Life·14 min read

25 Books Every Millennial Woman Should Read

Books every millennial woman should read
Design: theSkimm
Feb 25, 2022

Ephron. Didion. Morrison. Last names ever. First names greatest. At theSkimm, we kind of have a thing for books…especially ones written by smart, complex women. So we put together what we consider an essential reading list of books every millennial should read in their lifetime. They’re our favorite stories about women by women that truly stand the test of time. Add them to your queue, call your book club, and get ready to make your way through this list of can’t-miss reads.

“Heartburn” by Nora Ephron

Welcome to ground zero of the revenge novel. This one's a fictionalized version of Nora Ephron's marriage to Carl Bernstein (one of the journalists who broke Watergate). In it, she's a cookbook author who discovers that her husband's cheating on her. It reads like you’re out to dinner with your closest friend, eating good food, and plotting your ex's takedown. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This 2013 novel is built around the story of a Nigerian couple who leave their home and end up divided between the US and the UK. It’s a book about questioning identity, belonging, and what it means to find a home. It’s the perfect combination of a plotline you can get lost in and a book that makes you think hard about yourself and your surroundings. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion

This book is what happens when grief meets one of America’s best modern writers. It’s based on one of the most relatable topics in the world yet is written in a way that feels uniquely personal. It specifically charts Didion’s mourning after the death of her husband. In this one, you’ll marvel at Didion’s sentences — each word feels like it matters in a way few other writers are capable of. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Swing Time” by Zadie Smith

Smith's fifth novel — which draws inspiration from Fred Astaire's "Swing Time" — tells the story of two childhood friends. They both dream of becoming dancers, and spoiler alert: It doesn’t quite work out. Get ready for a master class in character and world building, plus a literary case study on the consequences of fame, poverty, and racial barriers. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

Published in 1969, the memoir covers Angelou’s childhood in the Jim Crow South. In it, she writes openly about everything from being sent with her brother to live in a segregated town in Arkansas, to her rape, to getting pregnant at 16. The prose is as powerful as the stories she tells. In it, Angelou writes: “If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat.” If you haven’t already read it, the time is now. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Prozac Nation” by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Wurtzel wrote “Prozac Nation” when she was 27 — reflecting on her dizzying college years at Harvard. The book made waves for its open dialogue about paralyzing depression and the wounds of prolific drug use. Her prose is raw and unapologetic and is one of those books you just can’t stop reading once you start. Wurtzel went on to be considered “a voice and a target for an anxious generation,” and a pioneer of the confessional memoir style. It’s a heavy, addictive read in the best way, and one that cleared the path for more open conversations about mental health and psychopharmacology. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Beloved” by Toni Morrison

"Beloved," put simply, will explain why Morrison is considered one of America's greatest writers. It was first published in 1987 and won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. Since then, it’s been repeatedly praised for expertly showing the horrors and trauma of slavery. Set in post-Civil War Ohio, it follows an escaped slave, Sethe, who’s haunted by the ghost of her baby daughter. The book isn’t too long, but each sentence packs an emotional punch. Barack Obama once called Morrison a “national treasure,” and we couldn't agree more. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Rules Do Not Apply” by Ariel Levy

This powerful memoir is about what happens when you lose your child, spouse, and house all in the span of a few months. Levy expands on her 2013 New Yorker essay “Thanksgiving in Mongolia,” in which she reflects on the tragic experience of giving birth to her son at 19 weeks and seeing him die minutes later in a hotel room in Mongolia. It’s a harrowing (and beautiful) read that you can — and will — finish in one sitting. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney

In her debut, you'll meet two sometimes-more-than-friends at college in Dublin, who get mixed up in a love triangle with an older married couple. Come for the perfectly written sex scenes, stay for the precise (and we mean really precise) interrogations of millennial womanhood. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan

It’s an intimate look inside the lives of four Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. It follows a group of women who routinely gather to gossip and play mah-jongg with each other in San Francisco. It’s a powerful meditation on the pasts our parents choose to tell us, and the parts they don’t. It’s become one of the seminal works of mother-daughter relationships and is the perfect book to read with the mother figure in your life. It was eventually turned into a movie, becoming the first studio film to star an all-Asian cast. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding

This best-selling British phenomenon turned movie is told through diary entries of a 30-something Brit looking for love. It gave us the phrase “singletons,” and hilariously illustrates the pressures modern women face. Namely: being skinny but not too skinny, working hard but not too hard, being fun but not too fun, finding a partner but not because you need one. The list of complexities goes on — and so does our enduring appreciation for Bridget (and Colin Firth in an ugly Christmas sweater). (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Neapolitan novels” by Elena Ferrante

We’re cheating here with this one...sort of. Because this pick is actually four different novels, all a part of the “Neapolitan novels” series. The saga portrays a tumultuous relationship between two childhood friends starting in postwar Naples. PS: Ferrante uses a pseudonym, which adds a level of fun and curiosity to the reading experience. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Crying in H Mart” by Michelle Zauner

We’re not crying, you are. Zauner’s memoir is the expanded version of her popular New Yorker essay where she writes about losing her mother and grappling with her identity. Zauner, who you might know as indie-pop artist Japanese Breakfast, writes movingly about grief, using food to connect with her Korean roots and her family. It’ll make you appreciate your relationship with any mom figure in your life and probably needs to come with a pack of tissues. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

An unofficial ode to Black women, this read is largely considered one of the most important books of the century. In it, readers follow the granddaughter of a slave, Janie Crawford, through her life and multiple marriages (some of them toxic and complicated) to find true love. Hurston has been remembered for capturing the “essence of Blackness” and gave us timeless books that endure long past their publication date (this one came out in 1937). (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Prep” by Curtis Sittenfeld

This 2005 coming-of-age novel put the "Rodham" author on the map. She was only 29 years old when she wrote “Prep” about a high schooler from Indiana who goes to an elite boarding school in Massachusetts. There’s “Gossip Girl” vibes, commentary on class and privilege, and storylines about all the ache and angst of growing up when you’re a teenage girl. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“She’s Not There” by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Boylan's memoir, which became a bestseller, tells the story of the author's transition, touching on the impact it had on her family life and her role as a professor at a liberal arts college in Maine. It does all the things a good memoir does: bring you along through someone’s most intimate moments and makes you feel like you’re right there beside them. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

Gay, who writes with such insight and rigor, takes us along through her personal reflections as she makes observations about pop culture and politics happening around her. Her essays touch on everything from “Girls” and “The Help” to what it means to be a good or bad feminist. It’s political, sharp, and the ultimate contemporary portrait of American womanhood. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Emma” by Jane Austen

Though Cher’s iconic outfits weren’t in Jane Austen’s 1815 classic, the major plotlines sort-of were. Austen’s original follows Emma Woodhouse, a rich, beautiful, manipulative single woman living with her father in England. She loves a good project, and spends all her time obsessing over the love lives of those around her. The catch? Her obsession with matchmaking earns our heroine some unexpected consequences. And if the book or its many adaptations isn’t enough for you, it just got turned into yet another buzzy new movie. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books

Read


“Becoming” by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s memoir charts her life from her childhood in the South Side of Chicago, to going to Princeton, to meeting Barack, and becoming the first Black First Lady of the US. Divided into three parts — Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More — the book is a mesmerizing story of balancing pressure and power. She made history. And this book is here to take you along for the journey. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

This memoir spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list. It’s a true-life rags-to-riches story that chronicles Walls’ wildly turbulent childhood. She writes about everything from growing up in poverty and her family’s constant nomadic lifestyle to her father’s alcoholism and her eventual path to college in NYC. It’s a powerful story of dysfunction and drama — and one that’ll give you so many feels. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Everything I Know About Love” by Dolly Alderton

Alderton is the modern-day Carrie Bradshaw who writes about love, work, body image, and trying to figure life out. She’s heartfelt, funny, open, relatable, and oh-so real about her trials and tribulations about dating in her 20s. But more than writing about love, the relationships she has with her girlfriends are just as moving (arguably moreso) than the romantic ones she writes about in her memoir. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson

This 622-page epic chronicles the Great Migration through the lives of three Black people in the South. Each person represents a different part of the mass exodus that resulted in more than 6 million Black Americans leaving the South from 1915 to 1970. Wilkerson spent 15 years working on this book and interviewed more than 1,200 people during the course of her writing. It’s been praised by pretty much...everyone. So it’s time to add it to your list. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Educated” by Tara Westover

Published in 2018, Westover’s memoir about growing up in a survivalist family in Idaho has sold more than 4 million copies and spent more than two years on the NYT bestseller list. She chronicles her isolated childhood — from being kept out of school to witnessing family tragedies that seem too harrowing to be true to ultimately making her way to Harvard and Cambridge. There are so few books that’ll actually leave you breathless, but this is one of them. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, Malala, then a Pakistani teenager, was shot in the head on a school bus by the Taliban for advocating for girls’ education. She survived the attack, and has continued to be a vocal crusader for girls’ rights since. (She also went on to become the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. Casual.) Her 2013 book, which was co-written by veteran journalist Christina Lamb, tells the story of her assassination attempt, her family, and her role as an advocate for girls. It’s a testament to the power of resilience and standing up for what you believe in. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


“Her Body and Other Parties” by Carmen Maria Machado

Innovation alert. Machado’s debut earned her a ton of recognition for this genre-bending collection of stories — and it’s easy to understand why. She vacillates between science fiction, comedy, horror, fantasy, and more while writing about  what it’s like to be a woman in the world. She even reimagines episodes of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” This one’s great to pick up when you’re not ready to fully commit to a 300-plus-page saga. The format makes it digestible and not too intimidating to get through. (Amazon, Bookshop, Apple Books)

Read


If you buy anything from this article, theSkimm may get something in return. Oh, and if something’s out of stock, oops, it was there (and all prices were accurate) when we published. Thanks.


Subscribe to Skimm Your Life

We're bringing you products, recs, and suggestions that'll make your life just a liiittle easier. It all starts with adding us to your inbox.

fbtwitteremail