Allison Pearson's Five Books You Should Give Your Daughter

Posted by Cybil on June 8, 2018
Allison Pearson is the author of the New York Times-bestselling I Don't Know How She Does It, about Kate Reddy, an overworked mother juggling competing demands. That book was later made into a movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker. This month, Pearson returns readers to her heroine, who is now pushing 50 and planning a career comeback after working as a stay-at-home mom in this month's How Hard Can It Be?. Here Pearson recommends books that, to her, can serve as guides for young women.

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There has never been a better time to be a girl, or a more confusing one. Young women today have greater equality than their mothers or grandmothers, but they also have the pressure of social media, that vast, warping Hall of Mirrors, to deal with. Who would envy them the constant comparisons with their peers? I have seen my own darling daughter suffer from anxiety, an epidemic among girls her age. At such a moment, the timeless reassurance of literature, of stories told by women about girls, can be invaluable. What the late, great Carol Shields called “a slender handrail” to hold onto.

Books were my comfort and joy during a pretty bumpy childhood. I adored the companionship of Little Women and the ebullient spirit of Anne of Green Gables. Girls today have access to many more books featuring heroines who have both agency and courage. I will always be grateful to J.K. Rowling for making Hermione Grainger the smartest wizard in Harry Potter, showing the boys how it’s done.

If our daughters no longer need men to define them, romantic love and its close relation, heartache, are still a preoccupation. Writers like Melissa Bank (and Jane Austen centuries before) say this to their readers: You are not alone. Others have felt as you feel and have mastered their fears.

Our daughters are on a journey without maps, but the books below offer some signposts to help them navigate.

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"Uproariously funny and deliciously empowering tale of an orphan who has sticky-out red plaits and lives in a cottage with only a monkey and a horse for company. My mum recalls seeing me reading this book when I was nine years old, laughing and hugging myself with glee. Almost half a century later, this timeless Swedish masterpiece still makes me feel that way. As Pippi says, why would she be worried about taking on the strongest man in the world 'when I am the strongest GIRL in the world.' Exactly."

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"Over the years, I’ve lost count of the number of romantically confused young women to whom I’ve given this brilliant collection of short stories. Melissa Bank knows all about yearning and loneliness, which is a great comfort to those who feel no one understands them. And she writes like John Cheever channeling Nora Ephron. Heaven."

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"Even before social media became their preferred instrument of torture, girls found ways to be horrible to one another. Controversial painter Elaine looks back on being bullied by Cordelia, her charismatic teenage frenemy. This is the definitive mean-girls novel and it lends valuable perspective to a hateful experience which can feel like it will never end."

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"Dazzling companion piece and searing riposte to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Dominica-born Rhys imagines the life of the first Mrs. Rochester before she became the Madwoman in the Attic. What (or who) made her a monster? A great, impassioned novel which tells girls not to accept the label of 'crazy' a man might try and put on them."

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"The original and still the greatest romantic comedy. Girls are no longer expected to make a suitable match lest they end up a poor, vulnerable spinster like the author but, two centuries later, the novel continues to offer unforgettable lessons on how to live. Penniless Elizabeth Bennet captures proud Mr. Darcy with only her lively mind and zesty wit. Womankind remains forever grateful to Jane Austen for showing that booky girls can get the hot billionaire. Yes!"

How Hard Can It Be? is available in stores now. Don’t forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf!

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Pride and Prejudice is great, but I think Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility (really, anything by Austen apart from Lady Susan and her teenage writings) also teach young women how to live, how to treat others, and how to find lasting, mutually respectful love. Although, Mansfield does have a serious squick factor, so trigger warning on that.

message 2: by Meredith (last edited Jun 08, 2018 05:43PM) (new)

Meredith Why ISN'T "Little Women" on here? That book if nothing else is a "guide" for how women should treat one another (well) and how they can exist in the world altogether, especially when you need to rely on other women for help. Add that and toss in "Ella Enchanted" and, "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" (the former, because every girl should read that book, and the latter, depending on how mature your daughter is) for good measure. Added a couple of these books to my "To Read" list as well. Very glad to have read this article!

message 3: by Nicole (new)

Nicole I wish there was a way I can save this blog post! I really like the important theme as a woman, and enjoy the recommendations.

message 4: by Pratibha (new)

Pratibha Suku Little Women is another one which can be added.
Yh it has nothing to do with current age upbringing girls need to have but it has something which will be there in all age- mother- daughter relation, holding on to your sisters, and yes that females can be friends without any ill-will.

message 5: by Katsuro (new)

Katsuro Fun fact: Pippi Longstocking's horse has no name, but the movie version named it "Lilla Gubben," so most Swedes don't know that the actual books never name it.

message 6: by Amber (new)

Amber I think Little Women is an awesome book to give to any girls too. I would also recommend the Mother daughter book club series too The Mother-Daughter Book Club

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