books men should read to understand women better

It is not altogether surprising that we need a day to focus on (and celebrate) women and their rights. Throughout history, women have had to deal with being second class citizens in their own countries and homes because men just assume they are superior and assert themselves more, both physically and emotionally. Recently, we are seeing winds of change, but it’s not nearly enough. Literature is one of the best ways to gain perspective and understand another’s point of view. This is a list of four fiction and four non-fiction books which men should read to better understand women and what they go through- whether as mothers, wives, colleagues or even as survivors of sexual assault, subjugation or mental illness. 


Em And The Big Hoom

Jerry Pinto

Motherhood is considered sacred and the possibility that mothers can be even remotely ‘flawed’ is hard for people to digest. But isn’t that an unfair amount of pressure to put on someone who has her own struggles? Society will judge a woman for being a ‘bad mother’, but not for a second think about her point of view, her needs, or what she is going through. This is the only book on this list by a male author, and is important for all men to read so they can understand that their mother is also her own person and may not be able to make them the centre of her life, and that’s fine. You will glean empathy and understanding for your mother as ‘Em’, a mother riddled with mania and prone to suicide, struggles to raise her family in this heart-wrenching book. 

Buy it here.



Emma Donoghue

Sexual assault against women has always been a serious concern and many depraved men unfortunately assume it is perfectly fine to assault women- from verbal harassment to molestation to even rape and forcing them into prostitution. Very often they don’t think or don’t care about the repercussions it has for the woman. It is high time that changes. Room by Emma Donoghue will teach them a hard lesson on what it means to be the survivor of sexual assault and abduction. Narrated from the point of view of a five-year old born of rape, the story will make you cringe as you read about a woman repeatedly raped in front of her child, her mental breakdown after she finds freedom from her abductor, and her finally coming to terms with what happened to her. This powerful book will leave men with no choice but to have empathy for sexual assault survivors.

Buy it here.



Jhumpa Lahiri

Many of us Indian men have been raised with a certain amount of entitlement- that our wives will move cities for us, will follow us wherever we go. It doesn’t matter whether they have a life or career or job, they will disrupt it and move heaven and earth to be with us. But have we really given a thought to what the woman goes through when she is displaced? Lahiri’s stunning novel, The Namesake, is about Ashima, a Bengali woman who marries and moves to the U.S. and her son Gogol, an American-born ‘desi’ and how their relationship evolves over time while Ashima constantly struggles with living in a land alien to her. Every man who has made a woman give up her life for him should read this to better empathise with her emotional struggles whilst moving.

Buy it here.


The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood

Many men believe it is perfectly fine to live in a society where women are routinely subjugated- where they have no choice but to bow down to the wishes of men, be it their father, brother, husband or boss. But such a society is dangerous, and if there is one dystopian book which speaks of what could happen to women in the future if we continue like this, The Handmaid’s Tale would be it. In this chilling story, most women serve one purpose- to breed. They are even named after the man they serve, like the protagonist, Offred, whose name literally means ‘Of Fred’. Men need to read this book because it will make them understand that if we continue to let women fight for their rights alone, without taking an active stand for them, such a future is a distinct possibility. 

Buy it here.


We Should All Be Feminists

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why should men read this book? The title says it all. Because if we want the world to truly progress, it can only be so when men understand the importance of equality and inclusion. Women can’t be the only ones fighting for women’s right, men have to play a big role in it too. Adichie, in this book-length essay, ruminates on the importance of raising both your sons and daughters as feminists. According to her, it is the only way to ensure a happier future where everyone remains true to themselves. The book perfectly and succinctly encapsulates why it is not enough that only women are feminists.

Buy it here.



Marjane Satrapi

Throughout the modern world, women are treated as second-class citizens and more so in oppressed communities. As a male, you may have empathy for those suffering under a tyrant’s rule, but it isn’t necessary that you will have greater empathy for the woman than the man. This is why reading Persepolis is essential. Satrapi’s memoir, in the form of a graphic novel, recounts her years growing up in tyrannical Iran, her years of quiet rebellion, her attempted suicides, her separation from a man she didn’t love, against society’s wishes, and so on. After reading it, you will realise what it is like to be a woman living in an oppressive nation.

Buy it here.


Men Explain Things To Me

Rebecca Solnit

Are you familiar with the term ‘mansplaining’? It’s when a man tries to explain something to a woman, who is often already aware of it or knows more about it than the man, but the man persists because he believes he must know more because he is a man. Well, read the book that launched this term. A collection of seven essays, Men Explain Things To Me, covers a variety of topics such as how society and online communities facilitate an environment which virtually condones rape, marriage inequality and violence against women in a marriage, and how women who dare to speak up often have to deal with physical violence or rape. To truly understand what a woman goes through in everyday life, read this book.

Buy it here.


Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead

Sheryl Sandberg

However much we may have progressed in the workplace, men very often don’t consider women worthy of being in the workforce, and if they are, men prefer them in secretarial or junior level positions, not at senior level managerial positions. Enter, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO. In her book, Lean In, she highlights the importance of women in the workplace. Further, and more importantly, when reading this book, men will understand the challenges that women face in the workforce. To give an example, Sandberg elaborates that women often feel embarrassed asking for a raise or asking their partners to help with parenting and child-raising. This is something men may not have realised as asking for our rights or expecting our spouse to be the primary child-raiser seems natural to many of us. Men should read this book to be more supportive of their women colleagues.  

Buy it here.  

As a young boy, Nirbhay had the annoying habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Since television was a big no-no, he had no choice but to read to entertain himself and that is how his love affair with books began. A true-blue Piscean, books paved the path to his fantasy worlds- worlds he’d often rather stay in. Nirbhay is the co-founder and publisher of The Curious Reader.

You can read his articles, here.