bell hooks is an irreplaceable voice in discussions on feminism, self-love, healing, and gender and race equality. Her writings have transformed the way many approach some of the most challenging or taboo conversations about self-actualization. The hard work of becoming a more self-aware human is made easier with a bell hooks book in hand, trust us. Black women especially deserve to move through life with a hooks book within arm’s reach at all times. As a writer, hooks wrote tenderly for and about the lived experience of African American and Diaspora women relentlessly. 

Always intimate, ruthlessly honest, and endlessly relatable, hooks has a way of speaking to the heart. So much so that even after her passing in 2021, her work and life is widely cited and featured in curriculums worldwide. Out of her 30+ publications, we have listed eight books that align with the various chapters of life. Read on to explore a bell hooks book for every season of life. 

A bell hooks book for every season of life

Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black

Most African-American and Caribbean households have a name for chatting back or talking out of line. There is often an added heaviness for the girl-child of the family who exposes their innate outspokenness too soon. This is the book for when you’re ready to challenge the way you were raised. The book feels like a friend for the Black girls who weren’t, and maybe still aren’t, able to freely speak their minds. This book explores what it means to finally be able to talk back and outgrow the silencing of Black girls, turned women.

Read this when: You’re ready to fend for your inner child and provide them with permission to vocalize their thoughts entirely.

Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

As you go through the phases of defining and redefining your feminism, this is a good place to land. hooks presents some timeless and necessary evidence – that remains relevant today, FYI – to prove how feminism needs to be more inclusive to be relevant. The book really makes light of the word classic; it basically holds all understandings of feminism accountable. Everyone who wants the real deal on the intersections of gender equality and race should give this a read. 

Read this: alongside Alice Walker’s ‘Womanism.’

All About Love: New Visions

All About Love is a generous offering for radically new ways of thinking about love. This book challenges the idea that romantic love is the most prevalent of them all. It holds a mirror up to personal, professional, and childhood lives to get to the heart of what it truly means to dwell in love. Start here if you’re at a stage in your life where you’re open to unlearning what you know about love and taking a no-shame, compassionate approach to it.

Read this when: you want to reimagine love as a verb and tear down old ideas of limited love, forgiveness, and shame. 

Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood 

This memoir shows the journey from girlhood to womanhood, dreamer to writer, and Gloria Jean Watkins to bell hooks. While learning what the world believes about gender roles and race, hooks, as a girl, also discovers the intimacy of her inner world. In this autobiography, she invites us into that world without barriers. It is a vulnerable look into the upbringing of the world’s most acclaimed feminist and writer of her generation.

Read this if: you’re a lover of memoirs and want to be further inspired by the making of bell hooks. This is a bell hooks book that truly honors her life and legacy.

Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery 

Released in 1994, the book confronts some of the deepest and untouched discussions about the lack of space created for Black women’s healing. It is a grounding piece of literature that wants nothing more than to affirm Black women’s experiences. ‘Sisters of the Yam’ is a read to prompt a new relationship with the body and society too. Much like her other publications, this book has been praised for being empowering and essential reading for Black women everywhere.

Read this if: you’re on your personal healing journey and want to feel seen by a writer who experiences life just like you. 

The Will To Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love  

A book written to show men that they are love and loved. ‘The Will To Change’ is as fierce and brave as any hooks offering. The book touches on topics such as fear of intimacy, the spiritual work of embracing emotions, and also understanding of toxic masculinity. It’s a book worth having in the collection if you’re a man, or have a man you love (in any way) in your life.  

Read this if: you’re a man who struggles to express love easily or if you know a man who does. 

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

bell hooks also wrote poetry, if you didn’t know. These poems are delicate musings on memory, forgetting, land, and despair. Many readers comment on how exceptionally the introduction speaks to the rich but simple poems. Musical and political, what more could you expect of hooks’ poetic hand? 

Read this if: you’re a poetry lover and want to indulge in some poems on the wild of the Appalachians, according to the bell hooks.

Communion: The Female Search for Love  

This is a book that stresses the need for true friends, loving companions, and fearless self-love. It leans into observations about women being punished for presenting as anything other than weak, compromising, and dependent on a romantic partner. It feels as though hooks writes this with awareness of the culture of self-help and self-care that now dominates the minds of women across generations. In ‘Communion,’ hooks writes about the dynamics of being a powerful, self-actualized woman who would rather be alone than settle for less than her standard. The book is abundant in affirmations to seek out romance in all aspects of life without compromise or chase, including partners, friendships, families, and self. 

Read this when: you step into your fullness and are ready to distance yourself from unhealthy relationships. 

Related: 5 Books To Add To Your Shelf About Black Women Reclaiming Their Bodies

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