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9 Great Books Written by Women

Literature has often been thought of as a man’s world. For many years women were barred from publishing their work, and when it was allowed they were disregarded by most critics as shallow and unimportant. As a result, most high school literature classes leave many students with the skewed idea that all great literature was written by white guys that have been dead for 100 years. Luckily, in the past few decades the world of publishing has begun to open up to allow the voices of female writers. Here are just a few of the hundreds of great books written by women after 1950.

 

Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

You may recognize Adichie by her brilliant TED Talk, We Should All Be Feminists, which was sampled by Beyonce on her latest album, but she’s an amazing novelist in her own right! In her third novel, Adichie chronicles the life of a Nigerian girl who moves to America.

White Teeth, Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith has been regarded as one of the finest contemporary novelists in the world since she published her first novel, White Teeth, at the age of 24. The book follows two middle aged men in 1975 London, and it’s a brilliant meditation on chance that left me in awe of her impeccable writing and storytelling.

In America, Susan Sontag

Although Sontag is primarily known as a cultural critic, her few forays into fiction writing are also noteworthy. In America is about a Polish actress named Maryna Zalewska and her rise to Hollywood stardom. If you like Sontag’s writing here, check out her critical essays like “On Photography” and “Notes on Camp.”

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath has become something of a punchline in many literary circles. She is often disregarded as an angsty, melodramatic young girl by many of the same men who adore Holden Caulfield, but anyone who’s read her work with an open mind knows that she is one of the few people who have ever been able to articulate what it’s like to be a woman. 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion

This essay collection recounts Didion’s time living in San Francisco in the 1960s. If that premise doesn’t interest you, then I don’t know what will. Didion is one of the greatest personal essayists of all time, and this collection shows exactly why.

Fun Home, Alison Bechdel

This illustrated memoir recounts Bechdel’s troubled childhood, as she was forced at a young age to come to terms with both her father’s and her own sexuality. Bechdel is largely known for coining the Bechdel Test in film, but her graphic novels are brilliant as well.

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel chronicles the life of a slave named Sethe, and her struggles with mental illness and her children. Toni Morrison is one of the greatest contemporary American writers, and is also the author of classics like The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith’s first novel in her Ripley series is an often disturbing insight into the nature of obsession. The book follows a man named Tom Ripley as he becomes acquainted with a rich playboy named Dickie Greenleaf, and spirals out of control from there.

Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

Like Fun Home, Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel about the childhood of a young woman, but the two books could not be more different. Persepolis follows Satrapi through her childhood in Iran during the revolution, as well as her time living in Austria and France. Satrapi adapted her novel into a beautiful animated film that I also highly recommend.

 

So put down The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby, and instead pick up one of these great novels.

 

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