If you’re looking to explore the importance of feminism in society, we have 12 of the best feminist books to read in 2023, one for each month of the year. The honest and open conversations on the topic of women’s rights and gender equality are so important and whether you define yourself as a feminist or not, the issues these fiction and non-fiction titles raise are both eye-opening and crucial to the continued debate.
Want more? We also have a round-up of best feminist coffee table books.
Best Feminist Books To Read In 2023
1. Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez
First on our list of Best Feminist Books to Read in 2023, Invisible Women is a truly eye opening book which will make you question everything you thought you knew about being a woman.
Imagine a world where…
· Your phone is too big for your hand
· Your doctor prescribes a drug that is wrong for your body
· In a car accident you are 47% more likely to be injured.
If any of that sounds familiar, chances are you’re a woman.
From government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces, and the media. Invisible Women reveals how in a world built for and by men we are systematically ignoring half of the population, often with disastrous consequences. Caroline Criado Perez brings together for the first time an impressive range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world that illustrate the hidden ways in which women are forgotten, and the profound impact this has on us all.
Discover the shocking gender bias that affects our everyday lives as discussed in Caroline’s new podcast, Visible Women.
‘A book that changes the way you see the world’ Sunday Times
‘Revelatory, frightening, hopeful’ Jeanette Winterson
2. Fix the System, Not the Women by Laura Bates
Too often, we blame women. For walking home alone at night. For not demanding a seat at the table. For not overcoming the odds that are stacked against them.
This distracts us from the real problem: the failings and biases of a society that was not built for women. In this explosive book, feminist writer and activist Laura Bates exposes the systemic prejudice at the heart of five of our key institutions.
Combining stories with shocking evidence, Fix the System, Not the Women is a blazing examination of sexual injustice and a rallying cry for reform.
‘Powerful’ Sunday Times
‘I am in awe of Laura Bates . . . her writing is nothing short of perfect’ Sofie Hagen, author of Happy Fat
‘A blistering manifesto for change’ Dr Pragya Agarwal
‘Finish the book furious – before rallying for the next fight’ Grazia Latest Must-Reads
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The first fiction book in our list of Best Feminist Books to Read in 2023, The Handmaid’s Tale was popularised by the hit TV show. Fiction? Maybe so. But the suffering and repression of women depicted in this book feel all too real and not as dystopian as we would all wish to be true.
I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.
Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford – her assigned name, Offred, means ‘of Fred’. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.
Masterfully conceived and executed, this haunting vision of the future places Margaret Atwood at the forefront of dystopian fiction.
‘A fantastic, chilling story. And so powerfully feminist’, Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other.
4. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
What does “feminism” mean today?
In this personal, eloquently argued essay – adapted from her much-admired Tedx talk of the same name – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century, one rooted in inclusion and awareness. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now – an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.
5. The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart
Imagine living in a world in which you were routinely patronised by women.
Imagine having your views ignored or your expertise frequently challenged by them.
Imagine people always addressing the woman you are with before you.
Now imagine a world in which the reverse of this is true.
The Authority Gap provides a startling perspective on the unseen bias at work in our everyday lives, to reveal the scale of the gap that still persists between men and women. Would you believe that US Supreme Court Justices are interrupted four times more often than male ones… 96% of the time by men? Or that British parents, when asked to estimate their child’s IQ will place their son at 115 and their daughter at 107?
Marshalling a wealth of data with precision and insight, and including interviews with pioneering women such as Baroness Hale, Mary Beard and Bernadine Evaristo, Mary Ann exposes unconscious bias in this fresh feminist take on how to address and counteract systemic sexism in ways that benefit us all.
6. The Women Could Fly by Megan Giddings
Second fiction novel on our list of Best Feminist Books to Read in 2023, The Women Could Fly is such a timely book with what is currently happening to women in modern society. Another dystopian story which stills manages to hit close to reality.
Josephine Thomas has heard every conceivable theory about her mother’s disappearance. That she was kidnapped. Murdered. That she took on a new identity to start a new family. That she was a witch. This is the most worrying charge, because in a world where witches are real, peculiar behaviour raises suspicions and a woman – especially a Black woman – can find herself on trial for witchcraft.
But fourteen years have passed since her mother’s disappearance, and now Jo is finally ready to let go of the past. Yet her future is in doubt. The State mandates that all women marry by the age of thirty – or enrol in a registry that allows them to be monitored, effectively forfeiting their autonomy. At twenty-eight, Jo is ambivalent about marriage. With her ability to control her life on the line, she feels as if she has her never understood her mother more. When she’s offered the opportunity to honour one last request from her mother’s will, Jo leaves her regular life to feel connected to her one last time.
‘It can be tempting to read The Women Could Fly, which comes in the shadow of the recent Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, and call the book timely. But the relationship at the heart of this novel ― between Jo and her mercurial mother ― is much closer to timeless.’ – The New York Times
7. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.
8. The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White
We could not draw up a list of Best Feminist Books to Read in 2023 without mentioning The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White. And with good reason. This book is a must-read for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. Whether that’d be women or men.
Why do we find it so hard to say ‘No’?
How can feminism be more inclusive?
What can rom-coms tell us about taking charge?
The Guilty Feminist will challenge you, reassure you and empower you to see the world differently.
From inclusion to intersectionality, #MeToo to men’s rights, rom-coms to pornography, Deborah Frances-White tackles urgent questions for the modern woman. Featuring interviews with activists, businesswomen and all-round inspirations, The Guilty Feminist examines how women can abandon their guilt, say No (when they mean it), say Yes (when they want to), and to change the world – and ourselves – for the better.
9. Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights by Helen Lewis
Strikers in saris. Bomb-throwing suffragettes. The pioneer of the refuge movement who became a men’s rights activist.
Forget feel-good heroines: meet the feminist trailblazers who have been airbrushed from history for being ‘difficult’ – and discover how they made a difference.
Here are their stories in all their shocking, funny and unvarnished glory.
‘A great manifesto for all those women who have never been very good at being well-behaved.’ Mary Beard
‘Difficult Women is full of vivid detail, jam-packed with research and fizzing with provocation’ Sunday Times
10. Animal: The Autobiography of a Female Body by Sara Pascoe
Sometimes Sara Pascoe confuses herself. She gets wildly and pointlessly jealous. She spends too much time hating her bum. And you know what she hates more than her bum? Her preoccupation with her bum. She’s had sexual experiences with boys she wasn’t really into, but still got a post-coital crush on them. She’s ruined brand-new relationships by immediately imagining them going into reverse.
There was so much about her behaviour that Pascoe wanted to understand. So she started researching what makes us – women – tick. And what she read made her eyes fall out of her face. Reader, here is everything science has to tell us about love, sexuality, infidelity, boobs, periods, pubes, broodiness, and clever old fat. Merry Christmas and Hallelujah! Suddenly being a woman doesn’t look like such a minefield after all.
11. Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
This honest and provocative book recognises and celebrates the strides black women have already made, while providing practical advice for those who want to do the same and forge a better, visible future.
Illustrated with stories from best friends Elizabeth Uviebinené and Yomi Adegoke’s own lives, and using interviews with dozens of the most successful black women in Britain, Slay In Your Lane is essential reading for a generation of black women inspired to find success in every area of their lives.
12. A History of the World with The Women Put Back In by Kerstin Lucker
Once upon a time, history was written by men, for men and about men. Women were deemed less important, their letters destroyed, their stories ignored.
Not any more.
This is the story of women who went to war, women who stopped war and women who stayed at home. The rulers. The fighters. The activists. The writers.
This is the story of Wu Zetian, who as ‘Chinese Emperor’ helped to spread Buddhism in China. This is the story of Genghis Khan’s powerful daughters, who ruled his empire for him. This is the story of Christine de Pizan, one of the earliest feminist writers. This is the story of Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president before she could even vote for one.
This is the story of the world with the women put back in.
A truly eye-opening book which not only serves as a testament to the incredible accomplishments of women throughout history but also sheds a light on thousands of years of gender inequalities. No wonder this book made its way into our list of best feminist books to read in 2023.