16 Books to Read for Women's History Month

by Colleen Stinchcombe
Mar 5, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET

We're sure you know it by now, but March is Women’s History Month. Officially declared in 1987, the designation was meant to honor extraordinary achievements by women, and whew, have there been a lot. From inventing heated solar power to discovering radium to having to lobby to, you know, vote in the elections of their government, women have been making history since literally the dawn of time, even if nobody bothered to write their names down.

So yes, it’s our month, and we're going to make the most of it. Whatever it is you’re doing to celebrate, whether it’s calling your representatives, marching in A Day Without A Woman or taking yourself on a well-deserved vacation, we hope you take some time to dive into an excellent book. To help, we’ve collected some incredible fiction and nonfiction books. Some are great, inspiring stories, others are incredible historic tales and all of them were written by women.

1 /16: 'A Room of One’s Own' by Virginia Woolf

1/16 :'A Room of One’s Own' by Virginia Woolf

Necessary reading for any creative woman, Woolf’s classic essay considers the effects of cultural expectations on women’s creativity, ultimately arguing for women’s financial independence and intellectual explorations.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, $5 at Amazon

2 /16: 'The Awakening' by Kate Chopin

2/16 :'The Awakening' by Kate Chopin

First published in 1899, this classic book is an early study in feminism. On its surface, it’s the story of a woman leaving her husband to have an affair. But it’s also a story of self-awareness and choosing a life all your own and the consequences that came when a woman followed her own path.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin, $4 at Amazon

3 /16: 'My Beloved World' by Sonia Sotomayor 

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor 

3/16 :'My Beloved World' by Sonia Sotomayor 

An incredible autobiography about Sonia Sotomayor’s experience growing up in the Bronx, losing her alcoholic father at a young age, graduating from Princeton and eventually becoming a Supreme Court justice.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, $6 at Amazon

4 /16: 'Unbowed' by Wangari Maathai

4/16 :'Unbowed' by Wangari Maathai

Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai was an activist from rural Kenya who founded the Green Belt Movement, which planted trees and fought for environmental conservation in order to improve livelihoods for rural women. The story of her journey from scholar to environmental activist to elected member of parliament is a must-read.

Unbowed by Wangari Maathai, $14 at Amazon

5 /16: 'Hidden Figures' by Margot Lee Shetterly

5/16 :'Hidden Figures' by Margot Lee Shetterly

Known as “human computers”, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were three black female mathematicians living and working during the space race. The book tells the true story of how their calculations contributed to some of NASA’s biggest accomplishments in space. A movie based on the book was released under the same name in 2016.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, $10 at Amazon

6 /16: 'In the Time of the Butterflies' by Julia Alvarez

In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

6/16 :'In the Time of the Butterflies' by Julia Alvarez

A fictional story of four sisters set in the Dominican Republic during Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship, the book gives readers a taste of Dominican history in terrible times and an inspiring tale of courage.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, $9 at Amazon

7 /16: 'What Happened' by Hillary Rodham Clinton

7/16 :'What Happened' by Hillary Rodham Clinton

First-ever female U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s breakdown of what happened during the 2016 election to cause her to lose. With the repercussions of that definitive election still rocking our world, the insights from the book could prove useful as we head into the 2018 midterms. 

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, $19 at Barnes & Noble

8 /16: 'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay

8/16 :'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay

For any woman whose love of bad TV or problematic art made her wonder if her politics measured up, Roxane Gay’s collection of essays is for you. Funny and insightful, Gay acknowledges the complications of the personal being political with wisdom about culturally relevant examples from, Chris Brown to Vogue.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, $10 at Books-a-Million

9 /16: 'The Handmaid’s Tale' by Margaret Atwood

9/16 :'The Handmaid’s Tale' by Margaret Atwood

If you haven’t already been watching the Hulu series based on the book, here’s the gist: a dystopian fiction novel set in the near future when infertility is high and the country has been taken over by a zealous religious group. Some women, called Handmaids, have been captured to be bred by high-powered leaders to produce children. This is Offred’s story. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, $10 at Target 

10 /16: 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot

10/16 :'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a wife, mother and poor black tobacco farmer who died young of cancer. Her cells, taken without her knowledge in 1951, became one of the most important tools in modern medicine. This nonfiction book is an exploration of race and ethics in medicine and is a powerful read. HBO made it into a movie in 2017.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, $10 at Amazon

11 /16: 'The House on Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros

11/16 :'The House on Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros

A short and sweet book told in vignettes about a young Latina girl living in Chicago, this coming-of-age story reflects on family, home, trauma and sexuality. It’s a glimpse into the life of Hispanic immigrants. Cisneros has said the book is a mixture of fiction, poetry and autobiography.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, $7 at Amazon

12 /16: 'A Girl's Guide to Joining the Resistance' by Emma Gray

12/16 :'A Girl's Guide to Joining the Resistance' by Emma Gray

We survived the 2016 election. We marched, and we placed countless calls and emails to senators, governors and local government officials. But now what? How do we keep the momentum of the resistance going (while maintaining our sanity)? Well, Emma Gray has sorted that all out for us. 

A Girl's Guide to Joining the Resistance by Emma Gray, $11.59 at Amazon

13 /16: 'Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches' by Audre Lorde

13/16 :'Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches' by Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde was a lauded writer who covered feminism, womanism and civil rights through her essays, speeches and poetry. In this collection of 15 essays and speeches originally published in 1984, Lorde takes on racism, homophobia, sexism and more in ways that feel equally necessary today. 

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, $14 at Amazon

14 /16: 'The Warmth of Other Suns' by Isabel Wilkerson

14/16 :'The Warmth of Other Suns' by Isabel Wilkerson

This book won Isabel Wilkerson the Pulitzer Prize, and it’s clear to see why. It's an epic nonfiction book about the nearly 6 million black Americans who emigrated from the South to the North and West in search of better lives. Wilkerson is incredibly detailed in chronicling the stories of three different individuals who exemplify attempts to escape racist oppression.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, $14 at Amazon

15 /16: 'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

15/16 :'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah is a fictional novel about identity, country and love. Ifemelu leaves military-ruled Nigeria for the States and has to leave her love, Obinze, behind. In America, she’s faced with being seen as black for the first time and questioning whether the American dream is at all what she’d imagined. Obinze, eager to leave Nigeria, finds himself living undocumented in London until several years later when he and Ifemelu find themselves back in Nigeria and back in love.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, $10 at Barnes & Noble

16 /16: 'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

16/16 :'A Wrinkle in Time' by Madeleine L'Engle

This beloved young adult book tells the story of Meg Murry, whose scientist father has disappeared while working in secret on tesseracts, or wrinkles in time. Meg sets off on an adventure through time that is inspiring and meaningful. The time to read it is now, as a movie version of the book, directed by Ava DuVernay, is set to be released in March 2018.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, $5 at Amazon