The best books about trailblazing smart women whose achievements are astonishing

Shaz Kahng Author Of The Closer
By Shaz Kahng

Who am I?

Books have the power to change your life, that is, if you can find a story that inspires you. As a multiple-time CEO and board director I noticed the lack of fiction books with smart, strong, and positive female leaders- that’s why I started writing the Ceiling Smasher series. My first novel, The Closer, is about the first female CEO of a sports company and the secret society of professional women, called the Ceiling Smashers, who help her succeed. The books on this list are based on true stories about extraordinary women who demonstrated courage, brainpower, and grit to achieve great things and blaze new trails- who wouldn’t be inspired by that?


I wrote...

The Closer

By Shaz Kahng,

Book cover of The Closer

What is my book about?

The Closer is a riveting tale about a strong woman endeavoring to succeed with smarts, scruples, and style.

There’s a secret society of professional women, called the Ceiling Smashers, who help each other succeed. And the founder of the Ceiling Smashers, Vivien Lee, is about to go after her dream of running a business. A lifelong athlete, Vivien arrives at the Smart Sports campus in Portland, Oregon and is introduced as the first female president. It’s one of the highest-profile jobs in an industry inhospitable to women. A tight-knit group of male sports executives is determined to show that an industry outsider cannot prevail. The challenge is all too clear: will Vivien triumph against impossible odds?

The books I picked & why

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Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

By Margot Lee Shetterly,

Book cover of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Why this book?

This book makes you fall in love with smart, capable women and it got my twin middle school daughters excited about mastering mathematics. Hidden Figures follows the careers of not one but four extraordinary women—Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. These African-American women used their creativity and their exceptional math and engineering skills to succeed in the aeronautics industry. They not only had to excel at their jobs but had to do it during the Civil Rights era in a male-dominated industry. They approached challenges with confidence and determination and opened up opportunities by simply asking, “Why can’t I?” If you think about the time period during which these women worked at NASA it makes their achievements even more incredible.


Out of Africa: And Shadows on the Grass

By Isak Dinesen,

Book cover of Out of Africa: And Shadows on the Grass

Why this book?

I like the fact that Out of Africa is about a strong woman who was also an entrepreneur and an enlightened leader. Karen Blixen, a Danish countess, took up residence in Kenya and actually ran a coffee plantation—who doesn’t love a brave businesswoman? She built successful relationships with the Masai, Kikuyu, and Somali natives who worked on her plantation. A woman of many talents, Blixen’s poetic style of writing led to a profession as author Isak Dineson after she left her beloved Africa.  


Little Women

By Louisa May Alcott,

Book cover of Little Women

Why this book?

What I loved most about Little Women was that it focuses on living the values of honor, family, being a good person, and finding the path that is right for you—these are some of the most important lessons of a life well spent. A semi-autobiographical novel Little Women follows the lives of March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy during the time of the Civil War as they grow up and each of them dreams of their own destiny. Something that was particularly inspiring to me was Jo’s burning desire to become a writer and the difficulties she encounters until she ultimately succeeds through a combination of hard work and sheer will. Alcott weaves her own meaningful experiences into the book which helps to create a strong emotional connection with readers.


Little House on the Prairie

By Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth Williams (illustrator),

Book cover of Little House on the Prairie

Why this book?

What an amazing time to grow up in America as a pioneer settling into life on the prairie. This is the true story of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s resilient and loving family as they built their own home, hunted for their own food, and farmed the land. I read this book and others from the series to my daughters who were mesmerized by the life Laura led and the courage she displayed. The story depicts the challenges and the joys her family found in forging their own path and living life the way they wanted. The fact that the author captured all the ups, downs, and lessons learned and became a writer during that time period is another remarkable pioneering effort.


The Only Woman in the Room

By Marie Benedict,

Book cover of The Only Woman in the Room

Why this book?

This novel took me by surprise because it was based on the true story about the woman who would become silver screen star Hedy Lamar. As a young woman she was both a scientist and an actress. To help protect her family she married an Austrian arms dealer who ended up having deep connections to the Nazi party. Hedy overheard plans and secrets about the Third Reich and ended up creating a broad spectrum technology that revolutionized modern communication and helped defeat the Nazis. Looking at the woman on the screen you’d never imagine the brains that went along with her beauty.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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