The best books that empower women and girls (often with a touch of magic)

Who am I?

I love any book that carries me away into a different world, allows me to feel new possibilities, and makes me think. That is what I call magic. This creative magic has filled all aspects of my life. In addition to writing, I am a theatre artist, a mentor, an advocate for women and girls, and a creativity facilitator. In other words, I believe in the creative powers of people to make a more just and enriched world. My goal is always to inspire others to find their own voice, and to use it to make a difference. That’s what guides my reading, and my book recommendations. Enjoy!


I wrote...

P.O.W.ER

By Lisa A. Kramer,

Book cover of P.O.W.ER

What is my book about?

In a time when access to the written word is reserved for men, Andra Betscrivener’s ability to read and write must remain a secret, or she could lose her hands, her eyes, or her life. At 17, Andra discovers that her abilities extend beyond reading: she can write events to life. Desperate to keep her powers hidden from both the government and a rebel group, she learns her words have the power to kill, threatening her father’s life and her own freedom. Andra’s fight empowers others to stop governmental oppression, but in a society ruled by lies, cruelty, and inequality, her journey will not be easy or safe.

P.O.W.ER was named to the 2014-15 Sarton Literary Award shortlist for contemporary fiction!

The books I picked & why

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Dragonflight

By Anne McCaffrey,

Book cover of Dragonflight

Why this book?

When I look back on books (or series of books) that influenced my own imagination, the earlier books of Anne McCaffey’s Pern series call to me, particularly Dragonflight. While there are some problematic things about it (I was always a little uncomfortable with what could be considered rape) I was always drawn in by the character of Lessa—a woman who had lost everything as a child, and yet would not be defeated. She had the will and the strength to fight for what she believed in, and saved her planet because of that. She doesn’t shy away from her abilities, but faces them head-on to make her world a better place. That’s a lesson we all could learn. Besides, who could resist the ability to communicate with dragons?

Dragonflight

By Anne McCaffrey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Volume I of The Dragonriders of Pern®, the groundbreaking series by master storyteller Anne McCaffrey

On a beautiful world called Pern, an ancient way of life is about to come under attack from a myth that is all too real. Lessa is an outcast survivor—her parents murdered, her birthright stolen—a strong young woman who has never stopped dreaming of revenge. But when an ancient threat to Pern reemerges, Lessa will rise—upon the back of a great dragon with whom she shares a telepathic bond more intimate than any human connection. Together, dragon and rider will fly . . . and…

When Women Were Dragons

By Kelly Barnhill,

Book cover of When Women Were Dragons

Why this book?

I promise, my recommendations don’t all contain dragons. This book is for our times, even as it takes place in the 1950s. It’s about the danger of not learning from our past mistakes. It’s about what happens when we suppress who we are and who we are able to be. It’s about being and becoming our fullest selves, even if it goes against societal norms. Most importantly, this story points out the flaws of the patriarchy, of a society that only values a portion of its population. We need more dragons in the world, especially under a government intent on controlling women and anyone with a uterus.

If I could choose right now, I would be a dragon.

When Women Were Dragons

By Kelly Barnhill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When Women Were Dragons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A KIRKUS BEST BOOK OF 2022 • A rollicking feminist tale set in 1950s America where thousands of women have spontaneously transformed into dragons, exploding notions of a woman’s place in the world and expanding minds about accepting others for who they really are. • The first adult novel by the Newbery award-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Alex Green is a young girl in a world much like ours, except for its most seminal event: the Mass Dragoning of 1955, when hundreds of thousands of ordinary wives and mothers sprouted wings, scales, and talons; left a…

Maya and the Rising Dark

By Rena Barron,

Book cover of Maya and the Rising Dark

Why this book?

I read books for all ages, because good stories transcend age, gender, race, etc. I love books that teach me something new, especially those with smart, sassy, and determined female protagonists. Maya and the Rising Dark is a delightful middle-grade read, with an empowered 12-year-old girl leading the way. Rich with diversity, I loved journeying into the mythology of the Orisha gods with Maya and her friends

Maya and the Rising Dark

By Rena Barron,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Maya and the Rising Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya's search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent's Secret.

Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation-perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya,…

The Female Brain

By Louann Brizendine,

Book cover of The Female Brain

Why this book?

This might seem like a strange book to include in a list that has a touch of magic, but in many ways this book sparked my first novel. I am a firm believer that women can (and should) do whatever they want. I also accept that there are differences between men and women based on things like brain structure and biology. These differences are not limitations, but rather things to celebrate. 

As I read, I began to ask questions. What if women have more access to their brain’s abilities than men? What if our connection with creative power were seen as more important than physical strength? My characters became my answers. That, in itself, is magic—because magic is simply answering the question “what if,” with “anything is possible.”

The Female Brain

By Louann Brizendine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since Dr. Brizendine wrote The Female Brain ten years ago, the response has been overwhelming. This New York Times bestseller has been translated into more than thirty languages, has sold nearly a million copies between editions, and has most recently inspired a romantic comedy starring Whitney Cummings and Sofia Vergara. And its profound scientific understanding of the nature and experience of the female brain continues to guide women as they pass through life stages, to help men better understand the girls and women in their lives, and to illuminate the delicate emotional machinery of a love relationship.

Why are women…

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why this book?

Magic often comes from an author’s ability to touch me with their voice, to challenge me with their words, and to inspire me to think about my own perspective. Gilbert’s prose contains passages achingly brutal in their honest perspective; passages that tear my heart out, stomp on it, and then put it back so that it beats in a new way. 

Do I agree with everything she writes? Not completely—the areas where I disagree have allowed me to define for myself the value of creativity in people’s lives. Like Gilbert, I believe everyone is creative. I also believe that we should continue to create, regardless of commercial success. I believe women need to access their creative power more now than ever, and this is a place to start.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Big Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and showing us all just how easy it can be. By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear. Whether you long to write a book, create…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dragons, women, and the brain?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dragons, women, and the brain.

Dragons Explore 119 books about dragons
Women Explore 394 books about women
The Brain Explore 105 books about the brain

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and Bird by Bird if you like this list.