesis series. The story is of Lilith Iyapo, a black human woman, who wakes to find Earth destroyed and that she was saved and is now on a ship with extraterrestrials who want to breed with her to create a new species. She has an entirely new life and we follow her through moments of intimacy, reproduction, and sexual acts within frameworks of autonomy, consent, and authoritative power. Octavia E. Butler has many wonderful books, including the Patternist novels, and many people's favorite, Kindred.

Order it here.

Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf (1928)

 I adore this book. This is about an aristocrat who wakes up to find that he is not a man anymore, but a woman. She does not resist the change. but transitions with love and truth that they are still the same person, just a different sex. We then follow Orlando on a long journey to reclaim their land, property, money, and titles that have been legally sequestered after waking up as a woman. Amazing commentary on the social and economic roles of women during Woolf’s day. There is an annotated version which I think would be a lovely read. 

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The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art (1998)

Had this book in high school and I still think it is an excellent and fun introduction to patriarchy in the art world, especially for youth.

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Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang (2009)

This book was written in 2009, but I’m sure it is still relevant today. The author follows two young women through their days working in mega factories in China. She explores how these women came to be in the city, how they feel about their jobs, how they spend their money, how they spend their time outside of work, and more. The book is incredibly engaging and I couldn’t put it down.

Order it here.

Hiper Mulheres (The Hyperwomen) (2012)

I wanted to add a film to this list, Partly because not every story is written, but mainly because this documentary will blow your mind! You have to pay, but it's so worth it. Here is a synopsis: Worried that his wife will die soon, an old man asks his nephew to organize a Jamurikumalu, the biggest feminine ritual in the Upper Xingu region of Brazil, so she may sing one last time. The women in the village start the rehearsals, but the only singer that knows all the songs is deathly ill.

Watch the trailer here.

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)

Ursula Le Guin is one of my favorite writers because she writes worlds with a complexity that only a anthropological background can give. In The Left Hand of Darkness, she creates a planet in which people do not have a fixed gender. Which sex they adopt really depends on the context and relationships that are formed. This is the foundational theme for the character Genly Ai, a human envoy sent to the planet Gethen to create an interplanetary trade alliance. The Left Hand of Darkness is actually the first book in the genre ‘feminist science fiction’.

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Mia's Bookshelf

“Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde 

This collection of essays and writings by Lorde is essential to better understand the intersection of race and gender for black women. The language is easily digestible and enjoyable.

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“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison 

This was a favorite book of my mother that I recently read and it was an emotionally nostalgic story about beauty and race. Heart-breaking but insightful.

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“Kim Ji-young, Born 1982” by Cho Nam-ju

This book was originally written in Korean but is now translated into English. Written during the insurgence of the MeToo movement, this is a story of the average woman moving through a patriarchal society. It is written plainly and simply, but nonetheless, moving.

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Sara's Bookshelf

"Mayas' Notebook" by 
Isabelle Allende

Novels about young people tend to center around romance, cliche struggles, and looking at life through rose-colored glasses, but Allende takes us on a trip not only through Oregon, Las Vegas, and the small island Chille off the coast of Chile, but she sheds light on topics we are afraid to talk about such as addiction and prostitution. Maya’s journey into her own soul is not as perfect as eating pasta in Italy and riding an elephant in India.

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"I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" by Stephanie Kuehnert

We join Emily Black in her struggle of seeking validation from her estranged mother
and the repercussions that parental abandonment can take on a child, and how it impacts their emotional development growing up. But don’t be fooled, this is not a parenting book, it is a novel about what it means to get lost in the music.

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"Diario de un Ostión" by Flor Aguilera García

This book narrates the story of Isabel, and how when she turns 16 she decides it’s time for her to start writing a journal. She details a year in her life and the challenges she goes through while trying to find a place in the world and the person she wants to be.

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"Ten Thousand Saints" by Eleanor Henderson

Elenor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints is an example of how fiction is universal. Even if you are not particularly interested in the music scene of the ’80s or the New York punk scene this novel will pull you in. A story of devotion - to family, friendship, music, teenage bonds to love and survival. And the craving these children have for life.

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Books from our Portrait Series Podcast

From June 2020 with Lisa Nance

Chelsea Girls: A Novel

by Eileen Myles

Lunch Poems

by Frank O'Hara

Omon Ra

by Viktor Pelevin

From May 2020 with Iman Humaydan

Beruit Noir 

by Iman Humaydan

B as in Beruit

by Human Humaydan

Wild Mulberries

by Iman Humaydan

Books by Topic

Contemporary Women Writers on Race in America

Breathe. A letter to my sons

by Imani Perry

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games 

by Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? And other conversations about race

by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Men We reaped: A Memoir

by Jesmyn Ward

Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America 

by Jennifer Harvey

Books from our Armchair Travels

Chinatown, NYC
Book recommendations for women's history in Chinatown, NYC

Bread Givers: A Novel

by Anzia Yezierska

From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Life & Work of Anzia Yezierska

by Sarah Blacher Cohen

Hester Street (the movie)

by Joan Micklin Silver

Boundaries: Maya Lin

by Maya Lin

The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco

by Cecila Sun Yun Chiang

The Pleasure of Chinese Cooking (rare)

by Grace Zia Chu

How to Cook & Eat in Chinese (rare)

by Buwei Yang Chao

Greenwich Village
Book recommendations for women's history in Greenwich Village, NYC

Angela Davis: Seize the Time

by Gerry Beegan & Donna Gustafson (editors)

Are Prisons Obsolete? 

by Angela Davis

Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan 

by Mabel Dodge Luhan, Lois Palken Rudnick

The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle

by Lillian Faderman

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

by Imani Perry

To Be Young, Gifted and Black

by Lorraine Hansberry 

Emma Lazarus

by Esther Schor

Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography 

by Helen Sheehy

Harlem, NYC
Book recommendations for women's history in Harlem, NYC

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker 

by A'Lelia Bundles

The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader

by Ida B. Wells

Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman

by Kristen Pai Buick, Jeffreen M. Hayes