Looking to learn more about women’s issues, an enjoyable read or movie to watch? Here’s a list of literature including fiction, nonfiction, and self-help books along with documentaries and movies that will interest and teach you.


Full-Frontal Feminism: A Young Women’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters
By: Jessica Valenti

Valenti attacks the issues that affect women from all sides including political, media, education and more. She comes at the issues in a way that makes them relevant to today and provides more resources for women who wish to learn more after reading her work. Also she provides mind-blowing statistics about ridiculous things that people don’t even know exist, from the entertaining to the angering; for example, “In Mississippi, you can buy a gun with no background check, but vibrators are outlawed,” and “Statistics show that working mothers earn less and less with each child they have. For the first kid, they make 2 to 10 percent less than women without children. For the second kid, the gap grows to 4 to 16 percent less.” A warning must be given in reference to Valenti’s language which is often explicit and sometimes crude, if you may be offended by this you may not want to read it.

The Purity Myth
By: Jessica Valenti

This book focuses specifically with the idea of purity and how women are valued for sexuality above all else which is damaging. Valenti discusses this issue in light of abstinence-only education, pornography and public chastising of women who choose to have sex. The issue of purity is one that women of all ages face but it is something that is especially prominent for young single women and for the mothers of these women who can help to educate them when they are young enough that they are worth more than their sexual status. A warning must be given in reference to Valenti’s language which is often explicit and sometimes crude, if you may be offended by this you may not want to read it.

By: Tina Fey

This the memoir of Tina Fey, the actress and writer of Mean Girls, 30 Rock, several Saturday Night Live skits along with many other roles throughout her career. She tells the story of her life from childhood to where she is currently. Fey addresses how she felt as a young girl and how that affected her along with how the criticisms she receives in the media affect her. She has learned to be strong enough to use the negative comments and laugh at them instead of allowing them to hurt her which is something every woman she learn how to do. The story follows her to having her first child and all the struggles that come with being a new mom and how she handled all the advice (wanted and unwanted) she received from the women in her life. This book uses humor to tackle the issues that Fey faced and that all women face throughout the course of their life, making it a fun read and inspiring.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
By: Mary Angelou

This is the autobiography of Maya Angelou, an African-American poet and writer who tells her coming of age story. Her story involves the struggles she faced with racism and oppression because of her race along with how she used the power of words and stories to cope by taking refuge in the world the book provided instead of her own. Angelou uses her story address the subjects of rape, racism, literacy and identity.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
By: Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, tells the story of a poor black woman who is responsible for the HeLa cells which are used throughout the world today. Lacks died from cervical cancer and the cells that were taken from her cervix never died, making them the perfect cell to run different experiments on. Her cells led to many scientific discoveries including the Polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization and more. Skloot not only explains the science behind HeLa cells in an accessible way to the non-science minded, but she allows tells Henrietta Lacks’ story from the beginning of her life until now with interviews with her family members. This is the story of a woman who unknowingly is responsible for bettering many people’s lives but unfortunately this story is not one that many know.

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts about Being a Woman
By: Nora Ephron

This is compilation of essays written by Nora Ephron in reference to issues that women face. Her topics include beauty maintenance and how time-consuming it has become, age, the issue of death, some politics with her essay “Me and Bill: The End of Love,” which is a letter to Bill Clinton, and parenting. Ephron is sassy and uses humor to get her points across while still talking about serious issues that women face throughout their lifetimes.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
By: Barabara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed is the story of Barabare Ehrenreich going undercover to investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reform act on the working poor within the US. She takes jobs as a waitress, a maid, and a Walmart employee in cities throughout the country. Ehrenriech then does her best to live off of her wages from those jobs which proves to be more difficult than she thought when it comes to securing housing. She also attacks the idea of “unskilled labor,” which is what each of these jobs is categorized by most. Each of these jobs requires the individual to have stamina, the ability to focus, a good memory and the ability to learn fast. Ehrenreich investigative journalism gives insight into how the finances of working America is often not enough to survive.

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women
By: Naomi Wolf

Wolf discusses how beauty standards have become stricter and plague more women in spite of the other political gains we have made. The opening of this book states that as we have broken barriers we have also seen an increase in eating disorders, plastic surgery and pornography that is working against any gains we could have made with our own body image. She talks about the “iron maiden,” which is the impossible beauty standard that is unattainable and detrimental to a woman’s self-esteem. Wolf further breaks down this issue by talking the “beauty myth” in the five areas of work, religion, sex, violence and hunger. The beauty myth needs to be broken down in order to stop women from physically and psychologically hurting themselves when trying to reach impossible goals.

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men
By: Michael Kimmel

Kimmel uses the term “Guyland” to discuss the stage in life men are at before they take on the responsibilities of the “adult world,” such as jobs, kids, and partners and so on. This space where men in their adolescence and early adulthood form a homosocial relationship which affects the choices they make and the eventual type of man they become is the focus of Kimmel’s book. Kimmel works discuss this space that men experience in a way that helps to make outsiders understand along with criticizing it and discussing how it needs to change.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
By: Malala Yousafzai

This is the story of a girl who spoke out against Taliban, in opposition of being denied her right t education. She then was shot in the head for this, which she fortunately survived and has recovered to become a symbol of peace and advocate for girls’ rights in the Middle East. She is the youngest nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of 16.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
By: Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Half the Sky tells the stories of oppressed women in African and Asian countries in an undeniable truth that uncovers our world with an anger and sadness toward the oppression being experienced, followed by hope in change that occurs with help from others. These stories cover the worst point in these women’s lives until they are able to overcome all the barriers and become the empowered and successful women they were meant to be.

Self Help Books

The Desire Map
By: Danielle Laporte

The Desire Map is a holistic life-planning tool that works to identify your “core desired feelings” in all the different domains of one’s life. This book helps one to create “goals with souls,” based upon your “core desired feelings.” Self-assessment quizzes, worksheets, and complete Desire Mapping tools for creating the life you truly long for are included in this book to help you start your journey.

By: Danielle Laporte

Fire Starter works to reframe self-help by cutting through dullness and fear which led Laporte to the phrases “Life balance is a myth,” “Being well-rounded is highly over-rated,” “Screw your principles,” “We have ambition backwards,” “Competency is for suckers,” and “You’re an artist, and that’s that.” Through these she opens a new world where things become clearer and hopefully a fire is started for you.

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
By: Brenee Brown

Brown discusses vulnerability and the perception that it is a weakness when in fact it is neither good nor bad. She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure,” which she explains with love. Loving someone with the uncertainty that we will be loved back puts us in a state of vulnerability which is in reality a part of life that we must face.


The Help
By: Kathryn Stockett

The Help, is the story of African American maids in the South are mistreated by the families that hired them and a young white woman who took their stories and turned it into a book, giving the women a voice. Stockett addresses the issue of racism in the South while also showing that interracial relationships between women were possible with the example of Skeeter, the character who was writing the maids’ stores, and Ceila, one of the women who hires a maid and treats her as a friend instead of as the help. Overall, it’s a story of cooperation between strong women to create change in the case of racism.

The Joy Luck Club
By: Amy Tan

In this novel, Tan addresses the mother-daughter relationship of Asian immigrants that have come to America and the struggles that many of the daughters have with finding their identity both through their heritage and their life in America. Throughout the story family expectations are addressed along with some touches of racism and how these lead to the formation of identity within the daughters and the mothers coming to terms with who they have chosen to become.

Snowflower and The Secret Fan
By: Lisa See

Set during the nineteenth century of China, See tells the story of the narrator, Lily, and her life from birth to childhood to marriage to old age, all in congruence with that of her best friend (her loatong). This book tackles the issues of women in China during this period from foot binding to arranged marriage to the Revolution to the treatment of women as property. The friendship of the two girls is what gets them through each of the obstacles they face showing the strength that friendship can have when it is true. This book is great as a historical fiction tale of strength of women during this time period in all that they had to endure.

The Bell Jar
By: Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel that is said to parallel Plath’s own struggle with clinical depression which eventually ended with her taking her own life one month after this book was published. Esther Greenwood is the character in the book, she is followed through college, her first internship, a relationship with Buddy Willard, all during which she feels as though something is not right. She begins various attempts at committing suicide which leads her to being admitted to a mental institution by her mother. During her time there, you learn about the pressure she feels to live up to the societal standards set for women. This story addresses mental illness in women and where it often comes from along with the mistreatment of women in the mental health system during this period of time.

Pride and Prejudice
By: Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice follows Elizabeth Bennet, the main character, as she faces the issues of manners, upbringing, education, and marriage in nineteenth century England. Bennet acts out against the customs of this time by refusing a marriage proposal much to her families’ dismay along with maintaining a sarcastic outlook instead of that of the cheerful lady that they want her to be. This book is an example of a woman empowering herself in a time when it was less accepted than it is today. Elizabeth Bennet is an admired character whose story resonates with women today because she stays true to herself throughout all of her circumstances.

Girl, Interrupted
By: Susanna Kaysen

This memoir of Susanna Kaysen tells of her 18-month stay at mental institution and journey with mental health as a woman during the 1960s. During her time there she learns of her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and the symptoms that are vague and sexist: such as casual sex and excessive shopping. The memoir follows her time there as she heals, forms friendships with other patients and is eventually released. The case of mental illness is one that plagues many women as they are leading sex in the battle of depression and understanding how the diagnoses can be sexist is important. This book pushes against the idea that doctors are always right and introduces the idea the symptoms need to be more specific and non-gendered.

Half of a Yellow Sun
By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This novel takes place in Nigeria during the Nigerain-Biafran War throughout the 1960s. Four characters are followed, a professor, a British citizen, a political figure and a houseboy. These characters face drastic changes when the British leave Nigeria civil war ensues. This book discusses the causes of war and the effects they have the citizen through each of the characters and the barriers they face—from refugee camps, to lack of food and medicine, to air raids and more.

By: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is the story a Nigerian woman who comes to America to obtain a university education but while here she falls in love with another Nigerian student. They face challenges as they study in America but hear about the military dictatorship that their home country is facing. They eventually go separate ways after school as he returns to Nigeria and she stays in America; only later to come together again and face more difficult choices together.


Miss Representation

This is a documentary that discusses the underrepresentation of women in the media and politics. It includes interviews with teenage girls experiencing this along with politicians, professors, women who work in the media along with others. The narrator and producer of this film, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, created this film to expose the world that young girls are being brought into as this had become a worry for when she became pregnant.

The Business of Being Born

This is a documentary about childbirth in America and all the different methods from midwives to natural birth to epidurals to home births to c-sections. The film documents women and their choices as they follow one through a water birth and one through a home birth. Ricki Lake is the producer of this film and works to critic the American health system concerning childbirth with it.

Good Hair

Good Hair is a film produced by Chris Rock the comedian as he tackles the issue of African American women and the beauty ideals concerning their hair. Throughout the film Rock talks with prominent African Americans in the media like Ice-T, Maya Angelou, Raven Symone and more, who he asks about their idea of “good hair” and how that they have effected them.

Tough Guise- Violence Media and the Crisis in Masculinity

Jackson Katz is the producer behind this film along with the author of many books such as the Macho Paradox. In this film Katz examines the relationship between images in popular culture and the social construction of male identities in the United States. According the Media Education Foundation Katz “examines mass shootings, day-to-day gun violence, violence against women, bullying, gay-bashing, and American militarism……(and) provides a stunning look at the violent, sexist, and homophobic messages boys and young men routinely receive from virtually every corner of the culture, from television, movies, video games, and advertising to pornography, the sports culture, and US political culture.”

The Invisible War

This 2012 documentary uncovers the story of sexual assault in the United States military. The primary narrative is of Coast Guard veteran Seaman Kori Cioca as she tries to obtain benefits to cover medical costs that resulted from her rape while in the service. It also brings into play past sexual abuse scandals such as the 1991 Navy Tailhook scandal, the 1996 Army Aberdeen scandal, and the 2003 Air Force Academy scandal.

Killing Us Softly

This documentary is the work of Jean Kilbourne as she uncovers the way media and more specifically the advertising industry affects how women think about themselves based upon the images they choose to use. She shows that advertising uses gender stereotypes and images that objectify as she critics the advertising industry for not only lowering self-esteem but also encouraging degradation of women, abuse and the patriarchal society.

Erin Brockovich

This is the true story if Erin Brokovich who is a legal clerk and an environmental activist who was instrumental in the Pacific Gas and Electric Company case. She worked against all odds and fought for what she believed in which lead to helping many people who were wronged by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. She is now the president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, a consulting firm.

Gimme Shelter

This is the true story of a 16 year old girl named Apple who is facing homelessness after escaping from her drug-addicted prostituting mother. She reaches out to her father and is met with disappoint once he finds out that she is pregnant. After getting into an accident she meets a preacher who directs her to a home for teen mothers where she then stays during her pregnancy and a while after the baby is born. While there she learns about sisterhood, becoming a mother and healing despite the trauma she had faced in her past.