With the current global crisis, a lot of us are turning to our bookshelves and finding comfort in the written word. Whilst reading isn’t for everyone, the power of a good book at the right time can be transformative. You might be looking for comfort or understanding in a world that increasingly makes no sense or hoping to improve your own personal growth and development – and the answers you need could be in the pages of the right book. So we’ve put together this reading list for the twenty-first-century woman to get stuck into during this turbulent time.
1. Becoming – Michelle Obama
The former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has cemented herself as a role model for women and girls of all ages, showing thoughtfulness, poise and intelligence during her time in public life. Written with her trademark warmth, this memoir takes the reader through her life, growing up on Chicago’s South Side, attending Harvard, turning her attention towards public service – and of course, meeting Barack. This book is filled with guidance and stories about her life and the lessons she has passed onto her daughters to help them become global citizens. Whether you follow American politics or not, this brilliantly written memoir is a quiet pause amongst the madness.
2. Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay is a cultural critic, author and professor and ‘Bad Feminist ‘ is viewed by many as her magnum opus. A collection of essays, with topics spanning pop culture, politics, race, gender, sexuality and society, she explores the notion of a ‘bad feminist’ – someone who follows the ideals of feminism and believes in gender equality but perhaps doesn’t fit squarely into the box of what we believe a feminist to be. Feminism and equality continue to be pressing issues in the contemporary world and Gay’s wry observations and analyses will guide you in evaluating your own beliefs and morals.
Gay’s other non-fiction works, including ‘Hunger: A Memoir of my Body’ and ‘Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture’, which she edited, are well worth reading too.
3. My Year With Eleanor – Noelle Hancock
One fateful New Year’s Eve, Noelle Hancock made a promise. Using the immortal words of former First Lady and human rights advocate Eleanor Roosevelt, she would do something every day that scared her. For one year, she took on a brand new challenge – and chronicled it all in a warm, thoughtful memoir. Though perhaps not as well known as some of the other entries on this list, Hancock’s dedication to her personal growth through confronting the things that scare her are inspiring to read.
4. Wishful Drinking – Carrie Fisher
Carrie Fisher’s bibliography has some brilliant entries in it – particularly ‘The Princess Diarist’ – but ‘Wishful Drinking’ is perhaps the most iconic. This slim volume, which came from her one-woman show of the same name, is filled with Carrie’s dry wit and humour as she casts an eye over the extraordinary upbringing and life she has had. From living with mother Debbie Reynolds – who was one of the world’s biggest and most talked-about stars when Carrie was born – to Cary Grant calling her about her acid problem, to the phenomenon that was ‘Star Wars’, you’ll feel as though you’re having a conversation with the star, rather than just reading her book.
5. A Half Baked Idea – Olivia Potts
This foodie-lovers memoir explores how, overcome with grief from the sudden death of her mother, lawyer Olivia Potts decided to turn away from her career and invest in her passion: baking. She details how she enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu to learn from the masters of patisserie and ultimately, how channelling her mother’s spirit through her food helped her process the grief she felt at her passing. This is a truly heart-warming and sometimes devastating memoir that will hook you in right from the very first page. It’s a reminder of just how interconnected food is with our lives and how it can comfort us in dark moments.
6. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies by Tara Schuster
Tara Schuster lives two lives – self-help guru in one, comedy central executive in another. Her sort-of memoir, sort-of self-help manual focuses on the idea that no matter our backgrounds or traumas, we can fix ourselves through self-love, care and radical action. Funny, smart and surprisingly deep, Schuster’s book is crammed with practical advice about improving your life and it can be surprisingly soothing for the soul.