Earlier this month, Wordery, an online bookstore and literary marketplace, published a study answering the question, “Are the most popular rated fiction books written by men or women?” Respondents commented with their favorite books of all time, and it’s no surprise that 80 percent of votes went to male-written classics. Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Lord of the Rings, Of Mice and Men, and A Christmas Carol were all among the top-voted. Within the top 10 titles, the only two written by women were To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice.
Female writers have come a very long way in the last 200 years since many of these works were published, but there’s still exceptional room for growth. A study in 2017 found that women only accounted for 40 percent of literary articles published — an improvement, but still a significant gender disparity. So in the spirit of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting some of our favorite female writers and game-changers (and some of their memorable quotes) that deserve to be on everyone’s top lists. How many of these authors have you read?
“One must not be shy where language is concerned.”― Ann Patchett
Ann Patchett (1963 – ) is an author, novelist, and memoirist. You’ll know her for Bel Canto, The Dutch House, Run, State of Wonder, and Commonwealth. In 2002, she received the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction for novel Bel Canto, which was also adapted into a feature film and an opera. In 2020, The Dutch House was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Ann also co-founded Parnassus Books, a Nashville-based bookstore and mobile bookstore that serves as a community and meeting place for booklovers — highly recommended.
“Dream a little before you think.” — Toni Morrison
A novelist, essayist, editor, and professor, Toni Morrison (1931-2019) brought us Sula, Song of Solomon, and the Beloved trilogy. In the 60s, she was appointed the first black female editor in fiction at Random House New York. She became the author we know and love when published her first novel, The Bluest Eyes, at age 39. Not long after, she became a leader in black literature and humanitarian writing. Her works covered themes of peace, race relations, equity — and her landmark Beloved was made and then re-made into a Hollywood film. She was rightfully awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.
“Let me be lonely but not invisible.” ― Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz (1978 – ) is a Latina and Native American poet and writer. She is also a former basketball player and a language activist, having worked on language revitalization at her home reservation of Fort Mojave. Her poetry engages in topics from politics to pop culture to personal reflections. In 2012, she published her first book of poems, When My Brother Was an Aztec. Eight years later, her latest book, Postcolonial Love Poem, was published and named a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Poetry.
“‘No’ is a complete sentence.”― Anne Lamott
Author of writing community staple Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott (1954 – ) is a novelist, non-fiction writer, essayist, and memoirist. Among her non-fiction works are Traveling Mercies; Hope, Thanks, Wow; Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, and Almost Everything: Notes on Hope. Anne is known for being highly autobiographical in her work, often pulling from her own life experiences in her writing. She touches readers through her thematic use of personal and social issues, including alcoholism, motherhood, politics, and religion. In 2010, she was inducted into the California Hall of Fame.
“Write what should not be forgotten.” — Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende (1942 – ) is a Chilean-American journalist, editor, novelist, feminist activist, and philanthropist. She is one of the most widely-read Spanish authors in history, publishing such popular books as The House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts. Most recently, she released The Soul of a Woman, a meditation on womanhood told as a memoir — just in time for Women’s History Month. A life-long advocate of gender equity, Allende established the Isabel Allende Foundation in 1996 to “invest in the power of women and girls to secure reproductive rights, economic independence, and freedom from violence.”
Credits: Alexis Anthony, writer; Library of Congress, image