It’s International Women’s Day today and originally I wanted to mark the day with some kind of ‘top 10’. However as I was making notes for this post, I realised that the point of the day is to celebrate all women, and that to list them in order of preference or in order of how much their works have impacted the world would be somewhat restrictive for what I wanted to do.
I’ve therefore compiled a list of women writers, in no particular order, whom I think have had a massive effect on readers all over the world and/or whose works I especially love.
Malik wrote Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged, which didn’t blow me away and it actually took me quite a long time to get through it. However, I watched a video on justkissmyfrog’s channel where Malik talks about the book, and about growing up as a British Muslim, and I just thought she was fabulous.
I really wanted to love the book but unfortunately it just wasn’t for me. However, I’ll be keeping an eye out for Malik’s work in the future.
Stephanie Meyer and E. L. James.
I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight, both of which these authors get a lot of flack for. But, whatever you think of them, you can’t deny the impact that their works have had on readers.
Both series are problematic in that they allegedly glamourise abusive relationships and rape. (I say allegedly because I haven’t read them and therefore can’t confirm, but I think the general consensus is probably right.) However, I think these women deserve a spot on this list because of the sheer enormity of their readership, when it can be hard for women to get published at all.
J. K. Rowling.
Speaking of the sheer enormity of one’s readership…
J. K. Rowling is a fantastic woman in many ways. She stands up for her beliefs; her Twitter is full of hilarious political commentary. She cares about people, showing diversity in her work – though it would’ve been nice for Dumbledore’s sexuality to have been revealed in the books, rather than in an interview. And of course, she wrote the most incredible series of all time, which needs no introduction.
I’ve read two of Heathfield’s books – I think they may be her only books – and wasn’t too fussed on Seed, but I adored Paper Butterflies. It’s quite a depressing, hard-hitting novel, but incredibly well-written. I read this as a free ebook from Netgalley, and it’s gone on my list of ‘ebooks to get physical copies of’, and let me tell you, books don’t get on that list just willy-nilly!
I’m a big fan of The Hunger Games. It’s one of the most well-written dystopians I’ve ever read, and one of the best YAs as well. Not only is Collins a fantastic writer, but she’s given us wonderful female characters too. Katniss is brave, heroic and acts as a rallying point for the revolution, but what I like most about her is that she’s flawed, and she feels real.
(It’s a shame about the love triangle, but you can’t have everything.)
Atwood is probably the only writer on this least where not only have I not read much of her work, but I’ve also not liked much of her work.
However, she’s one of those writers where I just know one of her books is waiting for me, ready to become my new favourite. I just need to find it. I’ve read The Penelopiad and a while back I started Oryx and Crake, but neither of those begged to be new favourites. But I can tell how good the writing is, and I just know there’s an Atwood book out there that, one day, I’ll fall in love with.
I mention O’Neill next because of Only Ever Yours, a book which has been compared numerous times to Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve not read what most people consider to be Atwood’s masterpiece, but I have read Only Ever Yours and I think it’s fab.
I did have issues with it – some of the language used is cartoon-y and it feels like O’Neill came up with ‘futuristic’ names just to avoid mentioning certain brands – but I couldn’t put it down. It’s a great dystopian about a stark, bleak future that doesn’t feel too far from the world we live in now.
There are few famous modern women as brave as Malala. There’s very little I can say about the young girl who was shot by the Taliban just for going to school, and who didn’t let a little thing like a bullet to the head get in the way of her fight for every woman’s right to an education. I can’t do her justice. All I can say is that she is not only a wonderful writer, but a wonderful woman, and girls all over the world should look up to her as a role model.
I’ve been singing Bates’ praises for the last few months on this blog. I read Girl Up around Christmastime and loved it, and then I read Everyday Sexism more recently and loved it even more.
She makes feminism accessible and modern, without dismissing the more traditional feminism of the previous generation. She makes efforts to clarify that the struggle is doubly, triply hard for women of color, lesbians, disabled women and transgender persons, and anyone else experiencing double discrimination. She puts up with nothing, explaining why it is so important to dispute those ‘harmless’ sexist jokes, those ‘it happens all the time’ gropes in nightclubs, the ‘banter’ of referring to all women as sluts, bitches or clunge. You have to dispute it because if you don’t sweat the small stuff, it makes it that much harder to argue against the big stuff.
(And it’s not small stuff anyway. How many of the ladies who read this blog have been touched in a nightclub without your consent? Like me, you probably brushed it off because it happens every time you go out. But Bates has pointed out what should’ve been blindingly obvious in the first place: inappropriately touching someone without their consent is sexual assault. WOMEN ARE BEING SEXUALLY ASSAULTED EVERY TIME THEY GO OUT.)
I have FINALLY started rereading White Teeth, which I have only ever read once (because it’s extremely long!) and yet I think of it as one of the best books I’ve ever written. Smith is a great writer. I liked White Teeth a lot more than the other books of hers that I’ve tried, but the brilliance of the writing shines through every time.
Hill is my go-to for scary stories. I first saw The Woman in Black in London around 2010 and became instantly obsessed with it. (I was properly traumatised. I had nightmares for two weeks.)
Not long after, I did some hunting around some bookshops and read the original novel by Susan Hill. (It jump-started my nightmares all over again.) She really knows her craft. All of her books are eerie, haunting and stay with you long after reading – even the ones I didn’t like that much, I still remember vivid images from them.
I was never that big a fan of Wilson at school (I stuck with Judy Blume a bit longer than I probably should’ve) but I did love one particular series: the Girls series. Girls Under Pressure was my favourite and I still think it’s an amazing book in terms of what it teaches about body image. It was how I first came to understand that eating disorders were a thing and that there’s such a thing as losing weight unhealthy. We need more books like this for our impressionable teenage daughters, and I’ll definitely be shoving it at my niece when she gets to the right age.
Blume was my first favourite author once I had grown out of Enid Blyton (who am I kidding – I never grew out of Enid Blyton). She taught me about periods and made me laugh. I have very fond memories of checking out all her books from my school library and devouring them one by one.
Anne Fine is an interesting one whom I wish I’d paid more attention to as a child. She plays with gender roles in her works, whether it’s the dad who cross-dresses to be able to see his kids in Madame Doubtfire or the seemingly macho teen who comes to dote on his pretend baby in Flour Babies. I’d really like to see what else she has on offer.
Gregory is one of the two authors on this list that I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person! (The other is J. K. Rowling – swoon!)
She’s somewhat controversial because people often say her books are inaccurate. However, I think this is because her books are enjoyable and the history buffs get a bit put out.
She puts a LOT of research into her novels – just take a look at the bibliography in the back of any one of them. But the main problem is that people get mixed up with ‘history’ and ‘historical fiction’. It’s OK to embellish and it’s OK to have an agenda when you’re writing historical fiction.
I’ve only read one of Donoghue’s books – can you guess which one? Yes, of course it’s Room, the amazing story of a mother and son imprisoned in a shed by the mother’s rapist, and how they cope in the real world after they escape.
However, Room is a bit of an oddity when you look at her other works. She writes mostly period novels and is quite literary. I really want to give some more of her work a go, and am thinking of starting with The Wonder.
I have a lot of respect for Sophie Kinsella, but often I forget this. Because her books are so clearly branded as ‘chick-lit’, often I dismiss it or assume it’s not as ‘worthy’ as other novels because chick-lit tends to be a quick, one-time read.
This is total bookish snobbery on my part. I’ve read several chick-lit books and, although it’s not my favourite genre, I have really enjoyed them. I read Finding Audrey by Kinsella last year and it was fabulous. And The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic is absolutely not a one-time read! I’ve reread it several times and whenever I start to think about my budget, I always remember Rebecca Bloom writing down the things she bought that day and being appalled at how much she’s spent without realising – that is so me!
Karen Joy Fowler.
This is another author where I’ve read a few of her books and not loved a lot of them, but there’s one particular book of theirs that I adored. In Fowler’s case, it’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. I was blown away when I read this.
I think it’s a bit of a you-love-it-or-you-hate-it book. I certainly loved it and I never saw that twist coming. The only problem is that I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much on a reread because I’d know what was coming this time.
I have read all of this fabulous lady’s books! I’m hoping she releases a new one soon because I always need some Moriarty in my life. I won’t say much about her, but I will tell you what USA Today said about reading her books (I think this is my favourite quote about any author):
(Reading a Liane Moriarty book is) like drinking a pink cosmo laced with arsenic(.)
Jane Eyre is remarkably feminist for its time.
Jane fights for her rights and is extremely independent. Unfortunately it’s problematic in terms of representations of race, but such a strong female character in a world dominated by men is astounding. I would very much have liked to have a drink and a chat with the Brontes.
Ah, Harper Lee. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
To Kill a Mockingbird is and always will be my favourite standalone book, and it makes me so happy that a woman created and published this masterpiece. I don’t know if my life would be as complete if To Kill a Mockingbird wasn’t in it.
I listened to the audiobook a couple of nights ago and was very nearly asleep. But even in my dazed, snoozing state, I still felt my eyes fill with tears when Scout finally met Boo Radley and realised he had saved her life.
Obviously this is not an extensive list of all the female authors I’ve read or want to read. I just particularly wanted to mention these wonderful women because they’ve either written works that have impacted on me, or have impacted on the world, or that I would like to read some day. Happy International Women’s Day to everyone out there.