Books from Strong Women to Keep You Inspired

Powerful words from powerful women.

Danny Murphy

Here are some recommended books in the Southfield Public Library catalog with commentary by the article’s writer. If you don’t see a copy available, contact a librarian to place an item on hold for you!

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes you into the life of a young Nigerian woman for her third novel. The story follows Ifemelu's journey to America for college, and describes the racial issues that affect her in her new country as well as her loved ones back home.
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West, Lindy
This is one of the first of many books on this list written by an extremely funny feminist. Lindy West's memoir bravely and perfectly mixes the humor of life with some dark moments, writing about situations that all women can feel and relate to.
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Me Explain Things to Me
Solnit, Rebecca
A quicker read than some of the other choices here, Rebecca Solnit has created a book of several essays that include her most famous piece (which shares a name with the book), in addition to a one inspired by #YesAllWomen, which comments on casual misogyny as well as violence against women.
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The Handmaid's Tale
Atwood, Margaret
In books that might hit a little too close to home to our current world, we have The Handmaid's Tale. A dystopian novel, Atwood tackles the major themes of class and gender in a changing society.
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You Can't Touch My Hair
Robinson, Phoebe
Equal parts hysterical and enlightening, this important modern tale of race, gender and life was published only a few months ago — and it could not be more perfectly timed. And if you want more of Phoebe after reading, you're in luck; she also happens to host one of the funniest podcasts out there, 2 Dope Queens, with Jessica Williams of The Daily Show fame.
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The First Bad Men
July, Miranda
The First Bad Man takes two women of different ages and mindsets and puts them together (literally) under the same roof. Through Cheryl and Clee, July helps us see just how important it is to love — and to be loved.
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Why Not Me?
Kaling, Mindy
Now, you've definitely heard of her before. Kaling's second book tackles a question every woman can struggle with: "Why not me?" The title serves a double meaning: Half of it relates to her frustration of not being chosen, while the other comes from her self-confidence of thinking, why not me? Because hey, you're a grown woman — you can do whatever you want (government approval potentially pending!).
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The Bell Jar
Plath, Sylvia
A classic, this novel by Sylvia Plath is a must for anyone feeling lost or confused in their life. It helps to give insight into the hardships of being a person (particularly, a woman) constantly climbing uphill.
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Milk and Honey
Kaur, Rupi
An eye-opening collection of poetry and prose, Milk and Honey touches on so much of the pain women can feel in their lifetime — and at times, how to heal and go from there. Perhaps one of her most fitting quotes for right now (and always): "We all move forward when we recognize how resilient and striking the women around us are."
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Bad Feminist
Gay, Roxane
Considered "a manual on how to be human" by Time magazine, this collection of essays provides a crucial look at politics, feminism, and how each effects her life for better or worse. One of the most important parts of this book is something a lot of people are discussing today — acknowledging privilege.
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We Should All Be Feminists
Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
The second recommendation from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the list, this is a critically acclaimed adaption of her TEDx talk, which covered the same topic. It serves as both a fantastic introduction to what it means to be a feminist and also a deep dive into sexual politics. (Plus, Beyoncé is a fan. #flawless.)
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How to be a Woman
Moran, Caitlin
Written with the intention of showing women how approachable and important feminism is, Moran takes stories from her own life in this humorous memoir. Through tales from her teens to late thirties, she mixes the good and bad parts of her life to drive home the idea that feminism isn't about radicalism — it's about equality.
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Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Boo, Katherine
Telling the story of families in India attempting to have a better life, Boo's novel is an important read for anyone looking to expand their empathy and worldview. Additionally, it showcases the various ways in which people can make it in this world — either through hard work or shadier routes (which might also ring a bell right now).
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Fey, Tina
A departure from some of the more directly feminist texts, it is impossible to deny the strength (and laughs) that women get from Tina Fey. Part memoir, part funniest book you may ever read, Fey shows that it's not all jokes on the way up to being one of the most powerful people in comedy.
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Yes Please
Poehler, Amy
Now, it'd be impossible to put Tina Fey on the list with no mention of her strong, female co-pilot in comedy: Amy Poehler. Yes Please is an obviously hysterical (and surprisingly honest) book from another one of the most powerful movers in Hollywood.
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Morrison, Toni
A coming-of-age story that focuses on two girls who come from extremely different backgrounds, but are brought together through a commonality: becoming women and realizing just what that means in their world. A perfect book to have your eyes opened to how others live.
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I am Malala
Yousafzai, Malala
The youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Yousafzai has lived an extremely hard and inspiring life — all before the age of 20. It's eye-opening and humbling to read about the pain and reality she not only survived, but thrived. Definitely read to get inspired.
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A Room of One's Own
Woolf, Virginia
Virginia Woolf's fictional situation of Shakespeare having a sister equal in talent — who never writes because she never found the means to create — is so important and symbolic to current-day women. Whether you're feeling under-appreciated at home or at work (or … by the government), this book hears you, and shows you how we've simultaneously come so far but not far at all.
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The Feminine Mystique
Friedan, Betty
We thought the best way to finish this list is by going back to one of the starting points of modern feminist literature — and that is of course with Betty Friedan. One of the sparks of second-wave feminism, Friedan's dive into the psychology of women in the '50s and '60s during what was supposed to be their "happily ever after" was one-of-a-kind then, and has now helped make a woman's goals open for discussion (and change).
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