40 Books to Read Before Turning 40

The manual for making your first four decades the most joyful, wise and stress-free of your life.
The House of Mirth

The House of Mirth

432 pages; Kessinger Publishing
Lily Bart is beautiful and wellborn but without a dowry in the rigid New York society of the early 20th century. She knows that her only way to rise in this milieu is to marry for money, but she sabotages her chances. Caught between her disgust with selling herself on the marriage market and her inability to declare herself to a man she really trusts, she drifts along, becoming ever more unmarriageable. What makes this novel so moving is the way Lily never quite grasps her situation and thus cannot solve it. Her feminism is on the edge of her consciousness but never really guides her life. That lack of clarity becomes Lily's tragedy.
— Erica Jong