Tomorrow, March 8th, is International Woman’s Day, and we decided to celebrate by blogging about the challenge that asks you to read a book written by a female author.
Of course, we’ve already covered a lot of great female authors over the past couple of months, including but certainly not limited to Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Barbara Kingsolver, and Margaret Atwood.
But I thought I’d use this blog post to be more reflective than usual and chat about some of my favorite female authors, though this list certainly doesn’t include all of them. As always, if you are interested in reading any of the books mentioned, just follow this link to our catalog.
I’m not entirely sure when I first read Flannery O’Connor, but I do remember the first story of hers that I read–“Good Country People.” If you have read it, you likely haven’t soon forgotten it. If you haven’t read it, well, I’ve just spent several minutes trying to think of an apt description of it, and I can’t really think of one that doesn’t completely ruin the story and that also doesn’t make me sound a bit demented for enjoying it so much.
Over the years, I’ve read a lot of her short stories, as well as her two novellas, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. Truthfully, I don’t really care for O’Connor’s novellas as much. I feel like, even though they’re fairly short, they’re just too long to successfully sustain her bizarre Southern gothic plots, eccentric characters, and offbeat humor. But her short stories are among some of my favorite ever written. Beyond “Good Country People,” I especially enjoy “The Life You Save May Be Your Own” and “Parker’s Back.”
Laurie Halse Anderson:
I was first introduced to Anderson’s work a few years ago and promptly binge read 8 of her novels in less than a year’s time. She writes young adult fiction (YA) that is equally as compelling for both teen and adult readers, and she also writes both contemporary and historical fiction. I first read Fever 1793, which is a good book about an interesting topic (yellow fever epidemics in 18th century Philadelphia), but as much as I like historical fiction, I ended up enjoying her works with more modern settings, especially Speak, Wintergirls, and Twisted, because she is skilled at exploring difficult, complex issues in a way that is emotionally resonant but without feeling manipulative.
She also has a highly acclaimed historical fiction series, Seeds of America, about slavery in 18th century America. She published the first two, Chains and Forge, years ago, which has prompted some angry backlash from fans eagerly awaiting the final installment of the trilogy. (I must confess, I waited so long for the third one that I actually had forgotten to keep waiting for it after all these years. That is, I forgot about it until a patron came to the library a few weeks ago to ask about it. In the course of our conversation, I remembered, “Hey, I’ve been waiting for that book for years too!”) Anyway, her long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy, Ashes, is due out this fall, which gives you plenty of time to read–or re-read–her work until then.
It’s a bit of a running joke at the library how much I like Scandinavian murder mysteries, but one of the main reasons I ended up becoming a fan of that genre was Norwegian author Karin Fossum’s Inspector Konrad Sejer series. There are a lot of things I like about the series, but I think what always impressed me the most was the psychological depth of her characters, both the culprits and the investigators. Her detective is not a superhuman genius or an incompetent fool. Instead, he’s a pretty normal middle-aged guy who finds himself investigating disturbing, thought-provoking crimes. Often Sejer is on the right track, but he’s not infallible–sometimes, he’s very wrong.
But the books don’t just focus on Sejer; they also peer into the minds of the criminals, which Fossum does unnervingly well. I’ve read several of Fossum’s work and enjoyed them all, though the three I found most hauntingly effective were He Who Fears The Wolf, When The Devil Holds The Candle, and Black Seconds. The only problem with being a Fossum fan is you’re at the mercy of the publishing companies and their own personal whims on translating her work. They don’t always translate her work promptly or in order (the first book in the series was the ninth one translated into English, for example). Nevertheless, the books are still pretty easy to follow out of order because Sejer’s personal life is a fairly minor part of the series and it’s the only aspect of it that requires continuity. I’ve actually read the series out of the order for the most part, and it only caused me momentary confusion on who Sejer was or wasn’t dating at that point in his life.
I don’t even remember how I ended up hearing about Lynne Truss, but I still have a soft spot for her work, though I haven’t read anything by her in years. She’s certainly not for everyone, but her oddly educational, occasionally foul-mouthed, and very British tirade about grammar Eats, Shoots and Leaves (which is further enhanced by all sorts of absurd panda illustrations) is one of my absolute favorite books. And if you don’t care about grammar, you can instead read her equally amusing, oddly educational, occasionally foul-mouthed, very British tirade about the decline of social graces, Talk to the Hand, though it is sadly lacking in absurd panda illustrations. She also has some quirky comic novels–the one I read was amusing–but I didn’t find it anywhere near as engaging as her humorous nonfiction.
Have you read any of these writers before? Who are some of your favorite female authors? Tell us all about it in the comments!