Books

Which book about inspirational women is right for you?

Posted by
Sarah Shaffi
Published

Freelance literary journalist Sarah Shaffi helps you navigate through the best books about great women.

Readers will have noticed a literary trend everywhere recently, for books that profile inspirational women.

With International Women’s Day this month, there are more and more of these titles coming out. So how do you decide which one to get?

Here’s a guide to help you decide where to spend your hard-earned cash.

For practical advice… 

Life Lessons from Remarkable Women by Stylist

Books about inspirational women are all well and good, but what’s even better is if they include advice that us normal people can act on. Step forward Life Lessons from Remarkable Women. In this book, 25 women from the fields of entertainment, politics, sport and fashion address various aspects of life, including climbing the career ladder and overcoming setbacks. Contributors include Roxane Gay, Romola Garai, Bobbi Brown, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Katie Piper.

(Penguin Life, £10.99)

For lovers of fairytales… 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Arguably the most famous - and definitely the most successful - of the books in the inspirational women trend is Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. In this second volume, Favilli and Cavallo collect together 100 more women, including Beyonce and Nefertiti. As with the first book, each women gets two pages. On one side is her story, told in the style of a fairytale (but with fewer princes doing the rescuing), and on the other is a stunning illustration.

(Timbuktu Labs, Inc, £25)

For celebrating black excellence… 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Debut author and illustrator Harrison highlights the lives of 40 trailblazers throughout history. Included are nurse Mary Seacole, politician Diane Abbott, mathematician Katherine Johnson and singer Shirley Bassey. I defy you to look at the stunning cover and not want to pick it up.

(Puffin, £12.99)

For science geeks… 

The Periodic Table of Feminism

The Periodic Table of Feminism by Marisa Bate

In this (rather gorgeous) book, Bate looks at the four waves of feminism chronologically, creating a table with six categories, grouping like-minded individuals together by the nature of their activism and their approach to the movement. Precious Metals are the leaders; Catalysts are pioneers and fire starters; Conductors are the organisers; Diatomics are the women working together; Stabilisers are the pacifists; and Explosives are the radicals and anarchists.

(Ebury, £9.99)

For redefining the word saint… 

The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont, illustrated by Manjit Thapp

This book highlights female “saints” - women who were and are champions of strength and progress. Each woman is named the matron saint of something: Nina Simone is the Matron Saint of Soul, while Jane Austen is the Matron Saint of Irony and Serena and Venus Williams are the Matron Saints of Athletes. Pierpont’s words are accompanied by absolutely gorgeous full colour illustrations of each of the women - Thapp’s drawings pop off the pages.

(Virago, £12.99)

For shaping a young mind… 

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst

This follow-up to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World is perfect for introducing children to a range of women who did brilliant things. While many of the books in this trend each profile dozens of people, Pankhurst selects just 14, including Chinese revolutionary and writer Qiu Jin, the British agent Noor Inayat Khan, who was killed at Dachau, and writer Mary Wollstonecraft.

(Bloomsbury Children’s Books, £6.99)

For those who love renegades… 

She

She by Harriet Hall, illustrated by Alice Skinner

In She, Stylist writer Hall profiles 100 “truly renegade women”, toasting “the brave, bold and brilliant women who make us proud to be ladies”. Each profile is accompanied by a stunning line drawing of the woman in question, and a quote from each woman is highlighted - so you can flick through and see words of wisdom shining out at you clearly. Beautifully designed, She is for those who like their books to look good as well as be great reads.

(Headline Home, £12.99)

For a modern outlook… 

Amazing Women by Lucy Beevor, illustrated by Sarah Green

Amazing Women splits its 101 profiles into nine categories: Inspiration, Trail Blazer, Campaigner, Leader, Pioneer, Creator, Activist, Virtuoso and Young Talent, and profiles prominent historical figures such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Coco Chanel. But the majority of the women profiled are still alive, and are having an impact still. These include Malorie Blackman, Michelle Obama, Ellie Simmonds, Zoe Sugg, Lady Gaga and Tavi Gevinson.

(Stripes, £12.99)

For comic book fans… 

Brazen

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu

In Brazen, the approach to profiling great women is a little different to many of the others on this list. Bagieu creates short graphic biographies of world-famous and little-known women throughout history, including the only female Empress of China, three rebel sisters who toppled a fascist regime and an American dancer who became the darling of the Paris jazz scene and a resistance fighter. Not only are the images great, Bagieu’s graphics are full of wit and they’re funny.

(Ebury Press, £17.99)

For people who love collecting… 

Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou

Little People, Big Dreams by Various

Little People, Big Dreams isn’t just one book, it’s a collection of picture books, each focusing on a different woman. The lives of women including Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel and Maya Angelou, among others, are told like a story, and there are extra facts about the subject at the end of each book. Perfect if you love displaying collections of books on your shelves.

(Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, £9.99)