10 Books Any Self-Respecting Feminist Needs on Her Shelf


Jen Kennedy and Liz Linden run a website called Contemporary Feminism, and we’ve asked them to create a list of ten books that any self-respecting woman would have on her bookshelf. “We’ve made the assignment a little easier by selecting from what’s available in our project book swap, which is part of an exhibition titled “The Missing Library,” the duo writes. “It’s a constantly evolving feminist library where visitors are encouraged to take a book from the collection in exchange for leaving one from their own. You can keep these books for a day, a week, or a lifetime, as long as you leave a different book — any other book that you think is feminist — behind.” Click through to check out their selections, and if you’re in New York, visit The Missing Library at the Dumbo Arts Center before they close up shop on August 14th.

The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 by Elizabeth Bishop

Life is better with Elizabeth Bishop close at hand. If you can’t make it to The Missing Library, you can view some of her poems here or find more information about her on her Poetry Foundation page here.

Art and Sexual Politics: Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists? edited by Thomas B. Hess and Elizabeth C. Baker

This anthology, published in 1973, includes Linda Nochlin’s provocative essay by the same title, along with a great variety of other artists and writers. The visuals that accompany the text are worth the price of the book alone.

The Women by Hilton Als

Als, a writer for The New Yorker, writes, “I knew I was a Negress… [when] I saw myself in my mother’s eyes; the reflection showed a teenage girl, insecure, frightened and vengeful.” He’s an excellent writer whose memoir, The Women, is as empathic a piece of writing as we have ever found. An amazing, generous book.

Women Culture Politics by Angela Davis

This is a deeply personal collection of Davis’s speeches and writings from the ’70s to the early ’90s, that address her experiences in the struggles for racial, social, and sexual equality.

From the Center, Feminist Essays on Women’s Art by Lucy Lippard

It was a struggle to choose which Lucy Lippard book to include, but this 1976 book is fascinating for many reasons, not least as a document self-consciously invested in creating a feminist art history.

Sexuality and Space by Beatriz Colomina

A critical book for anyone interested in how environments shape politics, and vice versa. Colomina is the Founding Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University and has served on the editorial board at Grey Room, among other publications.

The Beautiful Boy by Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer is stirring things up in this collection of illustrations from Praxiteles to Annie Leibovitz. Providing excellent fodder for debate, Greer asserts that the object of the gaze was originally, interestingly, the “boy.”

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

Janet Maslin at The New York Times called Random Family “a book that exerts the fascination of a classic unflinching documentary.” In the process of writing the book, LeBlanc quit her job at Seventeen and went through two agents, two publishers, and five editors. This book serves as a piece of long-form journalism that is a reminder why this type of writing is important, necessary, and can change the world.

Living with the Enemy by Donna Ferrato

Another great piece of journalism. Ferrato’s black-and-white photographs of women are fearless and heartbreaking.

Heresies 1 by The Heresies Collective

It’s hard to overstate the influence of the Heresies publications. The first one, especially, is a great example of what can be achieved with a Xerox machine, a plan, and some help from your friends.