The Top 100 Books Every Woman Should Read Part II: Noteworthy Novels

Noteworthy novels.

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The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

Tyler captures the nuances of marriage in this portrait of a mismatched couple who weds during the fervor of World War II. Buy it at Amazon.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece-about a woman living in chauvinist military dictatorship where infertility is widespread-is a heady social critique that holds up more than 20 years after its first publication. Buy it at Amazon.

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Tayo, a World War II vet of mixed ancestry, returns to the Laguna Pueblo Reservation. He is deeply scarred by his experience as a POW and further wounded by the rejection he encounters from his people. Only by immersing himself in the Indian past can he begin to regain the peace that was taken from him. Buy it at Amazon.

Household Words by Joan Silber

The central character in this little-remembered gem is Rhoda Taber. The year is 1940, and she’s pregnant with her first child. Satisfied with her comfortable house in a New Jersey suburb and her reliable husband, Leonard, she expects that her life will be predictable and secure. Surprised by an untimely death, an unexpected illness, and the contrary natures of her two daughters, Rhoda finds that fate undermines her sense of entitlement and security. Shrewd, wry, and sometimes bitter, Rhoda reveals herself to be a wonderfully flawed and achingly real woman caught up in the unexpectedness of her own life. Buy it at Amazon.

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

Jong’s 1973 novel did more than popularize the term "zipless f***." It sold more than 20 million copies worldwide and became a feminist touchstone for women who felt stuck in unfulfilled marriages. Buy it at Amazon.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

No immigrant success story here, just a finely wrought portrait of a young Irish woman who is transformed by her move to America in the 1950s. Buy it at Amazon.

The Group by Mary McCarthy

This novel follows the lives, and aspirations, of eight Vassar graduates. "The group" meet in New York after commencement to attend the wedding of one of their members and reconvene seven years later at her funeral. The woman are complicated, compelling, vivid, and, above all, determined not to become stuffy and frightened like "Mother and Dad." Buy it at Amazon.

Property by Valerie Martin

Toni Morrison lavished praise on this "fresh, unsentimental look at what slave-owning does to (and for) one’s interior life." The novel’s protagonist, a white lady of the manor, is married to such an ogre that she identifies with the oppressed. Buy it at Amazon.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

The last thoughts of a dying writer are captured in this intelligent novel by the Booker Prize-winner. Buy it at Amazon.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

The Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War epic has sold more than 30 million copies. Famous last line: "After all, tomorrow is another day!" Buy it at Amazon.

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

A haunting classic of lesbian literature about the power of erotic obsession. Buy it at Amazon.

Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

A complex mother-daughter relationship plays out in this coming-of-age story set in Antigua. Buy it at Amazon.

Guest of Honour by Nadine Gordimer

South African writer Gordimer’s 1971 novel about an English colonial administrator who was expelled from a central African nation for siding with its black nationalist leaders and is invited back ten years later to join in the country’s independence celebrations. Buy it at Amazon.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Famous first line: "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom." Buy it at Amazon.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

Disgrace explores the downfall of one man and vividly dramatizes the plight of South Africa-a country caught in the chaotic aftermath of the overthrow of Apartheid. Buy it at Amazon.

The Good Mother by Sue Miller

Recently divorced, Anna Dunlap has two passionate attachments: her daughter, four-year-old Molly, and her lover, Leo, the man who makes her feel beautiful-and sexual-for the first time. Swept away by happiness, Anna feels she has everything she’s ever wanted. Then come the shocking charges that would threaten her new love-and force her to prove she is a good mother. Buy it at Amazon.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Doris Lessing described this modern classic as one not "to be hurried through, for every sentence is a delight." The story is about two sisters who struggle toward adulthood in their grandmother’s home on a glacial lake. Buy it at Amazon.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Kundera’s moving post-modernist meditation on the insignificance of life is set in communist prague where a womanizer named Tomas obsesses over his wife and his favorite mistress. Buy it at Amazon.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

In this novel of linked vignettes, a Latina girl comes of age in a Chicago Chicano ghetto she’s determined to leave behind. Buy it at Amazon.

Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion

Time compared Didion’s novel about a woman in crisis to the sunlight in Los Angeles where the story takes place: ". . . a thing so bright sometimes it hurts." Buy it at Amazon.

Up next: Non-Fiction

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