Sunday, November 21, 2010

50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read

What does a 13 year old farm girl, whose best friend has suddenly become too cool to hang out with her, do with her time?

She reads every book her American Political Science teacher puts on reserve in the library. The assignment was to read one book each quarter, there were 25 in total, but I enjoyed them so much I read every one of them. When I think back on those books I realize they were paramount in influencing my life-long love of reading and learning. I honestly believe my life would have headed down a different path if I had never read those books which opened my eyes to a world a secluded farm girl never dreamed existed.

Unfortunately, the only books I can remember reading from that assignment are:

Patch of Blue by Elizabeth Kata (a favorite)

Love Story by Erich Segal (my mom wouldn’t let me see the movie)

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (now considered dated)

Go Ask Alice by James Jennings

The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Afterwards, my quest for knowledge led me to read whatever books I could lay my hands on including encyclopedias. Recently a reader emailed me a link to 50 Books Every Young Woman Should Read. Can you imagine how ecstatic I would have been to come across a list such as this as a young woman. Actually, I was pretty ecstatic to come across it now. I have read several of the list’s selections including many of my favorites.  My favorites include:

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (This book should have been included on my list of Non-Fiction Books Every Woman Should Read) See my book review here.

And my all time favorite book from young adulthood A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Books from the list I read shortly after my APB Project:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Two books from the list are currently on my TBR list:

Howards End by E. M. Forster

My Life in France by Julia Child

Books not included that in my opinion deserve an honorable mention:

Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy and Clueless by Susan Jane Gilman – I decided to read this book after Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness wrote this book inspired her to meditate on what it means to be a feminist and whether she could consider herself one. This is a coming of age novel consisting of a series of essays Gilman describes as “Getting a Clue” many of which a young woman could relate to.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant a book based loosely on the story of Dinah, Jacob's daughter from the bible. It gives a fascinating insight into the everyday lives of women during the biblical period.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - A book I read after reading this review written by Becky Holmes. Jeanette Wells recalls her life growing up in extreme poverty with an alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother. Her story is an inspiring account of survival and triumph.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler This book is considered a fantasy thriller, but is so much more than that. Its depiction of slavery is one of the best historical fiction accounts on the subject I have ever read.

Out Of The Dust by Karen Hesse This is a book written in verse I recently read after reading Penelope Trunk’s post Being a Snob Creates too many Limits where she describes it as the best depiction of dust bowl life that she had ever read. Was she right! I could almost taste the dust. Plus, the character of Billie Jo reminded me of Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn a favorite from above. I decided to include this book after reading a comment from a young gal who hated the book and had been forced to read it by her teachers. She listened to it on tape and thought it was hilarious to hear how Billy Jo pronounced things. She found her accent to be really stupid and funny. Perhaps more young women need to read books about others who have not been raised in this era of “entitlement.”

How about you?  What books have you read from the list?  Are any among your favorites?  What books do you think are missing from the list?


  1. I think Hypocrite... is a great book. I read it when I was in my early 20s, and like you noted, found it really thoughtful and funny.

    I still haven't read The Feminine Mystique, but agree that it's a must read at some point.

  2. Great post. I love Go Ask Alice. (And many of the others.)

  3. Go Ask Alice is a fab book - I remember reading that and had forgotten all about it. Are There God it's Me Margaret was one I read as teen. One of my fave books, although not on the list is Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. It's the story of Mr Rochester's (Jane Eyre's husband) wife.

    Anyway, great blog and look forward to seeing you over at:

    Love, light & sparkle. xxx

  4. Chanel,
    I've never heard of Wide Sargasso Sea. It does sound intriguing. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Great list! I'm going to share it with my book club.

  6. Chasing Joy,
    I would love to hear more about what your book club is reading and has read!