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Seven Books Every Woman Should Read

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Virago Press, the publishing house that has championed inspiring, ballsy female writers for 40 years cherry-picks the feminist titles you should have on your bookshelf.

Virago means heroic war-like women. And that’s exactly who Virago Press wanted to give a voice to when they began publishing inspirational female fiction authors in 1973. Forty years since their first book was released – Fenwoman: A Portrait Of Women In An English Village by Mary Chamberlain – the acclaimed publisher has changed what and how we read. Stylist caught up with head publisher Lennie Goodings to discover which seven books every woman should own. Go on then, how many have you read?

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

By Maya Angelou

“This autobiography about Maya Angelou’s early years is a marvellous lesson for life. I read it when we first published it in 1984 and, as a white Canadian girl growing up across the border, I had no idea what it was like to be poor and black in America.”

Virago (Amazon), £12.99

The diary of a young girl

By Anne Frank

“When I first read Anne Frank’s diary I was quite startled because, even though it was the story of a girl who was far from my experience and who was facing unimaginable hardship, I could identify with so many of her feelings, from quarrelling with her mum to her first kiss.”

Penguin, £8.99

Middlemarch

By George Eliot

“Mary Ann Evans had to write under a male pen name, George Eliot, to get her work taken seriously. Her novel is about Dorothea Brooke’s journey and how she learns to not lead her life through someone else’s. As a reader you recognise all her emotions. It’s a painful book but liberating, too.”

Penguin Classics, £7.99

Pride and Prejudice

By Jane Austen

“Virago is partly about turning round the idea that there are only a few great women writers, but I still think we should champion our original great women. Pride And Prejudice is important because it tells readers that, yes, they can get their man but still be their own person too.”

Penguin Classics, £5.99

The Magic Toyshop

By Angela Carter

“This book explores the ripening sexuality of its central character, Melanie, who goes to live with her aunt and uncle after her parents die. Carter’s vision is so unusual but also of this world and that’s what makes it relatable. It is a treat to read Carter and see what the imagination can do.”

Virago (Amazon), £7.99

Cat’s Eye

By Margaret Atwood

“This novel, about a painter reflecting on her childhood friend-cumtormentor, who was by turns cruel and kind, teaches us about growing up and learning to be a woman. When it was first published, people likened it to Lord Of The Flies – they didn’t know girls could bully, but it’s very truthful.”

Virago (Amazon), £8.99

The Second Sex

By Simone de Beauvoir

“Even though it was first published in English in 1953, The Second Sex is still relevant. I’m cheered by the number of young feminist writers right now, though.”

Vintage (Amazon), £14.99

Virago Is 40: A Celebration (an e-book collection of writing) is available from e-book retailers offering free downloads.

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