From Mary Wollstonecraft to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this International Women's Day we are celebrating women of all backgrounds who have have taken up their pens and changed the world through their writing.
Inspired by Adichie’s Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions we’ve picked out fifteen messages from the pages of our favourite books. These are writers that have both entertained and educated us, given us food for thought and challenged our assumptions - we hope you enjoy this banquet of books to pick and choose from.
1. Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Teach her to read and love books. Books will help her understand the world... and help her in whatever she wants to become.”
Practical and beautiful - the perfect gift for teenagers and adults who want to work towards gender equality.
2. Mexican Hooker #1: And Other Roles Since the Revolution by Carmen Aguirre
“Take a risk...let go.”
"I was gripped by every chapter of Carmen Aguirre’s memoir, from her early childhood as a Chilean refugee, to the theatre scene in LA, Aguirre invites you to share equally in her joy and sadness. This is a memoir that is deeply honest and deeply personal, her descriptions of trauma left me shaking with emotion, her disarming humour made me laugh, and her passion for equality and justice is infectious. This is a wonderful book to read on International Women's Day, reflecting the life of a complex and brilliant woman." ~ Harriet, Penguin Shop
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
“niceness was something anyone could be, whether they meant it or not. But goodness was another thing altogether.”
"The fact that The Mothers is Brit Bennett’s debut novel is both shocking and exciting. It’s the story of Nadia Turner, a young girl who’s lost after her Mother has committed suicide. She finds solace in the arms of the local pastor’s son and that quickly leads to an unwanted pregnancy. The consequences of their decisions affect their choices for years to come. This book is smart, expressive and captivating enough to make you read the whole book in one sitting."
~ Lindsey, Digital Marketing
4. I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin
"It is always easier to find your sense of value by demeaning another’s value. It is easier to define yourself as “not that,” than to do an actual accounting of your own qualities.”
Jessa Crispin’s searing critique of contemporary feminism provides a bracing call for revolution - demanding nothing less than the total dismantling of a system of oppression.
5. One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
“For those of us who are not in a position of power—us women, us non-white people, those who are trans or queer or whatever it is that identifies us as inherently different—the internet means the world has a place to scream at us.”
A debut collection of fierce and funny essays about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants in Canada. Koul’s razor-sharp wit takes on sexism, internet trolls, gender expectations and life as a woman of colour.
6. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
“Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.”
Told through the stories of acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren, this is a book about finding sanctuary in work and love. Jahren’s passion and expertise leads her on adventures of discovery both scientific and personal.
7. Beloved by Toni Morrison
“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”
Toni Morrison’s unflinching novel stares into the abyss of slavery to tell the story of Sethe, a woman haunted by the ghost of her child. A gothic tale that weaves tense and bitter poetry with a mother’s love and strength.
8. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.”
A candid account of the early years of iconic activist and feminist Gloria Steinem. Travelling across America and beyond, Steinem’s encounters and conversations on the road illuminate the growing feminist movement and her own progression.
Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
“Judged by the evolving nineteenth-century ideology of femininity, which emphasized women’s roles as nurturing mothers and gentle companions and housekeepers for their husbands, Black women were practically anomalies.”
"As feminism enters a new wave, it can be difficult to navigate the nuances and intricacies of the word "feminist." First published in 1983, Women, Race and Class offers an accessible introduction to the history of feminist history. Davis's analysis is a key starting point for those who want to move beyond equality to men and toward liberation for all peoples." ~ Léonicka, Online & Digital Sales
10. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
“There is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
This extended essay has become a historical touchstone for feminist criticism, commenting as it does on the structural conditions that have impeded women’s achievements throughout history. Woolf’s assertion of equality between the genders was controversial for its time, and remains inspiring.
11. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
“When you are broken, you run. But you don’t always run away. Sometimes, helplessly, you run towards.”
“People react to grief in different ways and writer Helen Macdonald’s reaction may have been one of the most unconventional. All her life she had been determined to own a goshawk, one of the most difficult birds to train, and after the unexpected death of her father she made the spontaneous and, from the outside, irrational, decision to buy Mabel, a young bird ready for training. In her deep grief, she retreats from the world with only this unusual bird for company but we soon see how love is distilled to its most basic elements of patience and trust as she and the bird slowly build a bond and re-emerge into the world as an unshakeable team.
Embraced by readers worldwide and included on President Obama’s reading list, H is for Hawk is intensely personal, beautifully written and one of my favourite books of the past decade.” ~ Shona, Publicity
12. Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin
“To live, you must risk calamity. Abandon old ways to create something new. Love the life under the visible life.”
An exploration of the hearts of two unforgettable women: a meditation on how hope can remain alive in the darkest of times when we have someone with whom to share our burdens.
13. Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran
“This thing, growing inside and filling her breasts with promise, this thing was the same as her. It matched her better than anything or anyone she'd known.”
A gripping tale of adventure and searing reality, Lucky Boy gives voice to two mothers bound together by their love for one lucky boy.
14. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde
“Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me-so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins.”
"Never heard of Audre Lorde? That’s alright! She’s a queer poet/novelist, and Zami is her masterpiece. Zami is a deeply personal and moving account of Audre's life in 1950's Harlem.
She’ll teach you about beauty and loneliness and pain. You’ll marvel at her capacity for empathy; you'll sympathize with her desires; and you'll gain insight into what it means to be an outsider. You don’t have the be a queer black woman to understand this book. You just have to be willing to listen."
~ Evan, Sales
15. A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
“There must be more equality established in society, or morality will never gain ground, and this virtuous equality will not rest firmly even when founded on a rock, if one half of mankind be chained to its bottom by fate, for they will be continually undermining it through ignorance or pride.”
Written by the 18th-century British proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, it is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft responds to those educational and political theorists of the 18th Century who did not believe women should have an education.