“Consider this your life’s library,” says Good Housekeeping in 50 Books Every Woman Should Read Before She Turns 40.
As a worn out, dried up, almost totally useless and indescribably ancient 41-year-old, I always get a little itchy when age 40 is presented as a drop dead lady deadline for anything the world considers useful, meaningful, or good. Here I am, a good 17 months past my expiration date, and yet my brain hasn’t completely fossilized into immobility. Also, I just recently figured out how to use eyeliner. Cut me some slack, jack!
Well, here’s their list, along with my microreviews:
“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume
Yeah, I’ve read Judy Blume. She’s not a writer. She’s a third-grade-level word assembler with some masturbation sprinkled on the top. Pass.
“A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan
Never heard of it.
“Ain’t I a Woman” by bell hooks
Get back to me when you find your shift key.
“Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank
Read it in high school. I should probably pick it up again. The only thing I remember is some boy mooching around her and her being super irritated, but I may have been projecting.
“Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay
Sounds vaguely familiar. I do love the name Roxane.
“The Bean Trees” by Barbara Kingsolver
Never heard of it. Starting to feel like I kind of stink, book-hearing-of-wise.
“Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Yes, I definitely stink.
“The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf
I feel like I’ve read something by Naomi Wolf. Another A+ for the author’s name.
“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath
I am the only person alive who thinks Ted Hughes (Plath’s husband) was a better poet than she was. Hugely overrated. Gonna keep on skipping this one.
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
Okay, yes, a fantastic book! Really vivid and layered writing. This definitely belongs on the list.
“Bossypants” by Tina Fey
Hilarious, with several really excellent passages, and some pretty egregious filler material. Best airplane book I’ve ever read.
“Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding
Meh. Never read it. The movie was mildly amusing, back from when Renee Zellweger was still the Renee Zellweger type.
I liked the part where she had to decide between sexy underwear and granny panties that made her look sexy as long as her clothes were still on.
“A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf
Fairly sure I read this. Is this the one where she’s super unhappy, so she gets a hotel and then kills herself? My favorite part was where her husband says, “But, honey, I don’t get to spend all my time doing what I want to do, either.” Then she spoiled it by saying, “Oh, you don’t understand, I’m a woman!” Double meh.
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
Read this in high school. I think it was goodish? It had some pretty memorable characters, but it was fairly icky, too, and preachy.
“Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert
Ten billion percent sure this is crap. Although I heard the author interviewed on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me
and she was pretty funny. It just goes to show, don’t it?
“The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan
Haven’t read it. All I know is, my 14-year-old son came home from the new X-Men movie and said, “It was a miracle! Mystique finally put some clothes on!” Thanks a lot, Betty.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James
So Jenny Cook sent me this screenshot, which is all you need to know about anything:
“Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
I have heard of the Bechdel test and it seems like a smart thing, although I wouldn’t refuse to see a movie that failed. I guess this is a memoir?
“Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson
Never hoid of it. Sounds lame.
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt
This was never hoid of by me. Again with the awesome name, though. Sounds like a female American novelist made up by Evelyn Waugh.
“A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories” by Flannery O’Connor
Well, well! Now we’re getting somewhere! Yes, everyone ought to read these, but be ready to have even your virtues being burned away.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
I’ve hoid of it.
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter books are perfectly adequate novels for kids. I read them all to see what the fuss was about, and they were perfectly adequate.
“Fear of Flying” by Erica Jong
I think I read this in high school. I think I remember feeling ashamed.
“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros
I like mangoes, but boy, they are hard to peel.
“In the Time of Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez
Okay, I haven’t read this, but I’m beginning to feel like real women are Latino and the rest of us are just kind of, you know . . .
“Interpreter of Maladies” by Jhumpa Lahiri
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
“Little House on the Prairie” by Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
Nutso! Love the Brontes.
“Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg
Every time I hear the phrase “lean in,” I think of this scene.
“The Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan
I have a glimmer of interest in this one. What do you guys think?
“The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende
This is the best of Allende’s books, with the most literary merit. She does the best when she puts the femmhammer down and just tells weird stories.
“The Liars’ Club” by Mary Karr
I already feel bad, thanks; I’ll pass.
“Lives of Girls and Women” by Alice Munro
Worth reading? Anyone?
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
Feel kind of bad about not wanting to read this.
“A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Meh. Skip this and read The Secret Garden instead.
“Lucky” by Alice Sebold
“On Beauty” by Zadie Smith
“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert
My main memory of this book is feeling guilty that I didn’t appreciate how much trouble Flaubert had gone to. It was obvious that he worked very hard.
“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott
Tried to read it; kept passing out from the sheer glycemic load.
“Our Bodies, Ourselves” by the Boston Women’s Book Collective
Tried to read it; kept passing out from weeping so hard over the downfall of western civilization. (I got better.)
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
You know, I enjoyed Austen so much more before I started spending serious time with Austen fans. Not her fault, but still, yeesh.
“The Second Shift” by Arlie Russell Hochschild
I don’t think anyone has hoid of this. Oh, yup, there you go: by Arlie Russell Hochschild with Anne Machung. I don’t read books written by “with,” except for The Space Merchants, which miraculously had two authors and it worked out just fine.
“A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry
I think I read this, but it obviously didn’t make much impression.
“them” by Joyce Carol Oates
I read one JCO book and found it unpleasantly like spending an afternoon in a room with friends of friends of friends who have nothing nice to say about your friends.
“The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I haven’t read it!
“The Woman Warrior” by Maxine Hong Kingston
Really starting to feel bad now.
“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
Oh, stop. There’s no way this is an important book. They just think no one’s still reading by the time we’re this far down the list.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
Well, I hope you’re edified. I do wish that women were allowed to read books that were about something other than rape, slavery, rape, mean husbands, salad, and rape. And rape salad. But what do I know? I’m 41, barely even human.