Reading is a powerful tool in personal empowerment. There are so many female empowerment books out there that can give you the perspective of women’s experiences that are different than your own. But more than that, they can provide you with comfort and companionship knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles.
These books are useful in identifying stereotypes and flaws in our patriarchal system, as well as how to get past them. Here are 20 female empowerment books I recommend for everyone to read, male or female.
20 Female Empowerment Books that Every Woman Should Read
1) Women Who Run with the Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
If you want books every woman should read in her lifetime, this one tops my list. It is by author and spoken word artist Clarissa Pinkola Estes.
It was a bestselling book back in the 90s when it was first published, and it continues to help women find their way without submitting to the patriarchy.
In each chapter, there are stories that have been shared and recovered from a time before Christianity about the power of women. Dr. E then shares her own take on the story based on her Jungian psychology training. An amazing book!
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2) We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
A more recent book, Chimamanda is a novelist and writer from Nigeria. We Should All Be Feminists is a book-length essay. She argues that “feminism” is not a dirty word
Inspiring and witty, she shares stories and anecdotes. The book was adapted from her TedX talk in 2012.
This book will absolutely help to empower women to embrace the term “feminist”!
3) Untamed, Glennon Doyle
Glennon Doyle wrote this memoir about family and success, and it is both a hurricane and a soft hug. Glennon divorced her husband and remarried a woman. This book tells her story as she works through her divorce and blends her family together.
This is about upholding our values, setting boundaries, and embracing our authentic selves. It’s a great read for those who want to be inspired and empowered by the lives of others.
4) Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit
A collection of essays, Rebecca Solnit talks about some weighty issues in this book with sharpness. This book, as the title suggests, discusses the differences between men and women in conversation, how often men assume they know more about a subject than they actually do, and about how they assume women know less than they do. #mansplaining
But the book also talks about rape and other more heavy topics. It’s enlightening and poignant.
5) Year of Yes!, Shonda Rhimes
Shonda is an empowering writer who has created some of the world’s most recognizable strong women, like Christina Yang and Meredith Grey. She is the founder of Shondaland.
In this memoir, Shonda writes about saying “Yes” to herself: to her joy, to her health, to breaking out of her comfort zone. It will inspire you to look at the ways you stay in your comfort zone in your own life, and to break through what others expect of us to embrace what really makes us happy in our own unique way.
6) Unbound: A Woman’s Guide to Power, Kasia Urbaniak
When you read this book, it will blow your mind. What is female empowerment if not power dynamics and communication?
Kasia Urbaniak was working as the preeminent dominatrix in New York City while studying to be a Daoist nun. The mixture of these two aspects of her life helped spark her realization that so many women have trouble speaking up, and how they can start to do so.
She calls our cultural expectations “good girl conditioning” and encourages us to tap into our “bad girl” in order to get to know our most authentic selves.
This is one of the most powerful and earth-shattering books I have read in a long time.
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7) Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay
A collection of essays, Bad Feminist is all about the intersection of feminism, race, and LGTBQ+ issues. She wants to inspire us to really get motivated to spark change in our world.
Because what we consume through our culture impacts how we think and who we are as people. We need to do better.
Roxane Gay is a novelist and professor, Black woman, and political critic and activist.
8) #Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso
Sophia Amoruso is the founder of Nasty Girl and CEO of Girlboss. While I’m always a little skeptical of female CEO’s advice (see Lean In, at the bottom of this page) I was very inspired by this book.
Empowering women to listen to their instincts (especially about which rules that need to be broken), #Girlboss will also inspire you to understand that it’s not about how popular you were in high school.
Having a successful career is available to any girl, we just need to follow our gut to get there.
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9) You Are a Badass, Jen Sincero
Here’s another deeply human book. Jen Sincero doesn’t BS. You Are A Badass is a smack in the face–a wake up call to stop living small.
With personal anecdotes and real life advice, Jen helps you understand that your insecurities are not looking out for your best self. She will empower you to face your greatness, whatever that means for you.
10) Rebirth of the Goddess, Carol P. Christ
As someone who is a consumer of both feminist and spiritual literature, I very much appreciate this one.
Carol P. Christ is a feminist theologian and religious historian. While it seems like both of those topics could get lost in ideals and philosophies, the amazing part is that she nevers lose touch with the real world.
This book is about finding the divine feminine goddess that has been oppressed for generations.
11) Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
Embrace your life, the ups and downs. Based on a true story, Liz goes off in search of self love by ditching her toxic marriage and the pressures to have a baby (conveyor belt).
While there are many threads of feminism in this book, such as loving yourself without needing a man, throwing away toxically masculine views of love and relationships, this book isn’t without its inherent problems.
Liz Gilbert very much ignores her privilege throughout the book, as well as the consequences on those around her while she is in impoverished countries.
However incomplete, Eat, Pray, Love is a journey that brings female empowerment awakening and realization.
12) I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai
Part memoir, part manifesto for education for girls, Malala’s story is really incredible. She was shot in the head on her school bus by the Taliban. She was very young after giving a speech that advocated that girls should have access to education the same as boys. This made her a target.
She chose to turn her story into a global platform and then became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Readers of this book will come away with a sense of pride for using our voices to stand up against oppressors in our world.
13) The Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates
Empowering women to hear the call to empower ourselves and others, The Moment of Lift has all the data but it also has the emotion. It’s full of empathy and compassion. She encourages us to listen to one another, especially to people who are marginalized.
Melinda says, “When you lift up women, you lift up humanity.” Books for empowering women lists should all include this one!
14) How to Live Well Despite the Patriarchy, Trista Hendren
When you’re a woman, you are automatically put at a disadvantage. In this guidebook to living well, Trista Hendren details all the ways that she has been able to live outside our capitalist, colonialist, Christian, hustle-culture.
Reading this book felt like validation for everything that I’ve been feeling over the last few years as well as the work that I’ve been putting in to not participate (at least as much as I can) in this capitalist society.
Girl God Books is a small publisher founded by Trisha Hendren, who wrote this book.
15) Becoming, Michelle Obama
From her childhood to her journey to the White House as the wife of our first Black president, Michelle Obama is an inspiration to women and girls everywhere.
This is Michelle’s memoir, and it starts from her childhood. She talks about race and feminism, and so many of her personal stories resonate with me (even as a white woman).
When it comes to female empowerment books, you don’t want to miss this one. A powerful story and a powerful woman!
16) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
Early life wasn’t easy for this beautiful woman and advocate for love and compassion. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the memoir of Maya Angelou from her early childhood until she was about 16 years.
This is a weighty book and may take a while to get through, as she details her rape and the fallout from it. She takes an empathetic look at her own life without judging herself or the choices she made.
She is a true genuine person and sees the world with impeccable clarity.
17) The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
Born before “feminist” was even a common word, Simone De Beauvoir was a novelist, political activist, and philosopher. She first published The Second Sex in 1949 in France (1953 in the US).
This book is difficult to read because of its philosophical and intellectual language, but it attributes the oppression of women not to men, but to society as a whole.
Because of how long ago this was written, it is not intersectional and her views of homosexuality is very outdated.
But given everything that Simone presents in this book, it’s absolutely worth the read.
18) Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, Gloria Steinem
Published in 1983, this was another book ahead of its time. Gloria Steinem was a journalist undercover in the Playboy Mansion and helped expose the sexual harassment and awful working conditions of the women there.
She’s written many books on the topic of female empowerment, but this is the one she’s most known for. It’s a collection of essays, and it can get slow at times, but overall there are so many wonderful gems of insight and genius that it’s definitely one you want read!
19) The Feminine Mystique, Betty Frieden
Here’s another one that was one of the first (and perhaps the most notorious) books published on feminism. It was first published in 1963 and it is full of personal anecdotes as well as interviews demonstrating the need for another feminist movement.
Of course, this book is great to look at from a historical perspective, how far we’ve come, and far we have yet to go.
20) Educated, Tara Westover
Tara Westover’s story is incredible and almost unbelievable. Her family lived such an isolated life that she never went to school until she was seventeen. Since that moment, she pursued education, going to Brigham Young, Harvard, and Cambridge.
More than education, this book is about abuse and getting out of abusive situations to empower yourself. This book has been very controversial and caused a lot of backlash (especially from her family), but all the while, Tara advocates for education for everyone.
Plus, 2 Books I DO NOT Consider to Be Female Empowerment Books
These are on some other lists for female empowering books, but don’t be fooled. These ones tell you to push, embrace your masculinity, and generally perpetuate our white, Christian patriarchy. Allow your feminist books to help you embrace your femininity and balance… NOT buy into the lies the patriarchy tells us!
1) Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
Anyone who tells you to “Lean In” is working to perpetuate the patriarchy. Author and beloved feminist bell hooks calls this book “faux feminism”.
Essentially, this book encourages women to lean into our society’s system as it exists, rather than dismantle the whole thing and reinvent it for ourselves.
Women do not have to embrace our masculinity in order to be successful in this world, and all of the other women authors on this list are proof of that.
2) Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis
This is another book that’s marketed toward “independent women” (“Good Girl 2.0”) that encourages us to function within patriarchal society instead of knocking it down altogether. Simply, this book is a poser.
Even I was motivated by this book and totally bought what she was selling before I realized the toxicity within its pages.
For example, after a night out with her friends, Rachel goes home and works out, posting about it on social media. She claimed that “keeping a promise to herself” (to work out that day) was more important than getting sleep.
In other words, she tried to market toxic work ethic as self care.
This was only one of the many instances of toxic advice that Rachel gives throughout the book.
Do yourself a favor and skip this one.
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Monday 8th of August 2022
I heard You're Badass was a great book. I plan to read 5 books by the end of this year.