Podcasts, Recommendations

Jess Phillips MP: ‘It’s a joyous book that attempts to rebirth feminism’

Jess Phillips MP

On this week’s Bookshelfie episode of the Women’s Prize Podcast, Jess Phillips MP joined host Yomi Adegoke to discuss her top five favourite books by women that have impacted her life. Jess spoke about her experience as a woman navigating both Westminster and online political spaces. She also discussed the increase in domestic violence throughout the pandemic and how her favourite book led to the discovery that she was pregnant with her second child.

Listen to the episode in full here or read on for her book choices.

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China

Jung Chang’s popular bestseller Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China explores the lives of three female generations in twentieth century…

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“I read Wild Swans whilst studying History at university. It’s the untold story of the history of communism in China through the experiences of three generations of women who were part of the military and political scene. It’s very easy for me to trace my revelation that there were women involved in history, who weren’t monarchs, to this book. They were intrinsic to the story and the forward movement of politics in China during the twentieth century.”

picture of How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

How To Be a Woman

How to Be a Woman is Caitlin Moran’s hilarious award-winning non-fiction memoir about what it is like to be a…

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“In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was the idea that women have it all. When Caitlin Moran wrote her book How To Be a Woman, it was the first moment of “hang on a minute, I’m not sure everything is alright”. It’s a joyous book that attempts to rebirth feminism; I think it did that very successfully.”


How To Be a Woman was also the last book my mom gave me before she died. So, the book is important to me for a number of different reasons.”



Heartburn, the late Nora Ephron’s only novel, takes inspiration from the breakdown of her own marriage to deliver a witty,…

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“The reason that I love Heartburn is that it is clever and funny as hell. It made me realise that so much brilliant, intelligent writing by women is automatically forced into the chick-lit and rom-com categories. Ephron’s writing made me think it’s okay to love those works, to see myself in them and not feel like a guilty feminist.”



Peepo! is the much-loved modern picture book classic by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Peepo! continues to entertain generations of babies,…

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“I read Peepo! as a child, and it has stood an enduring test of time. I’ve read it to my children so many times that I can repeat it without looking at the book! It’s set during WW2, and there’s a scene where the baby’s father, who is part of the Home Guard, kisses him goodbye. One night when I was reading this scene to my eldest son, I burst into tears. At that moment, I knew I was pregnant without even taking a test. It’s an absolutely perfect book. I buy it for every baby that comes into the world, in my life.”

The Color Purple

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural…

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The Color Purple has stayed with me, especially the way Walker writes scenes of sexual violence, since I read it during my A-Levels. My teachers spoke to us about the issue as if we wouldn’t understand it, even though the vast majority of us did. It’s stayed with me forever. I remember thinking it was the only book that I studied at school where I felt any sort of connection.”

If you enjoyed this re-cap of Jess’s favourite books by women, you can listen to the episode in full here >

Make sure to subscribe for the final episode of the series, with our 2021 shortlisted authors.

You can buy Jess’s choices from Bookshop.org here >

Jess Phillips MP’s new book Everything You Really Need to Know About Politics: My Life as an MP is available to pre-order now >

The Women's Prize Podcast

Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.