Ms. Readers’ Choice: Top 100 Non-Fiction Books?

Time’s recent article on the 100 best non-fiction reads got us Ms. bloggers thinking about what we’d put on our own list. Time included a respectable number of arguable feminist classics such as Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s Our Bodies, Ourselves, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa and Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, but, as we all know, feminist women have a lot more to say. That’s where you come in. We invite our trusty Ms. blog readers to speak up and help us create a top 100 best feminist non-fiction reads. Participate below by writing in the comments section, or vote on our list at Goodreads. We’ll post our “official” list in two weeks’ time.

And here are my (decidedly subjective) picks to get it started:

  1. Women, Race and Class by Angela Y. Davis: This book really opened my eyes to historic struggles over basic women’s rights such as suffrage and access to birth control. Davis’ careful attention to class issues is rare and is reason enough to crack the book.I could go on and on about this one.
  2. Frida Kahlo: Face to Face by Judy Chicago: As Chicago put it, “although there have been so many books about [Kahlo], there has never been a systematic analysis of her themes and her subject matter.” She leaves behind the cartoony myth-making and delivers a comprehensive look at Kahlo’s oeuvre.
  3. The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir: Talk about a founding mother. If you can make it through this exhaustive philosophical tome, it will forever change the way you think about what it means to be a woman in society.
  4. Marilyn by Gloria Steinem: Steinem dedicated this book to “the real Marilyn. And to the reality in all of us.” Then she plumbs Norma Jeane’s psyche for a feminist reframing of her relationships and career motivations that is both warm-hearted and refreshing. And there’s no skeevy list of all her alleged sexual trysts. Take that, Norman Mailer!
  5. Out of the Vinyl Deeps by Ellen Willis: This book collects essays from the New Yorker’s first-ever pop-music writer, who happened to be a woman, as well as a founding member of the radical feminist group Redstockings. (Radical feminist rocker girls are just too rare for my tastes.) In his forward to Out of the Vinyl Deeps, current critic Sasha Frere-Jones excellently described Willis as “unbiddable.” I.e., she made her own rules.

What books are your feminist non-fiction favorites? Add your picks to the comments below or to our list at Goodreads.

Photo from Flickr user Spirit-Fire under Creative Commons 2.0.

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