The Future Is Female

We’re here to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women, and we’re 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. 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 19 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.

While you’re at it, keep your reading list fresh with these book club subscriptions. 📚

1. What Will It Take To Make A Woman President?

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.

Review | “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, or find secondhand

2. I Am Malala

Author | Malala Yousafzai

What Inspires Us | Malala Yousafzai, a young woman from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is the youngest recipient ever of 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 16 years old, Malala Yousafzai became a global symbol for peaceful protesting and continues to show us all how one voice can change the world.

Review | “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 | $18, or find secondhand

3. Letter To My Daughter

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 written 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.

Review | “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 | $17, or find secondhand

4. We Should All Be Feminists

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.

Review | “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, or find secondhand

5. In The Company Of Women

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 is featured through interviews and images in their workspaces.

Review | “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 | $35, or find secondhand

6. The Confidence Code

Author | Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

What Inspires Us | This collaboration between Claire Shipman, a 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.

Review | “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 | $19, or find secondhand

7. Big Magic

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 into curiosity and release unnecessary struggle. She provides ideas for new attitudes and rituals that will help us live more soulfully, joyfully, and open-minded.

Review | “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 | $16, or find secondhand

8. Daring Greatly

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.

Review | “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 | $17, or find secondhand

9. Know Your Value

Author | Mika Brzezinski

What Inspires Us | Inspired by her own experience as co-host of “Morning Joe,” Mika Brzezinski shares “Know 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 the trends that don’t lead women to negotiate, the repercussions of doing so, and gender wage gap issues.

Review | “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 | $26, or find secondhand

10. More Than Enough

Author | Elaine Welteroth

What Inspires Us | As the first Black beauty editor and youngest editor-in-chief at Condé Nast, journalist Elaine Welteroth uses her hybrid memoir-manifesto “More Than Enough” to leave what she calls “signposts” for future leaders. While sharing her personal stories about office politics, burnout, and “imposter syndrome,” she encourages readers to claim space for themselves despite naysayers or self-doubt.

Review | “This isn’t just a coming of age story, it’s a book about coming into your own and embracing who you are. As we follow Elaine’s journey, she sheds a bright light on what happens when a black girl not only decides to be the master of her own destiny but challenges what the world thinks a black girl’s destiny should be.” —Lena Waithe

Price | $26, or find secondhand

11. Ask For It

Author | Linda Babcock

What Inspires Us | In Linda Babcock’sAsk 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.

Review | “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 | $127, or find secondhand

12. Bad Girls Throughout History

Author | Ann Shen

What Inspires Us | Ann Shen’sBad 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.

Review | “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 | $20, or find secondhand

13. 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 résumés 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.

Review | “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 | $17, or find secondhand

14. The Next Generation Of Women Leaders

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 businesswomen who have reached the top of their fields. She discusses gender dynamics, business classics, and the relationships between womanhood, ambition, and success.

Review | “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 | $77, or find secondhand

15. How Remarkable Women Lead

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 and raises “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.

Review | “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 | $18, or find secondhand

16. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This

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 editor-in-chief and a 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.

Review | “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 | $17, or find secondhand

17. Men Explain Things To Me

Author | Rebecca Solnit

What Inspires Us | Rebecca Solnit is the author of 20 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.

Review | “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 | $15, or find secondhand

18. Lots Of Candles, Plenty Of Cake

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.

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

Price | $17, or find secondhand

19. Small Victories

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.”

Review | “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 | $23, or find secondhand

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