Add These 18 Inspiring Leadership Books For Women To Your Fall Reading List

The Future Is Female

We’re here to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women, and are always looking for ways to challenge conscious and unconscious gender biases. Now more than ever, we must call for gender-balanced leadership, value women’s contributions equally, and create inclusive cultures that allow women and girls to achieve their ambitions. 

The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely for 202 years. This is far too long to wait, which is why we’re taking matters into our own hands through education and advocacy. Each one of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence by taking bold pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity. 

We’ve compiled a list of 18 inspiring leadership books written by women, for women. These books will help inform, equip, and encourage you to become vehicles for change whoever and wherever you are.

Author | Marianne Schnall

What Inspires Us | More timely than ever, What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? features interviews with female politicians, public officials, thought leaders, writers, artists, and activists in an attempt to discover the obstacles that have held women back and what needs to change in order to elect a woman into the White House. This beautiful read calls upon some of the most influential women of our generation to encourage women and girls to be leaders in their lives, their communities, and the larger world.

Reviews | “I would love for my younger fans to read What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? By Marianne Schnall. It’s a collection of interviews and essays by great women, including Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, and Melissa Etheridge. They will inspire you to become a better leader.” - Beyoncé

Price | $17

Author | Malala Yousafzai

What Inspires Us | Malala Yousafzai, a young woman from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is the youngest recipient ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I Am Malala is her story of standing up for a right to education, surviving a gunshot wound in the head, and speaking to the United Nations in New York. This book reveals the story of a family uprooted by global terrorism while sharing Pakistan’s complex history in a way that is accessible. At sixteen years old, Malala Yousafzai became a global symbol for peaceful protesting, and continues to show us all how one voice can change the world.

Reviews | “For a teenage girl in a distant corner of the globe to spark life into this movement against overwhelming odds—is truly extraordinary. The world must not allow Malala’s message to die.” - Dallas Morning News

Price | $16

Author | Maya Angelou

What Inspires Us | Letter To My Daughter is Maya Angelou’s third book of essays, a compilation created after re-finding years of personal notes to friends and family. In these essays, Angelou “writes from the heart to millions of women she considers her extended family.” She dedicates the book to the daughter she never had, and shares memories from her own life growing up in segregated Arkansas, being raised by multiple women, and finally raising her beloved son. She emphasizes the power and importance of compassion, courage, and meaningful living.

Reviews | “Written in Angelou’s beautiful, poetic style, the essays feel like warm advice from a beloved aunt or grandmother, whose wisdom you know was earned.” - Fredericksburg Free Lance - Star

Price | $14

Author | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

What Inspires Us | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is the Nigerian-born voice of TED Talk, "The Danger of a Single Story.” We Should All Be Feminists is an essay that eloquently offers a fresh definition for feminism based on her “understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics,” personal experiences, and a deep desire for inclusion and awareness. She addresses what womanhood implies today, what it should become, and rallies for growth and change.

Reviews | “Buy this book for your mom, sister, daughter… but most importantly, buy this book for your son, husband, father. Feminism has never been explained so elegantly.” - Ajauregui, Amazon

Price | $9

Author | Grace Bonney

What Inspires Us | With practical and inspiring advice, Grace Bonney shares In The Company of Women to lay out the keys to success. Pointed towards entrepreneurs and makers, the book celebrates women from around the world who’ve chosen to embrace entrepreneurship and creativity within their professional lives. A diverse group of more than 100 women are featured through interviews and images in their workspaces.

Reviews | “These amazing stories will surely spark something deep within us all: the courage to dream and the fortitude to make those dreams happen.” - Joanna Gaines

Price | $29

Author | Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

What Inspires Us | This collaboration between Claire Shipman, regular contributor to “Good Morning America,” and Katty Kay, anchor of “BBC World News America,” is a life-changing guide for understanding and achieving confidence. Written for any woman in any stage of her career, Kay and Shipman give practical advice for navigating through predominately male-centered corporations to get the opportunities we want and deserve. More information is available on their website.

Reviews | “How do we make the most of our talents, skills, and interests? This book demonstrates that it’s not enough to know what we’re doing; our confidence is a key factor in our success. Fascinating reading for every woman who wants to take her life to the next level.” - Gretchen Rubin

Price | $23

Author | Elizabeth Gilbert

What Inspires Us | Widely-loved author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, strikes again with this wonderful book about creativity, empathy, generosity, inspiration, and wisdom. In Big Magic, she “shows us how to tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear.” Using her own experiences as relatable inspiration, she helps readers lean in to curiosity and release unnecessary struggle. She provides ideas for new attitudes and rituals that will help us live more soulfully, joyfully, and open-minded.

Reviews | “Elizabeth Gilbert is an exceptionally gifted author… and this book is remarkable… it is so densely packed with pearls of wisdom that I read it once for pleasure, and then again to unpack and outline the text just like I used to do in college… A must-read for anyone on the creative spectrum.” - Yakima Herald

Price | $14

Author | Brené Brown

What Inspires Us | Dr. Brené Brown is a graduate-level research professor, founder and CEO of The Daring Way, and the speaker of 2010 TEDx Houston Talk, "The Power of Vulnerability." In her book, Daring Greatly, she uses 12 years of pioneering research to “dispel the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.” From academic and personal perspectives, she writes about the power and importance of vulnerability, demonstrating how it serves as the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity.

Reviews | “What I find remarkable about this book is the unique combination of solid research and kitchen table storytelling. Brené becomes such a real person in the book that you can actually hear her voice asking, ‘Have you dared greatly today?’ The invitation in this book is clear: We must be larger than anxiety, fear, and shame if we want to speak, act, and show up.” - Harriet Lerner

Price | $15

Author | Mika Brzezinski

What Inspires Us | Inspired by her own experience as co-host of Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski shares Knowing Your Value to reveal a critical look at how women today become recognized, successful, and rewarded. With a snarky and relatable voice, she showcases stories from successful women such as Valerie Jarrett, Susie Essman, Nora Ephron, Sheryl Sandberg, and Joy Behar. She questions why trends don’t lead women to negotiate, the repercussions of doing so, and gender wage gap issues.

Reviews | “A lot of getting ahead in the workplace has to do with being willing to raise your hand… If we as women don’t raise our hands in the workplace, we’re not going to have the same opportunities men do. Because men keep their hands up.” - Sheryl Sandberg

Price | $22

Author | Linda Babcock

What Inspires Us | In Linda Babcock’s Ask For It, readers are given a four-phase program for effective negotiation. The program provides problem-solving strategies, bargaining tips, and advice for managing feelings from different sides. By relying on years of research and holding onto a goal for mutually beneficial solutions, this book will help readers reach new territory in their personal and professional lives.

Reviews | “This upbeat, realistic, and inspiring book will help you create new possibilities in every part of your life—whether you’re just starting out or already mid-career. There’s even a ‘negotiation gym’ for building your confidence and skills before you go for the gold. Give it to your mother, your daughter, your sister, your friends!” - Miriam Nelson

Price | $12

Author | Ann Shen

What Inspires Us | Ann Shen’s Bad Girls Throughout History is “bad in the best sense of the word.” With incredibly rich watercolor illustrations and intriguing essays, 100 revolutionary women are recognized and celebrated for challenging the status quo and making the world a better place. Each page reveals the successes and stories of women from all different eras, areas, and fields of interest. The book is as inspiring and informational as it is aesthetically pleasing.

Reviews | “Full of beautiful artwork featuring 100 rule-breaking, precedent-setting women, this delightful volume is not only the perfect coffee table accent (all the pretty pictures!) but it’s a brilliant and inspiring read…the depictions are very stunning, and the write ups that accompany each illustration are jammed with useful tidbits of information. Who knew a history lesson could be so much fun?” - Eileen Chai

Price | $18

12. Thrive

Author | Arianna Huffington

What Inspires Us | Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, is acknowledged as one of the world’s most influential women. Thrive is her case for why success needs a new definition. She discusses how “Our relentless pursuit of… money and power has led to an epidemic of burnout and stress-related illnesses” and how we need to focus less on our resumes and more on what genuinely matters. She openly addresses her own struggles while relying on strong research to emphasize the significance of well-being, compassion, wonder, kindness, and laughter.

Reviews | “Warning: The content of this book is highly contagious. Even slight exposure may set you on a path to far clearer seeing, a radical resettling of your priorities, deep contentment, and, of course, thriving. Chances are, it will also melt your heart.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Price | $14

Author | Selena Rezvani

What Inspires Us | The Next Generation of Women Leaders is a collection of stories and advice that equips and empowers women in business. Rezvani shares 30 interviews from business women who have reached the top of their fields. She discusses gender dynamics, business classics, and the relationships between womanhood, ambition, and success.

Reviews | “I would recommend this book to all young women who want to get a head start on a successful career, for those who are still searching, or anyone looking for their ‘next steps.’” - Courtney Kleshinski

Price | $34

Author | Joanna Barsh

What Inspires Us | Joanna Barsh’s How Remarkable Women Lead shares five years of research that reveals what drives and sustains successful female leaders. This book is a hope-filled examination of leadership strategies and opportunities for women, “raising provocative issues such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive, and increasingly complex world.” She describes Centered Leadership, and shares stories from women such as Alondra de la Parra, Andrea Jung, Ruth Porat, Eileen Naughton, and Julie Coates.

Reviews | “How Remarkable Women Lead is a book that will truly resonate with all women. It is personal, powerful, and revealing and thereby true to how we women live and lead. The storytelling makes this unlike any business book I know; these are people who have faced every challenge imaginable and still made their mark. So truthful, so revealing, it’s a book at once inspirational and practical—a unique duality.” - Elizabeth Smith

Price | $10

Author | Kate White

What Inspires Us | The wise and sassy Kate White of Cosmopolitan shares all her secrets for success in I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This. As an editor-in-chief and wildly successful businesswoman, her suggestions serve as fool-proof, inspirational, and empowering. This book is applicable for any season of a woman’s career, and is richly saturated with helpful ideas, tips, and strategies.

Reviews | “Kate’s fierce courage and determination make this book a witty, fun, and refreshingly blunt read for career women—teachers and CEOs alike!” - Mika Brzezinski

Price | $15

Author | Rebecca Solnit

What Inspires Us | Rebecca Solnit is the author of eighteen books on a variety of subjects, a columnist at Harper’s, and a contributor to the Guardian. Men Explain Things to Me is her hilarious collection of seven essays that discuss what goes wrong in conversations between men and women. Focusing on inaccurate assumptions made from both sides, the book emphasizes the communication side of gender wars.

Reviews | “Love this book! Truly a manifesto of feminism for our era. The opening story is so familiar, a wonderful example of mansplaining—you have to laugh out loud…” - Carol Pierson Holding

Price | $12

Author | Anna Quindlen

What Inspires Us | Lots Of Candles, Plenty of Cake is a book about the various stages of a woman’s life. Anna Quindlen writes with a candid, hilarious, and optimistic voice about the value of everything from marriage, to girlfriends, bodies, parenting, faith, and possessions. Quindlen shares her own story and dreams for the future to consider what is really meaningful for a full life.

Reviews | “Thank goodness for Anna Quindlen. She is smart. And compassionate. And witty. And wise.” - Detroit Free Press

Price | $15

Author | Anne Lamott

What Inspires Us | Anne Lamott is a San Francisco-based progressive political activist, teacher, speaker, and writer. Small Victories is her moving, hilarious, honest, and wise collection of essays about faith, family, and community. Lamott uses the book to help readers navigate through hard, hopeless situations for the sake of finding love, joy, and restoration. With a hopeful voice, she shows women how “our victories over hardship and pain may seem small… but they change us—our perceptions, our perspectives, and our lives.”

Reviews | “Anne Lamott embraces language and life with equal zest, squeezing from the intersection wisdom of the most soul-stretching kind… A master of the touchpoint between wit and wisdom, Lamott adds to the poignant a wink of the playful… Small Victories is an enormously ennobling read in its entirety.” - Brainpickings

Price | $19