There are many books that have inspired me, some fiction, some nonfiction. Following is a small sampling, I will add to this list as time goes by. These are not in order of the most impactful except for the first two
Our Bodies Ourselves, by the Boston Women's Health Collective--a book written by women for women. I received a copy of this book as a teen and gave a copy to my own daughter. I will keep a copy of this book on my shelf for the rest of my life.
The Childless Revolution: What It Means to be Childless Today by Madelyn Cain, written when Cain's own daughter was a teen. This book inspired me to ask the question, What if my daughter felt ambivalent or was unable to achieve motherhood? Would she feel judged, criticized, left out? Cain's interviews with women without children are as insightful today as they were as the 21st century dawned.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (written 1899)--about a woman who follows life's "scripts," and awakens as if from a dream...she feels that she has been living a life she didn't consciously choose. She went along with societal expectations, and finds that a big part of who she is has been suppressed. My favorite quote, "She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which we appear before the world."
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- somewhat of a contemporary version of Chopin's The Awakening. Ms. Gilbert "awakens" from a life that looked like it was "supposed" to look, but she realizes she has suppressed important parts of her inner self.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, with my favorite quote, "Prejudices are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education. They grow there firm as weeds among stones."
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, with my the quote, "To thine own self be true."
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriett Beecher Stowe--this book helped spur emotions, lay the groundwork for the Civil War and the end of slavery. The queen of England was said to have cried when she read the book. President Lincoln, upon meeting Ms. Stowe said, "So you're the little lady who started this great big war."
Living the Life Unexpected:12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children by Jody Day, Founder of Gateway Women, an organization that provides support for women who expected motherhood but didn't find it. Jody offers workshops, life coaching, a wonderful web of support. http://gateway-women.com/
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort & Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I learned of this book through Oprah's book club. It teaches how to keep a daily "gratitude journal" where you write down 5 things each night that made you grateful that day. Perhaps a phone call from a friend or a warm spring day after a long winter. Keeping this journal helps to shift one's focus, looking for positive things throughout the day.
Anthology of American Literature: Volume II. It's chock full of Twain, W.E.B. Du Bois, Whitman, Dickinson, Frost, Olsen and many other greats. It is a "teaching book" and includes an intro about each author and the context in which the story is written (e.g. periods when literature reflected romanticism, which gave way to realism, naturalism, etc.).
Life on the Brink: Environmentalists Confront Overpopulation, Edited by Philip Cafaro and Eileen Crist. Chapter 6, "How a Plethora of People Produce a Paucity of Wildlife," talks of a world where polar bears are drowning or starving because the polar ice is melting, and orangutans are endangered because the rain forests of Borneo and Sumatra are being razed, and asks: When will the Earth's natural resources run out? Although extinction is a natural phenomenon at a rate of 1 to 5 species per year, our current rate is dozens PER DAY. Chapter 13 is "Nulliparity & a Cruel Hoax Revisited" by ecologist Stephanie Mills, the "notorious nonmother" (her words) who declared in her 1969 college commencement address that the best thing she could do for the Earth was to not have children. Mills influenced the title for my book's final chapter, "The Vanishing Conversation," when she expressed that women have spoken of their ambivalence toward motherhood throughout history, but their voices keep vanishing. You can re-discover many of those voices in my book, The Female Assumption.