5 Badass Books Written for Women by Women

While women (especially white women) enjoy lots of representation in books, it's sometimes difficult to find women who are accurately portrayed and three-dimensional. Sometimes, when women are portrayed by men in literature, they are either trivialized or sexualized, or both. To celebrate the representation of diverse women in literature, here are 5 books written by women, for women, with accurate depictions of the lives of women.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Throne of Glass is the first book in a long fantasy series that follows Celaena Sardothien, an assassin who lives in the fantastical land of Adarlan. At the beginning of the book, she is enslaved for being an assassin, but she is offered her freedom by the king’s son, Prince Dorian, in exchange for competing in a tournament of assassins. If she wins, she will become the king’s royal assassin.

Why do I love this book? First of all, Celaena is badass. She is witty, clever, and sharper than a knife. Plus, she can kick any man’s butt. She embodies tropes that are typical to male heroes (rapier wit to hide inner pain, general badassery, and a tragic past), which is amazing to see in some YA fiction. Furthermore, she is only one of several female characters. There is Nehemia, a princess who is of African descent, and Kaltain, a scheming courtly lady. To make things even better, Celaena has her period in the second book, Crown of Midnight, and her significant other just hangs out with her during that time like it’s NO BIG DEAL and brings her chocolate when she has cramps. I’m telling you, I’m a huge book nerd, and I’ve rarely seen a female character experience a period in a book. It’s amazing.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Genre: Adult Fiction, Collection

Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of fictional short stories written by Carmen Maria Machado, a wonderful author of Cuban descent who identifies as LGBTQ. As such, her collection is based on the bodies of women of all kinds and the ways they love others. There are several collections that feature queer women who are in committed relationships with other women. Her characters are powerful, empowered, and visceral. Her women are unafraid, which is honestly one of the most inspiring things to read.

Don’t be fooled, though; this collection is extremely dark, with depictions of graphic sex, sexual violence, assault and murder. Machado’s purpose is to condemn the way men take ownership of women’s bodies, manifesting gruesome, sometimes fantastical stories that will leave you both thoughtful and disturbed.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Genre: Adult Dystopian

You’ve probably heard of this one – Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was both incredibly popular and critically acclaimed. However, the book is quite different from the show. The story takes place in a dystopian America, in which extremists have formed a new religious government after a nuclear war. Due to the waste, reproduction rates are low, and fertile women are stripped of their rights and made to copulate with high-class men in order to keep society populated. The narrative follows Offred, a fertile woman who is given to a (married) upper-class man in order to bear his child. Similarly to Machado, Atwood explores women’s rights (and lack thereof) over their own bodies, and her characters are brilliantly three-dimensional. Offred operates in shades of gray due to her enslavement, and her motives are simultaneously hopeful and vengeful.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Genre: Magical Realism

Toni Morrison is legendary. The stories she weaves are incredibly potent and relevant. Beloved follows an African woman named Sethe, living in Baltimore after the Civil War. She was born a slave, but escaped, and she struggles with the threat of her ex-master as she raises her own children. I won’t give too much away, but Sethe is haunted by the ghost of her daughter who has passed away, and her confrontation of her daughter’s death is a shocking, riveting, and powerful moment.

I think this book is incredibly culturally relevant, and would recommend it to anyone. Not only does it center around a strong female character of African descent who wrestles with her past and loves her children dearly, it also encompasses the larger concept of cultural memory, and helps us remember the atrocities of slavery.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Genre: Young Adult Sci-Fi

Cinder is a sci-fi re-telling of the classic story of Cinderella. However, this novel is chock-full of great women of all different ethnicities and abilities. Cinder, the main character, is Asian and a cyborg, which is looked down upon in her society because she is differently abled. Throughout the series, Cinder meets several other fairy-tale based characters who exemplify the ups and downs of racism, anxiety, disability, and emotional abuse. Ultimately, these female characters are all clever, quick, and heroic. They make mistakes, they celebrate their victories, they want and hope and cry and lose. Though this is a young adult book, it has more social relevance and commentary than many adult fiction books that I’ve read.

What are some of your favorite female-led books? Let me know in the comments!