Summer Reading List
From the rarely told stories of female soldiers in Afghanistan to books chronicling the rise of cultural icons like Zelda Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell, here are 22 biographies of women who broke barriers — both professional and societal.
Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)
Writer Vladimir Nabokov’s everything — from wife to secretary to editor — was critical to his literary success.
Bad Girls Go Everywhere: The Life of Helen Gurley Brown, the Woman Behind Cosmopolitan Magazine
HGB moves to the big city, climbs the copy-editing ladder, and then edits one of the biggest women’s magazines in the country.
Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty
Helena makes major cash money with her skin care empire and never shies away from schooling anti-Semites.
Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story Of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece
The notorious Dolly Wilde hosts literary salons, seduces women, and lives lasciviously.
Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press
Ethel avoids annoying marriage proposals so she can report on hate crimes and civil rights, and eventually cover the White House.
Front Row: Anna Wintour: The Cool Life and Hot Times of Vogue's Editor in Chief
In this unauthorized biography, Anna’s many colleagues from jobs past recount how she got to the top (hint: it wasn’t by being nice).
The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright
Children’s book author, artist, model, and gifted photographer Dare endures a manipulative mother and a tenuous relationship with reality.
Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953
Pretty dresses, a magazine internship, and everything that eventually became The Bell Jar.
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon — and the Journey of a Generation
A triple biography that distills how these pillars of the 1960s came to be so iconic.
Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield
A pilot program of female soldiers carries out sensitive missions in Afghanistan in ways that male soldiers cannot.
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation
Josephine Baker, Tallulah Bankhead, Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Tamara de Lempicka defined flapper-dom.
Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army
A Manchu princess is adopted in Japan, dresses in male clothes, and (possibly) works as a secret agent during the Pacific War.
Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty
Meet the entrepreneur who turned modeling into a glamorous profession through the most successful agency in the world.
Marie Curie and Her Daughters: The Private Lives of Science's First Family
Two-time Nobel winner Marie Curie encourages her daughters into two flourishing careers: science and foreign correspondence.
Michelle Obama: A Life
From her her working-class childhood to Harvard Law School and beyond.
Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space
Sally Ride’s entry into NASA is recounted through her family, former husband, and secret partner of 27 years.
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo
Frida comes of age during the Mexican Revolution, makes haunting art, has tons of affairs, and dabbles in Communism.
Ella Fitzgerald: A Biography of the First Lady of Jazz
The female voice of jazz goes up against racism, sexism and rampant sexual harassment — and still comes out on top.
Marie Antoinette: The Journey
Married off to future King Louis XVI at only 14 years old, Marie Antoinette fumbles considerably as Queen of France before being executed.
Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild
The first It girl of Hollywood gets away from her impoverished Brooklyn roots and receives a record 45,000 fan letters in a single month.
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire
Genghis Khan’s daughters create an economic system (compete with trade and education) in the world’s first international empire.