As a lover of books, I thought it was about time that I put together a post about some books that I think every woman should read. I’ve chosen 5 of my favourites for various reasons listed below but I think they are all equally important for a woman to read at some point in her life. I didn’t put this together with the intention of all the authors being female but it just ended up that way. Although, I guess this sets me a challenge to find some books every woman should read written by men now though. Until then, here are my 5 books that every woman should read:
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Having become a bit of an icon for the current 20-something generation, it was only a matter of time before the ridiculously successful and talented Lena Dunham wrote a book/memoir that has become a hit and treasured possession for many. To me, this book really showcases a life that has not been entirely perfect or happy but that still has a great outcome, career, relationship and life-wise, regardless of the past and present troubles she faces. Dunham is very frank and open throughout which I loved because personally if you are going to write a memoir, I think you should include everything you feel comfortable with and for Dunham it seemed to be nearly everything.
Splitting the book into sections, featuring different themes such as love, sex, family, career etc and picking out great stories and anecdotes from over the years that fit into those categories made for an easy read. Having that split makes it an easier reference point for revisiting certain chapters in the future where you may find solace or advice. Many people complained about Dunham’s openness in this book but I think that is one of the things that makes this such a good read, along with Dunham’s clear literary skill and witty persona.
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
This book is an absolute must read for every single woman out there. It is by far one of my favourite novels that had me laughing and learning things all the way throughout. Moran gives a frank, hilarious and downright insightful look into what it is like to be a woman and how to handle so many issues we face throughout our lives. It is one of those books where you wonder why this has never been written before. You see that the things you do, say or learn are not at all weird and that being a woman is hard, odd but ultimately brilliant.
I can’t say enough good things about this book, it is essentially my bible. I loved it so much when I read it and it is a book I shall treasure forever. I know for a fact that I will read it many more times in my life for advice, a laugh or some reassurance. If I could only recommend one book for a woman to read it would be this one, it is the type of book that I will pass down to any future daughter I may have because I think she would appreciate it as much as I did.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Moving away from the memoir and the funny with this next book but it is ultimately an extremely important read for all women out there. I first read this when I was studying English Literature A Level, comparing it to the dystopian world of 1984, culminating in an essay that is still one of my favourites to date, looking at the persecution of women and class throughout both novels. This book is also set in a dystopian world where people are segregated according to class but also gender. Men seem to have the better run of it either being poor but allowed to work and have a trade or rich and married to an upper class woman with female slaves he can do whatever he likes with.
It is one of these female slaves, or handmadid’s, that we follow throughout the book as she relives her past training and segregation to her current role as a handmaid for a wealthy man in the community. It is a harrowing tale showcasing just how class differences can mean such a great deal but also how women have and can be treated as second class citizens. Even the upper class wives are seen as lower than their husbands used for the purpose to look good with their man. All the women and men have to wear different colours according to their role and class in the society so there really is nowhere to hide here. It is an extreme story but one that is ultimately easy to imagine happening and therefore I think that is what makes this all the more sad and hard to swallow but it really is an essential read.
The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory
Of all the books I have read by Gregory this is by far one of my favourites because of the interesting life of the woman it follows. Taken from the Cousins series which follows the rules of Plantagenets through to the Tudors, this book focuses on Margaret Pole, the daughter of George, Duke of Clarence who was the brother to King Edward IV and Richard III. As a woman born into royalty of the Plantagenet side, it shows her struggles to live throughout the reign of two Tudor kings, forever plagued by the shadow of imminent death just because of the family she belongs to.
After seeing her brother and cousins die, she is left with very few family to support her through these times and the family she does have must never get too close in case a conspiracy is thought to be going on. Having many children, she is left to raise them, practically on her own when her husband dies early on in their marriage. They swiftly lose everything meaning she has to take drastic decisions before a stroke of luck when King Henry VIII invites her and her family to court, making her governess to his children as she was governess to him.
As she rises to prominence again, all would seem well but it is far from the truth. Seeing the struggles of not only a rival family to the throne but also the struggles of a woman in the Medieval times and a mother to keep her children safe after bringing them up on her own is an enthralling read. She truly is an inspiring and wonderful woman and I am completely in awe of her. Out of all the incredible historical women Gregory has showcased in her books, Margaret Pole is by far the most amazing example to all women out there in my opinion.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
This one is definitely a must read and it is one of the best book that I have read over the years too. The book follows Esther Greenwood, a young woman from the suburbs of Boston who gains a summer internship at a prominent magazine in New York City. The semi-autobiographical novel tells a truly moving tale of a woman who heads to New York to kickstart her career but ends up in the middle of some distressing events that kickstart a mental breakdown which takes full effect when she heads back home after the summer.
It is an honest and heartbreaking portrayal of a woman suffering so much from mental illness. Not only was the emphasis on mental illness brave for the sixties when it was published but for it to have happened to a woman character told by a woman who went through it herself made this completely shocking at its time of publication. However, the tale still has the shock value now for its sheer honesty of what Plath obviously went through in her life too. Not the happiest of reads and completely heartbreaking but also utterly educational, this really is a great book in its storytelling even though it was the saddest of circumstances that set off the novel in the first place.