Freedom to choose, freedom to express who you are, freedom to love who you want. There are all different kinds of freedom and every single one is important and worth reading about.
Freedom is a theme that’s been explored throughout the history of humankind, and for good reason. It’s one of the most important things in any person’s life.
Here are 11 amazing books that explore the idea of freedom, each in their own unique way.
Just a heads up, this post contains affiliate links—that means I get a small commission of any sales made from the links below, but the price is the same for you whether you purchase via my link or directly from Amazon 🙂
1. The Help
AUTHOR: Katherine Stockett
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SUMMARY: It’s 1960s Mississippi, a time where “separate but equal” is the social norm.
The Help is told from the perspective of three different women—Aibileen, an experienced black maid who is currently raising her seventeenth white child, Minny, a younger and sassier black maid who has lost yet another housekeeping job because of her untamable tongue, and Skeeter, a post-graduate white woman who is determined to stay out of the box society wants to put her in.
Trying to break into the competitive world of publishing in New York City, Skeeter quickly realizes she needs to set her self apart if she ever wants a chance to become an editor. Devoid of any real experience, Skeeter decides to write a book about the domestic help in Mississippi, from the perspectives of the maids.
After much coercion, Aibileen and Minny finally decide to help Skeeter with her project, even though they all have to keep it the utmost secret. If anyone discovers what they’re doing, it will be more than reputations that are at risk.
2. Memoirs of a Geisha
AUTHOR: Arthur Golden
GENRE: Historical Fiction
SUMMARY: Memoirs of a Geisha is the story of Chiyo, who at just 9 years old, is sold off as a geisha by her father. Chiyo’s spends the next few years working as a maid at the group home where lives and trains to be a geisha, a woman who entertains men with conversation, dancing and singing.
She spends many years fighting against her new life, but eventually grows to be the most beautiful, talented and coveted geisha in the community. After finally finding her place, World War II breaks out, and her stint as a Geisha is over.
Despite her struggles to find where she truly belongs, she’s able to put down roots and learns that home is not a place, but people.
AUTHOR: George Orwell
GENRE: Dystopian Fiction | Classics
SUMMARY: Written in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four is the story of a future totalitarian and bureaucratic world in which its members are living in a purgatory that hardly resembles life.
Despite the ban against individuality, Winston Smith wrestles the oppression and fights to simply feel like a real person.
AUTHOR: Stephanie Danler
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction
SUMMARY: Sweetbitter is the story of 22-year-old Tess, a New York City runaway. Alone and broke, she takes a job at the first restaurant she comes across—one of the city’s most cut-throat and elite establishments.
She’s thrown into an unknown world of exquisite food, expensive wine, and reckless men. As she learns to navigate the fast-paced world she’s gotten herself involved in, she learns who she is, what she wants, and most importantly, what she doesn’t.
5. A Room of One’s Own
AUTHOR: Virginia Woolf
GENRE: Nonfiction | Classics | Essay
SUMMARY: Seen as an important feminist text, A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay about women writers and their right to express themselves in a male-dominated area.
Told through a partly-fictionalized narrative, this essay explores topics like the difference in education available to men and women, the appearance of women and their lives throughout our historical records and the urgency for women to take their futures into their own hands.
6. A Woman is No Man
AUTHOR: Etaf Rum
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Family Saga
SUMMARY: In A Woman Is No Man, three generations of Arab-American women tell their story, something that’s never been done in their culture before.
Fareeda is the family matriarch, running the household in Brookyln, New York after she and her husband escape from their horrendous homeland. Fareeda is a stickler for tradition and reputation, making sure to let her new daughter-in-law Isra know how much she’s letting the family down by only bringing baby girls into the world and no boys.
Isra moves to Brooklyn from Palestine when she marries Fareeda’s son Adam in an arranged marriage. Eager at the idea of a new start in America and freedom to be her own person, Isra’s hopes are extinguished when she quickly discovers that America is not only just as suffocating as Palestine, but now she’s surrounded by strangers posing as family.
Deya, Isra’s daughter, has approached the age where she’s meeting with suitors, but despite her grandmother Fareeda’s urging, she objects to marriage and only wants to set her focus on college. When a mysterious stranger shows up looking for her, Deya begins to understand why she feels so rebellious and what her past memories really mean.
7. Among the Hidden
AUTHOR: Margaret Peterson Haddix
GENRE: Dystopian Fiction | Middle Grade Fiction
SUMMARY: Among the Hidden is the story of Luke, a Shadow Child who is forced to keep his existence hidden from anyone outside his family for fear of being take by the Population Police. Luke lives in a society where families are only legally allowed to have two children. If a third, forth or any additional children are discovered, they’ll be taken away for good.
When a new housing develop goes up around Luke’s family’s farm, he sees a face in a window of a house across from him, a house where he knows already has two children.
The other Shadow Child is named Jen, who becomes Luke’s first friend of his entire life. But Jen is determined to break out, refusing to stay hidden. Will Luke risk everything to join her?
8. Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
AUTHOR: T Kira Madden
GENRE: Nonfiction | Memoir
SUMMARY: Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is the memoir of T Kira Madden, one of the members of the Steve Madden shoe empire. In addition to gaining fame and exposure for their shoe label, her family was also highly involved with Jordan Belfort and the Wolf of Wall Street crimes.
This book starts with T Kira’s childhood and goes into detail of her overly priveledged life full of lavish vacations, multiple ponies and luxury lifestyle. But it also dives into the dark side of all that glamour—her parents’ ongoing drug and alcohol addictions, her difficulty blending in to her prominently white community as an Asian-American girl, and the yearning she felt for something, anything, real.
When she was finally able to escape her extravagant and unhealthy upbringing, she found herself in New York City. There she allowed herself to give in to the questions and longings she’d felt her entire life, the ones she had previously kept buried deep, trying so hard to ignore.
9. Red, White & Royal Blue
AUTHOR: Casey McQuiston
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Romance | LGBTQ
SUMMARY: In Red, White & Royal Blue, Alex, the first son of the United States, and Henry, the Prince of Wales, are forced to spend time together in an urgent attempt to mend political images after a very public altercation happens between them.
During their staged bromance, Alex and Henry build an unlikely friendship, surprised to actually enjoy each other’s company. Alex has always been sharp-witted and quick to speak his mind, but when he pulls his usual antics on Henry, his seemingly stuffy and boring arch nemesis, he finds he’s bitten off more than he can chew. What Alex thought was just a blooming new friendship turns into a relationship he didn’t even realize he wanted.
Now, Alex can’t get enough of Henry. He yearns for him, wanting every inch of him at every moment of the day.
But image is important—especially when you’re two of the biggest figureheads in the world. Coming out is not in line with the crown or Alex’s mother’s current campaign for re-election.
When Alex realizes his idyllic “love is all you need” mentality has been nothing but a farce, his entire world comes crashing down. But the real question is—will Henry be there to help him mend a new one?
AUTHOR: Helen Oyeyemi
GENRE: Contemporary Fiction | Magical Realism
SUMMARY: Gingerbread is the story of Harriet Lee, her daughter Perdita, and their more than casual obsession with baking their family’s secret gingerbread recipe. Harriet and Perdita are strange, something that doesn’t bother Perdita in the least but something Harriet can’t make peace with, endlessly gifting everyone around her with gingerbread in order to get them to like her.
One day, the unacceptance of the other school parents becomes the least of her worries when Harriet finds Perdita near dead, seemingly from an attempted suicide.
But when Harriet finds a familiar ring—one that’s part of a very specific pair—in Peridita’s clasped hand, she knows Perdita wasn’t trying to kill herself.
Harriet realizes it’s time to reveal to Perdita the true nature of their family history, including the origins of Peridita’s unknown father, Harriet’s upbringing on the (allegedly) nonexistance country Duhastrana, and who owns the other ring.
AUTHOR: Madeline Miller
GENRE: Fantasy | Epics
SUMMARY: A retelling of the most beloved and enticing mythology tales, Circe is a modern-day epic that would make even Homer proud.
Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and a mighty Titan. She’s the “strangest of his children”, possessing little allure, little strength, and a voice that makes the others cringe.
Yet, Circe is filled with compassion and empathy, something none of her other family members can claim. Driven by an insatiable curiosity of mortals, Circe realizes her place might not actually be with the hardened Titans she was born into.
In a desperate attempt to turn a mortal man into a god so they can be in love forever, Circe realizes she may have power after all—the power of witchcraft.
Banished to an island to live in seclusion for eternity, Circe uses her inner strength to develop her outer magic. Throughout her journey, she encounters some of the most famous figures in mythology, including the Minotaur, Icarus, Odysseus, Hermes, and Helen of Troy’s sister Penelope.
Circe’s tale is full of adventure, turmoil, and woe, but also of self-discovery, grace and love.
What’s your favorite book that explores the theme of freedom? Leave it in the comments below!