10 Non-Fiction Books For Women You Should Read

Today, I bring you 10 non-fiction books for women! I strongly recommend these non fiction books for Women’s History Month 2021.

Looking for my fiction list? Check out Part 1 of this series for my top 10 fiction reads for International Women’s Day 2021.

Books connect us. Reading is fundamental. Educate yourself!

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10 Non-Fiction Books For Women

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World by Janice Kaplan

The real issue separating men and women isn’t talent or achievement or natural brilliance or hard work. It’s being in the position to set the rules. Men have had that power, and women have not… It’s time to change our perspective, to see and consider women’s talents in a new way.”

Janice Kaplan

An engaging presentation of women in history and present day who are geniuses at what they do. Kaplan’s goal with The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World is to show readers that there are plenty of genius women to be found, if only we’d start including their stories and achievements instead of hiding their stories or excluding them from history completely.

The default is male! For centuries, men believed that women’s achievements couldn’t match their own. Kaplan explains how women have been erased from history for their genius ideas and how those ideas have been claimed by men. In many cases, these men were family members who thought they were doing their female relatives a favor; and it includes men who simply didn’t want to think of women succeeding or outdoing other men in any way.

Kaplan disassembles each system and shows how the system is rigged to favor men over women, while also providing many examples of women in the past and present day who went ahead and triumphed with their ideas despite the odds.

Learn about:

*Fei-Fei li, a Stanford professor and expert on artificial intelligence
*Susan Wollenberg, first women professor of music at Oxford
*Dr. Frances Arnold, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
*Linda Gordon, professor of history at NYU
*Hypatia, philosopher and mathematician born c.350
*Many other brilliant women!

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Taking your power back is never easy, but Chanel Miller completely owns it in this memoir about sexual assault and PTSD. She has set an example for women and girls around the world. I wish I could tell her in person how much her story moved me and how proud I am of her.

It ripped my heart out to read what happened to her in her own words, but she also leaves her readers with hope and a profound sense of gratefulness for her courage and bravery.

Know My Name hit me hard. I sobbed through most of it because of what she went through, but there is no other woman out there right now who is demonstrating the power of re-claiming her name and her story.

I didn’t know that money could make the cell doors swing open. I didn’t know that if a woman was drunk when the violence occurred, she wouldn’t be taken seriously. I didn’t know that if he was drunk when the violence occurred, people would offer him sympathy. I didn’t know that my loss of memory would become his opportunity. I didn’t know that being a victim was synonymous with not being believed.

 Chanel Miller

Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains by Cassie Chambers

This holler feels like home, and this house feels like family. There are women’s stories here, stories of resilience, love, and strength. This community knows them well, but their echo hasn’t reached far enough into the outside world. Instead, these tales have ricocheted within the mountains, growing more faint with time. I want to tell these stories because they matter, because I’m afraid that they will be forgotten, because they have the power to make this community visible. As I stop my vehicle and walk toward the house, the memories wash over me like the sunlight on the mountain hills.”

Cassie Chambers

Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains follows the life of an Ivy League Appalachian attorney who grew up in one of the poorest counties in Kentucky. Owsley County is set in the Appalachian mountains, and it was once known for its tobacco farms and coal mines. Now it’s filled with empty shops and fields, with families struggling to make ends meet.

The women are particularly adept at finding creative ways to live and this book is a tribute to their strength and values. Chambers writes about the women she encounters through her work as an attorney, covering domestic assault cases, divorce cases, and the opioid crisis.

After graduating from Yale and Harvard, she can clearly take positions in the largest cities in America, but she chooses to go back to rural Kentucky to help women by providing them with legal services. She also zeroes in on community leaders in the area and how they work together to keep their towns going.

If you were a fan of Tara Westover’s Educated, you’ll surely enjoy Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains.

Continuing with my top choices for non-fiction books for women…

The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine F. Weiss

“Men had always taken for themselves the prerogative to decide for women, unilaterally determining what women should do, prescribing what they must not do, announcing which rights women were “entitled” to have. Men decided what was “best” for women, without their consultation or consent, then wrote laws to codify this judgment. That was the way of the world, learned men liked to say, claiming God had bestowed upon them such authority: one half of humanity held dominion over the other half, by right of a certain shape of genitalia.”

Elaine F. Weiss

Anyone who is interested in the United States and the ongoing fight for women should read this book. The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote is one of the greatest political victories the US has ever seen, but I had no idea it went on for this long or that the women who started it never saw their efforts completed and that the women who ended it hadn’t even been born when the movement began.

I learned a lot from this book and feel so encouraged that so many women went to fight for our rights, but we clearly have more work to do!

“When the founders wrote “We the People,” they really meant “We the White, Wealthy Men.” Despite much lofty rhetoric, all men were not created equal, and women didn’t count at all.”

Elaine F. Weis

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

I love everthing Adichie writes. I’m not going to write a review. Instead, here are some of my favorite passages from Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. I hope it fires you up and convinces you to read everything this woman writes.

“We teach girls to be likable, to be nice, to be false. And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous. Many sexual predators have capitalized on this. Many girls remain silent when abused because they want to be nice. Many girls spend too much time trying to be “nice” to people who do them harm. Many girls think of the “feelings” of those who are hurting them. This is the catastrophic consequence of likability. We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likable.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“If the justification for controlling women’s bodies were about women themselves, then it would be understandable. If, for example, the reason was ‘women should not wear short skirts because they can get cancer if they do.’ Instead the reason is not about women, but about men. Women must be ‘covered up’ to protect men. I find this deeply dehumanizing because it reduces women to mere props used to manage the appetites of men.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

Are you wondering how so many things in life don’t seem to fit women? Read Criado Perez’s years of research that showcase the many inconveniences worldwide that women have to accept as a result of gender bias.

From phones that were not made for our hands to cars built for men’s bodies, to how medical research and guidelines have historically excluded women, this book will open your eyes to the inconveniences of the world women live in today.

Invisible Women: Date Bias in a World Designed for Men made me slightly furious, but I also felt grateful that someone finally pointed it all out. It should be required reading for everyone so we can do better in the future and not repeat mistakes made in the past.

“This man simply couldn’t see – or perhaps didn’t want to see – all the unpaid work that gets done around him. The unpaid work that enables him to have kids and easily work full-time in paid employment. It doesn’t occur to him that the reason he doesn’t need Fridays off is not that he’s better than his female co-worker, but rather that, unlike him, she doesn’t have a full-time wife at home.”

Caroline Criado-Pérez

“Messing also points to women’s reports of work-related musculoskeletal pain still being treated with scepticism despite accumulating reports that pain systems function differently among women and men. Meanwhile, we’ve only just noticed that nearly all pain studies have been done exclusively in male mice.”

Caroline Criado-Pérez

“We need to train doctors to listen to women, and to recognise that their inability to diagnose a woman may not be because she is lying or being hysterical: the problem may be the gender data gaps in their knowledge. It’s time to stop dismissing women, and start saving them.” 

Caroline Criado-Pérez

For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women by Barbara Ehrenreich, Deirdre English

An eye-opening and informative account of how women have been treated over the past two centuries in the medical industry. Ehrenreich takes us through the history of the establishment of the medical industry, how to raise children, how feminism changed and adapted over the centuries, and up to modern society and how women are viewed.

There are sections on female health, the ‘rise of sick and languishing women’, how they were treated, the creation of home economics and its importance, how to rear children and suggestions suggestions on how to be the perfect wife, and more. All of it is annotated and researched with a giant footnote section in the end to refer to.

For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of Experts’ Advice to Women demonstrates how attitudes towards women in the health industry started and how these attitudes have remained. These biases are still well and thriving in the medical industry today.

From looking at how the medical establishment was created (upper class white men who had money to go to university, but did not study anatomy or how to treat illnesses) to how midwives were vilified, removed, and replaced by men with no knowledge of female anatomy to male doctors dismissing women as hysterical and ‘doctors’ who specialized in the ‘psychologically abnormal’ experience of being a woman – this book will hit a lot of nerves!

Don’t forget to Pin It!

NON-FICTION BOOKS FOR WOMEN THAT WILL MAKE YOU ANGRY – TRANSFORMATIVE READS

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister

The transformative power of anger, especially women’s anger, is a good and necessary thing, as illustrated in Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. Rebecca Traister explores the transformative power of angry women and how their anger can move a political movement forward.

This book should be required reading for everyone for several reasons. Here’s why:

Not only does Traister track the history of female anger, but she also provides a rich history of women whose anger pushed the women’s movement forward.

Readers are taken through the rise of women in history. Traister provides hundreds of citations to illustrate each chapter, and she writes eloquently and passionately about how anger is received by the public when it comes from a woman as opposed to anger coming from a man.

This book opened my eyes and confirmed many feelings I have about how women are treated in today’s world. Women are taught through social constructions that we must suppress our anger and emotions. It’s a double standard that many of us are aware of. We all know it’s there, yet a great number of women are hesitant to let that anger explode in righteous form.

Study after study shows that when men display anger, it reaffirms gender norms and masculinity, and thus they are rewarded by gaining power from these displays of emotion, even if it’s uncomfortable and causes others distress. They are never penalized the way that women are for showing their emotions. When a woman shows emotions, she is penalized, scorned, ridiculed, judged, and labeled.

From exploring women’s anger towards men and towards other women, the ways that anger is perceived by its owner, and the many different ways that history has documented and delegitimized female anger (such as women being told they are hysterical, destructive harpies) – this book shows how society condemns females who show rage and emotion.

She covers topics in history from Stonewall, the suffrage movement, the #MeToo movement and much more by highlighting the hard work that so many women, especially women of color, began and have continued to rage upon.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger made me think about my own experiences. It made me feel better about the injustices that women still face today, and it left me feeling empowered and better prepared to express myself.

“Perhaps the reason that women’s anger is so broadly denigrated–treated as so ugly, so alienating, and so irrational–is because we have known all along that with it came the explosive power to upturn the very systems that have sought to contain it. What becomes clear, when we look to the past with an eye to the future, is that the discouragement of women’s anger–via silencing, erasure, and repression–stems from the correct understanding of those in power that in the fury of women lies the power to change the world.”

Rebecca Traister

Women & Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard

A 115-page discussion about how patriarchy precludes women from gaining power. Mary Beard provides many examples in mythology and history and how misogyny can be found in the oldest of stories, including Homer’s Odyssey. She takes readers right up to modern day examples of how trolls try to silence women in power.

Beard also provides examples of online sexism and silencing techniques that she has received from readers. 

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger by Soraya Chemaly

Chemaly writes about how society perceives women’s anger, how it affects women’s lives, and how women can move forward by channeling anger into a positive emotion for change.

If you want to know how many reasons women have to be angry, Rage Becomes Her has you covered. The author provides countless examples of inequalities in our professional lives, in healthcare, our relationships, basic safety, and much more. How can women not be angry at facing inequality and injustices that we encounter every day that men have never encountered?

This book does a great job of highlighting how easily men are allowed to express their anger, while women are expected to behave or we’re called weak, crazy, etc., if we do express ourselves. When men show anger, they benefit from it. When women show anger, they used to put us in sanatoriums. Today they just call us hysterical, out of control harpies. The bottom line is that this emotion is undermined with women every single day while men can get away with it.

When women are angry, we see great things from it. Anger fuels social movements, which promotes change for us.

What’s most infuriating is that men refuse to see why women are angry, so we’re dismissed time and time again. And yet we are taught to suppress anger and this can lead to all sorts of health issues, both physical and mental.

Let’s channel our anger into something positive for women around the world.


That’s it for my non-fiction books for women!

What did you think about my choices for Women’s History Month? Feel free to follow me on Goodreads for more content!

What would you add for Women’s History Month?
Have you read any of the books on my list?

Check out Part 1 of this series for my top 10 fiction reads for International Women’s Day 2021.

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Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. I'm an experienced businesswoman and have worked in many leadership positions in Asia. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. I started writing about my health journey in 2009 after being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. In 2014, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, which came with other massive health issues. These diagnoses were the start of my journey as a health advocate and patient leader. Since then, My Several Worlds has been recognized worldwide as a top site for AS, fibromyalgia, and chronic illness by WEGO Health and Healthline.

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