International Women’s Day was last month!
Whether you identify as a woman or you don’t, IWD is a day designed to celebrate and uplift women we should support and admire. What better way to do that than by sharing some of my favourite books?
I have created a list of my favourite books written by some amazing writers. I feel lucky to have read so many impactful books by so many wonderful woman.
1)Come as you are by Emily Nagoski- book about female sexuality
If you are a woman who has sex, or you are involved with a women who has sex this is an important book about desire, consent and sexuality as a fluid and highly individual thing.
2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A beautiful, sassy endearing protagonist? Wonderful. A gentle, sweet love interest whose character arc depends on listening to valid criticism and becoming a better person as a result? A plot that revolves around sisterly love and compassion? Excellent. A visionary author whose work stood the test of time? Sign me up! I know that I talk about Jane Austen a lot, but she’s vital to the literary cannon and I would argue one of the best writers of all time.
3)Speaking up by Gillian Triggs
If you’re an Australian politics nerd like me, you will recognise Gillian Triggs as the former head of the University of Sydney Law School and the much maligned chair of the Human Rights Commission. In her role, she fought for the rights of all marginalised people, most notably women and refugees, and the government conducted a widespread smear case against her for a role that she had been appointed for. Her book talks about her experience and the human rights issues facing Australia today. If international law isn’t really your jam, then this might come across as a bit dry, but its still a worthwhile and powerful read.
4)Eggshell Skull: A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back by Bri Lee
I have spoken about this book before, but its so good! Bri Lee, and Australian baby lawyer on the rural circuit comes face to face with the institutional bias faced by women and girls who are impacted by sexual violence, and how the system routinely fails them. It forces her to confront her own past and eventually confront both the legal system and the abuser. It is powerful, extremely confronting and changed the way I look at the legal system.
5)Becoming by Michelle Obama
One of the most hyped books of the last twelve months, Michelle Obama’s autobiography talks about her experience, including her experience of gentrification, racial prejudice, and the importance of working hard and gaining an education. Her personal stories about her family are also beautiful, and her pain at her kids not being able to experience ‘a real childhood’ shines through. Her anecdote of not being able to take her daughter to her first day of school because of the security detail is powerful and her political commentary, particularly the racial vilification she experienced. This is an amazing book because its the ultimate ‘insiders’ book, written by someone who represents everything that has been historically kept out of power.
6)Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
Mailhot’s language is almost hypnotic, and it is small but packs a punch, and I think it is because of the emotional rawness that almost bleeds out of the page. She bares her soul and hides it at the same time: ‘My story was maltreated. The words were too strong and too ugly to speak. I tried to tell someone my story, but he thought it was a hustle.
7)The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love- by bell hooks
If you identify as a male, or you know someone who identifies as a man, you would love this book. bell hooks fiercely argues how we socialise men to numb their feelings, and only validate their feelings when they express anger and rage. Her compassionate explanation honours male pain, but implores them to learn compassionate and to treat people with loving kindness, otherwise they will ruin their lives trying to live up to the impossible standards of toxic masculinity. ‘The reality is that men are hurting and that the whole culture responds to them by saying “please do not tell us what you feel”… we cannot heal what we cannot feel, by supporting a patriarchal culture that socialises men to deny feelings, we doom them to live in states of emotional numbness. We construct a culture where male pain can have no voice, where male pain cannot be named or healed’
8)I know why the caged bird sings- Maya Angelou
This book is on several banned lists, and I think it’s because Angelou speaks of her raw, unadulterated experience growing up in a world that was openly hostile towards her. The book eloquently addresses issues of child abuse, rape, racism and family, through the context of a child just trying to grow up. The book is vivid and does not address these experiences garishly or voyeuristically, but with clarity and grace.
9)The seven husbands of Evelyn Hugo- Taylor Jenkins Reid
Everyone loves this book, for good reason, but it’s on this list because it’s a compelling, multi-faceted main character who is often morally grey. It’s a beautiful, character driven story that revolves around the human experience and what it’s like to be a successful woman in a world that is actively hostile to them.
15)The Power by Naomi Alderman
This one is a really tough read, but the idea of women developing electronic powers, and subsequently turning society on its head is an interesting one. Its a confronting story, but has some very interesting commentary on gender dynamics.