Feminist Essays and Memoirs

I love essays and memoirs—when they’re feminist. I recently realized I have next to nothing to personally recommend someone looking for something besides feminist essays and memoirs.

I am kind of okay with that.

I mean, I sometimes read books written by men. (Rarely).  When it comes to nonfiction, especially stories about someone’s life that’s supposed to be interesting or enlightening, or thoughts on culture, I pretty much want a feminist perspective, even if I don’t totally agree with it. I like exposing myself different viewpoints and how the experiences of other women can inform my own beliefs.

I’ve read half of these, and the other half are on my to-read list.

feminist essays and memoirs


Feminist Essays and Memoirs

For this list, I focused on recent books that have come up in the past few years. I studied gender and politics in college, and already am familiar with most of the classics, but if you’re interested in a more historical overview of feminist essays and memoirs, let me know in the comments and I can put it on my list of content ideas.

Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy

This is a manifesto, for sure. Eltahawy argues against the toxic mix of culture and politics that oppress women in the Middle East.

Shrill: Notes form a Loud Woman by Lindy West

I highly recommend this on audiobook! Lindy West is funny as hell and not afraid to delve deep into thorny issues. She’s also very body-positive, which is important to me.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

This is probably my #1 must read on this list. Roxane Gay looks at her own contradictions in a frank, honest way. My favorite essay is on her foray into competitive Scrabble.

Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti

I’ve been following Valenti’s career as a writer, and am excited to read her recently released memoir.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

This one is more for a light, geeky take on feminism.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I read this one years ago, and still get a kick out of British columnist Caitlin Moran’s witty writing style.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adapted from her massively awesome TED talk, this is definitely a must-read.

All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

So I may be married, but that seems more of a quirk of fate than something to do with my deep abiding need to be married. Especially as I’m living alone for an extended period while Mister BS finishes his last year teaching before relocating to the West Coast, I’m curious about this recent book that many single friends have raved about.

The Feminist Utopia Project edited by Alexandra Brosky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

This collection caught my eye because of the graphic cover, so I plan on checking it out.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

I can’t recommend Maggie Nelson’s memoir about gender identity, family, and metaphysics enough. Also great on audio, and especially great for those who are philosophically inclined.

Men Explain Things to Me: And Other Essays by Rebecca Solnit

You can read this essay online, but the slim collection is worth checking out from your library if you hate reading long form on a computer. I work in a female dominated field and I don’t like to interact with men who don’t identify as feminist; still, I get mansplained All. The. Time.

You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding Feminism by Alida Nugent

I think I would have liked this collection more as a younger feminist; I wouldn’t hesitate to hand it to teens or college students.

Feminist essays and memoirs are my nonfiction jam. Though I’ve been expanding my reading to include other nonfiction topics this past year, these will always make up the bulk of the books I read that aren’t novels or short story collections.

Did I miss any recent feminist works you’d recommend? 

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  • I definitely need to add some feminist lit to my TBR. It just hasn’t been something I’ve thought to read. Great list! XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  • What a great list! I’ve read a few of these, but I definitely need to put the rest of them on my reading list 🙂 It’s so important to read/hear feminist voices in our life to inspire and move us forward.

    Nice post, now I’m off to explore the rest of your blog, I’m so happy to find another blogging librarian 😉

    • Thanks! Most of my nonfiction reading is feminist. Happy to meet another librarian blogger!

  • I’m not a big non-fiction reader in general, but I do try to challenge myself to read it occasionally. I can’t say (sadly) that I’ve read ANY feminist non fiction, so I’ll have to add some of these to my list.