Julia Hoban (author of the April Book of the Month, WILLOW) and I have been talking since last fall, and somewhere amid the flurry of emails we've volleyed back and forth, the idea arose of composing a list of essential novels every young woman should read. Now, I know some of you are guys (sorry, guys!), but the bulk of you are teen girls, and I think Julia's list of essential novels were certainly appeal to you (and even a few adults out there!). Here it is:
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: As lovers of YA literature, you must, you really must read “Catcher”. Few books have this kind of verbal energy and rhythm, fewer still such an extraordinary voice or such brilliant dialogue. Holden Caulfield’s vulnerability and isolation make him an extraordinarily sympathetic character. We’ve all felt this alone at one time or another. Probably the most famous YA of all time and deservedly so.
Tess of the Durbervilles by Thomas Hardy: Every woman should read this book. The sheer beauty of the language alone is more than enough reason, but beyond that Hardy’s sympathy for his doomed heroine is heartbreaking. If for some reason Tess doesn’t speak to you. Put it down! Don’t spoil it for yourself! Pick it up another time, I guarantee that at some point you will fall in love with this book.
The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald. I’m quite sure that many of you have encountered this in English class, but for those of you that haven’t.... Fitzgerald is possibly the greatest American stylist, and Gatsby is possibly his greatest creation. A tragic story of the American dream gone wrong.
Sherlock Holmes vols One and Two by Arthur Conan Doyle: All right, you’re having a bad day. You have a paper due first thing in the morning, and a calculus exam an hour after that. Time for a little procrastination! There’s nothing more you would rather do than get lost in a good book, you need an absolutely guaranteed great read, but something you can put down after an hour or so.... Nothing fits the bill like a Sherlock Holmes story! Go ahead: The Second Stain, The Adventure of The Dying Detective, The Bruce Partington Plans. Aaahh! You’re ready for work now! There’s a reason why these are the most beloved detective stories of all time. Sherlock and Watson form one of the most satisfying partnerships in literature. Sherlock himself is such a powerful and charismatic character that when Conan Doyle tried to kill him off and end the series, Londoners wore black arm bands in protest.
You’re Amazing: A No Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self by Clare Mysko and The Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything by Melissa Kirsch. Two terrific books that cover everything, from how to write the perfect thank you note, to safe sex. The first one is geared towards younger women, while the second deals with issues that are more likely to crop up in your twenties and beyond (car loans anyone?) Both of them are must reads that will provide answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. I myself have the Girl’s Guide on my night table and dip into it regularly.
Horton Hatches the Egg and Oh! The Places You’ll Go! Dr. Suess for high school and beyond? Absolutely! When you’re feeling hopeless there’s only one thing to do: get under the covers, put a do not disturb sign on the door, and bring these out. I defy anyone not to be moved and inspired by the faithful Horton or the wisdom in “The Places You’ll Go.” Absolutely guaranteed to get you back on track when you don’t know how to cope
The Railway Children by Evelyn Nesbit. This is a middle grade novel that is suitable for any person of any age at any time. It is one of my favorite books and one that I must have read at least twenty times. Although I’m guessing that many of you won’t have heard of Nesbit, she’s a giant in the field of juvenile literature, and both Neil Gaiman and J. K. Rowling acknowledge their debt to her. This is a story of three children whose lives are drastically altered when their father is taken from them and when they are uprooted from their home. Not to worry, good triumphs in the end, and there are plenty of adventures along the way. I think the following anecdote best sums up the power of this book: I was recently in one of my favorite bookstores, an independent that exclusively carries adult mysteries. I was surprised to see a stack of “The Railway Children,” and asked the owner what they were doing there. She smiled and said “Julia, you can hardly own a bookstore without stocking “The Railway Children!”
I could go on, and on, and on.... There are plenty more to list, but I’m afraid that I can’t as right now I have an appointment with Mr. Sherlock Holmes!
Thanks so much, Julia!