Let’s just say that this has been a hard list to compile — there are so many amazing books out there with strong women characters — but we’ve given it a try. Notice we didn’t say THE 10 best books, just 10 OF THE best books. We’ve narrowed the list to books aimed at adults, not children or teens (we’ll share those lists another day).
Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane Eyre is a novel that changed books forever — it was revolutionary in how Bronte explored her character’s psyche, a task previously left to the poets. It is a love story, but also so much more; we get to see Jane grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and all done with sensitive, luxurious writing.
2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.
Eleanor is a woman who has the deck stacked against her — she’s had a terrible childhood, she doesn’t get social cues, and doesn’t even understand that her emotional needs exist — yet she is fine, or at least she learns to be. The writing suites the book perfectly with its dry humour and quick wit and only serves to highlight Eleanor’s as a character who is trying but just doens’t get it.
3. Room by Emma Donoghue.
This book was initially a hard one to pick up, but was well worth it. A young woman is kidnapped and held captive for years and the story is told from the point of view of her young son, who knows nothing of the outside world. It’s an interesting and compelling read, written incredibly well with both sensitivity and honesty. We loved seeing the woman do whatever she needed to in order to survive and protect her child.
4. Dreaming the Eagle (Boudica #1) by Manda Scott.
Boudica and tribal Britain before the Romans, sounds good, right? It is, especially when combined with the luscious storytelling of Manda Scott who brings the whole riveting story to life and introduces us to a whole new dimension of this amazing historical figure.
5. Circe by Madeline Miller.
We love mythological retellings and this one does not disappoint. Madeline Miller tells the tale of Circe, featured in The Odyssey as the witch who turns Odysseus’ men into pigs, and she fills out her character, giving her depth and motivation. The details and the storytelling bring you right into the world of the Greek gods.
6. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson.
Canadian author Eden Robinson took the writing world by storm with her poignant novel about Lisamarie Hill. Monkey Beach is Lisamarie’s reflection on and making sense of her difficult life as she waits for news about her brother who has been lost at sea. And watch out for that badass grandmother!
7. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
When The Mists of Avalon came out, there was a huge buzz about telling the King Arthur story from women’s points of view — and it did not disappoint. We get to see the female characters as real people, especially Morgaine, and not simply mythological tropes. It’s a long novel, but full of wonderful, descriptive writing.
8. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This is a brutally honest, heartfelt autobiography of the early life of Maya Angelou. She beautifully and heartbreakingly describes her struggles with racism, identity, and trauma in a story that is told in a way that only a master story teller could. We promise, this story will stay with you and once you get started, you won’t be able to put it down.
9. The Birth House by Ami McKay.
The Birth House is Ami McKay’s fascinating story about the clash between traditional and modern medicine in the World War One era in Nova Scotia, and the struggles women have had to face in order to maintain control over their bodies. Dora trains as a midwife and learns the brews and remedies to help the women in the community, but when a doctor moves into town, all of the years of wisdom and experience of women’s midwifery get questioned.
10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson.
Published in 2005, do you remember when this Swedish novel took the world by storm? It was a phenomenon for a reason. Computer hacker Lisbeth Salander kicked butt on so many levels and she has established herself as an icon of what women can overcome and what they can achieve.
This is our list of books that we liked that we would consider to be badass reads… do you have any to add? Leave us a note below and let us know! We’d love to hear about them!