My favorite books by or about world-changing women

Why am I passionate about this?

The first person I ever trusted in the world was a high-school English teacher, a woman named Margaret Muth. She plucked me out of a trash-can, literally and figuratively. When I was seventeen years old, she told me: “Books will teach you. They will help you. Choose books the way you choose the risks you take in life: do it patiently, thoughtfully. Then give yourself to them with a whole heart. This is how you learn.” This is one sentence, from one teacher, given to a teenager of decidedly crude and primitive material—one sentence that changed his whole life for the better. Bless her. 


I wrote...

The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace: 64 Stories

By Steven Nightingale,

Book cover of The Hot Climate of Promises and Grace: 64 Stories

What is my book about?

The book collects the stories of sixty-four women the writer has known during his idiosyncratic and exploratory life. These women are keen, strange, ardent, and their labors and playfulness in our world and in our time are a testimony of mischief, invention, laughter, and magical initiative. They are everywhere. They do everything: they are doctors, writers, burglars, investment bankers, rebels, painters, college students, bartenders, hikers, healers in the rain forest of Jamaica, securities attorneys in San Francisco….

Each has their own destined work. And they show us, each of them, the hidden reality of that work in a very few pages of revelation.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

Steven Nightingale Why did I love this book?

One of the most radical and life-giving books ever written, this compilation of the verse of Dickinson holds almost all the poems she wrote out in what she called “fair copy”, bound in small booklets, and put all together in a chest in her room. She published only six poems in her lifetime. The complete work was not collected until 1951. Now she is read and honored worldwide and recognized as one of the most intuitive, powerful, and original poets of any country or any century.

By Emily Dickinson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Though generally overlooked during her lifetime, Emily Dickinson's poetry has achieved acclaim due to her experiments in prosody, her tragic vision and the range of her emotional and intellectual explorations.


Book cover of A Country Called Childhood: Children and the Exuberant World

Steven Nightingale Why did I love this book?

It is something of a commonplace that the most important subjects in life are somehow the least amenable to the long essay. Where are the great books on love, grace, revelation, understanding, or peace? 

And what about childhood? Everyone has one, and many people want to be parents, but where are the transformative and indispensable books on this subject? Now we have one, at last, this capacious, passionate, searching, learned book, by one of the most gifted prose stylists writing in English in the present day. It’s beautiful to read, and essential for our cultural moment. 

By Jay Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Country Called Childhood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While traveling the world in order to write her award winning book Wild, Jay Griffiths became increasingly aware of the huge differences in how childhood is experienced in various cultures. One central riddle, in particular captured her imagination: why are so many children in Euro-American cultures unhappy – and why is it that children in traditional cultures seem happier?

In A Country Called Childhood, Griffiths seeks to discover why we deny our children the freedoms of space, time and the natural world. Visiting communities as far apart as West Papua and the Arctic as well as the UK, and delving…


Book cover of The Storyteller's Daughter: One Woman's Return to Her Lost Homeland

Steven Nightingale Why did I love this book?

An extraordinary book by an extraordinary woman. Saira Shah recounts her journeys in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in the context of her upbringing in a family with deep roots in the region. She is on the ground during the rise of the Taliban and the fight against the Russian occupation, and the story is hair-raising, enlightening, revelatory, informed, and insightfully detailed. Ms. Shah went on to make the celebrated documentary Beneath the Veil, risking her life daily to shoot video during the first phase of Taliban control. Unforgettable, and indispensable for understanding Afghanistan.

By Saira Shah,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Storyteller's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imagine that a jewel-like garden overlooking Kabul is your ancestral home. Imagine a kitchen made fragrant with saffron strands and cardamom pods simmering in an authentic pilau. Now remember that you were born in London, your family in exile, and that you have never seen Afghanistan in peacetime.

These are but the starting points of Saira Shah’s memoir, by turns inevitably exotic and unavoidably heartbreaking, in which she explores her family’s history in and out of Afghanistan. As an accomplished journalist and documentarian–her film Beneath the Veil unflinchingly depicted for CNN viewers the humiliations forced on women under Taliban rule–Shah…


Book cover of First Among Sufis: The Life and Thought of Rabia al-Adawiyya, the Woman Saint of Basra

Steven Nightingale Why did I love this book?

A book about a saint of the eighth century, whose life and declarations offer an in-depth and clear portrait of the Sufi path. Her miracles were casual and instrumental, her encounters serve for all of us as material for reflection, and her sayings are beautiful and transformative of the mind. Two examples: “I will not serve God as a laborer, in expectation of my wages.” And “Lord, if I worship you from desire for Paradise, deny me Paradise; if I worship you from fear of Hell, cast me into Hell.”

By Widad El Sakkakini, Nabil Safwat (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Among Sufis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Born in Basra in the 8th century of an impoverished family, orphaned and sold into slavery, Rabia al-Adawiyya, rose to become one of the greatest Sufi teachers. An extraordinary kaleidoscope of myth and reality, of imagination and fact... is it not of importance that a woman of such stature and independence of mind existed so early in the story of Islam, to show what women could be, and how they could be regarded?

Introduction by Doris Lessing


Book cover of Even Now

Steven Nightingale Why did I love this book?

This rare book is a collaboration between Ms. Sabella, an artist, and Rosemerry Trommer, a poet. A series of drawings, all distinct and all of three lines only, are given corresponding three-line poems, and the result is enlivening, mischievous, moving, full of insight and subtlety, and graced with declarations of love and startling bolts of beauty. It’s a short book and it’s a most excellent companion and a gentle powerhouse.

By Jill Sabella, Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Even Now as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Poetry. Art. Illustrated by Jill Sabella. EVEN NOW pares Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer's expansive work down to three lines, each paired with a spare 'japanese-style' brush-stroke drawings by artist Jill Sabella. The image-poem pairs float on the page and evoke fundamental thoughts, feelings of long ago, bonfires burning out of control, tough hope, and the possibility of Spring.

"I like this book a lot, EVEN NOW, by Rosemerry Trommer & Jill Sabella. It shows some of their wonderful talent. And the title- poem brings to mind a Rumi translation that I feel is of such worth it may someday appear in…


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The Unproposed Guy

By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

Book cover of The Unproposed Guy

Bhavik Sarkhedi Author Of The Unproposed Guy

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Wanderlust Film Aficionado Bibliophile Solo Traveler Movie Buff

Bhavik's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Unproposed Guy is a captivating journey through the life of Kevin, a character stuck in a mundane existence and unfulfilling relationships, who discovers his passion for stand-up comedy and rapping amidst an existential crisis.

This contemporary fiction is peppered with humor, sarcasm, and poignant insights into modern relationships and societal expectations. Kevin's struggles and transformations offer a unique blend of comedy and emotional depth, making it a must-read for those seeking a fresh, humorous perspective on love, life, and self-discovery. Dive into Kevin's character of failed relationship and who portrays himself as "Every guy's best friend and every girl's worst nightmare".

The Unproposed Guy

By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

What is this book about?

There has been no significant change in the life of Kevin—a monotonous routine, ordinary family, and miserably failing relationships—until he finds out he is going through something abnormal: 'Existential Crisis'.

He has always been a marvellous entertainer, but has a mysterious way of putting off girls. The talent in him is growing creatively, and abundantly, but his inability to impress a girl keeps pulling him down slowly. He realises he can be any guy’s best friend, but he also seems to be every girl’s worst nightmare.

Hop onto the rollercoaster journey of Kevin’s life, as he navigates through mocking friends…


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