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What inspires you? A reading list for young women, by young women, on International Women's Day


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What inpires young women today?

We asked young women from around the world to recommend a single book they thought their peers would be inspired by. Recommendations came mostly from the UK, but also from Ireland, the US, Germany, India, Morocco, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands among other places, suggesting novels, memoirs and essay collections written by women across almost every continent.

Some suggestions – like Michelle Obama, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Malala Yousafzai – may not surprise anyone. But other choices are less well-known, or not traditionally thought of as ‘inspiring’. It’s interesting to note that while contributors were asked to recommend a book by any author, only one item on the list below was written by a man.

Happy reading.



Corag, by Susan Fletcher

“It’s a beautifully tragic story set during the Glen Coe massacre that follows a woman accused of witchcraft. Corrag is a layered, self-aware character who weaves her own tale and owns her strength and faults.” (Mary-Erin Kinch)

The History of Bees, by Maja Lunde

“Three related stories covering the past naturalist study, current exploitation, and future extinction of bees by humans. It also addresses child and parent relationships in each story. All the characters are so driven, and it’s really moving.” (Hollie French)

The Power, by Naomi Alderman

“It turns the world on its head, and is a must-read.” (Izzy Edwards)

The Forty Rules of Love, by Elif Shafak

“Just read it, it will change your life!” (Salma Bouchafra)

Elif Shafak

The Natural Way of Things, by Charlotte Wood

“It’s a harrowing and haunting dystopia, but ultimately a tale of female strength in all capacities, not just the ones you’d expect.” (Jess Phillips)

The Hours, by Michael Cunningham

“This book about three different women really pulls your heartstrings!” (Sarah Van Meel)

Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

"This is a love story where the main relationship is the protagonists with herself. Anyone who's bounced through bad relationships only to realise that they are enough all by themselves will identify." (Freya Sanders)


Can We All Be Feminists, edited by June Eric-Udorie

“A collection of essays from diverse women writers. It’s very intersectional!” (Caroline Stillman)

June Eric-Udorie

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Beautiful and personal, because it was written for a friend of the author who was pregnant with a girl.” (Alrun Bernhard)

Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other lies), edited by Scarlett Curtis

"It has chapters written by all different lovely women and so has a variety of perspectives on feminisim. Also, lots of the people who wrote chapters have other work too, so it can be a good jumping off point." (Rachel Weiss)

The Opposite of Loneliness, by Marina Keegan

"The book is sad, but wonderful." (Julia Stanyard)


Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis

“Hollis takes real life assumptions about what girls and women are supposed to be like, and goes into depth about why they are out there, and why we shouldn’t follow them and instead should be our own unique selves.” (Olivia Schmidt)

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

"Strayed's advice columns as Dear Sugar - they're heartfelt and kickass and wonderful." (Maddy Airlie)

Cheryl Strayed

Biography and Memoir

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

“It’s inspiring and eye opening and I think it’s super important to read about people living different experiences”. (Helen White)

Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran, by Shirin Ebadi

“She is the first Iranian Nobel prize winner and describes her fight for human rights in Iran.” (Azade Kakavand)

Shirin Ebadi

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

“They’re amazing inspiring stories of real women from the past and present with beautiful bold illustrations – definitely not just a book for children!” (Veronika Halamková)

Modern Women: 52 Pioneers, by Kira Cochrane

“A collection of biographies of women who changed the world in the 19th and 20th century. It covers a brilliantly diverse selection of women from all over the world, and brings to light women’s stories that you might not have heard of, as well as women people might be more familiar with.” (Jo Elliott)

I, Rigoberta Menchu, by Rigoberta Menchu

“It tells the life of an indigenous woman in Guatemala and her testimony to the oppression of her people, as well as her role in revolting against the political powers of the time. She also gives her personal reflections and perspectives on feminism, religion, and other social ideas.” (Jen Beckner Schneider)

Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly

“It’s about three women who began work as human computers at NASA during the space race and helped get the first American man to orbit the earth and go to the moon. Essentially it’s a story which shows that even during a history where women’s voices were often oppressed, great women still left their mark on history.” (Charlotte Stevenson)

Margot Lee Shetterly

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

“One of the most inspiring women of our generation, who I actually knew little to nothing about. It was great to find out about Michelle Robinson’s story – before she became Mrs Obama.” (Ruby Naldrett)

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found, by Cheryl Strayed

"I loved it, it tells how we can really make peace with loss in our lives." (Mamta Banga)

My Life, by Edith Piaf

"It is a great example of women power although she didn't have a lot of luck in her life." (Petra Vrablicová)

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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