This March, the Wave team asked the women they know that if they had to compile a list of must read books for other women, which books would make the list. The responses ranged from fairy tales to chick lit to classical literature to romance, fantasy, poetry, drama and comedy- every genre of literature. But what all the respondents agreed on was that it didn't make a difference whether the book of their choice had made the bestsellers list or not, it didn't matter if it was 'serious literature' or holiday paperbacks picked up at the airport, hell, it didn't even matter if the book was written by a man or a woman... all that mattered was how the books 'spoke' to them.
Here follows the list of those that were savoured and became the favourites.
The Other Boleyn Girl
by Philippa Gregory
So are the Boleyn girls mere pawns in the hands of men or intensely competitive siblings who had to have what the other one did? Political intrigue, infidelity, drama, treachery, loyalty and love are the major themes of this story that tells the tale of King Henry VIII and the Boleyn family.
The Time Traveller's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
It defies definition- science fiction, fantasy, romance. But like in real life this book is all about love and making do with what the universe throws your way. Henry writes this letter to Clare after they've been for married for many years:
"Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you."
Need another reason to read it?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Steig Larsson
This compelling mystery, and the other two books that together form the Millenium trilogy, will reel you into the plot, but the characters will keep you reading to the end. Lisbeth Salander is the most kick-ass protagonist to have been envisaged in a long, long time. Angry, antisocial, extremely intelligent, hacker and researcher extraordinaire, specialises in investigating people, has a photographic memory, tattooed, refuses to be a victim and takes control of her own life on her own terms- what's there not to love about her.
Love in the time of Cholera
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
While delivering a message to her father, Florentino Ariza spots the barely pubescent Fermina Daza and immediately falls in love. However, this love is not to be and what follows is the story of a passion that extends over 50 years and is a compelling exploration of the myths we make of love. After fifty-one years, nine months and four days, Florentino gets his chance to win back the love of his life. One of Oprah Winfrey's book club selections, she had this to say about it, "This is one of the greatest love stories I have ever read... It is so beautifully written that it really takes you to another place in time and will make you ask yourself how long could you, or would you, wait for love?"
Diary of a Young Girl
by Anne Frank
While most people know who Anne Frank is, many have not had the pleasure of reading her journal documenting her family's time in hiding from the Nazis. John F. Kennedy discussed Anne Frank in a 1961 speech, and said, "Of all the multitudes who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank." Do yourself a favour and read this amazingly inspiring book of a child's account of war and persecution.
by Jhumpa Lahiri
This second beautiful collection of short stories highlights women and their relationships, with each story featuring a woman and her parents, husband, sibling, or lover. It is also a reflection of life within two separate cultures, and how people cope with one and the other. Lahiri shows that the place to which you feel the strongest attachment isn't necessarily the country you're tied to by blood or birth: it's the place that allows you to become yourself. This place, she quietly indicates, may not lie on any map.
Half of a Yellow Sun
by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie
The book deals with the Biafran War in Nigeria in the 1960's. There are vivid scenes of the war's brutality, its double standards, its compromises, its cynicism, its racism and its starvation. The images are graphic and vivid and can be very thought-provoking for those who harbour the notion that war can bring about a Utopian imagined future.
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Just the fact that Jane Austen was able to publish this book as a woman at the turn of the 19th century is remarkable. A long time favourite of most of its readers and a constant on most 'best books' lists, this story is not only a captivating tale of morals but also a society inhabited by rich characters like the enchanting Elizabeth Bennet and the dreamy Mr.Darcy and also the most annoying Mr. Collins and the dastardly Mr. Wickham.
The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy
A compelling read with rich, lyrical writing, Arundhati Roy's powers of description are formidable. The prose is sensuous with an almost dreamlike quality that provides keen insights into human nature. This is a story of family and secrets, and how a sister and brother are affected throughout their lives by the "Love Laws" that lay down "who must be loved, and how, and how much".
by Daphne DuMaurier
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" is the book's often quoted opening line, and from here its unnamed narrator recollects her past, telling the story of her transition into womanhood. It's extraordinary to construct a novel around a dead person, with no voice of her own, but who is so dominant the reader comes to know her better than the narrator.
by Louisa May Alcott
This timeless tale of sisters who embrace life and family with zest despite hard times is a story to be appreciated by all women of all ages. The character of Jo in particular has inspired in many young girls a kind of freedom that they want in their own existence.