Photo courtesy of Praveen Gupta
Reading fiction is transportive and highly beneficial: It increases empathy, helps you disengage (which reduces stress), and improves sleep and memory. Not to mention it provides a certain unmatched comfort, whether it be on a commute, under your blanket on a rainy day, or on a hammock outside. All you have to do is find the time to do it—hello, personal day.
But more than that, fiction helps everyone to build and manage relationships, which is an exceptional skill to have in the working world. These 10 books delve deeply into different aspects of women’s lives, helping us all to gain perspective and broaden our worldviews. They’re also by or about women. Imagine that.
Conversations with Friends
Author: Sally Rooney
Author Sally Rooney puts female friendships at the forefront of her breakthrough novel, but she’s not here to sugarcoat. The relationships she weaves between her characters are messy and refreshingly real; it’s a powerful reminder that friendship and personal growth don’t come easily. Where Rooney truly shines is in her dissection of becoming a woman in the modern age, and all the ways the world—and sometimes our own selves—complicate that journey.
Read more: 7 Inspirational Books for Working Women
The Glass Castle
Author: Jeannette Walls
While this is a true story, it feels like a work of fiction. The author, Jeannette Walls, wrote this book because she was tired of hiding her life story from curious coworkers and friends. She grew up homeless, to parents who gave her far too much responsibility, and spent her childhood in transience. Today, she is successful and stable: a life she created for herself. The book is beautifully written and extremely humbling, teaching women to embrace their backgrounds and upbringings no matter how unconventional.
The Perfect Mother
Author: Aimee Molloy
This one is about a group of mothers who become friends after meeting on a website called “The Village.” When one of their children disappears from his crib while the moms go out one night, their worlds are shaken up. The book is “a fabulous look at the intense pressure women and moms feel and also how quickly we judge each other for decisions.”
Author: Madeline Miller
We love powerful women in history, so what could be better than powerful women in mythology? Nothing. That’s what. Circe is the story of a woman with an indomitable will to make her own way in a man’s world. Sounds pretty relatable, right? We might not have the power of witchcraft, or be living in a world with Minotaurs and magic, but we all can be inspired by the power of one woman who knows what she wants.
How Should a Person Be?
Author: Sheila Heti
If you’re looking for a novel that will change your perspective on love, sex, and relationships both romantic and platonic, this is a great read. It fuses self-help and self-exploration to bring amazing insights into every busy, creative woman’s mind.
Author: Jennifer Weiner
If you have a sister, you know how beautiful that relationship can be, but it can’t be denied that sisterly love is a little complicated. This book examines the lives of two sisters, finding meaning in how they diverge both from each other and their own expectations. It’s a moving statement on how happiness and fulfillment takes different shapes for different women, even those connected by blood.
Read more: 12 Female Leadership Books to Pump You Up
Where’d You Go Bernadette?
Author: Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox, with her beautiful family and expensive home, seems to have a perfect life… until she goes missing. Her family and the concerned Seattle community goes through hell to find her, and along the way, they piece together her mysterious past. The book is narrated by her teenage daughter, and tells the story of a woman who is made up of far more than what meets the eye. Certainly relatable.
Interpreter of Maladies
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
A series of short stories, Jhumpa Lahiri uses this book to hone in on the experiences of Indian-American couples as they deal with personal and professional demands. Each compelling story, bittersweet and beautiful, is about a different couple struggling with raw and real problems—from miscarriages to religious differences to affairs and temptation.
Read more: 17 Memoirs to Inspire Working Women
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Author: Ocean Vuong
This is the only book on this list not written by a woman, and for good reason. Ocean Vuong’s novel in the form of a letter to his deceased mother is one of the most vital works of the past few years. Vuong explores the relationship between a child and a mother in a way that universalizes his particular experience. Additionally, as women seeking to break down barriers in a world run by men, Vuong’s deconstruction of masculinity provides surprisingly inspiring insights into the minds of men caged by toxic traditions.
Red at the Bone
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
It’s hard to beat a good coming-of-age story, and Red at the Bone is a great one. Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of one girl’s transition into womanhood by looking back through history and weaving in the stories of every other brave woman who got her there. It’s a touching reminder that, behind every successful woman, stands a long line of strong mothers, grandmothers, mentors, teachers, etc. who made her who she is today.