We asked the Rule Breakers what book inspires them to keep fighting. Here's what they said.
"I just really love and am inspired by reading the words of other people who have built really big things. Seeing their journey helps put my journey into perspective, because no one is born fully formed, you know?"
"There are no chapters. It's essentially a series of sections with line breaks that separate them, and it covers so much stuff. It's really concerned with gender, gender non-conformity, pregnancy, family, but it also blends some memoiristic side of things, like personal anecdotes, relationships, feelings, etc. with hardcore theory. Maggie Nelson is an academic, and that shows."
"I'm always trying to live up to Anne of Green Gables, which I read when I was 11. I'm not there yet. I'm not as strong or defiantly myself as Anne was. And I haven't read it for at least 20 years, so there might be large parts of it that don't hold up, or are problematic. But I can only speak from my experience when I was 11. It was such a great book for a little girl to read because Anne was everything she wasn't supposed to be. She was supposed to be a boy, you know, and she wasn't. She was supposed to be quiet, and she was the world's most talkative kid. She was supposed to work on farm forever, and she was brilliant and educated. In all of those things that were her weaknesses were her strengths, and she found people that appreciated that. And that she made their life better. I loved it so much, and I hope to be like her someday."
"When I was at Sarah Lawrence, I was introduced to the work of Carol Gilligan. I read In A Different Voice for the first time. I guess it was maybe a small feminist awakening. I remember that, in the context of what I was going through at the time, not knowing that any of this was going to happen, but just trying to figure out my identity and trying to capture some of that or maintain some of that feeling that I had as a little girl when I would see injustices or when I would feel motivated to call those things out."
"I have followed her since before I saw the complaint. I was reading her book and watching her interviews to just see how she handled everything, because she did it so gracefully. She never played the victim, she's always an advocate, and she did it for the other girls. So that was really my goal and I kind of fed off of her, and she was my inspiration through the whole thing."
"That book meant a lot to me and made me feel more comfortable trusting intubation — and seeing an ability to connect, recognize, and make people feel something — as a plausible form of 'intelligence' (read: I did poorly on the SAT)."
"As cliched and nerdy as it sounds, Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble remains the most important written piece in the trajectory of my life. It was the first book that I ever read that gave me permission to be myself — that showed me, on an academic and philosophical basis, that I no longer had to apologize for who I was and who I wasn’t. Going from being raised in a traditional, conservative environment to being asked to read Gender Trouble by a professor with a keen eye for my internal struggles was the most influential thing that ever happened to me. That book opened the door that led me to where I am now."
"It’s really a book about understanding the psyche, unpacking female archetypes in myths and story, and giving you tools to help access your instinctual wild self. It’s also wonderful for dealing with trauma."
"It was a book that really made me realize that each and every one of us, regardless of who we are, all have a job to do on this Earth. My job is to add value to society, and I can only do that by first keeping and making myself happy."
"Mostly because it features a talking dog with the body of a clock and taught me how to use the word 'dodecahedron' in a sentence. In all seriousness, though, it’s about a world in which people who jump to conclusions are instantaneously whisked away to a literal island called 'Conclusions,' letters have flavors (X, if you’re wondering, 'tastes like a trunkful of stale air'), and an orchestra is responsible for playing all the world’s colors. I like to re-read it every few years as a reminder to think differently and, most importantly, to have fun."
"The style of the writing is very 'I just gotta write this shit down so that it's written down.' And thank God that he did, when he did. The story is so real and so honest. I just think that kind of work is the reason that we're here."
"I've read this book almost eight times and every time I read it, I get something new. It's taught me how to not only overcome challenges but to grow from them. I've learned to use my pain as a platform for others."
"This book opened with [the author's] incest. I think was the first time that I ever heard another writer speak so frankly about their experience and trauma. I think when writing about trauma, it's important to be delicate with your own heart, and your own expression of it, and also how it may affect other people, [especially] in the promotion and the release of these things."
"The Confidence Code does a terrific job explaining the science behind confidence — including why some people are more or less confident, how it plays a role in your life, and how to get more."
"The story initially captured me at a young age because of its themes of sadomasochism, BDSM, and sex work in a very French setting. I was also obsessed and fascinated with all things French culture back then. The movie version is also a favorite of mine because of Catherine Deneuve and her 100% Yves Saint Laurent wardrobe. It’s so perfect. I’ll never get over her black Peter Pan collar dress or her PVC trench coat looks. So good!"
"You will sob. It is so beautifully written, but also, it makes you so proud to be a woman. And it makes you feel okay to deal with pain. The book really makes you feel okay with some of the decisions in your past, and shows you how you can really overcome it, let it go, forgive yourself, and not carry that around your shoulders."
"It’s the Killing Eve book. I watched that first, then I started reading the book. I loved the book. It’s different enough that you feel like you get more background. I love female murderers. "
"It is super inspirational, fascinating, real, and enlightening. It makes you want to be In The Company of all of the amazing women!"
"The only people whose books I really read were like Alice Feiring's books, obviously, and Isabelle Legeron's book. Those are two badass women. Because here's the deal: People are like, 'Oh you should read blah, blah, blah, it's so up your alley, it's so this and that.' And I'm like, 'Dude, you think this is some wild portrayal of wine? It's just an old white guy and f*cking Bordeaux.' Those books, well, I never finish them. Whereas with Alice and Isabelle, I found their books to be stories. I love that."
"It helped me realize that there isn't just one correct path towards success in comedy. At this pivotal time in my pursuits, when I'm not able to spend as much time on the road as I'd like, it's encouraging to read interviews from prolific writers who all had vastly different journeys, yet still ended up where I hope to be."
"Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe's Spotlight investigative team, along with the movie based on their investigation, have been a constant encouragement to me that sometimes the good guys do win. It's unfortunately still an extremely relevant work with the news coming out of Pennsylvania in recent days."
"When you have 12 miles to go, if you let your mind turn in a negative direction, it becomes a lot longer. This really wonderful woman, Deena Kastor, wrote a book Let Your Mind Run. It's a great read and I recommend it to everyone."
These interviews have been condensed for clarity.