12 Inspiring Books About Women Who Changed the World

January’s Women’s March on Washington inspired us to read more biographies and memoirs about women who have changed history and about influential women today who are building our future. From Madeleine Albright to Ronda Rousey, here are some of our favorite record setters, rule breakers, and “first-evers” from famous women in history.

Sally Ride
by Lynn Sherr

Written by the ABC reporter who covered NASA during its transformation from a test-pilot boys’ club to a more inclusive elite, SALLY RIDE is the definitive biography of the bold and talented woman who cracked the celestial ceiling to become the first American woman in space and who inspired several generations of women.

She-Wolves
by Helen Castor

SHE-WOLVES delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds—and invokes a discussion of how little has changed through the centuries.

Sisters in Law
by Linda Hirshman

SISTERS IN LAW portrays the fascinating relationship between Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first and second women to serve as Supreme Court justices. Linda Hirshman’s dual biography describes how these trailblazers fought for their own recognition in a male-dominated profession—battles that would ultimately benefit every American woman.

Cleopatra
by Stacy Schiff

Famous long before she was notorious, Cleopatra has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons. Her supple personality and the drama of her circumstances have been lost. In a masterly return to the classical sources, Stacy Schiff’s CLEOPATRA boldly separates fact from fiction to rescue the magnetic Egyptian queen whose death ushered in a new world order.

My Fight / Your Fight
by Ronda Rousey

In this inspiring and moving book, Ronda Rousey—Olympic medalist in judo, reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion, and Hollywood star—charts her difficult path to glory. Marked by her signature charm, barbed wit, and undeniable power, Rousey’s account of the toughest fights of her life—in and outside the Octagon—reveals what it takes to become the toughest woman on Earth.

Madam Secretary
by Madeleine Albright

In her thoughtful memoir MADAM SECRETARY, Madeleine Albright offers a riveting account of her life as America’s first woman Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms. As one of the most admired women in U.S. history, she reflects on her remarkable personal story and on America’s leading role in a changing world.

The Good Earth
by Pearl S. Buck

Pearl S. Buck was the first American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her Pulitzer Prize–winning novel is a universal tale of an ordinary family caught in the tide of history. An indelible portrait of China in the 1920s, THE GOOD EARTH follows the honest farmer Wang Lung and his selfless wife, O-Lan, as sweeping changes alter the lives of the Chinese people during the 20th century.

Life in Motion
by Misty Copeland

When Misty Copeland first placed her hands on the barre, no one expected that this small, shy 13-year-old would make history as the first African-American woman to be a principal dancer for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Her incredible memoir also goes beyond the insular world of ballet to explore class, race, body image, and coming of age in America.

Ashley’s War
by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

This is the true story of Ashley White, who was part of a pilot program that hand-picked women in the U.S. Army to play a unique role on special operations teams. Ashley and her colleagues were tasked with gathering intelligence from mothers, sisters, and daughters of Afghani insurgents. They built relationships woman to woman, in ways that male soldiers in an Islamic country never could.

Respect
by David Ritz

From singing gospel at her father’s church in Detroit as a child to becoming the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Aretha Franklin always found a way to triumph over troubles. Her hold on the crown as the Queen of Soul is tenacious, and in RESPECT, acclaimed music writer David Ritz gives us the definitive life of one of the greatest talents in all American culture.

My Beloved World
by Sonia Sotomayor

The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor traces her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench. MY BELOVED WORLD offers an inspiring testament to Sotomayor’s own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.

I Am Malala
by Malala Yousafzai

When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head after she refused to be silenced or give up her right to go to school. At 17, she became the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize. I AM MALALA is the remarkable story of the power of one person’s voice to inspire change in the world.