In today’s world, books that cover feminist theories and experiences and stories told from a feminist point-of-view are no longer few and far between. More and more feminist authors are releasing thought-provoking, empowering writing that inspires a spirit of change in readers.
If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that the rights of women aren’t always a guarantee, even in a supposedly developed nation like the United States. There’s always a goal to work toward, and both vigilance and activism will be needed until true equality is reached.
For readers who want to explore new perspectives, or those who simply want to make the most out of their reading lists in 2023, read on for a list of recommendations for excellent pieces of feminist literature.
Feminist Books to Read ASAP
The world of literature showcases a plethora of fascinating pieces of feminist literature, so if you’d like to add to your collection of must-read feminist books, the sky is the limit. This list of 23 feminist books to read in 2023 aims to point you toward fantastic finds so that you’re not overwhelmed by the sheer volume of your options.
This list will sort 23 titles into four different categories so that you can find the sort of read that fits your unique tastes. These diverse, inclusive samples of intersectional feminism in written form provide something for every feminist reader. Some titles fit into more than one category, as well.
Each of these books is captivating as well as harrowing in the ways they explore the struggles of the female characters the storylines follow. Despite being works of fiction, each one presents lessons that can be applied to today’s world.
- A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
In a dystopian not-so-alternate reality, groups of women are stripped of their rights and forced to bear children for more fortunate families. While chilling and, at times, seemingly hopeless, this is a must-read in terms of feminist literature. A TV series has been made based on this novel, but the book version is worth reading for the experience.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This piece of historical fiction follows a young black woman in the early 20th century as she deals with the effects of abuse and explores her identity as a human being. This novel examines the main character’s attraction to other women as well as her unrelenting quest to locate two children who were taken from her early in her life.
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
This science fiction novel follows Connie Ramos, a young woman in a mental hospital as she explores two potential futures and learns about how her present actions affect the timeline.
- The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
This book follows a young woman trying to navigate the complexities of the world around her in the Victorian Era. She deals with male entitlement and various societal challenges as she defies gender norms.
- The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
When all of the men on a Norweigan island die, the women in this story live as independent individuals in the 17th century. Though visitors arrive and one attempts to interfere with the ways these women live, another finds empowerment in observing the strength of these island residents.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Despite some of the bleak elements covered in this novel, it’s a thought-provoking work that explores racism, family trauma, and obstacles the young main character struggles through. The title comes from the main character’s desire to look like her blue-eyed dolls.
- The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Mental health issues, sexism, and the main character’s examinations of her own sexuality influence the memoir she’s been compiling for years. Anna, a writer struggling with her mental health, covers topics and events that shaped her life.
Non-Fiction Feminist Books
Unlike the imaginative novels and stories listed in the category above, this selection of non-fiction books explores feminist theories and criticisms of the world they’ve, at times, been forced to adapt to.
These non-fiction feminist books explore gender stereotypes, oppressive obstacles, societal expectations, and much more. Each one is well worth the read.
- Invisible Women: Data Bias in a Word Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
The author of this piece explores how data collection and analysis in the modern world disproportionately steamroll women as their presentations and findings focus on benefitting men.
- Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
Roxanne Gay’s essays explore her experiences with traditional feminism, her views on various societal aspects, and her own characteristics that might coin her as a “bad feminist” in the eyes of others.
- The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler
This play is a classic piece of feminist literature and has become a one-woman Off-Broadway show.
- The Women’s Atlas by Joni Seager
This book covers the history of women’s rights, both as they affect American women in the United States, and women in nations across the globe.
- The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
While this book is quite humorous at points, it still provides harsh criticisms of the world’s landscape and how, even in a modern world, the powers that be are still actively working to oppress women.
- Girl: Decoded by Rana el Kaliouby
This book covers the author’s journey and the experiences she had while becoming a professional in the tech industry and the challenges she faced due to her gender.
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf’s essay discusses gender bias in the world of writing and presents evidence that highlights inequities women face in education and society.
- We Are Not Born Submissive: How Patriarchy Shapes Women’s Lives by Manon Garcia
In this book, the author explores various ways in which the expectations of men have negatively shaped the lives, roles, and identities of women in a given society.
Feminist Books by Women of Color
This section highlights women of color. Some entries in the section are non-fiction and illustrate the unique struggles and experiences the authors and the women in their lives have undergone as women of color. The fictional entries paint pictures of adventures and obstacles as they’re visited and analyzed from the perspectives of non-white women.
Much of the time, it’s evident that white feminists and their efforts tend to disregard women of color, despite the fact that women of color have faced unprecedented delays in the benefits of feminism’s many victories.
Each book in this section focuses on the work, experiences, theories, and perspectives of a marginalized majority of women.
- Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Hood Feminism provides fascinating perspectives on feminist issues from the perspectives of non-white feminists. This piece is a must-read, as it covers the experiences of women most often cast aside when progress disproportionately benefits Caucasians.
- Parable of a Sower by Octavia Butler
Picking up practically any book by Ms. Butler is going to grant the reader a literary adventure that includes science fiction, characters of color, and a feminist focus. This book from the Earthseed duo is no exception.
- Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Gloria Jean Watkins writes about feminism and the experiences of women under a pseudonym called “bell hooks”.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This book is based on the author’s compelling TEDx talk that she presented in 2012. It’s a short but powerful read, especially for parents who want to foster a future built on equality. Check out the TEDx talk while you’re at it.
- Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda
Aoko Matsuda retells a collection of Japanese mythologies from her own perspective, one with a feminist focus.
LGBTQ+ Feminist Literature
Finally, this last section combines feminism with the experiences that impact the lives of queer women and non-binary individuals. These viewpoints offer unique takes on what it means to be a woman while also existing in a group that has had to painstakingly advocate for every scrap of equality they’ve earned.
- Black Trans Feminism by Marquis Bey
Marquis Bey offers unique meditations on black and transgender identities, as well as how those identities experience feminism and femininity in general.
- Outspoken by Julia Serano
Julia Serano has written several books involving feminism, womanhood, and activism from the perspective of a trans woman.
- The Needle on Full by Caroline Forbes
This book shares a collection of short, fictional stories told from the POV of feminist lesbian writers.
There’s no shortage of high-quality feminist literature, so when you’ve completed this reading list, you’ll likely find yourself exposed to an entire world of books, essays, and presentations that you’re hearing about for the first time. By all means, keep reading so that you can discover your own theories, perspectives, and sources of empowerment.
Additionally, if you’d like to discuss your experiences and embark upon your own road to recovery from past traumas associated with forced gender norms, book a therapy session with Modern Intimacy. You might also want to read through our blog posts or take part in one of our courses.