Throughout my life, reading has been integral to creating and developing my ideas about what feminism means to me, doing everything from sparking my imagination to enable me to listen and learn. Feminism means something different for everyone, but I’m drawn to the books that have helped expand my world, which subvert patriarchal tropes, which show us lives we don’t know about, and which light a fire under us.
These are my top five picks for feminist books that everyone should read: a short story collection by the great Angela Carter, the collected works of visionary feminist Audre Lorde, vital non-fiction on the sex worker rights movement from Molly Smith and Juno Mac, an essay collection from one of our best con-temporary writers, Roxane Gay, and an astonishing novel by Miriam Toews.
In this classic collection of stories, Angela Carter playfully refigures folklore and fairytales through a feminist lens. They are beautiful, grotesque, eerie and bawdy in turn.
Published in the UK by the wonder that is feminist publishing house Silver Press, this posthumous collection of essays, speeches and poems by Audre Lorde is absolutely vital reading for everyone. Lorde’s work is prophetic, urgent, generous and beautiful.
With too many in the feminist movement still dismissing sex workers and their safety, this essential non-fiction book talks about why we need to support sex workers’ rights movements globally, and how this support and willingness to listen and learn is vital for anyone committed to justice.
What does it mean to be a ‘good’ feminist? In this essay collection, pop culture (Sweet Valley High!) and the political mix effortlessly. Gay’s skill and precision creates a collection that’s both entertaining and full of searing insight about what it means to be a feminist, whatever that means to the individual.
Women Talking is a fictionalised account by Miriam Toews of the horrific real-life sexual abuse that took place in a Mennonite community in Bolivia, where the women of the community were drugged and attacked systematically by the men of the community. In Toews’ brave, thoughtful novel, the women secretly debate their options and their faith following the unimaginable trauma of the attacks.
‘The Water Cure’ by Sophie Mackintosh is published in paperback by Penguin, price £8.99