25 Books Every Woman Needs To Read In Her Lifetime

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25 Books Every Woman Must Read

Ladies, listen up. We've scoured the internet and found 14 of the most essential books any lady should read in her lifetime. From memoirs to classic novels, these books need to go on your shelves, floors, hallways, and bedside tables. With multi-dimensional characters, imperfect stories, and real experiences, we can all learn something from female representation in novels.

So without further ado, here is an extensive list of all the books women need to read.


Before you continue, we'd like you to know that there are affiliate links in this post. This means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the following links. We'd love for you to keep being able to enjoy fun articles like this one—for free! Oh, and P.S., prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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1. The Awakening

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You probably had to read The Awakening in High School. Maybe you didn't read it all the way through or skimmed the last few chapters. Well, stop what you're doing and re-read it. Or read it for the first time! For women, it's an important piece of literature that discussed feminist issues openly. Protagonist, Edna Pontellier struggles with her femininity and societal pressure to be a mother. Not only was in a historical novel during time of publication, but it's an important reminder that a novel about breaking out of societal norms was "controversial".

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2. The Bell Jar

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Sylvia Plath was a historic writer who wrote about "inappropriate" topics such as mental health and the female psyche. The Bell Jar is a must-read for women for a multitude of reasons. From important themes and characters to breaking the literary mold, Plath did us a favor as readers and women.

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3. Americanah

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a talented writer and author and it's obvious as to why Americanah is a national bestseller. Ifemelu and Obinze are two young people who have fallen in love in Nigeria, but Ifemelu heads to America. For the first time in her life she has to deal with her race and what that means in America. Americanah is a must read for women, and frankly, for every human being.

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4. Make Trouble

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Cecile Richards reflects on her childhood and early years in this inspiring memoir. Her trajectory is obvious, she was born to be a leader and hasn't stopped since her activism at Brown. If you're looking for an inspiring memoir this is your best bet.

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5. The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone

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Robin Green has quiet the career. You'll get lost in her fantastic stories of Hollywood and the crazy characters she was surrounded by. Bold and honest, you get what you get with The Only Girl. If you've ever been told you're unruly or un-ladylike then you and every other woman needs to read Green's first book.

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6. Wild

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Cheryl Strayed was lost; her mom had recently passed and her marriage was ending. She had nowhere to turn, no idea what to do. That is, until she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, she'd walk thousand of miles from the Mojave Desert to California, Oregon, and Washington State. By herself, all alone. The strength and determination she found in herself is inspiring and a good example of how resilient women can truly be. This novel is a must-read for women everywhere.

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7. The Scarlet Letter

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Another important story of a woman, for all women to read in their lifetime. And probably another book you might've overlooked in school. The injustice, unfairness, and frankly, sexism, might not be surprising in our modern world but what Nathaniel Hawthorne laid out in this revolutionary book is an important piece of fiction.

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8. Girl, Interrupted

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Susanna Kaysen details her time in a psychiatric hospital in this revolutionary memoir. She describes her time in McLean Hospital, surrounded by other women who sought help but may not have received it. An important read for women as it tries to explain insanity, mental health, and how it's perceived in women.

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9. A Room of One's Own

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Virginia Woolf was one of the most revolutionary writers ever. She was a talented writer who made history as a female writer. In A Room of One's Own, Woolf imagines what William Shakespeare's sister would be like. Just as talented and treated equally, Woolf explores what women need to flourish; a room of their own.

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10. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

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The cast of creative, dynamic, and endearing characters are a must-read for women. Meet Mrs. Threadgood, Evelyn, Ruth, and Idgie in this classic Southern story of how important friendships shape who we are, at all ages. Step back in time to witness this classic story of female friendships and bonds.

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11. I Was Told There'd Be Cake

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Sloane Crosley is a hilariously talented writer whose work will make your day a little brighter. In this collection of essays you'll be introduced to her wit and charm, while simultaneously falling in love with her stories. For women everywhere it's a fun book you can pick up and put down for years to come.

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12. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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For any woman who is feeling uninspired, stuck, or at a cross roads in her life or career, this novel will serve as your bible. Anne Lammot does a sensational job at helping you out of rut by motivating you to be the version of yourself. It's not a self-help book but rather a piece of literature that acts as your personal couch, aiding you in finding happiness.

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13. Helen of Troy

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Legendary women, unite! Read all about a woman who launched a thousand ships and started a war. Margaret George tells her story with poise and grace, leaving nothing out. Imperfect female protagonists deserve their own stories too. Find a character that's as dynamic and complicated as real women.

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14. We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Shirley Jackson was a trailblazing author who wrote about dark themes in the horror genre. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is no exception. Jackson tells the story of a mysterious family that struggles with family dynamics. It's not too farfetched, which is maybe why it's so scary. Jackson had a tough life and her work is impressive, something women should be able to read, and celebrate in the modern times.

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15. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

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First published in 1940 author, Carson McCullers became a literary sensation due to the complex and moving characters created in The Heart is A Lonely Hunter. McCullers celebrate those who are forgotten, left behind, or a little different in this compassionate novel that every woman must read once in her lifetime, if not more.

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16. Heavy

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Kiese Laymon wrote Heavy in an important time. Combining personal essays with intellectual commentary on the state of American society, Laymon makes the reader think about culture, community, and relationships within the scope of our nation.

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17. Dopesick

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Dopesick is an eyeopening look into America's opioid addition. Filled with horrific statistics that will make you reconsider our health care system and the way we go about "fixing" pain, this is a book every single woman should read.

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18. Educated

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Educated quickly became a New York Times bestselling book due Tara Westover's bizarre childhood and outstanding life. Having grown up in the mountains of Idaho, Tara was homeschooled by her survivalist parents and away from society as we know it. When her older brother gets himself into college, Tara tries too. Her drive to learn more and seek higher education helps Tara create a new life for herself and serve as an inspiration for women everywhere.

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19. The Handmaid's Tale

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You may have heard of the Hulu show based upon Margaret Atwood's classic but reading Handmaid's Tale should be a priority for women. Told through protagonist, Offred, we're introduced to a terrible dystopian future full of horrifying characters and repulsive laws. With a backdrop so bleak, the characters prove that there's strength inside of us all, even in the worst of times.

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20. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

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An American classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a beautiful and moving novel from writer Maya Angelou. In her debut memoir, Angelou retells the highs and lows of her childhood and how bigotry has affected her in every phase of life. Her strength and resilience is outstanding and this novel should absolutely be read by everyone.

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21. Becoming

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Speaking of inspiring, be sure to check out Becoming the vibrant and power memoir of Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States. Her memoir is a reflection of a life well lived and a powerful example to a wide variety of women who are seeking to accomplish their goals and overcoming obstacles along the way.

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22. The Diary of a Young Girl

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If you haven't read The Diary of Anne Frank, please kindly put down your computer and RUN to the nearest book store or Amazon prime a copy right away.

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23. An American Marriage

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An American Marriage is a powerful novel of relationships and the circumstances in which they change and alter. Celestial and Roy are newlyweds living the American Dream. When Roy is suddenly convicted of a crime in which he didn't commit, Celestial finds herself leaning on their friend and Roy's best man, Andre. When Roy suddenly gets out of prison earlier than expected, all three characters must adapt to change and search within themselves to find purpose.

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24. The Joy Luck Club

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The Joy Luck Club brings four Chinese women together in 1949 San Francisco. With an keen eye Amy Tan writes about culture through the eyes of the women of different generations and builds the importance of passing along tradition, regardless of age.

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25. The Feminine Mystique

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The Feminine Mystique is a must-read for women who want to learn about the women and movements that broke barriers and led the way for female independence. Betty Friedan spoke to a generation of women who were frustrated and fed up with the roles society pushed onto them unwillingly.

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We hope you love the products we recommend! Before you continue, we’d like you to know that there are affiliate links in this article. This means Women.com may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the following links. Prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.