Read a F*cking eBook: Best Feminist Titles Under $5

Welcome to Read a F*cking eBook, in which I masochistically search the Internet for books that are both good and cheap. As I wrote last time, most free and/or cheap ebooks fall into one of four categories:

1. Classic literature
2. Trashy romance
3. Bad trashy romance
4. Self-published works of varying quality

The following feminist ebooks mostly fall into category #1.
(Because of what is available on the internet, this list is basically the least representative thing ever. See our feminism 101 reading list for a more comprehensive overview.)

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft

This 18th century book is one of the first pieces of feminist theory ever. Wollenstonecraft responds to jerks in the French National Assembly who were arguing that women shouldn’t be educated except in “domestic matters,” and even though you couldn’t read this book out of context and consider it feminist (she doesn’t precisely seem to favour gender equity), it is the most badass work of its era. Wollstonecraft’s unfinished sequel, Maria, is also available.

The Awakening & Other Short Stories, by Kate Chopin

The Awakening is classic American realism that deals with sex, desire, and death. Set near New Orleans, it features disaffected housewives, affairs and lots of swimming.

The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

The Yellow Wallpaper is a really creepy story about women’s physical and mental health (specifically hysteria), and also about what happens when all you have to do all day, every day, is look at really hideous wallpaper that seems to encourage your descent into madness. It condemns both dudes and doctors.

History of Women Suffrage, Volume 1, by Susan B. Anthony

This book does what it says on the cover: it’s a history of women’s suffrage in the United States beginning circa the 1880s. The entire thing is six volumes, but volume 1 discusses the beginning of things and includes some interesting points about (middle- and upper-class white) women’s day-to-day experiences.

A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen

A play about marriage norms in the 19th century and how much they sucked. Set somewhere in Norway, the play features secret debt, secret employment, parties, journalists, syphilis and personal revelations.

Gender Trouble, by Judith Butler

Technically is $5.59 on Kindle on my screen, but you can rent it! Judith Butler is the greatest, and Gender Trouble basically revolutionized the whole conceptualization of sex/gender thing through her discussion of performativity. Whether or not you agree with her, this is a good book to read.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. yes yes yes! i cant tell you how many times i’ve read “vindication.” i used it as a basis for a big research project on the evolution of feminist thought in early modern europe, starting with christine de pisan’s “the book of the city of ladies” and ending with wollstonecraft. everyone should read it.

    also, can i marry kate chopin? please?

  2. how do you read Gender Trouble?! I own it and i’ve tried to read it oh so many times, but (*opens book on random page*) with sentences like, “..the phallogocentric mode of signifying the female sex perpetually reproduces phantasms of its own self-amplifying desire. Instead of a self-limiting linguistic gesture that grants alterity or difference to women, phallogocentrism offers a name to eclipse the feminine and take its place” I give up.

    • Butler clicks for some people and not for others. I don’t mean this in a “some people are smart, others aren’t!” way. Personally, I think she is a great thinker, but not a great writer… I also find it a headache to read.

      • This seems to be true for a lot of the “really important thinkers” I’ve had to read in women’s studies and related classes.

        Although I do have to say, “phallogocentrism” is a great word.

    • She’s worth it! It is a struggle but once it clicks her ideas are just so great. What helped me was seeing her speak (on the net not in real life sadly) and she talks about her ideas but in a far more accessible way. Why she doesn’t write like that I have no idea.
      I love her so much I want two cats called Judith and Butler. Cats and feminism? Yeah I’m gay…

  3. We read The Yellow Wallpaper in my American Women Writers course in college. It’s a pretty cool piece.

    A Doll’s House was also required reading at my high school, and was pretty cool if I’m remembering correctly.

    And I’ve got The Awakening and Other Short Stories on my computer, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. An Autostraddle rec will definitely bump it up on my list of book priorities, though.

  4. The Awakening and The Yellow Wallpaper! Haven’t thought about either of those for a while, but am glad to be reminded of them! The Awakening is so beautifully written, with so many sensual details.

    The Yellow Wallpaper is brilliant and fucking creepy, in an awesome way, and is actually dealing with the early 20th century medical ‘response’ to what’s now recognized as post-partum depression.

    Gender Trouble is a difficult read because a) Butler often puts things in the most complicated way possible; b) it’s a highly allusive text that is constantly referencing other feminist and psychoanalytic theories–so if you haven’t read those, it’s hard to make sense of what she’s saying. I recommend looking up topics in the index that you’re interested in (drag is a good one) and reading small bits at a time!

  5. I read The Yellow Wallpaper and wrote an essay on it in high school- loved it! So creepy but cool. We did a Doll’s House too, if I remember correctly. Also, loved The Awakening last year in my 224 class so much that I bought the collection of her stories as well. Haha unfortunately I haven’t gotten around to reading them yet.

  6. AHHHHHH, MY LITTLE GRINCH HEART HAS GROWN THREE SIZES. I adore Wollstonecraft so damn much. The Wrongs of Woman is a fantastic work and I wish more people would read it. The Awakening and Yellow Wallpaper are two of my favorite pieces of literature, as well. I could babble forever about how much I love this short little list, but I won’t.

  7. Ahhhh how did I forget about Susan B. Anthony in my preliminary thesis research?! So timely, Autostraddle, thanks a million.

  8. I read A Doll’s House in high school, and I loved it. There was a film adaptation of it done in the 70s with Jane Fonda as the lead, and as awful quality as it was, it wasn’t a bad adaptation. My girlfriend has a copy of Gender Trouble floating around somewhere. I’ve been meaning to read it, if I can track it down. I remember my friend reading The Awakening in high school and hating it, but I knew I would’ve loved it had I read it. We did this weird project sophomore year that the class was split into groups and each group got a different classic book to read and present to the class. Needless to say, she got Kate Chopin and I didn’t.

  9. Gender Trouble is a great example of why I hate reading longer works by academics. Who cares if the ideas are great… get an editor, Judith, pronto!

    Maybe not exactly a feminist title, but certainly a classic queer one… Patricia Highsmith’s “The Price of Salt”. I’m seeing that on Amazon the Kindle version is only $4.95 and they have used copies for $2.56. Such a deal! Highsmith is a great, great writer (not always a great person, but…) and this was certainly a groundbreaking title in queer fiction.

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