What Books Does Malala Recommend Right Now?

When your “To Read” list seems to be growing with every passing day (hour?), you can’t take every friendly suggestion and literary recommendation to heart. There’s just not enough time for all the amazing books out there, and you have to draw the line somewhere. But what about when the recommendations are coming straight from a renowned activist and Nobel Prize laureate whose opinion you trust and respect?

Well, a few more books on your list can’t hurt! 

Read along with Literati’s Fearless Book Club, featuring literary recommendations you just can’t ignore, courtesy of Malala Yousafzai herself.

#1 White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/169680/white-teeth-by-zadie-smith/

Much like the vibrant culture it’s set against, White Teeth is the story of interlocking, intertwining, and interdependent characters who, piece by piece, make the novel’s narrative whole. 

Zadie Smith’s debut novel follows two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal, and their everyday dealings with a cast of equally-unlikely yet unique characters. Smith weaves the tapestry of their collective stories, all through humor, insight, and a visceral narrative voice.

Here’s why Malala loved it—and you will, too: 

  • This novel raises countless questions that no one has managed to answer, but everyone wishes they could: questions about changing identity, society’s labels and limitations, and if there’s really such a thing as “fitting in.” 
  • It explores how we are all so different and yet universally alike.

#2 Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie

Image Source: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/623487/fifty-words-for-rain-by-asha-lemmie/

Fifty Words for Rain is the heartbreaking story of Nori, the abandoned child of a Japanese mother and African-American G.I. father. Forced into a shame-laden home environment with grandparents who try, but fail, to break her spirit, Nori eventually finds family, freedom, and identity with her estranged half-brother, Akira. 

Here’s why Malala loved it—and you will, too:

  • The narrator’s world is largely defined by this early advice from her mother: “If a woman knows nothing else, she should know how to be silent …  Do not question. Do not fight. Do not resist.” This is the lesson that both Nori and Malala herself have defied in extraordinary ways. Perhaps that’s why this poignant story of shame, silence, and eventual connection resonated with our real-life protagonist—or perhaps because of its captivating voice, lilting poetry, and deeply emotional portrayals.
  • See for yourself! Malala interviewed Asha Lemmie for an exclusive Literati Ask the Author session. Follow the link to hear these two outstanding women discuss Fifty Words for Rain.

#3 Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga 

Image Source: 


This breathtaking middle-grade novel, written in free verse, has more in common with Fifty Words for Rain than just their coincidentally-parallel titles. 

Other Words for Home tells the story of Jude, a young Syrian girl-turned-refugee, displaced from her idyllic home country to the too-loud, too-fast world of Cincinnati, Ohio. Amidst the massive culture shock, the less-than-warm welcome from her cousin Sarah, and the longed-for connections with family back home, Jude (and the rest of her lovable ESL classmates) begin to speak up and stand up for themselves and what’s right.

Here’s why Malala loved it—and you will, too: 

  • In our young protagonist, we see unwavering strength and conviction. 
  • Jude shares Malala’s tenacity to go after what she wants, despite the prevailing beliefs that these goals and this world are not made for girls like her. 

#4 The Dancing Girls of Lahore by Louise Brown

Image Source: https://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Girls-Lahore-Pakistans-Pleasure/dp/0060740434/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=dancing+girls+of+lahore&qid=1618593766&s=books&sr=1-1

Despite the subtitle, “Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan’s Pleasure District,” readers far and wide will feel the weight of these women’s stories and the dreams they once shared.

The Dancing Girls of Lahore is equal parts beautiful and distressing, revealing the raw and heart-wrenching life of Maha—and other women forced into their profession—through simple prose, intimate observations, and an exploration of cultural customs.

Here’s why Malala loved it—and you will, too: 

  • Despite Louise Brown’s intentions to write an academic study on the prostitution district in Pakistan, she could not ignore the true story she encountered: one of brilliantly resourceful women living within and rebelling against the system created for them.
  • This story is a colorful depiction of a very real Pakistan, one with vibrant people, yet underscored by the same turmoil and oppression Malala fought tirelessly against.

#5 The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Image Source:https://www.scatteredbooks.com/summer-reading/the-alchemist-book-summary/

We could never skip over Malala’s all-time favorite book, The Alchemist!

This stirring novel of a shepherd boy’s epic journey for treasure underscores the common thread of many of Malala’s favorites. In her own words, “It’s about staying true to your goals and trying to keep on moving, even though you may face difficulties on the way. Keep moving. That’s what I’m doing. I’m keeping moving.”

Here’s why Malala loved it—and you will, too: 

  • This story isn’t one of those books that can double as a paperweight—its short, sweet, poignant plot can be devoured in a few sittings.
  • The almost dreamy writing style becomes a philosophical musing as we follow the shepherd boy into adventure.
  • This beloved book is an exquisite metaphor for life, with a sense of magic woven throughout its lyrical pages. 

Keep Moving With Malala Through Literati’s Fearless Book Club

A good book doesn’t just entertain you—it can be a powerful educational tool to reveal people, places, and lessons that were once entirely unfamiliar.

With Literati’s Fearless book club subscription, you can step into these worlds hand-in-hand with Malala, while also enjoying exclusive events, a community of like-minded readers, and ongoing Luminary picks in some of the most popular book genres. 

Join Malala’s book club for an introduction to bold new female writers—and even bolder stories. 


Talk Story Bookstore. White Teeth by Zadie Smith. https://www.talkstorybookstore.com/our-selected-used-books/white-teeth-by-zadie-smith 
The Growth Faculty. 4 Books That Inspire Malala in Leadership. https://www.thegrowthfaculty.com/blog/4BooksthatinspireMalalainleadership

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