Girl Canon: 50 Essential Books About the Female Experience

Everyone knows that, statistically at least, girls read more than boys. But the classic, canonical growing-up books, at least in American culture, tend to represent the male experience — I’m thinking On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, everything ever written by Bret Easton Ellis or Michael Chabon — and while these are great books, suitable for boys or girls, the question remains: where are the books for girls to grow up on? Well, they’re definitely out there, if perhaps assigned less often in schools to readers of both genders. And so I propose a Girl Canon, populated by books not necessarily for girls but which investigate, address, or represent the female experience in some essential way. After the jump, 50 such books, of many — add your own favorites to the list in the comments, and keep the canon expanding.


Self-Help, Lorrie Moore

Everything a girl needs to know: “How to be an Other Woman,” “The Kid’s Guide to Divorce,” “How to Talk to Your Mother,” “Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Guide to the Tenor of Love,” and, if you really must, “How to Become a Writer.” All written with enough wit and warmth and soul to soothe any growing heart.