40 of the best feminist books you should be reading

Our list of some of the best feminist novels, feminist non-fiction and feminist poetry to empower, educate and move you to take action.

As Malala Yousafzai once said: 'I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard . . . We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.'

Literature – novels and non-fiction alike – remains one of the most powerful means of ensuring that our voices are heard. Engrossing, enraging and enlightening feminist reads are here to fuel the fight for gender equality. So whether you're searching for solace, knowledge, inspiration or all of the above, here's our edit of the best feminist books that everyone should be reading right now.

The Women Could Fly

by Megan Giddings

Book cover for The Women Could Fly

The Women Could Fly is a speculative feminist novel for our times, set in a time where magic is reality, and single women are monitored in case they turn out to be witches. Josephine Thomas has heard a plethora of theories about her mother's death: that she was abducted, murdered and that she was a witch. This is a concerning accusation, because women who act strangely – especially Black women – can soon find themselves being tried for witchcraft. Facing the prospect of a State-mandated marriage, Jo decides to honour one last request written in her mother's will.

Stone Blind

by Natalie Haynes

Book cover for Stone Blind

As the sole mortal in a family of gods, Medusa begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt, and the only one who lives with an urgency that her family will never know. Then, when the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can – and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. Unable to control her new power, she is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest. At last, Medusa's story is told.

With her trademark passion, wit, and fierce feminism . . . her thoughtful portraits will linger with you long after the book is finished
Madeline Miller on Stone Blind

The Mercies

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Book cover for The Mercies

Winter, 1617. The sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a vicious storm. A young woman, Maren, watches as the men of the island, out fishing, perish in an instant. Vardø is now a place of women. Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet has been summoned to bring the women of the island to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In her new home, and in Maren, Ursa encounters something she has never seen before: independent women. But where Ursa finds happiness, even love, Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs . . .

The Maiden

by Kate Foster

Book cover for The Maiden

The Maiden is a remarkable story with a feminist revisionist twist, giving a voice to women otherwise silenced by history. Edinburgh, 1679: Lady Christian is charged with the murder of her lover, James Forrester. News of her imprisonment and subsequent trial is splashed across the broadsides, with headlines that leave little room for doubt: Adulteress. Whore. Murderess. Only a year before, Lady Christian was newly married, leading a life of privilege and respectability. So, what led her to risk everything for an affair? And does that make her guilty of murder? 

The Red Tent

by Anita Diamant

Book cover for The Red Tent

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah’s voice, it opens with the story of her mothers – the four wives of Jacob – each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah’s own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love.

Of Women and Salt

by Gabriela Garcia

Book cover for Of Women and Salt

From nineteenth-century cigar factories to present-day detention centres, from Cuba to the United States to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt follows Latina women of fierce pride, bound by the stories passed between them. It is a haunting meditation in the tradition of great feminist books on the choices of mothers and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their truth despite those who wish to silence them. For fans of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo.

Breasts and Eggs

by Mieko Kawakami

Book cover for Breasts and Eggs

This literary debut, which Haruki Murakami called ‘breathtaking’, is a must-read for fans of feminist literary fiction. On a hot summer’s day in a poor suburb of Tokyo we meet three women: thirty-year-old Natsuko, her older sister Makiko, and Makiko’s teenage daughter Midoriko. Each woman is grappling with their own anxieties, and their relationships with each other. Mieko Kawakami paints a radical picture of contemporary working-class womanhood in Japan as she recounts the heartbreaking stories of three women who must survive in a society where the odds are stacked against them.

A fierce yet thoughtful tale of working-class womanhood.
The New Statesman on Breasts and Eggs

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Book cover for The Handmaid's Tale

No list of the best feminist books would be complete without a mention of Margaret Atwood’s masterful dystopia set in a future America where women are reduced to their reproductive usefulness. The TV adaptation has been internationally successful and the novel, which now seems scarily prescient in today’s political climate, was followed with a sequel, The Testaments, in September 2019.

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Salt Slow

by Julia Armfield

Book cover for Salt Slow

Julia Armfield won the White Review Short Story Prize 2018, and Salt Slow is her debut collection of short stories, including the prize-winning ‘The Great Awake’. This is a collection focused on women and their experiences in society, exploring relationships, sexuality, female bodies and female fears.

The Doll Factory

by Elizabeth Macneal

Book cover for The Doll Factory

Elizabeth Macneal’s enthralling novel follows Iris Whittle as she breaks free of the staid gender expectations of the 19th century to follow her heart and pursue a new life full of art and love. But after a chance meeting, collector Silas develops a dark obsession with Iris which could threaten her new found freedom forever. Battling gender stereotypes and male entitlement, Iris is undoubtedly a Victorian heroine for the 21st century, yet The Doll Factory also encourages us to consider the parallels that can still be drawn with today's society

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

Book cover for The Bluest Eye

The Bluest Eye is the debut novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. In the novel, Toni explores the problematic and racist beauty ideals of western society, as well as addressing issues of race, poverty and abuse. Percola, made to feel ugly because of her dark skin, wishes desperately for the blue eyes of her dolls, as her family falls apart around her.

The Golden Notebook

by Doris Lessing

Book cover for The Golden Notebook

Written in 1962, this experimental, Nobel Prize-winning novel brings taboo issues of the time, including women's sexuality, bodily functions and mental illness, to the fore. The novel sees Anna, a writer, attempt to collate the notebooks in which she has recorded her life’s experience into a cohesive whole, in a final, golden, notebook, while she struggles with her mental health.

The Color Purple

by Alice Walker

Book cover for The Color Purple

The Color Purple, a cultural touchstone of modern American literature, portrays the lives of African American women in early 20th-century rural Georgia. Sisters Celie and Nettie, separated as girls, sustain their hope through letters across two decades. Celie, abused and trapped in a loveless marriage, finds empowerment through her encounter with Shug Avery, a woman in control of her own destiny. As Celie discovers her strength and joy, she breaks free from her past, reuniting with loved ones. The novel's powerful narrative exposes domestic and sexual abuse, showcasing women's resilience, companionship, and growth. 


by Jo Cheetham

Book cover for Killjoy

In this story of everyday people doing extraordinary things, Jo Cheetham writes of her time protesting up and down the country as part of the No More Page 3 campaign. When studying and working as a nanny in London, Jo saw news of an upcoming protest against the Page 3 pictorial in The Sun. Soon, she was embroiled in a movement determined to expose and take down this exploitative industry. In doing so she made an unlikely group of friends that would become her closest confidents and allies. Both hilarious and moving, Killyjoy shows us the power of a grassroots campaign and of shouting a little bit louder. 

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To My Sisters

by Courtney Daniella Boateng

Book cover for To My Sisters

From the hosts of the hit podcast, To My Sisters, comes this essential guide to sisterhood. Old friends Renee Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng are united in one mission - reinvigorate and redefine sisterhood to inspire a global community of women to uplift each other and reclaim their power. They argue that unconditional love is too often limited to parents or spouses, when actually embracing the power of friendship and community in an authentic pay is just as powerful. Packed with practical advice, reflective activities and wise words, To My Sisters will teach you how to find, build and nourish lifelong friendships. 

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries

by Kate Mosse

Book cover for Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries

Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries is a celebration of unheard and under-heard women’s history. Within these pages you’ll meet nearly 1000 women whose names deserve to be better known: from the Mothers of Invention and the trailblazing women at the Bar; warrior queens and pirate commanders; the women who dedicated their lives to the natural world or to medicine; those women of courage who resisted and fought for what they believed; to the unsung heroes of stage, screen and stadium. Joyous, celebratory and engaging, this is a book for everyone who has ever wondered how history is made.

Think Like a Breadwinner

by Jennifer Barrett

Book cover for Think Like a Breadwinner

In Think Like a Breadwinner, financial expert Jennifer Barrett reframes what it really means to be a breadwinner by dismantling the narrative that women don't – and shouldn't – take full financial responsibility to create the lives they want. Featuring a wide variety of case studies from women at all stages of their careers and financial lives, Barrett shares the secrets of women who already think like breadwinners. Barrett reveals not only the importance of women building their own wealth, but also the freedom and power that comes with it.

Cracking the Menopause

by Mariella Frostrup

Book cover for Cracking the Menopause

Broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and health journalist Alice Smellie debunk myths and address fears about the menopause, with straight-talking advice to help you deal with an issue that half of us will face, yet is rarely spoken about. With case studies, personal testimonies, expert guidance and witty illustrations, this is a wise but humorous guide to the topic.

A Bigger Picture

by Vanessa Nakate

Book cover for A Bigger Picture

When it comes to speaking or writing about climate change, voices and stories of people of colour and from the Global South are often omitted, even though these communities often contribute the least to the problem and suffer its consequences the most. Witnessing this suffering caused by global warming propelled Vanessa Nakate into action. In A Bigger Picture she traces the links between the climate crisis and anti-racism, feminism, education, economics and even extremist radicalization. In telling the inspiring personal story of how she found her voice, Vanessa shows readers that no matter your background you can be an effective activist.

An indispensable voice for our future.
Malala Yousafzai on Vanessa Nakate

Going with the Boys

by Judith Mackrell

Book cover for Going with the Boys

Going with the Boys follows six remarkable women as their lives and careers intertwined: Martha Gellhorn, who out-scooped her husband Ernest Hemingway on D-Day by traveling to Normandy as a stowaway on a hospital ship; Lee Miller, who went from being a Vogue cover model to the magazine’s official war correspondent; Sigrid Schultz, who hid her Jewish identity and risked her life by reporting on the Nazi regime; Virginia Cowles, a 'society girl columnist' turned combat reporter; Clare Hollingworth, the first journalist to report the outbreak of war; and Helen Kirkpatrick, the first woman to report from an Allied war zone with equal privileges to men.

Pandora’s Jar

by Natalie Haynes

Book cover for Pandora’s Jar

The Greek myths are among the world's most important cultural building blocks and they have been retold many times, but rarely do they focus on the remarkable women at the heart of these ancient stories. Now, in Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, Natalie Haynes redresses this imbalance. Taking Pandora and her jar as the starting point, she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk. After millennia of stories telling of gods and men, the voices that sing from these pages are those of Hera, Athena and Artemis, and of Clytemnestra, Jocasta, Eurydice and Penelope.

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The Moment of Lift

by Melinda Gates

Book cover for The Moment of Lift

For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has worked tirelessly to find solutions for people around the world with the greatest needs. Her inspirational journey has illuminated one absolute truth: if you want to lift a society up, you need to stop keeping women down. Full of the lessons Melinda has learned and the astonishing stories of just some of the people she has met, The Moment of Lift addresses the most pressing issues affecting women globally today.

We Should All Be Feminists

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book cover for We Should All Be Feminists

This short essay is based on a TEDx talk the author gave in 2012 and addresses the ways in which we need to raise our children, both sons and daughters, differently in order to begin creating a fairer world for everyone. Illustrated by Chimamanda’s own experiences of gender inequality throughout her life, this is a concise, well-argued and beautifully written book, and at only 52 pages, there’s no reason not to find the time to read it.

It's Not About the Burqa

by Mariam Khan

Book cover for It's Not About the Burqa

It’s Not About the Burqa represents the voices you don’t see represented in the media – seventeen Muslim women speaking frankly and honestly about the hijab and their faith; love, sex and divorce; intersectional feminism; queer identity; racism and facing a disapproving community. A must-read for feminists everywhere.

Watch the contributors to It’s Not About the Burqa talk about what being a Muslim woman means to them.


by Sinéad Gleeson

Book cover for Constellations

This is a powerful collection of personal and political essays on the female body, from pregnancy and the often painful reality of breastfeeding to bodily autonomy and the Irish referendum on abortion. Taking us on a journey that is both deeply personal and yet universally relatable, this is the story of life in a body.

I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing

by Dr Maya Angelou

Book cover for I Know Why The Caged Birds Sing

'I write about being a Black American woman, however, I am always talking about what it's like to be a human being. This is how we are, what makes us laugh, and this is how we fall and how we somehow, amazingly, stand up again'. In this first volume of her seven books of autobiography, Maya Angelou beautifully evokes her childhood with her grandmother in the American south of the 1930s. Loving the world, she also knows its cruelty. As a Black woman she has known discrimination, violence and extreme poverty, but also hope, joy, achievement and celebration. 

A Room of One's Own

by Virginia Woolf

Book cover for A Room of One's Own

First published in 1929, this essay by Virginia Woolf is just as incisive and relevant today as when it was first delivered as a lecture at Cambridge University. Challenging the accepted thinking of the time, Woolf argues that women are not intrinsically lesser writers because of their gender, but because of the educational and economic restrictions placed on them by a patriarchal society.

The Yellow Wallpaper & Herland

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Book cover for The Yellow Wallpaper & Herland

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s progressive views on feminism and mental health are powerfully showcased in her two most famous stories. Confined to her attic bedroom and isolated from her newborn baby, the nameless narrator of The Yellow Wallpaper keeps a secret diary in which she records the sprawling and shifting patterns of the room’s lurid yellow wallpaper as she slowly sinks into madness. In Herland, a trio of men set out to discover an all-female community rumoured to be hidden deep in the jungle. What they find surprises them all; they’re captured by women who, for two thousand years, have lived in a peaceful and prosperous utopia without men.

Women of the Harlem Renaissance

by Marissa Constantinou

Book cover for Women of the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that saw an explosion of Black art, music and writing, yet few female creatives are remembered alongside their male counterparts. Exploring subjects from love, loss and motherhood to jazz, passing and Jim Crow law, the poems and stories collected in this anthology celebrate the women of colour at the heart of the movement. Showcasing popular authors alongside writers you might discover for the first time, this collection of daring and disruptive writing encapsulates early twentieth-century America in surprising and beautiful ways.

North and South

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Book cover for North and South

One of literature's greatest romances, North and South is both an incisive social commentary and an electric portrayal of all-conquering love. Margaret Hale, forced to relocate from peaceful rural England to the bustling mill town of Milton in the north, immediately dislikes the noise and grime of her new surroundings and its people, including the attractive mill owner, John Thornton. However, as she adjusts and comprehends the poverty and injustice surrounding her, circumstances push them closer together. In the midst of industrial turmoil, they must conquer class prejudices and acknowledge their love for each other.

Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

by Mary Seacole

Book cover for Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands

Mary Seacole was a fiercely independent self-funded entrepreneur from Jamaica. A trained nurse, she was desperate to offer help during the Crimean War, but was denied work by officials and by Florence Nightingale. Mary knew what she wanted to achieve and wouldn’t let anything stand in her way, so she set up her famous hotel for British soldiers, offering respite from the front line. Despite her invaluable contribution, she returned to England penniless and in ill health. Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands is her gutsy autobiography.

Prelude & Other Stories

by Katherine Mansfield

Book cover for Prelude & Other Stories

Radical, witty and inventive, Katherine Mansfield is one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished short-story writers and this selection of stories showcases her dazzling skill. This selection of stories by Katherine Mansfield showcases her remarkable ability to delve into the human mind; in stories such as ‘The Garden Party’ she reveals the tension between innocence and corruption, the dark side of love and romance are explored in ‘Bliss’ and ‘Love à la Mode’, and in the title story, ‘Prelude’, inspired by her own childhood, her concern is for the isolated and the lonely. 

The Awakening

by Kate Chopin

Book cover for The Awakening

Seen as scandalous when it was first published in 1899, The Awakening is now considered one of the earliest and boldest examples of feminist fiction. When Edna meets the charming Robert Lebrun while holidaying with her husband and two young children, a flirtation turns into an affair which opens her eyes to a life outside her passionless marriage and the stifling restrictions of nineteenth-century society.

Standing Her Ground

by Harriet Sanders

Book cover for Standing Her Ground

Edith Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for literature. Writer and activist Alice Dunbar Nelson was an early adopter of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Kate Chopin and Elizabeth Gaskell dared to explore themes outside the strict social codes of their times. And Virginia Woolf was hugely influential in both the feminist and modernist movements. All the stories in Standing Her Ground have been chosen to celebrate the skill, the passion and achievements of women writers spanning one hundred years of innovation.

A Town Like Alice

by Nevil Shute

Book cover for A Town Like Alice

A heart-rending story of strength in adversity, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute is a celebration of the overwhelming power of love. Jean Paget, a young English woman, is captured by the Japanese in WWII. She endures a brutal march in Malaya with other women and children, befriending Australian soldier Joe Harman. Back in England, Jean inherits a substantial sum and decides to repay the Malayan people who helped her during the war. She returns to their village before journeying to Australia in search of Joe. In the vast outback, she overcomes challenges and builds a thriving community, demonstrating her unwavering determination and the power of compassion.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women

by Mary Wollstonecraft

Book cover for A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Written in 1792 by proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is one of the earliest examples of feminist philosophy. Mary argues against the established thinking that women should only receive a domestic, not a rational, education, claiming that educating women is essential as they, in turn, will educate the nation’s children. The idea that women are human beings who deserve the same fundamental rights as men is at the heart of this text.  


by Safiya Sinclair

Book cover for Cannibal

The poems in Safiya Sinclair’s debut collection bloom with an intense lyricism and fertile imagery that evoke the poet’s Jamaican childhood as they explore race, history, womanhood and exile. Colliding with and confronting The Tempest and postcolonial identity, Safiya shocks and delights her readers with her willingness to disorient and provoke. Here the female body is a dark landscape; the female body is cannibal.

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The World's Wife

by Carol Ann Duffy

Book cover for The World's Wife

A unique collection of poetry with a new, feminist slant on age-old mythology, The World’s Wife takes tales of famous men and tells the stories of the women behind them. From Frau Freud on her husband’s psychoanalytical theory of penis envy to Queen Kong, in love with a visiting documentary maker, and a retelling of the Kray Twins as a pair of sisters, this collection turns history on its head.

She Is Fierce

by Ana Sampson

Book cover for She Is Fierce

This beautiful book contains 150 bold, brilliant, brave poems by women – from classic, well-loved verses to innovative modern voices. Immerse yourself in this wonderful collection featuring an inclusive range of voices from suffragettes to schoolgirls. From literary legends such as Carol Ann Duffy and Emily Dickinson to spoken-word star Holly McNish, this is an essential collection for any poetry-loving feminist.

Your Silence Will Not Protect You

by Audre Lorde

Book cover for Your Silence Will Not Protect You

Audre Lorde described herself as 'Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet'. Her extraordinary belief in the power of language of speaking to articulate selfhood, confront injustice and bring about change in the world remains as transformative today as it was then, and no less urgent. Your Silence Will Not Protect You brings Lorde's poetry and prose together for the first time.