The most recommended feminist theory books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to feminist theory, and here are their favorite feminist theory books.
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Book cover of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Trilby Kent Author Of Once, in a Town Called Moth

From my list on smart girls figuring out hard stuff.

Who am I?

My family moved around a lot when I was younger, which may explain why I’m fascinated by the experience of being an outsider. To me, it’s not a bad thing; being on the outside can sometimes help a person to see things more clearly, to think more critically and creatively. The year I spent living in a country where English wasn’t the main language was one of the most stimulating periods of my life, because I was so attuned to all the tiny details that other people took for granted. Plus, as teenagers, everyone feels like they’re on the outside looking in – which is probably why all of my books have contained some coming-of-age element. 

Trilby's book list on smart girls figuring out hard stuff

Trilby Kent Why did Trilby love this book?

Like many people, I was really impressed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk on the problem of a single story. So when I saw that she’d written a short chapbook of feminist advice for a friend who’d recently become a mother to a baby girl, I had to get my hands on a copy. My own daughter was still a preschooler when it came out, so I figured I had just enough time to make good on the fifteen pieces of advice she offers. Witty, wise, and supremely accessible, this is a book for mothers and daughters equally – as well as anyone with an interest in building a more just and equitable world for all.

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The award-winning author of We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah gives us this powerful statement about feminism today—written as a letter to a friend.

A few years ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie received a letter from a childhood friend, a new mother who wanted to know how to raise her baby girl to be a feminist. Dear Ijeawele is Adichie’s letter of response: fifteen invaluable suggestions—direct, wryly funny, and perceptive—for how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. Filled with compassionate guidance and advice, it gets right to the heart of sexual politics in…


Book cover of Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings: The Emotional Costs of Everyday Life

Todd McGowan Author Of Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Cost of Free Markets

From my list on psychoanalysis and capitalism.

Who am I?

I have spent a great deal of time exploring how psychoanalytic theory might be the basis for a critique of capitalism. I had always heard the Marxist analysis of capitalist society, but what interested me was how psychoanalytic theory might offer a different line of thought about how capitalism works. The impulse that drives people to accumulate beyond what is enough for them always confused me since I was a small child. It seems to me that psychoanalytic theory gives us the tools to understand this strange phenomenon that somehow appears completely normal to us. 

Todd's book list on psychoanalysis and capitalism

Todd McGowan Why did Todd love this book?

Although Ruti’s book is not directly about capitalism, it includes perhaps the best psychoanalytic proposal of confronting the imperatives of capitalist society that I have ever read. Ruti discusses how sexism operates within capitalism primarily in the book, but her point is always about how concepts from psychoanalysis that seem retrograde—such as penis envy—can actually be the basis for a critique of capitalism and sexism. 

By Mari Ruti,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Penis Envy and Other Bad Feelings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mari Ruti combines theoretical reflection, cultural critique, feminist politics, and personal experience to analyze the prevalence of bad feelings in contemporary everyday life. Proceeding from a playful engagement with Freud's idea of penis envy, Ruti's autotheoretical commentary fans out to a broader consideration of neoliberal pragmatism. She focuses on the emphasis on good performance, high productivity, constant self-improvement, and relentless cheerfulness that characterizes present-day Western society. Revealing the treacherousness of our fantasies of the good life, particularly the idea that our efforts will eventually be rewarded-that things will eventually get better-Ruti demystifies the false hope that often causes us to…


Book cover of Greek Tragedy

Sue Blundell Author Of Women in Ancient Greece

From my list on women in classical Greece and how to think about them.

Who am I?

Since I retired from lecturing in Classical Studies I’ve been writing more pieces on women in the ancient world, and also some plays. One of them, 189 Pieces, is about the Portland Vase, a beautiful example of Roman glass whose label in the British Museum tells us that it was owned by the Duke of Portland. This is true—he’d inherited it—but it was bought at great expense by his grandmother, the wonderful Duchess of Portland. Giving women their place in history has been my aim in much of my work. Nowadays I’m obsessed with female footwear, and Cinderella, Goody Two-Shoes, and Carrie Bradshaw take up a lot of my time. 

Sue's book list on women in classical Greece and how to think about them

Sue Blundell Why did Sue love this book?

Thrilling portraits of violent women in Greek tragedy—for example, Clytemnestra, Electra, and Medeaseem like an anomaly in a society that expected women to get married, bear children, be quiet, and stay at home. In this accessible introduction to the subject Rabinowitz examines tragedy in its original theatrical and social contexts. Her analyses of selected plays are grounded in psychoanalytic and feminist theory, and include vivid accounts of some modern performances. Whatever is happening in the world, there is always a Greek tragedy that speaks to it. 

By Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Greek Tragedy sets ancient tragedy into its original theatrical, political and ritual context and applies modern critical approaches to understanding why tragedy continues to interest modern audiences. * An engaging introduction to Greek tragedy, its history, and its reception in the contemporary world with suggested readings for further study * Examines tragedy's relationship to democracy, religion, and myth * Explores contemporary approaches to scholarship, including structuralist, psychoanalytic, and feminist theory * Provides a thorough examination of contemporary performance practices * Includes detailed readings of selected plays


Book cover of The Death of Intimacy: Barriers to Meaningful Interpersonal Relationships

Jeff Davidson Author Of Breathing Space: Living and Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society

From my list on to help you have more breathing space.

Who am I?

I hold the registered trademark as "The Work-Life Balance Expert®," and work with organizations that seek to enhance their productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. I've spoken to Fortune 50 companies such as IBM, Cardinal Health Group, Lockheed, American Express, the IRS, Wells Fargo, and Westinghouse. My books have been published in 19 languages and have been featured in 68 of the top 75 American newspapers, as well as Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. At heart, I'm a simpler living advocate. I believe in giving back to his community and am an active volunteer for Art Space in downtown Raleigh, and the North Carolina Museum of Art.


Jeff's book list on to help you have more breathing space

Jeff Davidson Why did Jeff love this book?

If you're looking for a book that captures the zeitgeist of contemporary relationships, here it is, well before the reign of Facebook. Calling upon social commentary, psychoanalysis, psychology, sociology, feminist theory, anthropology, family theory, and linguistics, the author presents a broad-based, scholarly, and sobering analysis of the toxic trends and processes in our society which are casting Americans adrift from their emotional and psychic moorings, and leaving them unable to initiate or sustain meaningful relationships.

Because of the ever-growing impersonal nature of our society, it has become more difficult to begin and sustain intimate relationships. Indeed, it seems as if modern life is represented by a series of relationships of convenience that often lack substance. These kinds of insights make this book very appealing. The author contends that we're losing our overall ability to be involved in meaningful relationships and instead are relegated to something less. Most important, the author…

By Philip M. Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Brown, Philip M.


Book cover of Women's Food Matters: Stirring the Pot

David E. Sutton Author Of Bigger Fish to Fry: A Theory of Cooking as Risk, with Greek Examples

From my list on scholarly reads about cooking.

Who am I?

I’ve always been interested in food, even as young as 3 years old I remember wanting to taste everything, and I found the process of cooking fascinating. But I really got interested in food as a topic for research during my time studying Greek culture for my PhD thesis. People on the island of Kalymnos, where I’ve conducted research for 30 years, made a strong connection between food and memory, but it was a connection that few scholars have written about until recently. So I’ve been excited to participate in a new field reflected by all of these books, and hope you will be as well.

David's book list on scholarly reads about cooking

David E. Sutton Why did David love this book?

This is the first book of its kind to combine a focus on women’s food knowledge from growing and harvesting to cooking.

The author draws from a wide array of sources to provide a rare cross-cultural and historical perspective on women’s food practices and their significance to “sexual politics.” Written in accessible and lively prose that is both informative and a pleasure to read.

By Vicki A. Swinbank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Food Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women have always been inextricably linked to food, especially in its production and preparation. This link, which applies cross-culturally, has seldom been fully acknowledged or celebrated. The role of women in this is usually taken for granted and therefore often rendered unimportant or invisible. This book presents a wide-ranging, interdiscplinary and comprehensive feminist analysis of women's central role in many aspects of the world's food systems and cultures. This central role is examined through a range of lenses, namely cross-cultural, intergenerational, and socially diverse.


Book cover of Visual and Other Pleasures

Hanna Flint Author Of Strong Female Character

From my list on championing women in cinema.

Who am I?

I'm a London-based critic, author, and host whose love affair with film began after seeing The Lion King in the cinema as a kid. I trained as a journalist because I wanted to talk about the world. Since then I’ve been covering film and culture for the likes of Empire Magazine, Time Out, and IGN. I co-host MTV Movies and the weekly film reviews podcast Fade to Black; co-founder of The First Film Club event series and podcast, and am a member of London's Critics' Circle. I'm a voice for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion in the entertainment industry and an advocate for MENA representation as a writer of Tunisian heritage.

Hanna's book list on championing women in cinema

Hanna Flint Why did Hanna love this book?

One of the most influential thinkers and writers on feminist film theory, Mulvey’s groundbreaking essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” is one of many that tackle the representation of women in art and culture and how these mediums might impede or aid the women’s movement.

Mulvey was a great resource for my own book in analysing the overt sexualisation of female characters on screen to cater to the so-called Male Gaze and misogynistic pleasures.

By L. Mulvey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Visual and Other Pleasures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new edition of Laura Mulvey's groundbreaking collection of essays, originally published in 1989. In an extensive introduction to this second edition, Mulvey looks back at the historical and personal contexts for her famous article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema , and reassesses her theories in the light of new technologies.


Book cover of Family Matters: Feminist Concepts in African Philosophy of Culture

Romina Istratii Author Of Adapting Gender and Development to Local Religious Contexts: A Decolonial Approach to Domestic Violence in Ethiopia

From my list on gender, religion, and domestic violence.

Who am I?

As a Moldovan emigrant growing up in Greece, I believed that Western institutions were centers of excellent knowledge. After studying in the USA and the UK and conducting research with Muslim and Christian communities in Africa, I became aware of colonial, ethnocentric, and universalizing tendencies in gender, religion, and domestic violence studies and their application in non-western contexts. International development had historically followed a secular paradigm congruent with Western societies’ perception of religion and its role in society. My work has since sought to bridge religious beliefs with gender analysis in international development work so that the design of gender-sensitive interventions might respond better to domestic violence in traditional religious societies.

Romina's book list on gender, religion, and domestic violence

Romina Istratii Why did Romina love this book?

I read Nzegwu’s book after completing my PhD and it left a lingering impression on me.

Her work effectively challenged conceptualizations of gender that assumed an inherently hierarchical relationship between female and male. It also drew attention to the role of colonial laws and judicial edicts in promoting gender inequality in Nigeria’s Igbo society.

Nzegwu's discussion of the Onitsa dual-sex system that had historically embraced sexual difference but still granted women and men respective powers and responsibilities in society told a different story about gender relations in African societies prior to Western colonialism.

Nzegwu’s work echoes Oyěwùmí’s, and together they offer a window into alternative gender realities we can learn from. 

By Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Charts new trends in gender studies through a compelling analysis of Igbo society.


Book cover of Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin

Nancy Princenthal Author Of Unspeakable Acts: Women, Art, and Sexual Violence in the 1970s

From my list on putting sexual assault in perspective.

Who am I?

I write about contemporary art, and much of the work I’ve been drawn to was made by women and by artists in other sidelined communities. Early on, I also focused on marginalized disciplines: artists’ books, performance, and art that responded directly to the vacant sites that abounded in New York City when I started out in the late 1970s. It was an enormously exciting time, but also a tough one. Violence was very hard to avoid. I didn’t focus on that at the time, but ultimately, I realized I needed to look more directly at trouble, and how artists respond to it.  

Nancy's book list on putting sexual assault in perspective

Nancy Princenthal Why did Nancy love this book?

I didn’t read Last Days of Hot Slit in time to include it in my own book about sexual violence. In truth, I could have (barely; it was published just before I finished). But I felt comfortable with my aversion to Dworkin, a crusader against assault who had found common cause with conservative activists. And Dworkin was a self-defeating font of vituperation, wasn’t she? Well, no. She was in fact altogether brilliant. Fateman’s wonderfully lucid, deeply researched introduction and the careful selection she and Scholder made of Dworkin’s surprisingly wide-ranging work, demonstrate the force and courage not just of this radical feminist’s writing, but also of her character. She was dauntless.

By Andrea Dworkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Days at Hot Slit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Selections from the work of radical feminist author Andrea Dworkin, famous for her antipornography stance and role in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s.

Radical feminist author Andrea Dworkin was a caricature of misandrist extremism in the popular imagination and a polarizing figure within the women's movement, infamous for her antipornography stance and her role in the feminist sex wars of the 1980s. She still looms large in feminist demands for sexual freedom, evoked as a censorial demagogue, more than a decade after her death. Among the very first writers to use her own experiences of rape and battery…


Book cover of Reversed Realities: Gender Hierarchies in Development Thought

Benjamin Selwyn Author Of The Struggle for Development

From my list on the world on international development.

Who am I?

I’m a political economist interested in development which I’ve been studying, researching, and writing about since my undergraduate days in the early 1990s.

Benjamin's book list on the world on international development

Benjamin Selwyn Why did Benjamin love this book?

I’m writing this section just a couple of days after International Women’s Day (IWD).

IWD 2023 focussed on the gender gap in digital innovation. Closing this gap would contribute to progress in achieving substantive gender equality, but IWD organisers also argue, it would generate more economic growth.

This narrative is partial and ideological. It uses a fact (the gender gap) and a worthy objective (of eliminating that gap) to promote a particular conception of women – something that Naila Kabeer illuminates with great effect in Reversed Realities.

Part of the reason for socio-economic gender gaps is the amount of (often unpaid) time women spend caring for others. While care is foundational to what makes us human, in contemporary capitalist societies care work is devalued to the extent that much of it goes unpaid. Could it be otherwise?

Kabeer shows how so much ideology about gender equality is based upon the…

By Naila Kabeer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Reversed Realities uncovers the deeply entrenched, hence barely visible, biases which underpin mainstream development theory and account for the marginal status given to women's needs in current development policy. Naila Kabeer traces the emergence of 'women' as a specific category in development thought and examines alternative frameworks for analysing gender hierarchies. She identifies the household as a primary site for the construction of power relations and compares the extent to which gender inequalities are revealed in different approaches to the concept of the family unit. The book assesses the inadequacies of the poverty line as a measuring tool and provides…


Book cover of Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security

Valerie M. Hudson Author Of The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide

From my list on feminist international relations.

Who am I?

Valerie M. Hudson is a University Distinguished Professor and holds the George H.W. Bush Chair in the Department of International Affairs at The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, where she directs the Program on Women, Peace, and Security. Hudson was named to the list of Foreign Policy magazine’s Top 100 Global Thinkers, and was recognized as Distinguished Scholar of Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA/ISA) and awarded an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellowship as well as an inaugural Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Australian National University. She has been selected as the Distinguished Scholar Award recipient for 2022 by the Political Demography and Geography Section (PDG/ISA) of the International Studies Association. 

Valerie's book list on feminist international relations

Valerie M. Hudson Why did Valerie love this book?

If Enloe’s book set the stage, Tickner’s 1992 book was the first to openly challenge the then-conventional verities of IR Theory in a systematic way. In her book, Tickner takes on the two major subdivisions of IR thought—Security/Conflict Studies and International Political Economy, and mounts a devastating critique of the major approaches in each. She lambasts how gendered our understandings of, say, deterrence are, and how the state is viewed in IR theory as a “masculine” entity, and how this has warped our understandings and even the very questions we ask in IR. Tickner does the same with the clearly male-focused world of microeconomic theory with its womanless world of rational utility maximizers. This book set IR back on its collective heels. 

By J. Ann Tickner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gender in International Relations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a book on the role of gender in international relations.