Every woman should read at least a few of these books with strong women leads and discover some inspiring female characters. To say the truth, some are not made-up characters but tell us their real-life stories and encourage us to believe in ourselves.
I guess we’ve all been in that place where we’ve lost our motivation, lack confidence, or feel that all is useless. If you’ve ever been there, you must read at least one of these books.
Strong women characters taking us through their own struggles, only to prove that women are stronger than they think they are.
Learn about these fierce female characters or real-life heroes that have a story to tell.
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Books with strong women leads
Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” made me hopeful.
Hopeful that there’s still a chance for us, that there are still people out there who are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good.
Reading “Becoming” I heard the “Yes we can!” slogan over and over in my head.
And the most valuable thing I’ve learned is that no matter where you want to get to, you need to be perseverent, trust yourself, and never give up because we’re always growing into a better version of ourselves!
But also, that no matter who you are and where you get to, we all need to make compromises. The hardest part is knowing when is the right time to do them.
Favorite quote: ““For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai
“I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.”
An impressive story told by Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who refused to be silenced and give up school.
She was shot in the head by the Taliban while riding the bus home from school. Once she recovered, she has become one of the loudest voices to protest against terrorism and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Goodreads: “I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.”
Favorite quotes: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”
“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”
“I don’t want to be thought of as the “girl who was shot by the Taliban” but the “girl who fought for education.” This is the cause to which I want to devote my life.”
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail – Cheryl Strayed
Another true story to make the list of books with strong women leads.
At 22 Cheryl Strayed thought she lost everything and fore years later she decided to hike alone more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State.
She takes us with her on her adventure, and get to go through different struggles and emotions with her.
Favorite quote: “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.”
Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who both leave military-ruled Nigeria to build better lives in the US and UK.
They both live and learn about culture, differences, race, immigration, and belonging. 15 years later they are reunited in a different Nigeria and get to learn once again what it’s like to be Nigerian in their own country.
Favorite quotes: “Racism should never have happened and so you don’t get a cookie for reducing it.”
“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for for choice and certainty.”
Next year in Havana – Chanel Cleeton
After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
Favorite quote: “Life is too short to be unhappy, to play it safe. To do what is expected of you rather than follow your heart”
Isak Dinesen’s memoir of her years spent in Africa, on a coffee plantation in the hills near Nairobi, Kenya. If the title sounds familiar, it might be because a movie starring Merryl Streep was made based on the novel.
“Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road.”
Under the Tuscan Sun – Frances Mayes
You might have already seen the movie that I keep watching over and over again, but as usual, the book is quite as nice.
Frances decides on a whim to buy a run-down house in Tuscany. While restoring the house she falls in love with the local vibe, the nearby hill towns, vibrant markets, and delightful people.
If you’ve been to Italy or dream to get there someday, this is one book you shouldn’t miss reading.
Favorite quotes: “Life offers you a thousand chances… all you have to do is take one.”
“Splendid to arrive alone in a foreign country and feel the assault of difference. Here they are all along, busy with living; they don’t talk or look like me. The rhythm of their day is entirely different; I am foreign. ”
In this book, Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to unleash our creativity.
She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives.
Something we all need to read every now and then in order to grow more confident and develop new skills.
Favorite quote: “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
Leadership is not about titles, status, and power over people. Leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognizing the potential in people and ideas and developing that potential. This is a book for everyone who is ready to choose courage over comfort, make a difference, and lead.
Brené writes, ‘One of the most important findings of my career is that courage can be taught, developed and measured. Courage is a collection of four skill sets supported by twenty-eight behaviors. All it requires is a commitment to doing bold work, having tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts. Easy? No. Choosing courage over comfort is not easy. Worth it? Always. We want to be brave with our lives and work. It’s why we’re here.’
Favorite quote: “At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.”
In order to live – Yeonmi Park
Goodreads: Human rights activist Park, who fled North Korea with her mother in 2007 at age 13 and eventually made it to South Korea two years later after a harrowing ordeal, recognized that in order to be “completely free,” she had to confront the truth of her past.
It is an ugly, shameful story of being sold with her mother into slave marriages by Chinese brokers, and although she at first tried to hide the painful details when blending into South Korean society, she realized how her survival story could inspire others.
Moreover, her sister had also escaped earlier and had vanished into China for years, prompting the author to go public with her story in the hope of finding her sister.
Favorite quote: “We all have our own deserts. They may not be the same as my desert, but we all have to cross them to find a purpose in life and be free.”
Infidel shows the coming of age of this distinguished political superstar and champion of free speech as well as the development of her beliefs, iron will, and extraordinary determination to fight injustice.
Raised in a strict Muslim family, Hirsi Ali survived a civil war, female mutilation, brutal beatings, adolescence as a devout believer during the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and life in four troubled, unstable countries ruled largely by despots.
She escaped from a forced marriage and sought asylum in the Netherlands, where she earned a college degree in political science, tried to help her tragically depressed sister adjust to the West, and fought for the rights of Muslim women and the reform of Islam as a member of Parliament.
Under constant threat, demonized by reactionary Islamists and politicians, disowned by her father, and expelled from family and clan, she refuses to be silenced.
Favorite quote: “As a woman, you are better off in life earning your own money. You couldn’t prevent your husband from leaving you or taking another wife, but you could have some of your dignity if you didn’t have to beg him for financial support.”
The book of fate – Parinoush Saniee
A teenager in pre-revolutionary Tehran, Massoumeh is an ordinary girl, passionate about learning. On her way to school, she meets a local man and falls in love – but when her family discovers his letters they accuse her of bringing them into dishonor.
She is badly beaten by her brother, and her parents hastily arrange a marriage to a man she’s never met. Facing life without love, and the prospect of no education, Massoumeh is distraught – but a female neighbor urges her to comply: ‘We each have a destiny, and you can’t fight yours.’
The years that follow Massoumeh’s wedding prove transformative for Iran. Hamid, Massoumeh’s husband, is a political dissident and a threat to the Shah’s oppressive regime and when the secret service arrives to arrest him, it is the start of a terrifying period for Massoumeh.
Her fate, so long dictated by family loyalty and tradition, is now tied to the changing fortunes of her country.
Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi
Goodreads: Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics.
As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov.
In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading.
Favorite quotes: “You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”
“Memories have ways of becoming independent of the reality they evoke. They can soften us against those we were deeply hurt by or they can make us resent those we once accepted and loved unconditionally.”
My Brilliant Friend – Elena Ferrante
I’ve read many reviews about the 4 books in the My Brilliant Friend series, but I wasn’t influenced by any of them. I think it’s hard for people that haven’t lived in a “dark” society as Naples was (and maybe still is in certain places) to understand how real everything is.
Turning one page after the other, I really went back on the narrow streets of Naples, the shriveled buildings, the lack of optimism, poverty, and the lack of desire to change something.
I went back on the streets of Florence, on a beach south of Naples, in Ischia. All through the pages of Elena Ferrante’s books, and the stories of one long friendship. A difficult friendship, one that you cannot explain, and you probably shouldn’t even try.
I loved it and I hated it all at the same time. The characters made me angry, but I also understood them somehow. As always, I’ve loved the books more than I liked the HBO tv series. But you should make your judgment after reading the books to will spark wanderlust for sure.
“At that moment I knew what the plebs were, much more clearly than when, years earlier, she had asked me. The plebs were us. The plebs were that fight for food and wine, that quarrel over who should be served first and better, that dirty floor on which the waiters clattered back and forth, those increasingly vulgar toasts. The plebs were my mother, who had drunk wine and now was leaning against my father’s shoulder, while he, serious, laughed, his mouth gaping, at the sexual allusions of the metal dealer. They were all laughing, even Lila, with the expression of one who has a role and will play it to the utmost.”
Women Without Men: A Novel of Modern Iran – Shahrnush Parsipur
Goodreads: Shortly after the 1989 publication of Women Without Men in her native Iran, Shahrnush Parsipur was arrested and jailed for her frank and defiant portrayal of women’s sexuality.
In the interwoven destinies of five women, simple situations such as walking down a road or leaving the house to become, in the tumult of post-WWII Iran, horrific and defiant as women escape the narrow confines of family and society only to face daunting new challenges.
Read more about the book here!
It’s 1962 in Mississippi and 3 very different women come together to write a book that will shock up the town.
They prove that lines are made to be crossed, presenting the truth many families hide behind closed doors.
A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.
Favorite quotes: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
“I always order the banned books from a black market dealer in California, figuring if the State of Mississippi banned them, they must be good.”
“All my life I’d been told what to believe about politics, coloreds, being a girl. But with Constantine’s thumb pressed in my hand, I realized I actually had a choice in what I could believe.”
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
I somehow had this book on my list but had totally forgotten about it. That is until one day she found me.
We were on vacation on a Greek Island and I was looking for a good read to take with me on the beach. And I found it, at the hotel on a shelf, waiting just for me.
I must admit this book exceeded my expectations, managing to make me laugh and make me cry at the same time. The intrigue made me turn page after page, in the search for answers. And I breathlessly watched the answers unravel in front of my eyes.
Gail Honeyman managed to write a novel infused with British sarcasm and humor that conveys both a sense of deep sadness for the lonely life Eleanor chooses to live, but also a strong hope and anticipation for her strength to change something about her existence eventually.
Favorite quote: “If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
Little fires everywhere – Celeste Ng
There’s so much about this book that made me read it in a few days.
An all-American town is presented in this novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.
The book tackles cultural differences, acceptance, the pains of growing up, the secrets the female characters carry along.
Favorite quotes: “Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”
“Most of the time, everyone deserves more than one chance. We all do things we regret now and then. You just have to carry them with you.”
Where the crawdads sing – Delia Owens
The second book I read on the beach while in Greece, I couldn’t let this book off my hand.
I suffered along with the “Marsh girl” during her childhood, wanted a better future for her. I wanted her to be appreciated and loved.
And kept reading one page after the other curious to see how it will all turn out.
Goodreads: Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.
Favorite quotes: “I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”
“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”
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