“Should” is a word from which I’ve always reflexively shrunk; I’ve never much liked being told to do anything. It’s the surest way to get me—and so many others, I know—running in the other direction.
So what, you may wonder, am I doing promoting this list of books women “should” read before turning 30? Well, first, this list is hardly prescriptive; there’s no mandate to dive between the covers of even one of these books, let alone all 32. (Although, if it were mandatory for us all to read The Lover, I think we’d all be better for it.) And then also, this isn’t simply a list curated to include all the same books we’re always told we should be reading. Rather, the following 32 recommendations are an impressively varied lot, thanks to the fact that they come not from one person or a small editorial team, but rather from 32 of the best women writers working today, all of whom chose a book that meant something to them in their 20s.
And so while the list below contains few of the usual suspects you usually find on a lineup like this, when one of those titles does pop up, the personal reasons for valuing the book in question will make you see it in a whole new way (see: Jennifer Wright on The Great Gatsby). And nothing on here is a recommendation, exactly. Rather, each book carries with it a personal resonance with the writer who chose it; perhaps some or all of these books will mean something to you, too, and affect your life in a similarly profound way. There’s only one way to find out.