Books and Series We Love with Strong Female Characters (in no particular order)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Series by Stieg Larsson
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.
The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs
Mercy Thompson is a kick-ass VW mechanic, who also happens to be a shapeshifter who was raised by werewolves in this urban fantasy that also includes fairies and vampires. These books have it all: romance, fighting, action, great stories, and strong characters.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
This well known Canadian dystopian novel centres around Offred, a handmaiden, who is forced to produce children because she is fertile in a world where environmental damage has made many infertile. This compelling and still timely novel deals with themes around patriarchy, choice, environmentalism, individualism, and independence.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Even though this pivotal young adult series is about Harry, there are so many wonderful female characters that we couldn’t resist adding it to our list. These magical books brought us Hermione, a young, headstrong, smart, and curious girl who has helped many girls see that it’s OK to be smart. Professor McGonagall is probably the best teacher at Hogwarts and is fair, intelligent, and not someone you’d want to cross. Then there are Ginny, Luna, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, and the list goes on.
Dreaming the Eagle 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 this ancient and riveting story to life and introduces us to a whole new dimension of this amazing historical figure.
Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
Canadian author Eden Robinson shook up the writing world 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!
Circe by Madeleine 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.
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 storyteller could. We promise, this story will stay with you and once you get started, you won’t be able to put it down.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
This 1929 essay has been pivotal for recognizing and putting forth women’s causes in the literary world. Woolf argues for women’s education and outlines a history of female authors.
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.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeywell
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 doesn’t get it.
Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti
Teresa is a no-nonsense Italian police detective in her mid-sixties with health problems who’s seen it all, fought her way up the ranks of the police force, and is a brilliant profiler. However, she comes across a criminal who can’t be profiled and must race against time and her own health to find the murderer in this beautifully written mystery set in the Alps.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
This Canadian turn of the century classic follows talkative, imaginative, red-headed 11-year-old Anne, an orphan sent to live in Avonlea with a pair of elderly siblings who were looking to adopt a boy to help on their farm. This charming story tells of Anne’s adventures and struggles while adapting to her new life in her first real home.
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
This quirky Swedish book tells the unlikely story of Nombeko Mayeki, a poor, black, South African girl, who also happens to be a math genius. Through a series of unlikely and humorous events, she ends up in Sweden in possession of an atomic bomb and ends up saving the King of Sweden.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
This captivating book is about what it says, women talking. Based on a true story, women in an isolated Mennonite discover that they are being drugged and raped in the night by some of the men. When the men all leave to go to court, the women get together and talk about their options: stay and forgive, stay and fight, or leave. Their discussions touch on a range of topics that affect them and all women in this surprisingly inspiring book.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This intricately woven novel tells the story of four Chinese immigrant mothers and their American born daughters in 16 vignettes that mirror a mah-jong game. The book is touches on different aspects of their lives and changing culture and quickly became a classic for a reason.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This explosive young adult novel took the world by storm recently for its stunning depiction of Starr, a young black teen who witnesses her friend, a black boy, being shot by a police officer, and her journey to finding her own voice. The novel explores the dichotomies of the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the wealthy prep school she attends, touching on politics, drugs, gangs, and stereotypes. This is a book that will make you laugh and cry, angry and inspired, all at once.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman
In a post-apocalyptic world, we watch Malorie, mother of two, survive and protect herself and her children in a world where just looking at the monsters that have invaded earth will kill you. This nail-bitter of a thriller will have you racing through the pages as Malorie digs deep to do what is necessary to guide her children to safety in a world where most of humanity has perished.
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Korode has always takes care of her younger sister, even when she starts killing her boyfriends. This gem of a Nigerian thriller explores sisterhood, societal expectations of women, social media, and following our desires while being darkly funny and sharply astute.
Miss Marple Mysteries by Agatha Christie
Miss Marple is a perceptive and intelligent spinster who solves difficult murders in her small English town. One thing often reminds her of another and she storytells her way into creating connections that no one else sees in these classic murder mysteries by a beloved author.
Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang
Cas Russell has an unusual superpower: math! This exciting, action packed thriller sets Cas up against an even great supervillain who can twist the brain’s thoughts. Cas, a natural loner, has to decide whether to run or to stay and fight, which will push the limits of her abilities and friendships.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Katniss lives in a future post-apocalyptic world where each year one boy and one girl is chosen from each district to fight to the death in a world of extreme wealth and extreme poverty. Katniss is sharp, strong, clever, and is willing to do what it takes to protect herself and those she loves in this ground-breaking young adult series.
Graceling Series by Kristin Cashore
In this brilliantly written young adult fantasy novel, Katsa, a young teen, has a special ability, known as a Grace. She is able to kill people and when this skill is discovered, she is put to work for the king. Katsa is a fantastic character who strives to seek the truth behind her Grace in this fast-paced adventure.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
This well-loved literary nonsense novel tells the story of the curious Alice after she falls down the rabbit hole and meets up with strange creatures and animals that talk. Carroll plays with logic, making Alice a fun and compelling character for both children and adults.
His Dark Materials Series by Phillip Pullman
In this young adult fantasy set in a parallel universe, Lyra journeys to the Arctic to find her friend. The world in these books is fascinating, involving magic, daemons, diabolical villains, and enduring friendships. Lyra is smart, brave, curious and a wonderful protagonist that readers young or old will enjoy.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
This is a charmingly told tale reminiscent of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. September, a young girl with an adventurous spirit, is spirited away to have adventures in Fairyland. She makes friends, meets strange and wonderful creatures in her quest to retrieve a talisman from the dark woods for the Marquess. This is another book that is readily enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
No list of books with strong female characters would be complete without Canadian author Robert Munsch’s classic, The Paper Bag Princess. Elizabeth, destined to wear pretty dresses and marry Prince Ronald, actually ends up defeating a dragon, saving the prince, and skipping off into the sunset to live life on her own terms.
This list is ever changing and evolving for us here at Callisto Crate. What books would you add?
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