All My Favorite Books Are By Women...? (or, 13 Books You Should Read This Summer)

All My Favorite Books Are By Women...? (or, 13 Books You Should Read This Summer)

by Camille Pirtle

I was recently trying to make a list of my favorite books I had ever read. I found myself with a list of fifteen, thirteen of which (all but John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany and Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint) were written by women. Thus, this article was formed. You should read these thirteen books not because they're written by women, but because they're good.

The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand

Finally, Ayn Rand has a venue to express her philosophy. I say that as a joke becasue a majority of her novels are thinly veiled portraits of her own beliefs. In The Romantic Manifesto, though, she focuses just on the philosophy and it's as interesting as it is challenging. It changed the way I think about life and art.

"The basic purpose of art is not to teach, but to show—to hold up to man a concretized image of his nature and his place in the universe."

The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith originally published this novel in 1952 under the pseudonym Claire Morgan because of its subject matter – a sexual and romantic relationship between two women. It tells of the sensual and sometimes dangerous love nineteen-year-old Therese shares with Carol, a much older, married woman. It was later adapted into the 2015 film Carol, and both renditions are filled with brillaint, doomed energy.

"I will comb you like music caught in the heads of all the trees in the forest..."

Valencia by Michelle Tea

A touching and true tale of one woman's journey through the lesbian scene in '90s San Francisco. It sparkles through its authenticity and the quality of its writing. Also some of the most creative dialogue I've ever read.

"...She was much too cute to be an asshole and plus I am a fool for love."

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch

Filled with dark humor, this is the story of a divorced man who does everything "right." Martin Lynch-Gibbon always thought he could have both a mistress and a wife, but when his spouse runs off with her therapist, he is confronted with a crisis of faith. What follows is a ridiculous and always entertaining saga of several despicable characters getting together, breaking up and writing lots of letters.

"There is no substitute for the comfort supplied by the utterly taken-for-granted relationship..."

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

To describe this book is to diminish it. Alternately classified as either a novel or a collection of short stories (Egan leans towards the former, myself the latter), it succeeds as a vision of the lives of various characters surrounding a record producer and his young assistant. Some of my favorites are "Goodbye, My Love" and "Found Objects."

""I'm always happy," Sasha said. "Sometimes I just forget.""

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

A slender, lyrical book about the dreams and fears of a young Caribbean au pair working for a white family in Manhattan. Bleak emotions surround a complicated reality and past, all of it rendered in haunting prose.

"If I had to draw a picture of my future then, it would have been a large gray patch surrounded by black, blacker, blackest."

Self Care by Leigh Stein

Never before and not since have I read a more shocking and accurate cultural criticism in novel form. Stein examines the implications and pitfalls of the burgeoning women's health craze through the complex relationshiop of three executives at a social media platform. "Wellness" has never felt so bad. When I finished this book, I threw it across the room. It's that good.

"Leaving New York was always a reminder of the millions of people who would never choose your life or your lifestyle, the one you fought so hard to have, to prove how special you were."

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

This is one of those books that I was never able to explain to other people while I was reading it. I would get bogged down explaining terms like detransition and non-traditional parentage and I always missed the point. Quite simply, its a year in the life of three women – trans and cis – who decide to raise a baby together. It's emotional, uniquely insightful and almost impossible to put down.

"Many people think a trans woman’s deepest desire is to live in her true gender, but actually it is to always stand in good lighting."

Trust Excercise by Susan Choi

A book that changed the way I understood the novel. It tells one story for 150 pages or so, and then it tells another one. And then another. The stories are all relatable, all connected and each changes your perception of the last. They focus around students at an elite drama school and, let me just say, everything it says about theater kids is 100% true. That's a joke. Or it isn't. You'll have to read it to find out.

"Once you’re old enough to recognize a hole in yourself it’s too late for the hole to be filled."

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Mosfegh

This book chronicles the ambitions of a young, wealthy woman living in New York – to sleep for a year. As she spirals deeper into depression and starts to sleep for longer and longer, the prose becomes more nuanced and intriguing. Mosfegh writes with an urgency rarely utilized by novelists and this book has my favorite last page of any novel.

"Oh, sleep. Nothing else could ever bring me such pleasure, such freedom, the power to feel and move and think and imagine, safe from the miseries of my waking consciousness."

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Taddeo opens her work of narrative nonfiction with a story of her mother's stalker. It only gets more complicated from there. She travelled cross-country three times to find the eponymous women and their stories. What follows is a delicate and important work of journalism, examining what it means to be feminine in the modern era.

"We pretend to want things we don't want so nobody can see us not getting what we need."

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This is – subjectively – my favorite book of all time and – objectively – the best book I have ever read. Rooney is a master of the craft and she beautifully creates the story of a love that was maybe never meant to be between Connell and Marianne. Her style is unlike anything else and her work redefined my perception of what it is like to be a human in the modern age.

"I like you so much, Marianne said. Connell felt a pleasurable sorrow come over him, which brought him close to tears. Moments of emotional pain arrived like this, meaningless or at least indecipherable."

The Argonauts by Maggie Rogers

This is a book that I wish would appear on more reading lists because it tells a strikingly authentic story of trans adulthood. The story here is true (it's a memoir), but it's also true; the reader can feel and understand everything that happens. It opens with a summer in the life of a married couple – a pregnant cis woman and her trans masc partner. It has one of the best opening paragraphs in literature and what follows is nothing short of extraordinary.

"Does it get any better? What's your pleasure? you asked, then stuck around for an answer."