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3BoT Vol. 4: Three Books Every Woman Should Read

Thursday, January 5, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 4: Three Books Every Woman Should Read | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more information about Three Books on Thursday.

This post needs a few caveats. As I talked about in my review of Why Gender Matters on the last 3BoT post, gender is considered by many to be an entirely social construct, and there is large variation in the interests, abilities, and experiences of people who identify with a certain gender. Nonetheless, there are some experiences that are common enough among women, and certain prejudices that still exist that hinder women, that I think it remains worthwhile to use gender categories.

I should note I am primarily speaking to those who identify and live as female. As this article indicates, transgender individuals who transition from male to female find themselves coming up against many of the same professional boundaries that cisgender women do, and those difficulties are what two of these three books address.

And finally, these are probably most helpful for American women, as these recommendations are based on my personal experience and I believe the research in all three books is mostly or entirely conducted among Americans. But I would guess that those of you in other countries would probably find value in these books as well.

On to the recommendations...

#1: Ask For It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
I'm recommending this book rather than the original, Women Don't Ask -- well, in part because I haven't read the other one, but also because this book contains not just a description of the problem but practical tips and helpful suggestions for actually doing something about it. You can read a much longer description of the book and my experience at a conference where I heard Sara Laschever speak in this post from last April, but the essential message is this: On the whole, men are far, far more likely to make requests and try to negotiate to improve their situation, whether it's asking for a higher salary or simply requesting better service at a hotel. It's easy to complain about how men get paid more than women, but change on a large scale takes a long time. If you want to make more money now, they'll give you steps to negotiate with your boss. It's a way not only to improve your own life but, to use Gandhi's famous quote, to "be the change you want to see in the world."

#2: Talking from 9 to 5 by Deborah Tannen
Deborah Tannen is sometimes dismissed by other communication researchers as "pop psych" because her books are written to be accessible to the general public, but her findings are still grounded into real research, and I love that she includes lots of transcripts of real-life conversations to illustrate her points. In this particular book she talks about some communication tactics that are more often found in women's speech than men's, how these approaches are often interpreted by men, and how that can subsequently affect how a woman is viewed professionally. Communication strategies often used in groups of women to build relationships and show goodwill -- like asking for others' thoughts on an idea rather than confidently stating one's opinion as correct -- can undermine a person's authority in the workplace. Rather than labeling one style of communication wrong or right, she uncovers how misinterpretations can occur and discusses how you might be more effective by better understanding how your communication style may be perceived.

#3: The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
Really, I would recommend this to everyone, but I'm including it here because of how it runs contrary to many of the messages women often receive. (Also, according to the Epilogue, apparently Oprah said every woman in America should read this book.) The main idea is this: Your body is made to instinctively sense when you're in danger, and it propels you to respond through fear. But when we're told all the time that we have to watch out or some man's going to jump out from behind the bushes and kidnap/rape/mug/murder us, we begin to live in a state of anxiety that masks our ability to sense and respond to true fear. Other excellent parts of the book include: understanding and escaping from domestic violence; when a restraining order is helpful and when it actually puts you in more danger; why people attack celebrities; and how movies and TV reinforce the notion that it's romantic for a man to obsessively pursue an unwilling women, when in real life it's just creepy and inappropriate. Lots of good stuff in this book.

What other books would you recommend that women read? Share your suggestions in comments!

Click here for other 3BoT posts!

Please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on a book cover and make any purchase at Amazon (including but not limited to the books suggested here), your purchase will be supporting Faith Permeating Life. Thanks!


  1. I definitely want to check out that second one! Thanks for posting!

  2. @Macha
    I would recommend any of Deborah Tannen's books. They're all great!

  3. I second the recommendation of The Gift of Fear. If you are considering a firearm for self-defense, I also recommend visiting corneredcat.com and reading The Concealed Handgun Manual by Chris Bird. I read all three of these during the same time frame and found that the information dovetailed nicely.


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