The Top 100 Books Every Woman Should Read Part III: Nonfiction


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Love in the Driest Season by Neely Tucker

An interracial couple working in Africa swoon over an orphaned girl in Zimbabwe and show how love-and the fight to hold on to it-can occur anywhere. Buy it here.

My Life in France by Julia Child

The famed chef recounts her move to France in 1948. At the time, she knew nothing the country or cooking. But trips to local markets and classes at the Cordon Bleu changed all that. Buy it here.

A Round-Heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance by Jane Juska

At 67, Juska decided she’d been celibate for too long and put a personal ad in The New York Review of Books that read: "Before I turn 67-next March-I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me." Men answered, and her dates with them form of the outline of this raucous, refreshing memoir. Buy it here.

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Markham’s adventurous career as a bush pilot in early 1900s Kenya is captured in this stunning memoir, a classic of outdoor literature. Buy it here.

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Published in 1792, A Vindication is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy. In it, Wollstonecraft argues that women ought to be educated and that they should be defined by their profession, not their partner. Buy it here.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou’s 1969 autobiography is the first-and most popular-in a six-volume series. It is a coming-of-age story that detials how the author overcame racism and trauma. Buy it here.

The Liar’s Club by Mary Karr

You can thank Karr for the onslaught of memoirs in recent years. The 1995 publication of The Liar’s Club, a moving account of Karr’s chaotic childhood in an east Texas oil town, is credited with reviving the form. Buy it here.

Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir by Joyce Johnson

Aspiring writer Johnson found rich material for her first book when she fell in love with Jack Kerouac on a blind date arranged by Allen Ginsberg. Here, she chronicles her relationship with Kerouac and the Beat movement. Buy it here.
This Pulizter Prize-winning epic tells the story of the Hemings, a family of slaves whose close blood ties to Thomas Jefferson were all but expunged from American history. Buy it here.

Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching by Paula J. Giddings

A worthy biography of Wells, who began her activist career by refusing to leave a first-class ladies’ car on a Memphis railway and rose to lead the nation’s first campaign against lynching. Buy it here.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Eleanor Roosevelt described Frank’s writing as "one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read." Buy it here.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

A Chinese American woman tells of the Chinese myths, family stories and events of her California childhood that have shaped her identity. Buy it here.

Georgia O’Keeffe by Roxana Robinson

The painter’s struggle for autonomy is highlighted in this biography, the first to be granted her family’s cooperation. Buy it here.

Isak Dinesen by Judith Thurman

This biography explores writer Dinesen’s (_Out of Africa_) life-her priveleged but unhappy childhood in Denmark, her marriage to a Baron, their immigration to Africa on the eve of World War I and her passionate affair with Denys Finch Hatton. Buy it here.

Manhattan, When I Was Young by Mary Cantwell

Cantwell’s memoir of life in 1950s and 60s New York City recreates the painful process of forging a self. Buy it here.

No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Of all the books about this extraordinary couple, we like this one best because of Goodwin’s sensitive and sympathetic rendering of their relationship. Buy it here.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friendan

Friedan’s bestselling feminist book began as a questionnaire about women’s education, experiences and satisfaction with their lives, which she sent to her fellow Smith college graduates in 1957. Buy it here.

Her Last Death by Susannah Sonnenberg

When her mother lands in a coma after a car accident, Sonnenberg refuses to rush to her side. This memoir explains why, revealing her mother’s topsy turvy world of drugs, sex and lies. Buy it here.

Personal History by Katharine Graham

Graham’s autobiography, both a personal memoir and the story of her family’s stake in The Washington Post, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Buy it here.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Walls’s exuberant, unbelievable account of her nomadic childhood is striking, not just for the harsh living conditions favored by her parents (a charismatic drunk and an adventure-seeking artist), but for the love with which she tells their story. Buy it here.


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