1. If You Have To Cry, Go Outside, Kelly Cutrone
Founder of fashion PR firm People’s Revolution, as well as some-time The Hills star, Cutrone breaks down in her exact, no-holds-barred trademark style, advice on navigating the ride to becoming your own “power bitch”. Cutrone advocates for every woman between 18 and 32 to purposefully go forth to give birth to themselves, and this book is part anecdote, part workable action steps, to doing just that.
2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, Cheryl Strayed
Another advice book, Dear Sugar is heartfelt, gentle, loving prompts from the same school of thought as Cutrone, but delivered with a little more sweet for the sass. Strayed has lived a thousand lives, and isn’t afraid to tell her readers about them as she helps lost, lonely souls come to terms with abuse, confusion, cheating, drugs and death.
3. The Paris Wife, Paula McLain
A fictional account of the marriage of Ernest Hemmingway and Hadley Richards, The Paris Wife, charts with heartbreaking clarity what it is not only to fall in love – but what it costs to stay there. Witty, sharp, and enough to make you want to teleport back to Jazz-era 1920’s Paris, this one made me hopeful for love – and the courage to pursue it.
4. The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum, Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh
This book taught me everything I know about modern etiquette. Marsh and Izzo declare that good manners make you sexy – that the well mannered get invited to more dinner parties, see their career aspirations blossom, and have a wider array of friends and suitors. I believe that to be true.
5. The Fire Starter Sessions, Danielle LaPorte
I send this book to all my favourite people. It’s an “apathy-kicking, integrity-infusing guide to defining success on your own terms”, where spirituality meets real-world application. Goals with soul is the name of the game – and the game is feeling good.
6. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
This book taught me about exactly how goddamn awful humans can be to each other in love, and sex, and romance. Kundra is a philosopher when it comes to all, and after reading this book I was changed.
7. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
What happens if we get the chance to live over and over? What would we do differently? Atkinson floored me with this exploration of war-time Britishness, wherein Ursula, a woman who opens the narrative by shooting Hitler before his rise to power, explores all the very many different ways her life could’ve gone, in a Sliding Doors approach to all the things we women could’ve been, or will be.
8. Changing My Mind, Zadie Smith
Smith is brilliant, and this book taught me how to think. From Obama to Keats to having a famous rapper for a brother, Smith writes sharply and wisely in ways that will you see pass off her opinions as your own.
9. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
The sweetest, most lovely story about growing from a girl to a woman that there ever was. A classic for a reason.
10. This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage, Anne Patchett
A collection of essays from Patchett’s decades of journalism and memoir, Happy Marriage is less about an actual marriage, and more about the relationship the author has with herself. From police academy to her dog, a disastrous first matrimony to writing as a way of life, Patchett is the finest example of living not only widely, but oh so deeply. Her prose also happens to be a master class in great writing, too.
11. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is the permission slip most of us need to go on right ahead to live for the sake of living – to explore what makes us happy for no other reason that the alternative is just too damned depressing. Via Italy, India, and Indonesia, Gilbert embarks on the ultimate heroine’s journey as she uses travel as a way to re-connect with herself. I dare you to finish this and not want to book a flight at the end of it.
12. Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James
Say what you want about the quality of the prose, 50 Shades captured the imagination of women across the globe in a sexual revolution for a reason. Undertones of controlling and abuse aside, if you take nothing from the sex scenes other than a renewed appreciation for experimenting just a little, it’s worth it. Go get your freak on.