Even if you haven’t watched the hugely popular Harry Potter series, you’ve probably heard of actress and feminist activist Emma Watson. A voracious reader, just like her character Hermione Granger, Emma has been vocal in sharing and spreading her love of literature with her fans. In January 2016, she launched a feminist book club entitled “Our Shared Shelf” on GoodReads, encouraging members to read, learn, and discuss. She hides books around the London Underground with handwritten notes for fans to find, recently expanding to other sites around London and even internationally. Emma also recommends books on her twitter and Instagram accounts (@emmawatson) to further express her love for reading, especially feminist literature. While there’s a very long list of book recommendations, here are ten to start with if you want to read like Emma Watson.
The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler: This book is one of the most well-known contemporary feminist texts. It is made up of various personal monologues from a diverse group of women. They all deal with different aspects of the “feminine experience,” from periods to abortions to transgender issues, with more added in various versions over the years. The book became an off-Broadway play in 1996 and since has been staged internationally and in universities around the world. There was also a television production produced by HBO. It is one of the primary texts for anyone becoming interested in feminist literature.
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: Caitlin Moran is a British journalist, author, and broadcaster who has written a number of intelligent but funny books over her career, with this being the second. Written in 2011, How to Be a Woman is a combination of memoir and persuasive feminist text. Moran’s goal was to make feminism more approachable, advocate for true equality, and own the word feminist. Using self-deprecating humour and satire, Moran uses experiences from her own life to help enrich and express her viewpoints.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: This award winning book is an autobiographical graphic novel depicting the author’s childhood and early adult years in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is richly illustrated and originally published in French, although is now available in English. Don’t be fooled by the illustrations—Persepolis is not a lighthearted children’s book. The book humanises Iran and the Iranian people for those who are outsiders, and is funny, sad, and sincere. It was turned into a film in 2007 which was critically acclaimed and nominated for an Academy award.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein: If you’re a hard core music fan, this one is for you. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is the autobiography of the founder of nineties rock group Sleater-Kinney, Carrie Brownstein. It outlines her rise to fame, journey in the music industry, and the rise of the Riot Grrl movement of the mid to late nineties. While Brownstein discusses her family troubles—including tales of sexuality, eating disorders, and misogyny—music and rock and roll are truly the heart of the book.
Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks: Author bell hooks is a staple in English and gender studies classes across North America, as she is an acclaimed scholar and academic. This book introduces a popular theory of feminism rooted in common sense, experience, and community. It uses critical analysis to discuss issues such as reproductive rights, violence, race, class, and sexuality. The author wants everyone to benefit from feminism and the feminist movement and thinks they can. This is a deeper read, but well worth it if you are up for it.
The Circle by David Eggers: This fiction novel follows tech worker Mae Holland as she joins a powerful technology company and climbs the company ladder, only to discover that things aren’t as ideal as they seem. The book is mystery filled and fast paced, raising questions about privacy, truth, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge. Emma Watson is now starring as Mae in a movie adaptation of this novel, out on April 28 2017.
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter: This collection of short stories by novelist Angela Carter is loosely based upon classic fairy tales and folk tales but given a more contemporary feminist twist. The writing is rich and descriptive, suiting the fairy tale genre, but the stories themselves challenge the way that women are written in traditional fairy tales. It contrasts traditional elements of Gothic fiction with feminist overtones and strong female protagonists. The short story format means that it’s a book you can pick up and go back to again and again.
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed: This book is a collection of quotes taken from the wide range of writings done by acclaimed American author Cheryl Strayed. These quotes capture her wisdom and outspoken humour, encouraging readers to reach for love, compassion, forgiveness, and endurance. Emma has recommended a number of books by Cheryl Strayed, including Wild, Torch, and Tiny Beautiful Things.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood: This novel is a classic piece of dystopian speculative fiction by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It is set in a world where a totalitarian dictatorship has taken over the United States and severely limited human rights, especially that of women. It follows the story of Offred, a woman who along with other “handmaids” is being used for reproductive purposes without her consent. The story has strong feminist themes and themes of toxic patriarchy and reproductive rights. Relevant still in 2017, it has been made into an upcoming television series available on Hulu.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman: His Dark Materials is a very popular YA fantasy trilogy, made up of The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. It follows the coming of age of child protagonists through a series of parallel universes. While definitely full of strong fantasy elements, the trilogy has been controversial for many years due to its themes of theology and philosophy. This trilogy is definitely not just for kids and deserves to be read by fantasy fans of all ages.
If you enjoy these reads, check out “Our Shared Shelf” on GoodReads to read along with Emma Watson. You can also check out her Instagram (@emmawatson) and twitter (@EmmaWatson) for more book recommendations!