If you are familiar with the literary world then you must have heard about Virginia Woolf who was one of the towering figures of the literary Modernism. With her works, she created a world which represented the emotions that an individual felt in the modern alienated landscape while incorporating the reality of this modern space as a whole. Her books are charged with feminist and humanistic undertone which strikes a chord with all of her readers. The intricacies that are woven into her work, makes them a bit difficult to be read and understood but once you get into its flow, it will open a world of its own for your understanding. So, if you haven’t yet read your first book by Virginia Woolf then now is the time. Here is a list of books by Virginia Woolf that we all must have read to have a better picture of the realities of her time.
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January 25th, 2021 marks the 139th birth anniversary of modernist writer Virginia Woolf.
Mrs Dalloway (1925)
“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”
Mrs Dalloway is undoubtedly one of the best books by Virginia Woolf. Through Mrs Dalloway, she takes the reader on a journey into the world of Clarissa Dalloway exploring the life of a high society women in the post-world war England. Woven with the narrative of Clarissa Dalloway’s journey is the story of Septimus Smith, a war veteran suffering from shell shock. While constantly shifting between these two separate realities, Virginia Woolf introduces us to two different worlds that existed within the city of London. In the novel, we are introduced to the literary troupe of “stream of consciousness” which complicates the narrative but forms the crux of the novel and this novel is widely acclaimed because of this particular element.
A Room of One’s Own (1929)
“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
This book by Virginia Woolf is not a novel but an extended Feminist essay which advocated how women deserve both a literal and figurative space (room) of their own. The twentieth century was a period where women were still fighting for basic rights like freedom to express oneself and were constantly sidelined by the male-dominated world order. In such a scenario, Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” made it her point to give voice to the sufferings of women in such a world. If you wish the understand the feminist movement of the twentieth century, then this is one of the best books by Virginia Woolf that you must pick up right away!
To the Lighthouse (1927)
“She felt… how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.”
To the Lighthouse is another globally acclaimed book by Virginia Woolf which has a universal resonance making it retable for readers even today. The story which follows the Modernist tradition is set in the Ramsay family’s summer home in the Isle of Skye. What gives this novel it’s Modernist touch is its form and content. In terms of form, the absence of dialogues and the presence of multiple focalisation reflect the Modernist form and in terms of content, the themes of the problem of perception, the idea of subjectivity, loss, etc bring in the Modernist aspect. So, if you wish to understand the essence of modernity, this might be the right pick for you amongst our list of best books by Virginia Woolf.
Orlando: A Biography (1928)
“Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone.”
This book by Virginia Woolf even though inspired by the history of an aristocratic poet Vita Sackville-West, it is regarded as a satirical take on the history of English literature primarily because of the protagonist’s encounter with key literary figures. At the centre of the novel, Orlando is the journey of the protagonist who mysteriously undergoes a metamorphosis, a sex change and becomes a woman. This journey of Orlando challenges the binary which exists between the two genders and exposes the performative and non-conformist nature of gender. It is an unconventionally written work with gender-breaking themes amongst the best books by Virginia Woolf.
The Waves (1931)
“Alone, I often fall down into nothingness. I must push my foot stealthily lest I should fall off the edge of the world into nothingness. I have to bang my head against some hard door to call myself back to the body.”
The Waves, by Virginia Woolf, comes under the category of the experimental novel because of the elements that she adds to this work of hers. This novel is set in the form of soliloquies dictated by the chief six characters of the novel namely Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis. What also forms the content of the novel is nine interludes which break the flow of these soliloquies. Through the means of these soliloquies and interludes, Woolf tries to understand and talk about the concepts of individuality, self and community and also how there is a parallel between these individualistic personalities.
Between the Acts (1941)
“When they were alone, they said nothing. They looked at the view; they looked at what they knew, to see if what they knew might perhaps be different today. Most days it was the same.”
Between the Acts is the last book by Virginia Woolf written just before her death and is therefore very close to the hearts of all the Woolf fans. Also, what adds to it is the fact that critics believe this to be an unfinished work which Woolf was yet to complete. Set in England, this novel depicts the scene of a carnival/festival before the halting of peace and beginning of bloodshed i.e., before the outbreak of the second world war which shook the entire world. Even though this one is not widely acclaimed, through this novel you get an insight into a distinct aspect of the society which needs to be explored. This one should be another amazing read to add in your list of best books by Virginia Woolf.
Other than these best books by Virginia Woolf, if you wish to cover the entire arc of Woolf’s literary heritage, there are several others that you could read like Jacob’s Room, The Voyage Out, The Years, etc. The world that Virginia Woolf created was very simple and revered by literary aficionados but these books represent the best of this world of hers. So, make sure that you read them all. Want to pursue a degree in English Literature? Let our Leverage Edu experts help you find the right university as well as sort out the admission process. Sign up for a free session right away!