Want to Start a Book Club? 16 Books By or About Female Trailblazers


This post has been giving me anxiety.

My to-read list has lately been a pile of riches. Books written by or about trailblazing women keep falling into my lap. While I’ve finished some, that to-read pile continues to grow, and grow, and overflow. (Literally. It fell off my nightstand.) I had the highest of hopes that somehow I could read them all in time to create this trailblazer-themed post. (It is Explorer Month, after all.)

Then I had an epiphany. Instead of stress-scanning all of them before this post, what about we read them together? Let’s start the Rule Breaker Book Club!

Below are all of the trailblazing books on my to-read list, plus a few more that I’ve already read and am currently reading. Want to join me? Leave a comment at the end with the book you want to read, and let’s get this party (book club) started!

Two I Loved

1. Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

This book is a novel told in the voice of Martha Gelhorn. Martha was a famed wartime correspondent who continued to work until she was 80. (EIGHTY!) She was the only woman to be present at D Day after she snuck onto a warship. She is quite literally the coolest and most bad ass.

She was also Ernest Hemingway’s third wife, and the only of his wives to leave him.

I found this book fascinating - particularly because it was in Martha’s voice. It detailed how, in the 1940’s, having a famous husband made it even harder for her to be taken seriously as a female writer. (She was a writer before Ernest!)

(Paula McLain also write The Paris Wife, the story of Ernest’s first wife, and that one is well worth a read, too.)

Have you read this book? I need to talk to someone about it!

2. Heart Talk by Cleo Wade

This book, conceptually, is pretty simple. Cleo Wade took all the notes and reminders she’d made for herself during challenging times and bundled them into a book.

But, Cleo has an old soul’s wisdom, a gift for wording, and a clear goal to help people, and so, while it sounds simple, this book is groundbreaking.

Her tone isn’t grandiose. There is no inherent drama to this book. More so, it’s like a friend that you can turn to when you’ve had a crappy day.

Cleo, herself, is also quite bad ass. She was a guest on the podcast, “The Good Life Project” and it’s one of my favorite episodes. Click here to listen to it.

One I’m Currently reading


3. Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

A few years ago, I raced through Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy Snow Bird, and then her novel, Mr. Fox. I was captivated by how she uses language, and loved her use of Magical Realism. (I love Magical Realism!!)

I’m only 15 pages into this book, but am almost embarrassingly excited to get farther into it.


Six More, All Piled on my Nightstand

4. The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

This is going to sound hokey, but it’s the best I’ve come up with: I appreciate that Melinda Gates exists. She and Bill could take their loads of cash and buy fourteen football teams but, instead, they use it to help people.

Also, Brené Brown liked this book, so there’s that, too.

Around the World in 72 Days.jpg

5. Around the World in 72 Days by Nellie Bly

I knew Nellie Bly as the investigate journalist who, in 1887, got herself committed to an asylum. I didn’t realize she also took a solo trip around the world (in 1889! No planes!!) in an effort to best Jules Vernes’ fictional work, Around the World in 80 Days. Her account of the journey is free to read online! You can also click the link above and add it (for free) to a Kindle.

6. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

I love Elizabeth Gilbert. Similar to my feelings about Stacy London, I’m fairly certain we’d be friends.

This weekend, I’m going to see her speak. What do you think? Should I attempt to woo her into friendship? Do you think it would work? How does one go about doing that? Do I send her a DM? Do I paint a big sign? Make a T shirt with our faces on it? (Too much?)

7. Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston

This little box is too limiting to hold the vastness that was Zora Neale Hurston. She’s known for her novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, but she was also an anthropologist. In 1927, she spent three months interviewing Kossola, the last living person brought to the U.S. on a slave ship. For years, no publisher would publish this book because she’d written it using Kossola’s vernacular. It finally, finally was published last year. There’s an episode about it on the NY Public Library’s podcast, here, too.

8. What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Trailblazer Supreme, Oprah, is a woman who’s accomplished and witnessed multitudes. I want to know what she knows!

This book is an updated collection of the columns she wrote for “O Magazine” under the same title.

9. The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

In her Oscar acceptance speech, Glenn Close said she fought to get the movie adaptation of this book made for 14 years.

I can’t sell this book any better than that. Glenn Close loved this book for 14 years. It has to be good. (The movie was! Glenn Close was stunning in it, too.)

One I’ve Preordered


10. Our Stop by Laura Jane Williams

I first “met” Laura on a podcast I find helpful but bland. When she was a guest, however, I found myself nodding along in agreement. (I think I might have even said, “YES!” to her aloud… alone, in my car.)

Since then, I’ve read every article she’s written for Red Magazine, taken her online writing course, and follow her avidly on Instagram. (I also read Love and Ruin, the first book mentioned above, because she recommended it!)

This is her first novel (though not her first book), and I can’t wait to read it.

(I said “preordered” above, but it is available in digital format now. I just also want a hard copy!)


And all six Finalists for the Women’s Prize for Fiction

(This book won the prize!)

(This book won the prize!)

I’ve read this one, but it’s so good I want to read it, again.

I’ve read this one, but it’s so good I want to read it, again.


ready to vote?

Which book do you want to read with me? Leave a vote (or five) below. Then, next Friday (June 21st), I’ll tally up all of the messages and announce which book we’ll read first!

Are you interested in more content like this post? Every Sunday, I send out The Rule Breakers Review. It’s a collection of Rule-Breaker-inspired content I’ve come across online, a round up of the week’s blog posts, and a letter from me to you.

I’ll be back on Sunday with another fashion experiment! Happy weekend, Rule Breakers!