40+ of Your Favorite Nonfiction Reads by Women

This Riot Recommendation is sponsored by All the Women in My Family Sing: Women Write the World: Essays on Equality, Justice, and Freedom edited by Deborah Santana.

All the Women in My Family Sing is a vital collection of prose and poetry by women of color, with topics that range from the pressures of being the vice-president of a Fortune 500 Company, to escaping the killing fields of Cambodia, to the struggles inside immigration, identity, romance and self-worth. The brief, trenchant essays capture the aspirations and wisdom of these powerful women as they exercise autonomy, creativity, and dignity and build bridges to heal the brokenness in today’s turbulent world.


Women have produced some edifying and entertaining nonfiction—from philosophy to history to essays and everything in between. We wanted to know: what are your favorite works of nonfiction by women? And wow, did you tell us! Below you’ll find more than forty recommendations from your fellow Riot readers.

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi

All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Holding the Line by Barbara Kingsolver

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Drift by Rachel Maddow

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Invincible by Amy Lawrence

Just Kids by Patti Smith

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Shirley Jackson: A Very Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman

Blood Will Tell by Kyra Cornelius Kramer

Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Jessica Luther

Illness as Metaphor by Susan Sontag

Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin

Clever Maids by Valerie Paradiz

The House on Beartown Road by Elizabeth Cohen

The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Thru Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them by Jennifer Wright

Brain on Fire by Susanna Cahalan

Don’t Look Back, We’re Not Going That Way by Marcia Wallace

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Concussion by Jeanne Marie Laskas

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

And y’all are fans of anything by Roxanne Gay, Mary Roach, Barbara Ehrenreich, Annie Dillard, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Sarah Vowell!

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