March 30, 2021

10 Essential Books to Read for Women’s History Month

Article by Megan Nicole O’Neal

Although we certainly don’t need an excuse to celebrate women’s stories, March is Women’s History Month, which means it’s an especially perfect time to do so. And what better way than to dive into fantastic books written by and about women? Whether you’re hoping to be transported into history, get lost behind powerful prose, or fancy a healthy dose of personal development, we’ve got a book for you.

Below is a collection of books to help celebrate the untold stories of the extraordinary women who came before us, cherish the friends and family who lift us up, and inspire you to keep pushing toward your most ambitious goals this month and all year long.

Fiction Books by and About Women

1.Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of 12 very different characters. Written in a stream-of-consciousness structure, the novel immerses you in the minds of women — mostly Black and British — while they tell stories of their families, friends, and lovers. The book touches on themes of privilege, abuse, sexuality, education levels, social hierarchy, and what it means to be a modern-day woman.

2. Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

Hot off the press, Of Women and Salt has been named the Most Anticipated Story of 2021 by TIME, Entertainment Weekly, and O, The Oprah Magazine, to name a few of its champions. In her debut novel, Garcia drops readers into the lives of Latinx women who emigrated from Cuba and shares an intimate look at the often complicated mother-daughter relationship by following three generations of Cuban women from Mexico to Miami. A tale woven with pain, loss, and strength, Of Women and Salt is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.

Poetry Books by and About Women

3. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

A collection of poetry and prose, Milk and Honey takes readers on a relatable journey through pain and healing, touching on issues like abuse, love, loss, and femininity. The collection is divided into four chapters that each focus on a different heartache, providing self-reflection to help find the sweetness in each of life’s seasons.

Historical Fiction Books by and About Women

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

A novel you won’t be able to put down, The Vanishing Half takes readers back to 1950s America, following the lives of two identical twin sisters as they carve very different paths in the world. One sister lives with her Black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, hiding her secret past from her white husband and daughter. The Vanishing Half examines how the past has a lasting influence on our lives and how our present choices can affect the generations who follow us.

5. Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for president of the United States. Yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books. Madame Presidentess follows the life of Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con man and religious zealot, and the journey that ultimately led her to challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America to become the first woman to run for president.

True Stories Based on Real Women

6. The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess with Laura L. Sullivan

A stunning memoir of a Muslim teen struggling to survive in the midst of the Bosnian genocide and the stray cat who protected her family through it all. In 1992, Amra was a teen in Bihac, Bosnia, when the Serbian tanks rolled in, bringing her own city under siege. As the life she knew disappeared in an instant, a stray cat her family couldn’t afford to take care of followed her home. The Cat I Never Named is a harrowing account of a war-torn country and how one teen found a guardian spirit looking after her in the darkest of times.

7. The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs

Written by Cambridge University PhD candidate Anna Malaika Tubbs, The Three Mothers is an in-depth look into the lives of the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr.; Malcolm X; and James Baldwin. The book details the overlooked stories of Alberta King, Louise Little, and Berdis Baldwin, acknowledging their rightful place in American history in this eye-opening celebration of the power and resilience of Black mothers.

8. The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates

Drawing on her work in global philanthropy over the past 20 years, Melinda Gates writes about a simple fact she has witnessed to be true: “If you want to lift society up, you need to stop keeping women down.” Gates shares powerful and sometimes devastating conversations with women from all over the world, generously offering readers lessons she has learned and simple ways they can get involved to make a difference. The Moment of Lift is an earnest call to action backed by data.

9. Women: The National Geographic Image Collection by National Geographic, with an introduction by Susan Goldberg

This powerful photography collection drawn from the National Geographic archive celebrates the lives of women worldwide, from historic suffragettes to the haunting portrait of the green-eyed “Afghan girl.” This bold and inspiring book mines 130 years of photography to showcase 300+ stunning images from more than 50 countries, each page offering compelling testimony about what it means to be a woman. Organized around themes like grit, compassion, and joy and containing revelatory new interviews with and portraits of contemporary trailblazers like Oprah Winfrey and Christiane Amanpour, this iconic collection provides definitive proof the future is female.

Personal Development Books by Women

10. The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Edith Eger

The Gift is a hands-on guide that gently encourages readers to examine the thoughts and behaviors that may be keeping them imprisoned in the past. Written by 93-year-old Holocaust survivor and renowned psychologist Dr. Edith Eger, the book details how the worst prison she experienced was not the prison that Nazis put her in but the one she created for herself within her own mind. With empathy, insight, and humor, Dr. Eger describes the 12 most imprisoning beliefs she has known — including fear, grief, anger, secrets, stress, guilt, shame, and avoidance — and the tools she uses to face these universal challenges.

A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com.

Megan Nicole O’Neal is a writer with a passion for storytelling, traveling, and mixing the two whenever possible. The UCLA alum lives in Los Angeles, specifically westside coffee shops with equally strong Wi-Fi and dark roasts. Connect with Megan on Twitter at @megan_n_oneal or her website mnoneal.com.

Read more in Best Careers for Women

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