10 Books to Read this Women’s Day
If you have been a regular reader of Elementum Money, brace up for I could sound just a tad repetitive with what I am going to say. This baby of mine was born with the idea of making personal finance, and later personal growth, simple and relatable to everyone. But, to be honest, being a woman who is forever found arguing about how we can do anything, gender has been an important lens through which I view and share a lot of things on this digital corner as well.
Now, when it comes to Women’s Day, I end up with a wide range of reactions. Sometimes I am cringing at the tone deaf communications put out to make women realise their worth or society its’ biases. While at other times, I wonder if our lot has made even a tad bit of progress over the last year gone by, through some concrete visible actions. But, love it or hate it, Women’s Day is one event I can’t ignore and something needs to be said. I would say I have done a fairly decent job with most years, be it 2018, 2019, 2020 or 2021.
This time as I was in the midst of my last minute scramble, I realised that books are something that could come to my rescue here as well. When you start looking at the vast ocean of content out there, in almost every genre you will find something that will make you really think about the gender. So, check out the ten books I would recommend reading or making a note in your to-be-read list for this Women’s Day. All of them fall under a broader umbrella.
Role of Women in the world
There is just one book, and one book alone that does justice to the idea.
1. The moment of lift – Melinda French Gates
This is a book I read in 2020 and it opened doors to a whole new world. At the surface level I was of course aware of the massive philanthropic, humanitarian work undertaken by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But, this book gives a much deeper view into it. That’s not all. Through anecdotes, data points and her own experiences, Melinda makes no bones about the fact that if you improve the lot of women, you improve the world we live in. For anyone still on the fence about how women still need to be championed and just how beneficial it is for the world in general, this book is a must-read.
For career advice
At surface level, it could seem like the below books cater only to women as to the actions they need to take to move forward in their career. But, interestingly enough both these books do mention the role of men – be it as mentors, guides or cheerleaders. Men who are secure enough in their own gender role to try to tilt the balance more towards equality.
2. Confidence code – Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
When I read this book in mid 2020, it was much applauded. Off late, it’s been more about the book being too fluffy for it’s own good. Also, another accusation hurled at it is the fact that it seems to bring too much light or make too much of the idea that women have lower confidence levels than men.
But, from my experience, the book makes very valid research-backed points. While I may or may not relate to some of the aspects, the fact remains that a lot of stereotypes and biases do feed into the mindset of women. This book makes for a good read for a vast majority of people – women, people looking to improve their own confidence levels, mentors as well as parents.
3. Hardball for women – Pat Heim
Not a very popular book but this one essentially gives fantastic action-oriented advice for women in the workplace. It focusses on the smaller aspects and nuances of things like language and body language that we may be doing unconsciously.
As for the men, fret not. If you are keen to add on to a more equitable world, then again this book makes for a good read. While many aspects are internally actionable, there are things that only a supportive environment can help with.
While I am a staunch believer of women getting more involved with money and investing, I mostly do not agree with having a distinction in this area for the genders. So much so, that while discussing the future course for Elementum Money, I had a debate with a friend. She kept telling me how my niche was financial planning for women while in my head it remains about simplified financial planning.
While the debate rages on, the fact remains that there are still some gender specific books on the subject that I thought were worth a read.
4. Millionaire women next door – Thomas J. Stanley
This is an ancient book, almost one and a half decades old. Also, it is more of an offshoot to the very popular and one of my favourites, Millionaire Next Door. However, there are some great insights on financial habits that have worked for successful women surveyed for the book.
5. Warren buffet invests like a girl – Louann Lofton
This is one of those rare books where I am making an exception. I have not read it but to me it hits at the heart of a recent debate that’s been up and around us. Why are women hesitant investors? Are they under the impression of the gender holding them back? But, what if Warren Buffet himself displays investor traits associated more with women.
These days, memoirs are the rage and I can see why. They say fact is stranger than fiction. Likewise, fact is also sometimes more inspirational than mere advice. With memoirs, you have already seen the proof of that pudding and are really reading about what went into making it. While reading about strong women, I often pick up habits or mindset traits I might want to adopt for myself.
6. A princess remembers – Maharani Gayatri Devi & Santha Rama Rau
There was a phase where I was convinced I would be writing a historical fiction novel. While that did not last, it left me with a few good books to tick off from my list. This being one of them.
Maharani Gayatri Devi is a legend known to most Indians. Indian royal families are notorious for their rigidity to uphold tradition. So, women barely get a say. In that background, Maharani Gayatri Devi’s memoir with her experiences is a refreshing change. Whether it’s about goofing around as a kid, being headstrong about her choice of spouse or campaigning to be a part of the governance you realise she is one woman to take inspiration from.
7. Becoming – Michelle Obama
With a 4.50 after 8.5 Lakh+ ratings, if this book has not touched your radar you must be living under a literary rock. In fact when you talk about feminine narrative, this is one of the most touted books out there.
While Michelle Obama touches on a lot of topics, be it race, career or motherhood, for me there was one big takeaway. The author often talks about the efforts she made to retain her own identity instead of quietly transferring to a corner with the First Lady designation. No wonder she remains the most visibly admired First Lady.
Feminist view of mythology
One of the recent genres I am intrigued about is the retelling of myths from other view points. While history is mostly written by victors, it’s just made richer with different angles. Within this space, the feminist versions of myths give women of that ancient era a much needed voice.
8. The palace of illusions – Chitra Divakaruni
You know what they say, first cut is the deepest. This book was my introduction to the genre. It is a retelling of the Mahabharata, narrated by Draupadi. Conventional storytellers like to see her as the root of the grand war. This retelling shows so many more layers and just makes you pause to see the woman as a human.
9. The silence of the girls – Pat Barker
Greek mythology has always fascinated me but when it comes to really reading it, I was yet to make my debut. Along came this book and I could just not say no any more.
Barker does a fabulous job retelling the Iliad as seen from the eyes of Briseis, a concubine of Achilles. You get to witness the physical harassment and the emotional turmoil in her head as she experiences the events unfold around her. If looking at things from a different lens interests you, this will be a good find.
Finally, we come to fiction. I have kept this section shorter although it could have included others like thrillers or fantasy or the likes. But, through historical fiction I think a lot of authors manage to paint a picture like none. They either inspire you to do so much more or make you realise just how far women have come.
9. Widows of Malabar hills – Sujata Massey
Set in 1920s Bombay, this book sparks off the fabulous Perveen Mistry series. The protagonist is a young Parsi woman who is also India’s first female lawyer thanks to the egging on by her father. Just reading about the customs and the treatment of women that time made me realise I stand on the shoulders of so many who have come before to make my path easier. As for the character, she herself is charming and smart as a whip, two traits I hope to imbibe myself!
10. The island of sea women – Lisa See
It’s odd that I should end the post with this book when it has probably been one of my most fascinating reads, ever. It has not one, but a bountiful society of fantastic women divers or haenyo who go for their catch with bare hands. That is the source of sustenance for their households while the men are more of the caregivers.
A must must must read for just about anyone. Yet featured on this list for the fantastic women making up the storyline.
Those are some of the books at the top of my mind when I think of celebrating Women’s Day in a bibliophilic way. What are some of your books that made you think of the gender lines? Let me know in the comments below.