Today is International Women’s Day, a day we recognize and appreciate all the great accomplishments women have done for the world. This year, the campaign focuses on the equity with the message, #EmbraceEquity. Women have come a long way but we still have a lot of work to do and that is shown with recent events. More opportunities need to be created in order for our society to create a more equal outcome. And reading books are a great way to start.
So if you are looking for something compelling and powerful to celebrate on this day and every day, here are some brilliant books that are not only conversation starters but to help create a more equitable world:
Fiction & Literature
Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah
On a Spring afternoon in London, Sam hops the stairs of his flat two at a time. There’s £1,300 missing from his and his wife, Efe’s, shared bank account and his calls are going straight to voicemail. When he finally reaches someone, he learns Efe is nearly 5,000 miles away as their toddler looks around and asks, “Where’s Mummy?”
When Efe and Sam met as teens headed for university, it seemed everyone knew they were meant to be. Efe, newly arrived in the UK from Ghana and sinking under the weight of her parents’ expectations, found comfort in the focused and idealistic Sam. He was stable, working toward a law career, and had an unwavering vision for their future. A vision Efe, now a decade later, finds slightly insufferable. From the outside, they’re the picture-perfect couple everyone imagined, but there are cracks in the frame.
When Efe and Sam are faced with an unplanned pregnancy, they find themselves on opposing sides. Fatherhood is everything he has dreamed of, but Efe feels stuck in a nightmare. And when a new revelation emerges, they are forced to confront just how radically different they want their lives to be. Already swallowed by the demands of motherhood and feeling the dreams she had slipping away once again, Efe disappears. (Credit: Ballantine Books)
Furies: Stories of the Wicked, Wild and Untamed
DRAGON. TYGRESS. SHE-DEVIL. HUSSY. SIREN. WENCH. HARRIDAN. MUCKRAKER. SPITFIRE. VITUPERATOR. CHURAIL. TERMAGANT. FURY. WARRIOR. VIRAGO. For centuries past, and all across the world, there are words that have defined and decried us. Words that raise our hackles, fire up our blood; words that tell a story.
In this blazing cauldron of a book, fifteen bestselling, award-winning writers have taken up their pens and reclaimed these words, creating an entertaining and irresistible collection of feminist tales for our time. (Credit: Virago Press)
Maame by Jessica George
It’s fair to say that Maddie’s life in London is far from rewarding. With a mother who spends most of her time in Ghana (yet still somehow manages to be overbearing), Maddie is the primary caretaker for her father, who suffers from advanced stage Parkinson’s. At work, her boss is a nightmare and Maddie is tired of always being the only Black person in every meeting.
When her mum returns from her latest trip to Ghana, Maddie leaps at the chance to get out of the family home and finally start living. A self-acknowledged late bloomer, she’s ready to experience some important “firsts” She finds a flat share, says yes to after-work drinks, pushes for more recognition in her career, and throws herself into the bewildering world of internet dating. But it’s not long before tragedy strikes, forcing Maddie to face the true nature of her unconventional family, and the perils–and rewards–of putting her heart on the line.
The Agency for Scandal by Laura Wood
An all-female detective agency righting wrongs at the end of the nineteenth century; infiltrating a scandalous upper class world straight out of Bridgerton and using their wit and bravery to unmask a villain. Eighteen-year-old Isobel Stanhope is keeping a lot of secrets. There’s the fact that she’s head over heels in love with a Duke who doesn’t know she exists; there’s the fact that her family is penniless but nobody in society knows about it; and then there’s her job at the Aviary, an investigative agency run by women that specializes in digging up scandal on powerful men.
When Izzy finds herself pulled into a case that involves gaslighting, blackmail, and missing jewels, as well as the Duke who holds her heart, can she and her friends untangle the web of secrets and lies to uncover the truth and protect the innocent? And when the stakes are so high, what happens when the crush she’s been hiding begins to turn into so much more? (Credit: Scholastic)
Activist by Louisa Reid
Cassie goes to a prestigious academic school where girls have only just been admitted after decades of it being single-sex. When a female student from the school anonymously posts about the sexual abuse she has suffered and the school does not act properly, Cassie knows that she needs to take matters into her own hands. She and her friends prepare for battle – with a strike, an assembly, as well as outside school spending their weekends protesting to save the woodland from development. But will her activism only make things worse, or will she succeed in righting the wrongs that so many choose to ignore? And could there be a more personal reason for her behaviour? (Credit: Guppy Publishing)
Atalanta by Jennifer Saint
Expected Publication Date: May 9
When Princess Atalanta is born, a daughter rather than the son her parents hoped for, she is left on a mountainside to die. But even then, she is a survivor. Raised by a mother bear under the protective eye of the goddess Artemis, Atalanta grows up wild and free, with just one condition: if she marries, Artemis warns, it will be her undoing.
Although she loves her beautiful forest home, Atalanta yearns for adventure. When Artemis offers her the chance to fight in her name alongside the Argonauts, the fiercest band of warriors the world has ever seen, Atalanta seizes it. The Argonauts’ quest for the Golden Fleece is filled with impossible challenges, but Atalanta proves herself equal to the men she fights alongside. As she is swept into a passionate affair, in defiance of Artemis’s warning, she begins to question the goddess’s true intentions. Can Atalanta carve out her own legendary place in a world of men, while staying true to her heart? (Credit: Flatiron Books)
Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati
Expected Publication Date: May 2
As for queens, they are either hated or forgotten. She already knows which option suits her best…
You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offence against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot.
But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice.
Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods’ hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did.
If power isn’t given to you, you have to take it for yourself. (Credit: Sourcebooks Landmark)
The Chaperone by M. Hendrix
Expected Publication Date: June 6
Like every young woman in New America, Stella knows the rules:
Abstain from sin.
Navigate the world with care.
Respect your chaperone.
Girls in New America must have a chaperone with them at all times . Because of this, Stella is never alone. She can’t go out by herself or learn about the world. She can’t even spend time with boys except at formal Visitations. Still, Stella feels lucky that her chaperone, Sister Helen, is like a friend to her.
And then the unthinkable happens. Sister Helen dies suddenly, and Stella feels lost. Especially when she’s assigned a new chaperone just days later.
Sister Laura is…different. She has radical ideas about what Stella should be doing. She leaves Stella alone in public and even knows how to get into the “Hush Hush” parties where all kinds of forbidden things happen. As Stella spends more time with Sister Laura, she begins to question everything she’s been taught. What if the Constables’ rules don’t actually protect girls? What if they were never meant to keep them safe?
Once Stella glimpses both real freedom and the dark truths behind New America, she has no choice but to fight back against the world she knows, risking everything to set out on a dangerous journey across what used to be the United States. (Credit: Sourcebooks Fire)
How Many More Women?: The silencing of women by the law and how to stop it by Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida
We are in a crucial moment: women are breaking through the cultural reticence around gender-based violence. But just as survivors have begun to feel empowered to speak out, a new form of systematic silencing has made itself more evident: rich and powerful men are using teams of lawyers to suppress allegations and prevent newspaper stories from running. Individual women, advocacy groups and journalists find themselves fighting against censorship.
The law is being wielded to reinforce the status quo of silence that existed before #MeToo.
If women cannot speak about their abuse - and journalists are fearful of telling their stories – then how can we understand the problem of gender-based violence in our society? And how can we even begin to end it?
In How Many More Women? internationally-acclaimed human rights lawyers, Jennifer Robinson and Keina Yoshida, examine the broken systems and explore the changes needed in order to ensure that women’s freedom, including their freedom of speech, is no longer threatened by the laws that are supposed to protect them. (Credit: Octopus Publishing)
Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May
Many of us feel trapped in a grind of constant change: rolling news cycles, the chatter of social media, our families split along partisan lines. We feel fearful and tired, on edge in our bodies, not quite knowing what has us perpetually depleted. For Katherine May, this low hum of fatigue and anxiety made her wonder what she was missing. Could there be a different way to relate to the world, one that would allow her to feel more rested and at ease, even as seismic changes unfold on the planet? Might there be a way for all of us to move through life with curiosity and tenderness, sensitized to the subtle magic all around?
In Enchantment, May invites the reader to come with her on a journey to reawaken our innate sense of wonder and awe. With humor, candor, and warmth, she shares stories of her own struggles with work, family, and the aftereffects of pandemic, particularly feelings of overwhelm as the world rushes to reopen. Craving a different way to live, May begins to explore the restorative properties of the natural world, moving through the elements of earth, water, fire, and air and identifying the quiet traces of magic that can be found only when we look for them. Through deliberate attention and ritual, she unearths the potency and nourishment that come from quiet reconnection with our immediate environment. Blending lyricism and storytelling, sensitivity and empathy, Enchantment invites each of us to open the door to human experience in all its sensual complexity, and to find the beauty waiting for us there. (Credit: Riverhead Books)
What Women Want: Conversations on Desire, Power, Love and Growth by Maxine Mei-Fung Chung
Through the profound and moving stories of seven very different women, Maxine Mei-Fung Chung sheds light on our most fundamental needs and desires. From a young bride-to-be struggling to accept her sexuality, to a mother grappling with questions of identity and belonging, and a woman learning to heal after years of trauma, What Women Want is an electrifying and deeply intimate exploration into the inner lives of women.
Based on hours of conversations between Maxine and her patients, this book lays bare our fears, hopes, secrets and capacity for healing. With great empathy and precision, What Women Want presents a fearless look into the depths of who we are, so that we can better understand each other and ourselves.
To desire is an action. This extraordinary book liberates and empowers us to claim what we truly want. (Credit: Cornerstone)
The Patriarchs: The Origins of Inequality by Angela Saini
For centuries, prominent thinkers have treated male domination among humans as natural or inevitable. But how would our understanding of gender inequality–our imagined past and contested present–look if we didn’t assume that men have always ruled over women? If we saw gendered oppression as something fragile, that, alongside other forms of inequality, has had to be constantly remade and reasserted?In this bold and radical book, award-winning science journalist Angela Saini explores the roots of what we call patriarchy, uncovering a complex history of how it first became embedded in societies and spread across the globe from prehistory into the present. She travels to the world’s earliest known human settlements, analyzes the latest research findings in science and archaeology, and traces cultural and political histories from the Americas to Asia, finding that:
- Matrilineal societies are more common than we appreciate, existing under a variety of different social and environmental circumstances, and in some cases for thousands of years.
- From around seven thousand years ago, there are signs that a small number of powerful men were having more children than other men.
- In societies where women left their own families to live with their husbands, marriage customs came to be informed by the widespread practice of captive taking and slavery, later influencing laws that alienated women from systems of support and denied them equal rights.
- There was enormous variation in gender and power dynamics in many societies for thousands of years, but colonialism and empire dramatically changed ways of life across Asia, Africa, and the Americas, spreading rigidly patriarchal customs and undermining how people organized their families and work.
In our own time, despite the pushback against sexism, abuse, and discrimination, even revolutionary efforts to bring about equality have often ended in failure and backlash. But The Patriarchs is a profoundly hopeful book–one that reveals a diversity to human arrangements that undercuts the old grand narratives and exposes male supremacy as no more than an ever-shifting element in systems of control. (Credit: Beacon Press)
Strong Female Lead: Lessons from Women in Power by Arwa Mahdawi
Women have been taught to ‘lean in’ and act like men to get ahead. But as the financial, environmental, and social systems crumble, isn’t it time we had a different plan?
The first two decades of the twenty-first century have seen financial collapse, a global pandemic, the devastation of our environment and the disintegration of democracies. But while some at the top are telling us ‘it is what is it’, there’s a new generation of leaders showing the world how to be better. They’re building trust, investing wisely and acting decisively. And they’ve got one thing in common.
In Strong Female Lead, Arwa Mahdawi investigates the qualities demonstrated by female leaders who show us how it’s done, including original research and interviews with Madeleine Albright, Mary Robinson, Alicia Garza and many others. Above all, she asks the question: What can women in power teach all of us about leadership? (Credit: Mobius Books)
The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life by Clare Carlisle
Expected Publication Date: March 23
When she was in her mid-thirties, Marian Evans transformed herself into George Eliot – an author celebrated for her genius as soon as she published her debut novel. During those years she also found her life partner, George Lewes – writer, philosopher and married father of three. After ‘eloping’ to Berlin in 1854 they lived together for twenty-four years: Eliot asked people to call her ‘Mrs Lewes’ and dedicated each novel to her ‘Husband’. Though they could not legally marry, she felt herself initiated into the ‘great experience’ of marriage – ‘this double life, which helps me to feel and think with double strength’. The relationship scandalized her contemporaries yet she grew immeasurably within it. Living at once inside and outside marriage, Eliot could experience this form of life – so familiar yet also so perplexing – from both sides.
In The Marriage Question Clare Carlisle reveals Eliot to be not only a great artist but a brilliant philosopher who probes the tensions and complexities of a shared life. Through the immense ambition and dark marriage plots of her novels we see Eliot wrestling – in art and in life – with themes of desire and sacrifice, motherhood and creativity, trust and disillusion, destiny and chance. Reading them afresh, Carlisle’s searching new biography explores how marriage questions grow and change, and joins Eliot in her struggle to marry thought and feeling. (Credit: Penguin Books UK)
To My Sisters: A Guide to Building Lifelong Friendships by
Courtney Daniella Boateng and Renee Kapuku
Everyone needs someone to love, support and cherish them unconditionally. Except, it doesn’t always take the form of a spouse or a parent. What if the relationship you craved was a good ol’ sister?
From the hosts of the hit podcast, To My Sisters, comes this essential guide to sisterhood.
Renee Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng have one goal – to see women win. With their own friendship spanning a decade, their mission to reinvigorate sisterhood and redefine womanhood has turned into a global community of women helping each other to reclaim their power.
Join these ‘online big sisters’ as they draw from their intimate experiences to teach, guide and show you how to embrace the power of friendship and community in an authentic way. Packed with practical advice, reflective activities and wise words, To My Sisters will teach you how to find, build and nourish lifelong friendships.
Let’s glow and grow together. (Credit: Pan Macmillan)
The Gender Penalty: Turning obstacles into opportunities for women at work by Anneli Blundell
- Feeling undervalued, overlooked or ignored at work?
- Want practical strategies to get ahead?
- Want to succeed as a woman without changing who you are?
Work is a game originally developed by men, for men. Though the players have changed, the rules to succeed have not. When today’s talented women play like men, they often get punished for not being ‘ladylike’, and when they play like women, they can get punished for not being ‘leaderlike’. Welcome to the gender penalties that sideline women from the game of work.
The Gender Penalty is a playbook for navigating career success in a male-dominated environment. If you want to stand out without stepping on toes, get what you want without compromising who you are, and make your mark without becoming someone you’re not, this book is for you. (Credit: Bhp: Bacca House Press)
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