100 books like Decolonizing Feminisms

By Laura E. Donaldson,

Here are 100 books that Decolonizing Feminisms fans have personally recommended if you like Decolonizing Feminisms. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Western Women and Imperialism: Complicity and Resistance

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

From my list on the history of feminism and imperialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I have been trying for decades to understand how gender, race, class, and nationality are knotted together in ways that are not always obvious or trackable in our personal experience. The books I recommend here have served as brilliant lanterns for me—not simply pointing out the flawed history of western feminism but instead explaining the complicated effects of whiteness and imperialism in the development of today’s feminist identities, ideologies, and consciousness. For me, these histories offer intersectional keys decoding the map of the world we’ve been dropped into and offering a path leading to a more justly feminist future….I hope they do for you too!

Tracey's book list on the history of feminism and imperialism

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

A collection of very short but incredibly interesting and illuminating essays, this book inaugurated the field of study we might call “feminism and empire.” Strobel and Chaudhuri gathered up the most important histories written to that date that explained how nineteenth and twentieth-century feminism emerged from colonialist contexts all over the world. Asking the question “what difference does gender make?” each author teases out the importance of gender for colonial travel and politics in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Reading this book made me want to contribute to that kind of historical understanding of gender, modeling for me what an “intersectional feminist” method of historical investigation might look like.

By Nupur Chaudhuri (editor), Margaret Strobel (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"[Western Women and Imperialism] provides fascinating insights into interactions and attitudes between western and non-western women, mainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is an important contribution to the field of women's studies and (primarily British) imperial history, in that many of the essays explore problems of cross-cultural interaction that have been heretofore ignored." -Nancy Fix Anderson

"A challenging anthology in which a multiplicity of authors sheds new light on the waves of missionaries, 'memsahibs,' nurses-and feminists." -Ms.

". . . a long-overdue engagement with colonial discourse and feminism. . . . excellent essays . . ." -The…


Book cover of Gender on Ice, Volume 10: American Ideologies of Polar Expeditions

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

From my list on the history of feminism and imperialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I have been trying for decades to understand how gender, race, class, and nationality are knotted together in ways that are not always obvious or trackable in our personal experience. The books I recommend here have served as brilliant lanterns for me—not simply pointing out the flawed history of western feminism but instead explaining the complicated effects of whiteness and imperialism in the development of today’s feminist identities, ideologies, and consciousness. For me, these histories offer intersectional keys decoding the map of the world we’ve been dropped into and offering a path leading to a more justly feminist future….I hope they do for you too!

Tracey's book list on the history of feminism and imperialism

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

This slim but explosively dramatic book makes everything you were ever told about the history of polar exploration seem like nothing more than random trivia. Lisa Bloom takes those stories you think you know and offers up the hidden realities of them in ways that explain the race, gender, and sexual politics of not just polar exploration but the idea of “modernity” itself as a crutch for justifying the “penetration” of people and spaces existing at the “ends of the earth.”

By Lisa Bloom,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gender on Ice, Volume 10 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this work, the author focuses on the conquest of the North Pole as she reveals how popular print and visual media, including photography and video, defined and shaped American national ideologies from the early 20th century to the present. She goes on to analyze gendered and racial constructions and idioms of American identity by examining the powerful and continuing cultural investment in the legacy of the so-called discovery of the North Pole in 1909, and the ongoing celebration of white explorers, such as Robert Peary, as "heroes". Her analysis of the polar expedition opens up contemporary questions in cultural…


Book cover of German Women for Empire, 1884-1945

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

From my list on the history of feminism and imperialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I have been trying for decades to understand how gender, race, class, and nationality are knotted together in ways that are not always obvious or trackable in our personal experience. The books I recommend here have served as brilliant lanterns for me—not simply pointing out the flawed history of western feminism but instead explaining the complicated effects of whiteness and imperialism in the development of today’s feminist identities, ideologies, and consciousness. For me, these histories offer intersectional keys decoding the map of the world we’ve been dropped into and offering a path leading to a more justly feminist future….I hope they do for you too!

Tracey's book list on the history of feminism and imperialism

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

This book teaches us how German imperialism tied itself to the emancipation of women, by focusing on the expansion of the German state into Africa and the Pacific rim. In the generations leading up to the establishment of the Third Reich, German women made themselves indispensable to German imperialism as nurses, wives, missionaries, mothers, sexual partners, and upholders of racial purity. This is simply one of the smartest books I’ve ever read, making clear the granular details of how empires were built and why gender matters in our understanding of them.

By Lora Wildenthal,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked German Women for Empire, 1884-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Germany annexed colonies in Africa and the Pacific beginning in the 1880s, many German women were enthusiastic. At the same time, however, they found themselves excluded from what they saw as a great nationalistic endeavor. In German Women for Empire, 1884-1945 Lora Wildenthal untangles the varied strands of racism, feminism, and nationalism that thread through German women's efforts to participate in this episode of overseas colonization.
In confrontation and sometimes cooperation with men over their place in the colonial project, German women launched nationalist and colonialist campaigns for increased settlement and new state policies. Wildenthal analyzes recently accessible Colonial…


Book cover of The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s

Tracey Jean Boisseau Author Of White Queen: May French-Sheldon and the Imperial Origins of American Feminist Identity

From my list on the history of feminism and imperialism.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of feminism, I have been trying for decades to understand how gender, race, class, and nationality are knotted together in ways that are not always obvious or trackable in our personal experience. The books I recommend here have served as brilliant lanterns for me—not simply pointing out the flawed history of western feminism but instead explaining the complicated effects of whiteness and imperialism in the development of today’s feminist identities, ideologies, and consciousness. For me, these histories offer intersectional keys decoding the map of the world we’ve been dropped into and offering a path leading to a more justly feminist future….I hope they do for you too!

Tracey's book list on the history of feminism and imperialism

Tracey Jean Boisseau Why did Tracey love this book?

This might be my favorite history book, period. Conor explains how “modern womanhood” in Australia came into being and was marked by the successful managing of one’s (sexualized and objectified) public appearance, including the way “primitive woman” (aboriginal or black) was constructed as a colonialist foil for the modern (white) Australian woman—whether she was a “screen-struck” movie fan, beauty contestant, or flapper. This book makes clear how women, as the principal focus of a newly visual mass media, came to define their “liberation” in sexual as well as racial and nationalist terms.

By Liz Conor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Spectacular Modern Woman, Liz Conor illustrates how technological advances in image reproduction transformed Western industrial societies into visual or "ocularcentric" cultures with significant and complex consequences for women's lives. With the rise of mass media, photography, and movies, a woman's visibility became a mark of her modernity, and the result was at once liberating and confining, given the many narrow conceptions of what it meant to be a modern woman. Focusing on the city girl in the metropolitan scene, the "Screen Struck Girl" in the cinematic scene, the mannequin in the commodity scene, the beauty contestant in the…


Book cover of The Beauty

Caroline Hardaker Author Of Composite Creatures

From my list on creepy books with women in the lead role.

Why am I passionate about this?

Caroline Hardaker is an author, poet, and librettist who writes dark and twisty tales about anything speculative, from folklore to the future. She’s a sporadic puppet-maker and house plant collector, and lives in the northeast of England with her husband, son, and giant cat. Caroline’s debut poetry collection, Bone Ovation, was published by Valley Press in 2017, and her first full-length collection, Little Quakes Every Day, was published by Valley Press in November 2020. Caroline’s debut novel, Composite Creatures, was published by Angry Robot in April 2021.

Caroline's book list on creepy books with women in the lead role

Caroline Hardaker Why did Caroline love this book?

Aliya Whiteley is one of my all-time favourite writers. I could’ve easily included a few of her books on my list!

The Beauty imagines a future world where the women are all gone, and the last men are eking out a survivalist existence. While the main protagonist is a man, the return of ‘the beauty’ shines a light on female power and importance. This gut-wrenching tale sits somewhere between body horror and ancient fable—a place where your skin crawls and your mind can’t stop thinking about what you’d just read.

By Aliya Whiteley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nominated for the Shirley Jackson and Saboteur awards, this game-changing story was chosen by Adam Nevill as one of his favourite horror short stories: "What a refreshing gust of tiny spores this novella explodes into, and I inhaled them all with glee".

Somewhere away from the cities and towns, in the Valley of the Rocks, a society of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their history recounted by Nate, the storyteller. Requested most often by the group is the tale of the death of all women.

They are the last generation.

One evening, Nate…


Book cover of Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

Alexa Vartman Author Of 50 Misconceptions of Sex: A Modern Tantric Practice

From my list on spiritual sex and healthier relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been meditating since I’m 10 years old, constantly inquiring about why humans are suffering. This led me on a very introspective journey into tantra. After travelling the world for over two decades to study tantric lineages and spiritual traditions, I founded The New Tantra in 2010 and developed a range of workshops with ground-breaking sexual practices. Through this crazy, wild, and genderfluid exploration, I’ve taught thousands of people how to improve their sex lives and experience sexuality in a totally different way. I believe that by dealing with our sexual conditioning, we can live more playful, innocent, and happier lives for ourselves and the future generations to come.

Alexa's book list on spiritual sex and healthier relationships

Alexa Vartman Why did Alexa love this book?

Professor Paglia’s books are a tad academic for most people’s taste, but I find it important to feature her here. In this book, she stirs up important questions around gender and sex. It seems that we are steadily moving towards a growing acceptance of diversity to the point in which androgyny is even becoming a desirable trait. Being genderfluid myself, I’ve sometimes asked myself these questions daily. In order to have more spiritual sex, it’s important that we accept and acknowledge our desires, and I’m all for supporting the full expression of feminine and masculine in both women and men. On top of this, Paglia is a real provocateur, which I like and can relate to. Truly one of the bright minds of our time.

By Camille Paglia,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the fiery intellectual provocateur - and one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality - a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and affirms the power of men and women and what we can accomplish together.


Book cover of The Female Man

David Wellington Author Of Paradise-1

From my list on genre mashups in science fiction and fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Science fiction and Fantasy have always been about exploring new ideas in novel ways—right from the beginning, Mary Shelley saw the story of Frankenstein as a chance to explore ideas of liberation and equality that, at the time, were too uncomfortable for mainstream stories. Since then many writers have found success by mashing up sf with other literary genres to discover the boundaries—and the gray areas—between them. In my latest book I explore the deep connection between horror (the fear of the unknown) and sf (the drive toward wonder). Some of my most cherished books have similarly charted these murky borderlands.

David's book list on genre mashups in science fiction and fantasy

David Wellington Why did David love this book?

This science fiction and mystery story is about an astronaut from a world without men crashes on Earth and blows all our minds… except we’re also reading a story about a woman living in our 1970s, and a parallel Earth where WWII never happened… it gets a little confusing, in a really fun way.

Russ uses this engaging, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic multiverse story to explore topics of sex essentialism and gender fluidity in a way that still feels bracing and mind-expanding today.

You could say this is as much a philosophical treatise as a novel but that makes it sound like it isn’t any fun, when in fact it’s a blast. If you’re open to a far-out read you will not be disappointed.

By Joanna Russ,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A landmark book in the fields of science fiction and feminism.

Four women living in parallel worlds, each with a different gender landscape. When they begin to travel to each other's worlds each woman's preconceptions on gender and what it means to be a woman are challenged.

Acclaimed as one of the essential works of science fiction and an influence on William Gibson, THE FEMALE MAN takes a look at gender roles in society and remains a work of great power.


Book cover of Feminist Readings of Antigone

Lenart Škof Author Of Antigone's Sisters

From my list on Antigone and feminist ethics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always searched for personalities – mythological, literary, or real – affirming the highest ethical claims for justice. Sophocles’s Antigone is, without doubt, the preeminent example of this ethical demand, based on ancient unwritten laws and related demands for human dignity. As a woman, Antigone also presents the forgotten and suppressed orders of femininity, which were present in all archaic religions and mythologies, but later repressed and fully replaced with exclusively male Gods. I’m therefore interested in books that guide us in this search for the power of ethics and femininity and hope this list will give you an idea of the rich ethical potentials that we possess.  

Lenart's book list on Antigone and feminist ethics

Lenart Škof Why did Lenart love this book?

This book is a fascinating collection of essays on Antigone, written by key contemporary thinkers, such as Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Judith Butler, Bracha L. Ettinger, and Adriana Cavarero. Hegel daringly compared Antigone to Socrates and Jesus and this book shows the full range of ethical questions and consequences, related to Antigone and her highest ethical demand. Through this book, the fictitious woman from Sophocles’ drama written 2,500 years ago, incarnates in front of us as a living figure of contemporary feminine ethics.

By Fanny Soderback (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New and classic essays on Antigone and feminist philosophy.


Book cover of A Room Of One's Own

Ben Hutchinson Author Of On Purpose: Ten Lessons on the Meaning of Life

From my list on essays to help us think for ourselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an essayist, literary critic, and professor of literature, books are what John Milton calls my ‘pretious life-blood.’ As a writer, teacher, and editor, I spend my days trying to make meaning out of reading. This is the idea behind my most recent book, On Purpose: it’s easy to make vague claims about the edifying powers of ‘great writing,’ but what does this actually mean? How can literature help us live? My five recommendations all help us reflect on the power of books to help us think for ourselves, as I hope do my own books, including The Midlife Mind (2020) and Comparative Literature: A Very Short Introduction (2018).

Ben's book list on essays to help us think for ourselves

Ben Hutchinson Why did Ben love this book?

I love this book not just because of its enduring importance - Woolf remains a towering feminist figure - but because of its vivid, imaginative writing.

Based on lectures given to female students at Cambridge, Woolf’s essay argues powerfully for the intellectual independence of women. Such independence, she reasons, must first be materially possible, hence the female writer’s need for that famous "room of one’s own."

To exemplify this, Woolf imagines a certain Judith Shakespeare, the playwright’s equally talented sister: would she not be incapable of achieving the same success as her brother owing to the patriarchal structures of society? In our post-Me Too world a century later, the question remains vital.

By Virginia Woolf,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Room Of One's Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves - and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted. They have enriched lives - and destroyed them. Now Penguin brings you the works of the great thinkers, pioneers, radicals and visionaries whose ideas shook civilization, and helped make us who we are.


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

Zoë Coyle Author Of The Dangers of Female Provocation

From my list on women pushed to the edge.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a woman and so like all of us who have lived long enough, I have been pushed to the edge. I’m fascinated with what society tells us we are and are not meant to feel or express. In part this is because I teach emotional intelligence and empathy, also because I am the mother of four and the more emotional literacy I have, the richer my life is. I’m not interested in having any emotions disavowed for anyone of any gender. I teach wholehearted leadership with my company Pilot Light and also speak to school students and other groups about feminism, gratitude, courage, pornography, creativity, overwhelm, and vulnerability. 

Zoë's book list on women pushed to the edge

Zoë Coyle Why did Zoë love this book?

"This book is about what happens when women are the storytellers too – when we speak from our authentic voices, when we flex our values, when we become protagonists in the tales we tell about what it is to be human."

I reference this wonderful, non-fiction book in my novel several times. Once when Odessa the main character sees it on her bookshelf.

Another time when Odessa talks about the shocking myth of Cassandra, who was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo but when she wouldn’t sleep with him he cursed her that no one would believe her.

And the third reference is at the end of my novel, Odessa’s dog bears Casandra as her mighty name. As an embodiment of all that will be listened to and believed. Cassandra Speaks had a profound impact on me as a woman, a mother, a sister, a human, and as a…

By Elizabeth Lesser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors 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…


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