A Varied List of Book Ideas for Women

05/25/2011 12:20 pm ET

Here's a varied list of books women might like. Consider giving them as gifts, or getting them for yourself to help you survive the winter.

The Natural Superiority of Women by Ashley Montagu.
This is my favorite non-fiction book in part because it was written by a lovely, lovely man I had the pleasure of knowing. Published in 1953, it predates the feminist movement and is a book of historical significance. An anthropologist and social biologist who taught at Princeton, he authored works from early articles condemning genital mutilation to The Elephant Man: A Study in Human Dignity. The Natural Superiority of Women is his heartfelt tribute to our sex. ( 1999 paperback ed., or hardcover)

The Late Bloomer's Revolution: A Memoir by Amy Cohen.
This author is also someone dear to my heart. Her writing has the ability to reel me in with humor and be deeply affecting before I even realize what hit me. Her memoir is a love letter to her parents and it documents a growing ownership of her sense of self. Sarah Jessica Parker is set to star in and produce the movie version for HBO Films. ( or through which you can read an excerpt published in the Modern Love column of the New York Times)

It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley
An award winning, thoughtfully direct book for parents and children approaching adolescence, this book covers everything. Several sweet watercolor illustrations are on each page, so children's eyes can fall wherever they're comfortable, and the content is presented in chapters that grow in sophistication and can be read over time as your child matures. Sometimes I take it off the shelf to read to my daughter, and sometimes she brings it to me when there's something she's curious about. (

Katharine Graham: Personal History by Katharine Graham
Even though Graham lived a life of privilege, or maybe even because of it, her autobiography is inspirational. Held back by her era, traumas and insecurities, it isn't until her 60s that she comes into her own and in so doing participates in changing the course of American history. Her frank descriptions of how inferior she felt when she took the helm of the Washington Post make her achievements there, not to mention going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for this book, all the more special. (

Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic by Esther Perel
To my mind, there are few psychologically oriented books out there that are well written and have mass appeal - so many are reduced to the written equivalent of sound bytes. Not only does Perel write well, she might loosen the puritanical ties that set up many couples for misery, such as operating under the illusion that we own our partners, and know them inside and out. She believes eroticism needs space to thrive, and she has great reverence for the unique and independent nature of desire. (

Be...A Woman: Expressions of Life by Kim MacGregor and Arline Malakian
In this 87 page book, photographs of women onto whom we project our own subjective thoughts, are followed by brief journal entries telling their actual stories, which force us to see who they are. With support from Dove, MacGregor and Malakian self published this book and although both come from the fashion world, their mission is to support women and girls' expanded sense of beauty. In its' accessible form many women will find it less intimidating than more purely political or literary works. "The beauty of womanhood cannot be found in any form of perfection but rather in the truth of existence. Whom does she love? Who loves her? What has she dealt with? How has she triumphed? Who is she being?" Two of the journal entries made me tear up.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
This fall I gave a lecture on "Women and Girls, and Their Sexuality" and I opened it with this Bovary quote from 1857 that still rings true today:
"A man, at least, is free: he is able to explore all passion and to range the world, surmount obstacles, savor the most exotic pleasures. But a woman is constantly once excited by the susceptibilities of the flesh yet held in her place by social convention." (