I love reading, and women’s lit holds a bit of a special place on my bookshelves. As I delve further into BookTube, I’m noticing a trend that makes me smile, and that is these vloggers are reading classic novels. As someone who studied English lit in university, as someone who loves to read, as a teacher, this makes me so so happy. If you are a lover of books, you might understand. In fact, I know you do.
I read a lot of classics in university. It seemed to be an area I was especially drawn to, and many of my courses had extensive reading lists comprised entirely of classic novels. And I loved that. I loved being an English student. But, I also read a lot of classics written by women, that addressed problems faced by women in society.
Why Reading Women’s Lit is Important
When I think about reading, I think about the pure pleasure that stories brings me. How I can lose myself in my book, how books can sweep me away into another time and place, and I love that really. It’s the feeling of being mesmerized. Reading classics is very much like that because you are stepping into the past. A past that was well painted by those authors, with characters and issues that still speak to us today. And reading about the hardships faced by women in the past allows us to draw parallels to the hardships faced by women today. This is why women’s lit is important.
These novels focus on the challenges and experiences faced by women, demonstrating how they grow and learn and what they offer to society at large. Novels written by women today about women offer similar themes as they largely centre on the growth of a female protagonist and examine what it is like to be a woman in today’s world, be that in a professional sphere or otherwise. Reading both women’s lit classics and contemporary fiction about women offer us a deeper understanding of our society and the relationships between people, be they relationships between women, or men and women. Reading about such experiences builds empathy within us, and this is vastly important in being successful in our own lives.
Suggested for You: Classic Novels You Need to Read
In my list is included books I have personally read or have some knowledge of and is obviously not exhaustive. Nor should it be, as throughout the world is a slew of women authors who have contributed to literature.
Women’s Classics Everyone Should Read
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
- Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Middlemarch by George Eliot
- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
- North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
- The Bird’s Nest by Shirley Jackson
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Evelina by Frances Burney
- The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
- Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
My Favourite Women Authors
When it comes to reading novels written by women, I do have some favourite authors. Top of my list is Jane Austen. I have read all of her novels, save the incomplete one, and I love the commentary on women’s place in society and education. I also love Daphne du Mauier, who wrote incredible novels, though not solely about women they do comment on life and the flaws of the characters are worth consideration. I also really enjoy reading novels by the Bronte sisters as they are serious commentary on morality, the plight of women and society at large. When it comes to contemporary authors, I enjoy reading Diane Setterfield, Lisa See who explores the lives of women in China in different historical periods, and Alison Weir and Philippa Gregory who tell the imagined life stories of women in history such as Anne Boylen and Elizabeth Woodville, Henry the VIII’s grandmother.
Important to Note
I think it’s important to note that books about women are not always written about women. It’s odd to think of women’s lit being written by men, and really you can’t call those novels women’s lit as they were written by men. Nevertheless, some authors, like the American Henry James, wrote complex and accurate novels about women and women’s issues. One such novel is Daisy Miller, and also The Portrait of a Lady. Another such author was George Gissing who wrote The Odd Women.
What do you think of these novels? Have you read any of them? Share your thoughts on women’s lit in the comments below.