For some reason (possibly because I’m very lucky or because I have the habit of ignoring the world around me), I get surprised when men say sexist stuff to me about my work. I was in a Moscow bar recently on a dark and stormy night, and a typical twatty overpaid British expat man of the sort that should be displayed at the zoo with a plaque reading Typical Twatty Overpaid British Expat Man told me it must be “quite nice” to have “such a fashionable hobby” as writing plays – with zero irony, of course, because I must be a bored rich girl (ahahahaha) who must go through a phase of thinking she’s the next Beckett before moving on to pottery or adult coloring books or whatever it is that bored rich girls do. Oh, and he “used to have a girlfriend who wrote plays” but “she’s in marketing now.” I do hope that “in marketing now” is a euphemism for “slept with his best friend.”
Anyway, although sexism with regard to women writers surprises me every time, and although I rarely pay attention to whether or not the author I’m reading is a woman, it must be said that not everyone thinks like me. So here’s a list of some of my favorite female writers, and their books and plays, because it’s IWD, and because whatever. They are great not because they are written by women. They are great because they are great.
Kate Atkinson – Human Croquet, Not the End of the World, Life After Life, A God In Ruins
Atkinson is a writer who changed my life (more about that here).
Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam
Hanya Yanagihara – A Little Life
I was intrigued by the lashing this book received from Daniel Mendelsohn (do NOT read if you don’t want to know what happens late in the book). He even went as far as trash the critics who had praised A Little Life. I think that a book that inspires such passion is always going to be worth your time – that is aside from the fact that it is a brilliant study of the limits of redemption.
Arundhati Roy – The God of Small Things
Oh the searing, soaring perfection of this work. A book that gets inside your bone marrow, alters your DNA, etc.
Donna Tartt – The Secret History, The Little Friend, The Goldfinch
Tartt’s second novel, The Little Friend, was criticized for being a kind of “sophomore slump” moment for her – but it’s a novel I still admire greatly. It plays with the idea of irresolution to devastating effect.
Zadie Smith – White Teeth, On Beauty
Toni Morrison – Beloved
Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
Anna Yablonskaya (Hanna Yablonska) – Pagans (play), Family Scenes (play)
Anna was a family friend. She was killed in the Domodedovo terror attack in January 2011. She was a brilliant poet aside from being a brilliant playwright, and, years later, I am still trying to understand how it was the world simply doesn’t contain her anymore, that she has moved on like that, leaving us bereft.
Natalia Vorozhbyt – The Grain Store (play), Demons (play), Mixed Feelings (screenplay)
Adelle Waldman – The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.
Marina Krapivina – The Swamp (play)
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I think Harry Potter is generally a brilliant series (piss off if you’re too much of a joyless snob to enjoy it), but it’s Goblet of Fire, which was criticized for being overlong, that’s ultimately my favorite, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I find it to have the perfect sense of pitch.
Susanna Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Zora Neale Hurston – Their Eyes Were Watching God
This is one of those “stunning in their perfection”-type books, that deserves to be studied in every classroom. It also deserves more than that, of course. It should be on your shelf, in your home, where you can take it out and take joy in it late at night and early in the morning and whenever.
Robin McKinley – The Hero and the Crown
Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway
Judy Budnitz – Flying Leap (a collection of stories)
“Dog Days” is the story that still gets the most attention, I think, but “Got Spirit” is my favorite – it’s hilarious and says something terrifying about America, something I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on, until I read it.
Jeanette Winterson – Written On the Body
Cheryl Strayed – Wild (a memoir)
The above is by no means an exhaustive list of my favorite female authors. Not to mention the fact that there is so much I haven’t read yet (for example, I’ve been meaning to read Edwidge Danticat for years).
This is mostly just my way of saying thanks to these particular women for indulging their “fashionable hobbies” and thus making the world better and more interesting. ❤