Eight Books Every Woman Must Read

Stories of Truth, Beauty and Courage

I admit it: I’m a compulsive bookworm with eclectic tastes. I’m currently listening to a book about a wacky physics theory and I’m reading a novel set in the 1940s about a family of mixed raced singers. Between these two, I peek into the pages of a memoir written by a life coach as well as an experimental book of poetry/prose. So of course my mind whirred when asked to write a blog post about the books I thought every woman should read. I know I’ve missed many great books. In fact, though I love fiction the most, I’ve concentrated on nonfiction here. When I consider what every woman should read, I think of truth, beauty and courage. Great nonfiction mainlines these themes, at least the nonfiction I’ve selected does. You may not love all of these books as much as I do, but I promise you that each has an important message. No waste of time or money here…
Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change
By Pema Chodron
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to love Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s wisdom. I recommend all her books (I especially enjoy listening to the audio versions), but in this book she offers methods for embracing chaos, confusion and uncertainty. Chodron’s point is that we can use challenges as a path to greater awakening.
Raising Elijah: Protecting our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis
By Sandra Steingraber
Sandra Steingraber, a brilliant scientist and mother of two young children, links the private world of parenting to the public world of environmental policy-making. She expertly shows how the ongoing environmental crisis is a crisis of family life. I read this several years ago and it forever changed my perspective. A must-read for all the mamas out there!
Dying to be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death to True Healing
By Anita Moorjani
Author Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body began shutting down. At one point she says she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth and what she says was the cause of her disease. Unlike most people in Moorjani’s state, she (obviously) survived. This is her account of cancer, healing, fear, “being love,” and the magnificence of each and every human. Definitely a book for the open minded, but it’s not just for women. I persuaded my husband to read this one – and he also loved it.
Rising Strong
By Brene Brown
Brené Brown is a researcher at the University of Houston who spent the past 13+ years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She says Rising Strong is for the brave and brokenhearted. I think of it as a manifesto for how to stand up after a fall and be better for it.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail
By Cheryl Strayed
In the wake of her mother’s death and her own divorce, 26-year-old hiking neophyte Cheryl Strayed hit the Pacific Coast Trail alone and hoofed more than a thousand miles from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State. It’s not the destination, but the journey – as Strayed’s warm and funny storytelling proves. Skip the movie, read this book!

Find A Way
By Diana Nyad
In 2013, 64-year-old Diana Nyad finally accomplished the epic feat she’d failed to do at the age of 30. She swam 111 miles from Cuba to Florida in an amazing show of endurance and human will in fifty-three hours. This beautifully written memoir reminds us to never, ever give up and that we’re never too old to chase dreams.
The Beauty Experiment
By Phoebe Baker Hyde
Writer Phoebe Baker Hyde gave up makeup, haircuts and jewelry for a whole year in hopes of revealing something she’d paid lip service to but never quite believed in—her inner beauty. This book chronicles an admirable quest for self-acceptance. It’s a must-read especially if you broker in beauty or if you’d never go out of the house without eyeliner. Just because you read it doesn’t mean you’ll ditch beauty, but her story will open your eyes.
Finding Your Way in a Wild, New World: reclaim your true nature to create the life you want
By Martha Beck
Martha Beck is often called the most famous life coach in the world. Here she talks about what you should be doing with your “one wild and precious life.” Sound interesting? Then you must be what Beck calls a “wayfinder.” This book is the wayfinder’s guide to life. Go ahead, be guided.

Victoria Clayton is a Southern California-based writer who has contributed to TheAtlantic.com, The Los Angeles Times, Redbook, Self and many other publications. She was a health and parenting columnist for MSNBC.com.  She’s a wife, mom, small business owner, intrepid cook and yoga lover. 



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