100 Must Read Books About Women & Religion

In Flannery O’Connor’s “Good Country People,” a young woman–capable, brilliant, and an outsider in her Southern community by virtue of these and other traits–feels pity toward a traveling Bible salesman, a fellow obviously of inferior cerebral stock, and lures him to the loft for a bit of sexual/intellectual healing.

The encounter doesn’t go quite as she plans. Her aha moment within it, one of recognition, indignation, and humiliation—“‘Give me my leg,’ she said,”—looms as one my favorite moments in women’s religious literature. The young woman, a hopeful reformer, discovers that, despite her own hard-earned insights, she has remained blind to how little her knowledge impacts the perspectives of those never inclined to respect her in the first place. Good country people may carry booze in hollowed out Bibles, but that trick works best if you’re a man. Double-speak, too. And religious men, confronted with their own shortcomings and hypocrisies, are not necessarily poised to extend a hand and help a gal out.

Such is the nature of women’s relationships to religions. Or: that’s part of the story. Traditions tend to be patriarchal; we must either conform or make our own way within them. Or must move outside of them. And women, when we claim religious space as our own, have adapted to, or demolished, constraints in awesome ways.

Below, you’ll find 100 titles in which women take creative, inquisitive, constructive, and critical postures toward religious traditions: those of their birth; those that belong to others, and which they encounter with an open spirit; those that they work to reform; those that they adopt. No two books are the same. All are vibrant; all hold the potential to illumine. Soil ignored, as it turns out, is poised to produce rich fruits, like these diverse women’s spiritual works, a great gift of having had to make our own way.

This celebration of women and religion is, owing to my own background, somewhat heavy on monotheistic perspectives; I would love to hear from those well-read in Eastern traditions as well. What titles would you add?
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NONFICTION

Judaism

1. Miriam’s Kitchen, Elizabeth Ehrlich

2. Women Who Would Be Rabbis, Pamela Susan Nadell

3. Houses of Study: A Jewish Woman Among Books, Ilana M. Blumberg

4. House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood, Adina Hoffman

5. The Modern Jewish Girl’s Guide to Guilt, Ruth Andrew Ellenson

6. Flying Couch, Amy Kurzweil

7. Black, White, and Jewish, Rebecca Walker

8. Standing Again at Sinai, Judith Plaskow

9. Surprised By God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion, Danya Ruttenberg

Hinduism

10. The Song of the Goddess, C. Mackenzie Brown

11. Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India, Diana Eck

Buddhism

12. Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?, Lama Tsomo

13. Buddhism After Patriarchy, Rita Gross

14. Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun, Faith Adiele

Christianity

15. The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Sue Monk Kidd

16. In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza

17. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, Delores S. Williams

18. Waiting for God, Simone Weil

19. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle

20. Sundays in America: A Yearlong Roadtrip in Search of Christian Faith, Suzanne Strempek Shea

21. Mudhouse Sabbath: An Invitation to a Life of Spiritual Discipline, Lauren F. Winner

22. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, Rhoda Janzen

23. Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott

24. Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity, Elizabeth A. Dreyer

25. She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, Elizabeth Johnson

26. Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, Rosemary Radford Ruether

Islam

27. Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran, Nina Ansary

28. Teta, Mother and Me: Three Generations of Arab Women, Jean Said Makdisi

29. Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi

30. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, Marjane Satrapi

31. Muslim American Women on Campus, Shabana Mir

32. What is Veiling, Sahar Amer

33. The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love and Islam, G. Willow Wilson

34. Headscarfs and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, Mona Eltahawy

35. Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay, ed. Amy Levin, Jennifer Zobair, Gina Messina-Dysert

Other Traditions/Interreligious

36. Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, Mary Daly

37. The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Goddess, Starhawk

38. Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

39. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of Girlhood Among Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston

40. Dreaming Me: Black, Baptist, and Buddhist, One Woman’s Spiritual Journey, Jan Willis

41. Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, Kelly Brown Douglas

42. My Journey Through War and Peace, Melissa Burch

43. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Alice Walker

44. World of the Teton Sioux Indians, Frances Densmore

45. A God that Could be Real: Spirituality, Science, and the Future of Our Planet, Nancy Ellen Abrams

46. My Life on the Road, Gloria Steinem

47. Searching for Zion, Emily Raboteau

48. The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, Karen Armstrong

49. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality, Carol P. Christ

50. Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, Judith Plaskow and Carol Christ

POETRY

51. The Dream of a Common Language, Adrienne Rich

52. The Little Space: Poems, Alicia Suskin Ostriker

53. Wild Iris, Luis Gluck

54. House of Light, Mary Oliver

55. Fidelity: Poems, Grace Paley

FICTION

56. Like Water For Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

57. The Last Days of Dogtown, Anita Diamant

58. The Festival of San Joaquin, Zee Edgell

59. Paradise, Toni Morrison

60. In the Image, Dara Horn

61. Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson

62. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

63. The Bell, Iris Murdoch

64. Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

65. The Shawl, Cynthia Ozick

66. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

67. The Family Orchard, Nomi Eve

68. Happiness Like Water, Chinelo Okparanta

69. Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson

70. Three Daughters, Consuelo Saah Baehr

71. The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett

72. Washing the Dead, Michelle Brafman

73. Gardens in the Dunes, Leslie Marmon Silko

74. Everything that Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Connor

75. Indivisible, Fanny Howe

76. Bread Givers, Anzia Yezierska

77. The Dovekeepers, Alice Hoffman

78. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

79. Moss Witch, Sara Maitland

80. The Good Muslim, Tahmima Anam

81. Waterlily, Ella Cara Deloria

82. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Jeanette Winterson

83. Mischling, Affinity Konar

84. Katya, Sandra Birdsell

85. The Girl Who Slept With God, Val Brelinski

86. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver

87. One Hundred Philistine Foreskins, Tova Reich

88. The Color Purple, Alice Walker

89. Oedipus in Brooklyn, Blume Lempel

90. Glorybound, Jessie van Eerden

91. The Romance Reader, Pearl Abraham

92. Hagar’s Daughter, Pauline Elizabeth Hawkins

93. A Whistling Woman, A. S. Byatt

94. In The Language of Miracles, Rajia Hassib

95. A Theory of Expanded Love, Caitlin Hicks

96. The Lost Traveller, Antonia White

97. God on a Harley, Joan Brady

98. South of Everything, Audrey Taylor Gonzalez

99. Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross

100. Coming of Age at the End of Days, Alice LaPlante

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