Books to celebrate International Women’s Day
8 March 2021
On this International Women’s Day our Library staff share with you the books written by, for and about women which have inspired, excited and shaped them. We hope you find this list inspiring.
Invisible Women: exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez (Print book)
“This is a fascinating book, which brings together a range of case studies, stories and new research from across the world to illustrate how the design of everything including government policy, medical research, technology, workplaces, urban design and the media is based on biased data that excludes women.”
Sarah Aitchison, Head of Special Collections
Laura, or Voyage into the Crystal by George Sand (Ebook)
“George Sand was one of the first writer whose books I actually enjoyed reading at school. Reading The Devil's Pool is also recommended. She had a very eventful life and met so many incredible artists (Liszt, Flaubert, Balzac, Chopin, de Musset...)”
Magali Perrey, Services Operations Supervisor
Mrs Woolf and the Servants by Alison Light (Print)
“Many women of my Mother's older sisters' generation left South Wales to enter into domestic service in England so I am interested in any books which shed a light on their experiences, and this one is particularly fascinating.”
Deborah Furness, Head of Help Services
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
“It made me think a lot about what it is to be a woman, in different forms and journeys, how we can learn from, and support each other, and be stronger when we bring together our differences as strengths. It is written through the voices of black or mixed race characters, which makes a white person have to think that little bit more. It is also beautifully written.”
Jessica Womack, IOE Archivist
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (Print)
“A children's mystery novel, this follows two schoolgirls in 1930s England solving their first murder and is the first book in the 'Murder Most Unladylike' series. Not only does it have two spectacular female leads, but the book is an excellent start to a series that normalises the diversity of human experiences, such as those around race, disability, and LBGTQ+.”
Julie Cheung-Inhin, Library Assistant and Evening Supervisor Bartlett Library
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (Print)
“This is the first of the four 'Neopolitan' novels. Together these books explore female friendship, education, love, grief and everything in between against the backdrop of late twentieth century Italy.”
Sarah Burn, Subject Liaison Librarian for English and Philosophy
Breaking Bounds: six Newnham Lives (Available at Queen Square)
“Alumni including Margaret Drabble & Claire Tomalin write about six pioneering women who attended Newnham College in its early years, including Dr Blandy, first female registrar at National Hospital, Queen Square.”
Sarah Lawson, Head of Queen Square Library
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Print)
“Really eye-opening story about immigration and being a black woman in both Nigeria and the US.”
Lucy Deering, Information Assistant
Revolutionary Lives: Constance and Casimir Markiewicz by Lauren Arrington (Ebook)
“Countess Markiewicz was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, although she didn't take her seat as an abstentionist Sinn Fein MP. A UCL alumna (Slade, 1893-1897) she played a famous role in revolutionary Ireland.”
Ed Lyon, Library Assistant
Ellen Wilkinson : from red suffragist to government minister by Paula Bartley (Ebook)
"I enjoyed reading this biography.
‘Red Ellen’ stood at 4 feet, 10 inches. Yet, she was a giant!
A fighter for women’s suffrage; a working-class trade unionist with a university education; a founder of the Communist Party; Labour MP, leader of the Jarrow march; an anti-fascist who smuggled herself into Nazi Germany; government minister during World War II who, despite chronic asthma, toured the country making sure that air raid shelter provision was adequate. She co-authored the 1945 Labour manifesto and became the first female Minister of Education.
An admirer, the author doesn’t shy away from examining contradictions. Wilkinson moved from being an advocate of revolution to being a believer in parliamentary change. Bartley argues, however, that her principles remained intact.”
Kit Snape, Library Assistant
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Print)
"Written by Charlotte Brontë who had to write under a male pseudonym, due to women writers were not acceptable in society. Jane Eyre is a role model as she endures bullying, discrimination by her peers, and through her courage and determination fights to marry a man with disabilities. A book which sends a strong message even today’s women."
Carolyne Megan, Collections Assistant
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Print)
“The mesmerising and haunting story of Antoinette Cosway, an important character in Jane Eyre. This novel begins in her youth in Jamaica until she meets a certain Mr Rochester. One of my favourite books ever. A true classic.”
Conundrum by Jan Morris (Print)
“This book was published in the seventies and tells the powerful and personal story of Jan Morris’s transition. The Times named it one of the ‘100 Key Books of Our Time’ and I agree.”
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (Print)
“Set in 2020s when society has collapsed… okay I’m listening. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was first recommended this book via the stairs to the Main Library, but this is absolutely brilliant. Must read.”
Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story by Angela Saini (Print)
“Saini examines scientific research into gender difference and how this leads to institutional inequalities.”
The woman who knew too much: Alice Stewart and the secrets of radiation by Gayle Greene
“I haven't read it yet but I plan to. It promises to be a fascinating and controversial tale. It's available to us all online too!”
Georgette Heyer, History and Historical Fiction edited by Samantha J Rayner and Kim Wilkins (Ebook)
“It's new and awesome (PLUS open access!)”
Trans: a memoir by Juliet Jacques
“I really enjoyed this book and leant a lot. I love Juliet's writing.”
Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (Print)
“Sayers was one of the ‘Queens of Crime’ who wrote detective novels during Britain’s inter-war years. Herself an Oxford graduate with an unconventional personal life, in ‘Gaudy Night’ Sayers’ protagonist investigates a mystery at a women’s college while also trying to decide between academia and a career or love and marriage in a time when few women could have both.”
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (Ebook)
"An important early proto-feminist work. Broadly speaking, it argues for the reform of women's education in order to reinforce equality between the sexes.
We have copies of the issue published in 1792 in our Special Collections (REF COLLECTION K ROTTON 8.d.29), IOE Library (Hist. Ed. Raf WOL ) et al."
How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
“I first came across this book when I heard Moran read from it at a Bookslam event, which inspired me to buy myself a copy. In How to be a Woman, Moran tackles a broad range of issues, with each chapter taking a different subject, first grounding it in her own experience and then looking at it from a broader, social perspective. It's very funny but also insightful, thought-provoking and (I think) essential reading for any gender.”
Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity by Sarah Pomeroy (Ebook)
“This scholarly book was a game changer in the field on an academic level and more widely in public discourse. It was first published in 1975 and although later research has developed some of the ideas, it’s still a good place to start. I first read it many moons ago on a rainy afternoon in the Main Library.”
Beloved by Toni Morrison (Ebook)
“I love all of Toni Morrison’s work. She has a very poetic style. Her descriptions are unique and universal. I think Beloved or Paradise are good places to start.”
UCL Library Services Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
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