75 Books Every Woman Should Read

This is one of the 305 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

    "The Lottery and Other Stories" is a collection of short stories that explore the dark side of human nature, often through the lens of seemingly ordinary people and events. The titular story follows a small town's annual ritual, which ends in a shocking and brutal act of violence. Other stories delve into themes of alienation, prejudice, and the human capacity for cruelty, all while maintaining a veneer of normalcy and routine. The collection is known for its unsettling atmosphere and its ability to reveal the sinister undercurrents of everyday life.

    The 790th Greatest Book of All Time
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

    This novel is a pioneering work of modernist literature that explores the Ramsay family's experiences at their summer home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. The narrative is divided into three sections, focusing on a day in the family's life, a description of the house during their absence, and their return after ten years. The book is known for its stream of consciousness narrative technique and its exploration of topics such as the passage of time, the nature of art, and the female experience.

    The 35th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

    Set in the backdrop of New York's high society during the turn of the 20th century, the novel follows the life of Lily Bart, a beautiful but impoverished woman of social standing. As she navigates the pressures and expectations of her social circle, Lily grapples with the need to secure a wealthy husband to maintain her lifestyle. However, her romantic inclinations and her desire for personal freedom come into conflict with societal norms, leading to her tragic downfall.

    The 150th Greatest Book of All Time
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith

    This novel follows the lives of two friends, a working-class Englishman and a Bangladeshi Muslim, living in London. The story explores the complex relationships between people of different races, cultures, and generations in modern Britain, with themes of identity, immigration, and the cultural and social changes that have shaped the country. The narrative is enriched by the characters' personal histories and the historical events that have shaped their lives.

    The 216th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

    "The House of the Spirits" is a multi-generational saga that explores the lives of the Trueba family, set against the backdrop of political upheaval in an unnamed Latin American country. The narrative is driven by the family's strong and magical women, including clairvoyant Clara and her granddaughter Alba. The story spans over three generations, weaving together personal, social, and political threads, and is rich in elements of magical realism. The novel explores themes of love, violence, social class, and the struggle for power.

    The 168th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

    This book is a collection of essays that capture the essence of the 1960s in California. It portrays a society in the midst of social and cultural upheaval, as traditional norms are challenged by the counterculture movement. The author explores various themes including morality, self-respect, and the nature of good and evil, while providing a vivid picture of the era through her insightful and incisive observations.

    The 567th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

    Set in post-World War II England, the novel centers around a spinster named Mildred Lathbury, who lives a quiet life, devoted to her church and helping others. Her life is disrupted when a young couple moves into her building and she becomes embroiled in their marital troubles. The novel explores themes of societal expectations for women, the role of religion in everyday life, and the complexities of human relationships.

    The 626th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

    The novel follows the story of a young woman who wins a guest editorship at a magazine in New York City and, after a series of personal and professional disappointments, suffers a mental breakdown and returns to her family, where she continues to struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. The protagonist's experiences in psychiatric institutions and her attempts to reclaim her life are depicted with brutal honesty, making it a poignant exploration of mental illness and the societal pressures faced by women in the mid-20th century.

    The 78th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

    This novel is a postcolonial prequel to "Jane Eyre," exploring the life of Mr. Rochester's mad wife, Bertha. Set in Jamaica during the 1830s, it follows the story of Antoinette Cosway, a white Creole heiress, from her youth in the Caribbean to her unhappy marriage and move to England. Caught in a society that both rejects and exoticizes her, Antoinette is ultimately driven into madness by her oppressive husband and the haunting legacy of colonialism.

    The 113th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

    The novel tells the story of Gogol Ganguli, a second-generation Indian-American, who struggles with his unique name and his dual cultural identity. Born to immigrant parents from Kolkata, India, Gogol is named after the famous Russian author, Nikolai Gogol, a decision that shapes his life in unexpected ways. As he grows up, he finds himself torn between his parents' traditional Indian values and his desire to fit into mainstream American society. This internal conflict is further complicated by his relationships with women of different cultural backgrounds. The book explores themes of identity, cultural assimilation, and the immigrant experience.

    The 938th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

    This novel tells the story of a former African-American slave woman who, after escaping to Ohio, is haunted by the ghost of her deceased daughter. The protagonist is forced to confront her repressed memories and the horrific realities of her past, including the desperate act she committed to protect her children from a life of slavery. The narrative is a poignant exploration of the physical, emotional, and psychological scars inflicted by the institution of slavery, and the struggle for identity and self-acceptance in its aftermath.

    The 26th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

    Madame Bovary is a tragic novel about a young woman, Emma Bovary, who is married to a dull, but kind-hearted doctor. Dissatisfied with her life, she embarks on a series of extramarital affairs and indulges in a luxurious lifestyle in an attempt to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life. Her desire for passion and excitement leads her down a path of financial ruin and despair, ultimately resulting in a tragic end.

    The 19th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Like Life by Lorrie Moore

    "Like Life" is a collection of short stories that explore the nuances of everyday life, delving into the complexities of relationships, love, and loss. The narratives are filled with characters grappling with their past, struggling with their present, and uncertain about their future. The author uses humor and poignant observation to highlight the beauty, pain, and absurdity of human existence, painting a vivid picture of life's many contradictions and ironies.

    The 2197th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    Set in early 19th-century England, this classic novel revolves around the lives of the Bennet family, particularly the five unmarried daughters. The narrative explores themes of manners, upbringing, morality, education, and marriage within the society of the landed gentry. It follows the romantic entanglements of Elizabeth Bennet, the second eldest daughter, who is intelligent, lively, and quick-witted, and her tumultuous relationship with the proud, wealthy, and seemingly aloof Mr. Darcy. Their story unfolds as they navigate societal expectations, personal misunderstandings, and their own pride and prejudice.

    The 10th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

    The novel follows the life of Jane Eyre, an orphan who is mistreated by her relatives and sent to a charity school. As she grows up, Jane becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding and mysterious Mr. Rochester. However, she soon learns of a dark secret in his past that threatens their future together. The story is a profound exploration of a woman's self-discovery and her struggle for independence and love in a rigid Victorian society.

    The 20th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

    "Delta of Venus" is a collection of fifteen short stories that explore the nature of human sexuality and eroticism. Set in various locations around the world, the book delves into a wide range of sexual experiences and desires, from the conventional to the taboo. The stories are as much about the psychology of desire and the power dynamics inherent in sexual relationships as they are about the act itself, and they are written in a lush, poetic style that is both explicit and deeply introspective.

    The 1259th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

    This novel is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear, set on a 1000-acre farm in Iowa. The story revolves around three daughters whose father decides to divide his land among them. The eldest two daughters are compliant with their father's decision, but the youngest daughter objects, leading to familial discord. The novel delves into themes of power, jealousy, and the dark secrets that can tear a family apart.

    The 738th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

    This collection of short stories is set in the American South and explores themes of morality, ethics, and the complexity of human nature. The stories feature a variety of characters, each grappling with their own moral dilemmas and personal struggles. The title story centers around a family's disastrous road trip, during which they encounter a notorious escaped convict. Through these narratives, the book examines the concept of "goodness" and the capacity for redemption and grace in a flawed world.

    The 337th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

    The novel follows the story of a depressed and overweight man who moves with his two daughters to his ancestral home in Newfoundland, Canada, after his unfaithful wife dies in a car accident. There, he begins to rebuild his life, working as a reporter for the local newspaper, The Shipping News, and learning about the harsh realities of the fishing industry. As he delves into his family's history, he begins to find a sense of belonging and a new love. The story explores themes of family, identity, and the power of place.

    The 346th Greatest Book of All Time
  • You Can't Keep A Good Woman Down by Alice Walker

    "You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down" is a collection of short stories that explore the resilience and experiences of African American women as they confront issues of racism, sexism, and sexual violence. Through a variety of characters and settings, the stories delve into themes of empowerment, identity, and liberation, showcasing the strength and complexity of women fighting against oppressive circumstances. The narrative voices range from a young revolutionary to a successful actress, each providing a unique perspective on the struggles and triumphs of black women in contemporary society.

    The 5454th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    This novel follows the life of Janie Crawford, a young African-American woman, in the early 20th century. She embarks on a journey through three marriages and self-discovery while challenging the societal norms of her time. The narrative explores her struggle for personal freedom, fulfillment, and identity against the backdrop of racism and gender expectations, ultimately emphasizing the importance of independence and personal growth.

    The 49th Greatest Book of All Time
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

    The 8th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

    The novel follows the journey of a 29-year-old poet who is struggling with her identity and self-worth. She is in an unhappy marriage and fantasizes about a life of sexual and personal freedom. Her fantasies center around the "zipless fuck", a spontaneous and impersonal sexual encounter. She embarks on an affair with a British psychoanalyst in an attempt to realize her fantasies, but ultimately learns that true liberation comes from within.

    The 741st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Earthly Paradise by Colette

    "Earthly Paradise" is an evocative autobiographical collection that weaves together memories from the author's rural childhood and her experiences as a creative adult in Parisian society. The work is a rich tapestry of essays, anecdotes, and reflections that explore themes of nature, love, loss, and the passage of time. Through vivid storytelling and lyrical prose, the author reflects on the joys and sorrows of her life, offering insights into her personal philosophy and the artistic spirit that defines her work. The narrative serves as a poignant exploration of the human condition and the pursuit of happiness in a changing world.

    The 3223rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

    This memoir is a profound and heart-wrenching account of the author's impoverished childhood in Limerick, Ireland, during the 1930s and 1940s. The story is filled with tales of survival in the face of extreme poverty, an alcoholic father, a struggling mother, and the deaths of three siblings. Despite the harsh circumstances, the narrative is infused with a sense of humor and hope, demonstrating the resilience of the human spirit.

    The 706th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Property by Valerie Martin

    "Property" by Valerie Martin is a thought-provoking novel set in the 19th century American South, where the institution of slavery is deeply ingrained. The story follows the complex relationship between Manon, a white plantation mistress, and Sarah, her mulatto slave. Through their contrasting perspectives, the book explores themes of power, race, and identity, shedding light on the harsh realities of slavery and the inherent cruelty of human ownership.

    The 6493rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Set in the fictitious English town of Middlemarch during the early 19th century, the novel explores the complex web of relationships in a close-knit society. It follows the lives of several characters, primarily Dorothea Brooke, a young woman of idealistic fervor, and Tertius Lydgate, an ambitious young doctor, who both grapple with societal expectations, personal desires, and moral dilemmas. Their stories intertwine with a rich tapestry of other townsfolk, reflecting themes of love, marriage, ambition, and reform, making a profound commentary on the human condition.

    The 23rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

    The novel centers around the coming-of-age story of the protagonist, Annie John, in Antigua. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, she grapples with her complex relationship with her mother, her self-identity, and the colonial influence of the British on her island home. As she matures, her once close bond with her mother becomes strained, and she struggles with feelings of separation and independence. The narrative explores themes of colonialism, gender, and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships.

    The 902nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

    This influential work explores the treatment and perception of women throughout history, arguing that women have been repressed and defined only in relation to men. The author presents a detailed analysis of women's roles in society, family, work, and in the creation of their own identities. She discusses the concept of 'the other' and how this has been used to suppress women, while also examining the biological, psychological, and societal impacts of this oppression. The book is a seminal text in feminist theory, challenging traditional notions of femininity and calling for equality and freedom for women.

    The 121st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Runaway by Alice Munro

    "Runaway" is a collection of short stories that explore the depth of human relationships, the complexities of love, and the consequences of life's unpredictable turns. The stories revolve around women of varying ages and circumstances, each dealing with her own unique situation. Some are escaping from their past or present situations, while others are struggling to find their place in the world. The narratives delve into themes like betrayal, loss, and the often complicated dynamics between parents and children, and husbands and wives.

    The 2407th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

    The novel explores the spiritual isolation of misfits and outcasts in a small town of the U.S. South. Its protagonist is a deaf-mute who becomes the confidant for various troubled souls including a black physician, a bitter labor activist, a lonely young girl, and a struggling café owner. Each pours their heart out to him, but he remains unable to respond, reflecting the deep human need for connection and understanding.

    The 129th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts by Maxine Hong Kingston

    This memoir explores the life of a first-generation Chinese-American woman, navigating the complexities of her dual heritage. Through five interconnected stories, the book delves into the author's childhood experiences, her mother's tales of old China, and the struggles of reconciling these two worlds. The memoir is a blend of reality and mythology, illustrating the author's struggle with her identity, the expectations of her traditional Chinese family, and the challenges of growing up in a predominantly white American society.

    The 563rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

    This classic novel is a tale of love, revenge and social class set in the Yorkshire moors. It revolves around the intense, complex relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine's father. Despite their deep affection for each other, Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, leading Heathcliff to seek revenge on the two families. The story unfolds over two generations, reflecting the consequences of their choices and the destructive power of obsessive love.

    The 11th Greatest Book of All Time
  • You Must Remember This by Joyce Carol Oates

    "You Must Remember This" is a compelling family saga set in the post-World War II era, exploring the complexities of the Stevick family living in upstate New York. The narrative delves into the intricate and often tumultuous relationships within the family, particularly focusing on the forbidden love affair between a young girl and her uncle, which challenges the moral and social norms of the time. The novel intricately portrays the struggles, secrets, and desires that shape the characters, set against the backdrop of a rapidly changing American society. Through its vivid characterizations and emotional depth, the story examines themes of memory, identity, and the enduring impact of the past on the present.

    The 5906th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

    This classic novel follows the lives of the four March sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy - as they navigate the challenges and joys of adolescence and adulthood in 19th century New England. As they grow, they grapple with issues of poverty, gender roles, love, and personal identity, each in her own unique way. The story is a testament to the power of family, sisterhood, and female resilience in a time of societal constraints.

    The 65th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bad Behavior: Stories by Mary Gaitskill

    "Bad Behavior: Stories" is a collection of short stories that delve into the darker, often unexplored aspects of human relationships and behavior. The narrative navigates through the complex world of love, lust, power, and obsession, focusing on characters who are often marginalized or misunderstood. The stories provide a raw, unfiltered view of human nature, exploring themes of sexual deviance, emotional vulnerability, and societal norms.

    The 1912th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Liars' Club by Mary Karr

    The memoir is a gritty, often hilarious look at a childhood in a dysfunctional family in a small Texas town. The narrative follows the author's experiences growing up in the 1960s in a family rife with alcoholism, mental illness, and violence. It is a story of resilience and survival, as the author navigates her chaotic home life, the sexual abuse she suffered, and her mother's mental instability, eventually finding solace in literature and writing. Despite the harsh realities it depicts, the book is filled with humor and love, offering a poignant exploration of the bonds of family and the power of storytelling.

    The 1754th Greatest Book of All Time
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

    This memoir recounts the early years of an African-American girl's life, focusing on her experiences with racism and trauma in the South during the 1930s. Despite the hardships she faces, including sexual abuse, she learns to rise above her circumstances through strength of character and a love of literature. Her journey from victim to survivor and her transformation into a young woman who respects herself is a testament to the human capacity to overcome adversity.

    The 156th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

    This classic novel follows the life of Francie Nolan, a young girl growing up in the slums of early 20th century Brooklyn. The narrative explores her experiences with poverty, her pursuit of education, and her dreams of a better life. The tree in the title serves as a symbol of her resilience and hope, growing and thriving despite the harsh conditions around it, much like Francie herself.

    The 206th Greatest Book of All Time
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

    In this classic mystery novel, ten strangers are invited to a secluded mansion on a private island by a mysterious host who is nowhere to be found. As the guests begin to die one by one, mirroring a creepy nursery rhyme that hangs in each of their rooms, they realize that the killer is among them. As suspicion and fear escalate, they must uncover the murderer before no one remains.

    The 195th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

    "Bastard Out of Carolina" is a poignant coming-of-age story set in South Carolina. The narrative follows the life of a young girl who, despite being born out of wedlock, strives to find her place in a world that continuously subjects her to physical and emotional abuse. The book explores themes of poverty, violence, and resilience in the face of adversity, providing a raw and unflinching look at the protagonist's struggle for acceptance and love.

    The 507th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

    A group of six classics students at a small, elite Vermont college, led by a charismatic professor, become entranced by the study of Greek culture and decide to recreate a Dionysian ritual, which ends in a tragic accident. The group, bound by their shared secret, begins to unravel as paranoia and guilt take hold. The novel explores themes of beauty and terror, the allure of the esoteric, and the destructive consequences of obsession.

    The 191st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Little Disturbances by Grace Paley

    "Little Disturbances" is a collection of short stories that explore the daily lives and struggles of women, primarily Jewish New Yorkers. The stories are centered around themes of love, loss, and the complexities of life, with a particular focus on the female experience. The author's distinctive voice and vivid characters provide a poignant and often humorous look at the human condition.

    The 825th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

    This anthology is a comprehensive collection of the sharp-witted and poignant works of a celebrated American writer, known for her acerbic wit and keen observations of 20th-century urban life. It includes an array of her short stories, poems, essays, and reviews, showcasing her talents across different literary forms. The volume captures the essence of the author's incisive commentary on topics ranging from love and relationships to social issues, all delivered with her distinctive blend of humor and melancholy. Her writing remains a testament to her status as a formidable figure in American literature and a chronicler of the complexities of the human experience.

    The 1708th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Group by Mary McCarthy

    The novel follows the lives of eight female friends who graduate from Vassar College in 1933. As they navigate the complexities of adulthood, their stories intertwine and diverge, exploring themes of social class, sexuality, and women's roles during a time of political and social upheaval. The narrative delves into their personal and professional struggles, relationships, and the evolving landscape of women's independence, offering a candid and multifaceted portrayal of the challenges and expectations faced by women in the early 20th century.

    The 676th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    This graphic novel is a memoir that provides a personal account of the author's childhood and young adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. The story portrays the impact of war, political upheaval, and religious extremism on ordinary people, while also exploring themes of identity, resilience, and the power of storytelling. Despite the harsh realities the protagonist faces, the narrative also includes moments of humor and warmth, providing a nuanced view of life in Iran during this tumultuous period.

    The 630th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris May Lessing

    The novel centers around a woman named Anna Wulf, a writer who keeps four notebooks, each representing a different aspect of her life: her experiences in Africa, her current life in London, a novel she is writing, and her personal experiences. As Anna's mental state deteriorates, she attempts to unify her fragmented self in a fifth notebook, the golden notebook. The novel explores themes of mental breakdown, communism, the changing role of women, and the fear of nuclear war.

    The 87th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

    This book is a real-life account of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during World War II, written in diary format. The girl and her family are forced to live in a secret annex in Amsterdam for two years, during which she writes about her experiences, fears, dreams, and the onset of adolescence. The diary provides a poignant and deeply personal insight into the horrors of the Holocaust, making it a powerful testament to the human spirit.

    The 60th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

    This classic novel tells the story of a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sentient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. The scientist, horrified by his creation, abandons it, leading the creature to seek revenge. The novel explores themes of ambition, responsibility, guilt, and the potential consequences of playing God.

    The 30th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag

    This book is a collection of essays that challenge the traditional methods of interpretation and criticism of art and culture. The author argues that in our attempt to interpret and find deeper meaning, we often overlook the sensory experience of the work itself. The book encourages readers to experience art in its raw form, focusing on the form, color, and sounds, rather than trying to decipher a hidden meaning. It is a call for a new, more direct approach to consuming art and culture.

    The 671st Greatest Book of All Time
  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

    In the Time of the Butterflies is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Mirabal sisters who were activists against the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. The narrative is a blend of fact and fiction, presenting the personal lives and political involvement of the sisters, three of whom were assassinated for their roles in the resistance movement. The book explores themes of courage, sacrifice, love, and the power of women in the face of oppressive regimes.

    The 1600th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This novel tells the story of a poor farmer in rural China, who struggles to survive and prosper. Over time, he manages to build a life for himself and his family, eventually becoming a wealthy landowner. However, his newfound wealth and status lead to a moral decline, as he becomes disconnected from the land that gave him everything. The narrative explores themes of wealth, poverty, and the human connection to the earth.

    The 294th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

    The graphic memoir revolves around the author's childhood and youth in rural Pennsylvania, United States, in the backdrop of a dysfunctional family. The story particularly focuses on her complex relationship with her closeted gay father, who was an English teacher, a funeral home director, and a historic home restorer. The narrative is non-linear, exploring themes of sexuality, gender roles, suicide, emotional abuse, and the role of literature in understanding oneself and one's family.

    The 1731st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass

    "Three Junes" is a novel that explores the complexities of family relationships, love, and loss across three generations over the course of three Junes spanning a decade. The narrative primarily focuses on the life of a Scottish man and his two sons, one gay and living in New York, the other in a failing marriage. The novel is divided into three parts, each set in a different June and each from a different character's perspective, providing a rich and nuanced portrait of the characters' interconnected lives.

    The 6568th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

    This influential work from the late 18th century argues passionately for the education and societal recognition of women. The author asserts that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. The book is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy.

    The 317th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron

    Set in post-World War II Brooklyn, this novel follows the story of a young Southern writer who becomes friends with a Jewish scientist and a beautiful Polish Catholic survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The narrative unravels the tragic love triangle between the three characters, with the woman's haunting past and the horrific choice she had to make in the concentration camp serving as the heart of the story. The book delves into themes of survival, guilt, and the struggle to find meaning in the aftermath of atrocities.

    The 350th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

    The novel follows the lives of three young women in New York City from 1945 to 1965 as they navigate the ruthless world of show business and the cost of fame. Each woman becomes dependent on "dolls," a slang term for pills, as they deal with the pressures of their careers, personal lives, and societal expectations. The narrative explores themes of ambition, addiction, and the destructive side of fame, providing a gritty, unflinching look at the dark underbelly of the entertainment industry.

    The 1020th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

    Set in the 1930s, the novel revolves around the lives of British aristocracy, focusing on the love lives of young women in high society. The protagonist's cousin, Polly, shocks her family by choosing to marry a middle-aged, socially inferior man instead of a wealthy aristocrat. Meanwhile, the protagonist herself navigates her own romantic relationships amidst a backdrop of lavish parties, eccentric relatives, and societal expectations. The story offers a humorous and satirical look at the British upper class, highlighting their idiosyncrasies and the pressures they face.

    The 965th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War and Reconstruction era, this novel follows the life of a young Southern belle, who is known for her beauty and charm. Her life takes a turn when she is forced to make drastic changes to survive the war and its aftermath. The story revolves around her struggle to maintain her family's plantation and her complicated love life, especially her unrequited love for a married man, and her tumultuous relationship with a roguish blockade runner.

    The 47th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Left Hand Of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

    The novel is a groundbreaking work of science fiction that explores themes of gender, politics, and identity. Set on a planet called Gethen, where the inhabitants are ambisexual, shifting between male and female, the story follows an envoy from Earth who struggles to understand this alien society. As he navigates the complex political landscape of Gethen, he must also grapple with his own preconceptions about gender and sexuality. The book is a profound exploration of difference, otherness, and what it means to be human.

    The 276th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

    "The Red Tent" is a historical novel that reimagines the life of Dinah, a minor character in the Bible, who is given a rich narrative and voice by the author. The story is set in the times of the Old Testament and is told from the perspective of Dinah, exploring the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood. The novel delves deeply into the experiences of the women surrounding Dinah, particularly their practices within the red tent, where they gather during menstruation and childbirth. The narrative provides a vivid portrayal of the ancient world through the eyes of its female characters, highlighting their relationships, hardships, and resilience.

    The 6677th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

    Set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring period of Czechoslovak history, the novel explores the philosophical concept of Nietzsche's eternal return through the intertwined lives of four characters: a womanizing surgeon, his intellectual wife, his naïve mistress, and her stoic lover. The narrative delves into their personal struggles with lightness and heaviness, freedom and fate, love and betrayal, and the complexities of human relationships, all while offering a profound meditation on the nature of existence and the paradoxes of life.

    The 114th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Face Of War by Martha Gellhorn

    "The Face of War" is a compelling collection of war correspondence by one of the 20th century's most famous war reporters. The book gathers firsthand reports from various major conflicts, including the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Central America. Through vivid, unflinching prose, the author captures the human cost of war, focusing on the impact on soldiers and civilians alike. Her reports not only highlight the horrors and brutality of conflict but also the resilience and courage of the people she encounters. This collection serves as a poignant reminder of the personal stories behind the abstract facts of war.

    The 2406th Greatest Book of All Time
  • My Antonia by Willa Cather

    This novel follows the life of Antonia Shimerda, a Bohemian immigrant to the United States, through the eyes of her childhood friend, Jim Burden. The narrative explores their lives in the harsh environment of the American Midwest, their struggles with poverty, cultural adaptation, and personal growth. Antonia's resilience, strength, and love for life inspire Jim, who moves away for education and career but remains emotionally tied to the woman and the prairie life he left behind. The book is a compelling portrayal of pioneer life, human resilience, and the enduring power of friendship.

    The 118th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

    This novel follows the story of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza, who fall passionately in love in their youth. However, Fermina eventually marries a wealthy doctor, leaving Florentino heartbroken. Despite this, Florentino remains devoted to Fermina for over fifty years, patiently waiting for her husband's death to have another chance at her love. The story is set against the backdrop of a cholera epidemic, serving as a metaphor for the transformative power of love and the destructive power of obsession.

    The 112th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Harsh Voice by Rebecca West

    "The Harsh Voice" is a collection of four novellas that delve into the lives of various characters facing moral and personal dilemmas in early 20th-century settings ranging from New York to London and Paris. Each story explores themes of ambition, betrayal, and the complexities of human relationships through vividly drawn characters and emotionally charged narratives. The collection examines the harsh realities of life and the often painful consequences of human desires and decisions, showcasing the author's sharp insight into psychological and social dynamics.

    The 4942nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Spending by Mary Gordon

    In "Spending," the narrative revolves around Monica Szabo, a middle-aged, struggling painter in New York City who grapples with the challenges of balancing her artistic passion with financial stability. Her life takes a dramatic turn when she meets B., a wealthy commodities trader who admires her work and offers her an unconventional proposal: he will provide her with financial support, allowing her to focus solely on her art, in exchange for being her muse and lover. This arrangement challenges Monica's notions of independence, creativity, and intimacy, as she navigates the complexities of this modern patronage while exploring themes of power, gender dynamics, and artistic integrity.

    The 6731st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Lover by Marguerite Duras

    "The Lover" is a poignant exploration of forbidden love, power dynamics, and colonialism. Set in 1930s French Indochina, it tells the story of a tumultuous and passionate affair between a 15-year-old French girl and her wealthy, older Chinese lover. The narrative delves into the complexities of their relationship, the societal norms they defy, and the inevitable heartbreak that follows. The protagonist's struggle with her family's poverty and her mother's mental instability further complicates the story, making it a compelling exploration of love, desire, and societal constraints.

    The 299th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

    The 227th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen

    "Tell Me a Riddle" is a collection of four short stories that explore the lives of working-class Americans. The narrative primarily focuses on a married couple who are struggling with their relationship and their identities in the twilight of their lives. As the wife is diagnosed with a terminal illness, they are forced to confront their past, their choices, and their love for each other. The book paints an intimate portrait of their lives, their struggles, and their resilience, capturing the complexities of human relationships and the harsh realities of life.

    The 840th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

    "Nightwood" is a modernist novel that explores the complex relationships and sexuality of a group of Americans and Europeans living in Paris in the 1920s. The story primarily revolves around the tumultuous love affair between two women, one of whom is a married aristocrat. The narrative, known for its poetic and dense language, delves deep into the characters' psyches, exploring themes of identity, gender, and desire. The novel is also notable for its frank and groundbreaking depiction of homosexuality and transgender issues.

    The 319th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Three Lives by Gertrude Stein

    "Three Lives" is a series of novellas that explore the lives of three working-class women living in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Each story provides a detailed psychological portrait of a different woman: a black housekeeper, a worldly-wise servant, and a lower-middle-class German woman. The narrative delves into their personal struggles, their relationships, and their attempts to navigate the societal constraints of their time.

    The 860th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

    When a young, sophisticated woman is suddenly orphaned and left penniless, she decides to live with her eccentric relatives on their rundown farm. Using her urban sensibilities and wit, she sets about bringing order to the chaos and improving the lives of her relatives. Through her efforts, she manages to transform the gloomy, grim farm into a place of happiness and productivity. This novel is a hilarious parody of romantic, pastoral novels and is filled with eccentric characters and absurd situations.

    The 232nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

    "I Capture the Castle" is a coming-of-age novel that tells the story of 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her eccentric family living in a dilapidated English castle during the 1930s. Cassandra's father is a reclusive writer suffering from writer's block and her stepmother is a bohemian artist. The family's life changes dramatically when two American brothers inherit the estate. The novel, written in diary format, explores themes of love, poverty, and the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

    The 373rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Possession by A. S. Byatt

    "Possession" is a novel that interweaves two storylines, one set in contemporary times and the other in the Victorian era. The contemporary plot follows two academics who uncover a secret love affair between two 19th-century poets, while the Victorian storyline presents the clandestine romance itself. As the modern scholars delve deeper into the past, they find themselves falling in love as well, mirroring the historical romance they are researching. The book explores themes of love, passion, and the power of the written word.

    The 267th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

Jezebel, 75 Books

Jezebel lists the 75 books every woman should read. Here's their description:

We started you off with 20 culled from our editors' suggestions, and you guys took the ball and ran with it. A few notes on the compendium of 75 that you helped us compile below. As we said in the original post, most of the extant rosters of must-read classics are full of old white dudes. So our list is going to be mostly women. Which doesn't mean there are not myriad male-written must-reads! A second note: we're aware that "The Lottery" and "A Good Man is Hard to Find" are short stories. We were referring to the eponymous books that contained those stories as well as several others. Finally, we're in no way implying that this is the final word in amazing, rich, edifying books for women, so please refrain from the "OMG I can't believe you morons forgot X," comments, mkay? The alive 75, in no particular order,after the jump!

Added about 2 months ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 57%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • Voters: specific voter details are lacking
  • List: criteria is not just "best/favorite"
  • Voters: are mostly from a single country/location
  • Voters: Voters seem to have an agenda/bias of some kind
  • Voters: diversity of voters is very low

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