March is Women’s History Month, and the 2023 theme is “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories.” The theme focuses on women throughout history who have engaged in various forms of storytelling, including print, radio, TV, stage, screen, blogs, podcasts, and more. The theme honors women, past and present, who have devoted their lives and talents to creating art, speaking their truth, and enriching the world with their unique insights and contributions.
At the library, we’re celebrating women throughout history who have inspired and improved the world of literature. Here are 10 must-reads for Women’s History Month.
1. Parable of the Sower (2012) by Octavia Butler. This acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror is reminiscent of 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale. When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina works to overcome her hyper-empathy to lead humankind into a better future.
2. Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Morrison’s Beloved is an enthralling journey of a woman haunted by her past. Set in the period after the American Civil War, Morrison’s novel tells the story of a dysfunctional family of formerly enslaved people whose Cincinnati home is troubled by a vindictive spirit.
3. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts (1976) by Maxine Hong Kingston. Kingston’s memoir artfully blends autobiography with ancient Chinese folktales.
4. Shrines of Gaiety (2022) by Kate Atkinson. Glitz, glamor, and gangsters. This masterful story takes place in 1926 London, just eight years after the end of the Great War, where dazzling nightlife and gaiety perfectly mask the dark underbelly of a slowly recovering country.
5. I’m Glad My Mom Died (2022) by Jennette McCurdy. This heartbreaking and hilarious memoir recounts McCurdy’s struggles as a former child actor—eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she reclaimed control of her life.
6. Other Birds (2022) by Sarah Addison Allen. This tale of magical realism and true love is set just off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, where a young woman comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment, but winds up face-to-face with so much more, including the death of one of her new neighbors.
7. The White Album: Essays (1979) by Joan Didion. Didion uses her signature blend of irony and insight to weave together her own “bad dreams” with the sinister underside of 1960s counterculture. Masterfully articulated with a delicate balance of reporting and fearless autobiography, this collection of essays will continue to stun and inform readers for decades to come.
8. Men We Reaped: A Memoir (2014) by Jesmyn Ward. In a matter of five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young men in her life―to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these successive losses prompted one critical question: Why? This book seeks to find an answer.
9. The Boys of My Youth (2009) by Jo Ann Beard. This collection of 14 autobiographical essays sold out of its first printing before publication. My personal favorite essay from this collection, “The Fourth State of Matter,” first appeared in The New Yorker, and launched Beard into her wildly successful debut. Beard takes us on a journey through her own childhood, marriage, and beyond.
10. The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974) by Ursula K. Le Guin. A brilliant work of science fiction about seeking truth, tearing down the walls of hatred, and journeying to the mother planet, Urras, to ignite the fires of change.
These books are available at your local library or through the Valley Library Consortium (VLC), which is accessible with the library’s app or on our website. We’d love to hear which female authors have inspired you in the past and which ones are shaping your present.