Before you read this list, we strongly recommend reading Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Books Every Woman Should Read.
Here is the second list of titles of Experimental Wifery’s list of the 100 Books Every Woman Should Read, the Essential Woman’s Library:
- The Metamorphoses by Ovid
- The Letters of Abelard and Heloise by Abelard and Heloise
- Othello by William Shakespeare
- The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Jane Eyre by Charlote Bronte
- Hard Times by Charles Dickens
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
- The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
- A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
- The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
- Tess of the D’Uberviles by Thomas Hardy
- Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde
- Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- Loaves and Fishes by Dorothy Day
- Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- The Miracle Worker by Frank Gibson
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
- The Princess Bride by William Golding
- The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- Wit by Margaret Edson
Ovid’s history of Greek and Roman mythology from the creation of the world to the ascension of Caesar Augustus. Characters like Echo, Persephone, and Arachne suffer at the hands of the gods and unrelenting fate as they the stage for the rest of Western literature.
After Abelard was forcibly castrated, he convinced his wife to enter a convent. For the rest of their lives, they carried on a sometimes-passionate, always erudite correspondence. Though they never met again, Heloise left instructions for her body to be buried in his tomb.
In my opinion, Shakespeare’s most tragic tragedy. Desdemona is one of literature’s most loving, faithful wives—which, as she finds out, isn’t always its own reward.
My noble father,
I do perceive here a divided duty.
To you I am bound for life and education.
My life and education both do learn me
How to respect you. You are the lord of my duty,
I am hitherto your daughter. But here’s my husband,
And so much duty as my mother showed
To you, preferring you before her father,
So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor my lord.
After The Divine Comedy, the most famous and widely-read work of Italian literature. Renzo and Lucia fight against impossible odds—including wealthy thugs and the bubonic plague—to make good on their promise to marry each other. During the course of this epic, 800-page novel, they learn that adversity is part of what makes us who we are.
Misfortunes most commonly happen to us from our own misconduct of imprudence; but sometimes from causes independent of ourselves; that the most innocent and prudent conduct cannot always preserve us from them; and that, whether they arise from our own fault or not, trust in God softens them, and renders them useful in preparing us for a better life.
Another Austen novel about virtuous women looking for virtuous husbands. Elizabeth Bennett learns the hard way that first impressions aren’t always right and there is often more to people than meets the eye.
Jane struggles to balance a woman’s need for financial stability with her need for love in nineteenth-century England.
Louisa is taught from the cradle to value facts and ignore feelings. Her life is an object lesson that a marriage without love means nothing.
Some persons hold . . . that there is a wisdom of the Head, and that there is a wisdom of the Heart.
Perhaps literature’s most disastrous love affair. Emma discovers that a woman can’t afford to let the idealistic dreams of her childhood ruin her adult life.
Emily Dickinson is one of the most highly-regarded English-speaking poets. Her deeply intimate poetry opens a window into her distinctively feminine mind.
The soul selects her own society,
Then shuts the door;
On her divine majority
A crime novel, psychological thriller, and philosophical treatise all rolled into one. Raskolnikov sets himself above the rest of the human race when he murders a miserly pawnbroker and her sister. It’s only through the love of the paradoxically pure prostitute Sonya that he begins to accept his humanity.
One of the best books ever written for girls. Sara Crew proves to her unkind school-mistress and to herself that princess is as princess does.
It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it.
A gregarious, red-headed orphan searches for a home to call her own. Anne discovers the value of being a part of a loving family and community.
It won’t make a bit of difference where I go or how much I change outwardly; at heart I shall always be your little Anne, who will love you and Matthew and dear Green Gables more and better every day of her life.
One of the world’s first superhero-in-disguise stories. Marguerite desires her dim-witted but wealthy husband’s adoration but isn’t willing to respect him in return. She courts disaster when she refuses to ask for his help when the revolutionary French government threatens the life of her beloved brother.
It has always seemed to me that it must be heavenly to be loved blindly, passionately, wholly—worshipped, in fact… And I was ready to respond; I would have allowed myself to be worshipped and given infinite tenderness in return.
In this early modern novel, Tess is the tragic product of man’s world in which she has no power to make the right choices.
Another Oscar Wilde dark comedy, this time about judgment, mistakes, and a mother’s love. Lady Windermere finds that the Puritanical standards to which she holds others are more difficult to live up to than she thought.
The basis for the vintage musical My Fair Lady. The play isn’t so much a Cinderella-story about a flower girl as a story about a poor, simple-minded woman becoming a self-sufficient human being.
One of the most important works of Modernist literature. Among other things, Woolf explores the conflicting desires for privacy and intimacy within a marriage.
Dorothy Day has been described as “the first hippie” for her radical views about the costs of poverty and war. Loaves and Fishes is her account of the Catholic Worker Movement she founded to support pacifism and give hospitality to the poorest of the poor.
A Novel-prize-winning trilogy of historical novels set in medieval Norway. Undset not only captures a remote time and place but also the mysterious way things work out in life—even when they don’t turn out the way we planned.
Good days can last a long time if one tens to things with care and caution; all sensible people know that. That’s why I think that sensible people have to be satisfied with the good days—for the grandest days are costly indeed.
The most famous pre-Hunger Games dystopian novel. Desires are always met is this futuristic society that may hit a little too close to home for some twenty-first-century readers. For the experimental wife, Huxley’s novel is at its most evocative—and horrifying—when it describes a world where maternity has disappeared and “mother” is a swear word.
The story of a blind and deaf girl and the woman who taught her to communicate. Anne Sullivan struggles to give Helen Keller the language that will open her dark and silent mind to a wider world.
The iconic cookbook. Child’s recipes are notoriously complicated, but that doesn’t make her work any less of an achievement. Mastering the Art of French Cooking taught American women that cooking could be an art as well as a craft.
A cult-classic romantic comedy. Buttercup (yes, that’s her name) reminds us that true love is sometimes even better than a fairytale.
There have been five great kisses since 1642 B.C. … (before then couples hooked thumbs.) And the precise rating of kisses is a terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy… Well, this one left them all behind.
A series of vignettes about a girl becoming a woman amidst the squalor of urban poverty. Cisneros depicts a world in which vulnerable women look for strength in each other and where older women take seriously their responsibility to educate young girls.
I wonder if she made the best with what she got or was she sorry because she couldn’t be all the things she wanted to be. Esperanza. I have inherited her name, but I don’t want to inherit her place by the window.
A Pulitzer-Prize-winning play about a college professor dying of ovarian cancer. Dr. Bearing’s myopic view of life reminds us that there is more to reality than what we can read in books.
It appears to be a matter, as the saying goes, of life and death. I know all about life and death. I am, after all, a scholar of Donne’s Holy Sonnets, which explore mortality…