My Top Ten Reading List for Women in Their Twenties #bindersfullofwomen

There are several articles finding their way to book lover twitter discussions about reading lists for women in their twenties. Well, that is, there is one for girls (Books-every-girl-should-read-in-her-twenties)  and there is a rebuttal blog (The-worst-book-list-for-women-ever!)which offers a list for intelligent women: (Novels-i-think-you-should-read-if-youre-a-lady-in-your-20s).  

Go check these out and come right back.

I definitely like the second list better, but would reform it based upon the books the I have read (we all carry that little difference around with us), not to mention my age and occupation as a lawyer.   I have seen and learned things far past my own experiences and would love to spare any woman the pain.

It is a fun year for this kind of list, with more "Year of the Woman" chatter than I have heard in a long, long time, and especially with all the #bindersfullofwomen chatter (funny, no matter which way you are voting!!), with my favorite being this picture, because we all love us a little Dirty Dancing, and, being Americans, it is sure good to laugh at our inside political jokes: 

 Besides, I just learned on Pinterest that:

So, I shall post my list, with every single book chosen because it has a special, substantive offering for womankind. But, being a true bibliofile, I break into hives at the mere thought of ever listing a mere ten books. So instead, here is the list of just over 10 subjects with suggested books,  for all of you lovely wonderful women in your twenties that I know and don't know, may the force be with you:

(Or for all women out there, yes every single one of us, why limit it to our twenties?)


Les Misérables* Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo, the ABRIDGED version (Girl,  don't be a martyr). I can't think of a better book that gives a true glimpse into the lives of several women and their choices or their lack of choices, not to mention the very fact that the miserable, the poor, the downtrodden have always been with us and will always be with us, and we should remember that. This is the book that inspired the wonderful musical of the same name, which gave us the "I Dreamed A Dream" song that rocked Susan Boyles to instant fame. That song is the best tribute to a woman's crushed hopes based upon her love of a man in her own youth that I have ever heard. But it is also a book of faith, hope and love, with the greatest of these being love. Read it. Read it now, and read it again later in life, and ponder.

2. The -- I Came From Nothing and You Can Too True Women Survival Stories / Memoirs:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Poor NY Girl Gets Education and Out of Poverty Despite All Odds) or

The Glass Castle

The Glass Castle (Poor Southern Girl Gets Education and Out of Poverty Despite All Odds)

Yes, these books are from women who grew up in dire circumstances, yet they survived and thrived mainly because of a teacher or two who noticed and encouraged them, but also because of their indomitable spirit.

3. The -- You Can Beat Me, You Can Almost Kill Me, but I Will Survive Stories: 
The Color Purple The Color Purple (Unloved Black Woman Finds Strength, Love, and Dignity),  

BelovedBeloved (How She Made Sure Her Babies Were Safe),  

The HelpThe Help (Just A Little Southern Chocolate Pie) or 

HomeHome (Standing Tall Despite Being Broken), 

or Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating WomenMaya Angelou's Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women (Celebrating the Diamond)

Gone With the Windor  Gone With The Wind (Making Good on A Vow to Never Go Hungry Again and Saving Everyone Else Who Hates You, Too)

These women had it tough. Tough. And yes, for the record, I think the black woman stories show without a doubt who has had it the most tough, while they are the most amazing at their keep getting up and going ability. And I know that Gone With the Wind is pathetic in its voice portrait of black persons, but it is right on with the South of the times and Scarlett's desire to survive no matter what. All of these offerings deserve a read, so get going.

4. The -- Get a Grip, This is For Real, and It Happens to You Because You are a Woman Stories: 

The Vagina Monologues 

The Vagina Monologues (Frank Talk by Women) or  

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns (Story of Abuse and Redemption of Two Women under the Taliban Rule) or  

Reading Lolita in TehranReading Lolita in Tehran (What an English Teacher Does When the Taliban Says She Can No Longer Teach Because She is a Woman)

As a female lawyer I continue to be baffled about the desire to stick our heads in the sand about this. Why do we want to sugar coat it and then come crying when it happens to us? Please, please read these books and know that it can happen to you. It can happen to your daughters and your mothers and your loved ones. Period. Face it now, talk about it now, please, and maybe with the knowledge of the truth we can make sure it happens less and less and less.

5. The -- Southern Tough Diamond in the Rough Stories (Warning, the "B" Word is Coming): 

True GritTrue Grit (I am Small But I am Mighty Country Girl) or        

These Is My Words (Sarah Agnes Prine, #1)These Is My Words (Uneducated Pioneer Woman Survives in Arizona Territory) or  

Cold MountainCold Mountain (From Belle to Farmer) or  
Steel Magnolias 
Steel Magnolias, the stage play (yes, it is more than ok to read a stage play and it is about being Tough) or  

By the Shores of Silver LakeBy the Shores of Silver Lake (You Think You Have it Tough? I Survived Almost Starving or Freezing to Death)

Southern women have different stories. It is just true. These books exemplify these stories in different ways, but ultimately show the backbone of the southern woman. Our stories are important, too, so please read them and learn about us, and know that while we may be lovely, we are tough.

6. The -- Life or War May Kill You, But You Might Survive and Then What Stories: 

Sophie's ChoiceSophie's Choice (The Ultimate Mother's What Would You Do WWII Holocost Story), or The Hiding PlaceThe Hiding Place (Holocost Sole Survivor Yet Full of Faith Story) or  

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of ChinaWild Swans (Three Generations of Chinese Women Survive Multiple Governments) or  

The Good EarthThe Good Earth (Ultimate Chinese Woman Survival Story) 

I hope to God that I never have to go through what these women went through. And I hope that you never do either. But we should read 'em and weep in solidarity.

7. The -- Romance, or Not, Stories:

 Far from the Madding Crowd   
Far From the Madding Crowd (Love Lessons in Stupidity, the Hard Way),   
Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility   (Love Lessons in Stupidity, Another Hard Way), 


Why We Broke UpWhy We Broke Up (Modern Love Lessons in Stupidity the Stream of Conciousness Way),  

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice (The Ultimate I Was SO Wrong About Him Love Story).  Really, it is ok to read romance novels. And it is an absolute must that you read Pride and Prejudice.

If you think Pride and Prejudice is just another stupid book that advocates a girl should marry a man because he is rich, you've missed the whole point of the book.  You might try it again, and see that Lizzy (who is basically a modern day know it all smart female, raised by her father to be quite the independent thinker) realizes that she was duped and dumb, and she has to learn to recognize a real trustworthy man in love when she sees one.  And, while I find plenty of opportunity to question Harold Bloom, you might want to know why he says that Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice "can rival any novel ever written." You can disagree with him, but make sure it is on an informed basis, and ask yourself why this book still has such a following 199 years after it was written.   

But please don't stop there. Read these others to find out what romance is and isn't.

8. The -- Oh My God, I Married HIM!! Stories:

Anna Karenina 
Anna Karenina (The Russian No Way Out Story) or  

Madame BovaryMadame Bovary (The French No Way Out Story) or  
Thérèse Raquin Far From the Madding Crowd (The English No Way Out Story), or Therese Raquin (The French --There is a Way Out, oh, wait, OMG!!!  OK There is No Way Out!) or  

The House of MirthThe AwakeningThe Awakening (The American No Way Out Story) or  

The House of Mirth (An American I Desperately Need a Way In, No Way Out Story).

Read these B-E-F-O-R-E you get married.

9. The Quintessential -- I May Be Your Mother, But You Will Miss Me When I Am Gone Stories:

To the LighthouseTo the Lighthouse (What a Family Does With And Without Mom) or Still AliceStill Alice (What Happens When Mom Gets Altzheimers), or  

The Year My Mother Died: A MemoirThe Year My Mother Died: A Memoir (What You Go Through When Mom Dies, From a Palliative Care Doctor With Love)

I Love you, Mom.

10. The -- Yes, they Really Did Hang Women Who Refused to Denounce Witches or Make Them Suffer for Their Sexuality or Chopped Off Their Heads for Failing to Produce an Heir -- Stories:
The Heretic's DaughterThe Heretic's Daughter (What Happened to the Woman Who Drew the Line on the Salem Witch Hunt) or  

The Scarlet LetterThe Scarlet Letter (It Takes Two to Tango, but only One Bears the Punishment of the Crime) or  

Bring Up the Bodies (Wolf Hall, #2)Bring Up the Bodies (Dear Anne, you Chit -- A Boy or a Head, it is that Simple, Sex Will Only Get You So Far With A King) 

Again, you should know what has happened to women because they are women. These stories exemplify the because you are a female experience. 

11. The final offer, for good measure, must be The Feminist Writings 

These seem to have gone by the wayside, but I read them in my teens or twenties, and I am VERY GLAD that I did:

Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-EsteemGloria Steinem, esp.   
 Ms Means MyselfMs Means Myselfby Gladys Hunt

Smart Women/Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men Avoiding the Wrong OnesSmart Women/Foolish Choices: Finding the Right Men Avoiding the Wrong Ones

And one sneaky little out of print book series written during the height of the feminist movement: Angelique (Angelique: Original version, #1)Angelique (and all the Angelique books).  Looks like a romance, but is about being a strong woman. 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Ro Huizinga said…
Gone with the Wind and Anna Karenina unabridged, but Les Miserables abridged?!?! Tisk-tisk! Also, since Steel Magnolias was a stage play before it was a screen play, this thirty-something theatre-aholic suggests reading the stage play. Interesting list, and best use of humor I've seen regarding the "binders" gaffe.
Sydney Young said…
Oops, meant stage version! Thanks Ro! And yes huge concession for me to ever suggest abridged but yes, definitely abridged! The French politics are too minor and get in the way.
Ro Huizinga said…
The unabridged Les Mis is on my books "bucket list" along with Cervantes' Don Quixote. One of these years...
Sydney Young said…
They are both so worth it. I had a harder time with Don Quixote, but it could have been that I was reading it out of my Harvard Classics set and that just FEELS so old. Another great book with a great musical made out of it!

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