It's a year of excellent dystopia and speculative fiction written by and about women, which isn't going anywhere – and why would it? It's only natural that novelists are thinking about reproductive rights and the environment and how things could go wrong, and we're here for it. At the same time, in the nonfiction realm, both the number of books – and the sales – about extraordinary women that history has forgotten, as well as stories of sexual harassment and rape culture, are on the astronomical rise.
Every day is International Women's Day in our book. Nevertheless, a bunch of fantastic titles are being released to coincide with the date – so here are some of our favourites in no particular order.
After the US House of Representatives passed a ban to criminalise all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and the dismay that followed, author Leni Zumas's fierce new novel is, as they say, necessary and so of the moment – as well as excellent.
Imagining a not-so unbelievable world where abortion is illegal in America, in-vitro fertilisation is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo, Red Clocks follows five Oregon-based women challenging the status quo. If you loved Naomi Alderman's The Power and couldn't stop binge-watching (or re-reading) The Handmaid's Tale last year, this is your go-to book in 2018 to question what it means to be a woman.
Chloe Caldwell, famous for her raw, honest and hilarious essays, which led the that her trademark 'oversharing' have made her one of the most endearing and exciting writers of a generation", published this perfect novella in the States in 2014, and it's finally being released in the UK.
Women is about women who are sexually confused, lonely, questioning their identities, and just a little messed up – like all of us. And it's a sensual and stimulating love story between two women. It feels like a great late-night conversation with a friend and a bottle of wine, and it is the perfect read-in-one-sitting book of the season.
I've been pushing this book on everyone I know. Science is of course GREAT, in caps, but it isn't free from prejudice, and it has often been used as an excuse to push sexist policies. Angela Saini challenges a lot of our beliefs and preconceptions about women and men (are women more nurturing than men? Are men more promiscuous? Are we biologically different?) and speaks to the scientists working today exploring the truth about women's actual power. The good news is, having more women in science is changing how science is done.
This brilliant book is about the rebirth of Paris in the 1940s, post second world war. In it, writer Agnès Poirier gives a portrait of the generations born between 1905 and 1930 who lived (and 'loved, fought, played, and flourished') and collided in the city in those years – and whose artistic and intellectual output influences how we live and think today. She weaves together their great stories, and how they reinvented not just art but relationships (questioning or outright rejecting the institutions of marriage and family).
Peak into Picasso's studio, peer through many a Parisian keyhole to see the first kisses and last nights of icons like James Baldwin, Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Miles Davis, Samuel Beckett. Find out about the origins of Existentialism, New Journalism, bebop, French feminism – all happening in the same city in one big chaotic decade.
Warning: you'll probably end up booking tickets to Paris.
This incredible work of nonfiction by New Yorker staff writer Alexis Okeowo weaves together the stories of everyday people who find themselves swept up in extremism and war in Africa, "the fascinating, unpredictable, and maddening continent" with which Okeowo, born in the US to Nigerian parents, got obsessed after a ten-month newspaper internship in Uganda after college. She then went back and lived in several African countries for six years, which informed the tales in the book.
Forget stereotypes or superficial headlines. Okeowo sheds light on the inner lives of her characters like the best journalism does – and shows that . You'll love it if you liked Behind the Beautiful Forevers and Nothing to Envy. In the tradition of this is a masterful, humane work of literary journalism by New Yorker – a vivid narrative of Africans, many of them women, who are courageously resisting their continent's wave of fundamentalism.
Written by novelist Julia Pierpont (author of Among the Ten Thousand Things) and with art by illustrator extraordinaire , this is the perfect little atlas of awesome women of history, from the household names (Frida Kahlo, Michelle Obama) to the well-known (computer scientist and WWII lieutenant Grace Hopper, or Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards).
Mimicking the Catholic saint-of-the-day booklet format, it's perfect to pick up daily for a dose of inspiration – and to gift every friend in your life. Think Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls for adults.
In a similar vein, Broadly UK editor's Zing Tsjeng's Forgotten Women series aims to shed lighton heroines of history that have been silenced, overlooked. The promising four-book series is launching with the first two, centred on the pioneering women scientists and leaders who refused the hand they had been dealt to made the world a better place. Not only will you learn about badass palaeontologists and mathematicians, Irish pirate queens and transgender rights activists – it's also illustrated by a myriad artists from Women Who Draw, the simply glorious open directory of female and gender non-conforming illustrators, artists and cartoonists (if you didn't know it yet, ).
Let 2018 be known as the year we stopped believing nonsense about vaginas for good – and started , by the way. This book by touches on everything from how different types of contraception work in the body to PMS, what a "normal" vulva looks like (hint: different for every woman) and how wearing socks can change your sex life. Medical students and sex educators do a great job at explaining, in a humorous, informative and no-nonsense tone, everything that sex ed failed to. Because we need to make informed choices about our bodies, starting now.
On that note, Laura Dockrill's coming-of-age novel of self-appreciation follows Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Bigbones, a sixteen-year-old girl who, faced with a family tragedy, is forced to confront her relationship with her weight and body and self. Told through a food diary, Big Bones is a smart love letter to friends, family and food.
There's nothing quite like the pleasure of a good New York novel. And The Immortalists not only recreates the 1960s Lower East Side, but it has one of my favourite premises in recent years: What would you do if you were told when you're going to die? Would you live your life any differently? In the novel, four siblings, too young to understand, are told exactly that by a psychic. Will they take it in stride, ignore, or defy this?
Lara Feigel re-read Doris Lessing's 1962 feminist classic not long ago, in her thirties, and she was surprised by how directly Lessing spoke to her present self. This is a genre-defying book, merging memoir and criticism, in which the author tells her own story while she extracts fascinating lessons from the radical classic. From free love, women's sexuality and motherhood to mental health and what freedom means, get ready to question your morals and beliefs. A stimulating read.
Audrey Niffenegger, the author of The Time Traveler's Wife and comics artist Eddie Campbell just got married, after conducting a long-distance courtship between Australia and Chicago. The result of this new closeness, besides their getting hitched, is this very special book of short stories about oddballs falling in love, cats, exes, dates, and fairy tales. The title doesn't lie: the stories are surreal and esoteric, helped by the eerie illustrations; Niffenegger's sharp style makes them feel so real. This is a beautiful product of what is clearly a very productive creative and life partnership.
Let's finish on a high with another celebration of 100 women of history compiled by Stylist journalist Harriet Hall and illustrated by Alice Skinner, whose often-satirical you should definitely follow. Keep 'em coming! "Why is it – – that 100 years after women secured the right for their voices to count in the political sphere – four waves of feminism deep – that we still don't know the names of many of our foresisters?"