Today’s post is brought to you by Serena of That’s What She Read. Not only does she and her friend Ravena run an incredible bookish podcast, but we’re teaming up to offer one lucky reader two of our favorite books and a tote to stash your reads in!

For my favorite books–the ones that have a special place in my heart or that have changed me in some fundamental way–all of the moments leading up to reading the book take on an importance of their own, remaining imprinted indelibly upon my brain. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is one such book.

I was in a windowless conference room, hunched over a few hand-me-down tables the non-profit I work for had cobbled together, and Joan, a colleague from the National Park Service, was telling me about this frightful book she was reading for book club. She described a world of the future where the rise of the ruling religious elite and the use of subterfuge to suspend constitutional rights eventually led to the subjugation of women. Joan’s wariness of the book and how close it struck to home was based partly on the fact that, while Atwood’s book was published in 1985, she was reading it in 2003, shortly after the beginning of the Iraq War, George W. Bush and the rise of the religious right, and the elusive hunt for the weapons of mass destruction. I was sold.

While the use of rhetoric and social commentary has likely been prevalent in literature since pen was first put to paper and certainly populated several of the classics we studied in school, my love for this form didn’t truly click until I read The Handmaid’s Tale. I felt simultaneously empowered and enraged and was further convinced of the important role fiction could play in activism and social change. Sorry, I’m getting a little worked up here just thinking about it. I should also say that the book was pretty freaking entertaining. This enthusiasm and passion sparked by Atwood years ago led me to pick up When She Woke by Hillary Jordan.

“When she woke, she was red.”

From its opening line, Jordan thrusts the reader into a futuristic world where the morals and rules of this society are bound together by law in a way that would make Nathaniel Hawthorne blush. Hannah, our protagonist, is guilty only of an ill-fated love and, yet, wakes to find herself part of a new criminal caste known as Chromes, wherein skin color is genetically modified to match the crime of which you are accused. Hannah, now a striking red for the murder of her unborn child, is left to navigate an America that would sooner leave her for dead than lend a helping hand.

I love that a title I picked up on a whim still haunts me a year later. If Atwood plucks your strings, then you have to read When She Woke!

What books ignite your passion and get you all riled up? Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win your very own That’s What She Read podcast tote and a copy of each of these fabulous books!