I’ve always been an avid reader. In fact, I wrote my Vanderbilt college essay about the “static state of unbelievable motion,” “the journey through place and perspective to satisfy my curiosity”, “the porthole to all that can be imagined” that brought a “worldliness devised from centuries of experience” to my “big, brown eyes.” Perhaps I was dramatic in my description of what it’s like to sit in my unmade bed and read a book, but at the time, the extent of my exposure to travel and my understanding of culture came through the written word, something that I clearly still gravitate toward.
Over the years, my obsession with novels has grown from Beverly Cleary to Lisi Harrison to Stephanie Myers to Nicholas Sparks to Liane Moriarty to Stieg Larsson to Khaled Housseini and more. However, most recently, I’ve been drawn to a different type of novel completely – non-fiction. While non-fiction was considered the boring uncle of the novels of my childhood, it has grown into my preferred choice of reading. Specifically, I have read a number of female leadership and empowerment books in the past few years. These are the books that I believe every young woman should read. They are written by some of my greatest role models, and many of them are responsible for exposing me to my passion for women in business. Below, you will find a list of 6 books that every female with strong ambitions should read during the first half of 2018 (most are non-fiction). I will also include my personal 2018 reading list at the end! Enjoy!
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
As you can tell if you have read the other posts on my blog, I have somewhat of an obsession with the idea of #GIRLBOSS. #GIRLBOSS was first a book, and then a podcast, and now the brain behind the brilliance – Sophia Amoruso – has launched Girlboss Media, which has become her full-time job (after her once $200 million company, Nasty Gal, filed for bankruptcy in 2016 and was sold in early 2017). The book follows Sophia’s journey from being a college dropout to CEO, presenting her as successful, but relatable, all things considered. She also intertwines the stories of other women, offering those of us with dreams of being future CEOs the opportunity to hear from the women who made it happen. This book is what really ignited my passion for working women two years ago, and it offers an important angle from the story of someone who never really wanted to be a CEO.
Check out the Girlboss Radio podcast here and on Apple Podcasts (for freeee!!!) with a library of episodes, as well as new shows on Wednesdays (because on Wednesdays, we wear #millenialpink).
Note: still waiting for the day that spellcheck recognizes girlboss as a word.
Worth It by Amanda Steinberg
Last semester, I was interning for a wealth management firm and took it upon myself to read this book in order to better understand the world of money. I had stumbled across Steinberg’s website, DailyWorth.com while researching women and money, and quickly found that she had a book that compiled her best thoughts and advice. I mentioned this book as the one which essentially inspired The Feminequity Factor in one of my first posts, Money is Power. While this may sound dramatic, if I were ever to say a book changed my life, it would certainly be this one. After hearing about Amanda’s “money story” as a woman making six figures who ended up in financial distress, as well as the stories of many other women who have fallen and risen from financial dilemmas, I felt a serious calling to ramp up my own financial literacy. Since reading her book in October (which I read in one day), I have researched and learned so much about investing, budgeting, and spending. While I still have an incredible amount to learn, Worth It is what sparked my ambition to learn about money and it is thanks to this book that The Feminequity Factor will be exploring money more as I grow the blog. If you don’t understand the basics of investing and finance (or even if you do, and want to learn more about it from a gender perspective), this book is a serious game changer.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most iconic women in business today. As a divorcee, mother, and recent widow, she has been through it all – while balancing an incredible career on the side. The subtitle makes her message clear: “Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.” Sandberg’s novel, which I read during my Women in Leadership class, first sparked the idea of demanding a seat at the table for me, as well as exposed me to the reality that women do not raise their hands nearly enough. While I understood the experiences of women and work, it was that “will” part I had missed. Although her book has been criticized for its utopian notion that success is within our control (neglecting to acknowledge structural barriers for women), the combination of stories, studies, and statistics makes it a book that every woman entering the business world must read.
Note: Anne-Marie Slaughter – one of Sandberg’s major criticizers – has an excellent essay titled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” which addresses the struggle I talked about last week in The World’s Happiest Country about being a working mother. It’s quite lengthy, but definitely worth the read.
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
There’s something unbelievably sobering about hearing from a teenager (she’s now 20-years-old, but was 16 when she published the book) who has persevered through challenges that most of us are fortunate enough to have never come close to facing. Malala’s story is one of determination, struggle, passion, sorrow, and inspiration. As the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, she is a symbol of female education and empowerment that will make you want to get up and fight for what you believe in. After all, if she can do it, can’t you too?
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
I have to admit, I listened to this one on audio (my first ever audiobook), but there is something genuinely intimate about listening to an autobiography and hearing the actual voice of its author. While many know Amy Schumer as the successful female comedian, her book exposes another side of her: the vulnerable, courageous woman. Schumer’s story is sprinkled with a little sass and a lot of soul, offering the perfect option for a long road trip, or a day on the beach. She reminds you that behind our perfectly curated fronts, we are all messy humans with stories and scars that make us interesting people. A thought-provoking book that will make you laugh and cry, Amy Schumer does not disappoint.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Although The Power is fiction, I have included it on this list because Naomi Alderman’s dystopian novel is far different from any that I have read before. While The Hunger Games boasts a strong female lead character, The Power takes female domination to another level. The Power is a book set far in the future about a world in which teenage girls and women have an “immense physical power” in the form of a skein – like that of an eel – making them capable of shocking their adversaries to death. Alderman’s novel ignites the discussion of power – from both a gender and a general sense – that will leave you questioning much and wanting more. I recently read this book with a group of girls at school who have started a book club. The conversation that emerged from this novel over a cheese plate and chocolate was one of the most enlightening that I have experienced outside of an academic environment during my time at Vanderbilt. We discussed everything from power to gender inequalities to religion to robotics. In fact, we got so into our discussion that we never uncorked the wine!
Anthem by Ayn Rand
This novella, first published in England in 1938, is set in the future when humanity lives in a society that has taken collectivism and socialism to the extreme. All technology and innovation is controlled, and individuality has been extinguished (the word “I” does not exist and is punishable by death). People do not have names, and they refer to themselves as “we.” Although this does not boast a female voice (the narrator is a male), nor is it non-fiction, the fact that Rand lived in Soviet Russia at the time points to her boldness in publishing such a controversial idea of individualism and reason, which should be celebrated. This was the first book I read of 2018 (during my quick flight from Baltimore to Nashville – it’s only 64 pages), and it has inspired me to face 2018 by being shamelessly bold and unapologetically me.
Bonus: In the Company of Women by Grace Bonney
A book that has been on my wishlist since it was published in 2016 until my sister gifted it to me for Christmas, In the Company of Women is a book that every woman should have regardless of demographics. “Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs,” Grace Bonney (Founder of Design*Sponge)’s New York Times bestselling “coffee table” book is the perfect way to get your daily dose of girl power. Apart from offering an aesthetically pleasing pop of feminism to your boring neutral coffee table, taking a few minutes every morning to read a page or two about bright, bold, badass women is all that you need to walk into 2018 with a bosslady bounce in your step.
Note: This is a “bonus” because it’s not the type of book that you’ll sit down and read for hours (or maybe you will) because it’s a hardback “coffee table” book.
My 2018 Reading List (so far):
Prince Charming Isn’t Coming: How Women Get Smart about Money by Barbara Stanny (currently reading)
Homegoing by Yaa Gyashi (currently reading)
Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck
The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts
Million Dollar Women by Julia Pimsleur
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg
For me, reading has always been the best type of escape. It’s where I can really become whoever I want to be, which has most recently been a bold businesswoman. For those of you who think that you’re just not meant for reading, I encourage you to try it for 30 days. Twenty minutes a day, thirty days in a row, and just see how it will change your life. If you love to read and find yourself simply swamped with school or work, maybe spend just 5 minutes a day during the weekdays reading. If you make it a priority, it will fit. You can also think about doing an audiobook and listening while you’re commuting to work, walking to class, or going for a jog. Whatever works for you! Most importantly, I encourage you to find a way to fit reading in. It is unbelievable how much you can learn from someone else’s perspective, which you can rarely get as intimately as you can through a book.
Also, books can be expensive (especially when you’re buying a few). I always go over to thriftbooks.com before Amazon (I rarely buy a new book from Amazon) because I can usually find the books I want at a crazy discounted price. I am also a big proponent of using the local library (which is usually free). Definitely don’t shy away from reading if you’re worried about the financial burden – there’s a way around that!!
As I work on building my own bosslady library (and library in general), let me know if you have any awesome books (both fiction and non-fiction). As for me, I don’t have classes on Friday this year, so cheers to the weekend!