When my friends over at the Be Well Collective asked me to share my favourite books by women for women in honour of International Women’s Day, I realised that there was a very powerful thread running through my favourite books by female authors. That thread is VULNERABILITY.
It’s no exaggeration to say that vulnerability makes the world go round. When we give up the exhaustion of pretence, when we bare our soul and our demons and expose the weirdnesses that we’re afraid no one else shares, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when people connect to us, doors open to us, and we realise that on the other side of our fears lies nothing but good.
The books below have all been written by women who, in my view, are stronger because they show their vulnerability. I hope they inspire you, and give you any strength that you feel you need to take on the world!
In no particular order:
Brown is the queen of vulnerability, and in Dare to Lead she takes decades-worth of experience and data into the business realm. She explains why it’s far better to lead with vulnerability and an open heart, than to indulge in the ‘armoured leadership’ style that we see far too much of today. She also leads us through how to break down our layers of armour in the workplace. I believe this book belongs on the desk of all managers!
Olympic gold-medallist Abby Wambach packs so much sisterhood and humanity into this short book, where she challenges us to build a bigger table to include all women. Each short chapter challenges an Old Rule and proposes a New Rule, with a Call to the Wolfpack at the end. Easy soundbites; bite-sized nuggets packed with wisdom.
Cain makes the case for introversion in a world that’s designed for extroverts. She opens up all of the personality traits that society tends to make us feel are flaws, and reframes them as gifts that should be nurtured and protected. This is a great read no matter where you fall on the introversion / extroversion spectrum and it’s certainly allowed me to understand, accept, and cater for myself and my needs more fully.
This is ostensibly a book about a journalist putting 12 self-help books into practice over 12 months, but really it’s about how horrifyingly omnipresent that nasty voice in our heads is, what happens when we decide to start questioning daily life and try to ’touch the void’, and whether self-help does actually help us or totally messes us up. It’s very poignant and also hysterically funny. Power really does share her most raw, vulnerable self.
Born out of her wildly successful podcast of the same name, Day embraces the F word and examines how important it is not only to fail in life, but to use those failures as lessons that we would otherwise not have learnt. I’ll take this one step further and say that I’ve decided there is no such thing as failure, only learning and changes of direction on this winding path we call life.
I defy you not to fall in love with both Gottlieb and her intensely flawed, beautifully human patients. This is a therapist’s take on what happens on the couch, both from her perspective as a therapist and as a patient, after she’s dumped by her fiancé out of the blue. It contains wonderful stories of human healing and resilience, great tips for DIY therapy, and lots of humour too.
Gillian Anderson & Jennifer Nagel – We: The uplifting manual for women seeking happiness
Co-written by the X-Files star, this is a blueprint for healing our wounds, putting ourselves back together (and Nagel and Anderson have been through a lot), and using our newfound strength to take up the baton as activists on behalf of women everywhere. It’s raw and searingly honest.
This is an extraordinary book drawing on Buddhist teachings and Brach’s psychology practice. She draws on her own feelings of shame, vulnerability and despair and shows us how to build acceptance of ourselves into our lives, by seeing ourselves clearly and with compassion.
Jodi Kantor & Meghan Twohey – She Said: The New York Times bestseller from the journalists who broke the Harvey Weinstein story
No list of extraordinary books by women would be complete without this amazing true story. Twohey and Kantor lay out how they used a mixture of tenacity and ingenuity to build the story of Weinstein’s abuse while showing great sensitivity towards his victims. An incredible read.
Bernstein uses the story of her own control issues and long, devastating battle to conceive as the background to a beautiful blueprint for choosing to feel good, despite what is going on around us. I’ve re-read this book several times and it serves as a wonderful reminder to feel joyous and to surrender – neither of which come naturally to many of us.
Glennon Doyle – Untamed: Stop pleasing, start living – due out on the 12th March.
I can’t wait for it! It’s about trading in our constant striving to be ‘good’ and start listening to our inner voice. It’s also the story of how Doyle, who was trying to make her marriage work after her husband had confessed to having been unfaithful for its entire duration, fell in love with another woman (Abby Wambach, see above) and decided to be true to herself. As her publisher says, “Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.”
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