Literature for when the going gets rough. With commentary, of course.
1. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath.
The definitive text in female breakdowns. Demands to be read in total seclusion, preferably while wearing white and watering your bouquet of dead flowers. And take heed: you’ll likely feel an aloof, moody detachment from anything anybody has to say for a good six to twelve months afterwards. Prepare all potential suitors for rejection.
2. Self-Help, Lorrie Moore.
The final story in this collection, Go Like This, is one I’ve discussed at length with my mother and several of my paramours. All personalities have agreed that Moore is a genius, capable of understanding women at levels we don’t even know we’re operating on. She sees us.
3. The Awakening, Kate Chopin.
The book is a bit of a slow burn, but I think that’s totally Chopin’s point: being a lady is a slow burn. It’s all about the small moves. Also, how incredible would this be as a modern indie film, directed by Sofia Coppola and paired with a Taylor Swift/Haim-inspired soundtrack?
4. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides.
For those times when suburbia is entirely too much. As with The Bell Jar, this should be read while wearing white, but this time you should do so in the company of your four best female friends, all of you doused in crystals and clutching individual Ouija boards. I’d like to also offer my thanks to sage tastemaker Tavi Gevinson for being such a champion of this book.
5. The Beautiful Indifference, Sarah Hall.
This newer short story collection is a bold choice for this list, but two stories in particular justify its inclusion: the title story and The Agency, which takes the concept of hooking a sister up to an entirely new (and very saucy) place. What’s more, Hall’s writing is continuously strong and beautiful, which is more than can be said for several of her struggling protagonists. There’s a reason Hall’s been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize, people.
6. A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen.
Like a nineteenth-century Norwegian Gone Girl—will Nora stay or will she go? What I love about this play is not just what’s contained within it, but what Ibsen said after writing. When honored by the Norwegian Society for Women’s Rights, Ibsen quipped, “I thank you for your toast but must disclaim the honor of having consciously worked for women’s rights. I am not even quite sure what women’s rights really are. To me it has been a question of human rights.” Totally beat Hillary to the punch.