A Courageous Women Reading List: Recommended by Kendra Atleework

By Bookshop.org

By Bookshop.org

Kristin Lavransdatter: (penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Sigrid Undset

$30.00 $27.60

Kristin Lavransdatter is in the running for my favorite book of all time. Written by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset and first published in Norwegian in the early 1920s, this translation by Tina Nunnally far supersedes the previous translation and captures the spare beauty of Undset’s prose. Set in 14th century Norway, this novel is over 1,100 pages long and includes bizarre love triangles and midnight witchcraft. Through it all we shadow Kristin, a woman who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty: one of the most fully realized characters I’ve ever read. This epic work is also historically fascinating—Undset was the daughter of a prominent archeologist, and she knew her stuff.

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

Maxine Hong Kingston

$16.00 $14.72

First published in 1976, this book paved the way for the memoir genre. The author navigates coming of age in the United States, sometimes harmonizing and sometimes clashing with her mother, whose past is rooted in China. At the same time, the author occupies a parallel mythical narrative in which she trains in the art of battle in order to defend her home and family. Unforgettable both for its strength of storytelling and its trailblazing approach to memoir.

The Witch of Eye

Kathryn Nuernberger

$16.95 $15.59

I loved this collection of essays, laden with beautiful language and startling remnants from history about witchcraft, plants, spells, and healings, all braided together to sharpen the way we think about power and its subversion. Written in a poet’s careful prose, you’ll want to underline everything and read each page over and over.

Wiving: A Memoir of Loving Then Leaving the Patriarchy

Caitlin Myer

$24.99 $22.99

I read Wiving twice in the first few months after its pandemic publication, and I still can’t get over it. Caitlin Myer’s prose is gorgeous. The story here is also gripping—it’s a coming-of-age tale fraught with peril, betrayal, adventure, and love. It also asks serious philosophical questions, like: for whom and what do we live in service? The voice is intimate as the reader is brought along on the author’s journey to self-knowledge, which is really culture-knowledge. The troubles along Myer’s path have given her a unique perspective on what it means to be a woman in the world. I only wish I had it as a companion in my twenties.

Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys Into Race, Motherhood, and History

Camille T. Dungy


A wonderful essay collection that has accompanied me on road trips and into the backcountry. The writing life, the natural world, the way we’re tangled up in history: these ideas are blended with the story of a mother and daughter as they travel together, navigating complex spaces. A lovely and thoughtful reimagining of how we tell the story of our homes, our journeys, and ourselves.

The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky

Ellen Meloy

$17.95 $16.51

I first discovered Ellen Meloy during an extreme drought in California. As my state burned, this book showed me how our homes—just like many of the pieces of our lives—can be at once hideous and beautiful. Ellen Meloy is a must-read author for people who love the desert. Her work articulates the preciousness of landscapes at risk of being dismissed as worthless. Not to mention, she’s hilarious.

Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco

Alia Volz

$27.00 $24.84

This unique memoir takes a long, hard look at the author’s revolutionary mother and her San Francisco home. Volz’s mom sold weed brownies out of the author’s stroller and was a crucial figure in the early days of medical marijuana during the AIDS epidemic. I loved this book’s voice, characters, humor, and its sheer scope and ambition as a work of history.

And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges

Amber Sparks

$23.95 $22.03

Princesses who escape their kingdoms beneath donkey skins. Teenage girls who rescue each other from violence. These short, surreal stories contain dystopias and dreamworlds, dark yet full of trapdoors to the light. Good for women who are sometimes angry, for people who are afraid of the future but want to hope, and for anyone who loves a damn fine sentence. I cried and I also wrote down nine pages of quotes while reading this book.

Ordinary Girls: A Memoir

Jaquira Díaz

$16.95 $15.59

This woman’s journey is rife with danger. Substance abuse, sexual violence, and mental illness chase Díaz through a girlhood in Puerto Rico and Miami, where she was raised by a mother battling schizophrenia and a father who was a drug dealer. This brave and powerful debut memoir follows Díaz from juvenile delinquency to womanhood—a book laden with hard-won hope by an author I’ll be keeping an eager eye on in the future.

Miracle Country: A Memoir of a Family and a Landscape

Kendra Atleework

$16.95 $15.59

My book tells the story of my family falling apart and coming together again, framed by our high desert landscape at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. I was honored that earlier this year, Miracle Country won the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award and was named a Nevada Reads selection. I hope you enjoy it!