Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Signet, $4). A handbook for young girls, who will recognize their counterparts in the March family. I'd also recommend Alcott's next-generation follow-ups, Little Men and Jo's Boys, and How They Turned Out.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (Signet, $5). A novel of great intensity and moral sensibility in which, as in Beauty and the Beast, love conquers all.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Dover, $4). Another tale with a message: Things are not what they seem! Austen's beautifully wrought characters include a spirited, intelligent heroine, Elizabeth, whose cool, steadfast morality and goodness are ultimately rewarded, when she too tames the beast.
Chéri by Colette (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16). My mum gave me Chéri — about a middle-aged courtesan's love affair with the son of an old rival — when I was 13. I fell in love with how this brilliantly French writer could describe the effect of longing on the mature heart. Colette did the same in The Vagabond, a tale of a past-her-prime dance-hall queen, but keep reading this author until you've also finished the Claudine series and The Last of Chéri.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (Vintage, $15). This 1945 novel was the first in a trilogy about an upper-class British family whose second-oldest daughter is haunted in her own pursuits of love and marriage by her mother's reputation as "The Bolter." Love in a Cold Climate and Don't Tell Alfred fill out the series.
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (Dover, $3.50). Wharton, the great mistress of wit and irony, was fascinated by the complexities of society and manners as well as the dangerous implications of independence. Like Anna Karenina, the heroine of Tolstoy's flawless novel, Wharton's independent heroines are doomed.
First Love by Ivan Turgenev (Dover, $4). A hauntingly beautiful novella that Turgenev based at least in part on his own experience. In it, two men describe their first passions, inspiring the third, Vladimir, to quietly write his story down.
Anjelica Huston recalls her youth in Ireland and 1960s London in the new memoir A Story Lately Told.