Growing up is hard–which is why I’ve compiled this list of books about navigating your late teens, twenties, and life in general as a women. These books offer advice and stories for the female college student or recent graduate, featuring characters who are figuring out where to turn and which decisions to make. Read on for a list that also includes insightful quotes from each book.
Some focus on making career and college decisions, and the pressures that women face when attempting to contribute to the world. Specifically, the memoirs of Carrie Brownstein and Patti Smith tackle the struggle to succeed in creating art and music in male-dominated spaces.
Others, including “Americanah” and “God Help the Child”, focus on issues surrounding racism, immigration, and/or abuse.
No matter how specific the content, each book will offer something valuable to the female reader. Turn to these selections for advice on love, life, and art.
- The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan
“We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time. There’s this sentiment I sometimes sense, creeping in our collective conscious as we lie alone after a party, or pack up our books when we give in and go out – that it is somehow too late. That others are somehow ahead. More accomplished, more specialized. More on the path to somehow saving the world, somehow creating or inventing or improving. That it’s too late now to BEGIN a beginning and we must settle for continuance, for commencement.”
2. Just Kids, Patti Smith
“Where does it all lead? What will become of us? These were our young questions, and young answers were revealed. It leads to each other. We become ourselves.”
3. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“There was cement in her soul. It had been there for a while, an early morning disease of fatigue, shapeless desires, brief imaginary glints of other lives she could be living, that over the months melded into a piercing homesickness.”
4. Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger
“I’m not afraid to compete. It’s just the opposite. Don’t you see that? I’m afraid I will compete — that’s what scares me. That’s why I quit the Theatre Department. Just because I’m so horribly conditioned to accept everybody else’s values, and just because I like applause and people to rave about me, doesn’t make it right. I’m ashamed of it. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not having the courage to be an absolute nobody.”
5. A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
6. On Beauty, Zadie Smith
“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”
7. Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion
“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened before.”
8. God Help the Child, Toni Morrison
“Taught me a lesson I should have known all along. What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.”
9. The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch
“The key question to keep asking is, Are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”
10. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein
“There is something freeing in seeing yourself in a new context. People have no preconceived notion of who you are, and there is relief in knowing that you can re-create yourself.”