10. The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti Seal Press, 2009 Jessica Valenti combats a nation’s virginity complex, arguing that myths about “purity” are damaging to both girls and women. She points the way forward toward a world where women are perceived as more than vessels of chastity.
9. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by bell hooks South End Press, 1985 Cementing her place as one of the most influential feminist theorists, hooks’ Feminist Theory explores Kimberle Crenshaw’s conversation-changing idea of intersectionality: the way racism, classism and sexism work together to foster oppression.
8. Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks South End Press, 1999 Named after the famous speech by Sojourner Truth, this must-read by bell hooks discusses black women’s struggle with U.S. racism and sexism since the time of slavery and doesn’t shirk from how white middle- and upper-class feminists have at times failed poor and non-white women.
7. Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy Free Press, 2005 What do phenomena such as Girls Gone Wild say about feminism? This book looks at the ways women today make sex objects of themselves, and she’s not impressed. She chews out false “empowerment” based on self-objectification and offers feminist alternatives.
6. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi Crown, 1991 This landmark book sounded the alarm about a pervasive backlash against feminism. She painstakingly refutes each insidious anti-feminist argument–for instance, that feminism is responsible for a supposed epidemic of unhappiness in women. What’s really wrong, she says, is that equality hasn’t been achieved; in fact, the struggle has only just begun.
5. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich Metropolitan Books, 2001 Long-time Ms. columnist Barbara Ehrenreich posed undercover as a low-income worker to gain material for this empathetic portrait of how the bottom half lives. She reveals that simply making ends meet is a silent struggle for many Americans, especially for women with families to support.
4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf Harcourt Brace, 1929 This classic from the 1920s makes a devastatingly eloquent argument with a simple takeaway: For a women artist to thrive, she must have space in which to work and some money for her efforts.
3. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde Crossing Press, 1984 This master work by Audre Lorde, a Caribbean American lesbian feminist writer, collects her prose from the late 70s and early 80s. Many of these pieces made feminist history, including her candid dialogue with Adrienne Rich about race and feminism, her oft-quoted critique of academia “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” and her Open Letter to Mary Daly.
2. Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio Seal Press 2002 Inga Muscio’s 2002 feminist manifesto radicalized a new generation. She argues for the reclaiming of the tarnished word cunt, and discusses her personal experiences with self-protection, sex work, abortion and solidarity.
1. Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks South End Press, 2000 Fittingly, in Ms. readers’ favorite feminist book of all time, bell hooks argues that feminism is for everybody, regardless of race, gender or creed. She urges all to live a feminism that finds commonality across differences and makes room for impassioned debate.
Click the link for the rest of Ms. Magazine’s top 100.