Nine Books I’m Reading This Summer (Plus One Very Special Book Coming This Fall!)

This article was originally published in Pat Mitchell’s blog and e-newsletter.

Books That Inspire Climate Action

After the warmest summer on record, I’ve moved two climate-themed books to the top of my stack: Not Too Late: Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility, and The Climate Action Handbook: A Visual Guide to 100 Climate Solutions for Everyone.

Although the climate crisis is here, there is still time to identify and implement the changes necessary for a climate safe world—everywhere. These two books shift the narrative from fear to hope. Hope inspires action—and actions, individually and collectively, are necessary right now.

So, rather than giving into despair, consider these books for a shot of much needed optimism:

Not Too Late by Rebecca Solnit, Thelma Young Lutunatabua

An energizing case for hope about the climate, from Rebecca Solnit, climate activist Thelma Young Lutunatabua, and a chorus of voices calling on us to rise to the moment.

Not Too Late is the book for anyone who is despondent or unsure about the difference any one of us can make in reversing the damage to our Earth and its natural systems and resources. As Solnit and the other contributors to this book make clear, the future will be decided by whether we — each of us — act in the present to counter the institutional inertia, the massively well resourced fossil fuel lobby and special interests groups, and political obduracy… Curated and articulated by the brilliant writer and wise woman, Rebecca Solnit, Not Too Late leads readers from climate despair to climate hope.”

Yale Climate Communications

Yale Climate Communications has announced Not Too Late as its summer book club pick. Join the book club and you’ll get email updates with thoughts on the essays, questions and an invitation to a webinar in September with Not Too Late editor Thelma Young Lutunatabua and contributor Nikayla Jefferson.

The Climate Action Handbook by Heidi A. Roop, Ph.D.

This must-have book shows us WHY we need to take action now to demand that companies, governments and communities make climate-safe changes, as well as, HOW actions can be taken through easy-to-understand language and fascinating infographics. This book details actions each of us can implement through varied and doable solutions to what can seem like an overwhelming challenge.

“A visually stunning guide, it does what no other climate change book manages to do: it’s approachable, digestible, and offers the average person ideas, options, and a roadmap for action. It also offers hope. …Dr. Heidi Roop’s 100 climate solutions can help move the needle in the right direction.”

Yale Climate Communications

TEDWomen Speaker Spotlight

In addition to my activism on climate, I’m also preparing for TEDWomen 2023 in October.

Part of that preparation is working with some of the speakers on their talks. Creating a TED Talk is a special and somewhat unique process—finding a big idea and articulating it so that it has resonance and relevance for a global community in more than 150 countries and languages.

As TEDWomen’s editorial director, I work with speakers to help them find the big takeaway, and it’s not unusual that some of the speakers we’ve chosen have also written books. Here are a few that I am reading as I help them write their talks.

What Looks Like Bravery: An Epic Journey Through Loss to Love by Laurel Braitman

A true story about the ways loss can transform us into the people we want to become.

When Laurel Braitman was young, her dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he went to spectacular lengths to teach her the skills she’d need to survive without him, like how to outfish grown men, keep bees and fix carburetors.

In her memoir, Laurel writes about the grief she experienced after his death and how she learned that “hope is a form of courage, one that can work as an all-purpose key to the locked doors of your dreams.”

Laurel will also be a speaker at TEDWomen 2023 this October in Atlanta. Learn more.

Working to Restore: Harnessing the Power of Regenerative Business to Heal the World by Esha Chhabra

Dispatches from the regenerative landscape, where pioneering entrepreneurs use their businesses as catalysts of change to go beyond sustainability and solve social and environmental problems.

“Sustainability” has become a business buzzword, but journalist Esha Chhabra is digging deeper. In her 2023 book, Working to Restore, she profiles start-ups from nine different industries that are finding success with restorative and regenerative practices. Her goal: to show the positive impact this new way of doing business can have on our planet and our collective well-being.

Esha will take the stage to speak about regenerative farming at TEDWomen 2023. Learn more.

The Authority Gap by Mary Ann Sieghart

Why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it

Mary Ann Sieghart spent 20 years as assistant editor and columnist at The Times London and won a large following for her columns on politics, economics, feminism, parenthood and life in general. Her 2022 book, The Authority Gap, is a blistering manifesto that explores why women are still taken less seriously than men, and what we can do about it.

As former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard writes on the back cover, “Whether you know a little or a lot about sexism and misogyny, there is much to learn from this book, including some very practical tips on creating change that you can implement the minute after you turn the last page.”

Mary Ann will also be a speaker at TEDWomen 2023 this October in Atlanta. Learn more.

No Ordinary Assignment by Jane Ferguson

From award-winning journalist Jane Ferguson, an unflinching memoir of ambition and war—from The Troubles to the fall of Kabul.

A new book out just last month is a gripping, engrossing and very personal account of what it’s like to be a war correspondent in the 21st century. Jane Ferguson is a friend of mine and she is a brave, dangerous woman. She has covered the stories of people on the frontlines of combat zones in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Ukraine, and more recently, on the ground in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Turkey. 

The New York Times, in its review, called her memoir a “brutally honest [accounting] of what it means to be a war reporter.”

In conflict after conflict, she centered the stories of people caught in the crossfire—and her hard work paid off. She became a special correspondent for PBS NewsHour and a contributor to The New Yorker, and in 2019, she won an Emmy and a George Polk Award for her work in Yemen. 

I highly recommend Jane’s book! Read an excerpt here.

The Defiant Optimist: Daring to Fight Global Inequality, Reinvent Finance, and Invest in Women by Durreen Shahnaz

Global inequality is growing. Financial markets disenfranchise women, the 99 percent, and the planet itself. But what if we found the source of power and turned it inside out? What if we made the tools of the system available to all?

“When she launched the world’s first stock exchange for social enterprises, Durreen Shahnaz started more than a new financial system; she sparked a movement. Defiant optimism—the stubborn belief that systems that enrich the few can be transformed for the good of the many—requires an indomitable spirit. 

“‘The Defiant Optimist’ offers strategies for placing women, the underserved, and the planet at the heart of systems. Together we can locate the levers of power and pull them defiantly in a new direction.”

Broadleaf Books

Women Mean Business: Over 500 Insights from Extraordinary Leaders to Spark Your Success by Edie Fraser, Robyn Freedman Spizman, Andi Simon, Ph.D.

Female trailblazers are transforming women’s lives one voice at a time. Gathered together, like never before, these diverse women become a bold blast amplifying the path to progress for women in the world of business.

Written by bestselling authors and business experts Edie Fraser, Robyn Spizman and Andrea Simon, this book includes insights on every aspect of business from women leaders and mentors—including Sheila Johnson, Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels and Resorts; Margo Georgiadis, Serial CEO and board leader for McDonald’s and four other boards; Lilly Ledbetter, Activist;Kay Unger, COO of the Kay Unger Family Foundation; Carol Tome, CEO of UPS; and Aster Angagaw, Amazon Executive and former president of ServiceMaster Brands.

They hope to inspire women to write their own story and blaze their own trail!

The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

A novel about the extraordinary partnership between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune—an unlikely friendship that changed the world.

Many of you already know that Eleanor Roosevelt is a shero of mine. In this work of historical fiction, Marie Benedict writes from Eleanor’s perspective and Victoria Christopher Murray writes from Mary MacLeod Bethune’s, in this unique imagination of their real-life friendship that helped form the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.

Coming in September…

50 Years of Ms.: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine That Ignited a Revolution: foreword by Gloria Steinem, introduction by Katherine Spillar and Eleanor Smeal; edited and with commentary by Katherine Spillar and the editors of Ms.

“50 YEARS OF Ms. couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. It’s the feminist fuel we all need.”

—Dolores Huerta  

50 YEARS OF Ms.: THE BEST OF THE PATHFINDING MAGAZINE THAT IGNITED A REVOLUTION (Alfred A. Knopf)—will be released on Sept. 19. You can pre-order it now, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, or wherever you like to get your books.

The book is a celebration of Ms.—the most startling, most audacious, most norm-breaking of the magazine’s coverage of women, men, politics (sexual and otherwise), marriage, family, education, work, motherhood, reproductive rights, as well as the best of its featured fiction, poetry and letters … all in one place!

Filled with iconic art, covers, and photos, 50 Years of Ms. features contributions by bell hooks, Alice Walker, Pauli Murray, Billie Jean King, Nancy Pelosi, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Allison Bechdel, Eleanor Smeal, Brittney Cooper and Joy Harjo, as well as fiction and poetry by Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, Joyce Carol Oates and Rita Dove, among many others. 

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.


Pat Mitchell is the editorial director of TEDWomen. Throughout her career as a journalist, Emmy-winning producer and pioneering executive, she has focused on sharing women’s stories. She is chair of the Sundance Institute Board, the chair emerita of the Women’s Media Center board, and a trustee of the VDAY movement, the Skoll Foundation and The Woodruff Arts Center. She is an advisor to Participant Media and served as a congressional appointment to the American Museum of Women’s History Advisory Council.