Cue the lackadaisical glories of summer! Hopefully you have some beach trips planned, or at the very least, can anticipate some idle nights spent on the patio or front porch. Maybe you love making sangria or taking trips to the ice cream parlor. However you plan to capture the magic of summertime, I hope with all my heart you’ve compiled a summer reading list. That is the most ethereal element of all. Never fear: in case you haven’t, or you’re not sure where to even begin, here are ten books that every woman should read.

The Privilege of Being a Woman by Alice von Hildebrand

“Every woman carries within herself a secret, something mysterious and sacred.”

If you’ve ever believed that you were created for more than what the world says, but cannot figure out exactly what that means, search no further. This quick read offers the most stunning insight on what it means to be a woman, and how to live out your authentic femininity. 

Motherhood Redeemed by Kimberly Cook

“I repetitively encountered the issues of reproductive rights—abortion, contraception, and fertility. During that time, the horror of being a woman was awakened in me.”

Cook has managed to write a fascinating history of feminism, sharing the stories of feminist leaders without adding any judgement. Masterfully, she weaves in the story of her own time deep in the feminist movement, as well as her reversion to Catholicism. This is one of the best books I have read this year, and I strongly encourage you to check it out as well. 

By Love Refined by Alice von Hildebrand 

“Although love is a gift, it must be learned.”

This epistolary volume by Von Hildebrand is a must read for all women married and unmarried. The wisdom she proffers bravely counters our modern concept of love and married life, and serves as an ideal guide to help you in your own challenges. Because it’s so great, here is one more quote:

“One widespread modern attitude aggravates our difficulties in marriage and in all our other relationships: lack of reverence. I don’t only mean lack of reverence for God. I also mean lack of reverence for other persons and even for things: the failure to recognize the inner nobility and worth of persons and things which leads to the failure to treat them with the deep, tender respect that is due to them.”

My Spirit Rejoices by Elisabeth Leseur 

“All that is good in me I owe to God alone, whose fatherly action is continuous and is so plainly visible in my life.”

The secret diary of Elisabeth Leseur is one of the most beautiful texts I was blessed to stumble upon. Her deep faith and humble trust in God was so powerful that after her death, her atheist husband discovered her diary, converted and became a priest.  In other words, her diary is transformative. 

The World’s First Love by Fulton Sheen 

“She existed in the Divine Mind as an Eternal Thought before there were any mothers. She is the Mother of mothers—she is the world’s first love.”

This is one of the most beautiful Marian books ever written. Sheen lovingly portrays our Mother and provides wisdom and theological profundity on every page. Anyone wanting to deepen their relationship with Momma Mary needs to read this book. 

The Eternal Woman by Gertrud von le Fort

“Wherever woman is most profoundly herself, she is not as herself but surrendered, and wherever she is surrendered, there she is also bride and mother.”

This tiny book is an illustrious illustration of who woman is; not in her biological or psychological form, but rather a symbolic aspect, since symbolism is the language of the invisible and transcendent. Von le Fort expresses the deep and inherent beauty embedded in womanliness and its unique reflection of the Divine. 

The Heart of Perfection by Colleen Carrol Campbell 

“I am loved by a God whose longing for me is as ardent as it is infinite.” 

Do you suffer from spiritual perfectionism? An intense desire to be so good that it hijacks your ego and makes you resent your littleness? Maybe it turns you to fear or a belief that God doesn’t love you. Sometimes, our sense of spiritual perfectionism drives us to something perhaps more insidious: spiritual smugness or spiritual pride. 

Campbell navigates us through an often unaddressed trial of spiritual perfectionism. Along the way she introduces us to saints who also struggled with similar trials, and slowly but beautifully she helps you trade in your idea of perfection for God’s. 

No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy by Fr. Donald Calloway 

“The truth hurts sometimes. If we are going to be taught by God, the fisherman, we first need to be captured by Him. And His hook is going to have a bite. Of course, it’s going to hurt. The truth hurts when we are sinners and when we acknowledge we are not surrendering to the truth.”

In this breathtaking book, Fr. Calloway shares his conversion to Catholicism, which is almost more dramatic than the story of St. Paul. He explains how at a very young age he became a thief and addict. As a young teenager, he was kicked out of Japan, and that is not the worst of it. However, God’s grace can pierce through the most hardened of hearts, and that is exactly what happens. This is a beautiful testimony to the grace of God, hope, and Mary’s unending motherly love. 

Persuasion by Jane Austen 

Persuasion is Austen’s tender masterpiece. It seems that the novel is finally getting its due, as it is being turned into not one, but two film adaptations. Heaven knows if they’ll be any good (hopefully better than Pride and Prejudice 2005 and most of the Emma adaptations). Fingers crossed, but until then, if you haven’t read it, make sure you do. It is the story of Anne Elliot, who is too old to be desirable (27 years old!). Her family has fallen on difficult times, and her life seems rather bleak. When she was 19 she was persuaded to end her relationship with Mr. Wentworth, and is now on the road to spinsterhood. Wentworth reenters the scene, now Captain Wentworth, just in time to re-break Anne’s heart as he is fawned over by all the eligible young ladies. Touching and poignant, this story that examines love past the emotional fluff and puppy-love days, is worth reading time and time again. 

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 

“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

Hopefully you had the joy of reading about spunky Anne in your childhood, but I don’t think there ever is a point when you outgrow the tales of Anne Shirly. Perhaps one of the sweetest bildungsroman of a young, imaginative orphan blossoming into her womanhood. 

Cheers to a joyful summer of reading!

By Ann Burns

Ann H. Burns is a graduate of Christendom College, as well as the founder of The Feminine Project, a Catholic organization dedicated to restoring authentic femininity through faith, friendship, and cultivating the mind. She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband Ed. You can find out more about the Feminine Project at feminineproject.com or join their community at community.feminineproject.com where women can connect virtually and in person, build community, partake in classes, attend fun events, all while exploring and promoting our true God-given femininity.