200 Books By Women Every Man Should Read

If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with some books written by women, OK?
Publish date:
August 3, 2015

A few months ago, I wrote about my year of reading books only by women. Since then, my reading habits still lean quite heavily towards woman-authors, but I've started allowing men back onto my bookshelves.

A few weeks ago, I read Alanna Okun's excellent piece for Buzzfeed Books, "I'm Not Interested In Guys Who Don't Read Books By Women" and it so acutely summed up some of the thoughts I've been experiencing.

Because reading is such an important part of my life, I gravitate toward potential partners who also prioritize it. I just don't think I could date someone who doesn't read. I don't say that out of snobbery, though it might sound that way. (If you want proof I'm not a snob, I'll show you how many times Whataburger comes up on my debit card statement.)

When I mention I'm a writer, books are often the next subject to come up. The ol' "What kind of books do you read?" question can provide me plenty of insight into a dudebrain.

There are certain red flags, of course. If his quick-draw answer to the favorite author question is Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson, I start looking for an exit. Same for Palahniuk too, probably.

Maybe it's because I live in Mississippi, but a lot of dudes I meet claim Faulkner as a favorite which I always appreciate. I've met my fair share of John Grishams as well, which is cute too. The only constant is that every dude, when I ask him about his favorite writers, usually rattles off a quick list of men.

My kingdom for a man who reads books by women! It's not that the books they love aren't good. It's that... c'mon, dudes. Don't call yourself "well read" if your bookshelf is whiter and dude-er than a frat house, okay? Half of the world is women! And maybe don't try and a date a woman who writes if you don't want to read the written works of women.

It's just sort of ludicrous. I'm aware that the majority of literary "classics" were written by men, and I'm not trying to say they aren't great! Most of them are! But it's worth acknowledging from time to time that when women's books are published less, it isn't because they're not as well-written. Like Virginia Woolf said, "For most of history, anonymous was a woman."

Maybe just don't brag about your "taste" in books if your taste in books has been dictated by thousands of years of traditional patriarchy. Be less boring!

Besides impressing potential lady-writer suiters, there are myriad reasons for men to read the works of women. First of all, it might give men some more (and much needed) insight into the all-powerful lady brain. Second of all, any chance to expand your world view in any small way is worth taking.

Lists like this one from Esquire touting the "80 Best Books Every Man Should Read" aren't helping. Out of 80 books, Esquire could only apparently find room for one book written by a woman.


And it's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." You're tellin' me, Flannery!! (Flans definitely deserves a place on any list of great books, but so do shit tons of other women!)

Because I loooove men and want to help them (lol), I've carefully curated a list of 200 books every man simply must read!

  1. Slouching Towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion
  2. The Bell Jar- Sylvia Plath
  3. To the Lighthouse- Virginia Woolf
  4. Little Women- Louisa May Alcott
  5. Wild- Cheryl Strayed
  6. To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee
  7. Go Set a Watchman- Harper Lee
  8. How Should a Person Be- Sheila Heti
  9. Bluets- Maggie Nelson
  10. Americanah- Chmimanda Ngozi Adichie
  11. The Goldfinch- Donna Tartt
  12. The Optimist's Daughter- Eudora Welty
  13. The Color Purple- Alice Walker
  14. A Visit from the Goon Squad- Jennifer Egan
  15. Men We Reaped- Jesmyn Ward
  16. White Teeth- Zadie Smith
  17. Bad Feminist- Roxanne Gay
  18. Emma- Jane Austen
  19. Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen
  20. Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austen
  21. Persuasion- Jane Austen
  22. Northanger Abbey- Jane Austen
  23. Jane Eyre- Charlotte Brontë
  24. Wuthering Heights- Emily Brontë
  25. The Age of Innocence- Edith Wharton
  26. Everything That Rises Must Converge- Flannery O'Connor
  27. Lives of Girls and Women- Alice Munro
  28. We Were the Mulvaneys- Joyce Carol Oates
  29. Sleepless Nights- Elizabeth Hardwick
  30. Atlas Shrugged- Ayn Rand
  31. Their Eyes Were Watching God- Zora Neale Hurston
  32. Delta Wedding- Eudora Welty
  33. Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel- Helen Oyeyemi
  34. Tampa- Alissa Nutting
  35. The Argonauts- Maggie Nelson
  36. Wide Sargasso Sea- Jean Rhys
  37. The House on Mango Street- Sandra Cisneros
  38. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings- Maya Angelou
  39. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents- Julia Alvarez
  40. Gone Girl- Gillian Flynn
  41. Beloved- Toni Morrison
  42. The Awakening- Kate Chopin
  43. Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
  44. Men Explain Things to Me- Rebecca Solnit
  45. Regarding the Pain of Others- Susan Sontag
  46. Marilyn: Norma Jean- Gloria Steinem
  47. Summer Sisters- Judy Blume
  48. A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing- Eimear McBride
  49. The Feminine Mystique- Betty Friedan
  50. The Help- Kathryn Stocket
  51. Dark Places- Gillian Flynn
  52. Blue Nights- Joan Didion
  53. NW- Zadie Smith
  54. Salvage the Bones- Jesmyn Ward
  55. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn- Betty Smith
  56. A Wrinkle in Time- Madeleine L'Engle
  57. ain't i a woman- bell hooks
  58. The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood
  59. Lila- Marilynne Robinson
  60. Ariel- Sylvia Plath
  61. Mrs. Dalloway- Virginia Woolf
  62. Nobody Is Ever Missing- Catherine Lacey
  63. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves- Karen Joy Fowler
  64. The Miniaturist- Jessie Burton
  65. The Blazing World- Siri Hustvedt
  66. The Luminaries- Eleanor Catton
  67. The Joy Luck Club- Amy Tan
  68. The Children's Hour- Lillian Helman
  69. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood- Rebecca Wells
  70. The God of Small Things- Arundhati Roy
  71. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone- J.K. Rowling
  72. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets- J.K. Rowling
  73. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban- J.K. Rowling
  74. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- J.K. Rowling
  75. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- J.K. Rowling
  76. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- J.K. Rowling
  77. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- J.K. Rowling
  78. The Vicious Deep- Zoraida Córdova
  79. Heroines- Kate Zambreno
  80. The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins
  81. Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins
  82. Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins
  83. Bad Behavior- Mary Gaitskill
  84. The Year of Magical Thinking-Joan Didion
  85. Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi
  86. Drinking with Men- Rosie Schapp
  87. The Second Sex- Simone de Beauvoir
  88. Kindred- Octavia Butler
  89. The Bloody Chamber- Angela Carter
  90. Room- Emma Donoghue
  91. The Diary of a Young Girl- Anne Frank
  92. Yes Please- Amy Poehler
  93. Gone with the Wind- Margaret Mitchell
  94. The Good Earth- Pearl S Buck
  95. My Antonia- Willa Cather
  96. The Bean Trees- Barbara Kingsolver
  97. The White Album- Joan Didion
  98. The Gravedigger's Daughter- Joyce Carol Oates
  99. The Group- Mary McCarthy
  100. The Collected Stories of Dorothy Parker
  101. Drink- Ann Dowsett Johnson
  102. Bossypants- Tina Fey
  103. Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me?- Mindy Kaling
  104. Play As It Lays- Joan Didion
  105. Cherry- Mary Karr
  106. Heartburn- Nora Ephron
  107. The Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique
  108. Runaway- Alice Munro
  109. The Time Traveler's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger
  110. The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold
  111. The History of Love- Nicole Krauss
  112. Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen
  113. The Odd Woman and the City- Vivian Gornick
  114. The First Bad Man- Miranda July
  115. The Complete Poems- Anne Sexton
  116. The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison
  117. Bel Canto- Ann Patchett
  118. Out of Africa- Karen Blixen
  119. Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie
  120. Middlemarch- George Eliot
  121. We Need to Talk About Kevin- Lionel Shriver
  122. Fear of Flying- Erica Jong
  123. The Volcano Lover- Susan Sontag
  124. Interpreter of Maladies- Jhumpa Lahiri
  125. Notes on a Scandal- Zoe Heller
  126. Passing- Nella Larsen
  127. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter- Carson McCullers
  128. Love Medicine- Louise Erdrich
  129. A Little Princess- Frances Hodgson Burnett
  130. Cat's Eye- Margaret Atwood
  131. How to Build a Girl- Caitlin Moran
  132. Not That Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham
  133. The Left Hand of Darkness- Ursula K. LeGuin
  134. Everything Is Perfect When You're a Liar- Kelly Oxford
  135. The Return of the Soldier- Rebecca West
  136. Whoever She Was- Carol Ann Duffy
  137. The Story of Land and Sea: A Novel- Katy Simpson Smith
  138. The Golden Notebook- Dorris Lessing
  139. North and South- Elizabeth Gaskell
  140. The Talented Mr. Ripley- Patricia Highsmith
  141. White Oleander- Janet Fitch
  142. Meridian- Alice Walker
  143. Feminism Is for Everybody- bell hooks
  144. Veronica- Mary Gaitskill
  145. The Fountainhead- Ayn Rand
  146. The Country Girls- Edna O'Brien
  147. The Haunting of Hill House- Shirley Jackson
  148. Like Water for Chocolate- Laura Esquivel
  149. Who Do You Think You Are?- Alice Munro
  150. The Liars' Club- Mary Karr
  151. Song of Solomon- Toni Morrison
  152. Pain, Parties, Work- Elizabeth Winder
  153. Brown Girl Dreaming- Jacqueline Woodson
  154. Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
  155. Science...for Her! - Megan Amram
  156. The Bling Ring- Nancy Jo Sales
  157. The Blue Flower- Penelope Fitzgerald
  158. Birds of America- Lorrie Moore
  159. The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down- Anne Fadiman
  160. Against Interpretation- Susan Sontag
  161. Euphoria- Lily King
  162. Station Elevent- Emily St. John Mandel
  163. The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters
  164. A God in Ruins- Kate Atkinson
  165. H Is for Hawk- Helen MacDonald
  166. The Vacationers- Emma Straub
  167. The Casual Vacancy- J.K. Rowling
  168. The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende
  169. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
  170. My Sister's Keeper- Jodie Picoult
  171. The Boston Girl- Anita Diamant
  172. Tiny Beautiful Things- Cheryl Strayed
  173. The Secret History- Donna Tartt
  174. The Keep- Jennifer Egan
  175. A Room of One's Own- Virginia Woolf
  176. Wise Blood- Flannery O'Connor
  177. Hyperbole and a Half- Allie Brosh
  178. The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkins
  179. Reasons to Live- Amy Hempel
  180. Dog Songs- Mary Oliver
  181. Fun Home- Alison Bechdel
  182. The Namesake- Jhumpa Lahiri
  183. What Never Happens- Anne Holt
  184. Woman Hollering Creek- Sanda Cisneros
  185. True and False Romances- Ana Lydia Vega
  186. In the Time of the Butterflies- Julia Alvarez
  187. The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
  188. And Then There Were None- Agatha Christie
  189. Chocolat- Joanne Harris
  190. Uncle Tom's Cabon- Harriet Beecher Stowe
  191. Orlando- Virginia Woolf
  192. Girl, Interrupted- Susanna Kaysen
  193. In the Unlikely Event- Judy Blume
  194. Mary Poppins- P.L. Travers
  195. The Secret Life of Bees- Sue Monk Kidd
  196. Reading Lolita in Tehran- Azar Nafisi
  197. I Remember Nothing- Nora Ephron
  198. The Unabridged Journal of Sylvia Plath
  199. Little Birds- Anais Nin
  200. The Untamed State- Roxanne Gay

I COULD GO ON but I simply must get back into the kitchen!

Where I'm sitting at the table with my laptop working on my own book! Which hopefully one day many women AND men will read! (Though, I'll let you infer whose opinions will matter more to me.)

Now, for a discussion:

  • Are you a man who reads a lot of books by women? Are you single? Do you wanna... like... hang out and talk about books some time?
  • Ladies, does it matter to you if a man doesn't include any women on his lit list?
  • As always, fill the comments with book recommendations.

Follow Rachel on Twitter and Instagram for incoherent rants about books and pictures of koalas.