In a 2015 interview with Seth Meyers, author Junot Diaz said, “If you don’t want to deal and relate and think about what it means to be a woman in this planet — you’re going to have serious problems.”
Junot Diaz has penned just one of millions of books that inadvertently expose the triumphs and tragedies that encapsulate being a young woman.
Here is a list of five books that I believe can encourage women to revisit what they have overcome, to ponder how their experiences resemble that of many other women, and to decide what it means to be their own women in 2016.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
I feel fortunate to have read this book, as it reaffirmed something I learned in college: You never truly know the life that another woman has lived.
Knoll introduces us to Ani, a beautiful and successful 20-something who has what every girl wants. Ani has the amazing job, amazing shoes, and amazing guy. The reader quickly learns however of Ani’s duplicitous and challenging existence. Ani has a past, and it’s a miracle she’s still standing.
This novel prompts you to stop and re-evaluate how toxic and misplaced your jealousy can be. It is thought-provoking and holds your attention with its every word.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling
I have no idea how Mindy Kaling can make a book feel like a simple, hilarious, and long conversation with your college roommate but HERE WE ARE. Kaling is hilarious. You are with her in every retelling of her awkward work jokes, horrific apartment conditions, and hopes that her dating prospects would you know, be as mature as they are pretty.
This is the book you need to add to your personal library if you want to laugh by yourself in public. Kaling makes you wish that her stories, and this memoir, would not end.
She recently penned a second memoir, Why Not Me?, which was released in 2015.
The Girls by Emma Cline
This book is BANANAS. Before my mid-twenties, I hated reading. I don’t know who that book-hating human is anymore because I read this novel in a DAY. Cline has a storytelling gift. I want to follow her around and request that she teach me each of her ways.
This novel exceptionally encapsulates the potential toxicity of early adolescent relationships when one is desperate for friends. It tells the story of a young woman who is inadvertently lured into a cult and is blinded by her desire to be accepted and loved by a friend.
The novel demands every ounce of your attention and interest; it causes the reader to pause and consider the graphic nature of others’ realities.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
I cannot recommend this book enough. One of my former student’s parents said that she had never seen her daughter enjoy reading until she read this novel. I never truly enjoyed reading until I read this novel.
There are a myriad of reasons to read this: the hilarious and brutal narration, the historical significance, the opportunity to root for the definition of an underdog, among others. One of its strongest points, however, is the role of the female characters.
Each female character in this novel is her own woman who makes absolutely zero apologies for who she is. Each woman owns her choices, her sexuality, and her vulnerability. Reading this book made me less afraid to be who I am, all parts of me included.
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
I chose to read this because I kept seeing happiness journals all over the place connected to and/or inspired by this memoir. I am elated that I picked this one up.
The book is structured like so: each chapter features a different subject (i.e. friendship, love, parenthood, etc.) that entails specific goals and ideas that Rubin attempts to fulfill.
Even though I am not married and I do not have children, I found myself unconsciously adapting kernels of advice and ideas that Rubin mentions. For instance, Rubin’s first chapter is about eliminating clutter and she introduces this mind-boggling rule: if it takes under a minute to complete a task, do that task.
Suddenly, I had Gretchen Rubin’s voice in my ear as I debated whether or not to hang up my cardigan after a long day of work.
It’s just one of those books that compels you to make the most out of the little steps. Rubin gave us some good with this one.
In the past year or so, I have encountered five books that have exceptionally inspired me to ponder my gender, and how I can cultivate the gifts that make up the zany, cautiously optimistic young woman who I am. I hope one or more of these gives you some of what they have given to me.