Writer's Note: These are *not* equivalents. There are no equivalents in literature! But if you like these books by men, there's a big chance you'll find something to love in these books by women.
1. Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud & Incredible Close → NoViolet Bulawayo, We Need New Names
If you were charmed by the young boy narrator of Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, give NoViolet Bulawayo's narrator Darling a try. Like EL&IC, We Need New Names features a young narrator who encounters more than the young ever should. Bulawayo's novel spans the ocean, taking us through Zimbabwe to America.
Quotable line: "When things fall apart, the children of the land scurry and scatter like birds escaping a burning sky.”
2. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby → Dorothy Parker, Complete Stories
If you heart belongs to Nick Carraway, give Dorothy Parker a try. The Great Gatsby will tell you the story of the Jazz Age, in retrospect. Parker will tell you about the Jazz Age as it unfolds.
Quotable line: "Maybe I could read. Oh, all the books are about people who love each other, truly and sweetly. What do they want to write about that for?"
3. George Saunders, Pastoralia → Lorrie Moore, Birds of America
If Saunders' stories stab you in the gut, Moore's will bring you down to your knees. Both writers disarm you with humor and dead-on-point wit, and then get you right in the feels.
Quotable line: "Every arrangement in life carried with it the sadness, the sentimental shadow, of its not being something else, but only itself."
4. Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius → Marisha Pessl, Special Topics in Calamity Physics
If you loved Dave Eggers' precocious debut, you'll be bowled over by Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Both novels feature smarty-pants protagonists in re-imaginings of the coming-of-age tale. Where Eggers opts for meta moves, Pessl embraces her precocity and goes full nerd.
Quotable line: “Always live your life with your biography in mind.”
5. Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita → Marguerite Duras, The Lover
If you were enthralled by Humbert Humbert's twisted tale in Lolita, try Marguerite Duras' The Lover. Both novels feature a love story between an older man and a young girl, but Duras tells us the tale from the eyes of the girl -- all grown up.
Quotable line: “Suddenly, all at once, she knows, knows that he doesn't understand her, that he never will, that he lacks the power to understand such perverseness. And that he can never move fast enough to catch her.”
6. Charles Bukowski, What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through The Fire → Eileen Myles, Inferno
Love Bukowski's raw voice? Lend Eileen Myles an ear. Inferno is unlike any novel you've encountered before, but if you're attracted to Bukowski's brand of ferocity, Myles offers a much-needed feminist alternative.
Quotable line: "The poet’s life is just so much crenellated waste, nights and days whipping swiftly or laboriously past the cinematic window. We’re hunched and weaving over the keys of our green our grey or pink blue manual typewriter maybe a darker stone cold thoritative selectric with its orgasmic expectant hum and us popping pills and laughing over what you or I just wrote, wondering if that line means insult or sex. Or both. Usually both."
7. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World → Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Both Huxley and Le Guin take on broad themes -- humanity and human-ness, power and dystopia -- but where Huxley stays within the realm of the possible, Le Guin runs free into the realm of sci-fi.
Quotable line: "Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I'm going to go fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I'm going to go unbuild walls."
8. James Joyce, Ulysses → Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
If you're into thick, bold, experimental novels, try Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook. Both novels speak as much through their form as their narratives. Through carefully constructed chaos, Lessing creates a powerful story of politics, identity, sexuality, and love in The Golden Notebook.
Quotable line: "I was filled with such a dangerous delicious intoxication that I could have walked straight off the steps into the air, climbing on the strength of my own drunkenness into the stars. And the intoxication, as I knew even then, was the recklessness of infinite possibility."
9. William Faulkner, The Sound And The Fury --> Flannery O'Connor, Everything That Rises Must Converge
What Faulkner does for Mississippi, O'Connor does for Georgia in spades. The stories in Everything That Rises Must Converge takes a more introspective, but no less urgent, tone than The Sound and the Fury.
Quotable line: "Parker sat for a long time on the ground in the alley behind the pool hall, examining his soul. He saw it as a spider web of facts and lies that was not at all important to him but which appeared to be necessary in spite of his opinion."
10. D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover → Anais Nin, The Unexpurgated Diary
Nin was a fan of D. H. Lawrence and even published a book of her own criticism on his works. If you think Lawrence knows how to write sex, you owe it to yourself to peek into Anais' mind.
Quotable line: "You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating."
11. John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath → Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half Of A Yellow Sun
Captivated by the dislocated world in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath? Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun follows a diverse cast of characters during and beyond the Nigerian Civil War, through language as stunning as Steinbeck's at his best.
Quotable line: “The real tragedy of our postcolonial world is not that the majority of people had no say in whether or not they wanted this new world; rather, it is that the majority have not been given the tools to negotiate this new world.”
12. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections → A. M. Homes, May We Be Forgiven
A. M. Homes gives Franzen a run for his money with her own Great American Novel, May We Be Forgiven. Like The Corrections, May We Be Forgiven doesn't shy away from addressing the darker side of sibling and parental relationships.
Quotable line: “I'm feeling how profoundly my family disappointed me and in the end how I retreated, how I became nothing, because that was much less risky than attempting to be something, to be anything in the face of such contempt.”
13. Justin Torres, We The Animals → Julie Otsuka, The Buddha in the Attic
Like Justin Torres' We The Animals, The Buddha in the Attic is a slim, lyrical book that demands to be read aloud. And like Torres', Otsuka's stories will haunt you; The Buddha in the Attic describes the experiences of Japanese immigrants to California in the decades leading up to World War II.
Quotable line: "We forgot about Buddha. We forgot about God. We developed a coldness inside us that still has not thawed."
14. John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead → Joan Didion, The White Album
The influence of Joan Didion on John Jeremiah Sullivan's style is irrefutable. Both writers are geniuses at finding the trap-door into a story, and both Pulphead and The White Album shine light on life in America at different points in the 20th century.
Quotable line: “The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers.”
15. David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas → Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
Butler's Parable of the Sower, the first of her two-part Parable series, carries all of the sci-fi magic of Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and focuses on contemporary political and environmental issues.
Quotable line: "There is no end to what a living world will demand of you."
16. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield → Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
Can't get enough of the winding streets and dark corners that make up Dickens' novels? Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch will sate you with its unabashed literariness.
Quotable line: “But sometimes, unexpectedly, grief pounded over me in waves that left me gasping; and when the waves washed back, I found myself looking out over a brackish wreck which was illumined in a light so lucid, so heartsick and empty, that I could hardly remember that the world had ever been anything but dead.”
17. John Updike, Rabbit, Run → Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment
Ferrante does for modern-day Italy what Updike did for mid-20th century America, constructing an unnervingly intimate portrait of dissolving family life, this time from a woman's eyes.
Quotable line: “Existence is this, I thought, a start of joy, a stab of pain, an intense pleasure, veins that pulse under the skin, there is no other truth to tell.”
18. Philip Roth, The Dying Animal → Lynn Barber, An Education
Roth gives us the seductive old man's perspective, and Barber offers us the young woman's counterpoint in An Education (yep, the book that inspired the Cary Mulligan film!), her memoir of an affair from her youth.
Quotable line: “I suspect this is always the way with conmen: they don’t even have to construct a whole story, their victims fill in the gaps, reconcile the irreconciliables – their victims do most of the work.”
19. Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises → Jean Rhys, Good Morning, Midnight
Jean Rhys is the exacting and criminally under-read author of Wide Sargasso Sea. In Good Morning, Midnight, Rhys offers us a twist on the classic "end of an affair," showing us the world with the precision of Hemingway but a dark voice all her own.
Quotable line: “But they never last, the golden days. And it can be sad, the sun in the afternoon, can't it? Yes, it can be sad, the afternoon sun, sad and frightening.”
20. Edgar Allen Poe, The Raven → Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
Nightwood is so dark and weird and breathtaking that it has to be read to be believed. If Poe gets you going and you've got an evening set aside for something unlike anything you've read before, Djuna Barnes is the best use of your time.
Quotable line: “Our bones ache only while the flesh is on them.”
21. Art Spiegelman, Maus → Alison Bechdel, Fun Home
If you were moved by Art Spiegelman's narrative about his family's experiences in WWII, Alison Bechdel's powerful story about coming out to her family in Fun Home will give you another reason to get excited about the future of the graphic novel.
Quotable line: "Grief takes many forms, including the absence of grief."
22. Haruki Murakami, 1Q84 → Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries
If you're into sprawling epics that seem impossibly well-constructed, read Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, which still has critics reeling in awe.
Quotable line: “Reason is no match for desire: when desire is purely and powerfully felt, it becomes a kind of reason of its own.”
23. David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim → Chloe Caldwell, Legs Get Led Astray
There's an art to addressing weighty issues with humor and grace, and both Sedaris and Caldwell have it down pat. Add to that an ear for the poetic and you get Legs Get Led Astray, Caldwell's debut collection of essays.
Quotable line: “My mother wanted to be Betty Boop. Betty Boop was independent. Betty Boop was sexy. Betty Boop really had her shit together, you know?”
24. J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye → Ann Beattie, Walks With Men
Women find themselves in New York City, too, and if you enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye, you'll devour Ann Beattie's account of a woman in her twenties in one sitting.
Quotable line: “Italics provide a wonderful advantage: you see, right away, that the words are in a rush. When something exists at a slant, you can't help but consider irony.”