So, as I’ve already mentioned this week, it was International Women’s Day on Monday and I decided that today was the day to celebrate female writers in my monthly top 10. To be honest, I struggled because, as I’ve come to realise, my tastes are still worryingly focused on the male. It’s something I’ve been slowly trying to resolve but when it comes to my bookcase it’s all about the dudes. Well, actually, that’s not really true. Looking back at my That’s What She Read posts for the past few weeks and I’ve read plenty of novels by women recently. However, nobody that would necessarily make it into a top 10 list. So it’s back to the drawing board. Now I realise that my list will probably look like everybody else’s because it’s basically just the major players. However, there is one key person missing. Yes, I know you all love Jane Austen but I will never be able to claim that she is one of my favourite female writers. She has her place in literary history and is certainly an important figure. However, when I’m looking for something to dive into her books are top of the pile.
Nine: Octavia Butler
When it comes to female science-fiction writers, Octavia Butler really is the first name you should be looking for. She’s still got to be the top female in the genre even if she never did like to be branded a science-fiction writer. Butler was a fan of science-fiction novels but never appreciated the way race, class or gender were represented. She decided the best way to tackle this was to deal with the problem herself. She’s an inspirational writer and any so called fan of the genre should read something by her.
Eight: Ann Radcliffe
In literary terms Ann Radcliffe isn’t the greatest and hasn’t exactly aged well. Most people will recognise her as the writer of The Mysteries of Udolpho, which will be known to many modern day readers thanks to the references in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. However, she was one of the most popular novelists of her time and really helped to shape gothic novels as we understand them today. She was also the main inspiration behind my postgraduate dissertation and I spent the majority of the final 6 months of my degree reading her novels. So maybe she tends to waffle on a bit but so did Tolkein and I fucking love him.
Seven: Agatha Christie
How can anyone leave Agatha Christie off this kind of list? She’s the best selling novelist of all time and has created some of the most memorable characters and crime stories of all time. Yes, her novels seem twee compared to the super dark and psychological thrillers we’re being inundated with nowadays but her importance to the world of literature is undeniable. Christie had a talent for weaving narratives that kept her readers guessing and for creating fantastic characters. She’s still a fucking legend.
Five: Helen Oyeyemi
Four: Simone de Beauvoir
Three: Mary Shelley
Two: Margaret Atwood
I’ve just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last so maybe this is a case of right time, right place. However, I doubt anyone could deny how important a writer Atwood really is. I mean who can even count the number of awards she’s won over the years? She’s a poet, novelist, critic, essayist, environmental activist, and a fucking inventor. How can you not love this woman? She’s an intelligent writer who can seemingly turn her hand to anything. The Handmaid’s Tale is such an important work in terms of gender equality and, even though she is often wary to describe her writing as feminist, she has often presented women’s struggle in a patriarchal system.
One: Mary Wollstonecraft
If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book. She speaks of her sorrows, in a way that fills us with melancholy, and dissolves us in tenderness, at the same time that she displays a genius which commands all our admiration.
So, she may not be the most read or beloved female writer out there in modern times. She may only have written two novels but they’re worth reading for their place in feminist theory alone. Although, I did once mistakenly suggest a friend read Maria and, even though she was too polite to say, she hated it. Mary Wollstonecraft deserves her place at the top of my list and I’ll argue with anyone who says otherwise.