This is according to The Guardian gospel and a host of notable writers, academics, and experienced literary minds. These books are deemed best fit for emerging and proper teenagers who are on the cusp of adulthood, especially the female ones. This piece comes in handy and instructive in this e-Age when everyone, mostly teenagers, are becoming all round gadget-addictive zombies.
Every 16-year-old girl needs to read (1) King Kong Theory, Virginie Despentes’s punk coming-of-age memoir, because lurking in every teenage girl’s breast is the beating, bloody heart of a rebel, waiting to make her own choices. Despentes’s book shows how – and why – women must define their own rules for life, and, even more important, it shows that making a mistake is not the worst thing you can do; conforming is.
Chelsea G Summers, writer
(2) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith because it’s about feminism and living your dream; and love and heartbreak; and combating sexual harassment, and strong women and families, and it’s just so good, forever.
Jen Doll, author of Save the Date
(3) The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills. So many bad decisions are made because we grow up thinking we’re supposed to be having the sex that society tells us everyone else is having, rather than the sex we want. I feel like a younger me could have been spared a great deal of anxiety if she’d known that sex is not some competition you’re having against the rest of the world.
Lux Alptraum, writer and comedian
I generally think everyone ought to read as much Margaret Atwood as possible. But if I had to start a 16-year-old on Atwood, I’d give her (4) Cat’s Eye, a novel about how toxic teen friendships can become, and how early experiences of bullying can resonate through a whole life.
Sady Doyle, writer
(5) Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc is a book that submerges readers in a life likely different from their own in a way that instills empathy, a useful attribute for teens to cultivate as they enter adulthood in an increasingly stratified society. Years after reading Random Family, I still return to its lesson that I may not agree with other people’s decisions, but they almost always have their own reasons and logic – and they’re equally legitimate.
Kira Goldenberg, Guardian US deputy opinion editor
Sixteen-year-olds need a lot more information about relationships and sexuality than the adults in their lives usually give them, which is why I think that Dr Emily Nagoski’s (6) Come As You Are and Tristan Taormino’s (7) Opening Up should both be on this list. Both books give good, science-based advice about honestly and respectfully negotiating for your needs (including monogamy or non-monogamy), understanding your sexual tastes and preferences, and setting good boundaries.
Teresa Valdez Klein, singer and writer
(8) Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston’s coming of age story of a young black girl a generation after slavery, is gorgeous and feminist before feminism. Janey’s journey to becoming a full and complete woman amidst rigid societal and cultural expectations for black women is a revelation. Janey is the original #carefreeblackgirl, and Hurston’s prose is full of dazzling (black girl) magic.
Syreeta McFadden, writer
One book that I distinctly remember from my teenage years and which I have recommended to my own teenage daughter is the Native Canadian Métis author Beatrice Culleton’s (now Beatrice Mosionier) novel (9) In Search of April Raintree. Long before I heard the term “intersectionality”, I knew that if you were the wrong race, the wrong color, and a girl, regardless of where you lived – in India or Manitoba, Canada – you could be exploited by the more powerful race, the more powerful color, and men. It is a violent story, but a powerful and redemptive one because April does find herself on her own and on her own terms.
Gayatri Devi, writer and academic
(10) A Mercy by Toni Morrison is a novel of the New World that takes on the bondage of slavery, yes – but also all the bondage at the root of our nation: indentured servants, Native Americans, women, children, and, most important, the mind. It is a frankly startling history of our nation in a slim, shockwave of a novel.
Lizzie Skurnick, author of Shelf Discovery
(11) SEX by Heather Corinna. Instead of relying on abstinence propagandists and free internet porn, imagine if every 16-year-old, of every gender, learned about sex from Corinna, the blunt, brilliant and empathetic proprietor of legendary sex ed site scarleteen.com. Get her comprehensive and judgment-free guide into the hands of enough teenagers, and it could literally change the world. (Bonus: there’s an updated edition coming out in 2016.)
Jaclyn Friedman, activist and author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
I’d assign every 16-year-old (12) Chelsea Girls by Eileen Myles. Myles’s ideas and perspective on leaving home, finding work and love and drugs and sex are the kind of thing I could have benefited from when I was 16; her conception of being female is uniquely expansive and adventurous. It’s like Huckleberry Finn for non-boys.
Emily Gould, author
(13) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. My relationship with this book began in high school and it’s a rare tome that can be reread, each time through a different lens, a book that grows up with you. I’ve stepped away multiple times from it thinking it’s a political satire, a romantic comedy, an intense psychological study of humanity, and I’m still rethinking it. I hope I never stop.
Mary Pilon, author of The Monopolists
It’s very difficult, but I’d recommend bell hooks’ classic (14) All About Love: New Visions. To understand both the pain that love can cause and the hope that love can bring is one of the largest struggles of adulthood. This is a book best read more than once: in the tender teen years, before you experience the heartbreaks hooks describes, and then later, around the age of 32, when you will know them all too well.
Latoya Peterson, writer and editor
I’d pick (15) The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I first read the title story in college. It was published in 1892 so it’s a bit dated now, but I still love how it manages to blend creepily visceral descriptions of a woman’s mental breakdown with sharp analysis of gender roles, the overwhelming dude-centricity of medicine, the cult of domesticity, and the patriarchy in general.
Laura Barcella, writer and editor
I think an amazing book to read is (16) Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks. hooks is the greatest and it’s an accessible introduction to feminist theory with an intersectional lens which is extremely important for people to embrace.
Dior Vargas, activist
I’d recommend Lynda Barry’s (17) Crummy and Phoebe Glockner’s (18) Diary of a Teenage Girl – both amazing books that get to the heart of trauma and coming of age.
Laurenn McCubbin, artist and documentarian
Bell hooks’s memoir, (19) Wounds of Passion taught me about the transformative and political power of fearless self-expression. Her mix of raw emotion, critical analysis, and powerful simplicity inspired my quest to nurture my voice with unapologetic courage.
Jamia Wilson, writer and activist
(20) The Company She Keeps by Mary McCarthy. A look into the development of a young literary woman coming of age in New York that does not get nearly the press it deserves now but shook literary New York to its foundations at the time.
Michelle Dean, books editor, Guardian US
If I had my druthers, every girl would read Margaret Atwood’s (21) The Handmaid’s Tale, and I would tell them that it’s not fiction.
EA Hanks, writer
And there you have them! Go forth Father…Go farther Mother..,empower Her, empower Him!
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