5 Books Every 20-Something Girl Must Read

Forget about The Old Man And The Sea, here's the books you need in your repertoire.


by Alexandra Heminsley |
Published on

1. The Group – Mary McCarthy

Published in 1963, The Group set the template for so many indistinguishable novels that follow a group of women over the course of a friendship – as well as setting the standard admirably high. Opening in the US in 1933, it sees its female protagonists dealing with issues that read as alarmingly contemporary: Commitment, breastfeeding, and wanking on the bathroom floor. McCarthy’s eye for women's ability to both create support networks and sly little arenas of judgement is inspiring. It has a wonderful gossipy tone, but packs in more insight into human nature than many more ‘literary’ novels could hope to.

2. How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran

The book that not just reignited the debate on 21st century feminism enabled us to discuss our vaginas with our colleagues and had us howling with laughter, but created an entire literary genre in its wake. Without Caitlin being prepared to stand up and say what so many of us were thinking, in a voice we could relate to, much of what we’ve read in the following three years simply wouldn’t exist. We don’t have to thank How To Be A Woman merely for its content, but for creating a mini industry where what we wanted to read was no longer dismissed as unmarketable, but as simply current.


**3. The Valley Of The Dolls– Jacqueline Susann

A classic of the ‘reading it under the covers with a torch’ genre, this camp masterpiece is famous for being badly written but utterly addictive, and rightly so. Following three friends through the fabulous showbiz world of the 1960s, watching them fall into disastrous relationships and battle various addictions, it’s the prototype bonkbuster – and that’s a great thing. These women are ballsy, driven and raging with ambition, and their dreams extend way beyond a Peter Jones wedding list and an instagrammable baby. The sexism is outrageous, the set pieces are fabulous and the one-liners make you laugh on the bus.

**4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Thirty years before bookshop shelves groaned under the weight of feisty heroines battling their way through dystopian futures, Margaret Atwood had already nailed it with The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in an America that is now The Republic of Gilead and narrated by Offred, a woman who is now reduced to being kept in captivity as a sort of breeding concubine, it uses flashback to describe what her life was like before the revolution and sees her trying to escape. It manages to be exciting, inspiring and surprisingly romantic, opening the imagination not what both books and women can achieve.

***5. *Sarah Beeny’s 100 DIY Jobs

There’s little point in being the best-read woman in your office if your home is falling down around you. And the only thing worse than that is putting up with a crumby relationship because your ‘beloved’ is the one who can fix a leaky tap. This manual for those of us who aren’t natural DIYers but are equally unenthusiastic about relying on the patriarchy for household jobs is easy to follow, nicely designed and will hold your hand through everything from a squeaky skirting board to a completely retiled bathroom. A wealth of hidden talents lies within.

Like this? Then you might also be interested in:

How To Set Up An Actually Fun Book Club

Amazing Books By Seriously Super Women

The Very Best LGBT Books You Need To Read Right Now

Follow Alexandra on Twitter @Hemmo

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us