There’s nothing like a good story, but what’s even better is a story that makes you reflect and challenge your ideas. Here are five books that you need on your nightstand.

  1. Hellfire by Leesa Gazi, translated by Nadiya Shabnum

Hellfire begins with a forty-year-old Lovely going to the market. The strange part is that this is her first unchaperoned trip to the market. Lovely’s household is controlled by her toxic, possessive mother who doesn’t let her daughters go out even to the house terrace without permission. Hellfire is a shocker, enlightening us with how difficult it is to challenge our conditioning and make decisions that do not align with what we’ve been taught. It urges us to think about boundaries and how to break free of chains that limit our growth.

2. The women who forgot to invent Facebook by Nisha Susan

This short story collection is a pure delight featuring fictional women who feel real. They aren’t scared to speak their mind. They are loud, foul-mouthed, and vulnerable; they spend hours sexting literary agents, moderating social media posts as an employee, or stalking the relics of the husband’s first wife on the internet. Fresh, inventive, with guaranteed loud laughs.

3. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”—says Eleanor Oliphant, the socially awkward, eccentric, adorable protagonist of Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine. Eleanor is a gem; she is hardworking, sticks to routines, and talks on the phone with her mother every day. She struggles with societal expectations and also nurses’ traumas from her past. You’ll be cheering loudly for Eleanor as she finds fulfillment

—like by making a new friend or understanding social cues. You’ll find the story encouraging you to find your own true potential. Be warned you will miss Eleanor so much when you finish the book.

4. If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

If I Had Your Face is one of my memorable reads, a slice-of-life novel about five women set in contemporary Seoul. It is an engaging read on how women navigate love, cosmetic procedures, fangirling, and careers in patriarchal setups. More importantly, it is a book about friendship and how women can uplift one another.

5. Educated by Tara Westover

Here’s something for non-fiction lovers. Educated is best consumed as an audiobook and I bet you would not be able to stop thinking about the book when you finish it. This is a memoir about growing up with survivalist parents in a conservative Mormon household that forbids immunization, hospital checkups, medicines, and public education. Rather than bashing her religious beliefs, Westover confides in her process of self-discovery and the wonder of the world beyond the confines of her strict household. She first set foot in a classroom at the age of 17. Getting acclimatized to the new world was an uphill task—learning history and current affairs, being amazed that a painkiller, something that was banned in her house, could lessen pain, and understanding that all women in the world are not the wrong kind as she was taught. The pursuit of knowledge saved her life.

6. The Power by Naomi Alderman

Alderman’s dystopian novel is a reversal of power dynamics in our contemporary world. Teenage girls are suddenly in possession of a power by which they can pass electric sparks through their bodies. This causes uprisings and riots in different parts of the world. Patriarchal structures are brought to the knees. Women take over as heads of departments from men. In some countries, new oppressive rules like men cannot drive are established. The Power is an interesting take on what women might do when they have the ‘power’ and where they fail.

Staff Reporter

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