If you’re looking for quality books that empower women, I believe I can help.
My definition of a “power” book is one that is brilliantly written, so highly entertaining that you will find yourself quaking with pleasure, and so psychologically/morally-complicated and/or sempower womentimulating that you will continue to reflect on it long after the final pages.
Think fiction titles like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch and Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests—and nonfiction titles like Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle and Mary Karr’s The Liar Club. These are brilliant books that balance pure delight with contemplation.
They enrich the mind and soul, allowing you to shift into worlds outside your own and return with found treasure. But these particular titles are also extremely well-known, best-sellers that have had hundreds of thousands of words written about them already.
Without further adieu, here are some wonderful books that empower women, which you may not have read yet. You may want to add to your “must have” reading list for the coming year.
Best Books About Empowering Women
Book reviewer Alice Bouvrie was the first of many to call No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth by Grace Anne Stevens “the best account of what it means to be a woman that [she] had ever read.” That’s quite a powerful statement, especially in Grace’s case, because Grace was actually born with the physical attributes of a man.
This memoir takes readers deep inside Grace’s head, where they are immediately privy to the same internal and conflicting voices that Grace had to listen to since childhood. Grace transitioned at age 64 and is currently 68. That means she was born in the dark ages, before the Internet, before Caitlyn Jenner and Jennifer Boylan, back in the days when telling people you were not who you appeared to be could get you institutionalized.
But her book is more expansive than that, moving well beyond the boundaries of her own unique and thrilling journey. The lessons she learned along the way are applicable to every woman seeking authenticity, whether she is crossing the great gender divide or simply reexamining how far she may have strayed from her truest self.
Grace Stevens, an author/speaker/trainer who writes a weekly blog for Huff Post (entitled “My Transgender Life”), is a passionate and engaging writer. If her well-written memoir doesn’t inspire you to move closer to the kind of life you can celebrate daily, nothing will.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just say “poof” and all the negative, troublesome, high-maintenance and mentally ill people in our lives would simply disappear, at least for a while?
Unfortunately some of those individuals are our friends or our business partners or our spouses – or even our children. Like it or not, we may have accepted some responsibility to do what we can to ease their pain. Cornered: Dr. Richard J. Sharpe As I Knew Him is author Linda DeFruscio’s fabulous memoir about her long and complicated association with Dr. Sharpe, the millionaire dermatologist from Gloucester, MA who was convicted of killing his wife in 2000.
Sharpe had been Linda’s friend and business mentor; she knew him as a genius who wanted nothing more than to find a cure for cancer. After learning about his crime, Linda had to acknowledge that he had another side. Severe childhood abuse (and probably other factors) had rendered him mentally ill, needy, unable to cope when things went awry.
She also had to decide whether she could continue to befriend him on some level, whether she was up to the task of helping him to salvage whatever might be left of his humanity.
Cornered is as much about Linda DeFruscio as it is about Richard Sharpe. They are both fascinating characters and Linda is a great and deeply honest storyteller. This is an incredible book to help empower women because most readers start off intrigued by the story, but never for a minute believe that by the end of the book they will feel compassion for Sharpe.
Yet that is exactly what happens. Just when you think your heart is as open as it can get, bingo, it expands just a little bit more.
Sharon van Ivan, an actor and film-world operative, has said in interviews that she wrote her memoir, Juggle and Hide, essentially for herself, and was surprised to discover that many women identified with it and—whether they knew her or not—felt compelled to share long-hidden secrets about their own lives.
As children they, too, had witnessed the 24-hour-a-day horror of a parent’s decline into alcoholism, drug addiction and mental illness. One reader told Sharon she had been in and out of therapy for years, but until she read Juggle and Hide, it had not occurred to her that she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Someone else confided that the shame she carried from childhood kept her from opening up about her past even to her loved ones. She was living a double life.
Alcoholism, abandonment, searching for love and trying to escape from reality have consumed the lives of many women, rendering them incapable of loving themselves. Juggle and Hide, with its stark honesty, allows readers to see they are not alone in their struggles.
Yet in spite of the subject matter, this book never overwhelms. Sharon van Ivan has a wonderful (dark) sense of humor. Her ability to see the dazzle in even the bleakest events is what helped her survive. It is also what makes this book so compelling.
Message From A Blue Jay is a memoir in essays. Author Faye RapoportDesPreslooks back not at her entire life but at particular moments, mostly those that occurred during her journey through her middle years. Faye is a lover of nature, a virtuoso at slowing down, smelling the roses, finding meaning in what sometimes looks like a meaningless world.
Her essays move the reader from the particular to the universal every time. Her reflections on her lifelong yearning for a true home, for instance, mirror the restlessness we all begin to feel at a certain age as we consider where we are in meeting our goals.
I had the honor of reviewing Message From A Blue Jay when it first launched. I compared Faye to Virginia Woolf; her writing is that meticulous. I loved reading each of the essays individually, and when I was done, I enjoyed reflecting on the book as a whole and being able to watch a life—a complex and well-considered life—materialize before my eyes.
Faye, who is a professional writer as well the author of numerous essays published in literary journals and an adjunct professor of English at Lasell College, offers readers a subtle kind of empowerment, light-footed and nimble, like grace itself.
Anybody Any Minute is a story about taking serious risks—and doing it with a sense of humor. The protagonist, Ellen Kenny, is a neurotic (but entertaining) New Yorker with a lot to lose—her marriage of 17 years, her professional standing, and even …dare we say it? …her sanity.
But she chucks it all and buys a decrepit farmhouse in the middle of nowhere and commences to reinvent herself. Having pathologically avoided responsibility, she’s suddenly saddled with her sister’s toddler, and she only makes two new friends: a heartbroken ex-biker whose major achievement in life is building a beer can collection and an aged chain saw sculptor who sold her tumbledown shack for a few thousand dollars.
Far away from the City and her public-defender husband, Ellen soon finds herself facing the Really Big Issues: love, loss, loss of love, loneliness, middle age, and even death.
Award-winning author Julie Mars delivers this tale with a light touch, and it isn’t until you stop laughing and put the book down that you stop and think, Wow! That was heavy stuff! This is an intense read that redefines courage and commitment to personal growth and discovery.
It dives way below the surface of Ellen’s midlife crisis—or, more correctly, her “nervous breakthrough,” and offers a radical interpretation of the Bard’s near-impossible mandate: To thine own self be true.
Sometimes, books that should empower women turn out to be written by men.
Rocco Lo Bosco’s recently published Ninety Nine is a coming of age novel that tells the poignant and passionate story of a family fighting to survive in Brooklyn in the early 1960s. The bulk of the novel takes place in the summer of 1963 and centers on two stepbrothers who are part of a street gang and whose parents are attempting to fend off a pair of violent loan sharks.
Several plot lines converge in a stunning and memorable climax, as a mother and father trying to cope with gangsters lose track of their sons. One son is having a sexual affair with an older woman, and the other is raging over his mother’s abandonment and plotting to confront her. Meanwhile, the gang escalates its escapades, resulting in a disastrous denouement.
Particularly interesting in this book is the role mothers play in shaping masculine consciousness and how much female mystery incites male desire. This is an intelligent and heartfelt story in which complex characters find themselves in interesting, complex, and dangerous situations.
Gentle Reader, I am tossing modesty aside in order to include two of my own recent novels on this list. The Last Wife of Attila the Hun is based on the true history of the Germanic, Roman and Hun tribes who lived during Attila’s reign as well as on ancient Nordic legends that insist on bringing Attila into their narratives.
These are the same legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Tolkien’s stories, and many other works of art. They are beautiful and timeless, powerful and magical, and so exceedingly rich that every artist who works with them produces something entirely unique. I consider it a great blessing to have come across them.
What I learned studying them, working them into my story, vitalized me. I hope readers will have the same experience.
The Last Wife of Attila the Hun tells the story of a Burgundian noblewoman who appears one day in The City of Attila to offer Attila what she believes is a cursed sword. The story moves back and forth between her time in The City of Attila and the tragic events that drove her to her mission.
The other novel I would like to mention is called The Accidental Art Thief. This is a story about possibility. The protagonist, Zinc, has lived a very safe life, taking care of an elderly and sickly man for many years, living in a casita on the old man’s ranch in New Mexico. When the old man dies suddenly and his daughter kicks her off the property, Zinc is forced to reinvent herself, and quickly.
I had quite a lot of fun writing this novel. It’s funny, even zany in places. Yes, there is power in laughter! But also empowering is watching Zinc, who is weak and indecisive in the beginning of the book, discover herself through her relationships with other people.
I hope you have enjoyed this list and will try to read these fascinating books that empower women.