26 books every feminist should read before the age of 26

You’re welcome

Cicero once said: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” But in 2019, the saying is more like: "A room without feminist books is an absolute red flag and you need to run. Far."

No but seriously, if you haven't read any of these 26 classics before the age of 26, you need to get yourself into a bookshop or the library ASAP.

1. Why I’m No Longer Speaking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

It all started off with a blogpost about why Reni Eddo-Lodge was tired of communicating with people who didn't want to acknowledge structural racism. And it turned into a bestseller. Everyone needs to read this bible on institutional racism because your feminism isn’t feminism if it’s not intersectional. Buy the book here.

View this post on Instagram

Book three: ‘Everything I Know About Love’ My first time reading a memoir ever, and I’m so glad this was my first! It made me both smile, laugh and even cry. Dolly shares her (very) personal experiences from her twenties in such a funny, honest and beautiful way. And it also was refreshing to read a love story which was not about men, but about the importance of female friendship. I think every girl in her 20’s should read this one ? · My Goodreads vote: ★★★★☆ (and a half) · QOTD: Do you have any good memoirs to recommend? · #bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookish #whatiread #justread #bibliophile #bookclub #bookworm #bookphotography #memoir #mybookfeatures #everythingiknowaboutlove #dollyalderton

A post shared by What Sofie Read (@whatsofieread) on

2. Everything I Know About Love – Dolly Alderton

This autobiography hilariously confronts everyday societal issues and the conditioning which has lead to really unhealthy views on health, relationships, dating etc. So easy to read and tackles serious topics. Buy the book here.

3. On The Frontline With Women Who Fight Back – Stacey Dooley

Not only is it an autobiography of the woman who turned her life around and went from working in Luton Airport to making groundbreaking documentaries, it also centres around the stories of women and girls who are facing adversity and fighting back globally. Buy the book here.

4. The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan

A selection of essays and short stories (including the one she delivered as valedictorian graduating from Yale) about love, growing up, academia, and everything in between. Marina died in a car crash five days after graduation and the book was collated and published after her death. Buy the book here.

View this post on Instagram

“Tea Time Tuesday’s” is officially a thing! Curl up with a great book, your favorite tea and have at it! We’ve chosen a detox blend of our own “Dragonfly” featuring Green tea which helps boost metabolism & Peppermint Leaf which is as refreshing as it is a natural source of energy. All that coupled with our FAVORITE First Lady’s Book ‘Becoming!’ #allnatural #bathandbody #naturalskincare #familybusiness #boutiqueshopping #handmadesoaps #familyowned #organicskincare #organicbeauty #boutiquefashion #naturalsoap #naturals #apothecary #luxuryskincare #fashion #shopsmall #shopsmallbusiness #smallbiz #smallbizlife #fashionblogger #cleanbeauty #michelleobama #sparrowandhawkapothecary #vegan #veganskincare #veganbeauty #fashion #fashionable #staygrounded

A post shared by Sparrow & Hawk Apothecary (@sparrowandhawkapothecary) on

5. Becoming – Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's memoir touches on the experiences that shaped her, such as growing up in the south side of Chicago and being the first black First Lady of the USA. Buy the book here.

6. Women & Power – Mary Beard

Quite simply a modern feminist classic. It's a manifesto which looks back on the history of silencing women and urges us to act against this long-held tradition. Buy the book here.

7. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

A book about a terrifying patriarchal dystopia that, even more terrifyingly, is not far from our own. Buy the book here.

8. The Guilty Feminist – Deborah Francis-White

This is a book for anyone who’s ever felt they weren’t “good enough” to be a feminist. It teaches the reader about intersectional feminism in a way that’s full of humour and without judgement. Buy the book here.

9. Women, Race and Class – Angela Davis

Within the context of the Civil Rights Movement, Angela Davis discusses how race, gender and class are inextricably linked, and explores how these compound to shape different women’s experiences in a variety of ways – a real key read when it comes to understanding intersectionality. Buy the book here.

View this post on Instagram

"When I was in primary school in Nsukka, a university town in south-eastern Nigeria, my teacher said at the beginning of term that she would give the class a test and whoever got the highest score would be the class monitor. — And I got the highest score on the test. Then, to my surprise, my teacher said the monitor had to be a boy. She had forgotten to make that clear earlier; she assumed it was obvious. A boy got the second highest score on the test. And he would be monitor. — I have never forgotten that incident. If we do something over and over again, it becomes normal. If we see the same thing over and over again, it becomes normal. If only boys are made class monitor, then at some point we will think, even if unconsciously, that the monitor has to be a boy. If we keep seeing only men as heads of corporations, it starts to seem "natural" that only men should be heads of corporations."

A post shared by M A Y U R I (@itsmemayuri) on

10. We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A really short read looking at the disparities between men and women all over the world. Easy and quick to get through, it’s a great summary of what it means to be a feminist. Buy the book here.

11. How Not To Be a Boy – Robert Webb

Reading Robert Webb's How Not To Be a Boy is such a nice experience because it's refreshing to hear a man talk about feminism, toxic masculinity and how fucked up raising boys "to be boys" is. Buy the book here.

12. Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado approaches female sexuality in the context of love, loss, bodily inscriptions, insecurity, vulnerability, and motherhood in her debut anthology of short stories, all through the lens of a bisexual woman. Her stories are beautifully written and seem to read themselves to you: any woman will feel less alone by absorbing them into her consciousness. Buy the book here.

13. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

Angelou's autobiography explores identity, rape, racism and literacy in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." She writes about women's lives in a male-dominated society. Mays has been called "a symbolic character for every black girl growing up in America. Buy the book here.

14. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

Anne Frank's diary should be on every school's curriculum. She wrote about her family's hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After two years of hiding, her family were found by the Gestapo and sent to a concentration camp, where Anne died. It's a truly heartbreaking read but very important. Buy the book here.

15. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice explores feminism during a time when a woman's role was to be a perfect lady. She subtly critiques the traditional idea of what it's like to be a woman in her time. Buy the book here.

16. Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

The graphic novel tells the story of the author growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution in 1979 and then her later experience of living in Europe. Things get very politically tense in Iran and her family flee to Austria when Marjane is 14. With her new-found freedom in Austria, there is also the culture shock she has to deal with. She finds this very hard and ends up taking drugs and living on the streets. It's very moving. Buy the book here.

17. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Everyone has harped on about The Bell Jar at some point, but there's a reason and it's because it's so good. Buy the book here.

18. The Help – Kathryn Stockett

A white female journalist exposes the other white women in her town for mistreating the black women who have spent their whole lives taking care of their families and children. She interviews black women across the Southern town and it turns out, they all have quite a lot to say about the racist treatment they've faced for years. Buy the book here.

19. The Best of Dorothy Parker

A funny, brutally honest and feminist poetry? Yes please. Parker's work expresses her battle with depression as well as the dazzle and darkness of New York in the 1920s.

While her quotes and one-liners were laugh-out-loud caustic keepers, this selection delves deeper into Parker’s literary repertoire, bringing together the best of her short fiction and poetry. Her unparalleled ability to combine a heartbreak with a wisecrack ensured her enduring popularity. Buy the book here.

20. A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf

The extended essay is based on two lectures Virginia Woolf delivered on women and fiction. It's a key work of feminist literary criticism, which examinees the educational, social and financial disadvantages women have faced throughout history. She says that "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction", meaning one has to have independence to be able to write in an independent way. Buy the book here.

View this post on Instagram

"It seemed like the Taliban didn't want us to do anything…We heard stories that the Taliban would hear children laughing and burst into the room…We felt like the Taliban saw us as little dolls to control, telling us what to do and how to dress. I thought if God wanted us to be like that He wouldn't have made us all different." * December 2018 has been good to me. My last three reads have all been 5?s! This one is the first. What a truly inspirational, amazing woman Malala is. When I saw this for £1 in a local Cat Protection Charity shop I grabbed it. Needless to say, it was more than worth every penny. It's take on religion, family warmth, the ties we have; all so very relatable. The strength and determination she has is out of this world, truly. She is so focussed. Her father – I mean. What a man. Just incredible all round. A part of history that enlightened me because we actually get to feel and know what life was like for Malala and her family under the Taliban, the how and the why, before she was shot. Definitely, definitely recommended. #theclubofbookreviews ____________________________________ #IAmMalala #Autobiography #NonFictionReads #NonFictionBooks #NobelPeacePrizeWinner #MalalaYousafzai #ChristinaLamb #BookStack #BooksGalore #LotsOfBooks #BooksMakeMeHappy #BooksOfInstagram #GuardianBooks #FightForEducation #BookReview #BookThoughts

A post shared by Amena ? | UK (@theclubofbooks) on

21. I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban – Malala Yousafzai

Malala is an educational campaigner from Pakistan. In October 2012 she was shot in the head, after being targeted by the Taliban. I am Malala is Malala's autobiography, which details her early life, her father's ownership of schools and activism and the rise and fall of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan Buy the book here.

22. The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir

A revolutionary text. It's one of the earliest attempts to confront history from a feminist perspective. It's a pillar of feminist thought. The main idea is that men oppress women by characterising them at every level. And essentially, this leaves women as the "Other." Buy the book here.

23. Stone Butch Blues – Leslie Feinberg

The book follows the life of Jess Goldberg who grows up in New York in the 40s. She's aware she's different from other girls, often getting asked: "Are you a boy or a girl?" It's not an easy read because it's so brutally honest, but is often described as a genderqueer classic. Buy the book here.

24. Redefining Realness – Janet Mock

In 2011, Janet Mock stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. She is an American writer, television host, director, producer and transgender rights activist. Her memoir follows Mock's quest for identity and the hurdles she faced all the way from Honolulu to New York. Buy the book here.

25. In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin – Lindsey Hilsum

Marie Colvin was killed by an airstrike in Syria in 2012. She was reporting from the front line in an area of Syria on behalf of The Sunday Times, a place where most other foreign correspondents hadn’t dared embed themselves due to the heavy bombing. Brave and committed to telling the truth and speaking on behalf of others who did not have a voice, Marie Colvin – known for her eye patch after a bomb explosion in Sri Lanka left her blinded in one eye – infiltrated the all-boys club of traditional war correspondents to become one of the greatest reporters.

Her biography, written by her friend and fellow foreign correspondent Lindsey Hilsum, tells the story of Marie standing up to her male editors and proving people who assumed she either couldn’t make it, or due to the dangers of war reporting shouldn’t make it wrong. If you’re interested in journalism, read up on one of the best. Buy the book here.

26. The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter

Carter retells our fave fairy tales such as Snow White and Beauty and the Beast but uses her amazing imagination to superimpose a feminist point of view on them. They’re really brutal in some respects; in the retelling of Snow White called ‘The Snow Child’ the father figure rapes his dead “child” (who was also the figment of his patriarchal lust).

There are some pretty inspiring transfigurations of lesser known tales such as Perrault’s Bluebeard which depicts the hero figure of the story as the protagonists mother. She’s pretty sick and assassinates her daughter’s gross husband with a “single, irreproachable bullet” from horseback. Carter breaks down the myths of late 20th century to show that what women aren’t simply damsels in distress. Buy the book here.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Books that all aspiring female writers should read

Reading books means you’ll live longer, according to scientists

Books every girl needs to read after graduation