Sunday, March 24, 2013

10 Books Every 20-Something Female Should Read

I hate to get all gender-happy with this post, but as a young woman in my 20s myself, I feel I can best speak to this demographic. I'd like to note that this isn't (by any means) a comprehensive or perfect list. These selections are solely based on my favorite female-oriented texts. Sorry, Jane Austen lovers; I have no love for the distinguished lady. Here we go. . .

 10 Books Every 20-Something Female Should Read 

(in no particular order)

  1. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847): No woman's list would be complete without this Bronte novel, in my opinion. Every time I've read it, I discover something new about myself, depending on where I am in life and what's going on at the time. It's truly a work that transcends time and place, and it has the ability to speak to anyone at any time.
  2. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985): To me, this novel isn't one of Atwood's best in terms of writing style, but it is her most famous. A dystopian/speculative fiction novel, it will appeal to those who love 1984 and other such texts. What it really explorers, however, is what happens when a person loses her selfhood- and how she gains it back. It's a discovery of how we come to realize who we really are as people and how society is a part of that picture. Warning: contains adult themes. Not sure why high school kids read this? I saw the word "fucking" while reading it in jr. high and lost it.
  3. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf: Never has such a novel full of dull details been so interesting. The book details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post-World War I England while exploring themes of mental illness, feminism, existentialism, and homosexuality. What stands out the most, however, is how beautifully it's written.
  4. Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1934): I couldn't construct any type of book list without my favorite author! Though you may have been forced to read the Great Gatsby in high school (a.k.a most wonderful book ever written), you may not have ever been exposed to this novel. Best paired with an account of the Fitzgeralds' life, Tender is the Night is largely autobiographical and hints at the mental illness that F. Scott's wife Zelda was facing. A gorgeous piece of prose itself, it's even better with an in-depth exploration of the female mind of the "original flapper," Zelda Fitzgerald.
  5. The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood(1969): Like all of Atwood's novels, The Edible Woman deals with gender stereotypes, but this time, there's a large focus on body image. Atwood's biting wit is apparent, as is her dedication to an exploration of her self for her female protagonists (for more information, see my MA thesis :) ). As the protagonist Marian slowly detaches from reality, the reader must also examine how he/she fits into our narcissistic world.
  6. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (1966): If you've read and enjoyed (or plan to read) Jane Eyre, adding this book to your list is a no-brainer. Rhys writes a novel that acts as a prequel to Jane Eyre, with a focus on Mr. Rochester's "mad woman in the attic," known in the earlier text as his wife, Bertha Mason. A post-colonial novel, it deals with themes of race, displacement, and assimilation into a new culture. If you've ever wanted to know more about Rochester's first wife, here's your chance. It might make you detest Rochester and Jane though. Just saying.
  7. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger (2003): A book that's arguably much better than the movie in my opinion, though it's excellent, The Time Traveler's Wife is a beautifully written conglomeration of science and romance. It focuses on a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to spontaneously travel in time and his life-long romance with his steadfast love. I'm not gonna lie, it can get a bit uncomfortable sometimes. Would you like to make out with your current lover at age 14(ish) if you were your current age? Didn't think so..
  8. Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood (1995): One of my favorite books of all time, Alias Grace shifts between a servant girl who is jailed for murder named Grace and her psychiatric doctor. As the reader, it can be difficult to know when Grace is speaking or thinking due to Atwood's stream of consciousness-type style (no punctuation), but it's fascinating to see how she thinks of herself, her doctor's observations, and how she's viewed by the public.
  9. A Song of Ice and Fire (series), George R. R. Martin (1996-2011): The television adaptation of this series is often lauded for its powerful female characters, and the book certainly follows this model as well. Though I've only read the first two books so far (they're huge, so it's slow-going), I definitely consider it to be a fascinating experience. Though the world Martin has built is a sexist one, several key women and young ladies rise to the occasion of harnessing their own power and being self-reliant. Some even lead armies. Note: If you've seen the series on television so far, I can tell you that the first two books are relatively identical. At this point, I'm reading for more details. You could easily skip ahead to the third and not miss too much.
  10. Evelina:or the History of a Young Lady's Entrance into the World, Francis Burney (1778): I may find Jane Austen rather dull, but her literary predecessor Francis Burney is another matter. In one of the longest "books" I've ever conquered, Burney builds an 16th century world around the protagonist Evelina in this three-part epistolary novel, in which she is the legitimate, but unacknowledged daughter of the upper-class society. The "book" has plenty of twists and turns, though they're a bit further spaced than we see today. I like to think of Burney as a more scandalous Jane Austen, with a more interesting writing style to boot. But, to each his/her own. You may prefer Pride and Prejudice.
What do you think? What books/texts would you add to the list? I'd love to know!

-KT <3


  1. Never expected to like Jane Eyre, but it's still one of my all-time faves after reading it for the first time a couple years ago. Required reading regardless of age or gender, but in a world where impressionable young girls consider Rihanna a role model, Jane Eyre has never been more important. Hell of a No. 1.

    And I really need to read Handmaid's Tale already, huh?

  2. Aiden,
    The Handmaid's Tale is great! I absolutely recommend all of Atwood's work. Thanks for the comment, and I couldn't have put Jane Eyre anywhere other than #1. :)