• The cover of the book Prayers for the Stolen

    Prayers for the Stolen

    For Ladydi Garcia Martinez, it’s a dangerous thing to be a girl. While growing up in Guerrero, Mexico, a lawless town ruled by drug lords, Ladydi and her friends mar their appearances and hide in holes to avoid being taken by the cartels. Even once she gets out, following the promise of a better life, she can’t escape the iron grasp of the cartels. But in the face of adversity, our heroine unfailingly proves her strength and determination.

     
  • The cover of the book The Woman Destroyed

    The Woman Destroyed

    In the three sections of this revelatory book, women grapple with their identity in the world and their place in society, the idea of what they’ve had to sacrifice versus what they’ve been able to keep. At times bitter, dark, and always honest, Beauvoir bled for her writing, and it shows.

     
  • The cover of the book Family Lexicon

    Family Lexicon

    Though it takes the shape of a novel, Natalia Ginzburg’s Family Lexicon can also be called memoir. It’s the story of Ginzburg’s own family, her and her siblings’ coming-of-age in Turin, Italy, in a household helmed by a Jewish scientist and a lapsed-Catholic mother. Ginzburg’s classic might be an ordinary family novel, were it not for Mussolini’s Italy raging in the background, shaking the foundations of their lives and country.

     
  • The cover of the book Fates and Furies

    Fates and Furies

    This view of a relationship told from both sides is an examination of gender roles, artistic ambition, and the many complexities of marriage. As I moved into the second half, which follows the wife, I couldn’t help thinking that Lila would have loved Mathilde: her ruthlessness, her quiet determination, and how she pulled the strings, always three steps ahead.

     
  • The cover of the book History

    History

    Morante’s novel, set in World War II Rome, follows the lives of a single mother and her two sons. The setting of Rome, the soldiers, the bombings, and the politics are all etched irreversibly into the characters, melding history and humanity together masterfully.

     
  • The cover of the book Half of a Yellow Sun

    Half of a Yellow Sun

    Adichie follows the lives of several characters in Nigeria in the late 1960s during the Biafran War. With a seamless blend of the personal and political, we see how her characters struggle to live, love, and stay human when their home is suddenly wracked with violence.

     
  • The cover of the book Dept. of Speculation

    Dept. of Speculation

    Offill’s prose is dreamier and her structure more fragmented, but this slim book examines many similar obsessions: the narrator’s artistic ambitions, somewhat thwarted by motherhood and wifehood, and then infidelity. Her stream-of-consciousness prose lends a diary-like intimacy to the narrative.

     
  • The cover of the book Never Let Me Go

    Never Let Me Go

    Ishiguro is a much more restrained writer, but the introspection, honesty, and world-building in this book simply contains its boldness in a different way. The setting is powerfully vivid and the fictional boarding school, Hailsham, and its special students will stay with you long after you’ve finished the novel.

     
  • The cover of the book Love Me Back

    Love Me Back

    A fitting word for this book is fearless. Tierce is so unrestrained and unapologetic in her depiction of a self-destructive waitress, at war with how she feels unfit to love her young daughter, that I often caught myself holding my breath as I turned the page.

     
  • The cover of the book A Long Petal of the Sea

    A Long Petal of the Sea

    Isabel Allende’s newest takes place in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, when Fascists overthrew the government. Among those fleeing the country is pregnant widow Roser and army doctor Victor Dalmau, the brother of Roser’s dead husband, who are forced into a marriage in order to survive. They board poet Pablo Neruda’s SS Winnipeg for Chile, living as exiles and dreaming of the day they can go home.

     
  • The cover of the book Pride and Prejudice

    Pride and Prejudice

    An oft-quoted blurb for Ferrante from John Freeman: “Imagine if Jane Austen got angry, and you’ll have some idea of how explosive these works are.” This novel of manners is an anchor of explorations of class, society, and marriage.

     
  • The cover of the book The Woman Upstairs

    The Woman Upstairs

    Nora Eldridge is a polite, responsible schoolteacher who secretly nurses wilder artistic dreams. When she meets Sirena, a beautiful, enticing European conceptual artist, their relationship unleashes Nora’s desire to find a similarly enthralling identity, and her fixation with Sirena is at times obsessive, nurturing, and deceptive.

     
  • The cover of the book Sula

    Sula

    Toni Morrison’s Sula is a masterwork in capturing the complexities of female friendship as impacted by the cruelties of the world around them. As girls in Medallion, Ohio, Nel Wright and Sula Peace bond over a dreadful secret. But their paths diverge, and as adults they become closer to enemies. One reviewer’s apt description: “As mournful as a spiritual and as angry as a clenched fist.”

     
  • The cover of the book My Struggle: Book One

    My Struggle: Book One

    Many think that Knausgaard and Ferrante represent two poles of the same type of writing: titanic, multi-volume novels that are firmly evocative of their settings, whether Naples or Norway, heavy on introspection, violence, and the effects of fear. Though their writing styles are very different, if you’re interested in another long saga, perhaps begin this one.