Books By Women That All Creatives Need To Read

by Kerri Jarema

This Women's History Month is tinged with more urgency than ever before. In the year of resistance, we're looking for every chance we have to do better, work harder, and be bolder. We truly believe that book-lovers can use literature to fight back, from reading more diversely to starting a feminist book club. But perhaps the best books to aid you in your goals are creative memoirs and nonfiction. There are a plethora of books by highly successful creative women that share secrets, tips and ideas to help you tap into your own muse and find new ways to get shit done. This is obviously super crucial during a time when it can be incredibly difficult to get your brain out of the never-ending news cycle and into your own creative cycle, and it's more important than ever.

Women have always had to push back against those who would silence them, and a lot of books by creative women already delve into that fact. But now is the time for all of us to be our own force, to allow our work to speak where we can't, to make sure that we are getting out butts in the chair and making good and putting it out into the world. These nine books will be sure to motivate you, whatever your field.


'M Train' by Patti Smith

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Smith's follow up to her celebrated memoir, Just Kids (another great book to read for some serious artistic inspiration), M Train follows a more essay-based format. In this one Smith talks a lot about the grief and loss she still after losing her husband, about family and, above all, change. But she also writes a lot about her creative process told through the lens of cafés and other haunts she has visited throughout the world. It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook, and branches out from there on various trips, thoughts and experiences.


'The Art of Asking: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help' by Amanda Palmer

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Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world's most successful music Kickstarter. In this book, part manifesto and part revelation, she explores the emotional, philosophical and practical aspects of asking, and how it leads to a more open, creative life.


'Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear' by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Here, Elizabeth Gilbert digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic seeks to make creativity a wonder and joy in our every day lives.


'The Year Of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person' by Shonda Rhimes

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The mega-talented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life ― and how it can change yours, too. With three hit shows on television and three children at home, Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. And there was the side-benefit of saying no for an introvert like her: nothing new to fear. Then her sister laid down a challenge: just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. She reluctantly agreed ― and the result was nothing short of transformative. Here, Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life.


'Bird By Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life' by Anne Lamott

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In this classic book Anne Lamott offers a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer's life. From "Getting Started,' with "Short Assignments," through "Shitty First Drafts," "Character," "Plot," "Dialogue." all the way from "False Starts" to "How Do You Know When You're Done?" Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses "Writers Block," "Writing Groups," and "Publication." She is always honest, often funny, and incredibly encouraging. If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you.


'Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song' by Sara Bareilles

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This is a candid and down-to-earth collection of essays by five-time, Grammy Award nominated singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles that explores her life in song. In is, Bareilles pulls back the curtain to expose her songwriting process, revealing all the struggle and joy inherent in creating great work while staying true to yourself. In a stripped down and confessional writing style, she tells the inside stories behind her most popular songs and offers insights into finding balance between making art for herself and commercial music for her listeners.


'In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs' by Grace Bonney

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This gorgeous coffee table book profiles over 100 influential and creative women from all ages, races, backgrounds, and industries. Chock-full of practical, inspirational advice for those looking to forge their own paths, these interviews detail the keys to success (going with your gut; maintaining meaningful and lasting relationships), highlight the importance of everyday rituals (meditating; creating a daily to-do list), and offer advice for the next generation of women entrepreneurs and makers (stay true to what you believe in; have patience). You'll want to pin the hundreds of beautiful, photographs of the women in their work spaces to your walls, and dip in and out of this book every chance you get.


'Slouching Towards Bethlehem' by Joan Didion

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Another classic book on the creative life, this is a collection of Didion's journalism work covering America during the upheaval of the 1960s. But more than that, Didion speaks on her own personal creative life as a young woman, in pieces that discuss everything from the importance of keeping a notebook, to self-respect, morality, what it means to go home again and how to saying goodbye to a place that once held nothing but promise both personally and creatively, which in Didion's case, was New York (the beloved essay actually inspired two collections about loving and leaving New York, Goodbye To All That and Never Can Say Goodbye.) A must read for every young creative.


'Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays' by Zadie Smith

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Zadie Smith brings curiosity, intellectual rigor, and sharp humor to this collection of essays, which is split into four sections: Reading, Being, Seeing, and Feeling. Smith discusses material both personal and cultural, with essays on diverse topics including literature, movies, going to the Oscars, British comedy, family, feminism, Obama, and Katharine Hepburn. Smith also speaks directly to writers as a craftsman, offering precious practical lessons on process, offering tremendous food for thought, encouraging readers to ask themselves questions of identity, art, love, and creativity that so often goes neglected.