Top Ten Tuesday – Books Every Young Woman Should Read

This week I am excited to participate in my first meme-post: thank you to The Broke and Bookish for the inspiration and for hosting “Top Ten Tuesdays” since 2010! This week’s prompt: Ten Books Every [fill-in-the-blank] Should Read.

In the spirit of the meme, I’ve titled my post Top Book Every Young Woman Should Read, but it would be more accurate to say these are the top ten books I wish I had read as a young woman (sometime between the ages of 16-21), books that opened my eyes to new dimensions of justice, experience, and possibilities for action.

Really though, if you are a young woman, you’ve had enough of people telling you what you “should” do. You should read whatever you desire and are interested in. I have only one recommendation: to expand your reading horizons and cultivate appreciation for different types of books. But, perhaps I wouldn’t have taken my own advice back then(?) I read nothing but Nancy Drew & R. L. Stine for years, and then I discovered Agatha Christie to the same effect (YA wasn’t yet a thing back in the late 1990s and early 2000, or I’m sure I would have been addicted). So do as you will. I can only hope that perhaps, one of the books below will spark your curiosity 🙂

What do you think? What book(s) would you add to this list? I would love to hear your thoughts!! (Please post in the comments)

listenupListen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation
edited by  Barbara Findlen

I read this (and the next) book a few years after starting grad school, in my late 20s, and it marked the beginning of my own personal feminist revolution. Listen Up is an anthology of young women’s voices from a wide range of perspectives; essays address violence against women, body-image, identity, race, abortion, androgyny, politics, motherhood, education, and so much more.


colonize thisColonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism
edited by Daisy Hernandez, Bushra Rehman, Cherríe L. Moraga

This book was another eye-opener to women’s issues (that in retrospect, I wish I had read earlier than my late 20s). This collection  presents an eclectic mix of interests and backgrounds: there are essays on shaping black feminist identity through hip hop, on coping with HIV as a young Latina woman, on being lost in Indophile translation, and again, lots more.



Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics
bell hooks

This is a more systematic, yet still highly readable approach to feminism from one of the trailblazers, and is basically canon for understanding third-wave feminism (the historical phase of the movement of the late 60s-early 70s and beyond that finally took on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and so on – the prior ‘waves’ were primarily movements by and for white women).


I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb

Ms. Yousafzai is the youngest-ever Nobel Peace laureate, and her story is one of inspiring courage and passion. Shot by the Taliban on her way to school, Ms. Yousafzai made a miraculous recovery and continued her fight for education and for justice. A must-read auto/biography of a most remarkable woman.


by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another memoir, Infidel is the tale of a woman who literally fights for her life daily and yet continues speaking up for her beliefs (she lives in hiding, under armed guard). Raised in a traditional Muslim household in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia, Ali escaped her marriage and sought refuge in Europe, and has been fighting for religious reform and for Muslim women’s rights since.


handmaidThe Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

No one can spin an eerie story of a dystopian future in which women are but vessels for progeny like Margaret Atwood. A cautionary tale of what may occur if we succumb to inaction, if we cease to question and to probe how we understand gender. This is something like the ‘classics’ version of The Hunger Games (which is more about class than gender; interesting how emphases have changed with time…)


parableParable of the Sower
by Octavia Butler

Yet another dystopian novel, Parable is written by one of the few black women to take on and to decolonize sci-fi. Butler writes through the eyes of a young woman who, despite being thrust into a world falling apart at the seams, mobilizes others around her vision for creating a nurturing, helpful, self-sufficient community. Parable is also beautifully written – one of my favorite sci-fi novels of all time!


conquestConquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
by Andrea Lee Smith

A powerful book about violence against Native American women, and the continued conquest of Native American peoples (through such brutalization). Lee Smith is a scholar and activist, so politics and history intersect in her brutal, meticulously documented assessment. Conquest is an important work on a sadly neglected topic of profound importance to all women and to those who fight for women’s rights.


outtoworkOut to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States
by Alice Kessler-Harris

Women’s labor history is now an abundant field of study, but this was not always the case; Kessler-Harris’ work is seminal (though by now, somewhat dated). Still, Out to Work is a pioneering social history of the transformation of “women’s work” (from traditional domestic expectations to wage labor).


passionThe Passion
by Jeanette Winterson

I conclude this list with one of my favorite authors and novels of all time; Winterson’s writing exemplifies profundity, lyricism, and beauty dreamed into being by a masterful poet. The Passion is a surreal story of two women in love that will take you by surprise and inspire wonder as it weaves its waves along Venetian waterways.


I would love to know what book(s) you would add!! (Or subtract). Please leave your recommendations, comments, and related thoughts in the comments 🙂



  1. I’ve never ventured into Winterson before. Is The Passion a good place to start or would you recommend something else? She’s kind of a staple author, I feel… she just keeps cropping up. It’s time. It’s time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES YES YES! 🙂 Absolutely it’s time 🙂 So I think “Oranges are not the only fruit” is much more widely read, but less… creative, imo, it’s a memoir of sorts (fictionalized). Then there’s the other extreme “Written on the Body” and “the Powerbook” (the latter made no sense to me but it’s still beautiful poetry…). I would say, The Passion is a perfect “middle ground” – Winterson before mysticism and the surreal take over, but after finding her voice. Enjoy! I will be so curious to read your thoughts. And I am super excited for you. ‘Discovering her’ was one of the most eye-opening moments of my reading life 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Awesome, thanks for the tip, that is AWESOME! I love that there is a little kid version – there should be more (kid version of important adult-ish books).

      (PS I am checking out your top 10 – I just recently got into sci-fi (last year) and looooove super sciency ones).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Eve! I may do the same this year – I ‘skimmed’ her book back in grad school over 7-8 years ago but I need to give it a full attentive “this is just for me now” read (you know how having to do something for school can get…).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loving this list! I am going to reread The Handmaid’s Tale before the year is out. SUCH an important book. Also, I was thrilled to see Listen Up on your list. I have the first edition of that and it is an excellent collection.

    Liked by 1 person

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