Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Feminist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving

Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.

Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of feminist books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!

Image shows a gray and white cat looking disprovingly at the camera. Caption says, "Feminist cat is not amused."

Feminism, Gender, and Sexuality

Everything you need to become a super intersectional trans-inclusive and well-informed feminist is right here. Also includes books suitable for those in your life needing a good sharp shock to set them right.

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay actually isn’t a bad feminist at all, and her book of essays is a fabulous addition to any feminist bookshelf. She views culture, atrocity, and race through a feminist lens. There’s a lot that white feminists such as myself need to hear in this book. And, of course, it’s beautifully written. She’s got one of the best pens in the business. Read my full review here.

Feminism, Marriage, and the Law in Victorian England, 1850-1895 by Mary Lyndon Shanley

Discover some of the roots of feminism in this utterly fascinating and eminently useful book. Has anyone on your list encountered an MRA spouting nonsense about how women lorded it over men in Victorian England, and need a rebuttal? Perhaps you’ve stumbled upon Christian patriarchy advocates who are waxing lyrical about how good the ladies had it when they were under male authority, and wish to disabuse them of some ridiculous notions? Buy this book forthwith! My full review here.

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler

Before Roe, the choices for unmarried pregnant women or girls were few: an illegal (and often unsafe) abortion, the stigma of single motherhood, a shotgun wedding, or giving the baby up for adoption. Millions of mothers chose adoption, but the impact to their lives was profound and lasting. It didn’t help that so much shame was attached to these pregnancies. The women were often required to drop out of high school or college, then sent away to gestate and birth in secrecy. Ann Fessler tells their wrenching stories, including her own biological mother’s, and shows us the importance of never letting it happen again. Review here.

The Jezebel Effect: Why the Slut Shaming of Famous Queens Still Matters by Kyra Cornelius Kramer

A serious history of slut shaming has never been so engagingly written. In these pages, you’ll encounter the vicious misogyny directed at queens such as Anne Boleyn and Catherine the Great, and at commoners such as young Kyra herself. The book is worth buying for this line alone: “a man’s emotional compass was his rampant manroot and by golly he had better be the first to dock his turgid ship of love in a woman’s velvet port or she would lose him forever.” (Three guesses as to which genre she’s referring.) But it’s also a deadly serious study of the problem of misogyny, and ties together then and now. A must for any feminist collection. Review here.

Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism by David S. Cohen and Krysten Connon

With the recent murders at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, this book about the violence faced by abortion providers has never been more timely. This is an indictment of anti-abortion fanatics – and a tribute to the brave doctors, staff, and escorts who refuse to give in to terrorism. Review here.

Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit’s sharp book begins with a Grade A Mansplainer, and goes on to explore the tendency men have to disregard women’s expertise, even when those women’s knowledge far outstrips their own. From the past to present, from Middle Eastern revolutions to the Bush Administration, the distressing habit men have of treating women like objects to be ignored, condescended to, or attacked is examined. A book that should be in every feminist’s arsenal – and probably under the tree of some quite smug men. Be sure to gift a copy to that special mansplainer in your life. Review here.

Perilous Times: An Inside Look at Abortion Before – and After – Roe vs. Wade by Fran Moreland Johns

Having survived a rape and a back alley abortion in 1956, Fran Moreland Johns knew firsthand what abortion before Roe was like. But in the course of collecting women’s stories about their perilous abortions, she discovered that for disadvantaged and poor women, the situation wasn’t much better. These stories are stark, harrowing, dreadful accounts of the lengths women have had to go to in order to end a pregnancy – and the unhappy endings for those who were unable to abort. This needs to be in every anti-choicer’s hands this winter as well as those who are on the fence, and those who need a reminder – oh, hell, everybody needs this book. Review here.

The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti

From Purity Balls to porn, Jessica Valenti explores how our society polices female sexuality and forces women and girls into sexual boxes marked “virgin” or “whore.” She examines how myriad aspects of our sex-obsessed culture all combine to harm women, often in unexpected ways. And the book is also an excellent Feminism 101 resource. Sneak this one under the tree for any friends or family members being crushed under the burden of purity, for sure. Review here.

Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs by Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers

Do you know anyone who’s got Men are From Mars on their shelf? Someone who regularly attributes stuff to male brains vs. female brains? They need this book. The authors explode many myths about the “biological” differences between men’s and women’s minds. I could have used this one before I fell for the “what sex is your brain?” quiz. Don’t let your loved ones make my mistake. Give this book today. Review here.

Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Anne Fausto-Sterling

A fascinating and important book on how we interpret sex, how intersex individuals were historically treated both before and after the availability of genital “correction” surgery, and how our cultural notions of male and female have misdirected science. This is an older book (2000), but still a relevant cautionary tale, and a reminder that sex and gender are far more complex than our binary models allow. It especially excellent for anyone on your list prone to proclaiming that genitals decide sex and gender, end of story. They’ll learn quite a bit! Review here.

Sex Itself: The Search for Male and Female in the Human Genome by Sarah S. Richardson

Focusing mostly on sex chromosomes, Sarah Richardson shows how science has shaped social notions of sex, and vice versa. She warns against conflating nurture with nature. The cultural anxieties and expectations we’ve projected onto the X and Y chromosomes are often ridiculous, and this book explores their misadventures. In part, it’s a cautionary tale. We’re warned that we must be careful when we try to locate the origin of the sexes within the genome. Excellent for anyone who believes in the supremacy of the chromosomes for determining who’s male or female – and a tremendous resource for anyone who has to deal with those people. Review here.

This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund and Alex Kesselheim

Written by an abortion doctor who continues her work despite death threats, this book portrays the stories of the diverse women who have needed abortions. This is a powerful tool for getting people to understand the necessity and rightness of safe, legal abortion. How powerful? Observe:

There’s a certain number of people who are adamantly antiabortion and will never change their minds. But there’s a huge group of people sitting on the fence who have always thought they’re antiabortion, but they don’t really know why they think that way. Maybe their parents [influenced them], or their church did. But they don’t believe they’ve had a personal experience with it. They don’t believe they’ve ever known anyone who has had an abortion.

I’ve had people contact me and say, “I always believed I was against abortion. And I read your book, and I really had no idea. I did not understand what it’s all about, I did not understand who the women really are, and how personal this is, what the government is doing.” One of them was a very good friend of mine, a woman who has heard me before. But when she read the book front to back she called me up and was just sobbing and said, “I get it now. I finally understand what you’ve been talking about all these years.”

So yeah. Get it.

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth

Written by non-binary and trans people, this is a fantastic resource for anyone who isn’t cisgender. There’s info for all ages, including children. The sections deal with Identity, including immigration and religion; Living as a Trans Person, including coming out and employment; Health and Wellness, including reproductive health and transition services; Relationships and Families, including sexuality and parenting; Life Stages including children and aging; and Claiming Our Power, including arts and activism. Trans folks in your life could probably use a copy of this book, especially if they’re just realizing they’re trans or starting to transition. Cis people should read this in order to better understand and support the trans folks in their lives and communities. Review here.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This short book is being given to every schoolchild in Sweden. It was an excellent choice! You should probably give a copy to everyone on your list. Especially the dudes who are all like, “Feminism! Ewww!” Tell them they can’t say another word against feminism until they read it. If they’re terrified of militant feminism, assure them that this is a gentler (though uncompromising – shh, don’t let them know!) book. And it’s only like 50-some pages. This book may change their lives, and improve the lives of the women around them. If they’re still skeptical, tell them to read this review by a dude. Then they need to go read the damn book.

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

Here is a most excellent book exploring sexism, misogyny, transphobia, cissexism, and other matters. Julia Serano takes on the prejudices against femininity, and explores how trans people are portrayed in culture. This is a crucial read for anyone wanting to know more about how trans issues and feminism relate. Review here.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Don’t give up! You can find all of the Super-Gargantuan Guides here.

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Updated for 2015: Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Feminist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving
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