The best books for advocates and activists

Stephenie Foster Author Of Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls
By Stephenie Foster

Who am I?

I grew up in an Italian-American, Catholic household. Early in life, I was told I couldn’t be an altar boy. When I asked my mom why, she told me that girls weren’t altar boys…that seemed ridiculous to me and it started me on a lifelong journey of advocating for the rights of women and girls. I have built a career out of pushing for better laws and policies to provide women the same opportunities and resources as men. I’ve served as Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill, General Counsel in the Executive Branch, and in senior leadership in the non-profit sector.

I wrote...

Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

By Stephenie Foster,

Book cover of Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

What is my book about?

Take Action: Fighting for Women and Girls is a well-sourced and important toolkit covering advocacy & activism, with specific information about four issues related to girls, women, and gender equality—the power and importance of education, expanding economic opportunities, eliminating gender-based violence and participating in politics and public life. Filled with loads of tangible resources—such as specific questions to ask, ideas for identifying decision makers, influencers, and organizations that can help, books and movies that inspire action…

Would-be activists will start their work, stay focused and goal-oriented and make positive change in the world, while finding themselves referring back to this guide again and again.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

We Should All Be Feminists

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Book cover of We Should All Be Feminists

Why did I love this book?

This is a short, readable book that makes a compelling case about feminism and how it has a positive impact on society. It is easy to take in and very accessible. It encourages us all to talk about issues of equality and disparity and understand how we can all move forward together.

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Should All Be Feminists as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The highly acclaimed, provocative essay on feminism and sexual politics—from the award-winning author of Americanah

In this personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from the much-admired TEDx talk of the same name—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century. Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

Book cover of No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference

Why did I love this book?

Another short book, of Greta Thunberg’s speeches on how she sees her work to address the climate crisis. She is a compelling voice and this book captures her views and perspectives. The book highlights how one person’s voice can literally change the conversation we collectively have on an issue. Greta started by sitting outside the Swedish parliament —by herself—with a sign protesting inaction on climate change. She has a clear message that resonates with people of all ages. This book of speeches is an easy way to understand her thinking, her outrage, and her advocacy.

By Greta Thunberg,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller by Time's 2019 Person of the Year

"Greta Thunberg is already one of our planet's greatest advocates." -Barack Obama

The groundbreaking speeches of Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist who has become the voice of a generation, including her historic address to the United Nations

In August 2018 a fifteen-year-old Swedish girl, Greta Thunberg, decided not to go to school one day in order to protest the climate crisis. Her actions sparked a global movement, inspiring millions of students to go on strike for our planet, forcing governments to listen, and earning her a…


By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of Caste

Why did I love this book?

This book challenges all of us to think about race in America and confront how racism has shaped the United States and had an impact globally. It also uses personal anecdotes to emphasize the academic discussion. I find this book particularly compelling as we all confront racism, sexism, and intersectionality. It made me question my views and how I would have responded in a particular situation. It also gave me a better understanding of the author’s experiences as a Black woman facing the world, and how those experiences are different from mine.

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Caste as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"Powerful and timely ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough" - Barack Obama

From one of America's most celebrated and insightful writers, the moving, eye-opening bestseller about what lies hidden under the surface of ordinary lives

In this brilliant book, Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores, through an immersive, deeply researched narrative and stories about real people, how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human…

Book cover of Secrets of the Sprakkar: Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World

Why did I love this book?

The First Lady of Iceland (herself a Canadian) captures how Icelandic women have, and continue to, shape Icelandic society. Not all of the women she interviews consider themselves feminists, but they all are making their own way in the world without any apologies. Read it before your trip to Iceland!

By Eliza Reid,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Secrets of the Sprakkar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


A New York Times Book Review Editor's Pick

"Secrets of the Sprakkar is a fascinating window into what a more gender-equal world could look like, and why it's worth striving for. Iceland is doing a lot to level the playing field: paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and broad support for gender equality as a core value. Reid takes us on an exploration not only around this fascinating island, but also through the triumphs and stumbles of a country as it journeys towards gender equality."
-Hillary Rodham Clinton

Iceland is the best place on earth to be a…

Book cover of You Don't Belong Here: How Three Women Rewrote the Story of War

Why did I love this book?

These three women journalists broke the barrier of women reporting on war. All were different in terms of background and approach, but all were gutsy and told the story from a different perspective than their male colleagues. Given they were reporting in the 1960s, there were overt barriers that each faced to doing what they loved, whether those were rules about women’s presence on the frontlines or norms about what kind of reporting women should do. In each of their own ways, they broke down those barriers and gave us all fresh, important reporting on the conflict in Vietnam.

By Elizabeth Becker,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked You Don't Belong Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The long buried story of three extraordinary female journalists who permanently shattered the official and cultural barriers to women covering war.

Kate Webb, an Australian iconoclast, Catherine Leroy, a French dare devil photographer, and Frances FitzGerald, a blue-blood American intellectual, arrived in Vietnam with starkly different life experiences but one shared purpose: to report on the most consequential story of the decade.

At a time when women were considered unfit to be foreign reporters, Frankie, Catherine and Kate paid their own way to war, arrived without jobs, challenged the rules imposed on them by the military, ignored the belittlement and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the news media, climate change, and the economy?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the news media, climate change, and the economy.

The News Media Explore 20 books about the news media
Climate Change Explore 159 books about climate change
The Economy Explore 178 books about the economy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Doctors Blackwell, Braiding Sweetgrass, and Street Without Joy if you like this list.