The radio tells me this is International Women's Day so, in defiance of the current blockbuster "Fifty Shades of Grey", here are three books every woman should read before she's fifty.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.
I still think this is one of Margaret Atwood's best books. Possibly belonging under the label "dystopia" if it were published today, the story tells of a near-future religious society in America where the birth rate is falling and those women still able to bear children are a national resource. The chilling way that these women are controlled, and in particular the simple and scarily believable way their power was taken away and handed over to the men in their lives, forms the real message of this book. Read it today, and tell me you're not afraid.
The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
Anything by Sheri S. Tepper is well worth reading, and this is one of her best known books. It's science fiction, but not your male-dominated spaceships firing on all cylinders type. Sometimes called "soft" science fiction, it deals with far-future society where men are separated from women at an early age and raised in different communities. The men train for battles they will never be allowed to fight, whereas the women concentrate on arts and science. So what happens when a woman and a man fall in forbidden love? There's nothing soft about this story.
The Change by Germaine Greer
Not really fiction, I first came across this book a few years ago and read it with fascination and some alarm. Now, several years on and deep into the "change" myself, I think I can see what Germaine Greer means. The Change is important because it frees a woman from child-rearing and the need to attract men, and brings her face to face with the person she really might be. Dare you become her?