Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, so naturally, some of my favorite books have helped to shape my beliefs, personality, and ideals. The books on this list have all inspired me in one way or another, and feature relatable female protagonists that have made me believe in my own abilities. This list includes fun, lighthearted books, as well as books with a dark, realistic theme. No matter your interests or personal preference, there will be something on here that you can both enjoy and learn from.
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Summary: When a handsome, rich, and single man and his ill-tempered, but wealthier friend purchase estates nearby the Bennet's home, Elizabeth Bennet must work to convince her sisters to look past their blind obsession and consider the idea of love and marriage rationally.
Elizabeth Bennet is by far one of the most beloved female characters in literature. Rather than conforming to the social norms of her time, she makes her own decisions and is very outspoken when it comes to her beliefs and opinions. Although she is not the oldest sister, she is the wisest, and is always willing to offer kind words and advice. She openly challenges and learns from anyone with an opinion that differs from hers, and rather than succumbing to the blind obsession that her friends and sisters experience upon meeting the two bachelors, she uses reasoning and deep thought to give herself the happy ending that she desires.
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
Summary: After her mother remarries and becomes pregnant, Ofelia must fend for herself in this post-war blend of beautiful fantasy and grim reality.
Although she is very young, Ofelia is both strong-willed and a fierce protector. In both the book and the movie, she is portrayed as youthful, imaginative, and innocent. Despite being young and innocent, when her strength is tested, and she is physically, mentally, and emotionally pushed to her limits, she prevails. Ofelia remains calm and collected when realizing her destiny and makes a wise, mature decision when faced with the challenge of making the ultimate sacrifice to save someone she loves. By using her imagination and good-natured personality, she is able to overcome any challenge that is set before her, which is a good reminder that everyone, no matter how young, is capable to overcoming obstacles in life and making selfless decisions.
The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
Summary: While enduring the oppression of a deadly patriarchal society, a woman fights for change on the inside while subtly encouraging others to do the same.
"Hanmaid's Tale" is an incredibly popular television show right now, but it is based on a book that is equally incredible. Rather than standing by and allowing perpetual injustices to take place around her, June takes charge and is willing to fight for the change that needs to happen, making her one of the strongest, most inspiring characters in the world of entertainment. She teaches viewers and readers from all backgrounds and walks of life that they are strong and capable of changing things that are unjust and fighting for those who are voiceless and powerless.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Rae Carson)
Summary: A self-conscious, relatable princess with a divinely-appointed destiny is forced to endure a major test of strength and will when the kingdom that she has married into is threatened with war.
This young-adult novel was my favorite book throughout middle school and my early high school years. After reading this book, I immediately picked up the rest of the trilogy, and to this day I will still pick up one of the books when I get bored. The book starts out on Elisa's sixteenth birthday, and she is unsure, self-conscious, and anxious about her future. Most people can relate to her, as those types of feelings are shared by young people everywhere. She sets out on a journey to discover her destiny and learn about herself. Along the way, she becomes more confident in herself and learns how to cope with the losses she experiences along the way. By the end of the book, she has taken control of her young life, and developed the leadership skills necessary to save her kingdom from total destruction.
Code Name Verity (Elizabeth Wein)
Summary: Set during World War II, this book follows the journey of two young women, a pilot, and her passenger, who is involved in an espionage scheme. When the plane crashes, the pair of best friends must fight for their survival as they struggle to find each other again in this war-torn world.
Both "Verity" and Maddie are incredibly inspiring characters. This young-adult, historical fiction story shows the danger and challenges that were faced by those who fight for their countries during a major war. When "Verity" is captured, she shows resilience and strength as she is trying to fight her way out. At the same time, Maddie continues to show her resolve and willingness to fight for what she believes in. During "Verity's" confession, she recounts the story of how the two girls met, making this an inspiring story of true friendship, love, determination, and strength.
Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)
Summary: Harry Potter and his tight-knit group of wizard friends fight in a drawn out, world-changing war between good and evil, all while navigating school and young life.
Hermione Granger is one the most well-known female heroines ever. She has been the inspiration of almost every young child that reads about her adventures with friends Ron and Harry. Throughout the seven books in the series, readers can see her go on a journey of personal growth and development. She goes from this smart, awkward young girl, to a confident, intelligent, and talented young woman. She is always supportive of her friends, and will put herself at risk in order to help others reach their goals. She exudes kindness, and is always willing to teach, nurture, and help whenever she has the chance. Readers can watch her grow up as they, themselves, are growing up, and will definitely be inspired by her persistence, grit, strong-will, and leadership abilities. Hermione Granger has definitely earned her place among some of the most respected and beloved characters in popular culture.
I Am Malala (Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai)
Summary: This is the true story of a young woman who survived a bullet-wound to the head while fighting for women's rights to education.
This isn't a fiction book, which makes the lead character's story even more inspirational. The book's official title is: I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up For Education and was Shot by the Taliban. This title perfectly encapsulates exactly what this young woman went through. The true story goes through her life, pointing out the important influences and experiences that led to her near-death experience. Since this book has been published, she has worked tirelessly to continue her efforts in fighting for education. Malala has given motivational speeches, and even started her own organization. She can inspire us all to quiet our fears and fight for others without fear of the future.
My Forbidden Face (Latifa)
Summary: When the Taliban took control of Kabul in the late 90's, Latifa watched in despair as the world she loved changed and became a hopeless place of silence and despair.
Similarly to I Am Malala, this is a true story. This story revolves around "Latifa", who has big dreams to be a journalist. When her home is taken over by the Taliban and her life drastically changes, she uses her journalism skills to writes a harrowing account of the devastation and problems that fell upon her community during that time. She is no longer able to attend school, and she very rarely has the opportunity to leave her home. When crafting a story about this horrible time in her life, she creates an inspiring story of hope and resiliance that leaves a long-lasting impact on readers.
This group of books can provide a challenging, fun experience for readers of any age. While many of them are fun, simple books, they can all provide life lessons that will prove valuable to anyone that picks up one of these books.