What’s your dad like? Mine is old and stubborn, but well-meaning. He’s doing his best to understand feminism and identity politics but sometimes I feel like a good reading list would teach him more than having me argue with him over the phone. Frankly, everyone benefits from reading these books—all by women, many of them by women of color, all of them funny or uncanny or personal or instructive or devastating or clever. But you know who probably needs them? Your dad. There are just two things I will recommend to you: Don’t let your dad have Twitter, and try to get him to read these books.
Sex Object by Jessica Valenti
I don’t know the last time a book gave me nightmares like Sex Object. Valenti talks about how women are sexualized and abused and assaulted—in one particularly hellish story, she touches her jeans on the subway only to realize a man has ejaculated on her. This book is a terrifying but real exploration of what it’s like to be a woman in the world. (Men: you’d be shocked by how much you don’t know.)
Startup by Doree Shafrir
The novel tackles tech culture, media culture, race, gender, relationships, aging, and family dynamics. It’s incredibly funny and so prescient. Shafrir and I work together at BuzzFeed, but trust me, I’d like this book even if we were strangers. Or if I hated her. Maybe I do hate her? There’s still time.
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Shrill by Lindy West
I don’t know if anyone writes about taking up physical space, physically or mentally or emotionally, as well as West. Shrill covers a lot of ground—dating and body image and comedy and men, ugh, men—but it’s still laugh-out-loud-on-the-subway funny.
The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
You know how everyone is talking about how terrifying it is that A Handmaid’s Tale feels real? This book is the realest, scariest shit you’re going to read about rape culture and how one man’s actions ripple through a community. I read this in a day, tearing through it in a horrified haze. It’s still bothering me because it feels too accurate.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Get ready to cry your f*cking eyes out! No book has made me sadder, but I’ve also never rushed to recommend a book so fast and so frequently. My mom read it and then we wept together. Real bonding stuff.
even this page is white by Vivek Shraya
I’m not a big poetry reader but Shraya’s collection is warm, inviting, and gutting. Reading it, you can almost hear her voice in your head. It’s wonderful company.
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
I read The Empathy Exams right before I started working on my own book: my editor recommended it to teach me how to write sincerely and thoughtfully. (My personal preference is poop joke, thank you.) Her chapter on Morgellons disease is my favorite, but the whole essay collection has gorgeous writing on sad, uneasy things.
Excavation by Wendy C. Ortiz
The whole time I read Ortiz’s memoir, I felt like I was holding my breath. She writes about the tragedies of being a young girl with incredible clarity and patience and empathy.
Featured image: A and N photography/Shutterstock.com
Author photo:© Barbora Simkova