5 Books That Every Teenage Girl Should Read

by WiseFool

When it comes to womanhood, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Here are just a handful of books that all teenage girls and young women should read.

Teenage years, for both boys and girls, can be, at best, awkward and, worst, excruciatingly painful. It’s a time, as we try to figure out ‘who we are’, of soaring highs and depressive lows. And, as we all know, nobody can possibly, EVER, know how we feel.

Those are the joyful (and not so joyful) facets of pre-pubescence, adolescence and the rampant, raging hormones that play havoc with our bodies and minds.

Why Should Teeange Girls Read These Books?

How adolescence can wreak havoc in the female brain

Girls face a set of challenges that are almost exclusively unique to them and these can prove agonizingly destructive. Because, as a young woman tries to find out who she is, the answer often seems to lie in what she looks like.

These fragile years can skew a girl’s view of herself, her ambitions and her place in the world. So, while young women are bombarded by glossy magazines and advertisements, telling them that being beautiful and brainless is the most desirable state, it is vital to know that there are alternative points of view out there.

So, these five books are my recommendations for all teenage girls.

Oh, and for any mothers of teenagers reading: yes, she’s probably at that stage when she doesn’t listen to a word you say, believing you to be too “old” to understand what HER life is like. A gentle nudge in the direction of these books, however, may help you to get some positive messages across.

How to Be a Woman

Caitlin Moran's 'rant' about the things that are expected of women

British writer, broadcaster and self-proclaimed strident feminist Caitlin Moran delves into her own experiences of womanhood.

From the alarming start of her menstrual cycle and undesirable sprouts of new hair, through marriage, childbirth, sexism in the workplace and everything in between.

Moran questions the ‘checklist’ of feminity - those things that society demands we have in order to be a woman; for example, a completely waxed downstairs area, a ridiculously expensive handbag and shoes that make you walk like Tina Turner with a twisted ankle.

Drawing on her own life and offering her very liberating, ‘do your own thing’, view of womanhood, How to Be a Woman offers such a breath of fresh air and, importantly, great humor.

For the mothers (or fathers) out there, be warned, this book does contain some adult language and themes, so it may not be suitable for young teenagers.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic of U.S. literature

Despite the popularity of the Twilight books and films, we have to ask ourselves whether these stories are projecting a good, strong, positive young female role model. And, I would argue, that Bella is not someone who our girls and young women should be modeling themselves on.

Instead, we should be looking to characters like Scout and I don’t just say that because she’s a tomboy, but because she’s fiercely intelligent and brave enough to speak her mind. She also, albeit unintentionally, saves her father’s life and acts as something of an inspiration to him.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird is, of course, a wonderful book for many other reasons, including its message of tolerance and lessons in judging someone without, as Scout so beautifully puts it, “getting in their skin and walking around in it”. This is just as important and necessary now as it was 50 years ago.

Unbearable Lightness

Portia de Rossi’s brutally honest and heartbreaking memoir

As mentioned above, the pressure to look ‘pretty’ is so immense for young girls.

And as magazines continue to simultaneously set the bar high, by airbrushing photographs, and crush women's spirits, by vilifying a famous name who dares to walk outside without any make-up, this pressure is simply becoming greater and greater.

In my opinion, every single woman in the world should read Unbearable Lightness, but I think it’s particularly important for young women and teenagers.

Those formative years are when our doubts about our bodies and our appearances really grab hold, and can become potentially life-threatening as time goes on.

De Rossi’s frank description of her battle with bulimia and anorexia, coupled with her tear-jerking account of the deep self-loathing that accompanies this striving for ‘beauty’, will ring true for every woman, whether she has ever suffered with an eating disorder or not.

There can be no finer example of the damage that our society is doing to its young women.

Portia de Rossi’s story serves as a potent reminder that the quest for a 'perfect body' is unattainable and, ultimately, destructive.

The Ascent of Women

A history of the suffragette movement and the ideas behind it

It concerns me deeply that many women of my generation, and younger, would not describe themselves as feminists. In fact, they balk at the word. This worries me, because I think it indicates that the definition of feminism has been tainted. Now, ‘feminism’ is interchangeable with man-hating, which, of course, is ridiculous and could not be further from the truth.

In order for teenage girls and young women to get to grips with feminism, I believe it’s important for them to understand where it came from and the ideas behind it. Melanie Phillips’ The Ascent of Women follows the rise of the suffragettes, detailing the lengths women had to go to in order to obtain the right to vote, which many of us now take for granted.

I believe that it’s vital to never take for granted the strides that have been made in achieving sexual equality, to know that we're not quite there yet and to remember exactly what the goals of feminism are.

The Diary of Anne Frank

Musings of the teenage Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis

The Diary of the Anne Frank is an unusual and, at times, chilling mix of very normal, teenage experiences, with the constant underlying threat of capture, as the young girl and her family hide in an attic in Amsterdam.

Anne Frank’s diary is a powerful, evocative account of a life, despite being lived in fear of capture, full of hope and optimism for the future. Anne has an almost philosophical view of her circumstances that is heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Frank’s diary is an important and potent reminder of the atrocities committed throughout Europe during the 1940s, told through the eyes of a young girl, who is trying to understand herself, just as much as she is attempting to make sense of the world outside.

Updated: 02/04/2013, WiseFool
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What books did you read as a teenager or wish you had read?

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WiseFool on 05/18/2012

Hello, Kelley. Glad you like the choices, thanks very much for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Katie, so nice to hear that your girls like to read. So many young people, as Jean points out, avoid books like the plague. I know guys and gals of my generation, who are almost proud of the fact they've never read a book - even for school!

Hello, Jean. Love your comment. Had an odd mixture of reactions to it, though. Initial laughter gave way to a desire to bash my head agaisnt the desk. What is happening to Western society?

JeanBakula on 05/17/2012

I always feel happy when I see people reading. It's a great joy in my life, and because of video games and texting, many young people seem to be getting more illiterate. I can recall my son coming home from HS a few years ago (it doesn't seem that long) and telling me the class was discussing Women's Suffrage. Some of the girls were actually saying, "I don't think women should have to suffer." As they say, OMG. He went on to be an elementary school teacher.

katiem2 on 05/17/2012

My daughters love to read and it's official they are both teenagers, my baby just turned 13. They have read many of these but there are some new ones, a good many in fact. Look forward to reading these good books for teenage girls. This is just in time for summer, we are always looking for good meaningful books to read, thanks so much.

kelleyward on 05/15/2012

I love the Diary of Anne Frank and To Kill A Mockingbird. Wonderful choices. Thanks for sharing! Take care, Kelley

WiseFool on 05/14/2012

Hello Brenda, I love 'To Kill a Mockingbird', too. For me, it is one of the finest works of fiction. And I highly recommend 'How to Be a Woman', it had me roaring with laughter in parts and Moran has such a wonderfully frank, realistic approach to feminism and womanhood. Gave me pause to think about a few things too. I hope you enjoy it!

BrendaReeves on 05/14/2012

To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite book. It's just about everyone's favorite book. I'm going to get "How to be a Woman." It sounds very interesting.

WiseFool on 05/13/2012

Thank you Debbie, I appreciate that. And thanks also, Sheila. You're absolutely right, it's bad enough that society/the media objectifies women in the entertainment or fashion industries, but for politicians to be subject to the same ridicule just beggars belief. Call me crazy, but I don't care what Hillary Clinton wears or what she does to her hair or her face - I care about what's in her noggin. If she does a good job, she could dye her hair green and go around wearing a sombrero for all I care. And what really makes me sick is that it’s, by and large, not men who do this bitchy stuff, but women. So, it’s our attitudes towards ourselves and other women that must change. Okay, getting down from my soapbox now.

DebbieBrooks on 05/12/2012

Great books.. I will share this with my friends with teenage girls.

sheilamarie on 05/12/2012

Thanks for this list, WiseFool. I like your assessment of how the media tries to humiliate women into conforming to the "image" shallowness, even towards someone like Hilary C., who hardly promotes herself as a movie star. Girls need to be reassured that they don't have to follow that quest for "glamour" and can seek real beauty, which as we all know, comes from within.

WiseFool on 05/12/2012

Thanks, Dustytoes. I love Poe too, but I didn't read any of his work until I was in my early twenties. I'm not sure what I would have made of him as a teenager, he probably would have frightened me out of a good few nights' sleeps. Little Women is a great one. If I'd made a slightly longer list, that definitely would have been in there.

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