Inspiring heroine books
August 5, 2019 8:53 PM   Subscribe

Looking for well-written books with driven, decisive, inspiring (female) characters, happy to read either biographies or novels

Books I liked:
- The Book Thief
- Americanah
- His Dark Materials trilogy
- Marie Curie's biography
- Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography
I think I prefer more fleshed out, flawed characters and interesting plots

Books I didn't like:
- Dealing with dragons
- A wrinkle in time
- Tamora Pierce
- The Handmaid's tale
- Where'd you go Bernadette
- His Dark Materials spin-offs
I think if the characters seem too simplistic, the conflict is resolved via a deus ex machina that comes out of nowhere, or are too disempowered it rubs me the wrong way
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Writing & Language (21 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
The Hungry Ocean
posted by j_curiouser at 9:15 PM on August 5, 2019

'True Grit' by Charles Portis
posted by oh pollo! at 11:27 PM on August 5, 2019 [5 favorites]

I loved Emma Goldman's two-volume autobiography, Living My Life.

Barbara Kingsolver's non fiction account of the women who lead a miners strike is excellent: Holding the Line.

I read an amazing biography of Ida B Wells years ago but am not sure which it was. Im sure any decent one would be well worth it ... a fascinating woman!

Fiction: Lawrence Hill's Book of Negroes has an amazing heroine (a fantastic book, difficult, emotional, traumatic content, but one of the best I've read in years)

I also enjoyed Wayne Johnson's Colony of Unrequited Dreams primarily because of the character of the (woman) reporter...its a great read, and very funny. She is not the only key character but shes central.
posted by chapps at 12:33 AM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Witches of New York, by Ami McKay
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:45 AM on August 6, 2019


I also reread Jane Austen’s books a few years ago and found them sooooooo much more comprehensible than I did as a high school student—they are so funny and wonderful and filled with women characters who are fleshed out as real people. Persuasion, Emma, and Pride & Prejudice are my favorites.
posted by sallybrown at 3:45 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

The autobiography I Am Malala
posted by bookmammal at 5:29 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Cold Comfort Farm
The Ancillary Justice trilogy (if you choose to read it as a female protagonist)
Miss Marjoribanks (if you like Jane Austen - I call this the missing JA novel)
And I really really love Connie Willis for this -- especially Blackout and All Clear
posted by Mchelly at 6:10 AM on August 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're open to a (long) webnovel, I loved Worm. "Inspiring" is debateable as the protagonist is very flawed, but I found her super relatable and human in her struggles and decisions. Definitely a very expansive universe with tons of characters who basically all get fleshed out and worldbuilding that feeds the plot from the beginning.
posted by gaybobbie at 6:33 AM on August 6, 2019

Jane Eyre is so strong and dignified.
If you like mysteries, Beverly Connor has two series with strong women characters who are not cops or super heroes.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:05 AM on August 6, 2019

Code Name Verity. Fiction, about the friendship between a female pilot and spy in WWII.
posted by Gordafarin at 7:12 AM on August 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

I'd suggest A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Co-protagonist Delilah Bard, the cut-purse with dreams of being a swashbuckler, is an absolute delight.
posted by OMGTehAwsome at 7:51 AM on August 6, 2019

The Peripheral by William Gibson
posted by jquinby at 9:32 AM on August 6, 2019

Sabriel and the other books in The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. The character development isn't as deep as His Dark Materials, but the heroine is a fully fleshed out character, as opposed to the sometime stereotypical female protagonists in fantasy novels.

Also, I cannot recommend Plain Kate by Erin Bow highly enough. It's a fantastic read. Although I won't lie, I cried at the end. YMMV
posted by valoius at 9:47 AM on August 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Circe by Madeleine Miller, which is especially fun if you have any knowledge of Greek myths.
posted by carolr at 9:49 AM on August 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

West with the Night by Beryl Markham. This is Markham's autobiography. She was a pilot and the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from west to east. Hemingway wrote of it, "She has written so well, and marvellously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer."
posted by FencingGal at 10:59 AM on August 6, 2019


Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Shrill by Lindy West
Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own by Kate Bloick (author's own memoir and profile of famous "spinsters" from 19th century literature)

2nding Circe by Madeleine Miller for a fiction pick! Someone else mentioned Jane Eyre, so you might also like Re: Jane - a modern re-telling of Jane Eyre by Patricia Park.
posted by nuclear_soup at 11:39 AM on August 6, 2019

Fiction, Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. Lots of driven and decisive.
posted by porpoise at 2:22 PM on August 6, 2019

If contemporary hardboiled crime novels appeal, you can't do better than VI Warshawski, the PI heroine of Sara Paretsky's fantastic series of novels.
posted by Heloise9 at 2:28 AM on August 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks
Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
My Own Words – RBG!
posted by kbar1 at 12:04 AM on August 8, 2019

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