15 Books To Spark Your Feminist Awakening

We asked women on BuzzFeed’s editorial staff what book gave them their “a-ha!” feminist moment. A starter guide to your feminist reading collection, below.

1. The Hidden Face of Eve, Nawal El Saadawi

“[This book] was one of the first times I looked at Western society through the eyes of a woman who was completely outside the culture rather than straddling the line, like myself and other marginalized people living inside the society. The similarities I saw between the two of us gave me a greater understanding of intersectionality, and it really illustrated and highlighted for me the need for womanism. It made me think of women globally, rather than locally, which is an incredibly powerful thing.” —Tracy

2. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood*

“It’s about a future world where women are essentially ranked by how fertile they are, and ‘religion’ is used to create this severely twisted society where women aren’t allowed to read or think freely. It was frightening to read and made me really mad.”
—Julia

*Atwood was recommended a lot: Other notable titles include The Edible Woman and Good Bones and Simple Murders.

3. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, bell hooks

“I probably understood like half of it when I read it for the first time (eighth/ninth grade?), but this is teen-friendly in its length, and it blew my mind.” —Naomi

4. Weetzie Bat, Francesca Lia Block

“Francesca Lia Block’s books were the first time that I considered a world where women could both love clothes and boys and sex and also be powerful and smart and independent. I read and re-read and re-read them, and I figure they had as much of an influence on who I am as my closest friends did.” —Summer

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

“A great representation of women living happily and normally without a patriarch, an absence that’s barely even touched on. Their dynamic isn’t defined by the absence of a father figure, and they run a farm on their own, wield old and powerful magic, and kick serious ass. There’s a more traditional nuclear family in the book — father, mother, daughter, son — but their make-up doesn’t make them happier or more functional.”
—Keely

6. The Sexual Politics of Meat, Carol Adams

“This gruesome look at how the meat industry and the subjugation of women are fundamentally linked reminded me why I was a feminist. It doesn’t just illustrate the treatment of the animals, but the treatment of the employees in the meat industry.”
—Jessica

7. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

“The book is about the struggles of two Afghan women. It highlights the beauty and pride in being a woman in spite of a world that is systemically violent and unjust toward women. It also emphasizes the strength that women have in the bonds they share with other women. I was in college when I first read this book and was still adjusting and grappling with what it exactly meant to be a WOMAN even though I still felt like a girl.” —Tabir

8. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

“[This book] took me away from a one-dimensional, Western interpretation of women’s rights and inspired me to be more of a critical thinker. Marji is one of my favorite strong female characters (or characters in general) of all time.” —Krystie

9. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

“I read this in my teens, but still love and re-read it often! It’s hard to describe what makes this book so refreshing and modern even 60+ years later without giving away the ending, but despite appearing like a typical romance it doesn’t go where you think it will go. It’s a lighthearted book that deals with some big issues — what it is to be a woman, the relationships of women to one another, and the compromises women are too often asked to make.” —Justine

10. I Love Dick, Chris Kraus

“This book is far from the first that gave me a feminist epiphany, but it’s the first in a long time that’s made me feel so urgently the need to force it upon my female friends. Kraus’ book examines (beautifully and devastatingly) the sometimes confusing, often wrenching feminist dynamics in being attracted to, and forming romantic attachments with, men.” —Katie

11. Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, Courtney E. Martin

“When I was going into my senior year of high school I read this book, and it’s a combination of first-person narrative, statistics, and interviews that addresses what it means to feel the pressure to be perfect as a young woman. For the first time I was given the language I needed to shape my personal politics that I already identified with but didn’t have a name for: feminism.” —Krystie

12. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

“Reading Little Women made a big impact on me. Like Jo, I also had a very pretty older sister that everyone loved, found it hard to fit in in expected social situations, was impulsive and got into trouble, and even cut all my hair off, though it wasn’t to put food on the table, it was just a weird thing I did (twice).” —Deena

13. The Second Shift: Working Families and the Revolution at Home, Arlie Hochschild

The Second Shift is a sociology book/study that was the first book that opened my eyes, really, to [cultural/societal] expectations of men versus women.” —Kate

14. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel

“Like a feminist, lesbian Six Feet Under in comic form, Bechdel’s graphic memoir was the first to really show me how a young woman’s struggles within her own family relate to how she moves through the world as an adult.” —Jessica

15. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh

“Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (and its sequel, The Long Secret) are books I read when I was under 10 years old. Though Harriet came out in 1964, it was utterly contemporary. Harriet is a curious and smart kid, and I found a template in her. It was only later that I realized how rare it was, especially for the time, that she doesn’t care about how she looks, she fears no one, and she’s friends with both girls and boys. What an important character! I can’t wait to read the books to my sons when they’re old enough.” —Kate

Did we miss your favorite “feminist awakening” read? Share in the comments!

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