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Bestselling books by women

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A selection of our bestselling books by women, featuring a global study of sex worker struggles, a collection on the carceral system in the US edited by Angela Davis, Ellen Meiksins Wood's classic history of capitalism, a manifesto for a 21st century feminism, a memoir of trans experience, a novel of queer sexual awakening by Norwegian musician Jenny Hval, Nancy Fraser's acclaimed history of the feminist movement since the 1970s, and more!

 

We have 50% off ALL our print books and 80% off ALL ebooks until January 1 as part of our end-of-year sale! See full details here, as well as further reading lists and our Gift GuideEnd of Year Highlights.

Females is Andrea Long Chu’s genre-defying investigation into sex and lies, desperate artists and reckless politics, the smothering embrace of gender and the punishing force of desire.

Taking as its inspiration the new wave of feminist militancy that has erupted globally, this manifesto makes a simple but powerful case: feminism shouldn’t start—or stop—with the drive to have women represented at the top of their professions. It must focus on those at the bottom, and fight for the world they deserve. And that means targeting capitalism. Feminism must be anticapitalist, eco-socialist and antiracist.

Much has been written on how colonized peoples took up British and European ideas and turned them against empire when making claims to freedom and self-determination. Insurgent Empire sets the record straight in demonstrating that these people were much more than victims of imperialism or, subsequently, the passive beneficiaries of an enlightened British conscience—they were insurgents whose legacies shaped and benefited the nation that once oppressed them.

In Revolting Prostitutes, sex workers Juno Mac and Molly Smith bring a fresh perspective to questions that have long been contentious. Speaking from a growing global sex worker rights movement, and situating their argument firmly within wider questions of migration, work, feminism, and resistance to white supremacy, they make clear that anyone committed to working towards justice and freedom should be in support of the sex worker rights movement.

Injustice should not simply be accepted as “the way things are.” This is the starting point for The Xenofeminist Manifesto, a radical attempt to articulate a feminism fit for the twenty-first century.

Unafraid of exploring the potentials of technology, both its tyrannical and emancipatory possibilities, the manifesto seeks to uproot forces of repression that have come to seem inevitable—from the family, to the body, to the idea of gender itself.

The first book in our Verso Fiction series, Will and Testament published earlier this Autumn to critical acclaim. A lyrical meditation on trauma and memory, as well as a furious account of a woman’s struggle to survive and be believed. Vigdis Hjorth’s novel became a controversial literary sensation in Norway and has been translated into twenty languages. 

“Like Knausgaard, Hjorth is writing against repression, against the taboo on telling things as they really are. But he urges us to look at dead bodies; she forces us to regard bleeding souls. Hjorth seems to have formulated from her experiments with living models a model for living, in which exposure—of the self and of others—serves a larger purpose.” – Lauren Collins, New Yorker

“Astra Taylor is a rare public intellectual, utterly committed to asking humanity’s most profound questions yet entirely devoid of pretensions and compulsively readable. Now she plunges deep into the crisis that underlies so many others: the sorry state (and the exhilarating promise) of this thing called democracy. At once richly historical and immediately relevant, this wise, lucid and unflinchingly honest book deserves to be at the center of public debate.” – Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough

In this radical and visionary new book, McKenzie Wark argues that information has empowered a new kind of ruling class. While techno-utopian apologists still celebrate these innovations as an improvement on capitalism, for workers—and the planet—it’s worse. Drawing on the writings of a surprising range of classic and contemporary theorists, Wark offers an illuminating overview of the contemporary condition and the emerging class forces that control—and contest—it.

A Planet to Win explores the political potential and concrete first steps of a Green New Deal. It calls for dismantling the fossil fuel industry, building beautiful landscapes of renewable energy, and guaranteeing climate-friendly work, no-carbon housing, and free public transit. And it shows how a Green New Deal in the United States can strengthen climate justice movements worldwide.

In Crippled, journalist and campaigner Frances Ryan exposes the disturbing reality, telling the stories of those most affected by this devastating regime. It is at once both a damning indictment of a safety net so compromised it strangles many of those it catches and a passionate demand for an end to austerity, which hits hardest those most in need.

The Case for the Green New Deal argues that economic change is wholly possible, based on the understanding that finance, the economy and the ecosystem are all tightly bound together. The GND demands total decarbonization and a commitment to an economy based on fairness and social justice. It proposes a radical new understanding of the international monetary system. Pettifor offers a roadmap for financial reform both nationally and globally, taking the economy back from the 1%. This is a radical, urgent manifesto that we must act on now

“An extraordinary book, as nuanced as it is provocative. Lewis delivers an incisive analysis, combining sensitivity to the material conditions faced by gestational laborers with a radical utopian vision for what surrogacy might become. It’s an exhilarating read and is likely to have a substantial influence on the field. I cannot recommend it highly enough.” – Helen Hester, author of Xenofeminism

Jenny Brown uncovers a century of legal abortion in the United States until 1873, recalls women’s experiences in the illegal days, and shows how the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s really won abortion rights. She draws inspiration and lessons from the radicals of Redstockings, the Army of Three, and the Jane Collective, putting together a road map for today’s organizers from the black feminist argument for reproductive justice, the successful fight to make the morning-after pill available over the counter, and the recent mass movement to repeal Ireland’s abortion ban.

In this groundbreaking book, Holly Jean Buck charts a possible course to a liveable future. Climate restoration will require not just innovative technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but social and economic transformation. The steps we must take are enormous, and they must be taken soon. Looking at industrial-scale seaweed farms, the grinding of rocks to sequester carbon at the bottom of the sea, the restoration of wetlands, and reforestation, Buck examines possible methods for such transformations and meets the people developing them.

A nuanced analysis of the UK’s immigration policy from the 1960s onwards, Hostile Environment links immigration policy and the rhetoric of both Labour and Tory governments to the UK’s colonial past and its imperialist present.

An urgent challenge to the prevailing moral order from one of the freshest, most compelling voices in radical politics today.

Moving between Jamaican plantations, the hills of Devon, the port cities of Bristol, Cardiff, and Kingston, and the working-class estates of South London, Carby’s family story is at once an intimate personal history and a sweeping summation of the violent entanglement of two islands. In charting British empire’s interweaving of capital and bodies, public language and private feeling, Carby will find herself reckoning with what she can tell, what she can remember, and what she can bear to know.

When we talk about technology we always talk about the future—which makes it hard to figure out how to get there. In Future Histories, Lizzie O’Shea argues that we need to stop looking forward and start looking backwards. Weaving together histories of computing and social movements with modern theories of the mind, society, and self, O’Shea constructs a “usable past” that help us determine our digital future.

Elizabeth Martínez’s unique Chicana voice has been formed through over thirty years of experience in the movements for civil rights, women’s liberation, and Latina/o empowerment. In De Colores Means All of Us, Martínez presents a radical Latina perspective on race, liberation and identity. She describes the provocative ideas and new movements created by the rapidly expanding US Latina/o community as it confronts intensified exploitation and racism.

While the problems of an already constituted essentialist subject have become patent, what remains as an ongoing project, Weeks contends, is a theory of the constitution of subjects capable of explaining the processes of social construction. This book presents one such account. Drawing on a number of different theoretical frameworks, including feminist standpoint theory, socialist feminism, and poststructuralist thought, as well as theories of peformativity and self-valorization, the author proposes a nonessential feminist subject—a theory of constituting subjects.

Considering the egalitarianism of the comrade in light of differences of race and gender, Dean draws from an array of historical and literary examples such as Harry Haywood, C.L.R. James, Alexandra Kollontai, and Doris Lessing. She argues that if we are to be a left at all, we have to be comrades.

Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. Sociologist Karen E. Fields and historian Barbara J. Fields argue otherwise: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call “racecraft.” And this phenomenon is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics, and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed.

Jo is in a strange new country for university and having a more peculiar time than most. In a house with no walls, shared with a woman who has no boundaries, she finds her strange home coming to life in unimaginable ways. Jo’s sensitivity and all her senses become increasingly heightened and fraught, as the lines between bodies and plants, dreaming and wakefulness, blur and mesh.

This debut novel from critically acclaimed artist and musician Jenny Hval presents a heady and hyper-sensual portrayal of sexual awakening and queer desire.

Through interviews with the Feminist Five and other leading Chinese activists, Hong Fincher illuminates both the difficulties they face and their “joy of betraying Big Brother,” as one of the Feminist Five wrote of the defiance she felt during her detention. Tracing the rise of a new feminist consciousness now finding expression through the #MeToo movement, and describing how the Communist regime has suppressed the history of its own feminist struggles, Betraying Big Brother is a story of how the movement against patriarchy could reconfigure China and the world.

Since the book was written, the carceral system in the US has seen unprecedented growth, with more of America’s black population behind bars than ever before. The scathing analysis of the role of prisons and the policing of black populations offered by Davis and her comrades in this astonishing volume remains as pertinent today as the day it was first published.

Featuring contributions from George Jackson, Bettina Aptheker, Bobby Seale, James Baldwin, Ruchell Magee, Julian Bond, Huey P. Newton, Erika Huggins, Fleeta Drumgo, John Clutchette, and others.

This deeply researched account, twenty-five years in the making, traces the evolution of disruptive protest since the Sixties to tell a larger story about the reshaping of the American left. Kauffman, a longtime grassroots organizer, examines how movements from ACT UP to Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter have used disruptive tactics to catalyze change despite long odds. Kauffman's lively and elegant history is propelled by hundreds of candid interviews conducted over a span of decades. 

The sex industry is an endless source of prurient drama for the mainstream media. In Playing the Whore, journalist Melissa Gira Grant turns these pieties on their head, arguing for an overhaul in the way we think about sex work. Based on ten years of writing and reporting on the sex trade, and grounded in her experience as an organizer, advocate, and former sex worker, Playing the Whore dismantles pervasive myths about sex work, criticizes both conditions within the sex industry and its criminalization, and argues that separating sex work from the "legitimate" economy only harms those who perform sexual labor. 

In this accessible, brilliantly argued book, leading political economist Ann Pettifor explains in straightforward terms history’s most misunderstood invention: the money system. Pettifor argues that democracies can, and indeed must, reclaim control over money production and restrain the out-of-control finance sector so that it serves the interests of society, as well as the needs of the ecosystem.

Until the political ferment of the Long Sixties, there were no Asian Americans. There were only isolated communities of mostly Chinese, Japanese, and Filipinos lumped together as “Orientals.” Serve the People tells the story of the social and cultural movement that knit these disparate communities into a political identity, the history of how—and why—the double consciousness of Asian America came to be.

Mithu Sanyal shows that our comprehension of rape is closely connected to our understanding of sex, sexuality, and gender. Why is it that we expect victims to be irreparably damaged? When we think of rapists, why do we think of strangers rather than uncles, husbands, priests, or boyfriends? And in the era of #MeToo, what should “justice” look like?

In The Origin of Capitalism, a now-classic work of history, Ellen Meiksins Wood offers readers a clear and accessible introduction to the theories and debates concerning the birth of capitalism, imperialism, and the modern nation state. Capitalism is not a natural and inevitable consequence of human nature, nor simply an extension of age-old practices of trade and commerce. Rather, it is a late and localized product of very specific historical conditions, which required great transformations in social relations and in the relationship between humans and nature.

Originally published in 1978, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman caused a storm of controversy. Michele Wallace blasted the masculine biases of the black politics that emerged from the sixties. She described how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating the ways in which a genuine female subjectivity was blocked by the traditional myths of black womanhood. With a foreword that examines the debate the book has sparked between intellectuals and political leaders, as well as what has—and, crucially, has not—changed over the last four decades, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman continues to be deeply relevant to current feminist debates and black theory today.

Mokhtefi crossed paths with some of the era’s brightest stars: Frantz Fanon, Stokely Carmichael, Timothy Leary, Ahmed Ben Bella, Jomo Kenyatta, and Eldridge Cleaver. She was instrumental in the establishment of the International Section of the Black Panther Party in Algiers and close at hand as the group became involved in intrigue, murder, and international hijackings. She traveled with the Panthers and organized Cleaver’s clandestine departure for France. Algiers, Third World Capital is an unforgettable story of an era of passion and promise.

In July 2012, aged thirty, Juliet Jacques underwent sex reassignment surgery—a process she chronicled with unflinching honesty in a serialised national newspaper column. Transtells of her life to the present moment: a story of growing up, of defining yourself, and of the rapidly changing world of gender politics. Fresh from university, eager to escape a dead-end job, she launches a career as a writer in a publishing culture dominated by London cliques and still figuring out the impact of the Internet. 

Revealing, honest, humorous, and self-deprecating, Trans includes an epilogue with Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be?, in which Jacques and Heti discuss the cruxes of writing and identity.

Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. Here, in their own words, thirteen narrators recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their harrowing struggle for survival once inside.

For twenty-five years, Feminism and Nationalism in the Third World has been an essential primer on the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century history of women’s movements in Asia and the Middle East. In this engaging and well-researched survey, Kumari Jayawardena presents feminism as it originated in the Third World, erupting from the specific struggles of women fighting against colonial power, for education or the vote, for safety, and against poverty and inequality.

During the ferment of the New Left, “Second Wave” feminism emerged as a struggle for women’s liberation and took its place alongside other radical movements that were questioning core features of capitalist society. But feminism’s subsequent immersion in identity politics coincided with a decline in its utopian energies and the rise of neoliberalism. This powerful new account is set to become a landmark of feminist thought.

A giant of the political left, Rosa Luxemburg is one of the foremost minds in the canon of revolutionary socialist thought. But she was much more than just a thinker. She made herself heard in a world inimical to the voices of strong-willed women. She overcame physical infirmity and the prejudice she faced as a Jew to become an active revolutionary whose philosophy enriched every corner of an incredibly productive and creative life—her many friendships, her sexual intimacies, and her love of science, nature and art.

In this beautifully drawn work of graphic biography, writer and artist Kate Evans has opened up her subject’s intellectual world to a new audience, grounding Luxemburg’s ideas in the realities of an inspirational and deeply affecting life.

In an era of increasing individualism, we have never been more isolated and dispirited. A paradox confronts us. While research and technology find new ways to measure contentment and popular culture encourages us to think of happiness as a human right, misery is abundant.

Segal believes we have lost the art of “radical happiness”—the liberation that comes with transformative, collective joy. She argues that instead of obsessing about our own well-being we should seek fulfilment in the lives of others.

In this collection of new and previously published writings, leading activists, feminists, scholars, and writers describe the shape of the problem, chart the forms refusal has taken, and outline possible solutions. Importantly, they also describe the longer histories of organizing against sexual violence that the #MeToo moment obscures—among working women, women of color, undocumented women, imprisoned women, poor women, among those who don’t conform to traditional gender roles—and discern from these practices a freedom that is more than notional, but embodied and uncompromising.
 

ALL our books are 50% off until January 1 as part of our end-of-year sale! See full details here, as well as our End of Year HighlightsGift Guide, and our best short reads.