“The book to read is not the one that thinks for you but the one which makes you think.”
Anyone who has been asked to give book recommendations knows how excruciating it is to leave some books out of the list, but thankfully, there was a word limit that helped make this list concise, not the Concise Oxford Dictionary! The below selection is inspired by a desire to offer different points of view, different stories, emotions, and styles of writing from all over the world, and from female voices that are, unfortunately, often less prominent than male voices. Hope you enjoy all or some of these amazing novels; they are great companions to any holiday, evenings in the garden, or stolen bits of time from family, partners and general adulting duties.
Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Quick, brilliant and also optimistic read from one of the most gifted novelists of our time. Her Ted Talk, ‘We should
all be feminist’, took the world by storm and this is a variation on the subject. She’s writing to her friend that’s just had a baby girl and in the form of a letter, she gives her advice on how to raise a girl and, to us, a powerful feminist manifesto.
The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
Some critics may say the master of magical realism is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but having appreciated both, I think Isabel Allende does it better. This book, about a quirky Chilean family, that spans throughout the 20th century, through wars and revolutions, is a brilliant example of writing. Once it has you gripped it won’t let you go.
The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
A little token of a book. Quick to read, hard to forget. Tove Jansson, the woman who created the Moomins, also wrote eight novels for adults. This is one of her most famous pieces and once read, it is easy to see why.
The Break, by Marian Keyes
A fun, fast read from one of the most hilarious voices of our generation. She tackles important themes with a light heart and a light pen. It’s the story of a woman coping with change, family, work and a husband trying to find himself.
Circe, by Madeline Miller
It takes Madeline Miller years and many drafts to write a novel, and usually the result is next to perfect. With her new oeuvre she retells the story of Circe (of Odyssey and Aeneid fame) from her point of view, narrating myths that have always only been told from a male perspective and now live again through the eyes of this ridiculously talented American writer.
My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
First of the Neapolitan Novels series, My Brilliant Friend is a masterwork in fiction writing. Starting as a bildungsroman, a story of growing up and becoming an adult, it develops into an epic story about families, friendship, decisions, corruption, love and betrayal, set in one of the most degraded, poor and dangerous areas of Italy. HBO is also developing a TV adaption, so watch out, as it could be the next Game of Thrones!
Books that didn’t make the cut but could inspire further reading
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
Emma, Jane Austen
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Home Fire, Kamila Shamsie
The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara