I’ve mentioned numerous times that I am a huge bibliophile, as well as a feminist. I was an English major as an undergraduate and my love of books has lasted for my entire life. Empowering women is something I feel passionately about, which is why I created this list of books for women to read.
The list below is inspired by books that I grew up loving and books that have influenced me lately. Some of these books were also suggested by my feminist literature class. They’ve all had an impact on my psyche and well-being. I organized them by publication date to make them easier to skim – Enjoy!
Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817)
This is my favorite Jane Austen novel, even though it is the last one written. Austen is witty, observant, and full of universal truths. In this book, the reader learns about living with regret and giving second chances, even to people who may not deserve them. The heroine, Anne Elliot, sacrifices her love for Frederick Wentworth by the powers of persuasion – only to have him return to their town, years later, as a successful sea captain.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899)
This beautiful novel by Kate Chopin explores the place of women as mothers in a stifling period of time. Chopin addresses a woman who is unsatisfied with her marriage and finds physical love outside of her home – yes, female marital infidelity in 1899! This novel will help you explore your self, your independence, and your role as a woman in society.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1971)
This is my absolute favorite book ever. This book is Plath’s major work outside of her poetry. It is semi-autobiographical – examining a young woman’s decent into depression. Reading this book makes you feel not so alone when the world is weighing you down, especially during the crucial years at the end of college and beginning a career. Plath was depressed herself and beautifully describes the madness of it through her character, Esther Greenwood.
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)
This is the only book I’ve read by Morrison, but oh, it is lovely. It deals with abuse, love, murder, betrayal, and reunions. Above all, it encapsulates the lengths mothers will go to save their daughters. It’s completely surreal; written about an escaped slave woman who tries to make a life for herself in Ohio, but is haunted in many ways by the past. I had chills over my whole body as I read this book.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
This book really hit home for me as a young girl, as I battled with depression and anxiety. I felt like I could really relate to Melinda’s isolation and trying to find who she really is when she is abandoned by her friends. However, upon the presentation of Melinda’s troubles, I was floored. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever doubted themselves as a teen. Melinda grows quite a lot through the telling of her story.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (2007)
This is Hosseini’s second novel and my favorite of his works. The plot centers completely on the lives of two very different women who are brought together through loss, war, and abuse. Covering 30 years in Afghanistan, Hosseini examines the roles women play in a strict society, but also how these two women love, survive, and become friends.
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (2014)
Marina Keegan graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. But, five days after graduation, she tragically died in a car crash. This book is a collection of essays and stories from one of Yale’s greatest writers. Marina’s stories will sink deep down into your bones. She easily relates to the struggle of being human, but also gives the readers hope to make an impact on the world.
If You Find This Letter… by Hannah Brencher (2015)
Have you ever heard of The World Needs More Love Letters? Well, the lady who created that joyful letter-writing company wrote this book. Hannah Brencher is a young, inspiring woman who felt depressed and lost in her faith, so she decided to dedicate her life to strangers through love letters. The project overwhelmed her and became this awesome thing that has taken over the world. This book takes a look at Hannah’s journey to bring more love into the world.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books or if you decide to pick any of them up! And let me know below what your favorite books for women are, so I can add them to my Goodreads page!