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.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Mallory O'Meara,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Girly Drinks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2022 James Beard Book Award

Nominated for the 2022 Spirited Awards

This is the forgotten history of women making, serving and drinking alcohol. Drink has always been at the centre of social rituals and cultures worldwide-and women have been at the heart of its production and consumption. So when did drinking become gendered? How have patriarchies tried to erase and exclude women from industries they've always led, and how have women fought back? And why are things from bars to whiskey considered 'masculine', when, without women, they might not exist?

With whip-smart insight and boundless curiosity, Girly…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Dionne Searcey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In Pursuit of Disobedient Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a reporter for The New York Times uproots her family to move to West Africa, she manages her new role as breadwinner while finding women cleverly navigating extraordinary circumstances in a forgotten place for much of the Western world.
“A story you will not soon forget.”—Kathryn Bigelow, Academy Award–winning director of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty

In 2015, Dionne Searcey was covering the economy for The New York Times, living in Brooklyn with her husband and three young children. Saddled with the demands of a dual-career household and motherhood in an urban setting, her life was in…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Melinda Gates,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Moment of Lift as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


How can we summon a moment of lift for human beings―and especially for women? Because when you lift up women, you lift up humanity.

For the last twenty years, Melinda Gates has been on a mission to find solutions for people with the most urgent needs, wherever they live. Throughout this journey, one thing has become increasingly clear to her: If you want to lift society up, you need to stop keeping women down.

In this moving and compelling book, Melinda shares lessons she’s learned from the inspiring people she’s met during her work and travels…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Daughters of Kobani as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


The extraordinary story of the women who took on the Islamic State and won

"The Daughters of Kobani is an unforgettable and nearly mythic tale of women's power and courage. The young women profiled in this book fought a fearsome war against brutal men in impossible circumstances-and proved in the process what girls and women can accomplish when given the chance to lead. Brilliantly researched and respectfully reported, this book is a lesson in heroism, sacrifice, and the real meaning of sisterhood. I am so grateful that this story has been told." -Elizabeth Gilbert, author…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Lynsey Addario,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked It's What I Do as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“An unflinching memoir . . . [that] offers insight into international events and the challenges faced by the journalists who capture them.” —The Washington Post

War photographer Lynsey Addario’s memoir is the story of how the relentless pursuit of truth, in virtually every major theater of war in the twenty-first century, has shaped her life. What she does, with clarity, beauty, and candor, is to document, often in their most extreme moments, the complex lives of others. It’s her work, but it’s much more than that: it’s her singular calling.

Lynsey Addario was just finding her way as a young…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women, special operations, and the economy?

9,000+ 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 541 books about women
Special Operations Explore 10 books about special operations
The Economy Explore 185 books about the economy