6 books for women feeling a bit lost

by Mason Ng

Are you lacking direction or scared to confront your future? Are you struggling to navigate the throes of young adulthood, womanhood or both? Do you enjoy contemporary fiction centered on women, written by women? If so, these book recommendations are for you!

“The Idiot” & “Either/Or” by Elif Batuman

“The Idiot” and its sequel, “Either/Or,” spotlight Selin, a Turkish-American woman, and her college experience at Harvard University during the mid-‘90s. Batuman curiously names the novels after the classic works of Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky and Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, incorporating their themes into a modern coming-of-age story. Selin is stunningly intellectual but hopelessly naive, passionate but directionless, slightly annoying yet endearing — all consequences of her obvious youth. Through her dry humor and witty descriptions, Selin documents the “firsts” of her college experiences, including deciding on a major, deciphering the unspoken rules of Harvard social life and navigating a questionable romantic-ish relationship (I’m sure many of you can relate). If you’re looking for a charming bildungsroman or a guaranteed laugh, Batuman’s novels are for you.

“Convenience Store Woman” by Sayaka Murata

Set in a fictional Japanese convenience store similar to 7-Eleven, the novel follows Keiko, a store employee who has worked at the chain for over a decade. Keiko enjoys the highly methodical, standardized nature of her work, which allows her to make sense of wider social norms. However, the scrutiny and societal pressures she endures lead her to seek a more traditional lifestyle: marriage and finding a more “suitable” job. The novel is a curious exploration of conformity, isolation and the unexpected effects a service job has on its workers. If you’re looking for a short, fast-paced read with a swath of cultural interpretations, definitely check out “Convenience Store Woman”!

“Pizza Girl” by Jean Kyoung Frazier

“Pizza Girl” is about an 18-year-old pregnant pizza-delivery worker coping with the death of her abusive father and feeling suffocated by her supportive mother and boyfriend. Amidst the whirlwind of change in her life, she becomes increasingly obsessed with one of her customers, a middle-aged suburban mother. As their relationship turns more intimate, remaining largely one-sided, Kyoung Frazier dissects the dangers of obsession with tenderness, humor and compassion. “Pizza Girl” is an eccentric tale of a young woman struggling to traverse the unique circumstances of her adulthood, focusing on the humanity of her morally questionable actions. If you enjoy wacky plots and morally dubious characters, give “Pizza Girl” a try.

“The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath

The esteemed poet’s semi-autobiographical and only novel, “The Bell Jar,” is widely hailed as an American classic. The story follows Esther Greenwood, a Massachusetts college student in the 1950s, detailing her feelings of aimlessness among her peers, disappointment in her dating life and struggle with depression. The novel is much less lighthearted than the aforementioned books — unafraid to portray the bleak, grueling realities of mental illness and institutionalization, especially the differential medical treatment of women at the time. If you would like to venture into the dark and poignantly written world of Sylvia Plath, read “The Bell Jar.”

Trigger warnings: sexual assault, suicide attempts, self-harm

“Milk Fed” by Melissa Broder

Rachel is a young woman living in Los Angeles with an extreme eating disorder and obsession with calorie counting — that is until she meets Miriam, a Jewish woman who works at the frozen yogurt shop that Rachel frequents daily. As they become closer, as friends and then as lovers, Miriam helps Rachel develop a healthier relationship with food by absorbing her into her family, surrounding her with love and cooking her traditional Jewish foods. As the two bond over their shared Jewish heritage, the novel explores Rachel’s fraught relationship with her mother and the healing power of food. If you need something erotic, sarcastic yet ultimately heartwarming, “Milk Fed” will deliver.

Note: Since these six books are relatively popular titles, you can likely find them at your local library or buy them second-hand at a used bookstore. Save money and be sustainable!

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