SparkNotes Blog

4 Great Nonfiction Books About Being a Girl

Apparently nonfiction helps our brains be better. So, are you a devout nonfiction reader? I’m not. Reading historical nonfiction makes me dream about Easy Mac. Reading nonfiction about the environment makes me concentrate—on burritos. But I have read a bunch of nonfiction about what it means to be a girl, aka “gender politics.” (Feel free to repeat that term—it impresses teachers and terrifies boys.) Anyway, here are some of my favorite nonfiction reads:

RAPUNZEL’S DAUGHTERS: WHAT WOMEN’S HAIR TELLS US ABOUT WOMEN’S LIVES by Rose Weitz. Ever had the urge to chop off all your hair? Or dye it blue? Or let a goth girl attach fake dreadlocks to your head? You’re NOT ALONE. But what do these urges mean? Do they relate to love, relationships, body image, and self-confidence, or are they just random whims? Rose Weitz explores these questions… and makes me feel a lot less crazy about the time I got purple extensions.

UNHOOKED: HOW YOUNG WOMEN PURSUE SEX, DELAY LOVE, AND LOSE AT BOTH by Laura Sessions-Stepp, who would be the coolest mom ever. Sessions-Stepp follows around a bunch of college girls from different socio-economic backgrounds and, uh, watches them make out. Seriously. By day, she interviews the girls about what they want in life… by night, she takes notes as they put on sparkly dresses and hit on boys. Her observations and compassion moved me—the laziest reader of all time—to email her when the book came out. And she actually responded!

I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE by Sloan Crosley. I hesitate to include this on the list because I thought her follow-up book, HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER, was a self-indulgent snooze fest. But her first collection of personal essays about being a single New Yorker is hilarious, humble, and sweet in all the right places.

GET YOUR TONGUE OUT OF MY MOUTH, I’M KISSING YOU GOOD-BYE! by Cynthia Heimel. A collection of funny, feminist columns from a 90s-era Playboy writer. Yeah, feminist Playboy writer. That’s a thing that happened. Why someone hasn’t made a movie about her yet is beyond… hey! Dibs on writing the script! CAN YOU HEAR ME, HOLLYWOOD? CAN I PLAY HER CAT???

Have you read any books on gender politics? What’s your favorite nonfiction book?

Want more? Check out Ms. Magazine’s 2011 list of best nonfiction books!