International Women's Day 2016: 10 best feminist books

From reissued classics to new and exciting voices, here are the reads which analyse and celebrate women in society

With International Women’s Day around the corner, we take a look at some of the best feminist reads promoting women in the workplace and on the sports field. From laugh-out-loud memoirs to accessible academic essays, these recent releases and re-issues are a must-read for women and men alike.  

1. I Call Myself a Feminist: £5.99, Virago

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Is modern feminism anti-men? Is feminism still a shameful word? Twenty five women under 30 explain why they consider themselves feminists in this series of essays by writers including Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates and Laura Pankhurst, great granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. 

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2. Girls will be Girls by Emer O’Toole: £8.99 paperback, £4.99 ebook, Orion

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Irish scholar Emer O’Toole decided to stop shaving her armpits, showing the result to the nation on ITV’s This Morning. Her book combines wit with academic ideas about performing gender and “daring to act differently”. 

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3. Headscarves & Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution by Mona Eltahawy: £8.99 paperback, £4.99 ebook, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

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Journalist and Muslim commentator Mona Eltahawy explores the “myth” that we should stand back and watch while women are abused in the name of religion. She attacks attitudes from the Middle East and Western liberals in this honest and at times shocking book. 

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4. Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti: £16.99, Dey Street Books

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Described by The Washington Post as “one of the most visible and successful feminists of her generation,” American writer Jessica Valenti is credited with sparking a renewed interest in the women’s movement thanks to her successful blog feministing.com. Sex Object tells her own story about drugs, sex, harassment, abortion, class anxiety and family.

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5. Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach: £9.99, Arrow

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Read Susie Orbach’s fat-positive 1978 classic and its 1982 sequel in this special reissue. The psychotherapist has written a frank new introduction to appeal to millennials, helping women oppressed by so-called body fascism in the 21st century to live with confidence. 

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6. Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon: £8.99 paperback; Windmill

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English Professor Charlotte Gordon explores the intertwined lives of the famous literary mother and daughter in a double biography for the first time. Although Wollstonecraft died one week after giving birth to Shelley, the two led similar lives. Both were single mothers who broke conventions and fought against the injustices women faced. 

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7. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg: £8.99, Ebury

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Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer explores why women often hold themselves back in the workplace, encouraging them to “sit at the table” with tips she’s learnt on her way to the top. This inspiring read highlights the complexities still at play when it comes to breaking the glass ceiling. 

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8. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: paperback and ebook £12.99, Little,Brown

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In this series of amusing essays, American professor and cultural critic Roxane Gay explores what it means to be a feminist while loving the things that seem to go against “true feminism”, such as the colour pink and reading Vogue non-ironically. 

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9. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: £8.99, HarperCollins

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If you’ve yet to read Caitlin Moran’s hilariously frank account about being a modern woman, do.  Equally accessible to men and women, Moran writes openly about masturbation, abortion and periods – as well as why every female needs a pair of yellow shoes. 

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10. Kicking Off: How Women in Sport are Changing the Game by Sarah Shephard: £12.99 paperback, £10.99 ebook, Bloomsbury 

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Sport magazine’s Sarah Shephard looks behind the headlines to see if progress in sport really is being made for women. With exclusive interviews with Billie Jean King and England footballer Kelly Smith, this is a must-read for all women – and men – interested in making sport more inclusive. 

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Verdict 

The series of essays, I Call Myself a Feminist, offers readers a quick way to dip in and out of the issues surrounding the modern day movement. With contributions by 25 women under 30, the book gives a good overview of feminism as it is known today. 

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