If you’re looking for book recommendations from incredible women at the top of their game, look no further than the Women’s Prize podcast.
On Bookshelfie, host Vick Hope speaks to women who are inspiring generations and making waves – from across the arts, sports, politics and beyond – and asks them to share their five most defining books.
As we get ready to launch the new Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction, we’re looking back through the archives and pulling out the top five most recommended non-fiction books on the podcast. Read on to discover these game-changing non-fiction reads, and find out why they struck a chord with our guests.
Coming in at number five, it’s no surprise to see Virginia Woolf’s extended feminist essay on women’s independence sitting on this list. Recommended by the likes of musician Emeli Sandé and model and filmmaker Lily Cole, A Room of One’s Own is a searing and passionate cry for women to have a space for themselves in writing and in the wider world. Emeli Sandé thinks of it as her first rebellion: “The first tattoo I ever got was ‘A room of one’s own’. And I just had this feeling inside of me, I felt finally I was free from doing what was expected of me. It was my first rebellion, really.”
Number four is Roxane Gay’s unflinching memoir charting her struggle with food and body image. Recommended by Liv Little, author of Rosewater, and Jameela Jamil, actor and activist, Hunger is a deeply personal and intimate look at Gay’s personal struggles and the painful process of moving from girlhood to adulthood in a body that isn’t seen by society. Of Hunger, Jameela Jamil said: “This book had such a remarkable impact on me. Whenever I see a woman laying it all bare, as Roxanne does, I feel inspired, emboldened and humbled. She perfectly words everything you’ve always wanted to say and she does it concisely, beautifully and unpretentiously. Her journey and the way she writes is so remarkable.”
This force of a book has taken the world by storm since its publication in 2020. With an arresting mix of memoir and inspiration Untamed calls for us to break from the status quo and find peace and joy in being true to ourselves. We can see why this book has been selected three times on Bookshelfie, with the likes of broadcaster Cherry Healey, dancer Motsi Mabuse and footballer Alex Scott all holding it dear. Cherry Healey in particular felt locked into Doyle’s journey: “Doyle goes through this huge journey, and the story is incredible. She’s always encouraging you to think. It’s not a preachy self-help book. She’s not pretending to be a guru as well… She stays really humble, and she wants to share her learnings with you.“
Another must-read from the podcast is Lisa Taddeo’s expert work of narrative journalism, exploring the desires and yearnings of three women over the course of several years. With fans like Gillian Anderson, Anna Whitehouse and Noor Murad, we can see why Three Women has appealed to modern women with its honest, unflinching and accepting portrayal of women’s sexuality. Superstar actor Gillian Anderson said: “It was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It’s narrative journalism. It had that kind of curious, incisive journalistic perspective. But it’s also a book that really cares about and honours its subjects. So it’s about these three women, but it’s really about who we are, as women. It asked big, profound questions about sexual power, politics, desire.“
Recommended a whopping six times, making it the most recommended book (across both fiction and non-fiction) on Bookshelfie, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Maya Angelou’s rousing autobiography charting her challenging and awe-inspiring life. Truly a book for book lovers, Angelou maps out the way literature saved her life in the face of racism and trauma. Recommended by everyone from Sex and the City actor Kim Cattrall to author and influencer Candice Braithwaite, we can see why this is the most beloved book from our Bookshelfie guests. Playwright and producer, Bim Adewunmi, on her Bookshelfie episode said it was unlike anything she’d ever read: “This book felt very intimate to me. It’s a coming of age book and it resonated so much with me at the time. There is an incredible ribbon of humour all the way through which warms you up.”