March is Women's History Month, meaning there's no better time to read (or reread) an incredible feminist book. From foundational texts by Audre Lorde and bell hooks to modern tomes by Roxane Gay and Brittney Cooper, there's something for seasoned feminists and those just joining the movement alike. Whether you want to learn about the Miss America pageant's struggles to stay relevant in the face of feminism or the sex workers' rights movements, these are the 15 best feminist books to add to your Bookshop cart ASAP.
The Best New (and Old!) Books About Feminism to Read This Women's History Month
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1. White Feminism by Koa Beck
Over the past few years, many well-meaning white feminists have been rightfully challenged to make their own feminism more intersectional. In her first book, Beck, writer and former editor-in-chief of Jezebel, examines the history of feminism, from the true mission of the suffragettes to the rise of corporate feminism and the many overlooked communities—including Native American, Muslim, trans and more—and their difficult and ongoing struggles for social change. Combining pop culture, primary historical research and first-hand storytelling, Beck reveals how white women have shut women who don’t look like them out of the movement, and what we can do to right these wrongs for a new generation.
2. by Angela Y. Davis
Modern feminism has a ways to go in terms of intersectionality, and activist, philosopher and author Davis knows this better than most. Here she provides a history of the social and political influence of whiteness and elitism in feminism, demonstrating how the racist and classist biases of its leaders inevitably hampered any collective ambitions.
3. Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes From A Trap Feminist by Sesali Bowen
In this witty memoir, entertainment journalist Bowen reflects on growing up on the south side of Chicago while navigating Blackness, queerness, poverty, sex work, self-love and more. Combining personal essay and cultural commentary, Bowen presents a searing interrogation of sexism, fatphobia and capitalism within the context of race and hip-hop.
4. by Harilyn Russo
Harilyn Rousso is a psychotherapist, painter, feminist, filmmaker, writer and disability activist who finds strangers’ well-intentioned comments that she’s “so inspirational” patronizing, not complimentary. In her memoir, Russo, who has cerebral palsy, describes overcoming the prejudice against disability, her own prejudice toward her body and her involvement with the disability rights community.
5. by Juno Mac and Molly Smith
In this exhaustively researched 2018 tome, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith speak as part of a growing global sex worker rights movement that sits firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism and resistance to white supremacy. The two discuss how current laws harm sex workers while making it clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.
6. by Caroline Criado Perez
A British writer and feminist activist, Criado Perez's second book details the many ways the world is designed for men—and why that sucks. Invisible Women focuses on what the author calls the “gender data gap,” arguing that most research depends on the experiences of men, while the fundamental differences of women are ignored. (For example, did you know that most offices are five degrees too cold for women, since the formula used to determine the corporate climate was based on the metabolic resting rate of a 40-year-old, 155-pound man in the 1960s. And despite the fact that 47 percent of U.S. workers are now women, in many cases, these benchmarks have never been updated.
7. by Margot Mifflin
From its start in 1921 to its current incarnation as a scholarship competition, the Miss America pageant has been shaped by war, evangelism, the rise of reality TV and by contestants who confounded expectations, including Vanessa Williams, the event’s first black winner, who received death threats and was protected by sharpshooters in her hometown parade. This history of the pageant is a fascinating look at how Miss America has struggled to stay relevant in the 21st century, without condescension or ridicule toward the women who have fought tooth and nail to be crowned.
9. by Mikki Kendall
In this 2020 essay collection, author and activist Kendall argues that the feminism many women know actually excludes and ignores certain groups and only benefits a specific type of female. Drawing on her own experiences with hunger, violence and hypersexualization, she explores various issues like food insecurity and gun laws through the lens of both race and feminism.
10. by Roxane Gay
Gay’s best-seller Bad Feminist might be the most on-the-nose choice for this list, but her 2018 memoir is an intense, brutally book in which cultural critic Gay writes with unflinching honesty about her relationship with her body leading up to, during and after a violent childhood sexual assault, exploring along the way what it means to learn to take care of yourself and how to feed your hungers in a time when the bigger you are, the smaller your world becomes.
11. by Lindy West
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet and compliant as possible, writer and humorist West quickly discovered that she was anything but. From a childhood spent trying, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions to a public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes, West shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect.
12. by Audre Lorde
This collection of fifteen essays and speeches is, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is…” These charged writings take on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia and class.
14. by Malala Yousafzai
This 2013 memoir by now-24-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner Yousafzai (who was attacked by the Taliban for her outspokenness on the importance of girls’ education) should be required reading for anyone, regardless of gender. It’s an inspiring, first-person account of how anyone can change the world with enough passion and perseverance.