Top 20 Books All Women Should Read

As health and wellbeing of our whole community is our top priority, we have made the decision to cancel the Storyhouse Women Weekend this year. We had an amazing lineup of events, talks, debates, theatre, music, dance lined up for 2020, which we hope to revisit soon.

In the meantime the Library Team at Storyhouse have selected a collection of books that tell stories of women who spoke out, who fought back, who rebelled, who led and who inspired.

Almost all are set against a backdrop of different periods in history and all from a completely unique voice.

1. A Different Kind of Daughter by Maria Toorpak

Maria Toorpakai Wazir has lived her life disguised as a boy, defying the Taliban, in order to pursue her love of sport. Coming second in a national junior weightlifting event for boys, Maria decided to put her future in her own hands by going in disguise. When she discovered squash and was easily beating all the boys, life became more dangerous.

2. The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay.

3. The Diary of Anne Frank

One of the most famous accounts of living under the Nazi regime of World War II comes from the diary of a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl, Anne Frank. Today, The Diary of a Young Girl has sold over 25 million copies world-wide.

4. Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

The sequel to the bestselling The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Heather Morris’ poignant, profoundly humane book traces Cilka’s path from concentration camp to Siberian gulag. Once more approaching an emotionally charged period of history with sensitivity and depth.

5. Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

In the political turbulence of Edwardian Britain, three young women from very different walks of life hear the call for equality and justice. Nicholls imbues the suffragette movement with personal as well as social drama, vividly recreating an exhilarating era of progressive change.

6. Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish

Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2016 and former Storyhouse poet-in-residence. A lyrical take on pregnancy and parenthood. This beautifully written book includes a series of poems and stories, lifted from Hollie’s personal diaries on becoming a parent, and documents her journey from pregnancy to taking her child to pre-school for the first time.

7. Educated by Tara Westover

Westover’s journey from an Idaho mountain- girl who, according to the state, did not exist to a Cambridge-educated, sharply intelligent young woman is detailed with candour and grace in this remarkable memoir. Both a fascinating snapshot of survivalist, rural America and an uplifting tribute to the power of self-knowledge, Educated is a singularly gripping work of non-fiction.

8. Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Winner of the Booker prize 2019. Kaleidoscopic in theme and incandescent in tone, Evaristo’s panorama of modern black womanhood resounds with an astonishing diversity of voice and character as seen across a changing century. Tracking the lives and loves of a dozen British women through generations and social classes, Girl, Woman, Other weaves a distinctive, illuminating tapestry of modern British life.

9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Nobel prize-winning author of Beloved, Toni Morrison’s debut novel immerses us in the tragic, torn lives of a poor black family in post-Depression 1940s Ohio.

10. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of colour while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today.

11. #Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso

A #Girlboss is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it. Sophia spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft, and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had resigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless, and working a mediocre day job. It was there that Sophia decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO, and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees. Sophia’s never been a typical CEO, or a typical anything, and she’s written #Girlboss for outsiders (and insiders) seeking a unique path to success.

12. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Taken from her globally influential TED talk, this is Ngozi Adichie’s feminist manifesto. A powerful, personal essay of hope and ambition for a better, fairer world: required reading.

13. Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

Caroline Criado Perez’s eye-opening book provides a startling perspective on the unseen bias at work in our everyday lives. Marshalling a wealth of data with precision and insight. Invisible Women shows us how, in a world largely built for and by men, we are systematically ignoring half the population.

14. Women and Power by Mary Beard

Acclaimed classicist Mary Beard presents a revolutionary manifesto for our time, exploring women in power from Medusa to Merkel and presenting a new feminist roadmap. Hard-hitting, unapologetic and wise.

15. A History of the World in 21 Women by Jenni Murray

Jenni Murray celebrates the lives, struggles and achievements of some of the most extraordinary women to have ever walked the Earth. They ruled empires, they led nations. They were pioneers in the arts and geniuses of science. They led while others followed, spoke truth to power and fought for change. All left behind an indelible mark.

16. Little Women by Louise M Alcott

Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth – four little women enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England. The charming story of the March sisters, Little Women has been adored by generations.

17. Becoming by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. She also established herself as the most powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

18. Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program.

19. Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education by Jane Robinson

In 1869, when five women enrolled at university for the first time in British history, the average female brain was thought to be 150 grams lighter than a man’s. Doctors warned that if women studied too hard their wombs would wither and die. When the Cambridge Senate held a vote on whether women students should be allowed official membership of the university, there was a full-scale riot. Despite the prejudice and the terrible sacrifices they faced, women from all backgrounds persevered and paved the way for the generations who have followed them since. Blue Stockings by Jessica Swale was performed at Storyhouse earlier this year.

20. Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed

In the wake of her mother’s rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America – from the Mojave Desert, through California and Oregon, and into Washington state – and to do it alone.