Whenever I’ve needed to understand something, my first instinct has always been to read about it. To learn from other people’s experience, in the hopes they’ll help me improve on my own. There’s no denying being a woman is complicated as hell; there’s hormones flying everywhere, the terrifying battle of bra shopping, smudged mascara, laddered tights and once a month there is literally blood. When I hit the delicate age at which everyone starts telling you that you’re a woman now and to be careful what my body was doing to the opposite sex, while also saying you shouldn’t grow up too fast; it left me confused, not understanding why I felt the need to hide my tampon up my sleeve or why my sexual desires were taboo when mens’ were plastered all over advertising. I wasn’t sure what I could or couldn’t ask and never knew where to turn. So I looked to the thing that never let me down, it was my own personal research mission and I wanted to share some of the books that helped me start to figure it all out.
How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran
I can honestly say this book changed my perspective on so many things. It is described as part memoir part rant which is 100% accurate. I found it incredible that Caitlin found a way to talk about such personal topics like periods, body hair, the decision to have children and even abortions with equal amounts sincerity and humour. I read this book when I was 18 and at the time I thought I was the only one drowning in all this confusion, Caitlin cleared that up for me straight away, suddenly I was laughing at all these insecurities and the second that happened I felt a hell of a lot better.
The Princess Saves Herself In This One – Amanda Lovelace
This is a poetry collection in four parts; the princess, the damsel, the queen & you. Each section breaks down a different stage of the author’s life in an incredibly raw way. I’ve heard mixed reviews about this; some people love it, others hate it. I personally loved it. The writing is minimalist, there are no flamboyant prose or lyrical tendencies just raw emotion. For me this collection took me back to being sixteen; it didn’t relate so strongly to the person I am now as I feel these are struggles I have already overcome. However sometimes it’s good to remember the pain you’ve gone through, to remind you how strong you are.
The Birth of the Pill – Jonathan Eig
This book tells the story of the invention of the contraceptive pill. It’s a history book at it’s core but it talks a lot about the struggle of women trying to avoid pregnancy in a world where the answer tended to be don’t have sex. It made me feel lucky to be born in a world where I can walk into my doctors and pick up a prescription for a contraceptive without much hassle. As well as telling a truly inspiring story of four brilliant people changing the way we view sex, this book reminded me how lucky I am and made me think of all the women who still don’t have this luck.
Letters To My Fanny – Cherry Healey
Back to the modern day. Cherry Healey’s brilliant book begins every chapter with a letter to a different body part, tying them brilliantly with her life to create a candid and hilarious memoir. Reading her personal experiences and thoughts on various topics was so inspiring. She wrote so honestly and openly about her feelings, discussing her struggle to feel ‘overtly sexual’ and the details of her first snog with such a light hearted openness that it was impossible not to fall head first into this book. At times it felt like she was sharing her teenage diaries with us, not in a sneaky way. Imagine she was sitting next to you pointing out the funny parts and laughing along with you. That’s what reading this book was like.
Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
This is a beautifully illustrated poetry collection about survival. It discusses the experiences of violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity. This began as a self-published work, which was quickly dragged into the limelight of the poetry world. These poems are all about surviving. It can be painful to read but reminds you how important it is to feel everything. We follow the writer’s story; her journey through pain, sexuality and femininity. You can feel the voice maturing as you turn each page and each time it happens your heart breaks with her.
It’s an ongoing journey and I still have a lot to learn, but these are a few of the books that have helped me on my way by either offering new insight or just lending me comfort. I’m always looking for new titles so drop me your recommendations!