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Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Books Every Woman Should Read

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There are thousands of great, life-changing books out there that both men and women can enjoy. But this is a list of the hundred titles that say something about what it is to be a woman: what makes us special and how we can be better. So I’ve included fiction, by both women and men, with compelling female characters. I’ve added historical works written by women to give us a window into the ways they lived and books of practical wisdom to make our lives a little easier. I’ve added works of social criticism that challenge us to live better. I’ve even thrown in a few philosophy texts that force us to think about ourselves and our sex more critically.

Our Guide

This reading guide suggests titles that will help women as we grow from girls to teens and then to young women. As we marry, begin families of our own, as our children grow and become teens themselves. Then, finally, as our children leave home and we have time to reflect on our lives. (You can also read the complete list in chronological order.)

Starting in May, Experimental Wifery will host a book-of-the-month club to read through our Essential Woman’s Library. We would love your input. Are you interested? Let us know where you’d like to start by leaving a comment..

Books for Young Girls

Too many girls grow up thinking that being a woman is about giving up who we are and what we want. In each of these books for young women, the protagonist stands out as a young woman who cares deeply about the needs of others without ever losing a strong sense of self.

Read more about great books for girls…

Books for Teenage Girls

Teenagers struggle to define who they are and what their relationship is with the world around them. These books provide models of great virtues like courage, loyalty, and determination—and a few vices they’ll want to avoid.

Read more about great books for teens…

Books for Young Women

If there were a cannon of Western literature, these books would be on it. Whether in college or starting a career these foundational books will prepare young women to take a position of responsibility and understanding in the adult world.

Books for New Wives

Many of these stories suggest models of what a healthy marriage should—and shouldn’t—look like. We’ve also thrown in a few classics of home management to make the lives of newly-wed women a little easier.

Books for New Moms

These collections of poems and stories are great resources for new moms eager to sing, recite, and read to their children. They’re also broken up into small chunks so even the most overwhelmed new mom can squeeze in a little reading.

Books for Moms of Young Children

Early motherhood is the time when misguided lessons about what it is to be a woman come back to haunt us. These books remind moms of young children of the dignity we have as women and mothers—and of the terrible consequences of losing sight of our self-worth.

Books for Moms of Teens

These books remind moms of the anxieties their teenage children face. They’re also great stories to read and share with your children as they grow.

Books for Empty Nesters

With new-found free time and the wisdom of experience, empty nesters are poised to take on new challenges and make a difference in their communities. These are great books to help.

Books for the End of Life

These books are all about finding meaning in your past. Read them when you take time to contemplate a full life. They’re also great tales to share with your adult children and grandchildren.

The Essential Woman’s Library

6 responses »

  1. I’ve got three titles to throw in for book club suggestions. Personally, Little Women seems like a great place to start, regardless of age. But then, I’ve always meant to read Pride and Prejudice – just never seem to get around to it. Last, but not least – Jane Eyre, I make it a point to read it every year… and have been reading it since I was 13 years old :). Thanks for the reading guide, it is very well thought out – and also a great gift guide the way you’ve listed it according to age/life circumstances. Look forward to the next post!

  2. Wonderful! With all of the above (and I’d include all of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Willa Cather) I’d add the novels of Louis L’Amour. If you haven’t ventured there, it may sound strange but he is a fantastic creator of atmosphere and suspense. Very descriptive writing! And the human values are intact.

    • Thanks for the feedback. I’m not as familiar with the works of Willa Cather, but I do love Dickens and Austen. Adding all their works, though, would have taken up about a quarter of my list! I’ll be sure to check out the novels of Louis L’Amour. Do you have a suggestion where to start?

  3. You have a lovely site and this is a great list. Books like these can truly change us and make us into better men and women. I have a few books that you might consider adding:

    Virgil – The Aeneid
    (Despite other opinions, this epic revolves around women and the appropriate source of their power. Between Juno, Venus, Diana, Creusa, Dido, and Camilla, the female characters are more powerful and more compelling than even the title character).

    The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise

    Marie de France – Lais of Marie de France

    St Teresa of Avila – The Inner Castle

    Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelly’s mother) – Vindication of the Rights of Women

    Anne Frank – Diary of Ann Frank

    • The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise and The Diary of a Young Girl are actually both on the list. (I’ve even blogged about The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise.) I’m not personally fond of Marie de France and, even though I love Dido, I find the second half of The Aeneid insufferable. I’ll have to read The Inner Castle and Vindication of the Rights of Women. Thanks for the suggestions!

  4. Pingback: Challenge: Read Library of Essential Classics | ipsofactodotme

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