The most recommended gender studies books

Who picked these books? Meet our 13 experts.

13 authors created a book list connected to gender studies, and here are their favorite gender studies books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of gender studies book?


Book cover of Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies

Michael Smithson Author Of Uncertainty and Risk: Multidisciplinary Perspectives

From my list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk.

Who am I?

My interest in ignorance and uncertainty was sparked when I was an undergraduate mathematics student. I was taking my first courses in probability and then reading about Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, realizing that even mathematics contains untamed unknowns. Later, as a PhD student in sociology I read theories about how knowledge is socially constructed, the foundation of the “sociology of knowledge”. I wondered why there wasn’t also a “sociology of ignorance”. That ignited my interest, and the social construction of ignorance became my life-long research topic. I have since seen it grow from my solo efforts in the 1980s to a flourishing multidisciplinary topic of research and public debate.  

Michael's book list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk

Michael Smithson Why did Michael love this book?

Ignorance studies arrived full-blown with the first edition of this Handbook in 2015, and the second edition is even better, both in breadth and in depth. 

As the editors point out, ignorance has become increasingly politically relevant recently, and the book’s chapters reflect this. It’s arranged in five parts, starting with new philosophical insights and perspectives on the study of ignorance, and moving to the manifestations and uses of ignorance in science and technology, politics and law, inter-group relations, and political economy. 

An impressive variety of disciplines and domains is represented, including the arts, social sciences, law, philosophy, and physical and biological sciences. If you desire a deep dive into ignorance then this book is for you, and it’s available as an ebook at a very reasonable price. 

By Matthias Gross (editor), Linsey McGoey (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Routledge International Handbook of Ignorance Studies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once treated as the absence of knowledge, ignorance has now become a highly influential and rapidly growing topic in its own right. This new edition of the seminal text in the field is fully revised and includes new and expanded chapters on religion; domestic law and jurisprudence; sexuality and gender studies; memory studies; international relations; psychology; decision-theory; and colonial history.

The study of ignorance has attracted growing attention across the natural and social sciences where a wide range of scholars explore the social life and political issues involved in the distribution and strategic use of not knowing. This handbook reflects…

Book cover of The Horned Man

Ryan Tim Morris Author Of This Never Happened

From my list on that leave you questioning identity and maybe reality.

Who am I?

When I start a new book, my aim is to write something completely different from what I’ve written before. It’s challenging, but also important to keep things fresh. To me, a blank slate before each story is thrilling. To start with nothing, and end with something wholly original. This Never Happened, my third book, began with a feeling we’ve all had before: the feeling of not belonging. I asked myself, “What if I really didn't belong here, but was meant for somewhere else entirely?” From there, I created a character who grows increasingly unsure of his own identity and reality, themes that are also present in my selection of books below.

Ryan's book list on that leave you questioning identity and maybe reality

Ryan Tim Morris Why did Ryan love this book?

Such a peculiar book. The Horned Man is not for those who want answers or resolutions. By the time the final page is turned you'll find yourself with more questions than you had at any other point in the book. It takes the Unreliable Narrator device to the extreme, to the point where you don’t really believe anything from the get-go, a unique way to tell a story, but it works here. This book is dark, smart, uncomfortable, and it is unlike anything you'll ever read. Lasdun’s prose is also exceptional, and I’ve often found myself getting lost in his paragraphs, enjoying how I can stop and really take the time to re-read how the author has crafted his story, and lead you exactly where he wanted to.

By James Lasdun,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Horned Man opens with a man losing his place in a book, then deepens into a dark and terrifying tale of a man losing his place in the world. As Lawrence Miller-an English expatriate and professor of gender studies-tells the story of what appears to be an elaborate conspiracy to frame him for a series of brutal killings, we descend into a world of subtly deceptive appearances where persecutor and victim continually shift roles, where paranoia assumes an air of calm rationality, and where enlightenment itself casts a darkness in which the most nightmarish acts occur. As the novel…

Book cover of Bananas, Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics

Debangana Chatterjee Author Of Lives of Circumcised and Veiled Women: A Global-Indian Interplay of Discourses and Narratives

From my list on gender and culture with a unique lens.

Who am I?

Since my childhood, I understood quite well that "gender" is a troubled water. Women were not allowed access to education, were domesticated, and were not allowed to vote for the longest time in history. Yet I did not quite know how to articulate how it should be! While broadly "gender" still remains a concern, growing as an academic (currently as an Assistant Professor of Social Sciences at National Law School of India University), I started asking how best we can reconcile gender and culture, and even if we do, what does it mean for my country, India and the discipline of International Relations?

Debangana's book list on gender and culture with a unique lens

Debangana Chatterjee Why did Debangana love this book?

As a graduate student, I picked up this book on gender and international relations, and there was no turning back; I now knew my domain!

I realized where I stood in the male-dominated discipline of international relations, where concerns of "Man, State, and the War" dominate. The often-overlooked frivolousness of domesticity is also a matter of international relations. This book asks: "Where are women?" as it explores the gendered aspects of everyday life, as often we women tend to ask, navigating through the alleys of personal and professional spaces.

Making feminist sense of international politics requires genuine curiosity about multi-layered women's lives: air hostesses, base women, diplomatic wives, factory and domestic workers, and more. After all, power takes a myriad of avatars; power, taste, attraction, and desire are not mutually exclusive.

The author says it best when remapping the boundaries of international and political, "We are not just acted upon;…

By Cynthia Enloe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Bananas, Beaches and Bases as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this brand new radical analysis of globalization, Cynthia Enloe examines recent events - Bangladeshi garment factory deaths, domestic workers in the Persian Gulf, Chinese global tourists, and the UN gender politics of guns - to reveal the crucial role of women in international politics today. With all new and updated chapters, Enloe describes how many women's seemingly personal strategies - in their marriages, in their housework, in their coping with ideals of beauty - are, in reality, the stuff of global politics. Enloe offers a feminist gender analysis of the global politics of both masculinities and femininities, dismantles an…

Book cover of Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship

Colleen Rowan Kosinski Author Of A Home Again

From my list on picture books on diversity and feelings.

Who am I?

I am a lyrical writer and have a passion for quiet, thoughtful books. I wrote A Home Again when I became an empty nester. When my husband and I were discussing downsizing our home, I was surprised by the reactions of my grown children. They absolutely did not want us to sell their family home. That led me to think about how our house would feel if we left. A new book was born. My friends, a gay couple, had just bought a new home and I thought it would be wonderful to make the second family in the story two dads. We need to show children there is a diverse array of families in the world—but what connects them all is love.

Colleen's book list on picture books on diversity and feelings

Colleen Rowan Kosinski Why did Colleen love this book?

Errol and Thomas (his teddy bear), are best friends. But Errol starts noticing that Thomas doesn’t seem to enjoy all the things they do together and seems to be sad. Eventually, Thomas admits to Errol that they had always felt like a girl bear and would like to be called Tilly. Errol doesn’t care about the bear’s gender—just that they are best friends. It’s a lovely story about unconditional love and acceptance.

By Jessica Walton, Dougal MacPherson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Introducing Teddy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it's riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do together. One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas the Teddy is sad, and Errol can't figure out why. Then Thomas the Teddy finally tells Errol what Teddy has been afraid to say: 'In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly.' And Errol says, 'I don't care if you're a…

Book cover of The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature

Joshua A. Fogel Author Of Maiden Voyage: The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

From my list on Jewish history.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of China and Japan whose work has hewed close to the cultural interactions between Chinese and Japanese over recent centuries. I’m now working on the history of the Esperanto movement in China and Japan from the first years of the twentieth century through the early 1930s. The topic brings together my interests in Sino-Japanese historical relations, linguistic scholarship, and Jewish history (the creator of Esperanto was a Polish-Jewish eye doctor). Over the last couple of decades, I have become increasingly interested in Jewish history. I think by now I know what counts as good history, but I’m still an amateur in Jewish history. Nonetheless, these books all struck me as extraordinary.

Joshua's book list on Jewish history

Joshua A. Fogel Why did Joshua love this book?

The collection of essay on the Talmud and early rabbinic literature is part of the immense “Companion” series that Cambridge University Press has been bringing out for some time.  I have read their volume on baseball and the Beatles and one or two more.  Each one of the essays in the Talmud volume is astonishingly insightful and, not always concomitant, a delight to read.  These are not the usual words associated with the Talmud.  In short, I enjoyed it immensely.

By Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert (editor), Martin S. Jaffee (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume introduces students of rabbinic literature to the range of historical and interpretative questions surrounding the rabbinic texts of late antiquity. The editors, themselves well-known interpreters of Rabbinic literature, have gathered an international collection of scholars to support students' initial steps in confronting the enormous and complex rabbinic corpus. Unlike other introductions to Rabbinic writings, the present volume includes approaches shaped by anthropology, gender studies, oral-traditional studies, classics, and folklore studies.

Book cover of Experiencing War

Greta Lynn Uehling Author Of Everyday War: The Conflict over Donbas, Ukraine

From my list on the connection between personal relationships.

Who am I?

As a cultural anthropologist, I'm like a cultural detective, exploring the intricate and often heart-wrenching world of war, conflict, and population displacement. But before you envision me in a dusty library, let me share that I found my passion for unraveling the everyday, lived experiences of war while living in Ukraine, where I became close to incredible individuals whose lives had been profoundly altered by war. When people shared with me how Russian aggression was tearing apart their cherished friendships and family bonds, I knew I had to delve into the profound effects of war on personal relationships. So, here I am, on a mission to illuminate the hidden stories, and the untold struggles, that are so important. 

Greta's book list on the connection between personal relationships

Greta Lynn Uehling Why did Greta love this book?

Experiencing War is a gem because Christine Sylvester argues so compellingly that war can’t be fully apprehended without considering experiences in addition to the more abstract geopolitical levels of analysis.

It was my personal experience of PTSD in Ukraine that persuaded me I had enough situated knowledge to write Everyday War, and Sylvester’s book affirmed this experience as a starting point. Everyday War is calibrated to fill the gap in knowledge about the embodied and subjective dimensions of war that Sylvester identifies in her succinct survey of the literature on war.

By Christine Sylvester (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This edited collection explores aspects of contemporary war that affect average people -physically, emotionally, and ethically through activities ranging from combat to television viewing.

The aim of this work is to supplement the usual emphasis on strategic and national issues of war in the interest of theorizing aspects of war from the point of view of individual experience, be the individual a combatant, a casualty, a supporter, opponent, recorder, veteran, distant viewer, an international lawyer, an ethicist or other intellectual. This volume presents essays that push the boundaries of war studies and war thinking, without promoting one kind of theory…

Book cover of All the Rage: Mothers, Fathers, and the Myth of Equal Partnership

Kim Imas Author Of Beast Mom

From my list on women and anger.

Who am I?

We talk a lot about the big public events that expanded the #MeToo movement so astronomically, like the election to the US presidency of a man who bragged about assaulting women, and the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein. But I think most American women have other, more personal beefs that originate from their being a woman. I, for one, was shocked at how unnecessarily difficult it was to be a new mother in the US. Other places support this vulnerable group much more than we do here, and living that disparity angered me—like, for example, when my husband exhausted what little parental leave he had available before our twins were even released from the NICU.

Kim's book list on women and anger

Kim Imas Why did Kim love this book?

In my book, the protagonist Harriet gets more and more pissed about a whole range of things, one being the fact that she’s got to do so much more than her husband Theo when it comes to the work of running their household.

In All the Rage, Darcy Lockman shows just how pervasive this reality is, and how deeply inconsistent it is with the worldviews of the women and men who find themselves stuck it. This mom-heavy imbalance of household labor is a breaking of a promise, in a way—one that so many of us went into our marriage with, and that remains an ongoing source of tension not only in my book but in homes across the US.

By Darcy Lockman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Rage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do men do so little at home? Why do women do so much? Why don't our egalitarian values match our lived experiences?

Journalist-turned-psychologist Darcy Lockman offers a clear-eyed look at the most pernicious problem facing modern parents-how progressive relationships become traditional ones when children are introduced into the household.

In an era of seemingly unprecedented feminist activism, enlightenment, and change, data shows that one area of gender inequality stubbornly persists: the disproportionate amount of parental work that falls to women, no matter their background, class, or professional status. All the Rage investigates the cause of this pervasive inequity to…

Book cover of Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs and Biopolitics in the Pharmacopornographic Era

Merrill Cole Author Of The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality

From my list on queer theory to gain an understanding of the field.

Who am I?

I’ve been pondering philosophical questions and trying to understand my queer sexuality since childhood. While checking out The Portable Nietzsche in my high school library, the librarian warned me the philosopher was “a bad man.” Then I had to read the book, which not only taught me to become critical of all forms of authority, but also, perhaps paradoxically, empowered me to embrace my queerness. As a college and graduate student, I studied many of the American academic movements based in Continental philosophy grouped under the rubric, “theory.” When queer theory emerged in the early 1990s’, I found a place for myself. I'm convinced that we should never stop putting our identities under critique.

Merrill's book list on queer theory to gain an understanding of the field

Merrill Cole Why did Merrill love this book?

Paul B. Preciado’s Testo Junkie, originally published in Spanish in 2008 and republished in English translation in 2013, is lusty, hyperbolic, and explosive.

It’s part postqueer, trans-feminist manifesto, part record of a cis-female’s illicit experimentation with testosterone, and part explicit fucking. A much more enjoyable book than Judith Butler’s groundbreaking Gender Trouble and Bodies that Matter, and it has the advantage of updating Butler’s Foucault-based theory with the twenty-first-century concerns.

Preciado argues that today’s “pharmacopornographic” regime utilizes drugs and erotic imagery—hormone shots and money shots—to control our subjectivity and gender, instating a system of knowledge and power in which the body “no longer inhabits disciplinary spaces but is inhabited by them.”

By Beatriz Preciado,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This visionary book on gender and sexuality weaves together high theory and intimate memoir, with "spectacular" results—"and the gendered body will never be the same again" (Jack Halberstam). 

What constitutes a "real" man or woman in the twenty-first century? Since birth control pills, erectile dysfunction remedies, and factory-made testosterone and estrogen were developed, biology is definitely no longer destiny.

In this penetrating analysis of gender, Paul B. Preciado shows the ways in which the synthesis of hormones since the 1950s has fundamentally changed how gender and sexual identity are formulated, and how the pharmaceutical and pornography industries are in the…

Book cover of Sex in Antiquity: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in the Ancient World

Daisy Dunn Author Of Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

From my list on love and sex in ancient rome.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve trips to Roman villas in Britain, theatres in Sicily, and museums across Europe. After studying Classics at Oxford, I completed a Masters and then a Ph.D., eager to gain as strong a grounding in the ancient world as I could before pursuing a career as an author. Ancient history has a reputation for being complicated. When I write books, I strive not to simplify the past, but rather to provide an engaging, memorable, and above all enjoyable path into it. 

Daisy's book list on love and sex in ancient rome

Daisy Dunn Why did Daisy love this book?

This volume contains essays on sexuality in all corners of the ancient world, from the Near East to Athens and Israel. But Part III is dedicated to Rome and offers a smorgasbord of discussions on everything from ‘The bisexuality of Orpheus’ to erectile dysfunction. The perfect book for dipping in and out of.

By Mark Masterson (editor), Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz (editor), James Robson (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Looking at sex and sexuality from a variety of historical, sociological and theoretical perspectives, as represented in a variety of media, Sex in Antiquity represents a vibrant picture of the discipline of ancient gender and sexuality studies, showcasing the work of leading international scholars as well as that of emerging talents and new voices.

Sexuality and gender in the ancient world is an area of research that has grown quickly with often sudden shifts in focus and theoretical standpoints. This volume contextualizes these shifts while putting in place new ideas and avenues of exploration that further develop this lively field.…

Book cover of Pet Projects

Susan K. Harris Author Of Mark Twain, the World, and Me: Following the Equator, Then and Now

From my list on blending memoir, travel, and history.

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed books that introduce me to faraway places, cultural narratives, and the writers behind the stories. After retiring from college teaching, I decided to write one myself. I’m a Mark Twain scholar, so I followed Twain’s lecture tour through Australasia, India, and South Africa. One of my goals was to expose my research methods to my readers, and writing in the first person made that easy. What I hadn’t foreseen was how much the process would force me to confront my own past—exposing the radical differences between Mark Twain and Me. 

Susan's book list on blending memoir, travel, and history

Susan K. Harris Why did Susan love this book?

I love what Young is doing—breaking out of her “college prof” shell and talking directly to us about her life with animals—dead and alive. She starts with her dog Frankie’s cancer diagnosis and wraps her own reactions to his treatments into her study of 19th-century fiction that focuses on animals—like the famous horse narrative Black Beauty and the equally-famous-but-now-forgotten dog narrative Beautiful Joe. Her travels take her through both physical and imaginative time and place—from Beautiful Joe’s origins in Nova Scotia to her meditations on the art of animal taxidermy. I learned a lot about the history of animal/human relations from this book, and I really enjoyed Young’s voice and puns. It’s a great addition to our goal to bring academic knowledge out into the public sphere. 

By Elizabeth Young,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Pet Projects, Elizabeth Young joins an analysis of the representation of animals in nineteenth-century fiction, taxidermy, and the visual arts with a first-person reflection on her own scholarly journey. Centering on Margaret Marshall Saunders, a Canadian woman writer once famous for her animal novels, and incorporating Young's own experience of a beloved animal's illness, this study highlights the personal and intellectual stakes of a "pet project" of cultural criticism.

Young assembles a broad archive of materials, beginning with Saunders's novels and widening outward to include fiction, nonfiction, photography, and taxidermy. She coins the term "first-dog voice" to describe the…