According to my reading spreadsheet charts from last year (jealous?), 70% of the books I read were written by women. The stats are looking the same for my 2023 reading so far. I love women writers, so I thought Women’s History Month was the perfect time to share some of my favorite authors. I wanted to keep this post at a reasonable length, so some tough decisions were made, but I feel good about this list. I’ve divided it into several categories, which shouldn’t surprise you since I mentioned spreadsheet charts in the first sentence. Anyway, let’s get to it!
All summaries are from NoveList.
A good mystery or thriller is one of my greatest reading pleasures. I want unputdownable books combining an exciting plot, excellent prose, and believable character development, and that’s what these writers provide.
- The Tenant: Two police detectives struggle to solve a shocking murder and stop a killer hell-bent on revenge.
- The Butterfly House: Detectives Jeppe Karner and Anette Werner race to solve a series of sordid murders linked to some of the most vulnerable patients in a Danish hospital.
- The Harbor: When a 15-year-old boy goes missing, leaving behind a strange note, detectives Jeppe Kørner and Anette Werner become trapped in a web of lies that could prevent the boy from ever being found.
- Dark Places: After witnessing the murder of her mother and sisters, 7-year-old Libby Day testifies against her brother Ben, but twenty-five years later she tries to profit from her tragic history and admit that her story might not have been accurate.
- Gone Girl: When beautiful Amy Dunne disappears from her Missouri home, it looks as if her husband Nick is to blame. But though he protests his innocence, it’s clear that he’s not being entirely truthful. Gone Girl is not only the story of a disappearance, but a truly frightening glimpse of a souring marriage.
- Sharp Objects: Returning to her hometown after a long absence to investigate the murders of two girls, reporter Camille Preaker is reunited with her neurotic mother and enigmatic half-sister as she works to uncover the truth about the killings.
- In the Woods: Twenty years after witnessing the violent disappearances of two companions from their small Dublin suburb, detective Rob Ryan investigates a chillingly similar murder that takes place in the same wooded area, a case that forces him to piece together his traumatic memories.
- The Likeness: This novel finds Detective Cassie Maddox still scarred by her last case. When her boyfriend calls her to a chilling murder scene, Cassie is forced to face her inner demons. A young woman has been found stabbed to death outside Dublin, and the victim looks just like Cassie.
- The Witch Elm: Left for dead by burglars while partying with friends, a happy-go-lucky charmer takes refuge at his dilapidated ancestral home before a grisly discovery reveals an unsuspected family history.
- The Dry: Receiving a sinister anonymous note after his best friend’s suspicious death, federal agent Aaron Falk is forced to confront the fallout of a twenty-year-old false alibi against a backdrop of the worst drought Melbourne has seen in a century.
- Force of Nature: When one member of a five-woman team of co-workers goes missing during a corporate retreat, federal police agent Aaron Falk uncovers dark secrets in his search for the woman, a whistleblower and major contributor to his latest case.
- Exiles: At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds. A year on, Kim Gillespies’ absence casts a long shadow as her friends and loved ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family. Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.
- The Family Upstairs: Inheriting an abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, 25-year-old Libby Jones is soon on a collision course with her birth family’s past that is linked to long-ago murders.
- The Girls in the Garden: Deep in the heart of London, in a lush communal square, as a festive garden party is taking place, a thirteen year-old girl lies unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?
- Watching You: When a murder occurs in Melville Heights, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England, dangerous obsessions come to light involving the headmaster at a local school, in this place where everyone has a secret.
Sometimes I get tired just writing a paragraph, yet there are writers out there with many books to their names. This category celebrates some of those women.
- The Night Watchman: A historical novel based on the life of the author’s grandfather traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th-century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.
- The Round House: When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, fourteen-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.
- Shadow Tag: After she discovers that her husband has been reading her diary, Irene America turns it into a manipulative farce, while secretly keeping a second diary that includes her true thoughts, through which the reader learns of Irene’s shaky marriage, its affect on her children and her struggles with alcohol.
- Almost Everything: Notes on Hope: Presents an inspirational guide to the role of hope in everyday life and explores essential truths about how to overcome burnout and suffering by deliberately choosing joy.
- Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life: A step-by-step guide to writing and managing the writer’s life covers each portion of a written project, addresses such concerns as writer’s block and getting published, and offers awareness and survival tips.
- Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith: Combining elements of spiritual study and memoir, the author describes her odyssey of faith, drawing on her own sometimes troubled past to explore the many ways in which faith sustains and guides one’s daily life.
- The Bluest Eye: Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.
- Jazz: In Harlem, 1926, Joe Trace, a door-to-door salesman in his fifties, kills his teenage lover. A profound love story which depicts the sights and sounds of Black urban life during the Jazz Age.
- Recitatif: In this 1983 short story about race and the relationships that shape us through life, Twyla and Roberta, friends since childhood who are seemingly at opposite ends of every problem as they grow older, cannot deny the deep bond their shared experience has forged between them.
- Grand Union: A first collection of 10 original short stories and selections from her most-lauded pieces as first published in The New Yorker and other prestigious literary magazines.
- Intimations: Written during the early months of lockdown, Intimations explores ideas and questions prompted by an unprecedented situation. What does it mean to submit to a new reality–or to resist it? How do we compare relative sufferings? What is the relationship between time and work? In our isolation, what do other people mean to us? What is the ratio of contempt to compassion in a crisis? When an unfamiliar world arrives, what does it reveal about the world that came before it? Suffused with a profound intimacy and tenderness in response to these extraordinary times, Intimations is a slim, suggestive volume with a wide scope, in which Zadie Smith clears a generous space for thought, open enough for each reader to reflect on what has happened–and what should come next.
- White Teeth: Tells the story of immigrants in England over a period of 40 years.
Poetry doesn’t have to be complicated or hard to read. You don’t need to analyze every line to enjoy a poem. These women write beautiful, approachable poems that will bring you joy or make you think.
- What Is This Thing Called Love by Kim Addonizio
- What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer
- Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
- Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds
- Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver
- Second Sky by Tania Runyan
- Goldenrod by Maggie Smith
- Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith
The Best of the Best
These writers have delivered some of my all-time favorite books. I bet even their thank you notes are full of gorgeous prose.
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Roxane Gay
- Yaa Gyasi
- Madeleine L’Engle
- Rebecca Makkai
- Celeste Ng
- Flannery O’Connor
- Marisha Pessl
- Donna Tartt
- Jesmyn Ward
- Hanya Yanagihara
That’s it for me. What writers make your list?