Fill my (goodread's) bookshelf
June 9, 2018 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I only want to read books by women that are about women. Inside are books similar to what I have in mind.

I just read Leni Zumas' Red Clocks and loved it. It made me realize I want to read more stories by women written about women. I plan on asking my local librarian next time I can make a visit, but in the meantime, I thought I'd ask for your guidance.

I like magic realism and futuristic/sci-fi stuff sometimes. I do NOT like sci-fi that is overly focused on world building. If it has a map in the front or a family tree for pages, I'm probably not into it.

Reflecting, I suppose I like stories about women who defy expectations, move away from their families to embrace adventure, or generally struggle to "fit in."

Here's authors I've fit the bill for me:
- Margaret Atwood
- Meg Wolitzer
- Jennifer Eagan
- Anne Patchet
- Elizabeth Gilbert
- Roxane Gay
- Donna Tartt
- Jane Austen
- Charlotte Bronte
- George Elliot
- Jincy Willet
- Sarai Walker

Some dudes I've really liked:
- David Mitchell
- Michael Chabon
- Adam Johnson
- Gregory Orr
posted by CMcG to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
Helloooooo Sarah Waters!

Start with Fingersmith.
posted by mochapickle at 4:38 PM on June 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Naomi Alderman's The Power.
posted by gennessee at 4:55 PM on June 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Heavily character-focused sci-fi, a joy to read. The sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, is also great but a little more plotty.
posted by sinfony at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Alice McDermott and Anita Brookner.
posted by FencingGal at 5:10 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Barbara Kingsolver
posted by castlebravo at 5:15 PM on June 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Sherri Tepper in general, but especially Gibbon's Decline and Fall. It was consciousness-raising (and hair-raising) in a way that The Handmaid's Tale fell short for me.
posted by DrGail at 5:19 PM on June 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Hild by Nicola Griffith
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:42 PM on June 9, 2018 [7 favorites]

Terry Pratchett was a man, but I found he writes women well.

The Tiffany Aching books are amazing and I'd recommend the witches books -- Equal Rites, Wyrd Sisters, Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies are just a few.
posted by zizzle at 5:45 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Have you read Claire Messud? I just finished The Last Life a few weeks ago, and I'm still thinking about it. (And wishing I could read it again. Alas! I returned it to the library.) The Woman Upstairs might better fit your criteria about women who defy expectations.

Chanson Douce by Leila Slimani won the Prix Goncourt in 2016. It's been translated into English as The Perfect Nanny. I can't speak to the translation, but the central figure in the novel is a nanny who is interesting and difficult. Also, other complicated women feature prominently.
posted by platitudipus at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Like Water for Chocolate - Laura Esquivel
Woman: An Intimate Geography - Natalie Angier (non fiction but some of the subject matter is almost fiction-like)
Paula - Isabella Allende (autobiography)
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Mislaid - Nell Zink
Men Explain Things to Me - Rebecca Solnit (collection of essays)
Joy Luck Club - Amy Tan
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café - Fannie Flagg
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty - Vendela Vida
Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
posted by BeHereNow at 6:05 PM on June 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Beyond the Pale by Elana Dykewomon.
posted by needs more cowbell at 6:18 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maresi, Maria Turtschanioff
The Cranes Dance, by Meg Howrey.
The Broken Earth series by N.K. Jemisin.
Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard.

If you're down with graphic novels, I highly recommend 100 Nights of Hero, by Isabel Greenberg.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:26 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

It was recommended on the green somewhere, and I just read The Wanderers by Meg Howrey and loved it. The main POV characters are pretty equally split between women and men, but it feels like a book by and about women. Imagine a version of The Martian with actual character development and insight.

Along sci-fi lines, Octavia Butler is a major figure missing from your list of favorites. I'd be shocked if you didn't enjoy her work. I think Kindred is a good starting point, but I love all her books.

Very much along the lines of the Red Clocks is When She Woke. It's not the best novel ever, but it is interesting--basically a hybrid of The Scarlet Letter and The Handmaid's Tale.

Also, maybe Louise Erdrich? The Round House is pretty interesting -- it's a story about women's experiences but is narrated by men and I think does a great job with the gaps in understanding women's experiences that many men have.

I haven't read Her Body and Other Parties yet, but am looking forward to it and suspect that it will meet your criteria too.

And just to toss in a couple more authors: Heidi Julavits, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, and Rivka Galchen all might be up your alley.

I also strongly second The Power as well as N.K. Jemisin's books, though she might be just a shade too fantasy epic for your preferences.
posted by snaw at 6:30 PM on June 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Carson McCullers
Rebecca Miller - Personal Velocity
posted by rhizome at 6:31 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Lots of Maureen F McHugh's work fits this, especially Nekropolis.

Ann Leckie's Ancillary trilogy! With the disclaimer that we don't actually know which gender the characters are, because the society does not differentiate people by gender, and only female pronouns are used. I always really felt like they were women characters in an all-female world, but that's my interpretation of it, especially since she's a female author. The books are also really great sci-fi. Start with Ancillary Justice.
posted by Joh at 6:32 PM on June 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

Margaret Laurence's Manawaka series, in the order they were written:

The Stone Angel
A Jest of God
The Fire-Dwellers
A Bird in the House
The Diviners
posted by GreenEyed at 6:33 PM on June 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Oh, and Autonomous by Annalee Newitz is a perfect fit! Strong outcast female character, scifi world but not a giant space opera.
posted by Joh at 6:40 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tamora Pierce wrote a series of quartets that you might enjoy. Start with the Alanna quartet, it's a story about a girl who wants to be a knight and her adventures. It's delightful, although definitely a young adult read. I loved the series as a teen and reread them now every year as an adult.
posted by snowysoul at 6:53 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante -- pretty much blew up the entire English-speaking literary world when the translations came out a few years back, and that's because they really are that good. The life of women in Italy from childhood in the 1950s through the approximate present day, politics, writing, education, sex, everything, everything, everything! I read these and felt like "oh yeah this is why novels exist."

Start with My Brilliant Friend.
posted by escabeche at 7:02 PM on June 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Oh and if the lives of Jewish women in and around New York in the middle of the 20th century are of interest, and you also like prickly, tightly wound sentences that are funny as hell, Grace Paley.
posted by escabeche at 7:05 PM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

I heartily second snaw’s recommendations above for The Wanderers, Her Body and Other Parties, and authors Kelly Link, Heidi Julavits, and Karen Russell.

I also think that based on your enjoyment of Egan, Patchett, Tartt, Austen, and Mitchell, that you would love the hell out of Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Kate Christensen’s The Great Man.
posted by minervous at 7:25 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution will stoke the fires as nonfiction. I have her fiction on deck, maybe someone with more titles under their literary belt will chime in.

Octavia Butler has my vote as well.
posted by childofTethys at 8:15 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm amazed I got so far down in the answers before Elena Ferrante was mentioned!

Zadie Smith's N.W. (warning: the dog dies)
posted by praemunire at 8:33 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

NK Jemisen, The Fifth Season
posted by pombe at 8:48 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

When I want to read about awesome women defying expectations while struggling to fit in (which is often), my favorite place to turn is autobiographical works that read more like a novel than like nonfiction. A great example is Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, which she called a “biomythography.” Other books in that vein that I’ve really loved are Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood.
posted by somedaycatlady at 9:14 PM on June 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jo Walton's My Real Children and Among Others. If your Elizabeth Gilbert reads didn't include The Signature of All Things, then that one.
posted by ClingClang at 9:40 PM on June 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Coming back in to second praemunire's rec of Zadie Smith's NW.
posted by escabeche at 9:54 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven: The world has suffered a flu pandemic; twenty years later, we follow a young woman who was a child actor at the time of the collapse and is now part of a travelling group of entertainers
Gail Honeyman, Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Young woman with traumatic childhood struggles to fit in and finds herself reluctantly making friends with various people she meets
Maile Meloy, Do Not Become Alarmed: Two mothers lose their children to kidnappers while offshore during a cruise
Ami McKay, The Witches of New York: Three young women run an apothecary and spiritualist shop in turn of the century New York
Claire Fuller, Swimming Lessons: A woman disappears and we learn the truth behind her marriage
Lauren Groff, The Monsters of Templeton: A young woman returns from grad school to live with her mother while studying the fabled monster in the lake of her hometown

anything by Alice Munro
seconding Margaret Laurence's The Diviners
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:56 PM on June 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Jo Walton; everything hurdy gurdy girl recommended above, plus anything by:

Alice Hoffman. NY Times interview

Kate Atkinson

Lisa Jewell

Bernice Rubens

Carol Shields

Liane Moriarty

Rainbow Rowell

Maria Semple

Specific novels that I think you'll like:
The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir

Nutmeg by Maria Goodin

Lacey's House by Joanne Graham
posted by humph at 2:08 AM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Tamora Pierce. Protector of the Small is a quartet about a girl who openly defies the establishment (Song of the Lioness is more covert at first) and tackles issues like hazing and sexism. Supremely likable heroine and not just for young adults.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 4:01 AM on June 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is fantastic and while it's not the tiniest bit sci-fi, it covers defying expectations, moving away from home, and struggles to fit in about as well as any story I can think of. Beautifully written, it's a must if you haven't read it.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 4:11 AM on June 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: THIS IS AMAZING. Sorry I'm shouting, but I now have so many good recommendations and have been reminded of some beloved authors that I am having that wonderful feeling.
posted by CMcG at 5:52 AM on June 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Denise Mina's Garnethill trilogy if you're into dark and brilliant.
Doris Lessing: The Golden Notebook.
posted by mareli at 6:44 AM on June 10, 2018

Louise Erdrich's Future Home of the Living God.
posted by Neeuq Nus at 7:16 AM on June 10, 2018

On the sci-fi, defying family expectations front, Nnedi Okorafor's Binti trilogy might also be a good fit.

Also, majorly seconding Americanah!
posted by snaw at 8:19 AM on June 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Two from Carrie Vaughn:
After the Golden Age

I saw Hild by Nicola Griffith mentioned, but I also want to put in a good word for her other books, including The Blue Place series, Ammonite, and Slow River (both stand-alone sf). She also has a brand-new book out, So Lucky, that is on my to-read list.

Laurie R. King is best known for her Mary Russell series, but I like her standalones quite a bit, including A Darker Place, Folly, and Califia's Daughters (post-apocalyptic sci-fi written as Leigh Richards).
posted by mogget at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2018

Catherine Gildner 'Close to the Falls' is a fascinating memoir about a precocious hyperactive girl who learns that the world is more complex than her preconceptions had led her to think. It's the first in a trilogy.
posted by ovvl at 2:15 PM on June 10, 2018

Rachel Kushner - her latest is excellent.

Check out Brass by Xhenet Aliu. It's about a mother and her daughter, who are both struggling to grow past the place they grew up.

Also, Ali Smith's entire catalog. She's wonderful.
posted by codhavereturned at 6:31 PM on June 10, 2018

« Older Please share your all-day workshop spaces in DC   |   What kind of bed/sofa did my grandmother have in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.