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The 22 Books Every Woman Needs To Read

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Walking into a bookstore can be overwhelming. And heaven forfend you go onto Amazon! There are so many books out there that it makes you wonder why they’re always saying the publishing industry is in its death throes. If you know you’re looking for a copy of The Hunger Games, then you’re golden, but lots of readers just like to browse for something good to read. That is, until we start ripping our hair out. 

I conferred with The Frisky staff and came up with a list of books we think every woman needs to read in her lifetime. We’ve got novels. We’ve got self-help. We’ve got cookbooks. We’ve got academic-y stuff. And we’ve all been changed for the better and felt a little less alone in life, thanks to this list right here…

1. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser: The best spirituality-based self-help book I’ve ever read. I keep coming back to it again and again. — Jessica

2. Cherry, by Mary Karr: This brilliant poet turned memoirist writes about her rebellious youth and sexual awakening — you won’t be able to put it down. — Amelia

3. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel: A memoir in graphic novel form, this gorgeous book explores the author’s childhood growing up in a funeral home with a closeted gay father, his death, and coming to terms with her own sexuality. If you’ve never read a graphic novel, this is the perfect place to start! — Winona

4. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, by Elizabeth Gilbert: Coupling and uncoupling are confusing, but the author of Eat Pray Love is as realistic as she is hopeful. This book helped me heaps after a big, bad breakup. — Jessica

5. Franny and Zooey, by J. D. Salinger: Hands down, the book that has meant the most to me and is the one I recommend most often, especially to women who are trying to find their footing in the world. — Amelia

6. Sula, by Toni Morrison: It’s a great book about female friendship and betrayal and redemption. — Julie

7. Gender Trouble, by Judith Butler: Her essay “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory” changed my idea about gender more than anything else I’ve ever read. — Ami

8. How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran: Soon to be published in the U.S., Caitlin Moran’s book of essays about modern womanhood is exactly the breath of common sensical fresh air that feminism needs.  — Jessica 

9. The Joy Of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer: Idiot-proof for cooks at all levels. — Jessica

10. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke: It enlightened me on different ways to think about love. — Ami

11. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides: His novel explores sex and gender in absolutely compelling way. — Ami

12. On The Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman: A beautiful picture book for children about a family’s joy over a new baby. You can’t help but feel warm and fuzzy inside reading it (to kiddies or just yourself). — Jessica 

13. Paying For It, by Chester Brown: Whatever your opinion on sex work is now, I guarantee this graphic novel written by a john will be food for thought.— Jessica

14. When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chödrön: This book has helped me through so many tough times. It’s written by a Buddhist nun but you don’t have to be Buddhist to benefit from the concepts of letting go and being present in each moment.  – Winona

15. The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A short story on how absolutely confining life used to be for women. — Julie

16. Spirit Junkie, by Gabrielle Bernstein: I just read this recently, after being quite leery of “self-help” type “happiness” books, and was floored by how helpful it was. Bernstein beams contentment and her vibe had me rethinking my own perspective on everything from dating to family to ambition. — Amelia

17. White Teeth or On Beauty, by Zadie Smith: She writes a lot about the themes of race and beauty. — Ami

18. Women, Race & Class, by Angela Davis: It’s one of the go-to books for understanding intersectionality in oppression. — Jessica

19. any book by Simon Doonan: Got a quirky style? Want a quirky style? Barney’s window dresser Simon Doonon will cheerlead you all the way. — Jessica  

20. Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn: About the harsh reality of how oppressive life is for most of the world’s women is today — and what we can do about it. — Julie

21. The Purity Myth, by Jessica Valenti: An interesting and horrifying dissection of our culture’s obsession with women’s chastity, and why this belief system is ultimately harmful to women and men. — Winona

22. The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood: A surreal look at how relationships can start to eat away at your autonomy and independence. — Amelia

Of course, this list is just The Frisky staff’s suggestions. We’d love to hear your picks for books every woman needs to read — and why — in the comments.

Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter at @JessicaWakeman.

Image via Thinkstock

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