The best books about women driving change around the world

Who am I?

I’ve been driven to help advance women and girls around the world for years, shining a light on their stories of resilience and strength, even in the most dire of circumstances. My thirty-plus-year career in global development has introduced me to hundreds of inspirational women who are changing their own lives, investing in their families, and building their communities. I am a woman for women because of them. The recommended authors are inspirational women in their own right who have used their writing to amplify the voices of other women. I hope you enjoy these books and can identify with the personal stories found in their pages. 


I wrote...

Brick by Brick: Building Hope and Opportunity for Women Survivors Everywhere

By Karen Sherman,

Book cover of Brick by Brick: Building Hope and Opportunity for Women Survivors Everywhere

What is my book about?

My memoir weaves the stories of valiant women who survived war and conflict – intertwined with my own struggles. A long-standing international women’s rights advocate, working to recover from my own history of abuse, I explore courage, resiliency, and forgiveness through the pages of Brick by Brick.

The remarkable strength of the women survivors I’ve met, including the year I lived in Rwanda with my three boys, helped me find my way through conflict zones, confrontations with corrupt officials, and painful questions about my marriage and career. My journey ends with a renewed commitment to my family and to fight for women around the world.

The books I picked & why

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Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

By Mallory O'Meara,

Book cover of Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol

Why this book?

Mallory O’Meara’s book, Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol, has become my new bible.

I spent years working to advance women around the world before taking on a new challenge – starting a new craft distillery in Rwanda! You might be wondering how women's rights and alcohol intersect, but O’Meara sums it up best in her book: “If you want to know how a society treats its women, all you have to do is look into the bottom of a glass.”

For an amusing and eye-opening look at the history of women alcohol producers and drinkers around the world, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Girly Drinks. Best enjoyed with your favorite beverage in hand.


In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away

By Dionne Searcey,

Book cover of In Pursuit of Disobedient Women: A Memoir of Love, Rebellion, and Family, Far Away

Why this book?

Dionne’s book speaks to me on such a personal level. The story follows her journey of uprooting her family to West Africa and shares the stories of the women she meets along the way, navigating extraordinary circumstances and hardship. I, too, did this.

In 2012, my three sons and I landed in Kigali, Rwanda, where we lived for a year. Having experienced firsthand the resiliency and tenacity of women, such as those Dionne encountered, I can’t recommend In Pursuit of Disobedient Women enough to learn more about the challenges and triumphs for women across Africa.


The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

By Melinda Gates,

Book cover of The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World

Why this book?

“When you lift up women, you lift up humanity." These words from Melinda Gates’ book resonate deeply with my own story and experiences. Melinda gives several examples of women driving change on different levels in their families, communities, and societies. Similar to the pages in my book, Melinda shares heart-rending conversations she’s had with women all over the world and offers practical solutions for how we can get involved to make the world a better place.


The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon,

Book cover of The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice

Why this book?

The Daughters of Kobani follows a group of women in northern Syria who are driven to defeat the Islamic State and change the lives of women there forever. This powerful tale, told beautifully by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, is a stark reminder of the fighting spirit women show when faced with extraordinary circumstances. During my time in Rwanda, I met many women whose lives had been torn apart by genocide. By necessity and sheer grit, they have rebuilt their lives, sometimes quite literally, brick by brick. The Daughters of Kobani is an important and compelling read.


It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War

By Lynsey Addario,

Book cover of It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War

Why this book?

It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War is the memoir of Lynsey Addario, a photojournalist who is called to cover multiple wars in the Middle East and Africa. This book not only spans Addario’s professional journey to capture the utter devastation of life in the midst of war, but also her struggles to find a reasonable balance between her dangerous yet fulfilling career and the personal relationships in her life - something many women face! If you want an absorbing read and to be inspired, I cannot recommend this book enough.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women, special operations, and the economy?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about women, special operations, and the economy.

Women Explore 315 books about women
Special Operations Explore 10 books about special operations
The Economy Explore 103 books about the economy

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice, Real Estate: A Living Autobiography, and Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger if you like this list.