Arts + Design

18 great books, podcasts and movies — all from women — to read, stream and watch this fall

Oct 8, 2019 /

Looking for something great to read, stream or watch this fall? Here are 18 picks that are worthy of your precious time, from ace curator and TEDWomen editorial director Pat Mitchell.

Pat Mitchell loves a good story. In fact, her career as a journalist, producer and broadcast executive has been built on her unerring ability to spot the best ones and bring them to a broader audience. Most recently, as editorial director of TEDWomen, she’s been spotlighting people with unforgettable stories and ideas on that TED stage since 2010.

Her new memoir Becoming a Dangerous Woman: Embracing Risk to Change the World is out today, and it offers her the chance to tell her life story, which started on a childhood on a cotton farm in the South before she embarked on a string of media “first”s: she was the first woman to own and host a nationally-syndicated daily TV talk show, the first woman president of CNN Productions, and the first woman president of PBS.

We at TED are tremendously excited about her book, so please check it out. And because her enthusiasms are endless and contagious, Pat wants to share with you the books, podcasts and movies from this fall that she’s particularly passionate about. Below are her picks. 

Canadian activist, author and filmmaker Naomi Klein has been chronicling the exploitation of people and the Earth for nearly two decades. (Watch her TED Talk: Addicted to risk here.) Her new essay collection, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal, contains a decade’s worth of her writing from, as she puts it, “the frontline of climate breakdown and pairs it with new material on the staggeringly high stakes of what we choose to do next.” Klein, the inaugural Gloria Steinem Endowed Chair in Media, Culture and Feminist Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, continues to inform, inspire and incite action against climate change.

The Apology by Eve Ensler is, quite simply, amazing. (Watch her TED Talk: Suddenly, my body here.) Like millions of women, Eve has been waiting much of her lifetime for an apology. Sexually and physically abused by her father, she has struggled her whole life from this betrayal, longing for an honest reckoning from a man who is long dead. After years of work as an anti-violence activist, she decided she would wait no longer; an apology could be imagined, by her, for her, to her. Written by Eve from her father’s point of view in the words she longed to hear, The Apology is creating an entirely new and important global conversation about why apologies matter so deeply.

Monique Morris‘s new book, Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls, is a passionate manifesto. (Watch her TED Talk: Why black girls are targeted for punishment at school and how to change that here.) It builds on her previous book, Pushout, reimagining what schools could do for girls if educators focused more on supporting and encouraging black and brown girls to flourish.

In The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, share stories of the gutsy women who have inspired them — women with the courage to stand up to the status quo, ask hard questions, and get the job done. Growing up, Hilary says that she knew hardly any women who worked outside the home. She’d heard that Amelia Earhart “kept a scrapbook with newspaper articles about successful women in male-dominated jobs,” so she started a scrapbook of her own. “Long after I stopped clipping articles, I continued to seek out stories of women who seemed to be redefining what was possible,” Clinton says.

Two exceptional new nonfiction books feature Arab women sharing their stories. In Christiane Amanpour’s introduction to Our Women on the Ground, a collection of essays by Arab women reporting from the Arab world, she writes, “To become a journalist in some of these places takes a special kind of courage for a woman… But women’s voices are crucial to gaining a full understanding of the story.” I couldn’t agree more. (Watch Christiane Amanpour’s TED conversation how to seek truth in the era of fake news here.)

In Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of ISIS, journalist and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Azadeh Moaveni writes that in the histories of past conflicts in the Middle East, “you can pick up books on any of these conflicts, rifle through the index, and not find a single woman.” Part of that was because their roles were indirect; they were there behind the scenes as wives, mothers and morale boosters. That all changed in the last decade as women became active participants in movements across North Africa and the Middle East. Many women played central roles in the Arab Spring while others chose to work with ISIS, and although it’s nearly impossible to empathize with them, reading their stories is a way, as Christiane noted above, to better understand the whole story.

When more women (and girls) step up and speak out, powerful things can happen. In Leading the Way: Inspiring Words for Women on How to Live and Lead with Courage, Confidence, and Authenticity, journalist, author and activist Marianne Schnall shares the most insightful and thought-provoking reflections from her interviews with remarkable public figures, including Amy Poehler, Kerry Washington, Maya Angelou, Ana Navarro and Billie Jean King, to illuminate how every woman can rise up and become the change-enacting leader she was born to be.

Marianne also has a new book for girls called Dare to Be You. It’s a collection of eye-opening and inspirational wisdom for girls from some of today’s most influential women, offering insights on being true to yourself, finding your voice, overcoming obstacles, and making a difference in the world.

Of course, I don’t spend all my time reading — I also love listening to podcasts and I’m a huge fan of Mothers of Invention. Hosted by TEDWomen speakers Mary Robinson and Maeve Higgins, each episode features women offering powerful solutions to climate change — from the grassroots to the courtroom, the front lines to the boardroom — all over the world.

If you’ve not already listened to The Aspen Institute’s The Bridge podcast, you’ll want to stream it right now. Hosted by my friend Peggy Clark, it invites women of different generations to participate in meaningful conversations. Episodes have included a conversation between UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Dr. Alaa Murabit about women’s activism and Dr. Agnes Binagwaho on the importance of women’s leadership in improving health care for everyone.

The brilliant and amazing Kimberle Crenshaw is working on a new book, which will be published in September 2020. Until then, I encourage you all to listen to her amazing podcast, Intersectionality Matters!, which brings intersectionality to life.

There are so many great new movies coming out in the next few months, and here are some that I’ve already seen or plan to see this fall. Now available on iTunes is This Changes Everything, a new documentary executive-produced by Geena Davis, which “explores the historical underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the entertainment industry” using research from the Geena Davis Institute, stories from discrimination lawsuits, and interviews with Geena, Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes and others.

One of the films that made an impact on me at Sundance 2019 was the documentary, American Factory, now available on Netflix. The film, directed by Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, won the directing award for a US documentary. It’s also the first film backed by Higher Ground, the Obamas’ production company, and Participant Media.

In 2014, a Chinese billionaire opened a Fuyao factory in a shuttered General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio. For thousands of locals, the arrival of this multinational car-glass manufacturer meant regaining their jobs — and dignity — after the recession left them high and dry. American Factory takes us inside the facility to observe what happens when workers from profoundly different cultures collide.

I’m also excited about Downton Abbey, Harriet, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (starring Tom Hanks, the film is about Fred Rogers, one of the most wonderful people I’ve ever had the privilege to know and work with), Little Women and Clemency — winner of the 2019 Sundance Grand Jury award by director-to-watch Chinonye Chukwu.