40 Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

Here are the smartest and most inspirational additions to any library.

40 Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

Here are the smartest and most inspirational additions to any library.

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One great thing about being in your 40s is that, maybe for the first time ever, you feel like you’re in a really good place: You have life experience, perspective, and let’s be real—you finally feel like you have it all together. (Hey, it takes time!) So when you’re looking for the perfect book that suits your needs, you can’t just reach for anything.

An essential pick for someone in her 20s isn’t necessarily going to be a favorite for someone in her 40s. But with that being said, there are also timeless classes and reads that are universal to all women, no matter their age.

These tops picks hit every check mark: Some tell epic love stories, some are laugh-out-loud funny, some are dark, and some will leave you breathless. No matter what your preference is, rest assured that once you start reading you certainly won’t want to stop. And if you’re looking to give some great recs to your partner, here are the 40 Books Every Man Over 40 Should Have on His Bookshelf.

little fires everywhere Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

1
Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

$16; buy now at Barnes & Noble

It will probably only take you one sitting to breeze through this novel about an artsy single mother and her daughter, Mia and Pearl, who move to the calm suburb Shaker Heights and rent a house from rule-following Elena Richardson. But the duo’s mysterious past holds plenty of secrets that threaten to cause some chaos in the lives of those around them.

yes please amy poehler Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

2
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler

$14; buy now at Target

Even if you’re not a die-hard Amy Poehler fan, you’ll love this read. The funny lady’s first book dives into everything from personal stories to must-read advice, including when you should show off your comedic skills and when you should keep your mouth shut. And if you’re looking to knock out as many books as possible, check out our guide to The Amazing Secrets of Speed Reading. 

In the company of women, by gracy bonney

3
In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney  

$35; buy now at Powell’s

Anytime you need a boost of inspiration, just open this book. Within the pages, you’ll get to meet more than 100 influential women who are all makers, artists, and entrepreneurs—and discover exactly how they found success and happiness in their lives. It gets better, though: You can learn how to go for your passion through their journeys, too. And for more on life’s journey, here are 40 Things Only Women Over 40 Know. 

The Feminine Mystique Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

4
The Feminine Mystique, by Betty Friedan 

$18; buy now at Powell’s

This book has been around since the ’60s, but it’s known for sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States. At the time, being fulfilled as a woman was thought to be through being a housewife and having children. But that wasn’t the case and it ignited a flame in ladies everywhere.

Wonder by RJ Palacio Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

5
Wonder, by RJ Palacio

$12; buy now at Barnes & Noble

This book tells the story of August Pullman, a boy who was born with a rare facial deformity who just wants to be treated like any other kid. There’s plenty of hard moments along the way, but he also becomes an inspiration to everyone around him, teaching everyone that it’s OK to be different. If you have children and are looking for some parenting advice, here is The Single Best Way to Raise Emotionally Healthy Kids.

Eat Pray Love Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

6
Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert 

$11; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Let’s hope you have your passport ready, because this book is going to make you want to go travel the world. The story is a memoir from author Elizabeth Gilbert as she travels the world after her divorce, learning plenty of great lessons along the way during her time in Italy, India, and Indonesia. If you are planning on taking a big trip this year, memorize these 35 Brilliant Travel Hacks Only Experienced Globetrotters Know.

Wild Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

7
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed

$11; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Can you imagine going on a 1,110-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington completely by yourself with no previous hiking experience? That’s exactly what Cheryl Strayed did in order to get through her pain and personal challenges, and this memoir goes deep into her journey of self-discovery along the way. If you’re someone looking to go on your own epic journey, we suggest checking out The Greatest Hikes in the World.

The Girl on the Train Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

8
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

$16; buy now at Amazon

Every day Rachel Watson takes a train into London, and as the train stops for its signal, she has the view of a couple in their home and always imagines their perfect life together. But one day she sees something so shocking that it unfolds a series of events that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

A Secret SisterhoodBooks Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

9
A Secret Sisterhood, by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney

$21; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Contrary to popular belief, famous female authors didn’t just sit alone and write all the time while male authors had legendary friendships. Through unpublished letters and diaries, this book dives into the interesting friendships of Jane Austen and Anne Sharp, Mary Taylor and Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. If you’re a fellow lit lover, have you checked out The 30 Best Literature-Inspired Baby Names?

alias grace Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

10
Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood

$17; buy now at Powell’s

This book looks into the life of Grace Marks, who was convicted of being involved in the murder of her boss, his housekeeper, and mistress in 1843. The only problem? She’s serving a life sentence but says she doesn’t remember a thing. That’s when one mental health expert decided to hear her out and see what happens if he helps her unlock her memories. Are you also looking to improve your memory? Take some advice from these 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Memory.

Gone Girl Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

11
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

$13; buy now at The Strand

On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, something terrible happens: His wife disappears. The catch? People start to think he might have done it. But that’s just one of the many twists and turns ahead in this page-turner.

Me Before You Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

12
Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes

$10; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Louisa Clark didn’t expect to fall for the very moody Will Traynor when she gets a job taking care of him due to him being confined to a wheelchair after an accident. He can’t seem to become happy with his new life and has a plan to end it all, and that’s when she swoops in and tries to show him there’s something to live for: love. And if you’re looking for true love, you can Steal The Secret For True Love From This Viral Tweet.

The Goldfinch Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

13
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

$11; buy now at Powell’s

After 13-year-old Theo Decker survives an accident that leaves him without a mother, he’s taken in by a family friend who just so happens to be super wealthy. His new life was a far cry from his old one and he gets comfort from a small painting, thrusting himself into the world of art. But as an adult working in an antique shop, he finds himself in an even more dangerous circle.

Gone Girl Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

14
The Girls, by Emma Cline 

$18; buy now at Target

Everyone has that cool girl they’re drawn to growing up, and for Evie Boyd that was Suzanne. From that friendship, she gets wound up in an infamous cult — so much so that she has no idea that her obsession is leading her down a very dark and dangerous path.

What Happened by Hillary Clinton, Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

15
What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton

$30; buy now at Amazon

If you still feel like breaking down over Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, you’re not alone. In this personal memoir, Clinton goes into detail on exactly how she felt that fateful day, the struggles that came before it, and how she’s picked up the pieces since.

you are a badass Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

16
You Are a Bad-ss, by Jen Sincero

$10; buy now at Target

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you’re great, and that’s where Jen Sincero comes in. In this book, you’ll get tips, advice, and easy-to-follow exercises from the success coach that will help you create a life you truly love. For more advice on how to live your best life, here is The Best Way to Find Your True Purpose in Life.

everything i never told you Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

17
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng 

$14; buy now at The Strand

Lydia was her parents’ favorite child and was always meant to live out their dreams someday, but that all came to a halt when her body was found in a lake. What comes next is a story that will have you flying through the pages until you’re finished.

bad feminist Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

18
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay

$16; buy now at Amazon

In this book, writer Roxane Gay not only takes you on her journey as a woman of color, but will also give you important lessons on culture and feminism along the way through a collection of sharp and insightful essays.

Bossypants Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

19
Bossypants, by Tina Fey

$10; buy now at Target

You can’t have Amy Poehler’s book on a list without including Tina Fey’s, too. This book follows Fey’s life from her childhood as a self-proclaimed nerd to her terrifying honeymoon situation. So, yes — it’s incredibly amusing.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

20
Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

$15; buy now at Powell’s

Even if you don’t like poetry, you’ll enjoy this book by Rupi Kaur. The four chapters go through different pain people deal with in life and finds sweetness in them, showing the world you can always find something good from the bad if you look hard enough.

Diary of Bridget Jones, Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

21
Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

$10; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Before the famous movie staring Renée Zellweger became a household favorite, there was a book. And the hilarious adventures of this singleton — written as if you’re snooping through her actual diary — is definitely worth reading. For more about single lifestyle, here are 40 Reasons Why Being Single in Your 40s is the Greatest Thing Ever.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

22
The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

$8; buy now at The Strand

You know a book is good when it’s been turned into a movie and a Broadway show. This story goes through the life of Celie, a poor black woman who has been abused and raped by her father since she was 14 years old. Now 20, married to a brutal husband, and separated from her sister, she meets a singer who helps her let go of her past and reunite with the people she cares about.

The Handmaid's Tale Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

23
The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

$11; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Now a hit show on Hulu, this book follows the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead whose only purpose is to be bear children — but not by choice. Before being forced into this world, she had a normal life with a husband and daughter — but now it doesn’t seem like that will ever be possible again.

All the Light We Cannot See Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

24
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

$12; buy now at Powell’s

This award-winning novel tells the story of a blind French girl whose life intertwines with a German soldier during World War II. Both are doing their best to survive, and some magic happens along the way that makes all the difference.

the time traveler's wifeBooks Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

25
The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

$17; buy now at Amazon

In this book, a man’s disorder causes him to time travel unpredictably, leaving his wife behind never knowing how long he’ll be gone. You’ll instantly get caught up in their unique love story — one that actually begins when he visits her from the future when she’s only 6 years old.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

26
Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

$10; buy now at Barnes & Noble

When Alice — a successful professor at Harvard — is only 50 years old, she learns she has Alzheimer’s. Although it’s a hard truth to grasp at first, she realizes being able to remember isn’t the only thing that’s important in life. If you’re interested in hearing more accounts with this disease, be sure to check out My Mother’s Prison.

The Help Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

27
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett

$12; buy now at Target

When three seemingly different women — a black maid, her friend, and a socialite — come together to write a tell-all book about working as a black maid in the South, they end up starting a movement.

Room Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

28
Room, by Emma Donoghue

$15; buy now at Amazon

Although he doesn’t know it, 5-year-old Jack’s life isn’t normal. He’s been in one small room with his mother since he was born — and little does he know, she’s being held there against her will. Their story of survival will have you so invested that you won’t be able to put down this book.

we need to talk about kevin Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

29
We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver

$10; buy now at Powell’s

Ready for a page-turner? In this book, Eva’s son murders seven of his fellow classmates, a cafeteria worker, and a teacher before his 16th birthday. In the years that follow, she wonders if her not ever wanting to be a mother in the first place had something to do with making him turn out the way he did.

the sleep revolution Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

30
The Sleep Revolution, by Arianna Huffington

$12; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Arianna Huffington is set out to change the way you catch your Zs. This book goes through it all, from the sleeping pill industry to how technology affects your sleep. Once you finish, you’ll have a new outlook on one of the most important things your body needs — and why you should focus on getting a proper amount of shut-eye. Looking to step up your sleeping, This Secret Trick Will Instantly Improve Your Sleep.

woman in cabin 10 Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

31
The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware

$13; buy now at Target

This story of Lo Blacklock — a travel journalist — takes plenty of twists and turns during her week on a luxury cruise. While she’s there, she witnesses something awful and tries to figure out what exactly went wrong.

Fear of Flying Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

32
Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong 

$8; buy now at Barnes & Noble

This novel was incredibly controversial when it came out in the early ’70s, but its openness about female sexuality opened a new door that resulted in a strong wave of feminism.

The Great Alone Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

33
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

$30; buy now at Amazon

This book tells the story of a family that moved to Alaska in 1974 to start a new life and their journey in the harsh wilderness. Though the isolation was just as hard to deal with as the unbearable weather, it turned into something truly powerful.

Hit so Hard Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

34
Hit So Hard, by Patty Schemel

$18; buy now at Target

In this memoir, Hole drummer Patty Schemel does a deep dive into the story of her life, from difficult childhood memories and dealing with addiction to living with Kurt Cobain and his Hole front-woman wife Courtney Love.

The Immortalists Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

35
The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin

$26; buy now at Powell’s

What if someone told you exactly when you would die down to the day? That’s exactly what when four adolescents visited a traveling psychic in New York City to pass some time on a summer day, and this book follows the stories of what they decide to do with that knowledge. This book is great but if you want to hack the aging, try out these 100 Ways to Live to 100.

The woman in the window Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

36
The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn 

$16; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Anna Fox — who’s too afraid to leave her home — watches the world through her window. But when seemingly perfect new neighbors move in, she ends up seeing something horrible and has to figure out what actually happened.

Anne Frank :The Diary of a young girl Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

37
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank

$3; buy now at Powell’s

By now, you probably know Anne Frank — but do you know her story from her own words? Her diary goes into detail of what her life was like during her time in hiding from the Nazis. Her life was short, but the account of the Holocaust from the eyes of a Jewish teenager is a must-read.

My sister's keeper Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

38
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult 

$11; buy now at Barnes & Noble

If your daughter was sick, would you do everything in your power to save her? For one mother, that meant having Anna undergo multiple surgeries, transfusions, and other procedures for her sister Kate in order to help her fight her leukemia. But now that Anna is older, she’s faced with a decision that could completely tear her family apart.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

39
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

$16; buy now at Amazon

Finding happiness is harder than you think, and author Gretchen Rubin took an entire year to find out exactly what it takes to become truly content. It’s not only a great read, but you can also learn what steps you need to take to become happier along the way. Need a pick-me-up, we’ve got you check out The 25 Best Instant Mood Boosters!

Uncommon Type Books Every Woman Over 40 Should Have on Her Bookshelf

40
Uncommon Type: Some Stories, by Tom Hanks 

$17; buy now at Barnes & Noble

Love Tom Hanks? Then you need to pick up his first collection of short stories — 17, to be exact! — that prove he’s just as great of a writer as he is an actor. And you won’t be bored: They feature all sorts of interesting characters, from a World War II vet to a surfer kid in California.

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