10 Biographical Books to Celebrate Strong Women in March
We know you read books by and about badass women all year round, but Women's History Month seems a particularly good time to spotlight books that feature the lives of fabulous females. From career-driven memoirs by successful professionals to creative biographical fiction of groundbreaking historical figures to autobiographical poetry and comic collections, we've rounded up 10 books (both fiction and nonfiction) for you to read in celebration of women this month.
Biographical Fiction Novels
1 Song of A Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
Shop it! $13.23, amazon.com.
This debut novel fictionalizes the fascinating life of Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran's best-known (and most controversial) poets. Born in Tehran in 1935, her life was cut much too short, but the years she did live contained more than enough stories to make this novel a fascinating read. (Pro tip: Have a collection of Farrokhzad's poetry on hand to read when you finish this novel because your interest will certainly be piqued.)
2Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Shop it! $10.79, amazon.com.
This haunting and atmospheric novel features the final days of Agnes Magnusdottir, a real-life figure who was put to death in a notorious murder case in Iceland during the early 19th century. Her guilty verdict is widely doubted to this day, and she continues to be an inspiration for popular culture in Iceland, from literature to music. Contemporaneous accounts of the trial and execution refer to Magnusdottir using words like "witch" or "devil," and Kent restrains from presenting her fictional character in an idealistic fashion, instead humanizing her and her faults.
3 Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Shop it! $14.04, amazon.com.
Perhaps best known for her historical novel The Paris Wife, Paula McLain fictionalizes the life of another fascinating woman from history in Circling the Sun. Beryl Markham was a pioneering aviator and horse trainer who lived in colonial Kenya in the 1920s, and this novel brilliantly relates the struggles and triumphs of her life (and scandal, including her love triangle with Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen of Out of Africa notoriety.) To learn more about the real Beryl Markham, follow this novel with her 1942 memoir West with the Night.
4 The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Shop it! $14.16, amazon.com.
This book reaches way back in history to biblical times to tell the story of Dinah, one of the rarely mentioned daughters of Jacob. Told from the first person, Dinah relates her life in the "red tent," where women were confined during menstruation or birth. Although not quite historically (or biblically) accurate, the story is beautifully told and gives voice to many women besides Dinah (aunts, sisters, mothers, etc.) who are not often heard from otherwise.
Memoirs and Nonfiction Books
5 Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Shop it! $11.40, amazon.com.
Laurie Halse Anderson has written more than 30 books for children and young adults, but for many readers, her name still immediately calls to mind her 1999 novel, Speak, about a high school-aged survivor of sexual assault. In her 2019 memoir, Shout, Anderson opens up about her own experience of sexual assault as a young adolescent. The memoir is written in free verse and the audiobook version is narrated by Anderson, which greatly enhances the listening experience.
6 Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition by Julia Kaye
Shop it! $10.11, amazon.com.
When Julia Kaye began her hormone transition to a woman in 2016, she shared her trials and triumphs in illustrated form on her web comic, UP and OUT. Super Late Bloomer contains a selection of these deeply personal, autobiographical comic strips from Kaye's first months of transition, and her moments of vulnerability and ongoing process of self-love are relatable to women everywhere.
7 Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Shop it! $8.69, amazon.com.
I never thought reading about trees would be interesting, but Hope Jahren makes it fascinating. As a professor of geobiology, Jahren was often one of very few women (if not the only woman) in her academic and professional networks. Her memoir, while detailing the obstacles she faced as a woman in science, is also a love letter to botany and contains one of the best platonic friendships I have ever read in a book, nonfiction or fiction.
8 Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets & Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
Shop it! $16.29, amazon.com.
For a humorous — but still thoughtful — look at a woman finding success in a male-dominated field, pick up Ali Wong's hilarious collection of autobiographical essays. Written as a letter to her daughters (hence the title), the stand-up comedian uses Dear Girls to relate stories from her life and career that never fail to entertain without shying away from the realities of being a woman in comedy, being an Asian-American in the entertainment business, and/or being a mother who works outside the home. Listen to the audiobook narrated by Wong for extra snorts of laughter.
9In My Own Moccasins: A Memoir of Resilience by Helen Knott
Shop it! $19.71, amazon.com.
Indigenous activist and writer Helen Knott began her blog Reclaim the Warrior (formerly known as Dancing with Decolonization) to chronicle her own decolonization journey while she was a social work student. Her first book, In My Own Moccasins, is a memoir framed in the context of intergenerational trauma that addresses tough topics including addiction, sexual violence and colonialism without losing its thread of resilience and redemption.
10 If They Come For Us: Poems by Fatimah Asghar
Shop it! $9.99, amazon.com.
Part autobiographical and part historical, this heartbreaking debut poetry collection from Pakistani-American writer Fatimah Asghar relates her experiences as an immigrant, an orphan, a Muslim, a woman. The poems are experimental, sometimes written as bingo cards or crosswords, and overall the collection is both a powerful exploration of identity and an important primer on the history and legacy of the Partition.