The best books that put the fun in feminism

Who am I?

From Lehr’s prize-winning fiction to her viral New York Times Modern Love essay, exploring the challenges facing contemporary women has been Lehr’s life-long passion. A Boob’s Life, her first project since breast cancer treatment, continues this mission, taking all who will join her on a wildly informative, deeply personal, and utterly relatable journey.  And that’s exactly the kind of books she likes to read – the ones that make her laugh, nod in recognition, and understand a little more about life. She recommends these five books to everyone who asks.


I wrote...

A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me--And You

By Leslie Lehr,

Book cover of A Boob's Life: How America's Obsession Shaped Me--And You

What is my book about?

A Boob’s Life explores the surprising truth about women’s most popular body part with vulnerable, witty frankness and true nuggets of American culture that will resonate with everyone who has breasts – or loves them.

Author Leslie Lehr has gone from size AA to DDDDD and everything between, from puberty to motherhood, enhancement to cancer, and beyond. And she’s not alone—these are classic life stages for women. At turns funny and heartbreaking, A Boob’s Life explores both the joys and hazards inherent to living in a woman’s body. Lehr deftly blends her personal narrative with national history, starting in the 1960s with the women’s liberation movement and moving to the current feminist dialogue and what it means to be a woman. Her insightful and clever writing analyzes how America’s obsession with the female form has affected her own life’s journey and the psyche of all women today.

The books I picked & why

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Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes

By Elizabeth Lesser,

Book cover of Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes

Why this book?

We know that the classics - from Adam and Eve, to Greek myths, and fairy tales - were written by men. But I had no idea how much we take them for granted, how much they influence us in how we think and live. So when Lesser tells these stories from a woman’s point of view, it’s a revelation. Now, instead of taking for granted that Eve was weak and immoral when she bit that apple, an assumption of original sin that influences how women have been seen for centuries, I can interpret it as agency, an intelligent sense of curiosity that compelled her to take action. That makes Adam content to just laze around in Paradise, like a dude on a Barcolounger, drinking a beer on game day. Crazy, right? That may be the most controversial example, but all of them make you think. I’d love to sneak this book onto the desk of every English teacher in the land. 

Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes

By Elizabeth Lesser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What story would Eve have told about picking the apple? Why is Pandora blamed for opening the box? And what about the fate of Cassandra who was blessed with knowing the future but cursed so that no one believed her? What if women had been the storytellers?

Elizabeth Lesser believes that if women's voices had been equally heard and respected throughout history, humankind would have followed different hero myths and guiding stories-stories that value caretaking, champion compassion, and elevate communication over vengeance and violence.

Cassandra Speaks is about the stories we tell and how those stories become the culture. It's…


Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

By Amanda Montell,

Book cover of Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

Why this book?

Ok sure, she had me at the title. But Montell dives deep into the language we use every day that, yes, often demeans women. Many of our body parts were taken from Latin words that dudes used to describe them. And the meanings weren’t always flattering. She also explains the positives of Valley Girl-Speak such as “like” and of vocal fry, and women are so fast to say “sorry.” Did you know that “hussy” used to mean housewife and “slut” meant a messy person that could be a man? Or that “bitch” used to be a gender-neutral name that had nothing to do with dogs? And why are some words considered feminine and others, male? Read this book to find out. 

Wordslut: A Feminist Guide to Taking Back the English Language

By Amanda Montell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I get so jazzed about the future of feminism knowing that Amanda Montell's brilliance is rising up and about to explode worldwide."-Jill Soloway

A brash, enlightening, and wildly entertaining feminist look at gendered language and the way it shapes us.

The word bitch conjures many images, but it is most often meant to describe an unpleasant woman. Even before its usage to mean "a female canine," bitch didn't refer to women at all-it originated as a gender-neutral word for "genitalia." A perfectly innocuous word devolving into an insult directed at females is the case for tons more terms, including hussy,…


Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

By Hilary Levey Friedman,

Book cover of Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

Why this book?

I’ve been watching the Miss America pageant since elementary school, when I wore a tin foil crown, a towel pinned as a cap, and stuffed my swimsuit with tennis balls for boobs. So learning the history – how suffragettes used beauty pageants as a way to get attention – was fascinating. Friedman is a sociology professor whose mom was Miss America 1970, so there is no greater expert. We get both sides here: the sparkly benefits plus a dive into the body-shaming and bulimia of the 80s when they printed measurements in the program. A Boob’s Life, covers the history of breast implants in the contest, so I quote her as a source. But I would have read it just for fun.

Here She Is: The Complicated Reign of the Beauty Pageant in America

By Hilary Levey Friedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here She Is as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fresh exploration of American feminist history told through the lens of the beauty pageant world.

Many predicted that pageants would disappear by the 21st century. Yet they are thriving. America’s most enduring contest, Miss America, celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2020. Why do they persist? In Here She Is, Hilary Levey Friedman reveals the surprising ways pageants have been an empowering feminist tradition. She traces the role of pageants in many of the feminist movement’s signature achievements, including bringing women into the public sphere, helping them become leaders in business and politics, providing increased educational opportunities, and giving them…


You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages

By Carina Chocano,

Book cover of You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages

Why this book?

You’d think the subtitle says it all, but nope. Chocano loved reading bedtime stories to her daughter, but when even Alice and Wonderland proved problematic, she peered through the looking glass to see why. She explores the challenges of raising a female in a world of Disney Princesses, Playboy bunnies, and popular TV shows and movies. She even takes aim at the female manifesto, Eat Pray Love, bless her heart. I met Chocano at a reading of this book when I was nervously submitting A Boob’s Life to publishers. I was thrilled to find overlap with such a kindred spirit. You’ll find Chocana’s byline in major magazines featuring celebrity interviews, but without the snark. Personally, I love the snark - it makes the facts more fun.

You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed Messages

By Carina Chocano,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We all know who The Girl is. She holds The Hero's hand as he runs through the Pyramids, chasing robots. Or she nags him, or foils him, plays the uptight straight man to his charming loser. She's idealised, degraded, dismissed, objectified and almost always dehumanised. How do we process these insidious portrayals, and how do they shape our sense of who we are and what we can become?

Part memoir, part cultural commentary, part call to arms to women everywhere, You Play The Girl flips the perspective on the past thirty-five years in pop culture - from the progressive 70s,…


Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

By Mikki Kendall,

Book cover of Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

Why this book?

As much as I like to poke fun to express the angst of fighting for equal rights with men, we can’t overlook the fact that so many women aren’t equal to other women. The title of this book refers to the fight for women of color to get basic necessities of access to food and shelter. Kendall combines her own personal struggle for health care with challenges of generations born into “the hood” where the struggle has always been real. In researching A Boob’s Life, I already knew that the suffragettes fought for civil rights long before they got the vote and when they did, women of color were left behind. But Hood Feminism brings us right up to the present, as voting patterns continue to undermine progress. It proves the importance of inclusive feminism, the need to work together for the good of all. Only then can any of us truly put the fun in feminism. 

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot

By Mikki Kendall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

"One of the most important books of the current moment."-Time

"A rousing call to action... It should be required reading for everyone."-Gabrielle Union, author of We're Going to Need More Wine

"A brutally candid and unobstructed portrait of mainstream white feminism." -Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist

A potent and electrifying critique of today's feminist movement announcing a fresh new voice in black feminism

Today's feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women, feminism, and the English language?

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