We asked The Frisky‘s readers for the books that really affected them, both as people and as women. These are their picks, along with some of their thoughts!
A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol
The private Andy Warhol talks: about love, sex, food, beauty, fame, work, money, success; about New York and America; and about himself–his childhood in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, good times and bad times in the Big Apple, the explosion of his career in the sixties, and life among celebrities.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Vladimir Nabokov called Leo Tolstoyâ€™s Anna Karenina â€œone of the greatest love stories in world literature.â€ Set in imperial Russia, Anna Karenina is a rich and complex meditation on passionate love and disastrous infidelity.
“As a piece of literature, virtually every aspect of that book is wonderful; as an example of ‘womenâ€™s literature,’ it is just intensely romantic, politically astute, and I mean, the fashion is unparelled: who didnâ€™t imagine herself in Annaâ€™s perfect black velvet dress?” — Reader
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
A novel for young adults, about a preteen girl in sixth grade who grew up with no religion confronting such problems as buying her first bra, having her first period (not to mention coping with belted sanitary napkins), liking boys, and whether to voice her opinion if it differs from what her girlfriends seem to believe.
“The part where she gets her period is appropriately mortifying.” — Reader
The Babysitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin
In the course of the operation of the Babysitter’s Club, Kristy comes to terms with her mother’s engagement, Stacey confides to her new friends that she has diabetes, Claudia learns to tolerate and even appreciate her gifted older sister, and Mary Anne makes some compromises with her over-protective father.
“I wanted to be Stacy/Claudia. My favorite was the one where they babysit for the racist family.” — Reader
The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Feminist Naomi Wolf argues that women’s insecurities are heightened by unrealistic images of beauty , then exploited by the diet, cosmetic, and plastic surgery industries.
“I read this, and my world view changed. American standards of beauty are crap, and this backs that up. I met Naomi Wolf in October, and I could not stop blubbering about how much I loved it.” — Reader
The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
“A vintage book about working women in NYC publishing in the 1950s. Melodramatic, honest, alcohol-soaked, and completely relatable even for modern gals. I STILL think of this book from time to time. For me, reading about the life of the character April Morrison, a naÃ¯ve Colorado transplant, was scary, it hit so close to home.” – Reader
Blubber by Judy Blume
“This book about the popular mean girls bullying a slightly chubby girl made me totally not want to become a bully. It wasn’t preachy, and you kind of hated Blubber for no good reason, but I still also always felt bad for her, and it made me kind of hate the popular bitches. Years after high school, I got an email from some geek who thanked me for always saying hi to him and smiling at him in the hall, saying it made the years better for him. Cue the violins. Sniff.” — Reader
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
In the course of the year recorded in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget confides her hopes, her dreams, and her monstrously fluctuating poundage, not to mention her consumption of 5277 cigarettes and “Fat units 3457 (approx.) (hideous in every way).”
“The first chick lit novel to capture the somewhat frivolous inner thoughts of modern women across the world.” — Reader
Dead Birds Singing by Marc Talbert
“This book is about a twelve year old kid whose mom and sister are killed in a car crash, and he has to go live with his best friend. I read it about once a month and always cried throughout. The idea of your mother dying when you’re that young is horrific, but the book was hopeful and enlightening and you just knew the kid was going to turn out OK.” — Reader
Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir by Lisa Carver
In this eye-opening memoir, Lisa Crystal Carver recalls her extraordinary youth and charts the late-80s, early-90s punk subculture that she helped shape, offering a spunky, well-fashioned memoir devoid of self-pity but heavy on moral-of-the-story hindsight.
“Why being wild doesn’t make you a bad person.” — Reader
Emma by Jane Austen
Confident that she knows best, Emma schemes to find a suitable husband for her pliant friend Harriet, only to discover that she understands the feelings of others as little as she does her own heart.
“Austen is amazing, and this book distills the art of relationship-forming and social climbing down to something beautiful and relatable, even now.” — Reader
Forever by Judy Blume
“This one was simply my first introduction to sex. (Hi, Ralph!) My older sister lent it to me with highlighted passages and underlined words. It was like porn. Of course, I had no idea what they meant by “coming” for years after I read it but it was still kind of horny. In fact, I re-read it a few months ago and it was still pretty good.” — Reader
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The title of the novel refers to a scientist who learns how to create life and creates a being in the likeness of man, but larger than average and more powerful.
“Like Franky babe, Shelley was a freak of nature too. She did not dare to even put her name on the book when it was released because of the possibly backlash she would receive for writing it.” — Reader
God-Shaped Hole by Tiffanie DeBartolo
In the brief prelude to this conventional contemporary love story, a fortune-teller predicts that Beatrice Jordan (then 12) will meet a soul mate whom she’ll lose to tragedy. This is a love story in which a happy ending isn’t guaranteed.
“Even though I had to cover the title of the book on the subway, I found myself really liking this modern-day love story.” — Reader
Good In Bed by Jennifer Weiner
Cannie is a 28-year-old Philadelphia Examiner reporter preoccupied with her weight and men, but able to see the humor in even the most unpleasant of life’s broadsides.
“Chick lit, but well-written and the first of many, many poor imitations. It’s even celebratory of plus-size women, which is nice.” — Reader
Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock
This singular, magical volume invites readers to examine handmade postcards and open colorful envelopes as they eavesdrop on lonely London card-designer Griffin Moss and mysterious South Pacific islander Sabine Strohem.
“My first experience with love letters! They weren’t for me, but they were better than the ones I got anyway.” — Reader
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
This funny novel is obsessed with music; Hornby’s narrator is an early-thirtysomething English guy who runs a London record store. He sells albums recorded the old-fashioned way–on vinyl–and is having a tough time making other transitions as well, specifically adulthood.
“It’s enlightening to delve into an ‘everyman’s’ psyche.” — Reader
I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can by Barbara Gordon
The true story of what happened to a woman when she quit taking Valium cold-turkey. In the space of a few months, Gordon went from being a woman who had it all to a patient in a locked psychiatric award, alone and dependent.
“How not to handle a nervous breakdown.” — Reader
Journal Of A Solitude by May Sarton
“You’d never think that a book about shutting oneself into your house and completing mundane tasks such as watering plants would be powerful, but
Sarton pulls off this first-person narrative about depression with beautiful writing and brutal honesty.” — Reader
Little Birds by Anais Nin
Straight up, my masturbation material for years before I got into the free stuff on the web (i.e. from age 20 to 30). I still have the yellowed, torn up books by my bedside. No idea where they even came from as I surely did not buy them!
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy come of age while their father is off to war.
“As an only child, I wished I had more imaginary sisters.” — Reader
Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov
The novel is both internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the book’s narrator and protagonist Humbert Humbert becoming sexually obsessed with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze.
“Why you shouldn’t date considerably older men.” — Reader
Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyn Keene
Teen sleuth Nancy Drew has been solving mysteries and delighting fans for over 60 years. You won’t believe her daring escapades and narrow escapes.
“This was my first foray into reading lots and lots of books. My mother got me the old versions while I was home sick with chicken pox when I was little. I still wish I was as cool as Nancy in her convertible.” — Reader
Playground: A Childhood Lost Inside The Playboy Mansion by Jennifer Saginor
Saginor’s father was Hugh Hefner’s personal doctor and spent much of his time at the mansion surrounded by scores of Playmates. It was in this environment that Saginor got her first impressions of sex and how men and women relate to each other.
“A memoir written by Dr. Feelgood’s daughter about growing up inside the Playboy Mansion, and it ain’t pretty. Never looked at the Playboy empire the same way after reading it.” — Reader
Possessing The Secret Of Joy by Alice Walker
“Female genital mutilation: uplifting! Seriously, though — this book raised my awareness about women’s issues like no other book has since.” — Reader
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia by Jean P. Sasson
“This book resonated deeply with meâ€”then a teenager around the same age as many of the women portrayed in the bookâ€”by introducing me to the possibility that women in the U.S., no matter how well-educated and diverse in their upbringing and exposure, may still take for granted the equal rights assigned to us at birth.” — Reader
She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
In this engaging first novel, narrator Dolores Price recounts her life story from age four to age 40 in heartbreaking, yet hilarious detail.
“A touching, super-funny account of one girlâ€™s life from 4 to 40.” — Reader
“This book broke my damn heart.” — Reader
Summer Sisters by Judy Blume
“I think it is an important book for women (and girls — i first read it when i was 16) to read because it touches on so many different relationships throughout many stages of life. for example, it goes into family relationships, friendship, marriage, lovers, etc. from the age of 10 to adulthood. The characters are really well developed and experience many things that we all experience in life. Oooh i feel like i should reread it again!” — Reader
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely–to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child.
“I’m still mad that she had to work at that place that made her eyesight go bad, while her brother went to school.” — Reader
Waltzing The Cat by Pam Houston
“Pam Houston was one of my favorite magazine writers as a teenager. I thought each essay was beautiful, heartbreaking, and gave me a sense that relationships are hard, sloppy, and that people can be assholes–but that even crazy-tough women like Pam need some TLC. I think I’ve always tried to emulate her voice (or at least her grit) when I write in the first person.” — Reader
White Oleander by Janet Finch
Thirteen-year-old Astrid Magnussen, the sensitive and heart-wrenching narrator of this impressive debut, is burdened with an impossible mother in Ingrid, a beautiful, gifted poet whose scattered life is governed by an enormous ego. When Ingrid goes to prison for murdering her ex-lover, Astrid enters the Los Angeles foster care program and is placed with a series of brilliantly characterized families.
“If you thought your childhood was rough, read this.” — Reader
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
Deenie by Judy Blume
The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood
Fear Of Flying by Erica Jong
Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Girl by Blake Nelson
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
No Exit by Jean-Paul Sartre
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Room Of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann