Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austenvia amazon.com, shutterstock
This novel was published in 1813, but in the two centuries since, no book has equalled its blend of comedy, satire, social commentary, and romance. Mrs. Bennett is one of the most famous fictional mothers of all time, with a single-minded focus on getting her five daughters married to the most eligible bachelors in their area. As a character, she’s both enraging and engaging.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tanvia amazon.com, shutterstock
This 1989 book was Tan’s first novel, and what a dramatic debut it was. Abuse, rape, hauntings, concubines, drowning, poisoning, starvation, abandonment, racism, child prodigies—these are just some of the many plot points covered in the book. The title refers to a regular mahjong game played by three older Chinese women, all immigrants to America, along with the daughter of a fourth. Tan deftly captures the voices of old and young alike, and she movingly conveys their longings and fears.