In case you didn’t know, March is Women’s History Month! I’ve been thinking of ways to celebrate the month on this blog and ultimately decided to try my hand at lists relating to feminist literature, aspirational real-life female figures, small businesses led by women, etc. To kick it off, I wanted to participate in this week’s My Favorite meme now hosted by Rebecca @ Bookishly Rebecca.
This week’s theme is favorite feminist T.V. character! One lady came immediately to my mind, and her name is Leslie Knope. In case you’ve not watched Parks & Recreation (2009-2015), you need to start watching it, like, yesterday. It’s hilarious and so full of heart.
Leslie Knope is the deputy director of the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana. She puts up with a lot of difficult people and challenges that stand in the way of her doing her job the way she knows is right. She’s hard-working, fearless, and an amazing friend. Amongst the things she loves are Pawnee, Ann Perkins, Ben Wyatt, waffles, Joe Biden, coming up with extremely thoughtful gifts.
My favorite thing about her is how passionate and uninhibited she is about the things that matter to her most. She works hard and doesn’t hide it. I feel like a lot of people want others not to see how hard they are trying for fear of being judged or “extra” as the kids say nowadays. Leslie Knope doesn’t let public perception stop her from what she wants to do. She’s a confident and independent woman I think all should look up to.
I didn’t feel like it would be enough just to talk about why I think Leslie Knope is amazing, so I wanted to add a list of books I think that Leslie Knope would totally read and recommend to others, particularly aspiring Pawnee Goddesses. Now before anyone feels the need to mention it, I recall Leslie’s feelings about libraries…
With her feelings in mind, I recommend that instead of visiting a library today (or any day) in her honor that you consider another avenue of book acquisition. You could visit your local second-hand or independent bookstore. If you don’t have much money, maybe you can do book swap online. Maybe you even try reading a eBook so as not to let people know how well read and dangerous you are! ^_^
If you find any of the books listed below fascinating I’ve included links to them on both Goodreads and Amazon. Just so you know, I am now an Amazon affiliate. If you do end up making a qualifying purchase through my one of my links I may make a small commission at no extra expense to you.
1 ⟡ How I Resist
⟡How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generation edited by Maureen Johnson ⟡Pages: Paperback, 224 pages ⟡Published: May 15, 2018 by Wednesday Books ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Anthology / Activism ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA author Maureen Johnson.
Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?
How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O’Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Shaina Taub, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson.
In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.
I read How I Resist last summer and it was one of the first books that came to mind when I decided to make this list. There is no doubt in my mind that Leslie Knope would gift this book to every child she meets. It’s a great introduction to activism for young people who want to protest and stand for something. Leslie Knope is all about civic duty and this book shows the many ways you can resist oppressive people and systems.
2 ⟡ Wonder Women
⟡Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs ⟡Pages: Hardcover, 240 pages ⟡Published: October 18, 2016 by Quirk Books ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Anthology ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
A fun and feminist look at forgotten women in science, technology, and beyond, from the bestselling author of THE FANGIRL’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
You may think you know women’s history pretty well. But have you ever heard of. . .
·Alice Ball, the chemist who developed an effective treatment for leprosy—only to have the credit taken by a man?
·Mary Sherman Morgan, the rocket scientist whose liquid fuel compounds blasted the first U.S. satellite into orbit?
·Huang Daopo, the inventor whose weaving technology revolutionized textile production in China—centuries before the cotton gin?
Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Wonder Women, author Sam Maggs tells the stories of the brilliant, brainy, and totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors. Plus, interviews with real-life women in STEM careers, an extensive bibliography, and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations—all to show the many ways the geeky girls of today can help to build the future.
This is one book I have not read personally, but one I envision would be an amazing gift to young girls or even a nice coffee table book. I like that the book appears to highlight women who are not super famous and well-known names. I know that I would have really benefitted from having more women in STEM to look up to when I was little, because I definitely was more into history and English than science growing up without recognizing the value of STEM classes.
3 ⟡ Becoming
⟡Becoming by Michelle Obama ⟡ Pages: Hardcover, 426 pages ⟡ Published: November 13, 2018 by Crown ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Biography ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
This book is a newer release I’m sure most people are already familiar with. I think Michelle Obama is one of the most inspiring female political figures alive today. She resonates really well with young people and I’m fairly certain she ranked high with Leslie Knope while the show was still on. I would like to know more about Michelle Obama’s younger years and the work she did, as someone who has been working with my local community and beginning to volunteer.
4 ⟡ Notorious RBG
⟡Notorious RBG Young Readers’ Edition: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik ⟡ Pages: Hardcover, 208 pages ⟡ Published: November 28, 2017 by HarperCollins ⟡ Genres: Non-fiction / Biography ⟡ Goodreads | Amazon
The New York Times bestselling biography Notorious RBG—whose concept originated with a Tumblr page of the same name—is now available in a vibrant, full-color young readers’ edition.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become an icon to millions. Her tireless fight for equality and women’s rights has inspired not only great strides in the workforce but has impacted the law of the land. And now, perfect for a younger generation, comes an accessible biography of this fierce woman, detailing her searing dissents and powerful jurisprudence.
This entertaining and insightful young readers’ edition mixes pop culture, humor, and expert analysis for a remarkable account of the indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Heroine. Trailblazer. Pioneer.
Ruth Bader Ginsberg is definitely having a moment right now, and I don’t think I’m alone in hoping that she has a few more years of good health. I actually just watched This Is Us tonight and was cackling at Kate for buying her son a yarn doll of RBG so he is surrounded by a strong female presence early! That would so be me.
Anyway this edition of the book looks really cool because it is targeted towards the youth, so it looks like it will be another gorgeous book chock-full of great information on an inspiring woman and also a nice coffee table book.
5 ⟡ Madam Secretary
⟡Madam Secretary by Madeleine Albright ⟡ Pages: Paperback, 592 pages ⟡ Published: January 22, 2013 by Harper Perennial ⟡ Genres: Non-fiction / Biography / Politics ⟡ Goodreads | Amazon
A national bestseller on its original publication in 2003, Madam Secretary is a riveting account of the life of America’s first woman Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. For eight years, during Bill Clinton’s two presidential terms, Albright was a high-level participant in some of the most dramatic events of our time—from the pursuit of peace in the Middle East to NATO’s intervention in the Balkans to America’s troubled relations with Iran and Iraq. In this thoughtful memoir, one of the most admired women in U.S. history reflects on her remarkable personal story, including her upbringing in war-torn Europe and the balancing of career and family responsibilities, and on America’s leading role in a changing world.
With a new epilogue by the author, Madam Secretary offers an inimitable blend of Albright’s warm humor, probing insights, and distinctive ideas.
Leslie Knope kept a great many photos of inspiring women in her office behind her desk and one of the most prominent is Madeline Albright. I confess, I do not have a lot of prior knowledge about this woman, which is why I feel like this book would be a really good read for me on a personal level. If Leslie Knope, a woman who inspires me, is inspired by this woman, then I have high hopes this book will not disappoint.
6 ⟡ The Essential Feminist Reader
⟡The Essential Feminist Reader by Estelle Freedman ⟡Pages: Paperback, 496 pages ⟡Published: September 18, 2007 by Modern Library ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Essays / Feminism ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
Including: Susan B. Anthony Simone de Beauvoir W.E.B. Du Bois Hélène Cixous Betty Friedan Charlotte Perkins Gilman Emma Goldman Guerrilla Girls Ding Ling • Audre Lorde John Stuart Mill Christine de Pizan Adrienne Rich Margaret Sanger Huda Shaarawi • Sojourner Truth Mary Wollstonecraft Virginia Woolf
The Essential Feminist Reader is the first anthology to present the full scope of feminist history. Prizewinning historian Estelle B. Freedman brings decades of teaching experience and scholarship to her selections, which span more than five centuries. Moving beyond standard texts by English and American thinkers, this collection features primary source material from around the globe, including short works of fiction and drama, political manifestos, and the work of less well-known writers.
Freedman’s cogent Introduction assesses the challenges facing feminism, while her accessible, lively commentary contextualizes each piece. The Essential Feminist Reader is a vital addition to feminist scholarship, and an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the history of women.
I purchased The Essential Feminist Reader as a TA for a 400-level class I was observing. The class was about technology and accessibility, and she felt the essays in this book complemented the coursework. From what I gleaned, the essays she chose were extremely eye-opening on multiple levels. Many of these feminist put to words ideas and experiences that are not easily explained in sound-bites. This book is definitely on my bucket list and one that I think Leslie Knope would have read.
7 ⟡ Ain’t I a Woman
⟡Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks ⟡Pages: Paperback, 205 pages ⟡Published: October 20, 2014 by Routledge ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Essays / Feminism ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain’t I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood. Examining the impact of sexism on black women during slavery, the devaluation of black womanhood, black male sexism, racism among feminists, and the black woman’s involvement with feminism, hooks attempts to move us beyond racist and sexist assumptions. The result is nothing short of groundbreaking, giving this book a critical place on every feminist scholar’s bookshelf.
I’m familiar with bell hooks from pedagogical stand-point, having read Teaching to Transgress as a TA. She is an amazing writer who can very effectively relate nuanced ideas in a way that is not difficult to understand. I would like to one day read her all of her work and felt like this book in particular deserved a spot on this list. Parks & Recreation did not get into race-related topics or story-lines, but I feel like Leslie Knope would definitely be an intersectional feminist.
8 ⟡ The Glass Castle
⟡TheGlass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls ⟡Pages: Paperback, 288 pages ⟡Published: January 17, 2006 by Scribner ⟡Genres: Non-Fiction / Biography ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS ON THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LIST
The perennially bestselling, extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, “nothing short of spectacular” (Entertainment Weekly) memoir from one of the world’s most gifted storytellers.The Glass Castle is a remarkable memoir of resilience and redemption, and a revelatory look into a family at once deeply dysfunctional and uniquely vibrant. When sober, Jeannette’s brilliant and charismatic father captured his children’s imagination, teaching them physics, geology, and how to embrace life fearlessly. But when he drank, he was dishonest and destructive. Her mother was a free spirit who abhorred the idea of domesticity and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family.The Walls children learned to take care of themselves. They fed, clothed, and protected one another, and eventually found their way to New York. Their parents followed them, choosing to be homeless even as their children prospered.The Glass Castle is truly astonishing—a memoir permeated by the intense love of a peculiar but loyal family.
Thus far, my list has included books primarily about great women who have accomplished much for society and women. I decided to include Glass Castle, because I feel like Leslie Knope would 100% enjoy reading a book about hardships regular people face. Leslie Knope is a public servant who is not in it for herself or fame; she truly cares about people. I bet this book would break her heart, but also be a reminder of why her work is so important. Jeannette Walls is someone I think about when I think about “the American Dream.”
9 ⟡ Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America
⟡Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America by Leslie Knope ⟡Published: October 11, 2011 by Hyperion ⟡Pages: Paperback, 240 pages ⟡Genres: Faux Non-Fiction / Humor ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
Welcome to Pawnee: More Exciting than New York, More Glamorous than Hollywood, Roughly the Same Size as Bismarck, North Dakota
In Pawnee, Leslie Knope (as played by Amy Poehler on NBC’s hit show Parks and Recreation) takes readers on a hilarious tour through her hometown, the Midwestern haven known as Pawnee, Indiana. The book chronicles the city’s colorful citizens and hopping nightlife, and also explores some of the most hilarious events from its crazy history–like the time the whole town was on fire, its ongoing raccoon infestation, and the cult that took over in the 1970s. Packed with laugh-out-loud-funny photographs, illustrations, and commentary by the other inhabitants of Pawnee, it’s a must-read that will make you enjoy every moment of your stay in the Greatest Town in America.
With this book we are getting into sillier list territory! I did not know this book existed until I started doing research for this list. It sounds like an amazing companion piece to the show and, once again, a book that would make a great gift. I know a lot of people who love Park & Recreation who would enjoy visiting the world of Pawnee through Leslie Knope’s eyes!
10 ⟡ Yes, Please
⟡Yes, Please by Amy Poehler ⟡Pages: Paperback, 329 pages ⟡Published: October 2015 by Dey Street Books ⟡Genres: Non-fiction / Biography / Humor ⟡Goodreads | Amazon
Do you want to get to know the woman we first came to love on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade? Do you want to spend some time with the lady who made you howl with laughter on Saturday Night Live, and in movies like Baby Mama, Blades of Glory, and They Came Together? Do you find yourself daydreaming about hanging out with the actor behind the brilliant Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation? Did you wish you were in the audience at the last two Golden Globes ceremonies, so you could bask in the hilarity of Amy’s one-liners?
If your answer to these questions is “Yes Please!” then you are in luck. In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like “Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend,” “Plain Girl Versus the Demon” and “The Robots Will Kill Us All” Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.
For the final book on this list, I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t share the book from the lady behind Leslie Knope. Truthfully, this is one of those situations where it’s hard to tell where the character ends and the actor begins. So much of Leslie Knope MUST be innate to Amy Poehler. I feel like Leslie Knope would love the actress who portrays her on T.V.
I’ve actually read this book and own it. I can’t remember if I read it before I watched the show, but I do remember being super inspired by it. It’s definitely due a reread sometime soon.
I hope you enjoyed reading my list of books that would be on Leslie Knope’s TBR for anyone, but women especially. I tried to pick books by and about women from the U.S., just because I feel like Leslie Knope’s pride in her community extends to her country. As someone who has begun working with my local community, I find that Leslie is one of my biggest influences, which is both funny and sad.
While she is definitely a great role model, it is important to remember she is not real. There are other amazing women out there making a difference who more people should know about and celebrate. It is my hope with this list that others will check some of these books out and learn about someone new. ^_^