Because I've been ridiculously caught up in organising the Valentine's Ninja Book Swap I somehow missed out on the #readwomen2014 thing that's been going on on Twitter. Not sure how I did that, but anyway I've done a little reading about it and it sounds brilliant! I know I read a fair amount of books by women anyway, but I feel that lately I spend a lot of time talking about sexism and inequality and that this would be something active to do. I came up with a little twitter list off the top of my head of female authors I'd recommend, but it got me wanting to go and look at my keeper shelf and see which women I actually love too much to part with.
The twitter list was as follows: Scarlett Thomas, Charlotte Bronte, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Erin Morgenstern, Angela Carter.
Here's what my shelves say are my favourites:
1. Louisa May Alcott - no surprises here but I think everybody should probably read at least Little Women, if not the three sequels. Personally I love them all but I know that other people (hi Laura!) disagree! Little Women is the most comforting of all the books I own and I will never stop loving it. Her other books - that I've read so far anyway! - are also generally pretty good :-)
2. Sarah Addison Allen - a discovery I made since I started blogging. Her books are lovely - full of magic and food and recipes (love a book with recipes) and women who are generally fairly awesome. They're kind of just about things that happen to people every day, but with a bit of magic thrown in, and gorgeous covers.
3. Kate Atkinson - just the Jackson Brodie books at the moment, but I'm sure that will change! I read Behind The Scenes at the Museum and although I can't now tell you what it was about I remember it being totally brilliant, because I found it on the 'literary fiction' shelf in my then local bookshop around the time when everybody was talking about how literary Ian McEwan (whose books I mostly hate, sorry) was and she is so much more accessible than him!!
4. Margaret Atwood - I have a lot on my TBR and have read a lot from the library, but The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace I had to go out and buy after I'd read them because they were just so good. I think Margaret Atwood might be the queen of clever, complex female characters and of exploring social issues through her fiction without making you feel like she's pushing her own agenda.
5. Joanne Harris - again, lots of food and magic and generally awesome characters. I love her writing, and how strong but also flawed her female characters are. Vianne is great.
6. Zoe Heller - I read Notes on a Scandal after seeing the film and immediately went and got her other books, because she is a writer who tells not so beautiful stories in a beautiful way. Definitely worth reading.
7. Harper Lee - If you've read To Kill a Mockingbird I probably don't have to explain why she's here. If you haven't, go and do it now.
8.Jodi Picoult - In all honesty the reason I've kept so many of her books is because a lot of them have incredibly gripping storylines. Of late I've felt a bit like she gets carried away with whatever issue it is she's addressing in her books, but in the past the storyline was the thing. Particularly Plain Truth, Salem Falls and Mercy.
9. J.K Rowling - she has a place on this list at the moment thanks to the awesome genius of Harry Potter. I've not yet read The Casual Vacancy or the other one (whose name currently escapes me) she published under a pen name, but I've heard mixed things about both of them. I will read them at some point, though, because I've always wondered if she's actually a good writer or just a woman who had a bloody brilliant idea.
10. Scarlet Thomas - Scarlet Thomas is the writer I constantly recommend to people. If I had to pick one woman writer to recommend to people for the rest of all time, it would probably be her. I adore her books (except Bright Young Things which was only ok) because I relate so much to her characters and I love how they all have a science/maths/mystery type twist to them. She writes very clever fiction for the most part, and I look forward to everything she publishes.
11. The Brontes - I know it's kind of awful and cheaty to put three great writers into one sentence, but actually I've only read one book by each of them (obviously there is only one book by Emily, but you know) at the moment, and of course I love Jane Eyre, but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was so much better than I expected it to be and actually hilarious in places. Probably my favourite classic I've read recently.
12. Erin Morgenstern - shouldn't probably be on here yet as she's only written one novel, but it was far and away the best novel I've read in the last two years. The Night Circus is brilliant and stunning and full of amazing magic. It makes you want to go and live there, no matter how many times you read it, and her description is so vivid you can almost smell the popcorn.
13. J. Courtney Sullivan - I wasn't sure about putting her on here, but in the end I loved Maine so much I have to. She writes about relationships really, but generally the ones that get overlooked. Her latest novel, The Engagements was about a woman in advertising who writes the adverts for diamond engagement rings, while never actually getting married herself. Her stories are interesting, and usually not quite what you're expecting.
14. Jane Austen - Because she has to be on here, really. I've enjoyed, at varying levels, all of her books, and Pride and Prejudice is probably one of my favourites. Unexpectedly I also really liked Emma. She isn't the greatest or my favourite, but she is undoubtedly a great female writer.
15. Catherynne M. Valente - So far I've only read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There but just wow. Such cool, quirky 'Alice in Wonderland' style stories, and I love September. I can't think of a stronger, cooler girl role model in kids fiction in recent years.
So that's my list, and because I'm obsessed with lists I'm now going in search of lists of awesome books by women so that I can make yet more lists of things to read! What are your favourites?