The Jezebel Challenge: 75 Books Every Woman Should Read

[tweetmeme source=”sarahockler” only_single=false]We’re taking a break from YA today to bring you The Jezebel Challenge, my 2010 reading project inspired by’s 75 Books Every Woman Should Read. I stumbled upon the 2008 compilation during one of my late night / early morning non-parentally-supervised Web wanderings after finding a copy of Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying in a local thrift store and adding it to my Goodreads list.

I’m glad I discovered Jezebel’s list, because while I have tons of resources for great YA recommendations, I’ve been on the lookout for some good adult fiction and classic literature for an occasional switch-up. I also like that this particular list focuses mostly on women authors. Three of my favorite adult authors are men — Jack Kerouac, Tom Robbins, and Douglas Adams — so my non-YA bookshelves are disproportionately stacked with dudes.

There are lots of “best books” and “top classic books” and “you should totally read these books or you’re lame” lists out there, and each of them is more humbling to me than the last. Jezebel’s lady list is no exception. I don’t know how I’ve lived this long as a woman, a reader, and a writer without reading some of these works.

To remedy this gross oversight in my reading education, I’m officially adopting Jezebel’s list as my reading project for 2010 (and possibly into 2011, if we’re being honest). As you can see from all that green, I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do, but I’m looking forward to it. Of the listed books I’ve already read, I’ve seriously loved them all — some are even in my top ten — so I trust that this will be a rewarding experience.

I’ll be tracking my progress all year on my Jezebel Challenge shelf at Goodreads. If you want to take the challenge with me, let me know! I’d love to have a friend to chat with along the way.

My personal key for the list below:

*Read it!*
Own it, but haven’t read it yet.
Need to get it and add it to the TBR list!
++ I’ve read other works by the author.

Here goes…

75 Books Every Woman Should Read, by

  1. The Lottery (and Other Stories), Shirley Jackson
  2. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf ++
  3. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
  4. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  5. The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende
  6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion ++
  7. Excellent Women, Barbara Pym
  8. *The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath* ++
  9. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
  10. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
  11. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  12. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  13. Like Life, Lorrie Moore ++
  14. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  15. *Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë*
  16. The Delta of Venus, Anais Nin ++
  17. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley
  18. A Good Man Is Hard To Find (and Other Stories), Flannery O’Connor
  19. The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx ++
  20. You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down, Alice Walker
  21. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  22. *To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee*
  23. Fear of Flying, Erica Jong
  24. Earthly Paradise, Colette
  25. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
  26. Property, Valerie Martin
  27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  28. Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid
  29. The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir
  30. Runaway, Alice Munro
  31. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers
  32. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston ++
  33. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
  34. You Must Remember This, Joyce Carol Oates ++
  35. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
  36. Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill
  37. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr
  38. *I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou*++
  39. *A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, Betty Smith*
  40. And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie
  41. *Bastard out of Carolina, Dorothy Allison*
  42. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
  43. The Little Disturbances of Man, Grace Paley
  44. The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
  45. The Group, Mary McCarthy
  46. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
  47. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  48. *The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank*
  49. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
  50. Against Interpretation, Susan Sontag
  51. *In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez* ++
  52. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  53. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
  54. *Three Junes, Julia Glass*
  55. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary Wollstonecraft
  56. Sophie’s Choice, William Styron
  57. Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
  58. Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford
  59. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  60. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. LeGuin
  61. *The Red Tent, Anita Diamant*
  62. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  63. The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
  64. My Antonia, Willa Cather
  65. Love In The Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  66. The Harsh Voice, Rebecca West
  67. Spending, Mary Gordon
  68. The Lover, Marguerite Duras
  69. The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
  70. Tell Me a Riddle, Tillie Olsen
  71. Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  72. Three Lives, Gertrude Stein
  73. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
  74. I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
  75. Possession, A.S. Byatt

While it’s impossible to create an all-encompassing list of great books for women, Jezebel’s recommendations look diverse and interesting, and I can’t wait to dive in. Personally, I’d also add these to the list (especially Atwood, Lindbergh, and Blum, who aren’t otherwise represented):

  1. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  2. Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  3. A Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  4. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, Sylvia Plath
  5. The Diaries of Anais Nin, Anais Nin
  6. Annapurna: A Woman’s Place, Alrene Blum

[tweetmeme source=”sarahockler”]What about you? Do you agree with Jezebel’s list? Do you have any must-reads for women not covered here? And remember — if you want to read with me or chat about any of these books, let me know!

7 thoughts on “The Jezebel Challenge: 75 Books Every Woman Should Read

  1. I’m shocked they left A Handmaid’s Tale and Anais Nin’s Diaries off their list! Good additions.

    What about books you haven’t read in a long time? I’m not sure how I’d categorize books I read 10+ years ago.

    Thanks for reminding me about Goodreads. I need to keep up with it. Some of these titles I look at and think “Did I read that? I think I read that…”

    • Yeah, I wasn’t sure how to categorize the “oldies” either — like To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Eyre. Basically, all the stuff I probably read in class with you back in the day! 🙂 I decided to keep them as “read” for now, but I may actually re-read them. I remember loving To Kill a Mockingbird.

      I was so happy when Goodreads was invented. I’d always wanted to track the books I read and what I thought of them. Much better than a Word doc or spreadsheet!

  2. Good information, good lists; anything Mitford is exceptional in my book (ha)

  3. I should read more….being a mother of an author…I’ve only read four off that list!!

    • Well I know you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn since you gave it to me! You can read the others I have if you want. I’m almost done with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

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