Little Fires Everywhere
To be honest, I was nervous to read this book. Everyone who read it, raved about it, and I couldn’t help but wonder: could it really be THAT good? It was. A startlingly fast read, Ng pulls us into the complicated relationship between two Shaker Heights families in an effort to remind us that our own relationship with morality is much messier and pliant than we’re willing to admit.
A fresh, fictional take on an historical tragedy, Emma Cline tells the story of the Charles Manson murders through the eyes of a 14-year-old girl and her indoctrination into his cult. It wasn’t the massacre itself which I found most arresting, but the idea that our minds, especially in our adolescence, are malleable and ripe for manipulation. The book requires self-examination in a way that is uncomfortable, thrilling, and necessary.
My inaugural encounter with the legendary Joan Didion was through Run River, her debut novel. I’d asked a Didion devotee where I should begin and was shocked when she offered up this lesser-known work. To date, it’s my favorite. The marriage of Everett McClellan and his wife, Lily, is marred with betrayal and tragedy. And while more often than not that tragedy feels self-inflicted, Didion’s piercing, unsentimental yet sympathetic approach to the nuance of marriage is unequivocal.
Min Jin Lee
Over the course of 650 pages unfurls four generations of a Korean family—and I could have gone on reading for another 650. Moving from the 20th century to the 1980s, Lee examines the ways everything from gastronomy, topography, sex, gender, class, love, and war can impact a life, a family, and ultimately a legacy. It was the best book I read this year.
White women: you need to read this book. And then you need to gift it to five more women who look like you.
How to Be a Woman
There is no funnier feminist than Caitlin Moran, nor is there another book that will make you laugh out loud the way this one will. In her memoir, the self-deprecating Moran uses her own journey into womanhood as both an invitation for the reader to renegotiate her relationship with equality and a crash course in women’s lib. If you’re looking for some joy on your journey toward justice, this is your book.
My Life on the Road
Now in her 80s, there are few women’s rights activists who have witnessed and shaped the movement more than Gloria Steinem. But what many forget is that she found her way into organizing through her first love: journalism. Which is perhaps why this book is so poignant. Each chapter is an anecdote made richer with the context, historical perspective, and data that only an exceptional writer could so seamlessly inject. It’s a beautiful and deeply personal look at a time rife with change and upheaval via one of the most renowned leaders of our time.
One of the things I’ve heard repeatedly since the emergence of #MeToo is the way in which women have begun to examine and confront not only flagrant instances of sexual assault and harassment but microaggressions as well, things we have been conditioned to believe were normal, acceptable, and expected parts of womanhood. Jessica’s book had a similar effect on me. An unflinching and wildly courageous memoir, she examines the ways—from childhood to present day—that sexism has informed the various identities she inhabits.
Tiny Beautiful Things
This book is the gift I give most frequently and remains a touchstone for my moral, ethical, spiritual, and mental well-being. Yes, really. A compendium of gut-wrenching realities and hard truths, a prolific Strayed transforms the most poignant of her Dear Sugar advice columns into a field guide for navigating life on your own unapologetic and heart-led terms.
Dare to Lead
On the heels of a particularly perplexing work retreat, my COO and I found ourselves left with more questions than answers. Though unyielding in our commitment to create a superlative work culture, the bigger our team grew, the harder that was to realize and maintain. A quick Google search returned this book, which should be mandatory reading for founders and executives. Brown couples new research conducted with leaders, changemakers, and culture-shifters, as well as prior findings on shame, vulnerability, and courage to create an actionable roadmap for both leaders and their teams.
Reading Munro is so wildly intimate, it’s as if you have your ear up against the chest of each character and can hear their heartbeat. She welcomes you into their head and offers you, the voyeur, a front-row seat to their inner thoughts. But this is not the thing that struck me most about Munro’s collection of short stories; rather, it was that I found myself meandering endlessly through the vast possibilities of what could have happened next. Whereas there is almost always something conclusive about a novel, Munro trains you to see the magic and possibility of the mundane, then leaves you to your own imaginary devices.
Well-Read Black Girl
Oprah Winfrey said that after interviewing over 30,000 people, the one thing (she knew for sure) they wanted to hear was “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?” It’s to that end that Glory Edim’s anthology feels like a valentine to black and brown women; a reminder that art and literature can be great equalizers in ensuring that people feel seen, heard, and affirmed. A collection of essays from some of the most important writers of our time, Edim makes an impenetrable case for the power of representation.
As CEO of The Helm, I’m all about investing in and amplifying the voices of women—and that includes wonderful books by savvy and smart authors. And when I say we are invested in women, I mean it literally. The Helm’s venture fund invests in female-founded startups, putting capital behind the next generation of leaders in technology and innovation. In March we will be launching an e-commerce and content platform where everything on the site will be from a female-founded company. (Sign up for our newsletter here to shop it first). Here are some of my all-time favorite reads, books by women that I find myself reaching for repeatedly as sources of inspiration, entertainment, and empowerment.