Recently I saw Robert McCrum’s list of the “Best 100 Novels Written in English” published in The Guardian. I was dismayed to see that only 21 of McCrum’s choices are by women authors. Less than one fourth of a canon spanning 300 years seems a bit underrepresentative.
So I asked some members of my book club to come up with a list of 100 works of narrative fiction. Their enthusiastic response was incredible! Not only did they name some great works (this list has 101 titles), but so far we have almost 300 books by women categorized by varying criteria on 5 different lists… check it out! Print this out. Read these gems.
Here is our first list, a traditional “greatest hits” of some pretty heavy hitters. Cheers!
The Mysteries of Udolpho, Ann Radcliff, England, 1794.
Castle Rackrent, Maria Edgeworth, England, 1800.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, England, 1813.
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen, England, 1811.
Mansfield Park, Jane Austen, England, 1814.
Emma, Jane Austen, England, 1816.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen, England, 1818.
Persuasion, Jane Austen, England, 1818
Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, England, 1818.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, England, 1845.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, England, 1847.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte, England, 1848.
Shirley, Charlotte Bronte, England, 1849.
Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte, England, 1847.
Villette, Charlotte Bronte, England, 1853.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly, Harriet Beecher Stowe, United States, 1852.
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell, United States, 1853.
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell, England, 1855.
Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell, England, 1864
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, United States, 1868.
Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life, George Eliot, England, 1871.
Adam Bede, George Eliot, England, 1859.
The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot, England, 1860.
Silas Marner, George Eliot, England, 1861.
Daniel Deronda, George Eliot, England, 1876.
“The Yellow Wallpaper”, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, United States, 1892.
The Awakening, Kate Chopin, United States, 1899.
The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton, United States, 1905
The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton, United States, 1913.***
The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton, United States, 1920.***
“Roman Fever” (from The World Over), Edith Wharton, 1936.***
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy, Hungary, 1905.
The Return of the Soldier, Rebecca West, England, 1918.
The Garden Party and Other Stories, Katherine Mansfield, New Zealand, 1922.
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, England, 1925.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf , England, 1927.
Orlando, Virginia Woolfe, England, 1928.
Three Lives, Gertrude Stein, United States, 1909.
O Pioneers!, Willa Cather, United States, 1913.*
My Antonia, Willa Cather, United States, 1918.*
Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather, United States, 1927.
The Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall, England, 1928.
Passing, Nella Larson, United States, 1929.
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck, United States, 1931. **
Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, United States, 1936. *
Nightwood, Djuna Barnes, United States, 1936.
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston, United States, 1937.
Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen/Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, England, Denmark, 1937. *
The Death of the Heart, Elizabeth Bowen, England, 1938.
The Man Who Loved Children, Christina Stead, Australia, 1940
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers, United States, 1940.
The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers, United States, 1946.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith, United States, 1943.
The Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford, England, 1945.
The Lottery and other Stories, Shirley Jackson, United States, 1949.**
Under the Net, Iris Murdoch, Ireland/England, 1954.
A Severed Head, Iris Murdoch, Ireland/England, 1961.
The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch, 1978.**
The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, England, 1955. **
Angel, Elizabeth Taylor, England, 1957.
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, United States, 1957.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, United States, 1960. *
The Country Girls , Edna O’Brien, Ireland, 1960.***
Everything that Rises Must Converge, Flannery O’Connor, United States, 1965.**
The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor, United States, 1971. **
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark, England, 1961**
The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing, England, 1962
The Diary of a Good Neighbor, Doris Lessing, England, 1983.***
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath, United States, 1963.
The Needle’s Eye, Margaret Drabble, England, 1972.
The Millstone , Margaret Drabble, England, 1965.
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, Katherine Anne Porter, United States, 1965.***
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys, Dominica, British West Indies, 1966.***
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou, United States, 1969.**
Them, Joyce Carol Oates, United States, 1969.***
The Collected Stories of Jean Stafford, Jean Stafford, United States, 1970.*
Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro, Canada, 1971.***
The Optimist’s Daughter, Eudora Welty, United States, 1972.***
Delta Wedding, Eudora Welty, United States, 1946.***
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty, Eudora Welty, United States, 1980.***
The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia, Ursula K. Le Guin, United States, 1974.***
Offshore , Penelope Fitzgerald, England, 1979.**
The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter, United Kingdom , 1979.***
Housekeeping , Marilynne Robinson, United States, 1980.***
The Conservationist, Nadine Gordimer , South Africa, 1974.***
The Color Purple, Alice Walker, United States, 1982.**
The Collected Prose, Elizabeth Bishop, United States, 1984.***
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Canada, 1985.***
Beloved, Toni Morrison, United States, 1987.***
The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison, United States, 1970.***
Possession, A.S. Byatt, England, 1990.***
Regeneration, Pat Barker, England, 1991.***
The Ghost Road , Pat Barker, England, 1995.**
The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields, Canada, 1993.***
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, United States, 1997.***
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver, United States, 1998.**
Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri, India/United States, , 1999.***
White Teeth, Zadie Smith, England, 2000.***
Fingersmith, Sarah Waters, Wales, 2002.*
March, Geraldine Brooks, United States, 2005
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel, England, 2009.***
*The author and/or work has won or has been a finalist for at least one major literary award.
** The author and/or work has won or has been a finalist for at least two major literary awards.
*** The author and/or work has won or has been a finalist for three or more major literary awards.