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Read some awesome books by women

A selection of books written by womenYesterday on Twitter I spotted this piece of genius: Tegan (aka BellJarred) has a message on her Tinder profile that tells people to only message her if they’ve read five books written by women. Inundated, she is… but not with messages from guys who’ve read five books by women.

There are two things here that annoy me. Primarily the point that these people have obviously ignored the one criteria she stipulates. Regardless of whether you agree with the criteria, that’s pretty frustrating, no? And secondly the fact that good books by women are not exactly hard to find. Here’s the deal: you don’t have to read books to be a good person. I bloody love a good book, but I’m not going to shit on you if you’re not a reader. What I will be really fucked off about, though, is if you are a voracious reader and yet you can’t name five books you love that are written by women.

In a rage after reading some of the messages sent to Tegan, I did a quick whip-round my bookshelves and picked the first few books I could see that were written by women.

Check out the lists below, recommend more awesome books in the comments (and you get to enter a competition in the process which is FUN), or go and read BookCunt’s blog, because she’s spectacularly funny and sweary and reads way more books than I do.

Some fiction written by women

i very deliberately did not include harry potter or twilight here but i own all those books too and i fucking love them so there

  • Shan Sa – The Girl Who Played Go. Incredibly moving and brilliant.
  • Marian Keyes – Rachel’s Holiday. I fucking love Marian Keyes, and I find it bizarre that her books are so often packaged as fluff: she wittily and incredibly movingly on topics such as mental health, grief, love, and all the other things that are the fucking stuff of life. If she were called Martin Keyes they’d stick her books in dark covers. I have shitloads of her books, this one’s about drug addiction.
  • Betty Smith – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. One of my favourite books of all time, ta.
  • Phillippa Gregory – The Other Boleyn Girl. I have shitloads of her books. They’re historical fiction popcorn, but really fucking delicious popcorn.
  • Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife. Everyone either owns a copy of this book or has had it forced on them at some point, surely? It’s bloody good. Contains an excellent hinted sex scene between a man and himself.
  • Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice. OBVIOUSLY THIS BOOK IS GOOD.
  • Erica Jong – Fear of Flying. I haven’t actually read all of this yet. I just pulled it from the shelf to balance out the popcorn ones.
  • Dorothy Parker – Collected Works. Four be the things I shall never attain: envy, content, and sufficient champagne. And enough Dorothy Parker poems.
  • Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl. File under ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’
  • Kate Atkinson – One Good Turn. I have lots of her books, she’s great.
  • Fay Weldon – Wicked Women. This is a book of collected stories about women being fucking evil and it’s amazing.
  • Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar. I didn’t think much of this, and I know you’re not meant to say that. It’s one of those you have to read though, probably.
  • Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Like TTW and Gone Girl, pretty much everyone either owns or has been lent a copy of this book at some point. For good reason because it’s spectacular and heartbreaking.
  • Alice Walker – The Colour Purple. I have read this book about a hundred times and every time it’s amazing.
  • Lionel Shriver – So Much For That. This book is better than ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’, although that one’s excellent too. See also ‘Big Brother’.

Some non-fiction written by women

My arms were tired but I thought I should grab some non-fic too. It’s a shorter list because, like I say, my arms were tired. Also as you can possibly tell I started in the ‘sex’ section.

no recipe books don't count

  • Sophie Morgan – The Diary of a Submissive. This book’s underrated. Why didn’t it become more popular than 50 Shades? I know not.
  • Catherine Millett – The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Another memoir. Total filth. Get on it.
  • Barbara Demick – Nothing to Envy. This is a journalistic telling of a bunch of stories of people from North Korea.
  • Jasvinder Sanghera – Daughters of Shame. Like the above, this book collects a whole bunch of stories – this time personal stories on forced marriage and honour-based violence.
  • Belle de Jour/Brooke Magnanti – The intimate adventures of a London call girl. I literally wouldn’t be writing this blog if it weren’t for people like Belle de Jour being amazing when I was young and easily influenced.
  • Brooke Magnanti – The Sex Myth. Oh look Brooke is as fucking brilliant when she writes about science as she is when she writes about her own sexual experiences.
  • Linda Polman – The Crisis Caravan. It’s about how certain charities spend their money, and it’s really interesting.
  • Sayo Masuda – Autobiography of a Geisha. I have about a million books about Japan, but this was the one that leapt out at me because it properly gripped me from start to finish.


Why not, eh? Let’s have a competition. Add a comment below, recommending a brilliant book written by a woman. In two weeks’ time I’ll pick one person out of the hat to be The Winner. The Winner can take their pick of five books from this list, and I will send them to you. I’ll probably buy new copies rather than send you mine, because I fold pages and that might annoy you. But either way, you will get five brilliant books written by women. Ready to recommend? Go!

Terms and conditions

  • Entrants must recommend one book by a woman that they have read and enjoyed.
  • Deadline for entries: 27.08.15 at midday UK time.
  • Entries open to anyone over 18, anywhere in the world, although if it’ll be tricky to deliver the books to you from the UK I reserve the right to send you a voucher or similar so you can buy the books in your country.
  • Winner will be contacted within 1 week of the competition closing, via the email address they use in their comment (emails will not be published but I need to have a way to contact you!). If you don’t get back to me within a week of my emailing, I’ll pick another winner, and keep doing that until I’ve found someone who gets back to me.


In case you’re about to make comments on my taste, please know that I have many, many books. On my travels through my bookcase, I even found this gem:

One of the review quotes says "Christina Hoff Sommers has done something lethally deflating to the pretensions of the shriller sort of feminists." SHRILL SCREECH


  • RB says:


    It’s one of the more obvious choices, but I’d recommend The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; a harrowing but strangely inspirational book about the lives of women following a fascist take-over.

    Does poetry count? If so, The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy.

    (I’ve never heard of Diary of a Submissive – I like the sound of that!)

  • manlyjpanda says:

    I think it has to be Nightwood by Djuna Barnes. But Delta of Venus, Mrs Dalloway, Whose Body? and even The Murder of Roger Ackroyd are four others that I love.

  • Chris says:

    Do we get bonus points for recommending your book?

    I suspect not, so I pick Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. Read on recommendation from my Dad, when I wanted something with Dragons. :D

  • Armando Sá says:

    Hello, I’m from Portugal. We have several brilliant Portuguese women writers both in prose and poetry, but I’ll settle for English speaking writers. I have a strong difficulty to pick one from three books: (i) Ursula Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed”; Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin”; and Arundhati Roy’s “The God of Small Things”. This said, I will settle for “The Blind Assassin”: fantastic telling of a story within a story, masterful construction of characters and building up of tension to the almost unbearable.
    Congrats for the idea!

  • Twiglet @ 100 Acres says:

    Clarice Lispector – The passion
    Margaret Atwood – The Handmaids Tale
    Poppy Adams – The Behaviour of Moths

  • Ay None says:

    On the speculative fiction front I highly recommend Rachel Aaron (or Rachel Bach if you’re reading her sci-fi).

    The Eli Monpress books are absurdly fun epic fantasy with increasingly higher stakes throughout, while the Paradox trilogy is sci-fi action with a stompy heroine in a power suit, bags of action and a romantic subplot that doesn’t in any way detract from her general badassery.

  • Biondino says:

    “Thus was Adonis Murdered” by Sarah Caudwell. A funny, quirky, very British book about lawyers-turned-investigators, with a trans protagonist. Wonderful stuff.

  • G says:

    I’ll go down the non-fiction route and recommend ‘Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing’ by Melissa Mohr.

    Fascinating look at swearing through the ages, and particularly how words that were fine centuries ago became taboo and vice versa.

  • Girl on the net says:

    Blimey – I only posted this an hour ago and it’s already a goldmine of brilliant-sounding books. Thank you all!

  • jamesk says:

    Got a few

    Anais Nin – Delta of Venus
    CJ Cherryh – Tripoint
    Anne Leckie – Ancillary Justice
    Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon
    Stef Penney – The Tenderness of Wolves

  • Polly says:

    Just ONE??!!! I’m not sure I can do it…*pours coffee, rolls fag, starts lists and sub lists, gets no more work done today*

  • John Edwards says:

    For fiction I’d suggest The Language Of Dying by Sarah Pinborough. While I wasn’t keen on the ending, it’s a very compelling story about end of life care of a family member.

    Non fiction I’d go with For Richer, For Poorer: A Love Affair with Poker by Victoria Coren. Very funny, touching and full of insight in to the game.

  • Winskillfull says:

    Donna Tartt, ‘The Secret History’. I find it utterly compelling. It really gets under your skin, the outsider-perspective is very interesting and the characterisation is magnificent. I don’t want to tell too much about the plot, but it’s dark and twisted and I love it!

  • Harriet says:

    Does poetry count? I like The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy.

    If not, picking just one book is a challenge but I love The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver.

  • Elizabeth Huxley-Jones says:

    One of my favourite books written by a woman is The Immortal Life of Henriette Lacks. It’s about Henriette Lacks, a poor black woman in the United States, who had cervical cancer and sadly died. Before she died, some of her cells were taken in 1951, without her consent, which are now known as HeLa cells – one of the most important tools in medical research. Not only does it bring into question medical ethics and insitutional racism, it is a biography of her life and family, and how they came to terms with her new found posthumous fame. honestly it’s one of the absolute best things I’ve ever read, and every single person should read it and understand how Henrietta’s stolen cells have changed the world.

  • Simon says:

    The Awakening by Kate Chopin.

    I have a suspicion that this may have already been mentioned somewhere but I’ll make double sure because I’m that fond of it. I recommend it not just because it’s a great book by a female author, but also because it’s a great book by a female author that more men really should read.

  • Katie says:

    Angela Carter – I had to read her The Bloody Chamber collection at college and it’s dark and sexy and definitely influenced my sexual tastes.
    Her Black Venus collection is also amazing, poetically written short stories based on actual historical figures.
    Also, her non-fiction The Sadein Woman was a fascinating look at the Marquis de Sade and his portrayal of women.
    I highly recommend all three!

  • Marina says:

    I have a bit of a thing for fantasy/horror/sci-fi but here goes:

    Ursula Le Guin “The Left Hand of Darkness”
    Marie Phillips “The Table of Less Valued Knights”
    Robin Hobb “Assassin’s Apprentice”
    Mary Shelley “Frankenstein”
    Isabel Alliende “The House of Spirits”

  • Hannah says:

    We Need to Talk About Kevin- a big one but managed to binge read it in less than a week, fantastic, really gets you thinking about what makes a person who they are and why they do what they do

  • Stuart Thompson says:

    Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

    My fiances English teacher friend was giving away her books after getting a kindle and she gave me all of them. This was a standout.

  • Tom says:

    In the non-fiction category, Mary Roach is excellent – Bonk, Stiff and Spook are all great.

  • Ali Smith’s ‘How to be both’ is not just the best book I’ve read this year, but one of my top ten of all time. It is a serious, beautiful novel that weaves together two very different lives. But despite its seriousness it’s also very, very funny. It’s Smith’s ability to be both – a serious, funny novelist, that makes her so very, very good. (Incidentally, I wrote to her to tell her how much I loved her book, and in return – get this – she sent me an espresso maker.)

  • Alex W says:

    The Summer Book by Tove Jansson is a wonderful read.

    Nice to see Nothing to Envy on your list. One of the best books I’ve read.

  • Rachel says:

    I love Native Tongue by Sureties Haden Elgin

  • Bob says:

    The Vintner’s Luck – Elizabeth Knox.

    One of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The language is sumptuous and serves to wrap your brain in velvet, whilst simultaneously pouring it a glass of wine…

  • Olaf says:

    Another by Ursula Le Guin which I’m currently re-reading: The Word for World is Forest. Like The Left Hand Of Darkness it’s about contact between groups of humans on different planets and has some interesting anthropological/gender-role stuff.

  • Adam says:

    I just finished Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys. It’s tremendous, possibly one of the best portrayals of depression I’ve read (although I can’t think of many, to be honest). It’s mesmerising because so much is left unwritten, it’s all on the surface but makes clear the enormous emotional trauma underneath.

  • Charlie Hale says:

    Oof, so many to choose from! I’ll try reducing to five.

    Bending by Greta Christina, is an incredibly unconventional set of erotic short stories that deals with sex and characterisation in a very different way to most other things.

    Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner.* An introduction to radical bisexual politics. * I believe she’s non-binary and identifies as a woman for political reasons.

    Playing the Whore by Melissa Gira Grant, is a great exploration of sex work politics.

    The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton, is one of the most well known works on polyamory. It has a lot of problems, but I think it’s still worth a read.

    Cybersexism by Laurie Penny. A great exploration of misogyny in digital spaces, and has some fantastic writing exploring her own experiences on the fledgling internet.

  • Giles says:

    Do you get extra points if you’re currently reading a book by a woman?!

    I’m currently working through “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” by Danah Boyd, which is very interesting, especially as a father of a tween girl.

    Also in my library is “Timebound”, by Rysa Walker, about a family of kickass women who can travel through time, which is sure to become a movie sometime soon.

    “No Logo” by Naomi Klein is interesting but ranty.

    And surely everyone has read “Wild Swans”?

  • Jeff says:

    Wow so many to suggest, mostly series but I’ll list the first in the series:

    Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander
    Story about a nurse who works on the paranormal floor of a hospital.

    Once Bitten Twice Shy – Jennifer Rardin
    A CIA Agent and her vampire boss/partner.

    Death’s Daughter – Amber Benson
    Death has a daughter who doesn’t want any part of the family business

    Witches of Echo Park – Amber Benson
    A woman’s aunt dies and when she goes back to LA she discovers that she didn’t just inherit the estate, a coven of witches comes with it.

    The Selection – Kiera Cass
    A world where royalty invites girls from all over different casts and countries to spend time with the prince until he selects one to be his princess.

    Dark Rides – Blu Carson
    Erotic tales that take place in Disney Parks

    And some non-fiction (yeah I don’t branch out much subject-wise)

    Oh Joy Sex Toy Vol 1 – Erika Moen

    Girl Sex 101 – Allison Moon

    Come as you Are – Emily Nagoski

    The Imagineering Workout – Peggy Van Pelt

    Tinker Bell an Evolution – Melinda Johnson

  • Dawn says:

    My recommendation is one of my all-time favourite books, The Book of Human Skin by Michelle Lovric – set in the 1700’s in Venice. About a man’s attempts to do away with his younger sister. It’s dark, funny and brilliant.
    And just to make up the five –
    The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt – Set during the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century.
    Possession by A.S. Byatt – A love story, actually two love stories set in the world of literary research.
    The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood
    The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood – the Odyessy seen from Penelope’s viewpoint.
    I see a pattern here – never thought I was big on historical novels.
    I also think Marion Keyes is great. Emma Hannigan is pretty good too.

  • Vicky says:

    I loved The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, but I’m not sure if you’re allowing woman writing as man so also Criminal by Karin Slaughter, a fantastic thriller but also a portrayal of the life of female cops in 1970s Atlanta.

  • Alex Bernard says:

    Thanks so much for this post! This reminded me of how much I have been missing in the “reading for pleasure front” for about some years. Who said sex blogs can’t be educative, smart, cool and so lovable.
    Not the type of “read a lot guy”, but “read for very long and carefully each and every word and sentence twice”, so i need to catch up with all the suggestions here. My recommendation would be a classic, passionately written and transporting your thoughts to somebody else’s mind, more accurately to Roman Emperor Hadrian, and his love for poetry, philosophy, a certain Antinous and naturally for some military triumphs. It’s Mémoires d’Hadrien (Memoirs of Hadrian) by Marguerite Yourcenar, 1951.

  • Oddtwang says:

    I’d second the Ursula LeGuin recommendations above, specifically The Earthsea Trilogy and perhaps some of her more explicit feminist sci-fi like The Gate To Women’s Country.

    I liked The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas – it’s a sort of urban fantasy / magic realism thing with a fantastic female protagonist and a spot of sexy thrown in.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, in a similar vein I suppose but with extra Victoriana. The *tagonists are very male, which is quite interesting from a female author – I suspect there’s quite a deliberate sidelining of women to reflect on their personalities and the era.

    If anyone is into graphic novels, Noelle Stevenson is utterly fantastic and her Nimona is a triumph – it’s got action, romance (such awesome romance), humour and a titular protagonist who is female, flawed, complex and interesting.

  • Wendy Clifford says:

    Frost in May by Antonio Frost is rarely mentioned now but I loved its elegant prose and style.
    Anything by Colette but the Claudia stories are charming and Cherie is a beautiful observation on beauty, age and life.

  • I’ll go with two, though I could easily go into at least the hundred (did I tell you I read a lot). But I’ll try to respect the rules and recommend just one book (of fiction and nonfiction).

    Fiction: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

    Nonfiction: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel

  • I really enjoyed ‘Cleaving’ by Julie Powell, about a woman that decides fairly out of the blue to learn to become a butcher, interwoven with tales of her marriage and affair, and her love of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

  • MariaSibylla says:

    Some of my recent favorites are:
    Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel – What happens after a virus wipes out most of the population, but not the typical man-centric battle story.

    Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – what happens to a young girl’s life when the earth’s spinning slows and days and nights get longer and longer.

    One Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – focuses on the daughters of a Midwestern family as their father decides to give them his farm. (Way more gripping that that sounds but I don’t want to give anything away).

    I’m also a fan of Jennifer Weiner (female protagonists) and Jen Lancaster (memoirs) For sci fi, I’d recommend Lois McMaster Bujold. For urban fantasy, I’d suggest Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Charlaine Harris and Patricia Briggs.

    Yay! Books!

  • governormarley says:

    My recommendation would be: Ancillary Sword by Anne Leckie – Contemporary Sci fi, brilliantly original concept, immerses you in a totally new and strange universe without signposting every single feature of its strange newness. Deals with gender and identity and also battles in space.

    To round out my five though: The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker – brilliant historical fantasy set in New York. I lost/lent out my copy and am dying to reread this, always a good sign. So good you have to share but then kick yourself because it’s not there when it’s all you want to read.

    To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee. One of the ones that I read as a teenager that shaped the way I think about the world, that I always seem to get something more out of when I reread.

    Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke. Strongly second this, I finally got round to reading it and loved it. More historical fantasy, but set in England (mostly) this time.

    On the graphic novel front, Kelly Sue DeConnick is hard to beat. I’d start with Pretty Deadly or Bitch Planet.

  • Jess says:

    ‘Like water for chocolate’ by Laura Esquivel is beautiful and compelling. I gather from the cover of my copy that there is a film of it as well – bit can’t comment on it because I’ve not seen it! But read the book, it’s wonderful.

    • The Other Livvy says:

      I absolutely love this book but the film didn’t quite live up to the magic. It is worth seeing and, unlike most, didn’t ruin the book but I don’t think it would have made me run out to read the book if I’d found the film first! Xxx

  • Rachael says:

    This is such a difficult choice, but I’m glad I have more to add to my to read list from this post and comments!
    I would probably recommend The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth. A girl dealing with loss, grief, religion and same sex attraction in 90s Montana. One of the best coming of age tales I’ve ever read, with beautiful prose and interesting characters

  • D. says:

    Ooooh, books.

    I did recently have it pointed out that my reading is heavily biased in favour of books by men, and I got a few recommendations for fixing this that are now on my Kindle. Still, I suspect I can manage five favourite books/authors easily enough…

    Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books (already mentioned above by Chris, this is a very enjoyable fantasy series that (many books later) turn out to also be sci-fi).

    Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta books (naval sci-fi with a female protagonist) and also her excellent book ‘Speed of Dark’, in which the main character is autistic.

    Pat Cadigan’s ‘Mindplayers’ (brilliant early cyberpunk). I didn’t rate her other books quite as highly, but YMMV.

    Julian May’s saga of the exiles and the related books (again, starts out as absolutely amazing fantasy, then turns out to be really good sci-fi too).

    Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician series (slightly predictable epic fantasy, but I enjoyed it… I’m a sucker for ‘apprentice makes good’ stories).

    And a bonus mention for Danie Ware’s Ecko Rising trilogy. I know Danie personally, but her Ecko books are genuinely good (and weird) fantasy. Also, they contain more swearing than any other fiction I have ever read. I think she may have been going for that “Most gratuitous use of the word ‘fuck'” trophy from Hitchhikers. ;-)

  • Richard says:

    Ice – Anna Kavan
    Self Portrait in Green – Maria Ndiaye
    There But For The – Ali Smith
    Grass – Sherri S Tepper
    To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

    A top 5 of sorts.
    It’s appalling how few books by women I read but something I am consciously trying to do something about – this thread will hopefully give me some more ideas.

  • Rick says:

    I could mention a fair few but I’ll stick to one…a beautiful little gem people may not have come across.

    A River Sutra by Gita Mehta

  • Sparkly Dust says:

    The Hidden House of Mothers by Meera Syal

    It’s my listening book at the moment. It is beautifully written and addresses so many issues facing different generations of women whilst still being a wonderful enveloping story.

  • Vida says:

    I can’t believe people have issues with a) something someone puts on a tindr? Tinder? Whatever! profile, and b) that they take issue at a woman stipulating the kind of person they wish to meet. Tss. Stupid.

    I love Barbara Kingsolver, she writes the kind of earnest, romantic, human-centred stories I love (which makes them sound terrible, and she can be a bit preachy about ecology and social politics, yes, but I agree with her viewpoint, so I don’t mind!). The Lacana was wondeful, about Frida Kahlo and the McCarthy witch trials, but I love her older ones too.

    Janine Ashbless is an enduring fab eroticist, of course….

  • Camille says:

    I would totally recommend Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill. Shes SO good at capturing human emotions and relationships it’s almost scary. It is a collection of short stories that each revolve around a specific relationship (a woman and her married lover, a man and a prostitute etc.)

  • Scarlet @ThePhoneTart says:

    Fiction: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

    Non-fiction: Stiff by Mary Roach.

    • Oddtwang says:

      Ooh, yes! I’d forgotten about Mary Roach. Stiff is indeed excellent, I’ve enjoyed all I’ve read of hers though. Really interesting explorations of the human condition but with a strong sense of her own perspective and personality rather than being dispassionate – kind of reminded me of Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux in that sense, but rather warmer.

  • Kayleigh says:

    A Fucked Up Life In Books- by bookcunt, available as an ebook.
    Each chapter of this book recounts a time from the authors life through a particular book she was reading. It’s really sweary. It made me cry.

    The Drowning Of Arthur Braxton – Caroline Smailes
    Described as an Urban fairytale… It’s a little bit shocking but it kept me up late so it must have been good.

    There are many more but these are the two that immediately came to mind. I dare anyone to dislike them.

  • EleventyOne says:

    White Teeth by Zadie Smith! Or anything by Zadie Smith really, she’s incredible – funny, moving, sharp, pretty much everything you want from writing. Poetry-wise And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou is amazing – probably the first poetry I ever really loved.

  • Harrybo yo says:

    Muriel Spark – Momento Mori – a funny book about old people and death. Old people are funny too.

    Ali Smith – The Accidental – my favourite book to give as a gift, because everyone should read it. Possibly the most empathetic book I’ve read.

    Donna Tart – The Goldfinch – a solid gold page-turner

  • Rachel Griffiths says:

    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I fucking love this book.

  • James Barron says:

    Can’t pick just one:

    Nobody is Ever Missing – Catherine Lacey – A woman goes into a fugue state I suppose, vanishes without telling her loved ones where she is going. How hard it is to be alive, to find meaning. How frustrating it is that significance and meaning are seemingly important things.
    I read it this time last year when a relationship finally fell apart. I cried and cried again throughout. My copy is festooned with bookmark post-it-notes. I haven’t had the heart to read through what resonated so much with me.
    If I had to pick it’d be this one.

    so consider these bonuses:
    Any interview with, and NW & On Beauty – Zadie Smith

    Eat My Heart Out – Zoe Pilger – tour through bourgeois celebrity creative class art worlds in London, drugs and mental illness crises. Power dynamics.

    Written on the Body/The Powerbook/Weight/almost anything – Jeanette Winterson

    The Stories of Eva Luna/The House of the Spirits – Isabel Allende

    Wetlands – Charlotte Roche – more as a spectacle than anything

    Her recent articles on living with cancer & depression, or the S&M novel Nothing Natural – Jenni Diski

    Rapture – Susan Minot, a novella centred on the relationship between a woman and man, revolving around an act of oral sex.

    Just finished a perzine called ‘A Professional Distance’ by Felicity Brammer, reminded me of Nobody is Ever Missing.

    Paradise – A. L. Kennedy – again, covered in post-it-notes. On alcohol addiction, and losing oneself. The lies it makes one tells oneself and the world.

    Allie Brosh – Hyperbole & a half

    There’re a bunch of illustrators, graphic novelists, epistolary artists, zine-makers… I’ll stick with novels mostly.

  • Chloe says:

    The Summer We Got Free by Mia McKenzie is beautiful and bizarre.

    The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt is also brilliant and made weep on the tube.

  • Azkyroth says:

    I’ve been really fond of everything I’ve read by Barbara Tuchman so far (The Guns of August and The Proud Tower).

  • Nimue says:

    Wow, so many amazing recommendations already! Definitely bookmarking this page for when I’m next on the look out for something awesome to read.

    I read a lot of female authors who are incredibly prolific, so picking just one of their books is difficult, but I’ll give it a go!
    My top 3 would be :
    Tamora Pierce – Alanna: The First Adventure (this is the first book in the Song Of the Lioness quartet)
    Seanan McGuire – Rosemary and Rue (the first book in the October Daye series)
    Mira Grant (ok, kinda cheating a little bit on this one, as this is Seanan McGuire’s pseudonym) – Feed (first book of the Newsflesh trilogy)

  • Jamie says:

    Fiction: Brass by Helen Walsh. First read it when I was a teenager and had never encountered anything like it before. Absolutely loved it.
    Non fiction: Recently read ‘everyday sexism’which was a massive eye opener. My sister owns her own company and is asked regularly if she could put clients and candidates through to someone more senior! Breaks me.

  • Jonathan says:

    If I’m going to pick one, I’ll choose the one that I’ve probably gone back to the most. Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa at Sea.

    Yes, it’s a book for children. Well, supposedly. But it’s basically the Scandi Noir of children’s books and some of the themes she writes about are loneliness and isolation, identity crises, love and loss, depression, all that good stuff. “A voyage of self-discovery, of facing your demons within and without,” as a clever person wrote.

  • thestoneycrow says:

    I think fans of fantasy books have an advantage, because there are a myriad of brilliant female authors. I’ve read fantasy books from an early age and the gender of the author is never something that even crossed my mind. My favourites would include Tanith Lee, Katharine Kerr and C J Cherryh. But the book(s) that started it all for me when I was in my pre-teens were the Earthsea trilogy by Ursula Le Guin. Every young adult should read those. I was speaking to my 14 year old niece and she told me she’d never read a book, so I know what she’s getting for Christmas!

    • Catherine says:

      I think there’s a myriad of great female authors in most genres.
      take crime, from classics like Margery Allingham; Dorothy Sawyer; Agatha Christe; Josephine Tey (Daughter of Time gets a huge shout out) through to modern thrillers – Ann Cleeves; Patricia Cornwell (yeah, she may’ve got formulaic, but she did create the forensic science genre!); Karin Slaughter; Lynda la Plante
      or historical (non)fiction – Jean Plaidy; Mary Renault; Sharon Penman; Georgette Heyer; Philippa Gregory; Alison Weir; Tracy Chevalier.
      or horror. uh. well, I’m not a big horror reader, but Shirley Jackson is outstanding!

  • Andrew says:

    Ali Smith: How to be both
    Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking
    Zadie Smith: Changing My Mind
    Jeanette Winterson: Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
    Beryl Bainbridge: The Birthday Boys
    Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
    Katherine Mansfield: Short Stories
    Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse, Mrs Dalloway

  • Noelle says:

    I’m a big fan of British author Sarah Waters. My favorites of hers are “Tipping the Velvet” and “Fingersmith”; both incredibly sexy lesbian fiction.

  • Obviously JK Rowling needs no explanation as Harry Potter being among the greatest series ever written.
    Margaret Atwood must be one of the great women writers, The Handmaid’s Tale is perhaps the best known but I’d recommend the Penelopiad as an alternative account of the Greek Classic by Odyssues’ wife.
    one of the other great female writers must be Ursula le Guin, She is one of the great writers in the SFF genre regardless of gender. Where to start with her? The first book I read was The Dispossessed, whereas Earthsea is among her better known series.
    Other well known women writers on my bookshelves include Suzanne Collins (hunger Games), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Stella Duffy, Sarah Waters.
    Also worth reading in the YA/kids SFF are: Sally Prue (Truth Sayer), Emma Clayton (Roar), Cressida Cowell (Train Your Dragon).
    These are just to start with!

    • If I could only have one it would be the Harry Potter Books – bound together!
      I didn’t mention a non-fiction book so I’ve just looked at my collection.
      I have a ridiculous number of maths and science related n-f books and they are almost all written by men.
      In Code is a fascinating and inspiring autobiographical book about maths & codes (yes think Alan Turing). Now I have remember this book I’m going to pass it on to my teenage son.

    • Emma says:

      Yes someone said JK Rowling!! Grew up on the Harry Potter books.

  • Conor says:

    I had to go through the comments to see if there was one that I have read that hadn’t already been mentioned and I think I have one: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey. A novel about an older woman suffering from alzheimers who thinks her friend Elizabeth is missing and sets out to try and find out what’s happened. It’s actually kind of scary reading a story told through the eyes of someone with alzheimers.

  • Catherine says:

    So many!
    I’ve just finished The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Clare North – time travel in vein of Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which was fabulous
    To Say Nothing of the Dog – a time travel / Three Men in a Boat mash up – Connie Willis (see also The Doomsday Book)
    Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries was hugely impressive (hugely heavy too – one for the kindle!)
    Daphne du Maurier rocks – the Cornish books in particular (Rebecca / Jamaica Inn / Frenchman’s Creek)
    I Capture the Castle by Dodie “101 Dalmatians” Smith is a fantastic coming-of-age book
    and for some diversity:
    Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
    Toni Morrison – Beloved / Bluest Eye
    Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Huston

    I’m very light on non-fiction, so will chuck in
    Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and
    Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (yes, she of the Bechdel Test)

    I’m always sad for people who don’t read…

  • Dani says:

    Pretty much anything by Margaret Atwood. I’m more partial to dystopian fiction though, so The Handmaid’s Tale and especially her MaddAddam Trilogy (finished this recently, and it’s amongst her newer works) are personal favourites of mine.

  • Biondino says:

    My favourite genre is historical crime and there are some awesome women in this area, including but not even slightly limited to:

    Sharon Penman
    PF Chisholm (aka Patricia Finney)
    SJ Pariss (aka Stephanie Merritt)
    Ariana Franklin
    Karen Maitland
    Cassandra Clark
    VE Schwab

    And I know I’ve left out half a dozen dear to me but I’m supposed to be bathing my toddler, shh

  • Karen says:

    I was going to go with the book I’m currently reading – The Awakening by Kate Chopin, but someone beat me to it. So I’ll go with Fingersmith by Sarah Waters as no-one has mentioned her yet. A book that reads like a victorian novel, but full of twists and turns, and kind of appropriate for your blog too

  • Justin says:

    The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. It’s a wonderful book about, well…asking for help. And other things you need.

  • Joseph says:

    Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Peircy – it’s another SFF novel, a time travel one drawing links between a psychiatric hospital in the 1970s (and the sexist and racist surrounding culture) and two possible futures – one utopian (gender equality, sex positivity, no poverty, decentralised government, etc) and one dystopian (inequality up to your eyeballs).

    Also, The Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy. Partly a history, partly a manifesto, well described by its subtitle – How Freaks, Normals, Amateurs, Artists, Dreamers, Dropouts, Queers, Housewives, and People Like You Are Taking Back an Art Form.

  • Valery North says:

    Most of the five I instantly think of have been mentioned, but one that is pretty obscure and I absolutely love:

    A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski – it’s a tale of a radically pacifist hermaphroditic (female-identified) culture coming into contact with a galactic Patriarchal society and the cultural exchange and conflict that results. I especially like the reciprocal nature of their language (so that going somewhere means the same as somewhere coming to you, and hitting someone means they also hit you), and the cultural significance of seeing how others see you.

  • Pilgrimage by Zenna Henderson

    A wonderful book about a group of people marooned on Earth, trying to fit in with our ways. It was adapted into an extremely bad TV series with William Shatner, but it is not a patch on the book.

  • Peter says:

    Come on guys, this one is easy. The most successful book series of the last half-century is by a woman, and leaves no excuse for not having read five books by female authors by virtue of being seven books long. Of course J.K. gets my vote.

    I would take issue with being angry with someone for reading many books, but not many by women. Just as I would with being angry with someone for reading many books, but not many by men. While I’ve read many books by women, I can only think of one I’ve read by a person of colour. I can assure you there’s no discrimination there on my part; it just so happens that the vast majority of books I’ve wanted to read have been written by white people. When the ratios involved are that skewed, a conclusion of deliberate discrimination seems so obvious, but there can often be other factors at work.

    People may stick to certain genres, which may bring with them a gender/race/age/sexuality bias among their (better known) authors. Good luck finding medieval epic poetry not written by white men. In the modern age, almost all the prominent authors in the New Atheist movement are male (Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Krauss and so on), with Ayaan Hirsi Magan the only female author in that area I can think of off the top of my head. Sci-fi has traditionally been very male-dominated both in authorship and readership (with Ursula K. LeGuin as the notable exception), while Fantasy has been a little more diverse. On the flip side, I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of pieces of Buffy The Vampire Slayer fanfiction, and have only ever encountered two male authors of such, one of whom is myself. I’d been reading it for years before I even noticed.

    I don’t think there are reasonable grounds to be really fucked off about it.

    • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

      I don’t believe the suggestion here is that people are *deliberately* choosing not to read books by women out of conscious sexism. Rather, it’s to draw attention to unconscious bias, partly a result of social sexism that has meant women’s writing is traditionally given less respect than men’s.

      Yes, there are some genres that are dominated by one gender (romantic fiction being the most obvious), but that excuse only goes so far – there are women writers in every genre, and no doubt plenty of good ones, which is what this thread is meant to make you realise if (like me) you’ve been overlooking them.

      There are certainly plenty of female sci-fi and fantasy writers; I’m sure there are female atheist writers as well. True, when it comes to the classical literary canon, you’re mostly talking about white men; but it’s worth thinking about *why* most lists of Great Authors are made up of white men, and why white men still make up most lists of the most ‘prominent authors’ today.

      • Ay None says:

        Amen to this.

        If someone asks you to name five female authors that you’ve read (or non-white authors, or gay authors, or whatever) and you realise that you can’t, the best response is probably to ask for recommendations. I doubt anyone is going to get angry if you show yourself to be open to reading outside the hallowed cis-white-straight-male axis. And in fact that would probably be a perfectly acceptable way to approach the Tinder profile above, because it would acknowledge the stated rule, start an actual conversation *and* show that you were sufficiently interested not to want to rule yourself out of the running on a technicality.

        • Girl on the net says:

          Yes! Thank you both. Am kind of exhausted from having had this convo a lot on twitter – v much appreciate you explaining it so clearly here! x

  • Kimbo says:

    One that has remained with me from my teenage year is Speak by Laurie Halse Andersen very moving and incredibly emotional story telling. Another teen classic is the whole repertoire from Louise Rennison-from Angus,Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging,through the entire saga of Georgia Nicholson’s life. Pretty sure I have been a victim of snorting extremely loudly so many times over these books!
    Room by Emma Donoghue is an interesting book that completely encapsulates the life of a young boy who has grown up a prisoner within a room,perfecting the speech as if it were an autobiography,
    I would definitely agree that Belle Du Jour/BrookeMagnanti is one of the best writers I have ever read, making me laugh out loud on many occasions,and a reason I am panicking about perfecting my writing skills before being able to write a blog. Nobody wants to think they are as good as this and fail miserably!GOTN you have filled the belle shaped hole in my life so well it’s like she never left!

  • Sophia says:

    Diana Wynne Jones – one of the best children’s fantasy authors ever (some say she inspired Harry Potter) – the chrestomanci series is a particular fave.

    Lesley Lokko – sundowners – pure escapism set amongst the backdrop of the apartheid

    Georgette Heyer – grandmother of the historical romance genre – Cottilion is fab

    Agatha Christie – needs no introduction – the man in the brown suit is fun!

    • Rick says:

      Great call on Diana Wynne Jones- and yes I loved the Chrestomanci series- I think it was one of my first introductions to the fantasy genre

  • SpaceCaptainSmith says:

    Oh Christ, I don’t think I can actually make a list of five women authors I’ve read. I’m not a big reader, but that’s still pretty horrifying. I need to bookmark this page, obviously.

    But one good book by a woman that I have read and can recommend is “Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine, which criticises the arguments for innate sex differences between men and women, and argues that gender roles are produced by society and culture instead.

    Also, the Adrian Mole books by Sue Townsend are classics of British humour.

    • Oddtwang says:

      Adrian Mole! Took too long for that to get a mention here.
      I’d also second Delusions of Gender too, it’s a very thorough refutation of the notions that sex differences are fundamental, of bollocks evo psych and of the general shitness of proscribed gender roles

  • Lottie says:

    What a great idea!

    I love – recent and not so

    Two books set in 17C Holland:
    The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
    Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier

    Teen adult dystopia:
    Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

    All three books in the Labyrinth trilogy by Kate Mosse

    Anything by Victoria Hislop, holiday fiction on recentish Greek and Spanish history.

    Love your blog btw!

  • ET says:

    naomi wolf ~ the beauty myth.
    Gave me more confidence and empowerment than anything else in my 20s. Set me up with body confidence that had been lacking. Made me see the world differently.

  • Keeping it (with great difficulty) small, and only looking at the books I’ve read so far this year:

    Comics: Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro.
    Fiction: The Door into Fire (plus its two sequels) by Diane Duane.
    Non-Fiction: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo.

    xx Dee

  • Tod says:

    Here are two wonderful books that haven’t been mentioned yet

    Fiction: “Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons — 1930’s-style feminism, clever and hilarious
    Non-fiction: “A Natural History of the Senses” by Diane Ackerman

  • louise c says:

    Handmaids tale- Margaret Atwood
    The left hand of darkness – Ursula le Guin
    Station Eleven-Emily St. John Mandel
    We need to talk about Kevin- Lionel Shriver
    Frankenstein- Mary Shelley

  • Alex says:

    There are too many to list (mainly in the fantasy/horror subgenres), but here’s a few, all of these read (and loved) this year…

    The Death House by Sarah Pinborough (anything from Sarah is awesome, esp. The Language of Dying)
    Breed by K T Davies
    The Dark Arts of Blood by Freda Warrington (all the Blood Wine Sequence is brilliantly written)
    A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab
    Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman (again, anything by Emma is fab)

    None of the above will disappoint anyone looking for some great stories.


  • James McGraw says:

    I find Zadie Smith a bit hit and miss, but I really enjoyed On Beauty.

  • James kendrick says:

    I love many series of books writtwn by women. They are so refreshing and well written from the classics of Jane Austen to the Bronte sisters. I adore the amazing House of Night series by PC and Kristen Cast; the totally gripping Chicagoland Vampire series by Chloe Neil and the Morganville Vampire series. These multi volume series have strong well rounded female characters and address many modern day issues that speak to many readers!

  • Julia says:

    Not terribly “literaturey” but I recently thoroughly Megan Amram’s “Science… For her!” tremendous satire!

  • Michael Deacon says:

    Great idea. I’d recommend anything by Wendy Cope, probably Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis.

    Jeanette Winterson: Sexing the Cherry or The Passion, both brilliant, dark, sexy, and magical.

  • Exhibit A says:

    I’m lucky enough to write in a genre where great female authors are both visible and successful – in that respect (among others), Erotica is pretty progressive.

    However, ignoring that shelf for now, I’m going to go with two books…

    Golden Boy, by Abigail Tarttelin, was published in 2013, and is an often heartwrenching story about an intersex teenager, family relationships, and abuse…

    …but if I have to pick just one for the purposes of the competition, I’ll take one of my ALL-TIME FAVOURITE NOVELS, The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. It’s a book to get utterly lost in, and the way Roy uses language is so brilliant that I literally couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks afterwards. It’ll sweep you along, break your heart, give you tingles all over at how good it is, make you smile…and definitely make you cry too. If you love fiction, and you haven’t already read this book, I implore you to go out and buy it right now. YES, RIGHT NOW.

  • abbirode says:

    Sometimes I think it’s hard to answer questions like this – not because we don’t have the answers but becuase you don’t notice the difference. Like if someone asked me how many gay friends I had – I think I’d go blank; not because I don’t have any but because I don’t think of them as gay, they’re just my friends.
    So when I thought of how many books I’d read by women…. I also went blank. I was delighted to look at my book shelves and be reminded that there’s loads more than 5.

    I’m not saying that the exercise of BellJarred isn’t necessary or relevant I’m just saying that some of us might stumble on that question for other reasons.

    So many of my favourites already mentioned (The God of Small Things being one of my all time favourites.)

    But the competition was to reccomend one?
    A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I read it this year before the film came out and it was such a powerful book. Showing grief and the ways we deal with it.

    The Bookstore by Deborah Meyler. Sort of chick lit but surprisingly poignant. You’ll want to yell at, slap, and then hug the protagonist, Esme.

    Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. Funny. And entertaining, and you really end up caring about the characters.

  • Bev says:

    Non-fiction: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

    Also no-one needs it recommending but Harry Potter was written by a woman and is a motherflippin Institution. I have so many feelings about this.

  • Rach says:

    Really too many to choose from but lazing in bed on this saturday morning it is ‘The secret River’ by Kate Grenville and the one that I would take to my desert island and I re read every couple of years George Eliot’s ‘Silas Marner’

  • Exposing40 says:

    This is *such* a cool thing you’re doing. It’s impossible to choose only one…well not impossible to, but I don’t want to only choose one! I drifted to sleep last night thinking how to shortlist the numerous ones floating round my head…so being a complete travel whore and bore, I’ve gone for ones I’ve read while travelling in the countries or continents in which they’re set.

    1) God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
    2) The House of Spirits Trilogy, Isabel Allende
    3) Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
    4) Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel
    5) Backpack, Emily Barr (not sure how this stacks up to time but it was perfect when I set off backpacking in 2001!)

    And then as a brucy bonus, Brief Encounters: stories of love, sex and travel… this is a slight cheat as there are some shorts from men, but it’s edited by a woman!

  • Ade Couper says:

    Ok, books by women that are great…well, there’s the 2 volume “The Art of Forgetting” by Joanne Hall, pretty much everything by Margaret Attwood, Angela Carter (the bloody chamber & other stories is a good place to start), “the language of dying” by Sarah Pinborough, which may well be the best book ever written……

  • Hey GoTN,

    We’ve doubled up a load of these already but here are some other recommendations of books by women (that niche subsection of literature…):

    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – it’s a fucking classic recognised the world over.

    The Ethical Slut / The New Topping Book / The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W Hardy – my girl guide through opening up my relationship and inviting cruel-minded men to teach me a lesson – thank you so much ladies.

    The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – such an inspiring read by one of my favourite musicians. Her TED talk completely fucked my shit up. Loved it.

    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – set in my homeland of Yorkshire, proving violent, passionate love transcends time. I own two copies.

    Also just finished Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham which I blasted through – gorgeous illustrations by Joana Avillez.

    These books have helped to shape who I am and challenge what I want. I hope you enjoy these recommendations x

  • Mitch says:

    Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch. I read every novel on the Booker shortlist that year and can confidently say she was robbed by Julian Barnes. Anyway, it’s a fantastic 19th century seafaring adventure novel which suddenly takes a dark and horrifying twist towards the end. The last third is one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever read. You really want to pick it up knowing nothing more than that.

  • Beth Kemp says:

    So many fab recommendations already!
    I’ll add Joanne Harris’s Blueeyedboy – a deliciously dark and creepy psychological thriller making brilliant use of online communities.

  • AHZ says:

    I could recommend loads but here’s two

    Fiction – Money Shot by Christa Faust

    Non-fiction – Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman

  • Lesley Smith says:

    Can’t believe no one has mentioned Anne Tyler. Anything by her – Accidental Tourist is wonderful.
    Non fiction – Lynn Barber’s A Curious Career

  • As Nin, Atwood, Woolf, and Carter (Wise Children is a must read!) are well represented above, I’m going another route and recommending…

    ‘Cherries in the Snow’ by Emma Forrest.

    I love it so much I used to read it once a year. It seems like fluff, but it’s honest and funny and tender. Forrest’s memoir about her therapist ‘Your Voice in my Head’ is also excellent.

  • The Other Livvy says:

    Oh my gosh, this is a fabulous list of recommendations! I now want to read them all and then re-read everything I’ve already read!

    So my entries are taken from my list of absolute favourites by female authors. Most of that list has already been submitted so I thought I’d give three that hadn’t been recommended yet:

    The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova : the best vampire novel I’ve ever read. Really quite terrifying!

    Katherine – Anya Seaton : a brilliant and heartbreaking historical novel, and the source of the majority of my knowledge about Plantagenet Britain

    The Winter Rose – Jennifer Donnelly : the best of a trilogy of romance novel that I still cannot start reading in the afternoon because I won’t stop until I’ve finished them…even if it’s 4am and I’m getting up at 6

    SUCH a good idea!! Xxx

  • Nick says:

    Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys.
    Viv Albertine

    One of my punk heroines, when growing up. Still is!

  • MariaSibylla says:

    No one has yet mentioned The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. A retelling of Dinah from the book of Genesis from her view. I loved it so much I shared it with my 80 year old grandmother. She also loved it :)

  • Alexandra says:

    The Best of Everything- Rona Jaffe

    So smart, so sassy, so of its time and ahead of it also. Made me want a small waist, a cigarette, a large scotch and a bloody steak.

  • Ben says:

    Two books I learned of in the last few years through disparaging reviews (those, for whatever reason, tend to pique my interest more) that I enjoyed a great deal were Lionel Shriver’s ‘Big Brother’ and Alissa Nutting’s ‘Tampa’. The former I’d say is inferior to other books of Shriver’s that others have already listed though still immensely readable and engaging on a personal level. The ending, if described, would perhaps seem like a bit of a cop out but in fact it was actually rather satisying.
    ‘Tampa’ was just outright funny and ballsy, without trying too hard to provoke. I like a good sociopath-led story, especially when said sociopath is so laissez-faire about their behaviour.
    Great non-fiction books would include Jenna Miscavige-Hill’s ‘Beyond Belief’ (a memoir on growing up in – and later ditching – scientology).
    I’m also rather partial to graphic novels, if they’re also being considered, and would eagerly put forward Alison Bechdel’s ‘Fun Home’ and ‘Are You My Mother’ along with Katie Green’s ‘Lighter Than My Shadow’ and Marjane Satrapi’s ‘Persepolis’.
    However if pressed to pick one fiction novel I’d go with ‘The Girls’ by Lori Lansens, which I recently re-read. Very well-paced and a lovely, sombre (not maudlin) atmosphere.

  • Molly says:

    Oh my where to start… or finish for that matter. I could write you a list 50+ long.

    Enid Blyton – Growing up I LOVED The Famous Five books. I wanted the Ginger beer and the adventures
    Judy Blume – Forever. Very important book in my sexual development as a teen and made me convinced that a man naming his penis was not a sexy thing!
    Margaret Mitchell – Gone with the Wind. The movie is nothing compared to the book and oh wow what a book. You know nothing about Scarlett until you have read this book.
    Alissa Nutting – Tampa. A must read book, disturbing but great writing
    Fannie Flagg – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
    Enid Bagnold – National Velvet… because girls can ride race horses too you know!


  • One of my favorite novels is A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo, about a women who arrives in London from China and learns English and a lot more throughout the book. It’s a challenging read at first because of the rocky grasp of the language but is so worth it. It’s not an erotic novel but the sex scenes are perfectly done and so fitting to her journey.

    I also really liked Addition by Toni Jordan, about a woman with OCD starting to venture out into the world, including embarking on her first relationship.

    In memoir, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walks remains a favorite of mine. So beautifully done and empathetic where I think many would be bitter.

  • Typed that on my phone which was a mistake – it’s Jeannette WALLS.

  • james baker says:

    “The Secretary….Taking the proverbial” by Eva Wallace.

    A novella really, but fucking funny. I didn’t know tights get women off when they rub on their clit!

    She’s a dirty bitch.

  • Kate says:

    The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E M Delafield. (An easy pick as I just discovered her this week, so I’m very much in the honeymoon period, speeding through her other books and buying copies for friends.)
    The thoughts of a Devon housewife in the 1930s, for me as funny & oddly relatable as anything published today.

  • Malin James says:

    Burning Your Boats, The Collected Short Stories of Angela Carter
    Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
    Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
    Possession by A.S. Byatt
    Affinity by Sarah Waters
    Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
    Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia

    Also, I LOVE Who Stole Feminism! Was really excited to see it in the post!

  • Charlie says:

    I’m going with my top five as well:

    1) Hausfrau, by Jill Alexander Essbaum – just beautiful, and the first book in years that I genuinely haven’t been able to put down. Her language is *amazing.*
    2) The Beautiful Indifference, by Sarah Hall – short stories, and some are a bit hit or miss, but she’s especially good on place and the complexity of relationships.
    3) Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume – Forever has been mentioned above, and is definitely seminal, but Summer Sisters is a great take on female friendship and growing up. Unlike most Judy Blume, this was written for adults.
    4) Asking for Trouble, by Kristina Lloyd – dark, dark erotic novel. Absolutely my go to when I want to get off, but it has a good plot and a super hot male lead, too. Might be one to avoid if you’re triggered by rape fantasy/non consent/humiliation, though.
    5) Shoot the Damn Dog, by Sally Brampton – there’s a fair amount of writing on depression out there now, but this, Sally’s autobiographical take on MH issues, is the book I always go back to when I’m low.

  • Anon says:

    Fiction – Entangled by Cat Clarke
    Gorgeous book about mental health, relationships (with a sprinkling of sex, of course) and battling through the teenage years

    Non fiction – In The Skin Of A Jihadist by Anna Erelle
    Very brave woman who infiltrated ISIS in a way no man ever could, in order to shed light on internet jihadism and radicalisation. Published under a fake name as IS issued a fatwa against the author and she’s basically in hiding.

  • Ben says:

    I mostly read fantasy and sci-fi, so my recommendations may not be to everyone’s tastes, but there are some excellent female authors in the genre, and include some of my absolute favourites, so
    Grunts! by Mary Gentle
    The Deverry series by Katherine Kerr
    Anything by Janny Wurts
    When True Night Falls by Celia Friedman
    Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones
    The Temeraire books by Naomi Novik
    Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

  • Polly says:

    I’ve considered this for a day and a half now…I’m gonna go with A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride…I read it last year and it’s my best book of the decade thus far and one of my top 5 of all time. It’s raw and honest and written in a form that is totally new (to me at least). Everything is stripped down to the experience and moment in itself without subjectivity or opinion or interpretation. It’s poetic and authentic…and wonderful (& a shed load of other adjectives but I’m not anywhere close to articulate enough to do it justice)….Pol

  • My all time favourite is The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox, a truly outstanding work, and most recently Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. Both of them are excellent, compelling and deeply moving.

  • Naga says:

    Looking down my 4- and 5-star Goodreads list . . .

    The Chalionverse books by Lois McMaster Bujold, starting with The Curse of Chalion
    Catherine Asaro’s science fiction (many subseries and jumping-on points in a common setting)
    Ursula K. Le Guin, especially The Left Hand of Darkness for bonus gender relevance.
    Anything by N. K. Jemisin
    Anything by Jacqueline Carey, including the overlooked Sundering books, starting with Banewreaker
    Anything by Octavia Butler, the Xenogenesis books starting with for more bonus gender relevance
    Lovers and Beloveds by MeiLin Miranda

    Contemporary Fantasy
    The Kitty Norville books by Carrie Vaughn, starting with Kitty and the Midnight Hour
    The Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs, starting with Moon Called
    The Elemental Assassin books by Jennifer Estep, starting with Spider’s Bite
    The Nikki Glass books by Jenna Black, starting with Dark Descendant
    The Chicagoland Vampire books by Chloe Neill, starting with Some Girls Bite
    The Body Departed by J. R. Rain

    • Naga says:

      Oops, J. R. Rain is a man — I guess I’d assumed from the initials, but just saw his author photo.

      The rest of the list stands!

  • Anonymous says:

    The Memory of Love-Aminatta Forna. Beautifully written. Set in post-war Sierra Leone.
    Boy, Snow, Bird-Helena Oyeyemi. Love her. She effortlessly blends fairytale with issues such as segregation in 1950s America.
    The Bloody Chamber- Angela Carter. Again, love her and I love a good, dark fairytale reimagining/retelling. My favourite out of this collection is the title story, a retelling of Bluebeard.

  • John says:

    “The Song of the Lark” by Willa Cather – profoundly moving examination of the blessing and curse of talent…

    Should I win, don’t send me the books but find a school and donate them to the library there!

  • Enker says:

    My recommendation for a book or in this case books multiple written by women would be the ‘Women of the Othet World’ series by Kelly Armstrong, a writer of some considerable talent. Her descriptive terms and scene setting skills eclipse anybody else I’ve ever encountered as an author and her novel ‘Frozen’ actually managed to make me feel cold and isolated on a beach surrounded by half a dozen sun bathing people. I rarely sink so easily into genre fiction – but Armstrong is a master (mistress? Let’s just say genius!) at creating well written and believable characters and dialogue of both sexes. Adept at sexual encounters, tense hottie sequences and comedy all at once. As for Frozen, it’s a novel from the middle of her run but written in such a manner that anyone could pick it up and enjoy it beginning to end without having to be versed in her history. Win or lose this competition, please find a novel by this woman and give it a read – as a BOOK, not a digital download by preference.

  • James says:

    Let’s see…

    Jenna Black’s Morgan Kingsley series – demons, intrigue, BDSM and the most stable relationship in it is a gay couple? Sold.
    Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series – for highly sarcastic and badass vampire hunters, gods, demons and general awesomeness.
    Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments are good fun, albeit teen rated – but who cares, they’re still good fun.
    Keri Arthur and her Riley Jensen series – though they did start suffering from a case of special snowflake syndrome in the later books, the first three were excellent urban fantasy mystery books.
    Harry Potter’s a classic, and one of the best descriptions of actually being a teenage boy written by a non-teenage boy.
    Also, cannot recommend JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series enough – a very unique style of urban fantasy.

    I really have a specific taste in reading material…

  • Rebecca says:

    So many amazing books above!

    Two which I dont *think* have been mentioned: The Madness of a Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

  • At the age of about 18 I was given a copy of Magyk, the first in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage.

    At 25 I actually began to read it.

    It’s a young adult fantasy series of seven books, and I love the whole series. It’s clever, funny, and inventive, and something I’d definitely recommend to anyone who’s just finished Harry Potter.

  • Clair says:

    Some brilliant recommendations but my suggestion would be Bel Canto by Ann Patchett. Interesting take on hostage and their captors.

  • Ben says:

    Apologies if this has already been mentioned, it’s late and I don’t have time to read them all now. Sue Townsend is a marvellous observer of human behaviour (quite how she understands the mind of a teenage boy so well I have no idea) and also supremely funny. Read all her books, but you may as welll start with the classic Secret Diary of Adrian Mole. I forget his exact age at the time. 12 1/2?

  • moseyonby says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this growing list!

    Presence by Patsy Rodenburg (The Second Circle is the title in the US).
    The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.
    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

    Trying to think of books I’ve read by women is alarming me at this moment–as a woman, and a feminist woman at that, I am really struggling to think of more books! I think part of that has to do with the fact that the VAST majority of what I read IS in fact written by women; it’s just that the vast majority of what I read is blogs.

    My list of favorite blogs authored by women would be very long and very easy to rattle off… and yours, GOTN, would be one of those listed. :) Until that question arises on a forum such as this, I am so looking forward to working through this list!

  • Charlie says:

    Feel I should mention Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty as well. Completely forgot about it yesterday.

  • ‘Only Ever Yours’ by Louise O’Neill, originally published as a YA novel it has been re-released with a new cover for a non YA audience.

    Set in a future where girls are taught how to serve and please men, Only Ever Yours is a sharply written portrayal of teenage girls and the role of women in society. freida and isabel (their names aren’t capitalised in the book) are best friends. They are also eves. They have been created for men and face a life spent living as a companion, a concubine or a chastity. In their 16th and final year at boarding school things begin to change. The choosing ceremony is approaching and every girl is vying for a place as a companion.

    It has been compared to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘ Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Mean Girls’, which should give you an idea of what to expect. When I finished reading it I needed to sit quietly, in a dark room, and process it all. I’ve been recommending it to anyone will listen since.

    Also, I’m loving the other recommendations. *adds to my ever growing to-be read list*

  • Book Gourmand says:

    Thanks so very much for holding this competition/giveaway. I now have the names of so many new books that I can check out. I will recommend two books each in English and Bangla, my native language(Penguin should have good translations of these works.) Here it goes:
    “Room” by Emma Donaghue, scary and heart-wrenching all at once.
    “A visit from the goon squad” by Jennifer Egan, the best example of convergence from divergence that I have seen in literature.
    “Prothom Alo” by Ashapurna Devi, literal translation ‘First Light’, it introduces us to a girl who discovers feminism in 19th century rural Bengal in her own unique way.
    “Kacher Manush” by Suchitra Bhattacharjee, literal translation ‘Near Ones’, it talks about the extraordinary things that the very ordinary ladies of middle class Bengali homes witness.
    Hope you will read some of the above and find them as fulfilling as I did.

  • I highly recommend that you finish Erica Jong. I truly enjoyed her narrative and have read many more of her books. For additional female authors, I would recommend My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor as as well as West with the Night by Beryl Markham.

    My Beloved World was well constructed and thought out. Sonia does a wonderful job of drawing in the audience and truly painting a picture of what her early years were like. Strong writing, powerful content, a pleasant read!

    In West with the Night, I truly enjoyed her fantastic account of the life of woman in the early part of last century. I enjoy pieces written from a strong female perspective and she doesn’t disappoint. Given the constraints of her day and age she was able to accomplish significant feats that are impressive even today.

  • Flagoogin says:

    Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Just a stunningly good book. Although it is fantasy, it comes across as being completely factual. Perfect debut novel.

  • Larkers says:

    Fiction would have to be the glorious Harriet Beecher Stowe with Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She dared to write what nobody else would.

    Non fiction has to be, for me, Nancy Friday. Another amazing lady who dared to push the boundaries…and who made me realise I was not a freak.

  • Dick Newman says:

    Anything by Barbara Kingsolver
    Anything by Hilary Mantel
    Emma Donoghue – Room
    Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls
    and if you like old school – Anything by Iris Murdoch
    There’s a bunch of ripping yarns for you.

  • Verena says:

    Rita Mae West, Rubyfruit Jungle. I read it because it’s a lesbian classic and I loved it for the portrayal of the protagonists mother.
    Alison Bechdel, Fun Home. Has been mentioned here several times, mostly because it’s great.
    Lena Christ, Erinnerungen einer Überflüssigen (Memoires of a superfluous woman). It’s about an illegitimate child’s/woman’s life in turn-of-the-twentieth-century Bavaria. I’m not sure if anyone ever bothered to translate it to english, though.
    Zsusza Bánk, Der Schwimmer (The Swimmer). Takes place after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. A woman leaves her family to flee to western Europe. Told from her daughter’s perspective.

    Apparently I like vaguely autobiographical books about daughter-parent-relationships.

  • Kier says:

    I didn’t want to do just one book, and as it’s a competition to win five I thought I’d give five recommendations…

    White Oleander by Janet Fitch
    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
    The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
    The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
    The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

    All beautiful books that touched a part of me when I read them. I now want to read them all again immediately.

  • sarah says:

    it’s impossible to only pick one! i can’t do it i tell you

    sexing the cherry – jeanette winterson
    life after life – kate atkinson
    the world’s wife – carol ann duffy
    the night circus – erin morgenstern
    the unlikely pilgrimage of harold fry – rachel joyce

    those ones are all big favourites. others i recommend include the electric michaelangelo by sarah hall, the snow child by eowyn ivey, of love and shadows by isabel allende, diving belles by lucy wood, pretty much everything by monica ali, zadie smith, margaret atwood, hilary mantel, jeanette winterson, keri smith… i’m sure there’s a tonne more but it’s late and i’m having trouble thinking straight.

  • OMG! Where to start?

    Okay… in the sorta sexy romance/historical romance department:
    – A Rogue by any Other Name by Sarah MacLean
    – Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    – Jane by Robin Maxwell
    – Madame Toussad: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
    – The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel

    – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    – March by Geraldine Brooks
    – Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    – Seraph on the Suwanee by Zora Neale Hurston
    – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

    Of course, a “Just For Fun” category:
    – Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
    – Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
    – The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart
    – Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

    And my favorite — Memoir/Non-Fic:
    – All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein
    – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
    – My Life in France by Julia Child
    – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson
    – Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry, and Revenge by Eleanor Herman

    I could go on and on and on, because women have been writing for forever, and they’re pretty badass.

  • Oooo! The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry! I can’t believe I left that off!

  • Also, –and this is my last comment, I promise— y’all should check out Goodreads, if you haven’t. It’s a wonderful website for readers. It’s sort of like Facebook for books. You can save books to your “To Read” shelf, review books you have read, challenge yourself to read so many books a year (and then the site helpfully keeps track for you), recommend books to your “friends,” have them recommend books to you, look up reviews, etc.
    SOOOO amazing.

  • Iris says:

    The Electric Michaelangelo by Sarah Hall
    Such beautiful writing, about a tattooist called Cy. She writes about bodies so well, you really feel her characters are fleshy and flawed.

    How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
    Whatever your feelings on her as a feminist whatever, this book (for me) is fucking hilarious. The bits about wanking killed me.

    Possession by A.S. Byatt
    I just couldn’t put it down. When I was reading in the office on my lunch break colleagues had to actually shake me as I didn’t hear them talking to me.

    Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
    Amazing graphic novel. Smart, funny, sad the whole shebang.

    Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
    One of my all time favourite books. She was bloody peerless.

    Bodies by Susie Orbach (non-fic)
    A compassionate and thoughtful look at how we experience our bodies in these strange Botox times.

    Yes Please by Amy Poehler
    I can’t decide if I want to be her, be her best friend, or just be carried around in a papoos on her back.

    Oops that was more than one :)

  • Jareth says:

    Truly, the “Alchemy XII” book by Tasmin Flowers is the best longform erotica I’ve read, ever, and it’s not complete yet. Barring installation-type books, “Dearest Anne” by Judith Katzir combines relationships, social boundaries, queerness, PoC, and excellent journal-style writing into a work of fiction I’ll never forget.

  • Jamie Taylor says:

    Let’s pretend this never happened by Jenny Lawson. I’m sure you are aware of her awesome blog, The Bloggess. Awesome tales of a unique upbringing and her struggles with Anxiety.

    Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. Another awesome blogger who told her story by way of MS paint style cartoons. Just do a quick web search for God of cake and you’ll see. :)

  • Kay says:

    *love* this kind of competition!

    To bring some semblance of order to my favourites:

    Fiction: Brick Lane – Monica Ali, The Lady and the Unicorn – Tracy Chevalier, The Return – Victoria Hislop, The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern, White Teeth – Zadie Smith, The Queen and I – Sue Townsend (and all of Adrian Mole, obviously…)
    Non-fiction: Desert Flower – Waris Dirie, The Bletchley Girls – Tessa Dunlop (also has the added bonus of being about totally kickass non-fictional women)

  • I read two fantastic novels recently, Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie. Very impressive. I also recently read the amazing Patternmaster by Octavia E. Butler who, as a black, female sci-fi author in the 70’s, surely raised a few eyebrows.

  • Pandora says:

    I like this game!

    Sci-fi and fantasy edition:
    Elizabeth Moon
    Tanya Huff
    Lois McMaster Bujold
    Kristen Cashore
    Robin Hobbs
    Naomi Novik
    Dianna Wynne Jones
    Anne Leckie
    Octavia E Butler
    Marion Zimmer Bradley
    Mercedes Lackey
    Anne McCaffrey
    Ursula le Guin

    Also I’m a big fan of Margaret Atwood, A. S. Byatt, Donna Tartt, Audrey Niffenegger, Sarah Waters, Tracy Chevalier and Jeanette Winterson.

    *looks at shelves* Obviously Rowling, Austen, the Brontes, Georgette Heyer, George Eliot. Also Anais Nin, Sylvla Plath, Poppy Z Brite, Anne Rice, Stella Gibbons, Mary Stewart, Anita Shreve… hey I think I actually have more books by women on my shelves than by men. I never noticed that before. I feel faintly proud :P

  • Nine says:

    Why does the Christina Hoff Summers book look like it’s been stretched? I hope it at least makes a good draught excluder.

    My top pick is always Atlas of the Human Heart by Ariel Gore. I will admit that I like the first half more than the second half, but it’s her goddamn memoir, so. It’s about how she spent her mid- to late teens, including getting a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, bluffing her way into Beijing University, being a smuggler, living with a child thief in Kathmandu, and a whole lot more. And all through it she’s a bit sort of quiet and detached and lost but she meets all these random people and says yes to all these situations that present themselves while she’s working her own shit out. I relate except my equivalent travels started in my early thirties and when I was a teenager I was too busy drinking cider on the pier.

    • Girl on the net says:

      It’s a kind of odd format for a book, but I promise it hasn’t been stretched (unless you just mean the photo in which case it’s more than possible that I uploaded it wrong). Thank you for the book suggestion too! x

  • Girl on the net says:

    Thank you all SO MUCH for your amazing book suggestions! The comp’s closed now and I’ll be picking the winner soon and will get in touch with them directly – I’m also hoping to put suggestions in a round-up post so they’re easy for people to peruse in future. And, obviously, I now have to go and buy tonnes of books <3 xxx

  • Elizabeth fell says:

    ‘Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont’, Elizabeth Taylor. A touching story From an unusual standpoint, written by one of the original Virago blue stockings .

    ..or ‘Hostages of Fortunes’ by Elizabeth Bainbridge.
    Or ‘I capture the castle’, Dodi Smith.

  • Renlau Outil says:

    The comp may be closed, but I wanted to add my five stars x 2 all the same.

    Middlemarch – George Eliot
    Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
    Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
    The Secret History – Donna Tartt
    The Delivery Room – Sylvia Brownrigg
    Green Man Running – Georgina Hammick
    Self Help – Lorrie Moore
    Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout
    Liars and Saints – Maile Meloy

    And because it’s Girl on the Net, and because it is a great book,
    Hard Core – Linda Williams

  • Chris says:

    A couple of pop science writers:

    Aarathi Prasad – Like a virgin (on the weirdness of human fertility and whether we could ever reproduce solo)
    Dava Sobel – Galileo’s Daughter and Longitude (and a whole load of others that I haven’t read – she’s very accessible)
    Diane Ackerman – A natural history of the senses (less science, more poetry)
    Rachel Carson – Silent Spring (THE original book that kicked off the environmental movement)
    Rebecca Skloot – The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks (the anonymous source of lab cells for experimentation and development of medicine and vaccine)

    Mary Beard writes good and accessible books on classical history. Debra Hamel writes really excellent, informal English social histories, again of classics.
    Dee Brown wrote classic American history book Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, about the Indian wars and the effect of US migration on the Native American population.

  • Shave says:

    Kristen Hersh’s autobiography/teenage diaries Rat Girl is insightful. Also, as recommended by her, The Canon:The Beautiful Basics of Science by Natalie Angier is a friendly, clear and awesome science book.

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