Favorite Female Autobiographies

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Book recommendations.

Happy belated Women’s Day! In honor, I thought I’d share my favorite autobiographies written by women. When I was younger, I was purely into fiction (especially fantasy and science fiction), but in recent years, I’ve gotten more into non-fiction. My favorite class of non-fiction is autobiographies, especially by successful women. I love learning about the “origin story” of these women and how they got to where they are today. I believe that some traits necessary for success can be seen or are formed from childhood, so it’s interesting to know more about their early lives. I usually end up feeling pretty inspired after reading these books, and I hope you will too!

  • My Beloved WorldSonia Sotomayor is a judge on the Supreme Court. This book is my favorite out of the lot. It talks about her formative experiences growing up in New York, her grandmother’s influence, and her determination to go into law. I once mentioned this book to my more conservative friend, and he instantly shot it down because of her political leanings, but the book is actually pretty broad and mostly talks about her experiences before turning 18 and going to college.
  • An AutobiographyAgatha Christie is a famous mystery novelist. I loved her novels growing up, and more recently found this autobiography. Although this isn’t a very well-known autobiography compared to the others in this list, I loved it because it gave an image of a different time – old British style, when the world was bigger and traveling was more exotic. It talks about her struggles as a writer in a time when women didn’t always have independent careers, and later going on archaeological digs with her husband.
  • Why Not Me?Mindy Kaling is a comedy writer who was on the television show The Office. This is more a lighthearted collection of essays that are really fun to read through, rather than a true autobiography. The best one is about building confidence through hard work, and you can read the excerpt here.
  • Year of YesShonda Rhimes is the showrunner behind the television shows Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder. Although I haven’t actually watched these shows, I enjoyed reading about how pushed herself beyond her natural inclinations to seize the opportunities. What inspired me about her story is that although she wasn’t the most extroverted child, she had a great imagination, which she was eventually able to translate that into a great career. It’s nice to hear an introvert’s story in today’s world, which seems to be full of brash-talking extroverts.

There are a couple more books that make the Honorable Mention list:

  • Lab GirlHope Jahren is a geochemist and discusses her academic career and some of her struggles with mental health. Her professional struggles definitely touched home for me, being in a similar situation.
  • Lean InSheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook. This book has personal excerpts interspersed with more general analysis drawn from scientific studies. The whole Lean In movement has definitely had a welcome positive impact in our field. I recently went a  Lean In circle organized at my school, where everyone answered a random question about their personal challenges. There were students, alumni, and faculty present, and it was inspiring to see that each of us faced similar issues in slightly different contexts.
  • What HappenedHillary Clinton is – well, you know who she is. I didn’t love this book because I think writing it later would’ve helped the perspective be more balanced. However, it was interesting to learn about the thought process behind her campaign, and she candidly admits to some of the personal weaknesses that influenced her campaign.

OK, that’s the end of this book report! Do you have any other autobiography or book recommendations?

 

4 thoughts on “Favorite Female Autobiographies

  1. Justice Sotomayor’s book is wonderful! I had the good fortune to attend an event where she was speaking, and she’s really lovely. I would have loved if she wrote about the later stages of her career too or touched on more political topics, though it’s best for judges to stay away from speaking or writing too publicly about the types of issues that could come before their court.

    I read her book during my first year of law school, when we were also reading the big constitutional law cases, including the ones about racial discrimination. Putting those together with some of the academic sources I was looking at afterwards (particularly Jerome Karabel’s The Chosen), really drove home how recently the Ivy league schools began admitting women, much less racial minorities. It’s a lot to think about, and I wish people with different political views were more open-minded about the lesson there. It’s an issue I’m pretty attached to because I see how, even if law has come a long way since Justice Sotomayor was in school, we still have some pretty serious diversity problems.

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    • Ohhh that’s amazing that you got to hear her speak! I should look up some of her talks on YouTube. It’d be better than the usual fluff I end up listening to (although I have to say that makeup videos are very soothing to fall asleep too 🙂

      I just looked up when the Ivy Leagues started admitting women, and they’re mostly around the 1970s/80s?! That blows my mind, although some of them did have associated women’s schools (which were probably seen as lesser quality than the main schools). I wonder whether policies differ for public vs private schools? This might be getting off topic, but I work for a state school, and I remember being told at a training session for hiring (not admissions) that the law does not allow us to consider gender/race. But the campus had come up with some special language that allows us to sort of consider diversity, in a rather vague and uninterpretable way. Whereas I’ve heard that at private schools, the hiring committees can strongly consider diversity as part of their criteria.

      I’ve added The Chosen to my reading list 🙂

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  2. Hi! Recently found your blog through Invincible Summer. I also loved Sonia Sotomayor’s book, and recommend Shrill, by Lindy West.

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    • Hello! Thanks for stopping by! I just put a hold on Shrill, thanks for the rec 🙂 I wish there was an automatic book recommendation system based on my loan history, just like Netflix does for shows.
      PS: I love your wedding dress that you posted on your blog! Especially the colors and the transparency at the bottom.

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