47 Books You Should Add To Your Shelf, According To Poet Rupi Kaur

The provocative artist and poet shares her list.
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Rupi Kaur has vision beyond her years.

At 24, the Indian-Canadian artist and poet decided to create a menstruation-themed photo series for a college project. She posted one now-famous photograph to Instagram, showing herself lying on a bed facing the wall, period blood staining her sweatpants and the bedsheet. Instagram repeatedly took down the photo from Kaur’s account, but the image went viral, attracting international attention. Though still a college student, she was something of an Instagram star already, thanks to her luminous and striking poetry, which she posted on the account.

She told HuffPost at the time that she was galvanized in part by the stigma attached to menstruation ― an aspect of her project unwittingly reinforced by Instagram’s removal of the photo. “I always see women complaining — I’m one of them — about how much our periods suck,” she said. “But they’re also so beautiful. They give rise to life.”

Less than two years later, a publishing house put out Kaur’s book of prose and poetry, Milk and Honey (originally self-published in 2014), and it began dominating best-seller charts. The text and illustrations ― both by Kaur ― examine the emotional states of a modern young woman. Her work is simply but powerfully expressed, and viscerally captures both universal human experience and the particular struggles of a young woman today.

Kaur’s art has meant opening a window into her mind and bodily experiences for audiences, whether through candid poetry or realistic (though staged, with fake blood) period portraits. Another intimate revelation ― what’s on her bookshelf. The brilliant artist and writer shared her 47 picks with The Strand, where she curated a bookshelf. For those who aren’t in New York City, here’s an alternative to browsing her hand-picked display.

Check out Kaur’s bookshelf below.

1. 1984 by George Orwell

Signet

Find it here.

2. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Vintage International

Find it here.

3. A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf

Vintage

Find it here.

4. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Riverhead

Find it here.

5. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anchor Books

Find it here.

6. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Spiegel Grau

Find it here.

7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

HarperCollins

Find it here.

8. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Tor

Find it here.

9. Feminist Theory by bell hooks

Routledge

Find it here.

10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Scholastic

Find it here.

11. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Virago

Find it here.

12. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mariner Books

Find it here.

13. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Puffin

Find it here.

14. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Vintage International

Find it here.

15. Matilda by Roald Dahl

Puffin

Find it here.

16. Maus by Art Spiegelman

Random House

Find it here.

17. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Vintage International

Find it here.

18. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Random House

Find it here.

19. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Anchor Books

Find it here.

20. No Logo by Naomi Klein

Picador

Find it here.

21. Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Dey Street Books

Find it here.

22. Odes by Sharon Olds

Knopf

Find it here.

23. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Random House

Find it here.

24. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Vintage

Find it here.

25. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)

Ballantine

Find it here.

26. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Vintage

Find it here.

27. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Riverhead

Find it here.

28. The Butterfly’s Burden by Mahmoud Darwish

Copper Canyon

Find it here.

29. The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

NYRB

Find it here.

30. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Mariner Books

Find it here.

31. The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton

Mariner Books

Find it here.

32. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Random House

Find it here.

33. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Washington Square Press

Find it here.

34. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Penguin

Find it here.

35. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Riverhead

Find it here.

36. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

HarperCollins

Find it here.

37. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Back Bay Books

Find it here.

38. The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Mariner

Find it here.

39. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Arrow Books

Find it here.

40. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Grove Press

Find it here.

41. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Vintage International

Find it here.

42. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Harper Perennial

Find it here.

43. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

Riverhead

Find it here.

44. Wayside School Is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

HarperCollins

Find it here.

45. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

HarperCollins

Find it here.

46. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Vintage International

Find it here.

47. Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Ballantine Books

Find it here.

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