Books to Read / Speak Up

Bookmark ‘em now: 8 books on feminism to add to your reading list

. 9 min read . Written by Oindrilla Gupta
Bookmark ‘em now: 8 books on feminism to add to your reading list

In Kool Kanya’s theme of the month ﹘ Feminist In Progress ﹘ we decode the nitty-gritties of practising feminism laden with imperfections.

Disclaimer: The content in this list addresses sensitive issues. 

There is a plethora of dialogues and perspectives on feminism all over the world. These perspectives are penned down in several books that reflect how diverse a woman’s experiences truly are.

As women (and feminists), we might share similar journeys but still be walking on different paths.

However, if you’re looking for some inspiration to recognise and own your potential, here are 8 books on feminism to remind you that we’re all in this journey together! 

Written by women writers from diverse backgrounds, these books come sprinkled with real-life anecdotes and come packed with much-needed motivation. The writing is relatable and makes us believe in what we deserve, and what we can achieve. So, bookmark ‘em all! 

Note: Some books in this list talk about certain uncomfortable real-life experiences that the writers have had. We do not wish for the content to trigger you. The writing here is to only discuss the subject matter of these books.

8 books on feminism that will inspire you 

1. Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay 

books on feminism

What it is about: 

Is it good to be a ‘bad’ feminist? 

This is a book of essays by author and cultural critic Roxane Gay. It is an honest piece on how being labelled a ‘feminist’ can be complicated. And much so when the world expects you to behave a certain way. Stirred with her own personal experiences, Roxane explores feminism that comes coated with imperfections. 

Does liking pink, faking an orgasm, or dancing to non-feminist lyrics make her a bad feminist? That’s for us to decode. 

Why you should read it: 

As a bisexual, Black woman, Roxane believes that feminism may not be for her. Because the movement has, historically, been far more invested in improving the lives of heterosexual white women. She also believes that feminism does not allow any room for messiness or imperfections. 

books on feminism

Even though she supports the ideology of feminism ﹘ which is to promote equality of the genders ﹘ she also wants to puncture the need for perfection through the book’s title.

“It’s okay to be messy, to hold conflicting opinions, to do things that don’t follow the party line, to question and be confused and STILL be a feminist.”

For times when you feel like you’re failing as a feminist (even when you’re not), this book might soothe you. 

2. The Future Is Feminist: Radical, Funny, and Inspiring Writing by Women

books on feminism

What it is about: 

Written by Jessica Valenti, an American writer, with contributions from icons like Salma Hayek, Chelsea Handler, and Mindy Kaling, the essays in The Future Is Feminist explore what it meant to be a feminist yesterday, what feminism means today, and what it will look like tomorrow.

Why you should read it: 

This empowering and humorous collection of essays includes the experience of women from all over the world. They belong to different financial circumstances, ages, and ethnicities. 

From workplace harassment to decoding a woman’s ‘resting bitch face’, there are several themes that are covered through provocative and hilarious writing. The essays in the book encapsulate contemporary feminism, which makes it more relatable for the readers. 

Continue Reading…

3. I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing, by Maya Angelou 

books on feminism

What it is about:  

This was the first of seven autobiographical works by American writer Maya Angelou. The metaphor in the title represents the inequality and injustice seen in society during her time.

Society functioned on the segregation between white and black people. The book chronicles her life from the age of 4 to 16. It also recounts unsettling childhood experiences that included rape and racism. 

The book focuses on the way women are viewed, the importance of looks, and gender stereotypes. And all of this is not only pertinent but also prevalent today. 

Why you should read it: 

Maya Angelou’s touching memoir addresses the grim realities of being a black woman who was raised in America in the 1930s.

However, she also portrays her mother’s strong character in the book. She describes how she was willing to follow her dreams and shunned the stereotypical gender roles

books on feminism

One of the most widely read and taught books written by an African-American woman, the story shows Maya’s personal journey of self-acceptance. There’s a lot to learn from her mother as well, who dares to challenge norms in the 1930s. 

This book opines that anyone who is oppressed or caged will continue to long for freedom, not knowing that being free is in their own hands. 

4. Coming Out As Dalit, by Yashica Dutt

books on feminism

What it is about: 

Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many conversations around caste-based discrimination. This is when Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, decided to stop living a lie. She wanted to admit something that she had hidden from her friends and colleagues for years – the fact that she was a Dalit woman. 

In this book, she recounts the exhausting burden of living with the secret. She takes us through the history of the Dalit movement, and the consequences of her community’s lack of access to education.

She also walks us through the need for affirmative action. And the structural domination of men over women in the community 

Why you should read it: 

Woven from personal narratives of her own life, as well as that of other Dalit women and men, this book forces us to confront the injustice of caste.

Yashica states how Dalit women’s voices have been inadequately represented, or sometimes completely erased. 

If you’re a feminist who strives for equality, it is important for you to also understand why Dalit women do not have it easy in life.

And this book helps you gain that perspective. 

5. I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai & Christina Lamb 

books on feminism

What it is about: 

This memoir, written by Malala Yousafzai and co-authored by Christina Lamb, tells the story of Malala’s life and her activism. The central theme of I Am Malala is fighting for women’s rights.

The book features the life of a Pakistani activist – who survived a gunshot fired by terrorists, for fighting for her right to education. 

“Don’t wait for someone to speak up for you, speak up for yourself”. 

Why you should read it: 

Malala constantly battled for both her rights and for the girls facing the same circumstances all around the world. She believed in equal rights for all, irrespective of their caste, creed, or gender. 

The story of Malala Yousafzai is not only inspiring but also highlights the complexities of life in a patriarchal country. Despite all odds, Malala continues to fight for what she believes in, which makes her heroic life worth a read. 

6. Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo 

books on feminism

What it is about: 

This Booker Prize-winning novel is about the intersections of identity. Written from the point of view of 12 British women of color, the book represents the diversity of classes, cultures, and sexual identities. 

Coming from a feminist and trans-aware perspective, Bernardine Evaristo presents a broad spectrum of experiences of womanhood. She clubs class, ethnicity, age, sexuality, trans identities, and disability together. The novel depicts the life and survival of its protagonists in a white-dominant culture. 

Why you should read it: 

The author has given hyphenated identities to all its characters. Because she wants to portray the complicated understanding of the society on who this ‘other’ is. There’s Amma, a socialist-polyamorous lesbian playwright. Then there’s Morgan, who is a trans-non-binary-high school dropout, and a social media influencer. There’s Dominique, a lesbian feminist, and a domestic abuse survivor. 

books on feminism

These identities are real and relatable. They represent the complexities and flaws, and come with their own distinct voice. Some are homophobic, some are feminists, some criticise feminism, and some don’t know what it means to be a feminist. 

More often than not, when one associates themselves as the ‘other’ gender, it leads to fallouts between them and their families or friends even today.

But the novel opines how this distance can also bring in the hope of a possibility of togetherness. To truly understand the complexities of gender, you should give this book a read. 

7. All About Love, by bell hooks 

books on feminism

What it is about: 

In this book, author and activist bell hooks sheds light on how the power of love can be used to negate war and unrest in society. 

Why you should read it: 

The book shows you how to fix the stereotypical notions and beliefs on love. It tells us how to improve our relationships with ourselves, a significant other, and everyone around us.

hooks engages with pertinent questions of violence, trauma, and love as a medium of radical change. 

A must-read for lovers, feminists, and humankind in general, bell hooks’ All About Love tries to redefine how women think of love.

She tries to showcase how patriarchy has brainwashed people into believing that love brings in pain when it does exactly the opposite of that.

She also talks about embracing self-love as just that, rather than equating it to narcissism. 

So if you want to look at feminism from a different perspective. Or rather, uncomplicate your understanding of what it truly is, here’s a must-read book for you. 

8. The Second Sex, by Simone De Beauvoir 

books on feminism

What it is about: 

This is one of the most essential books on feminism. When feminism is talked about, it is addressed as an ideology that promotes the equality of sexes.

But with the belief that man is the supreme sex, and a woman is the objectified other,  the conflicts of inequality continue to persist. 

“One is not born a woman, but rather becomes a woman”. 

Simone De Beauvoir’s prime focus in this book is on how men fundamentally oppress women by characterising them, on every level, as the ‘other’.  That man occupies the role of a subject, while a woman is an object (the ‘other’.) She portrays how man is essential, absolute, and transcendent in society, while women are inessential, and incomplete without men. 

Why you should read it: 

Even though this book was written before America saw its second wave of feminism, most of Simone’s ideas are still quite relevant.

The status of women may have evolved to somewhat equal since the last few decades. But one cannot ignore how women still need to continue fighting for what belongs to them. 

books on feminism

The Second Sex also sheds light on how gender is assigned to us by birth. And we’re conditioned to believe that we’re supposed to behave ‘like a woman’.

This raises an important question:  how much of a choice does one have in ‘becoming’ a particular gender? 

If you’re struggling to fit into your assigned gender, or wanting to celebrate the gender you relate to, this revolutionary book is for you. 

Feminism has varied meanings. While being a feminist is a work in progress, it still empowers every woman (and man) to lead a life of their choice.

These inspiring books on feminism, written by strong authors, capture the struggles of living life as a woman. And they also raise a lot of important questions. 

Read these books on feminism to view the world from the authors’ lens. And leave your reading nook as an empowered feminist! 

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