Mary McCarthy's The Group scandalized the world when it was published in the early '60s with its frank take on sex, marriage, breastfeeding and the horrors of early birth control (oh my god, you guys, PESSARIES). Cosmopolitan called it, "Juicy, shocking, witty and almost continually brilliant," in one of its earliest reviews. The "group" is composed of eight Vassar grads tackling post-college life, and the novel weaves in and out of individual stories, so that the effect is a kind of collage. You see each girl through her own eyes and the group's eyes, a narrative trick that underscores the permanent way college friends influence our identity. If The Group leaves you hankering for more, follow it up with J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement, a contemporary take on the same theme — except instead of Vassar, Sullivan's "group" graduated from Smith.Read about another entry on the list.
The Page 69 Test: J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement.