Once upon a time, when I was a very small girl, I slipped away from my gran at the local supermarket, and quickly found myself completely and utterly lost. It was terrifying.
Nan found me within minutes, of course (although it felt like a lifetime), but I was already snotty-nosed and crying my eyes out. Because, when we’re children, we’re taught that getting lost is one of the worst possible things we can do. That we might not be found again. And that a bad person might take us away.
Of course, as an adult, this concept of lostness has taken on a very different meaning. While smartphones and Google Maps tend to keep us on the right path in the real world, we still experience that same cold sense of dread when we can’t figure out why we’re doing what we’re doing, or how we ended up where we are today, or even who we are anymore.
It’s that sense of “drift”, that lack of direction, that acts as an emotional trigger for feeling lost. And it’s far harder to feel found again, because we’re not relying on our parents, or our grandparents, or our guardians to find us: we’re relying on ourselves.
From self-help tomes like Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, to compelling stories like Candice Carty-Williams’ Queenie, to memoirs like Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Slipstream, we’ve gathered our favourite books by women to help guide you back to where you want to be.
May they serve you as well as they have done us.
Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living by Glennon Doyle
Part inspiration, part memoir, Untamed (£14.99) explores the joy and peace we discover when we stop striving to meet the expectations of the world, and instead dare to listen to and trust in the voice deep inside us. And it’s proven a hit with Adele, who has taken to Instagram to rave about Glennon Doyle’s book.
“I never knew that I am solely responsible for my own joy, happiness and freedom,” the singer wrote.
“Who knew that our own liberation liberates those around us? Because I didn’t! I thought we were meant to be stressed and disheveled, confused and selfless like a Disney character.”
Adele added: “I am so ready for myself after reading this book. It’s as if I just flew into my body for the very first time.”
Year Of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
In this poignant, hilarious and deeply intimate memoir, Shonda Rhimes – easily one of the most powerful women in Hollywood – reveals what happened when she forced herself out of the house and learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. And, as the title Year Of Yes (£8.99) suggests, Rhymes examines how saying ‘yes’ changed her life, not to mention how it can change yours, too.
Happiness by Aminatta Forna
Happiness (£8.99) tells the tale of two people – Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes – trying to start their lives anew. A chance encounter in the midst of the rush of a great city sees numerous moments of connections span out and interweave, bringing disparate lives together. And this big-hearted story is a firm reminder of the fact that there’s a world out there, and it’s calling you, too.
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover wasn’t registered for a birth certificate, had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. When she reached 16, though, she began to question that, and determined to educate herself.
Her breathtaking memoir, Educated (£8.49), details her struggle for self-invention, and reminds us that school offers far more than homework and exams: it presents us with the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it, too.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
In this witty book of essays, Amy Poehler – one of the funniest, warmest, wittiest and smartest women in showbiz – challenges us to figure out what we want, ask for it, take up as much space as possible, and start saying ‘yes, please!’ wherever possible.
As such, Yes Please (£9.99) is broken up into easily digestible sections, guiding readers through their careers, relationships, insecurities and so much more, making it perfect reading for any life crisis.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
The synopsis for bestselling memoir, The Outrun (£9.99), which is all about the healing powers of nature, speaks for itself: “At the age of 30, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life.
“As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney’s wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.”
The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish
If you’re a fan of stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, then you definitely need to read her memoir. If you’re not (and who are you, really?), then read it anyway, because The Last Black Unicorn (£9.99) is a beautiful, bawdy, brilliant book.
In it, Haddish opens up about her difficult childhood, taking us from foster homes to red carpets. And, in doing so, she encourages us all to follow our dreams, never forget where we came from, and to always be our most authentic self.
Glorious Rock Bottom by Bryony Gordon
In Glorious Rock Bottom (£14.99), Bryony Gordon opens up about her toxic 20-year relationship with alcohol and drugs, and explains exactly why hitting rock bottom – for her, a traumatic event and the abrupt realisation that she was putting herself in danger, time and again – saved her life.
Letter To My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou may not have a daughter, but she has said, time and time again, that she sees the little girl she never had all around her. Letter To My Daughter (£8.99) is dedicated to the many women who view her as a mother figure, providing them with something like a guidebook, something like a memoir, as it walks them down Angelou’s tried-and-tested path to living well and living a life with meaning.
In doing so, she reminds us that, yes, life can be a constant uphill struggle, but that we have the strength and spirit to overcome more than we can possibly imagine – if only we learn to believe in ourselves.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai’s name has become synonymous with bravery, equality, and freedom – for good reason. And, yes, I Am Malala (£7.49) tells the true story of this extraordinary young woman’s life.
However, it is also so much more than just that.
Yousafzai’s book doesn’t just detail her incredible story: it also serves as a testament to the fact that true strength comes from within.
As such, it serves as an important reminder of the need to speak up for our beliefs – and for those who don’t have a voice, too.
The Truths & Triumphs Of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris
At a glance, The Truths & Triumphs Of Grace Atherton (£8.99) is every bit as quiet and unassuming as its titular character: a story about a violin shop owner and her devoted partner of eight years? Please.
As you may have guessed, though, the story this book sets out to tell is very different from that laid out in the first few pages, which results in readers wanting to stand a little taller, speak a little louder, to push themselves to try something they’ve always dreamed of doing, and that love – in all its forms – is friendship set to music.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
The eponymous hero of Queenie (£6.99) is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman whose life starts to unravel when she takes a break from her long-term boyfriend. She sleeps around, she isolates herself, she makes career-jeopardising decisions, and struggles with all the baggage that comes hand-in-hand with a modern woman’s messiness.
Still, though, her story is furiously funny and endlessly moving, reminding readers everywhere it’s finding yourself, not Mr Right, that’s truly important.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” writes Michelle Obama in her bestselling book, Becoming (£19.99).
“I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.
“The journey doesn’t end.”
What’s your journey of becoming? This deeply personal memoir features thought-provoking questions and prompts to help you discover (and rediscover) your own story, too.
How To Fail by Elizabeth Day
It can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.
With that in mind, then, be sure to pick up a copy of Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail (£7.99). Because it’s a brilliantly funny, painfully honest and insightful celebration of things going wrong: it’s guaranteed to lift you back up again.
The Choice by Dr Edith Eger
A favourite of Stylist’s Lucy Robson, The Choice (£8.99) sees internationally acclaimed psychologist Dr Edith Eger share her experience of the Holocaust and the remarkable stories of those she has helped ever since. In doing so, she reminds us that many of us live within a mind that has become a prison, and that freedom is only possible once we confront our suffering.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This page-turner of a debut novel is set around young Black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection that threatens to undo them both. While Such A Fun Age (£12.99) deals deftly with big issues, primarily race and privilege, it also takes a look at what drives us forward, and the strange sense of loss that comes from being left behind, too.
Slipstream by Elizabeth Jane Howard
Slipstream (£12.99) offers readers an extraordinarily honest look at the life of celebrated author Elizabeth Jane Howard. Why? Because she’s not afraid to talk about her failures, her hang-ups, her lack of self-esteem. Her steady stream of common sense and sense of resilience, though, are guaranteed to give you the tools you need to sit back and look at your own life, to understand your own behaviour, and to work out where you want to take things next, too.
Images: Getty/provided by publishers