Sometimes all you want to do is read a really great chick-lit novel. Let me be up front from the beginning, though: my idea of chick-lit is a little bit eclectic. If it makes me laugh, cry, and feel empowered, if I can identify with the characters and read the book over and over again, I'm in. That being said, here's my top 7 list containing the chick-lit novels I love best.
1. Jemima J, by Jane Green
The tale of an overweight woman with an enormous crush on an unattainable friend and her journey to lose weight, get fit, fall in love, and finally find her happily-ever-after, this goes so much deeper than the standard Cinderella story. On the surface it is a light and frothy read, but its messages about self acceptance (and self hate), passion versus love, friendship versus lust, and the dangers of obsession take it far deeper. The characters can get a little two dimensional and many of the plot twists are extremely out there, but this work definitely speaks to every woman who has ever felt like an ugly duckling.
2. Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King
I know what you're thinking. Not only is this a novel written by a man, but it's from a horror writer. I know, I know, but I consider this novel one of Stephen King's best surprises. It makes the list because of its evocative truths, such as one of the signature lines, spoken first by Vera Donovan and later repeated by Dolores: "Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto." Dolores Claiborne's tale of being a bitch details, albeit in extremes, the lengths a woman will go to for the people she loves — and for her children especially. Plus I have to admit, I just love that dialect.
3. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding
Oh come on. You knew this was going to be on here. I actually only recently read this book, having heard that it was slightly overrated and not nearly as entertaining as it purported to be, and found that I very pleasantly and voraciously disagreed with both sentiments. Bridget Jones is daffy and shallow and self absorbed but you know, who isn't? Who doesn't worry about calories and marriage and whether to wear the slimming panties or the sexy panties? It's not a deep read, but it's an entertaining one, and is someone with whom many women can identify. Plus I have to give mad props for the fact that the delicious Colin Firth is mentioned in the book while playing Mr. Darcy.
4. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb
Again, we have a man writing from a woman's point of view. I first read this book when I was a senior in high school. In … ahem, the year 2000. What I read on the back of that particular edition was absolutely true: if you didn't know better, you'd never believe the book was written by a man. The book follows Dolores Price from childhood to adulthood, through divorce, rape, obesity, oppression, and tragedy of all sorts. Poignant and funny and heartbreaking all at once, this is honestly one of the best books I've ever read.
5. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
Although I may well be the only Lit student in the entire world who does not like Virginia Woolf's books, I love the writer herself and Michael Cunningham's The Hours is a great illustration why. Interweaving the lives of three women in three different eras, this book speaks of strength and weakness, madness and sanity and the wearing away of each. Michael Cunningham is another author who delves into the psyche of women and comes up with something so on point that it's startling.
6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
Out of the trilogy, this book is my favorite. I read it constantly. A Southern girl myself, the enchanting charm of Vivi, Teensy, Caro, and Necie gets me every time. This is a book to make you appreciate your friends, your mothers, and your sisters — and to pine for the kind of porch-sitting, bourbon-sipping, Bourre-playing friendship the Ya-Yas have.
7. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
I have to say that I think every book by Barbara Kingsolver should be on this list, even The Lacuna — my personal favorite — despite the fact that it does not technically qualify as chick-lit, since the exquisite Shepherd is male.
The Poisonwood Bible follows the Price family through their missionary work in the Belgian Congo -- and their deliverance from it. Its main protagonists do well to illustrate in depth portraits of different facets of femininity, from the homemaker in Orleanna to the tomboy and idealist in Leah, from the shallow, giddy teenybopper in Rachel to the whimsical, playful imp in Ruth May, to the brilliant, cynical rebel in Adah. A slice of us all in every girl and every woman, there is nothing about this book I don't love.
So those are just my favorites, the books I think every chick-lit lover should read. What do you think of the books that made it and which ones do you think should be here?