Empowering feminist books that everybody needs on their reading list

Inspiring and enthralling feminist books that are dismantling the patriarchy, and platforming intersectionality—one bestseller at a time

Feminist books round up covers
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Written by some incredible women, these powerful feminist books explore issues of identity, equality, and liberation through the female lens. A must-read list for anyone who identifies as a woman—and anyone who wants to be a feminist ally. 

Delve into the origins of the feminist movement, learn more about modern-day champions, or get lost in a fictional dystopia that highlights the stark inequalities women face every day. 

This list includes some of the feminist books that paved the way for how we live today—and the pioneering reads that are continuing the work in modern-day intersectional feminism too.

Spanning from some of the first works of feminist literature in the 1700s to modern-day greats, we've listed these in reverse chronological order, so that if you prefer to read something newer like the best books of 2022 or even the best books of 2021—they're easier for you to find.

Feminist books everyone should read

Whether you want to educate yourself, a loved one, or add to your list of best book club books, these inspiring reads are certain to get readers thinking, and learning, about the feminist movement.

As well as featuring some of the earlier writings on feminism, there are also classic and contemporary texts addressing intersectional feminism too.

Contemporary examples listed include Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other—a heartbreaking and life-affirming look at the struggles of Black women through different perspectives. Another example—Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity—is a transfeminist manifesto that clearly lays out why transphobia is rooted in sexism and that transgender activism is a feminist movement.

These intersectional examples of feminist literature help move us forward from vital, foundational texts like Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—which also feature on this list. 

Intersectional feminism centers on the fact that not all of those who identify as women have the same experience; some carry other forms of oppression on top of experiencing sexism. Using an intersectional lens means recognizing this, along with the historical contexts surrounding an issue too.

It centers on the voices of those experiencing overlapping, concurrent forms of oppression, "in order to understand the depths of the inequalities and the relationships among them in any given context."

Separated into fiction and non-fiction, this list of feminist books covers multiple bases. And if you're looking for something to read these books on as soon as possible, see our guides to the best eReaders and the best Kindles on the market. 

Non-fiction feminist books

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Girlhood, Melissa Febos

Publication: 2021 | Genre: Memoir | Pages: 336

This powerful new memoir focuses on the narrative surrounding people who identify as women—and why we shouldn't pay any attention to it. At the core of the book is how society shapes young girls and the adults they become, and why the stories we tell ourselves as young women around duty, power, and pleasure are in need of a rewrite. 

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Perimenopause Power, Maise Hill

Publication: 2021 | Genre: Self-help | Pages: 336

An empowering manual to guide women through menopause and embrace the positives of 'the change', leaving no stone unturned on the topic, from perimenopause (opens in new tab) and stages of menopause (opens in new tab), to sex and menopause (opens in new tab)

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Untamed, Glennon Doyle

Publication: 2020 | Genre: Biography | Pages: 352

A story of how one woman came to realize what she really wanted from life and how she went about disregarding the world's expectations of her to find happiness in her life. Glennon Doyle has become an inspirational figure and her book will encourage you to break free of the constraints of society. 

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Vagina: A Re-education, Lynn Enright

Publication: 2019 | Genre: Self-help | Pages: 240

This book equips women and girls with all the information they need to know about vaginas—and what a 'normal vagina (opens in new tab)' is—tackling taboos around the vulva. 

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Becoming, Michelle Obama

Publication: 2018 | Genre: Memoir | Pages: 464

An inspiring memoir from the former First Lady of the United States who opens up about her life and tells her story of her upbringing in Chicago all the way through to life in the White House with her husband, former President Barack Obama.

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Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Publication: 2018 | Genre: Open letter | Pages: 80

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a childhood friend asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist, she wanted the world to see her reply. This is her response to one of modern life's most important questions. 

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Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies), Scarlett Curtis

Publication: 2018 | Genre: Collection of essays | Pages: 384

Curated by journalist and activist Scarlett Curtis, this is a powerful and diverse selection of writing from the likes of Emma Watson, Zoe Sugg, and Keira Knightley.

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Slay In Your Lane, Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené

Publication: 2018 | Genre: Memoir and interviews | Pages: 384

A guide for young Black women on how to navigate modern life, covering everything from education to work life and dating. An uplifting read that will inspire you to not only excel in life, but enjoy the ride. 

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Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit

Publication: 2014 | Genre: Memoir/History/Feminism | Pages: 176

You've no doubt heard the expression 'mansplaining,' but this collection of essays begins with the title piece, which really put it on the map. Although Rebecca didn't coin the phrase, her essay and the others included in this collection are an insight into the concept and how it affects many women.

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The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir 

Publication: 2015 (originally published 1949) | Genre: Philosophy | Pages: 140

This reworking of de Beauvoir's original, 'scandalous' text picks out key passages from the controversial book that shook 1940s Paris with its radical views on feminism. A must-read for anyone interested in the origins of the feminist movement.  

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Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, Julia Serano

Publication: 2007 | Genre: Transfeminism | Pages: 432

Julia Serano is a trans writer, performer, biologist, and activist. Her book is a clear and well-balanced transfeminist manifesto that argues that transphobia is rooted in sexism and that transgender activism is a feminist movement. This seminal book shares Julia's insights and experiences pre and post-transition, debunking popular misconceptions about being transgender and explaining why feminists and transgender activists must work to embrace and empower femininity—in all of its glorious forms.

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I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou

Publication: 1984| Genre: Autobiography | Pages: 320

This pioneering text has stood the test of time and remains a bestseller to this day. This is the first volume of seven from Maya Angelou's autobiography, with this text focusing on growing up with her grandmother in the American south in the 1930s. Prepared to be enraptured by Angelou's beautiful prose and insights into life as a young American black woman. 

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A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft

Publication: 1792 | Genre: Political philosophy | Pages: 352 

Mary Wollstonecraft makes an argument for women’s education and an opportunity for them to make a bigger contribution to society in this feminist piece of writing that fought for women’s rights before feminism was even a known term.

Feminist fiction books

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A Woman Is No Man, Etaf Rum 

Publication: 2019 | Genre: Literary fiction | Pages: 352

The story of three generations of women living in a Palestinian-American family and the challenges they face as they are torn between love and family, culture and society, and the past and the future.

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Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

Publication: 2019 | Genre: Literary fiction | Pages: 464 

A story that follows the lives of 12 different characters, mainly black women of different ages and circumstances, on their personal journeys and what they are looking for in their lives.

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The Power, Naomi Alderman

Publication: 2017 | Genre: Dystopian | Pages: 352 

A dystopian society in which girls across the world suddenly find themselves possessed with the power to inflict horrible pain with a flick of their fingers, leading them to reign over men but leaving them persecuted by fearful groups in society.

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The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Publication: 1996 | Genre: Dystopian | Pages: 324 

After a government coup, US society is plunged into a religious totalitarian state where women are forced into a life of sexual servitude. However, one woman fights to escape the repressive state and is left with her future hanging in the balance.

Aleesha is a digital shopping writer at woman&home—so whether you're looking for beauty, fashion, health or home buys, she knows what the best buys are at any moment. She earned an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London in 2017 and has since worked with a number of brands including Women's Health, Stylist and Goodto. A year on the w&h news team gained her invaluable insight into where to get the best lifestyle releases first—as well as an AOP awards nomination.