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Our Favorite Female Thought Leaders

To celebrate the unflappable wisdom of women and their indefatigable work toward making the world a better place, here is a robust list of books from some of today’s most interesting and provocative female writers! From a wisecracking essay collection and groundbreaking works of investigative journalism to memoirs about grief and belonging, these women are tackling some of the most critical issues of our time and leading the charge toward a better understanding of ourselves and the world we live in. Our respect and admiration for these women knows no bounds.

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough

As an adult, Lauren Hough has had many identities: an airman in the U.S. Air Force, a cable guy, a bouncer at a gay club. As a child, however, she had none. Growing up as a member of the infamous cult The Children of God, Hough had her own self robbed from her. The cult took her all over the globe—to Germany, Japan, Texas, Chile—but it wasn’t until she finally left for good that Lauren understood she could have a life beyond “The Family.”

At once razor-sharp, profoundly brave, and often very, very funny, the essays in Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing interrogate our notions of ecstasy, queerness, and what it means to live freely. Each piece is a reckoning: of survival, identity, and how to reclaim one’s past when carving out a future.

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The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In this bestselling, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

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Superman’s Not Coming by Erin Brockovich

Clean water is as basic to life on planet Earth as hydrogen or oxygen. In her long-awaited book—her first to reckon with the condition of water on our planet—Erin Brockovich shows us what’s at stake. From the environmental activist, consumer advocate, and renowned crusader—a stirring call to action that gives us the tools we need to take action ourselves, to make our voices heard, to ensure our water is safe, and to finally bring about change.

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In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

On a post-college visit to Florence, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri fell in love with the Italian language. Twenty years later, seeking total immersion, she and her family relocated to Rome, where she began to read and write solely in her adopted tongue. A startling act of self-reflection, In Other Words is Lahiri’s meditation on the process of learning to express herself in another language—and the stunning journey of a writer seeking a new voice.

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The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Here is Toni Morrison in her own words: a rich gathering of her most important essays and speeches, spanning four decades. These pages give us her searing prayer for the dead of 9/11, her Nobel lecture on the power of language, her searching meditation on Martin Luther King, Jr., and her heart-wrenching eulogy for James Baldwin. An essential collection from an essential writer, The Source of Self-Regard shines with the literary elegance, intellectual prowess, spiritual depth, and moral compass that have made Toni Morrison our most cherished and enduring voice.

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The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey

In her harrowing, darkly funny, and unforgettable memoir, Sarah Ramey recounts the decade-long saga of how a seemingly minor illness in her senior year of college turned into a prolonged and elusive condition that doctors couldn’t diagnose or treat and that destroyed her health. Worse, as they failed to cure her, they hinted that her devastating symptoms were psychological. The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness is a revelation and an inspiration for millions of women whose legitimate health complaints are ignored.

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Stray by Stephanie Danler

After selling her first novel—a dream she’d worked long and hard for—Stephanie Danler knew she should be happy. Instead, she found herself driven to face the difficult past she’d left behind a decade ago. After years in New York City, she’s pulled home to Southern California by forces she doesn’t totally understand, haunted by questions of legacy and trauma. Here, she works toward answers, uncovering hard truths about her parents and herself as she explores whether it’s possible to change the course of her history.

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A House of My Own by Sandra Cisneros

In this jigsaw autobiography, made up of essays and images spanning three decades—and including never-before-published work—Cisneros has come home at last. Written with her trademark lyricism, in these signature pieces the acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street and winner of the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature shares her transformative memories and reveals her artistic and intellectual influences. Poignant, honest, and deeply moving, A House of My Own is an exuberant celebration of a life lived to the fullest, from one of our most beloved writers.

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Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion’s incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (The New York Times Book Review).

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The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston

In her award-winning book The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston created an entirely new form—an exhilarating blend of autobiography and mythology, of world and self, of hot rage and cool analysis. First published in 1976, it has become a classic in its innovative portrayal of multiple and intersecting identities—immigrant, female, Chinese, American.

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Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.

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