Where are the women?

I was reading a book of advice for unpublished writers, as I do occasionally. It's an okay book, more anecdotes about the own writer's life than actual instructions for creating a writing life, but sometimes I wonder if getting published is something that can actually be taught. Anyway, this particular writer used an entire chapter to say, if you want to be a writer, read read read.

Okay, good advice, but hardly needs an entire chapter devoted to it. He then goes on to fill the bulk of the chapter with a list of 80 books that he thinks are essential reading for an aspiring writer, books that inspired him and are worth encouraging others to read. The list is pretty good in that it covers high brow and low, various genres, current writers and past. But on the list there are only FOUR books by women. Four out of 80! Joyce Carol Oats, Shirley JacksonEudora Welty and Nadine Gordimer.

This seems incredibly remiss in my mind, and though I have no business offering advice to potential writers, I have read many many books in my life, and I have a very good education, and that chapter generally pissed me off. So here is a list of writers that I think he may have overlooked. It's not exhaustive because, well how could anyone write an exhaustive list of talented, interesting, inspired and inspiring women writers? There are too many to count. But here are some (in no particular order):

Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Alice Walker, Iris Murdoch, AS Byatt, Angela Carter, Donna Tartt, Lionel Shriver, Joanna Trollope, Ursula K Le GuinZadie SmithJane Smiley, Jean Rhys, Margaret Atwood, Willa Cather, Olive SeniorLouisa May Alcott, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Dodie Smith, Agatha Christie, PD James, Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieKate Atkinson, Alice Munro, Muriel Spark, Marjane SatrapiDoris Lessing, Toni Morrison, AL Kennedy, Zee EdgellPearl S Buck, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Sarah Waters, George Elliot, Rosa GuyVirginia Woolf, Zora Neale Hurston, Harper Lee, Madeleine L'Engle, Margaret Mitchell, Edwidge DanicatLM Montgomery, Paule MarshallKate Chopin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susanna Clarke, Elizabeth NunezEdith Wharton, Amy Tan, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Diane GlancyLaura Ingalls Wilder, Arundhati Roy, Hilary Mantel, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Gisele PineauSE Hinton, Val McDermid, Flannery O'Connor, Marguerite Duras, Betty Louise BellSimone de Beauvoir, Natsuo Kirino, Joan Didion, Jhumpa Lahiri, Patricia Highsmith, Jung Chang, Azar Nafisi, Carol Shields, Jacqueline Susann, Daphne du Maurier, Anita Brookner, Eleanor Catton, Lydia Davis, Monica Ali, Gaynor Arnold, Beryl Bainbridge, Joanne Harris, Pat Barker, Nicola Barker, Nina Bawden, Louise Erdrich, Dorothy L Sayers, Pamela Dean, Mary McCarthy, Marisha Pessl, Callie Wright, A M Homes, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Curtis Sittenfeld, Jane Gardham, Penelope Fitzgerald, Collette, Lan Samantha Chang, Louise Welsh, Heidi Julavits, Leanne Shapton, Gillian Flynn, Helen Oyeyemi, Octavia E Butler, Alice Sebold, Barbara Mujica, Jeannette Winterson, Naomi Wood, Deborah Kay Davies, Joanna Russ, Emma Donoghue, Isabel Allende, Siri Hustvedt, Denise Mina, Linda Medley, Cathi Unsworth, Rosamund Lupton, Anne Beattie, Francine Prose, Sandra Jackson-Opoku, Christina Stead, Susan Choi, Alison Lurie, Leila Aboulela, Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, Stella Gibbons, Ann Nocenti, Gail Simone, Geraldine Brooks, Sarah Vowell, Lorna Moon, Rutu Motan, Audrey Niffenegger, Karen Maitland, Willa Muir, Dorothy Whipple, Adeline Yen Mah...

I know there are many more deserving of attention - who have I missed out?



  1. Love this article, and great list! I was going to suggest a few but after careful scanning you've included all my favourites.

  2. Hi, I read your new stuff on a regular basis. Your story-telling style is awesome, keep it up! outlook 365 login



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