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10 Books Written by Female Authors Every Woman Should Read in Her Lifetime

When it comes to female-authored novels that inspire, encourage, and entertain, consider this collection the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

1 / 10

To the Lighthouse

This 1927 novel by Virginia Woolf tells the story of the Ramsay family and their vacation to the Isle of Sky to escape the turmoil of living in London. While the plot appears seemingly simplistic from the outset, the novel is widely considered to be some of Woolf’s best writing, as it effectively captures the power and poignancy of life’s “little moments,” and how they come together to help shape a life’s purpose. If you’ve read all the best sellers, these small-press gems should be next on your reading list.

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2 / 10

Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison won both the National Book Award and the 1977 Nobel Prize in literature for this masterpiece, which explores the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead, as well as his coming-of-age as a black man in Michigan during the mid-20th century. This novel provides an insightful look at a person’s striving for identity, acceptance, and most of all—love. What book defined your decade? Find out from the most popular book from the year you were born.

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3 / 10

The Joy Luck Club

This 1989 debut novel by Amy Tan tells the story of four immigrant Chinese women and the delicate relationships they foster with their American-born daughters. In the novel, which was a finalist for a National Book Award, Tan addresses universal themes of family, love, femininity, and forgiveness, while never losing sight of the fundamental struggles that mothers and daughter encounter. Check out the 18 classic books you can read in one day!

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4 / 10

The Color Purple

This epic 1982 novel by Alice Walker won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and spawned a 1985 Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. This intense novel, which ranks as of the most frequently banned books in America because of its violence and language, focuses on the life of a group of African American women living in the rural south in the 1930s. As such, it addresses weighty themes such as racism, religion, love, marriage, and sexual identity. Want to examine a few more controversial titles? Check out this list of banned and challenged classics.

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5 / 10

White Teeth

This 2000 award-winning debut novel by British author Zadie Smith tells the story of two friends whose lives are forever intertwined—for better and for worse—after their shared experiences in World War II. Its fast-moving plot touches on everything from race, ethnicity, and religion to society, class struggles, and identity. The novel’s complex analysis of these heavy themes is even more remarkable if you consider the fact that Smith was only 24 when she wrote it.

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6 / 10

The Liar’s Club

In her 1995 memoir, Mary Karr tells the story of her childhood, growing up in the 1960s in an east Texas oil town. In the book, she shares intimate details about her alcoholic but hardworking father, her secretive and put-upon mother, and her complicated relationship with her old sister. It’s a haunting but humorous reminder that when it comes to family, there is a fine line between tragedy and comedy.

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7 / 10

The Handmaid’s Tale

A mix of science fiction and “speculative” fiction, this award-winning dystopian 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood shares the point of view of a nameless narrator who is subjugated to as a “handmaid” to a male “commander” for the sole purpose of conceiving a child. In this critically acclaimed novel, women in this futuristic society are stripped of their identity and trapped in servitude to their male owners—and can experience love only through the power of their own memories. Don’t miss these 10 high school English books you should read again as an adult.

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8 / 10


In 1816, 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was hanging around with her future husband, Percy Shelley, as well as a few other male literary types, including the poet Lord Byron. Bored, Shelley challenged the group to craft the scariest ghost stories they could muster. It was then that the future Mary Shelley crafted one of the most legendary and enduring tales in all of English literature: Frankenstein, a tale of the horrors that can result from testing the limits of consciousness and scientific inquiry. Don’t miss these other scariest books of all time.

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9 / 10

If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?

Long before comedic moms like Jenny Lawson, Tina Fey, and Amy Poehler were making us laugh, there was Erma Bombeck, a humor columnist who found literary success in the 1970s and ’80s sharing the everyday trials and tribulations of being a housewife and mother. Over the course of her career, Bombeck published more than 4,000 newspaper columns and 15 books, including this laugh-out-loud one from 1978, in which Bombeck pokes fun at everything from marriage to family vacations to the national anthem. Don’t miss these books everyone lies about reading.

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10 / 10

A Wrinkle in Time

Published in1962, this young adult novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle was considered groundbreaking because it featured a young female as the protagonist of a science fiction novel, which was practically unheard of at the time. The novel, which won the 1963 Newberry Medal and has never gone out of print, is a supernatural tale of 13-year-old Meg Murry’s adventures with time travel, but also touches on adolescent motifs related to fate versus free will and good versus evil. Next, find out the most iconic book set in each state.

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