I am very happy to say that there are many fantastic books that could be considered feminist literature these days. It was difficult to pick ten of my favorites, but here they are. Some of them are great to read to kids, so they can then be lifelong feminists too!
1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hermione comes to the rescue countless times with her incredible skill and knowledge. McGonagall has fierce intelligence to go with her fierce attitude. Luna Lovegood is so kind and wise, even if she’s a little crazy. Ginny Weasley holds her own in a family with six brothers and kills it on the Quidditch pitch. All of this is not to mention the amazing, strong, intelligent woman behind the story, J.K. Rowling.
2. The BFG by Roald Dahl
Eight-year-old Sophie is intelligent, imaginative, and a bit of a rule breaker. Many of us, especially me, can relate to her struggle with insomnia, and her coping mechanism of reading all night. When she meets and befriends a mysterious giant, her life gets turned upside down, and it may take her special brand of nerve and imagination to save the day.
3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Told from the perspective of a girl who doesn’t fit society’s expectations, this classic story gives a look into the energy, struggles, and unforced conscience of childhood. As her name suggests, Scout is curious, adventurous, and mischievous. The author of this fantastic tale, Harper Lee, deserves credit for being ahead of her time on race issues as well as feminism.
4. The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhyss
People may think they know the story of Mr. Rochester’s insane wife in Jane Eyre, but isn’t there always something below the surface? She was not always the frightening apparition trying to set fire to the manor at night. Something must have made her that way. In this famous piece of feminist literature, follow her side of the story from the very beginning.
5. Matilda by Roald Dahl
Matilda Wormwood devours books by Dickens, Hemingway, the Brontës, Steinbeck, and Kipling. This would be unusual for most people… but Matilda is six. Faced with a sleazy, unappreciative family and an evil school principal, Matilda takes matters into her own hands. Using wit, kindness, and inner strength, she teaches the grown-ups exactly who runs things.
6. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I had a hard time picking the best Jane Austen novel to put on this list. While all of her novels do end in marriage, the story is told from the woman’s perspective (and by a woman writer) which was revolutionary for that time. Sense and Sensibility is also not just about romance. It is about the bond between sisters, and shows that family is always there, even when no one else is. Elinor essentially runs the family at nineteen, and Marianne is never shy about her feelings or what she thinks. Their mother, after their father’s death, finds them a new place to stay, and does her best to support her daughters.
7. Nancy Drew Series by Carolyn Keene
Yeah, she has a boyfriend. But does she care? No. No she does not. No matter who tells her not to, Nancy keeps on solving mysteries with skill and style. Her friend George rejects all things girly, including her full name, “Georgia.” Bess may look sweet and stylish, but she can also fix a car with the best of them.
8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
This novel presents the raw truth on uncomfortable topics. In a largely white community, and because of abusive parents, Pecola has grown up convinced she is ugly. She wants nothing more than to be white with blue eyes. Tackling issues ranging from unattainable standards of appearance to rape, Toni Morrison provides a voice for millions of girls and women who have felt they weren’t enough.
9. I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
This book tells a beautiful and heartbreaking story about standing up for what is right in the face of overwhelming odds. Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban because she told girls they should go to school. From her home in Pakistan, to the hospital in England, to becoming the youngest person to win the Nobel peace prize, she has inspired millions. She continues to be an inspiration today. She would like us to see her as an ordinary girl who fought for what she believed in — the idea being that we can all make an impact if we stand together and refuse to give up.
10. Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Just so everyone knows, there was no way I wasn’t going to put this one on here. Not only is it written by a woman on the cusp of becoming the first female president, it chronicles her journey as a leader in America and in the world. From redefining the role of the First Lady, to becoming Secretary of State, she has been at the forefront of feminism for nearly three decades. “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” You tell ’em, HRC. Take it all the way to the White House.