50 Best Books For Women To Read in Their 20s

Best Books For Women To Read in Their 20s

Your 20s are a transformative decade filled with self-discovery, growth, and countless adventures. Reading can be an excellent companion on this journey, offering insights, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you. 

Whether you’re seeking motivation, guidance, or pure entertainment, this list of books cover a wide range of genres, from fiction to non-fiction, classics to contemporary works. 

So, let’s dive into this literary journey and explore some of the best books that every woman in her 20s should consider reading.


1. “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

This semi-autobiographical novel follows the story of Esther Greenwood, a young woman who finds herself spiraling into depression amidst the constraints of 1950s American society. 

The novel is celebrated for its acute portrayal of mental illness and its critique of the social and gender expectations of the time.

2. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

Set in a dystopian future where a theocratic regime has overthrown the United States government, this novel explores themes of power, gender oppression, and resistance. 

It follows the life of Offred, a Handmaid, who serves in a world where women’s rights are stripped away and fertility is prized above all.

3. “Normal People” by Sally Rooney

This contemporary novel explores the complex relationship between two teenagers, Marianne and Connell, as they navigate the challenges of young adulthood, class differences, and personal traumas. 

Rooney’s narrative delves into the intricacies of intimacy, love, and the impact of social dynamics on personal relationships.

4. “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

A beloved classic, this novel is set in rural England and revolves around Elizabeth Bennet and her family’s societal struggles, particularly concerning marriage and class. 

Austen’s sharp wit and keen social commentary explore themes of love, reputation, and classism in early 19th-century English society.

5. “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This novel tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze, young lovers from Nigeria who face different paths when Ifemelu immigrates to America. 

It’s a powerful exploration of race, identity, and the immigrant experience, particularly the nuanced concept of being a “Non-American Black” in the United States.

6. “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

A psychological thriller set in a New England college, the story revolves around a close-knit group of classics students whose intellectualism becomes entwined with a moral decay, leading to tragedy. 

Tartt’s novel is a study of beauty, desire, and the dark side of human nature.

7. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

This novel, set in the 1930s American South, deals with serious issues such as racial injustice and moral growth. 

Told from the perspective of Scout Finch, as she observes her father, lawyer Atticus Finch, defend a black man unjustly accused of a crime, it’s a poignant exploration of human behavior and the loss of innocence.

8. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—this novel is a coming-of-age story that explores themes of love, family, and individuality. 

Set during the Civil War, it reflects on societal expectations of women and the struggle between personal ambition and familial duty.

9. “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

A sweeping tale that follows Theo Decker, who, after surviving a terrorist attack in an art museum that kills his mother, steals a famous painting, “The Goldfinch.” 

The novel is an expansive journey through Theo’s life of grief, guilt, and redemption, deeply intertwined with his attachment to the painting.

10. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

This novel is a first-person narrative from the perspective of Jane Eyre, who grows from a mistreated orphan into a strong, independent woman. 

The story addresses themes of religion, morality, and feminism, with Jane’s moral and spiritual sensibility playing a key role in her assertiveness and autonomy.

11. “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern

This novel is set in a magical, Victorian-era circus that only opens at night. It centers around two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who are bound in a competition they don’t fully understand, but their rivalry evolves into a complex love story. 

The book is renowned for its richly imaginative world and the enchanting love story at its heart.

12. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Afghanistan’s recent history, this novel tells the deeply moving story of Mariam and Laila, two women from different generations brought together by war and fate. 

It’s a tale of the unbreakable bond they form in the face of brutal oppression, highlighting the resilience and strength of women.

13. “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith

This debut novel is a vibrant and humorous exploration of London’s multicultural landscape. 

It weaves together the lives of two families—one Jamaican-British and the other Bangladeshi-British—over multiple generations, addressing themes of identity, race, and the complexities of British life.

14. “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A quintessential American novel set in the Jazz Age, it tells the tragic story of the enigmatic Jay Gatsby and his obsession with the elusive Daisy Buchanan. 

The book is a poignant exploration of the American Dream, love, and disillusionment in the Roaring Twenties.

15. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

This novel is a powerful exploration of African American female identity through the life of Janie Crawford, who seeks independence and self-realization through three marriages in early 20th-century Florida. 

It’s celebrated for its narrative voice and portrayal of a black woman’s journey to find her identity.

16. “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier

A gothic novel that combines romance, mystery, and suspense. 

The story follows an unnamed young woman who marries a wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter, and moves to his large estate, Manderley, where she confronts the haunting legacy of his first wife, Rebecca.

17. “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller

A reimagining of the story of Achilles and Patroclus, characters from Homer’s “Iliad.” Miller’s novel is a tale of love and war, retold from Patroclus’ perspective, offering a tender and humanizing portrayal of the two legendary figures.

18. “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

This novel presents the life of Eleanor Oliphant, a socially awkward and solitary woman who gradually transforms her life through unexpected friendships. 

It’s a heartwarming story about the importance of human connection and the unanticipated paths to healing.

19. “Circe” by Madeline Miller

A feminist retelling of the story of Circe, a minor goddess from Greek mythology, known for her sorcery. 

This novel presents her as a complex character finding her place in a world dominated by gods and heroes, challenging the traditional narratives of Greek myths.

20. “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

A murder mystery and a coming-of-age story set in the North Carolina marshes. It follows Kya, an abandoned girl who grows up in isolation and becomes a suspect in the murder of a man who was once drawn to her wild beauty.

21. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho

A philosophical novel about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who dreams of finding a world treasure located somewhere in Egypt. It’s a tale about following one’s dreams and listening to the heart’s true desires.

22. “Beloved” by Toni Morrison

A haunting and powerful novel about the legacy of slavery. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of Sethe, a former slave, who is haunted by the traumatic past and the ghost of her baby, named “Beloved.”

23. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

A gripping tale of friendship, betrayal, and redemption set against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s turbulent history. It follows the story of Amir and his childhood friend Hassan, whose bond is shattered by a single act of cowardice.

24. “The Time Traveler’s Wife” by Audrey Niffenegger

This novel combines romance and science fiction, telling the story of Henry, a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel unpredictably, and his wife, Clare. It explores themes of love, loss, and the challenges of a relationship tested by time and fate.

25. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

Set in Jackson, Mississippi, during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, this novel explores the relationships between African-American maids and their white employers. It’s a poignant look at race, class, and the dynamics of the women who come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.


26. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama

This memoir by the former First Lady of the United States chronicles her life from her childhood in the South Side of Chicago to her years in the White House. 

It’s a deeply personal account, reflecting on her roots, her role in an African-American family, her educational journey, and her experiences during her husband’s presidency. 

It’s both an intimate and inspiring story of a woman carving out her own powerful identity.

27. “Educated” by Tara Westover

Tara Westover’s memoir is a testament to the pursuit of knowledge under extraordinary circumstances. 

Raised in a strict and isolated family in rural Idaho with no formal education, Tara embarks on a quest for learning that leads her to Harvard and Cambridge. It’s a story of transformation, showcasing the power of education to change one’s life.

28. “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg

Written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, this book is a call to action for women to pursue their ambitions, and a blueprint for rethinking gender roles at work and at home. 

Sandberg blends personal anecdotes with research and practical advice to tackle issues like leadership, self-confidence, and the challenges of balancing career and family.

29. “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

In this memoir, Joan Didion recounts the year following the sudden death of her husband, John Gregory Dunne. 

It’s a raw and honest portrayal of grief, combining personal narrative with reflections on the fragility of life and the nature of mourning. Didion’s prose is clear-eyed and poignant, providing a profound look at love and loss.

30. “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Based on her TEDx talk, Adichie discusses what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century. 

This essay delves into issues of sexuality, gender politics, and societal norms. It’s a concise yet powerful argument for the inclusion of all genders in the conversation about equality.

31. “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

A collection of essays, Gay explores the intersections of feminism, race, and popular culture, challenging the notion of a “perfect” feminist. Her essays are both witty and critical, examining everything from literature to politics to reality TV, offering a nuanced view of modern feminism.

32. “Quiet” by Susan Cain

This book shines a light on introverts in a world that often values extroversion. Cain argues for the strengths and contributions of introverted individuals, and discusses how our culture misunderstands and undervalues them. 

It’s a well-researched and thoughtful exploration of personality, psychology, and the power of quietude.

33. “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert, known for her memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” delves into the nature of creativity in “Big Magic.” 

She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need to live our most creative lives, blending memoir, motivational advice, and spiritual insights. It’s an inspirational guide for anyone looking to embrace their creativity.

34. “Girl, Wash Your Face” by Rachel Hollis

Hollis’s book is a mix of memoir and self-help, aimed at debunking the lies that women tell themselves that hold them back. 

Each chapter tackles a specific lie she has experienced and overcome, from issues of body image to career success, providing practical advice for personal growth and empowerment.

35. “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank

This diary is a poignant account of Anne Frank’s life in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. 

Written while she was between the ages of 13 and 15, it offers a moving and insightful perspective of a young girl facing extraordinary circumstances, capturing her hopes, fears, and experiences.

36. “Bossypants” by Tina Fey

This memoir from comedian Tina Fey offers a funny and candid look at her life, from her nerdy youth to her career on “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.” 

Fey shares her experiences as a woman in the world of comedy, blending humor with reflections on motherhood, leadership, and the challenges faced by women in the workforce.

37. “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

This book tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells (known as HeLa) were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in medicine. 

Skloot explores ethical and scientific issues surrounding the use of these cells, as well as the personal story of the Lacks family and the impact of Henrietta’s legacy on their lives.

38. “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai

This is the memoir of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban. 

It details her early life in the Swat Valley, her father’s influence, her advocacy for girls’ education, and the challenges she faced in a region under Taliban control. Malala’s story is one of courage and an unyielding belief in the right to education.

39. “Men Explain Things to Me” by Rebecca Solnit

A collection of essays by Rebecca Solnit, this book tackles the issue of “mansplaining” and delves into feminist themes, exploring the silencing of women’s voices, violence against women, and the power dynamics in gender relations. 

It’s a sharp, insightful commentary on gender and power in the modern world.

40. “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

In this book, Brené Brown discusses the importance of vulnerability in leading a fulfilling life. 

Drawing from extensive research and personal experiences, she argues that embracing vulnerability is crucial for meaningful connections, creativity, and change. 

The book challenges common perceptions about weakness and strength.

41. “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

A memoir of resilience and redemption, Jeannette Walls recounts her unconventional upbringing in a dysfunctional family led by nomadic, nonconformist parents. 

The book vividly portrays her struggles with poverty, neglect, and family dysfunction, highlighting her journey towards independence and success as a writer.

42. “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

This memoir is a powerful examination of the societal expectations that limit women and a call to live a more authentic life. 

Glennon Doyle shares her personal journey of self-discovery, her awakening to her true self, and her quest for a life beyond the roles prescribed by society.

43. “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem

This book recounts the life of feminist icon Gloria Steinem and her experiences as a traveling activist and organizer. 

It explores the people and places that shaped her perspectives, her role in the women’s movement, and the profound insights she gained from her years on the road.

44. “Hunger” by Roxane Gay

A brutally honest memoir about body image, food, and self-acceptance, Roxane Gay shares her struggles with her body, the trauma that led to her weight gain, and her journey towards understanding and accepting her body. 

The book is a reflection on our society’s perception of weight and body image.

45. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo’s guide to decluttering and organizing proposes a simple, yet effective, approach: keeping only those things that “spark joy.” 

Her KonMari method provides practical steps for tidying up homes and lives, emphasizing a minimalist approach to possessions and a thoughtful approach to living.

46. “Invisible Women” by Caroline Criado Perez

This book exposes the gender data gap – a world predominantly built for and by men. 

Caroline Criado Perez presents an array of research and statistics demonstrating how a lack of gender-specific data leads to systemic disadvantages for women, affecting everything from health care to urban planning.

47. “Atomic Habits” by James Clear

James Clear offers a comprehensive guide to building good habits and breaking bad ones. 

The book focuses on the small changes that can lead to remarkable results, providing practical strategies and real-life examples. 

Clear’s approach is about understanding the science of habits and the compound effects of small daily changes.

48. “Wild Swans” by Jung Chang

A family history spanning three generations, “Wild Swans” tells the story of modern China through the lives of three women: the author’s grandmother, mother, and herself. 

From the warlord era to the Cultural Revolution, it provides a personal perspective on the dramatic changes in China during the 20th century.

49. “The Argonauts” by Maggie Nelson

Blending autobiography, literary criticism, and philosophy, this book is a meditation on gender, identity, and family. 

Maggie Nelson’s narrative revolves around her relationship with her fluidly gendered partner and their journey into parenthood, offering a unique perspective on the dynamics of building a family.

50. “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero

A self-help book with a humorous edge, Sincero provides advice and exercises to help readers overcome self-doubt and live their best lives. 

The book combines personal anecdotes, motivational language, and practical tips to empower readers to achieve their personal and professional goals.

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