Books for Girls

We are reaching out to 40 influential women from all walks of life to help us create a very special reading list for young female readers. 

Which book should all girls read? Which book shaped your life as a young woman? Which book do you wish you had read?

Wycombe Abbey School would like to ask for your help in a very simple, but effective way. We intend to share the results with all girls' schools nationally.

We are a girls' boarding school near London, and have been at the forefront of women's education for almost 120 years. We are known for our academic excellence, rich extra-curricular provision, and for educating women who go on to make a difference for good in the world. Wycombe Abbey encourages women to be self-starters and life-long learners; women with the intellectual ability and personal resources to take on the challenge of a constantly changing world.

Girls' schools are far from old-fashioned, as the media might portray them. They are dynamic, modern environments. Pioneering blood runs through our veins. As I'm sure you know, most girls 120 years ago did not go to school and were unable to attend university or have a career. Women could not vote, take a seat in Parliament or get a divorce, and had no real rights in terms of property.

Wycombe Abbey was founded 120 years ago, and is a revolutionary, ground-breaking place which challenged the status quo by trail-blazing education for girls. The history of Wycombe Abbey is inextricably linked to emancipation and equal opportunities for all. We are passionately committed to educating and developing tomorrow's female leaders who will, in turn, go on to tackle great challenges and injustices.

To kick start our 120th anniversary celebrations this academic year, we felt it would be inspirational for the girls to have a back-to-school reading list - with a difference. We would like to compile a list based on the recommendations of influential women, such as yourself, from all walks of life. The list will then be circulated around our girls, but also around other girls schools from all parts of the country.

We would love it if you would recommend a book to us, fiction or non-fiction, which you feel young women in their teenage years should read, and give your reasons why.

A photograph of yourself would also be very useful when designing the final reading list.

To give you an example, we are currently building links with SOLA (School of Leadership Afghanistan), the first girls boarding school in Afghanistan. Shabana Basij-Rasikh is its president and co-founder. She came to speak to our girls this year and described attending a secret school for girls under the Taliban, disguised as a boy. She then managed to join a high school exchange programme in the USA, later earning a degree from Middlebury College in Vermont. While studying, Shabana reflected on life for women in Afghanistan, where fewer than 10 percent of women could read and write and asked herself what she could do to affect change.

Her goal now is to build SOLA into an internationally accredited boarding school and a world-class educational institution within the next 5-10 years. Shabana recommends Khaled Hosseini's ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns' as it shows the work we still have to do – 120 years later – to secure emancipation and freedoms for all women.

I hope that you can give your time to what I feel is a worthwhile project, and help us to open the hearts and minds of young women cross the country.

With best wishes

Rhiannon Wilkinson


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