10 female authors who belong on your reading list
Find your next holiday read
Whether you like political satires or poignant historical dramas, these books have got your back. We've rounded up some of our favourite reads from female authors that have made us laugh, cry, and sometimes laugh and cry at the same time. Take a pick from our selection and you can thank us later.
Flip through the gallery for more.
An anthropology student and her hypochondriac mother travel to Spain to seek help for the latter’s mysterious paralysis. But as the quirky doctor devises treatments for his patient’s baffling symptoms, her daughter experiences a slow-spreading sense of self, sexual awakening and transformative empathy. Longlisted for 2016’s Man Booker prize, Levy’s soulful prose and her mastery of mood and pathos may well pitch her into the top spot.
The author’s rapier wit, gruff compassion and predilection for the outré have the publishing world agog. In her third novel, a business-school graduate inherits her psychedelic-healer father’s home but arrives to find it occupied by squatters fighting for smokers’ rights. She becomes determined to protect their utopia—till a confrontation between her half-brother and one of the squatters leads to breathtaking destruction.
The premise of The New Yorker’s humour contributor Rathbone’s novel might sound almost passé: a 26-year-old virgin is anxious to lose the tag. When she goes to live with an estranged aunt and finds that the 50-year-old is a virgin too, she starts to get really desperate. Rathbone gives the plot colour and heft with snappy prose and a tender handling of big existential questions.
English readers joyfully discovered Meera, former journalist and popular Malayalam author, with Hangwoman, the 2014 translation of her explosive novel about India’s first female executioner. Her new novel (translated by Rajesh Rajamohan) is similarly riveting as it weaves socio-political home truths with wrenchingly human moments. A young girl is besotted with Yudas, a mysterious man who digs out corpses from the village lake, and who she suspects was a victim of her policeman father’s brutalities on Naxalites during the Emergency. She dreams of being delivered to a revolutionary’s life and believes Yudas will lead her there. But her pursuit drags her down a rabbit-hole of deceit and terror.
The Bel Canto author is in her element here, mapping the wear and tear of families, the little and big traumas and the savage humour of chance. A drunken kiss on a sunny day destroys two marriages and gives rise to a patchwork family of step-siblings who must live out the consequences for the next five decades. Years later, one of them, Franny, tells her novelist boyfriend about the family’s history and he writes a bestselling book about it. When the movie based on the book comes out, everything will change once again.
It’s 2029 and the American economy has crashed. The President locks down all the citizens’ gold reserves—even the rings on their fingers. Four generations of the Mandibles were poised to inherit a huge fortune, but it’s all wiped out. Without cash to grease its hinges, this family unit begins to creak and jam. Shriver’s droll humour, exhaustive research and vivid imagination paint a frightening picture of money’s hold over our lives.
This one has all the psychological tension, historical detail and visceral humanness of Donoghue’s book-to-Oscar-lauded-film Room. An English nurse arrives in a 19th-century Irish village to care for an 11-year-old who’s survived a four-month fast. She becomes fond of her charge but comes up against a wall of superstition from the community when the child’s health begins to fail.
The writing of this book was sponsored by Mexican juice brand Jumex and Luiselli wrote it in installments that were discussed by Jumex workers; the author would then incorporate their feedback into the plot. The inventive collaboration leaves us with a novel (translated by Christina MacSweeney) both absurd and philosophical. After an enterprising auctioneer sells his own teeth as those belonging to more famous mouths, like Virginia Woolf, Plato and Borges, his life takes a strange turn. Luiselli’s playfulness with the form and her cerebral style have made her a literary cool chick.
The Partition led to the largest migration in human history and the Indian-American author explores its human cost in six ambitious pairs of stories—minor characters in one story go on to become protagonists in the other. In one, a refugee widow must end her thrilling affair with another woman when her husband returns. In another, a land surveyor alters the boundary of the Radcliffe Line to keep the woman he loves. Rao is inventive and merciless with the form and evocatively draws on the multi-generational repercussions of displacement and violence.
Eleanor Flood only wants to have one non-terrible day, where she can manage small goals like showering, dropping her son to school and initiating sex with her husband. But even these low expectations are dashed when her son fakes an illness, her husband takes the day off and a former colleague’s memoir threatens to unearth a family secret. Like Semple’s previous novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette, this work too gives us an original female character who is bitterly funny, self-aware and struggling with shame.