I’ve seen several lists of books women should read in their 20s floating around the internet lately. Many of these lists include some great books that I have enjoyed, though many as a teen rather than an adult. However, despite the aim of the lists, I just didn’t find the titles as relatable as someone in her 20s is apparently supposed to. So many of these lists seemed to be aimed at the type of women who exist in tv shows like Girls or Sophie Kinsella novels. It’s hard to find a list for those of us who are in a different place in life. So, I put together my own. Give it a read and maybe this will be the list for you…or maybe you’ll end up writing one of your own.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Because you need to know who you are and what you want.
This is one of the first books that could unambiguously be described as feminist because it features a woman as a person in relation to the world, with wants and needs to be explored. It deals with her struggle with who she is, what she wants, and what it takes to make herself happy, regardless of what others or society in general think is appropriate versus selfish. It shows the importance of having a fulfilling life in your own right. Though we’ve come a long way since Chopin wrote it, women still face these questions.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
Because you need good, solid, real female friendship.
Though this book is just as much about Sidda and Vivi’s relationship than anything else, the friendship between the Ya-Yas is what really shines. They love each other fiercely and would do anything for each other. As an adult, female friendships can seem so complicated to navigate, but we all need a reminder that friendship is worth it because even one good friend having your back can make life so much easier and more fun.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
Because being a woman is a powerful thing, even when others try to make you forget it.
This is the story of Dinah. Though mentioned only briefly in the Bible, Diamant has given her a full life. Her early years are spent primarily in the company of women, her mother and aunts, where she learns about the traditions, connections, difficulties, and triumphs of being a woman. Her story is not only her own, but that of the women who raised her. The ribbon running through this story is the celebration of what it means to be a woman.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Because you shouldn’t take your freedoms for granted or stop fighting for those you don’t yet have.
My generation, those currently in their 20s, have grown up with more freedoms and opportunities than the generations before us and we did it without really having to fight for them. It’s easy to take that for granted or think they’ll never go away, but The Handmaids Tale asks us to think about what would happen if they did. Offred’s story reminds us to keep fighting for true equality and rights.
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
Because you should remember and hold on to the passion of youth.
As an adult, I love YA for it’s ability to remind me of a time when everything was more intense and confusing, but more exciting and wonderful in many ways, too. As we grow up and find ourselves, things calm down but we also tend to lose the passion for life. I could have chosen any YA for this, but Libba Bray is such a witty writer and young women can really connect to the story of Gemma figuring out who she is and where she fits in the world.
Devil’s Bride by Stephanie Laurens
Because you should figure out what you like and want from a partner.
Romance novels are often decried as harmful, anti-feminist, or drivel. I disagree. What you like in a book can teach you a lot about what you’d want from a partner. I prefer historical romances like those by Stepanie Laurens, but substitute this with whatever type of romance you want. Read many and varied types, whatever kind you want, just do yourself a favor and read the quality ones.
The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson
Because being different can be a wonderful thing.
Emily Dickinson was eccentric, reclusive, introverted, and any number of other things a woman of her time shouldn’t have been. She was also one of the most prolific and talented poets of any time. Her verses explore themes and wonders of the world that you wouldn’t think possible from someone as secluded as she. They also managed to be both beautiful and relatable to even the most ardent hater of poetry.
Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work by Tim Gunn
Because class is always in style.
Tim Gunn’s golden rules are all very sensible and obvious, but they’re also things so many of us overlook. He reminds us of these very simple ways for living a better life in his usual hilarious, adorable, and honest way. These are good lessons for any woman, but sometimes you just need fabulous Tim Gunn to remind you.
What do you think, readers? What are your must reads?
And, lest you think I forgot the guys, my friend Robi has graciously agreed to put together a list of books for men in their 20s that will be posted in the near future.