Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ten Books Every Woman In Her Twenties Should Read

This came to me via Pinterest; I suspect it was one of those many, many pins that people repin without going back to the original source, because I don't think the woman I follow would be so vapid as to actually like or recommend the books listed. Anyway, here it is:

10 Books Every Girl Should Read in Her Twenties

The comments are hilarious, but I decided to take one half of the flame war's advice to heart and write my own list. So here it is!

I thought about the criteria for a moment, probably more than I should: what life lessons do I think women my age "should" be learning? Why should you read any book at all? Is the purpose of a list like this entertain, to educate, or both? Neither? What makes a book of particular interest to women, as opposed to everyone? I think the list ended up kind of schizophrenic in that regard, but I think it's nonetheless an improvement.

(At Least) 10 Books Every Woman Should Read in Her Twenties, by Kokoba
  1. For the coming-of-age tale, I'd have to choose either Martha Quest or The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Both have female protagonists approaching, or eventually in, their twenties; they are both well-drawn and complex characters that I think (hope?) most women can relate to, despite both books being published over fifty years ago.
  2. The Beauty Myth, by Naomi Wolf. While I think criticisms of her (lack of) intersectionality are fair (it's more than middle class white women in feminism), The Beauty Myth was incredibly eye-opening for me. Wolf articulated so many things that I felt but couldn't adequately express. You'll never look at a magazine the same way again.
  3. Likewise, Betty Friedan's seminal The Feminine Mystique, the other big feminist text of the 20th century.
  4. Much as I hate money, we live in a world where managing finances is important. The two names I see tossed around a lot when it comes to money and saving are Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey. So either Orman's The Money Book For the Young, Fabulous, and Broke or Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Preferably both.
  5. On the flip side of money, I'd also recommend Bill McKibben's Deep Economy. You can agree or disagree with his solution (I don't think turning everything over to local communities is any kind of magic bullet cure), but the problem he outlines is compelling and worth serious consideration at a point in your life when you're laying the foundations for everything else: growth for the sake of growth doesn't make us happy.
  6. What's being in your twenties without ridiculous shenanigans? Not as fun (or dangerous) as it could be. But if that's not your bag, don't worry: the characters in Iris Murdoch's Under the Net get up to extremely hilarious mischief for you. Likewise, when you're down and out, watching someone else's life go to shambles is perversely comforting. This is the perfect book for that occasional morning-after moment: "My God, what did I do last night?!" Confession: this book has definitely provided that kind of comfort for me.
  7. Perhaps the only item from the original list that I'd keep is 20-Something, 20-Everything by Christine Hassler. I'm not normally one for woo-sounding self-help books, but we all need moments of introspection and over the course of the book Hassler forces you into just that.
  8. If I'm allowed to skew my list towards my nerdy pursuits (and I am, because it's my damn list!), then this slot goes to either Carl Sagan's Cosmos or Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. Not only our world, but our universe is an immeasurably vast and spectacular place; to go through life without that epiphany is a sad life indeed.
  9. Your mother's (or mother-substitute's) favorite book. Lawyer Mom was also a fiendish bookworm growing up, and when I turned ten she gave me her favorite book of all time, A Wrinkle in Time. Sharing favorite books deepens relationships, and maintaining strong relationships with positive female role models is important when you're young and directionless. Even if you hate the book, you've still learned something about her you didn't know before.
  10. And, finally, allow me one piece of cheese on this list: Paulo Coehlo's Veronika Decides to Die. You can summarize the whole book as "carpe diem," honestly, but it really resonated with me when I read it at age 23.

And that, after days of deliberation, would be my list of "10 books every woman in her twenties should read."

 What's yours?


  1. Ahh, see, you made the important semantic distinction when naming your list. The original really is a list of books for Girls. Yours is for Women. If only all 20-somethings acted like women, not girls.

    On topic, I don’t think I’ve read any of your suggestions (and with the exception of Austen, none of the other lists’ either). Hmm, except Orman’s book… Carl has a copy that I’ve flipped through. I spent a year or so obsessed with personal finance blogs, though, so I think I got most of both Orman and Ramsey’s stuff out of that.

    The first half of my 20s was wasted on paranormal fantasy fiction (much of it poorly written, at that). Perhaps this half should be on decent stuff…

    1. I'd like to think even Girls would benefit from a list for Women.

      The first half of my 20s was wasted on paranormal fantasy fiction (much of it poorly written, at that).

      No judgment coming from me over this. After all, whatever you read, it was probably still a better love story than Twilight.

    2. Quite true re: girls reading books for women, but not necessarily the other way around, you know?

      As to love stores and what not, many of the books I read were. None had quite so vacuous and insipid a heroine, at least. Although, it shames me to admit that the whole Twilight series was included. I just couldn’t properly abhor it without reading it. Luckily, I’ve learned in years since that I can make fun of 50 Shades without needing to read it. I’ve read plenty of erotica that didn’t stem from Twilight fan fic (nor has everyone’s grandma read it).