My friend T. recently asked me for a list of my favorite feminist books, to use for a book review website project he's putting together. Unable to contain myself with the joy of this task, I put together a fairly comprehensive list (though I edited it down quite a bit). It was so much fun, I thought I'd share it here. Disagree with my picks? Think I left something essential out? Comment--I'd love to hear what you think!
1. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (W.W. Norton and Company, 1987)
2. The Second Sex by Simone DeBeauvoir (Everyman's Library, 1993)
3. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (W.W. Norton and Company, 1963)
It's tempting to me to skip these books altogether, because I don't like any of them, but I think they are necessary as foundation if you really want to get into this stuff.
4. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America by Ruth Rosen (Penguin, 2001)
5. Personal Politics: The Roots of Women's Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement & the New Left by Sara Evans (Vintage, 1980)
6. Tidal Wave: How Women Changed at Century's End by Sara Evans (Free Press, 2003)
7. No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freidman (Ballantine Books, 2003).
If you only read one book about feminism, the Ruth Rosen book gets my vote. It's very comprehensive, yet easy to read, and it has an amazing bibliography, sorted by subject. It's a great place to start. Personal Politics is also important, as it situates 2nd wave feminism in the other social movements of the time, which is something people are likely to miss. I haven't read Tidal Wave, but given what a good historian Sara Evans is, I can't imagine it's anything but good. Freedman is also a top-notch historian, and her book is excellent. It does a better job than the others with feminism before the 1960s.
8. Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Robin Morgan (Random House, 1970)
9. Dear Sisters: Dispatches from the Women's Liberation Movement edited by Rosalyn Baxandall and Linda Gordon (Basic Books, 2001)
10. Sexual Politics by Kate Millett (Doubleday, 1970)
11. The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone (Vintage, 1971)
12. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (McGraw Hill, 1971).
Of the first two, which are both document/essay collections, I'd say Sisterhood is Powerful is probably the better book, but Dear Sisters is a lot easier on the eyes and more reader-friendly. Both are definitely worth reading. The other three are all books written by activist women during the late 60s and early 70s. Kate Millett's has to do with sexism in literature, while Greer's and Firestone's are more broad-reaching.
13. To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism by Rebecca Edby Walker (Anchor, 1995)
14. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000)
15. Listen Up! Voices from the Next Feminist Generation edited by Barbara Findlen (Seal Press, 1995)
16. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (Seal Press, 2002)
I'm not a huge fan of most of the 3rd wave writing, but I think Manifesta gives a nice overview, and I am a big fan of nearly everything Rebecca Walker has written. Listen Up! is also a primer of sorts--short, easy-read essays. There is actually a newer version of it as well, Listen Up 2 Edition, which was published in 2001, but I haven't read it. Cunt is a must-read.
17. Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly (Beacon Press, 1990)
18. Pornography: Men Possessing Women by Andrea Dworkin (E.P. Dutton, 1989)
19. Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law by Catharine A. MacKinnon (Harvard University Press, 1988)
This is a category I am not all that well-versed in, but I've read Pornography, and got quite a lot out of it, and the other two books seem to be standards.
Women of Color
20. Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks (South End Press, 2000)
21. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks (South End Press, 1981)
22. Women, Race, and Class by Angela Y. Davis (Vintage, 1983)
23. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lord (Crossing Press, 1984)
24. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism edited by Daisy Hernandez and Bushra Rehman (Seal Press, 2002)
I am ashamed to say that I don't know nearly as much as I should about this category. However, I can vouch for both the Davis book and Feminism is for Everybody, and I have heard nothing but good things about Ain't I a Woman. Sister Outsider is mostly short stuff, and I have read most of it and loved all I've read. Colonize This! is anther one I haven't read, but since the rest of these are older writings/writings by older women, I think it's good to include a younger perspective as well.
Sexual Minority Feminism
25. Tales of the Lavender Menace: A Memoir of Liberation by Karla Jay (Basic Books, 1999)
26. Stone Butch Blues: A Novel by Leslie Feinberg (Firebrand Books, 1993)
27. Female Masculinity by Judith Halberstam (Duke University Press, 1998)
28. Amazon to Zami: Towards a Global Lesbian Feminism edited by Monika Reinfelder (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996)
Again I haven't read all of these, but have heard good things about all of them. I can personally vouch for Tales of the Lavender Menace and Stone Butch Blues, and neither should be missed, in my opinion.
29. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf (Anchor, 1992)
30. Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image edited by Ophira Edut (Seal Press, 2003) (Formerly Adios, Barbie! Young Women Write About Body Image and Identity, Seal Press, 1998)
31. Girl Culture by Lauren Greenfield and Joan Jacobs Brumberg (Chronicle Books, 2002)
The Beauty Myth is an all-time favorite of mine, and I think it holds up well over time. Body Outlaws is more fun to read, however, and is also quite good. Girl Culture is a photo essay book, and it's amazing.
32. In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller (Delta, 2000)
33. Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant by Andrea Dworkin (Basic Books, 2002)
34. Saturday's Child: A Memoir by Robin Morgan (W.W. Norton and Company, 2000)
35. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem (New American Library, 1992)
For my money, memoirs are the best way to get into reading feminist writers, especially someone like Andrea Dworkin. The Brownmiller and Morgan memoirs are both excellent, and Steinem's is a bit too wishy-washy for my taste, but you can't argue with her selling power or her staying power.
36. Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1993)
37. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi (Crown, 1991)
38. Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood by Naomi Wolf (Random House, 1997)
39. Femininity by Susan Brownmiller (Ballantine Books, 1985)
These are about a variety of topics, obviously, but they are books I think are important and beneficial that don't fit in elsewhere.