Monday, February 10, 2014


You’ve probably seen the hashtag #readwomen2014, and news of the accompanying campaign to make 2014 the year of reading books by women. I’d like to throw in my recommendations. Below my list of 14 great fiction and non-fiction books by women published as of 1980. I went contemporary to keep the Brontes and George Eliot off the list. Because you’ve read them. 
I also omitted poetry, which I’m going to do separately.

I can count but since I really wanted to include two books published before 1980 I added them as a bonus at bottom. I’d love to see other people’s lists of 14. 

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck (2010 fiction) 
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (2009 fiction)
This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust (2008 American history) 
Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich (2005 reportage) 
Old Filth by Jane Gardam (2005 fiction)
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July (2005 short stories)
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (2005 memoir) 
Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis (2001 short stories)
Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (2000 fiction) 
The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang (1997 history) 
The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald (1995 fiction)
The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller (1994 fiction) 
The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek (1983 fiction) 
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 of Australian Outback by Robyn Davidson (1980 memoir)

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (1974)
Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody (1968) 


Kathleen said...

Great idea, great list. (Yes, I'll try to get on this and come up with a list of my own!)

SarahJane said...

I'd love to read it! Of course I've read a lot more books by women (since 1980) but these are outstanding.

Anne Higgins said...

Thanks for these, Sarah! I have only read three of them: This Republic of Suffering, The Year of Magical Thinking, and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I loved all three. So I put the rest on me "to read" list.


SarahJane said...

Those are three good ones, Anne. I recommend other titles by the same authors, too. Drew Gilpin Faust's "Mother of Invention" was another great civil war book, for example. Maybe you've read it?

toniclark said...

Thanks for a great list. Embarrassed to say I have read only Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I own a copy of the Didion (and read many of her earlier books years ago). Here are a few of my favorite contemporary women writers — not counting poets:

Harper Lee
Alice Munro
Margaret Atwood
Donna Tartt
Elizabeth Strout
Yoko Ogawa
Marilynne Robinson
Carol Shields
Susan Orlean
Gwendolyn Brooks
Mary Doria Russell

Carol Berg said...

Oh I loved Tracks!! Such a great and unusual read. I haven't read many of these others--good to have this list! Thanks.

SarahJane said...

I got Tracks from an outdoorsy friend, and was very happy I did. I'd love to see your list, Carol.

SarahJane said...

Oh, I understand Tracks is being made into a movie, too.

Anonymous said...

Plath prepped like a schoolgirl before interviewing Elizabeth Bowen, a WWII era novelist praised by the NY Times.

Sometimes Stella was fortunate in being able to see through railings or over fences not only yards and gardens but right into back windows of homes. Prominent sculleries with bent-forward heads of women back at the sink again after Sunday dinner, and recessive living-rooms in which the breadwinner armchair-slumbered, legs out, hands across the eyes, displayed themselves; upstairs, at looking-glasses in windows, girls got themselves ready to go out with boys. One old unneeded woman, relegated all day to where she slept and would die, prised apart lace curtains to take a look at the train, as though calculating whether it might not be possible to escape this time. ...Bowen

Out of mists of morning charred by the smoke from ruins each day rose to a height of unmisty glitter; between the last of sunset and first note of the siren the darkening glassy tenseness of evening was drawn fine. From the moment of waking you tasted the sweet autumn not less because of an acridity on the tongue and nostrils; and as the singed dust settled and smoke diluted you felt more and more called upon to observe the daytime as a pure and curious holiday from fear. ...Elizabeth Bowen...In the Heat of the Day

bernie henrie

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