10 Groundbreaking Female Authors for Your Next Lifechanging Read

Looking for a good book to read? Hoping to find something written by a powerful and important female author? Possibly even something that will change your perspective on something? Here’s a great place to start searching for your new female literary role model!


  1. J. K. Rowling

Okay, you either love her or you don’t - but you can’t ignore the fact that she is the highest grossing female author in history, AND that she has lost her status as a billionaire because she donates so much of her money to causes she cares about. On top of that, her Harry Potter series helped create the wonderful genre that we call “young adult” literature, which has grown into a literary phenomenon. I would suggest starting with the first novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (but my personal favorite is the third installment of the series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.)


2. Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is not an author that’s been on my list for very long, but when I read Beloved over the past month, my life was changed - and I’ve heard the same thing from most of my students. Morrison has a way with words and the English language that many in the world of literature would call an “artist,” creating sentences and whole paragraphs that send chills down the spine and make you question every decent thing you assume about humanity. She writes about slavery and racism in ways that make you hurt. If you’re looking for something incredibly deep and moving, with a sense of the supernatural, then let Beloved eat your heart out.


3. Madeline L’Engle

Again, L’Engle’s work is classified as “young adult” by some, and even “children’s literature” by others, but you can’t avoid the fact that when L’Engle first published A Wrinkle in Time, she was among very few female authors who succeeded at publishing a science fiction novel, especially one that became as popular and well-accredited as her novels did. Don’t let their classification as “children’s” books throw you off, because she very famously said of her Wrinkle in Time novels, “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”


4. Sylvia Plath

If you’re going through a particularly hard time mentally and want to find something that makes you feel better about the thoughts you’re having, Plath’s novels, and especially her poetry, are riddled with thoughts and ideas that paralleled her depression and suicidal tendencies. Her writing will make you think about yourself, about your relationships, and about the world around you.


5. Octavia Butler

Much like Rowling and L’Engle, Octavia Butler wrote for a genre that didn’t quite have a place for her yet, but she fought through another level of oppression: she was not only a woman writing science fiction but an African-American woman writing science fiction. More than her predecessors and those mentioned above her on this list, she really had to fight to get her work published and accepted by the community, and is still remembered as one of the greatest women science fiction authors.


6. S. E. Hinton

I still remember learning that the author of The Outsiders and That Was Then, This is Now, which were two of my favorite books in the sixth grade, was a female, and being astounded. Hinton’s most well-recognized and popular groundbreaking novel, The Outsiders, beautifully and eloquently tells the story of a handful of very hurt and dynamic boys who deal with abuse, death, fighting, alcohol, and hiding from the prison system, but in the end grow closer to each other. The novel is also where the popular phrase “Stay golden, Ponyboy” stems from, based on Robert Frost’s “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” It’s a quick read, and even a fantastic movie adaptation starring a bunch of young boys who became very, very popular: Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, and Matt Dillon, among others. And even more impressive? She started the novel when she was 15, and published it at 18. 


7. Virginia Woolf

Although she may be a little more “literature class” than some of the other authors, Woolf was one of the foremost authors in the modern movement, and that makes her important to the time. She was writing in a time when females were not the most accepted as authors, but she burst through the seams and wrote as often and as well as she could in hopes of making up for her lack of formal post-secondary education. She also used writing as a way to fight her constant depression and was quoted saying that she was only depressed when she was not writing. Beyond that, even after she was a published and fairly well-recognized author, she volunteered her time to further the feminist movement, specifically by writing addresses on envelopes - the act and “art” of physically writing gave her the most happiness. My favorite Woolf novel: Orlando (also a movie starring Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane); her most famous: To the Lighthouse.


Reading feminist novels - and novels by feminists - is always a good way to use your time to further your knowledge, but why not grab a book before you hop in the car or on the plane to your spring break destination?