Sometimes, it’s tough to be a woman. So much rests on our shoulders. Women are expected to be dedicated mothers, lovers, and employees. We are supposed to be tough as nails but still be delicate and understanding. We have to deal with sexism, racism, sexual harassment and violence, and gender stereotypes, often at very young ages.

When you need some inspiration, check out some of these books by some very strong, powerful women. Some may be tough, heartbreaking reads while others will cause you to laugh out loud.

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzi.

I remember feeling horrified when I heard about the attempt on Malala Yousafzai’s life. It is shocking that some men are so terrified of women and girls obtaining an education that they would try to assassinate a young girl. Miraculously, she survived and has continued to be an unstoppable force, even winning the Nobel Peace Prize at only 16 years old.

Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit.

Arranged as a collection of essays, this book covers the different issues many women have to tackle throughout their lives. From lighthearted (though incredibly irritating) situations of mansplaining, to dark topics like rape culture, author Rebecca Solnit addresses these issues with a dash of humor and a heaping amount of information.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg.

Many career women feel like they aren’t being taken seriously by their male peers, or have been ignored, even passed up for promotions or important projects. It’s something that has been occurring for decades. Both my mom and mother-in-law hit the glass ceiling early in their careers during the 80s.

Although it’s easy to completely blame men, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg puts some of the responsibility on women. In her book, Sandberg explains that women often still subscribe to the mentality that men are in charge and that women need to ask permission to get things done. Gender bias, sexism in the workplace, and being a working parent are some of the issues she touches upon.

The Purity Myth, How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women, by Jessica Valenti.

This book explores the U.S.’s disturbing, longtime obsession with virginity. Its book looks at virginity as a twisted symbol of morality. Valenti also explains that virginal girls are considered “good” and “innocent”, while non-virgins are looked upon as “dirty sluts”. Consider the transformation of teen pop stars into adults. For example, Miley Cyrus decided to pierce her tongue and start wearing sexy clothes, and in doing so, she was suddenly being labeled as a “slut”. Meanwhile, no one blinked an eye when Justin Bieber shed his wholesome image and started dating numerous girls.

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

Although it’s a work of fiction, The Handmaid’s Tale sends a chilling message of what happens when women lose all rights as a person. A radical, militant, religious group seizes control of the United States and sets up a new government in which straight, white men are the ruling class while women are completely subservient to them. If you’re a fan of the hit TV show but haven’t read the book, now is the time to check it out.

Ain’t I a Woman, by bell hooks.

In this book (the title paraphrased from abolitionist Sojourner Truth’s speech), author bell hooks explores the effects of sexism and feminism on black women. Hooks argues that the feminist movement is largely driven by privileged white women. Women who have greatly ignored the plight of black women. She also touches upon the relationship between racism and sexism. She cites that white women are often considered to be virginally pure and innocent, while black women are considered to be sexually mature and cunning, even at a very young age.

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan.

Although Crazy Rich Asians is the hit novel and film of 2018, before that it was The Joy Luck Club. It’s a timeless classic that explores the unique bond between adult Chinese-American daughters and their immigrant mothers. Although the focus is on Asian-American families, the book’s message of love, respect, and a deep understanding of one’s roots transcends all backgrounds.

The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins.

Although the Hunger Games series belongs to the Young Adult category, its heroine is still empowering to women. The story takes place in a dystopic version of the United States. In this story, the children are forced to participate in a deadly game and try to survive. A teenage girl sacrifices herself for her younger sister, not realizing that her actions will sow the seeds of a revolution.  

This is Me: Loving the Person You are Today, by Chrissy Metz.

In the hit TV show This is Us, actor Chrissy Metz plays Kate Pearson, one of three siblings. In the story and in her life, Metz was haunted by a tragedy from her past. Metz experienced hardships in her life when her father abandoned her and her siblings at a very young age. With a healthy dose of humor, Metz describes in her book her struggles with rejection. While also having to fight the never-ending battle with weight. After talking through her struggles she explains how to finally accept and love yourself for who you are.

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