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As a college girl navigating life, it’s easy to get lost and have no idea what to do with your life. When this happens to me, I turn to a good book to bring me back to reality and provide the guidance I need in that moment.
It’s important that we learn and pull from the wisdom of women who have been in our shoes and fought our fight. So here are nine essential books for the college (aspiring) girl boss—they’ll teach you everything from humbleness to the beauty of being yourself.
This one was a-no brainer because first of all, it brought about the popular use of the term “girl boss,” and two, because Sophia Amoruso is a total badass. #GirlBoss is a detailed narrative of Amoruso’s journey from nothing. The thing that sets this book apart from the sea of endless inspiring biographies is that it’s so relatable and touches on most of the struggles we all face in life and business.
As a young girl boss, it’s important to listen and learn from women who have been in your shoes and came out successful. Amoruso shows the reader through her own life experiences that mistakes are ok to make, and that when you do slip up there’s always something to learn from it. She also shows that it’s ok to be different, and that blending into the crowd when you’re born to be a star is both tiring and unnecessary.
This book puts life in perspective. Oftentimes, especially as young adults, we get wrapped up in what we think we need and want and take on a “woe is me” attitude—when in reality we have it better than most people in the world. Just Kids is an autobiography of a young woman who faces extreme adversity I could never even imagine dealing with—such as pregnancy, homelessness, and hopelessness. For girls going through the college experience, this is the perfect book to pull us back to reality and remind us to be grateful for the people and opportunities that we have in our lives.
Patti Smith makes the best out of one of the worst situations and for that reason the reader becomes more and more sympathetic and intrigued with her character as the book goes on. She eventually pulls herself out of poverty and becomes a rock legend—talk about motivation!
Unlike the other choices on this list, Milk and Honey is a collection of inspiring poems. The point of the book is to teach you how to love yourself and put yourself first. It’s so easy in college to feel inferior when you don’t think you’re the prettiest or the smartest girl out there—but just because you aren’t the prettiest or smartest doesn’t mean you don’t have something uniquely spectacular to bring to the table.
The book is separated into four parts, each dealing with different topics, like love, loss, and healing. Kaur takes you through glimpses of life’s most precious and disastrous moments in an attempt to show the reader the simple beauties of life.
Everyone loves a good success story, especially one they can relate to. Tina Fey’s Bossypantsis a tell-all of her life’s struggles, successes, and—not to mention—funny moments that made her probably the most awkward kid in her hometown. (It’s laugh-out-loud funny!)
This is an essential book for college-age girls to read because it showcases hardships that we’ve all gone through and lets us know that things are temporary and there’s something better waiting on the other side. Fey inspires us all to be ourselves, no matter how bossy we may be.
As women on the brink of adulthood, we don’t have it all figured out (in fact, I would venture to say I don’t have much of anything down). Anthropology of an American Girl tells the coming-of-age story of Hilary Hamann as she experiences love and death for the first time.
Hamann was first self-published in 2003, and it’s pretty remarkable how well-known she got on her own. Every college girl should read this because it’s the perfect example of what a woman can accomplish when she puts her mind to something. It’s so easy to get in the party world in college and forget what you’re really there to do—which is to study, learn, get a degree, and change the world.
This book is a great example to girls about how to deal with falling in and out of love and shows that no matter what life throws at you, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
As we get older, we have to learn how to deal with loss in many forms. As we go off to college, we deal with the loss of a safe hope and high school friendships, and through college we can deal with the loss of of a friend or significant other (both emotionally and physically). All of these are tough pills to swallow, but Solnit guides us through them with grace and ease.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost also addresses becoming lost yourself—this can be both negative and positive. No matter how hard we try, most of us end up losing or missing a part of ourselves over the years (not to say we can’t get it back). As college students, we’re bombarded with temptations and urges that can cloud our judgement and make us stray from the person we really are—and most of the time this doesn’t turn out well. But in the end, Solnit teaches that being lost is ok, and that sometimes you have to be lost to find yourself again.
This modern American classic is the oldest book on this list, but that shouldn’t dissuade you from reading it—I mean come on, if they’re calling it a classic, it must be good. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a heart-wrenching story of a child growing up with the feeling of abandonment and displacement.
Angelou’s use of words captures you as a reader and makes you cry when she cries and smile when she smiles. If you didn’t already read this in school, it should definitely be the next book you buy at the store for several reasons: It accurately depicts the racial inequality and sexism of the time, it’s a great example of a beautifully written book, and it empowers us, as women, to break boundaries and do the things others say we can’t or shouldn’t.
Stargirl taught me a very important thing: I am beautiful just the way I am, and there’s nothing wrong with my body, personality, sense of humor, or style. Possibly the worst part of being a young adult is having to deal with the peer pressure and changing yourself to fit an unrealistic mold. Through this book, we learn from a girl younger (but maybe wiser) than us that it’s ok to love yourself exactly how you are.
Stargirl—we never really know her name—is confident and unchanging from the moment she enters her new high school in a new town where she knows no one. The people in her school are taken back by her uniqueness and don’t really know how to treat her because she never fits into their little bubble.
This story is inspiring to us all because it shows that just because everyone is doing something doesn’t mean you have to, and that holding strong in your beliefs and values will serve you well in the end.
In case you were wondering, this is my personal favorite because I’m totally that girl who is passionate about certain issues surrounding women’s rights and very lax on others. As college students, we’re finally getting the chance to blossom into intellectual, forward-thinking women. Because of this, it’s important to realize that we should own our femininity and fight for our rights both in the workplace and at home.
Roxane Gay is a total super-star who tells it to you straight. She talks about her experience growing up as a woman—which is super relatable in a lot of ways—and shows the reader the world through her eyes. She also talks about the state of feminism today and how most of us want to pretend that we’re feminists when really we’re making the problem worse by living double standards.
Bad Feminist is great for young women because it teaches us to think a little differently and focus on becoming the thriving, gorgeous women we want to be.