As you put together your summer reading list and prepare to hit the beach chair, why don’t you throw in a book that deepens your insight into your feminine power, uncovers the beliefs that are holding you back, and inspires you to step up into the best version of yourself?
Better yet, why don’t you read one of those books and then pass it along to an important man in your life to deepen his understanding of the female condition so that he can help support and elevate you as well?
Our mission at A Million SMART Women is to give women the inspiration, confidence, and skills to enroll men and empower women to global leadership.
Often people ask us about the “enroll men” part of our mission, and it is really the key to what makes us different.
A worldwide increase in effective female leaders who lead like women cannot happen without the support of men who see the value in women’s unique leadership style.
Garnering buy-in from men is a crucial part of this movement, because men will be the actors who promote and encourage female leaders, and who must trust them and be led by them as well.
As tennis superstar Billie Jean King said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, “…men are so vital to these changes — because they’re usually in the power position, and if they start to change the paradigms, things start to shift. And that’s why I always include men in everything that I do."
So we have compiled a summer reading list of books that will help you to awaken the powerhouse within you. All of these reads were selected because of the way that they address the unique pressures that are nearly universal among women, and they provide tools, tips, and inspiration for overcoming the mental and emotional barriers that block us from stepping into our power.
So grab a copy as an act of self-love and an act of female power, and then pass it along to an important man in your life as well.
1) Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace by Jessica Bennett
This is a must-read for anyone in the workplace. Grounded in academic research about subtle office bias and workplace behaviors that reflect unconscious predispositions, Feminist Fight Club weaves the research into stories from the author’s own “fight club”—a group of professional women in New York City who got together to vent and support one another around the sometimes overt, sometimes subtle sexism they experienced in their jobs. It has a quirky, irreverent tone and is full of illustrations, diagrams, and wit, but it does not skimp in delivering on its promise to “provide you with battle tactics: simple, easy to follow, effective tricks for combatting sexist … and sometimes just oblivious behaviors that exist in even our most progressive offices.”
“Oblivious” is the key word here, and the reason why it is a must-read for men too. This book points out things that even I—as a female—had never previously picked up on as sexist because of the unconscious bias programmed into me. And Bennett herself says in the Author’s Note: “I am writing for women, but I am also writing for men—because you, male feminists, are crucial to this battle.”
2) I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Brenè Brown
Before Brenè Brown burst onto the scene for her much-talked-about Ted Talks on vulnerability and shame and became a best-selling author and Oprah’s Book Club nominee, she was a researcher from the University of Houston who dedicated her career to studying shame and its impact on men, women, and children, which lead to her first solo published book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't). While this book never made it to No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list like three of her other works, it merits a read for its candid and applicable conversation around the “silent epidemic” that faces our country’s women—that of "not enoughness".
While Brown’s research was conducted mainly on women, she is the first to admit that shame is a universal experience, and she deconstructs it in ways that are anecdotal and accessible to all audiences. She even points to the fact that men and women experience shame in similar ways, but have different triggers.
Thorough and revelatory, Brown’s work holds up a mirror to our own lives and forces us to see where we are inflicting shame upon ourselves, and where we are allowing outside expectations to control our behaviors. She challenges us to be responsible for the behaviors that we use to mask our shame (judgement, lashing out in anger, avoidance, deflection, or projecting shame onto others), and she provides information, insight, and specific strategies for understanding our shame and building “shame resilience”—which she says is our lifeline in the absence of the ability to be shame-resistant.
This book will cause you to view your life experiences through new eyes, and help you to recognize the patterns and beliefs that hold you back in all areas of your life—from the personal to the professional to the romantic.
3) Love Warrior by Glennon Melton
A memoir of a life full of eating disorder and addiction; sobriety and family; and then betrayal and infidelity and healing. You may be wondering why this book is on the list. It’s not a feminist manifesto. It’s not a self-help guide. But it is so real and relatable. It is at the same time raw and poetic, easy for many women to identify themselves in Melton’s pain.
“We must decide whether to stay small, quiet and uncomplicated or allow ourselves to grow as big, loud, and complex as we were made to be. Every girl must decide whether to settle for adoration or fight for love … Am I going to be a lady or am I going to be fully human?” Melton states in Chapter 1.
And though not all women will be able to identify with the choices that led her to bulimia and alcoholism, most will identify with the pressures to be beautiful, to be small, to be uncomplicated. All things that I find many men are surprised to learn that women feel.
As Will Marre states: “[Love Warrior] reveals the inner thought life of women in a most raw, authentic way. It is jaw-dropping for men who have no idea of the relentless stream of self-criticism and second-guessing women fight through each hour of everyday life. It is an empathy amplifier.”
Though Melton’s writing is equal parts beautiful and pain-full, it is a read that will inspire you to go out and create a world where this is not the decision that young girls and women are faced with. It will inspire you to continue to create a world where it is safe to take up space, to be bold, to be authentic, instead of trying to squeeze into a mold of what you think the world wants you to be.
Mandy Sciacchitano is a Diet Freedom and Self Love Coach and Copyeditor for A Million Smart Women