March is Women’s History Month, a time to shine a light on the unique contributions of half of the world’s population. It’s a time to learn—and a time to be loud.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8—and to celebrate this Women’s History Month as a whole—we’re highlighting 11 illuminating nonfiction reads that elevate forgotten voices of the past or shout modern truths from the rooftops.
Educated, by Tara Westover
Shortlisted for the B&N 2018 Discover Awards and an occupant on just about every best-of list last year, Westover’s memoir of resilience details her extreme upbringing in rural Idaho. Raised by survivalist parents, Westover didn’t step foot inside a classroom until she was 17. The story of how she taught herself enough to get into college—and then onto Cambridge—is fascinating, affecting, and relatable to even those without such an unusual childhood.
My Own Words, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Maybe you’ve read her legendary dissents or seen one of the recent throng of films about her life. Now, take some time to hear from RBG herself on the topics dearest to her legacy. In carefully curated writings, Ginsburg discusses gender equality, life on the Supreme Court, interpreting law, and her own Jewish identity. It’s a must-read from one of America’s most influential women.
We Are Displaced, by Malala Yousafzai
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Pakistani author, herself a displaced person, shares what it felt like to be forced from her home in Swat Valley. Malala also pulls together heart-wrenching yet hopeful oral histories from other young women and girls who’ve been relocated because of regional and global conflicts. Each refugee has an important story to tell, and the distinct viewpoints and brave, personal revelations will move and educate you on a wealth of underrepresented news stories.
Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister
Traister explores the current atmosphere of female rage, putting the #MeToo movement, the Women’s March, and other manifestations of this anger into historical context. Woven in with histories of suffragette, abolitionist, and other women-led rights movements are reflections on the current mood and the nature of emotions long-considered “unfeminine.”
Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History, by Sam Maggs
As engaging and informative as it is fun, Maggs’ collection profiles a diverse group of unsung heroines from around the world, from a chemist who developed a treatment for leprosy, to a rocket scientist who helped send the first U.S. satellite into orbit. Readers of all ages will enjoy learning about these barrier-busting women’s contributions to fields ranging from medicine to espionage; young readers in particular may be inspired to pick up the torch and make their own contributions.
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, by Jung Chang
This engrossing bestseller reveals one woman’s role in shaping world history. In 1852, a 16-year-old girl named Cixi became a concubine to China’s Emperor Xianfeng. When he died nine years later, Cixi’s young son took the throne, and she quickly took action to do away with the court officials who would seek to manipulate the child, instead positioning herself as China’s ruler in all but name. Though she has often been vilified by history, Jung Chang draws on new sources to offer a different perspective, arguing that Cixi’s reign—and her embrace of industry, railways, electricity, and a strong military—ushered China into the modern world.
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Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower, by Brittney Cooper
A bold collection of intersectional essays, Eloquent Rage has been recommended by just about everyone (Roxane Gay! Emma Watson! America Ferrera!). In a wide-ranging look at her own feminist evolution, Cooper asks big, tough questions about the state of women’s rights movements and underscores the remarkable results of bringing black women’s voices to the fore.
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions: Third Edition, by Gloria Steinem
Timeless since they were first released in 1983, Steinem’s personal essays start a new chapter with a third edition featuring new writing from the author and a foreword by Emma Watson. Clear, witty, and classic, the works here run the gamut of women’s experiences, including Steinem’s groundbreaking exposé, “I Was a Playboy Bunny.”
We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Based on an essay by the same name, this book tackles the issue of feminism head on. Exploring everything from race and gender to sex and power dynamics, this incredible book is perfect for those just starting to break down the definition of feminism and how it applies to their lives.
Unbecoming: A Memoir of Disobedience, by Anuradha Bhagwati
This remarkable memoir of service and activism is presented unfiltered. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Bhagwati graduated from Yale and took an unconventional next step: the U.S. Marine Corps. Here, she chronicles the challenges she faced as of a bisexual woman of color in the military, as well as her subsequent equal-rights advocacy and work addressing the problem of sexual assault in the armed services.
The Future Is Feminist: Radical, Funny, and Inspiring Writing by Women, edited by Mallory Farrugia
An anthology stuffed to the gills with leading writers, activists, actors, and thinkers, including Roxane Gay, Salma Hayek, Audre Lorde, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Naomi Alderman, and many more. The previously published works collected here are united in sentiments but take divergent looks at feminism’s past, present, and future.