George R.R. Martin wrote that, “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.” These words, and many like them, really reflects the impact books can have on people. Books can transport readers to other lands and time periods, offer a different view on society, or as as an escape from reality. It’s fun to experiment and pick a book at random from the shelf to explore. Sometimes, though, you just want to delve into one of those books that every well read person has read, and see what all the fuss is about.
Everyone has their own individual tastes and, of course, everyone has their favorite books. But there is something about reading a widely discussed book that can change your life. It may change your perspective on a controversial topic, create a connection between you and a stranger, or just give you something to add when it’s brought up in conversation, as books so often are.Opening that first page and wondering if it is going to have as much of an effect on you as it seems to have had on everyone else is an exciting moment, and there is nothing like experiencing an unexpected, jaw-dropping twist for the first time. From the classics to contemporary works, here are 17 books every well-read woman should add to her “To Read” list as soon as possible.
1. 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone' by J.K. Rowling
The first book in the Harry Potter series is a must read for everyone, even if you decide to skip the next six (but you won’t.) The story of an orphaned boy who discovers he is a wizard has had a bigger impact on the world, and literature, than one could have imagined. From theme parks to one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was the start of what was to become a cultural phenomenon. Plus, you don’t want to be the only person who can’t answer whether you’d be in Gryffindor or Hufflepuff.
2. 'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
Although Harper Lee’s debut novel has never fallen off the radar, To Kill a Mockingbird has had somewhat of a renaissance this year, since the disappointing release of the sequel, Go Set a Watchman. This famous tale explores racism, prejudice, and the loss of innocence — powerful themes that make this book so important to read.
3. 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland transports you to a fantastical world, and features some of the best known and best-loved literary characters of all time. The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter, The Queen of Hearts, and especially Alice herself, are an iconic bunch, and this 1865 book is one which has certainly stood the test of time.
4. 'The Bloody Chamber' by Angela Carter
If fairytales with feminist undertones are your bag, then The Bloody Chamber will be a thrilling read. Though her collection of short stories, Carter subverts well known fairytales, putting a very different spin on stories which have been retold for generations. This book will give you a whole new perspective on tales you already know and love.
5. 'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (and Other Concerns)' by Mindy Kaling
When it comes to non-fiction, the wise words of Mindy Kaling are not to be missed. In her first book, Is Everyone Handing Out Without Me, Kaling shares stories of childhood, love, loss, and working in a male-dominated world with a humorous voice that her fans know and adore. It’s a warm, funny read which, because of the structure, you can dip in and out of any time you need a little boost.
6. 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath
7. 'Northern Lights' by Philip Pullman
When I asked a friend for a book recommendation she told me to read Northern Lights for the kick-*ss heroine, enriching themes, and a great story. And it lived up to the hype. The first of a young adult fantasy trilogy set in a parallel universe, Northern Lights mixes magic with theology and adventure, and the intricate world Pullman creates will captivate you.
8. 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott
You may have read this book when you were younger, but is definitely one to pick up again as an adult. Little Women tells the story of four sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy — and their experiences their experiences of growing up and discovering their identities It’s a heartwarming, emotional tale and one that will resonate closely with anyone who grew up with a sister.
9. 'Bad Feminist' by Roxane Gay
Released in 2014 from American writer, professor and cultural commentator Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist explores what it means to be a feminist in today’s society. In her collection of essays, Gay examines these ideas in essays on gender and sexuality, race, entertainment and politics. Whether you’re a feminist looking for a great new addition to your bookshelf, or looking to educate yourself on the subject for the first time, this is definitely one to check out.
10. 'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller
Written in 1953, set in 1692, and still relevant in 2015, The Crucible explores the danger of mass hysteria in a world that, often, indulges in them. Written when McCarthyism was sweeping the country, Miller uses the Salem Witch Trials as an allegory for what was going on in America. His depiction of characters being used as scapegoats for crimes there is little evidence they committed makes this a thought provoking read.
11. 'Bridget Jones’s Diary' by Helen Fielding
Even if you’ve seen the movie, you have to read Bridget Jones’s Diary. Fielding’s writing is laugh out loud funny, and Bridget is a character who most women will be able to identify with on some level. Her dating dilemmas, family dramas, career worries, and general life experiences reflect what a lot of young women go through, making it an incredibly relatable read.
12. 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice may be a classic, but it was ahead of its time in terms of the depiction of its female characters and relationships. Austen’s witty writing and strong characters make this an entertaining read, while you can’t help but be swept up in the romance of it all. It you’re a romantic at heart, you must have a copy of this in your bookcase.
13. 'White Teeth' by Zadie Smith
A multi award-winning novel, White Teeth examines immigration, race, and assimilation from several cultural perspectives. Although the topics are serious, Smith discusses them in a comedic tone that makes them easier to digest and the use of fantasy-like elements make for an entertaining read.
14. '1984' by George Orwell
15. 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
You’ve probably gazed adoringly at Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in the Baz Lurhmann movie version, but much like Bridget Jones’s Diary, this is another situation where you still have to read the novel to get a true feel for what Fitzgerald created. The Great Gatsby, which deconstructs the idea of the American dream, gradually looking behind the external decadence of Gatsby’s world, to the murkier reality beneath the surface.
16. 'The Stepford Wives' by Ira Levin
The Stepford Wives tells the story of Joanna Eberhart, who moves with her family to Stepford, a seemingly idyllic Connecticut town. As Joanna begins to realize how completely submissive the wives in the town are, it becomes clear that something incredibly sinister is going on in her new hometown. This satirical novel examines gender roles in a fascinating way, and the title has gone on to become part of our everyday vocabulary.
17. 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn
If you love a thriller, then you’d be mad to miss Gone Girl. A best-seller and major motion picture, the dramatic read acted as a catalyst for a new wave of crime novel featuring complex and flawed female characters. This study of a complicated relationship between a husband and wife is one watercooler novel you don’t want to miss.