Our Reading List: Classic Books for Women by Women

Women have used literature to break through male dominated fields for centuries. The first documented account of a female-published work in English is from Anne Bradstreet in the 17th century. However, Plato raved of Greek poet Sappho, one of the first feminist writers from the 6th century BCE. Through classic works of literature and contemporary memoir-style books, women have made their way into the literary world. Some of these have made a drastic impact on the world and influenced past and current generations.

Classic Literature

A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf – Woolf is one of the 20th century’s great innovative writers. She was a member of the Bloomsbury group in pre-WW I England. A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN is her investigation of the woman artist as a writer. Speculating on the imaginary life of Shakespeare’s equally talented sister, she posits the necessity of “a room of one’s own” (and a fixed income) for the writer to pursue her craft.

The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood – It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott – For generations, children around the world have come of age with Louisa May Alcott’s March girls: hardworking eldest sister Meg, headstrong, impulsive Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. With their father away at war, and their loving mother Marmee working to support the family, the four sisters have to rely on one another for support as they endure the hardships of wartime and poverty. We witness the sisters growing up and figuring out what role each wants to play in the world, and, along the way, join them on countless unforgettable adventures.

The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman – The Yellow Wallpaper (“The Yellow Wall-paper. A Story”) is a short story by the American writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, first published in January 1892 in The New England Magazine. It is regarded as an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating attitudes in the 19th century toward women’s health, both physical and mental.

Synopsis of each novel provided by Barnes and Nobel.

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