1. The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward

A beautiful, yet often sorrowful, tale of awakening, The Terrible is an enchanting discovery that will grip you from the opening lines. Yrsa’s poetic lilt is simply captivating.  

Richard S, Facebook

2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

This book taught me so much about what I deserve from a career as a woman. I read it after a string of unsuccessful job interviews and then totally nailed the next one! This is well worth a read for anyone who needs a shot of motivation; I felt like I could be Prime Minister after finishing it!

Laura A, Facebook

3. The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

The prose is beautiful and Anne skilfully evokes the minutiae of a marriage with all its trivial misunderstandings, it's a brutally real, achingly sad story of a marriage. Pauline is one of my all time favourite characters

Louise W, Facebook

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Read at an impressionable age; a feisty protagonist with a love for reading on a curtain concealed window seat. Unforgettable.

Deb R, Twitter

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, because that title explains everything about British politics today.

Annabel M, Twitter

6. Black Milk by Elif Shafak

I love all of her books but this one on motherhood is really special.

Anne S, Facebook

7. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

It portrays so succinctly how it feels to be young and a daydreamer and falling in love for the first time, with a beautiful English etherealness to it. It feels like a Florence and the Machine song mixed with a Jane Austen novel.

aarenl, Instagram

8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

S.E. Hinton for writing the emotional, thought provoking book The Outsiders involving loveable characters with endearing relationships that tackles issues at the very core of adolescence. One of the few books that has literally shaped the way I live my life. "Stay Gold".

Evangeline P, Twitter

9. How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Hilarious and so real! For all the 80s teenage girls who were overweight and didn’t quite fit in – thank goodness we didn’t!

Tracy W, Twitter

10. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I found my kindred spirit in Anne from Anne of Green Gables by Lucy M. Montgomery. How could one not love someone who can articulate that "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland"?

rebeccaarmstrong13, Instagram

11. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Massively and spookily ahead of her time... I'm so excited for The Testaments!

Lyns B, Facebook

12. The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

The book describes so beautifully the journey of a very ordinary man driven to break out of the mundane one day by the power of memories. Harold's character - and that of his dismayed wife who is confronted with a side to her husband she never knew – are so real you feel they could be your friends, neighbours, auntie and uncle. A lovely book about the secret lives inside every single one of us.

Rachel J, Facebook

13. Never Greener by Ruth Jones

Such a great debut novel, I can't wait for the next one...

Jackie P, Facebook

14. The Driver's Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat by the incomparable Muriel Spark. Profound, funny, terrifying.

TheGorilla1972, Twitter

15. The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank

Word perfect. Profound. Funny. Moving. If it were written by a man it would be hailed a modern masterpiece. Written by a woman and it’s positioned as chicklit. Grrrr.

Hannah W, Twitter

16.  Becoming by Michelle Obama

It is a book that teaches us to own up to our stories and not be afraid of our voices. While doing this, the book also reminds us to give a lending hand to those who need us. The world not as it is, but as it should be.

Sam D, Twitter

17. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

The Outlander series because it's intelligent, heartbreaking, enthralling, funny – heaven for a history nut like me.

CharM, Twitter

 18. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Because of its sheer brilliance and ability to make you think about the thought process, something we’re forgetting how to do.

Annabel M, Twitter

19. Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

I love the humour in the boring details, and the pain of long term relationship misunderstandings...

Nicole W, Twitter

20. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

Dons, danger, occasional daftness. Harriet's finest hour. Marvellous.

Robert G, Twitter

Read next

21. H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk encapsulates the sense of loss and lostness after the death of a loved one perfectly and is set in a landscape that I know very well.

Samantha A, Twitter

22.  Into The Frame by Angela Thirwell

Into the Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown is so well written and such a heartbreaking story of love, loss, and obsession. Angela kindly signed my copy for me at a talk she gave. It’s a cracking read.

artistNWT, Twitter

23. Men in the Off Hours by Anne Carson

Anne Carson, because her writing is utterly mindblowing, inventive, and beautiful. Check out Men in the Off Hours.

Christos P, Twitter

24. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing should be read by everyone. One of the most beautiful and ambitious books of the past decade.

allmanbrown, Instagram

25. Things I Don't Want To Know By Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy’s living memoir Things I Don’t Want To Know is absolutely incredible. I know you said one but it’s too hard to choose!

allmanbrown, Instagram

26. The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante

Since Zadie Smith is already there, Elena Ferrante is another beautiful  female voice. Her Neapolitan novels are an amazing and genuine portrait of female nature.

teyadiya, Instagram

27. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

The most important novel of our time in my opinion and the most important lesson – to take a walk in someone else’s shoes before you judge.

mybookcorner, Instagram

28. Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

I love the way that she uses just enough magic and the surreal to make you forget the constructions of the universe. But in Eva Luna, the magic comes from Eva's own imagination, and this is what empowers her throughout her story.

flic91, Instagram

29. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

A writer of realism, ahead of her time, writing from first-hand experience about alcoholism and watching someone you care about self destruct. A fantastic, pertinent novel addressing issues still facing women today.

islay94, Instagram

30.Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton has captured an entire generation of women. It’s a manifesto that reminds us all that male relationships are a lot of things, but in the long term, most deep-rooted love affairs are with not only ourselves, but the best friends we surround ourselves with. Her writing is your inner dialogue, your conversations with your best friends, your “oh I’m not the only one” moments.

jesslepore94, Instagram

31. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

A brilliantly researched, wonderful presentation of complex family dynamics and fascinating depiction of 1st and 2nd World War and their devastating effect on soldiers, their families, communities and the entire country. Unforgettable.

Kasie M, Twitter

32. A Spy In The House of Love by Anaïs Nin

Any of Anaïs Nin’s writings but especially A Spy in the House of Love or The Four-Chambered Heart. She is (was) unapologetically woman – her writing is very liberating. On my (Penguin Modern Classics) copy there is a quote from the Guardian that I find very fitting: “Nin was the first of her kind... she wrote for a world that did not yet exist, and so helped to bring it into being”.

siobhan_ordonez, Instagram

33. Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid's Annie John, where she depicts how difficult mother-daughter relationships and female friendships can be. 

anaundeuxtrois, Instagram

34. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Donna Tartt’s The Secret History is always my recommendation, and my favourite book. I first read it when I was 16 and have read it every year since (it was a new book when I started so I’ve had 26 years of rereading!) to mark the beginning of autumn. 

claire_eden, Instagram

35. Oroonoko by Aphra Benh

Oroonoko by Aphra Benh is an anti-slavery story and one of the earliest English novels, written at a time when women writing for pay was utterly unthinkable. Virginia Woolf said that women everywhere should throw flowers on Aphra's grave because she paved the way for women to write and gain financial independence through their work.

foldedpaperfoxes, Instagram

36. The Power by Naomi Alderman 

The Power is one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read. Twisting patriarchal society on its head, the way it does is fabulous. ⚡️

saz1006, Instagram

37. How to be Both by Ali Smith

I loved How to be Both by Ali Smith. I still enjoy coming-of-age stories, but the way she structured this one is really original and gets you. Also, her narrative is magic!

meritxelltm, Instagram

38. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft... do I need to say more?

emiliacastel, Instagram

39. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Excellently combining social anthropology, philosophy and great story telling in what might possibly be the best science-fiction novel ever written.

kjerberg, Instagram

40. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

In her own words: "Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind."

thehalcyondaysofsummer, Instagram

Read next

41. Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich

It has to be Chernobyl Prayer by Svetlana Alexievich and ultimately all the people she gave a voice to. Uncomfortable truths of this magnitude deserve exposure and Alexievich does this with great sensitivity and guile. I’m very much looking forward to Last Witnesses.

enough.books, Instagram

42. Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman

The Malorie Blackman Noughts & Crosses series. Insanely moving. I first read it when I was young, it opened my eyes to many issues. I believe in many ways it helped shape me.

carlysloves, Instagram

43. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

A brilliantly written witchy little novel with one of the most fascinating woman characters I've encountered in literature.

tsarnicholasromanov, Instagram

44. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved by Toni Morrison, most notably for her treatment of slavery from a female perspective. What’s to be done with all that pain, when women’s talents of storytelling, creation, and renewal are inextricably intertwined with death? She brilliantly rejected sentimentality, choosing to give an honest portrayal of the depths of woman’s darkness and illumination.

biblio_boppity_boo, Instagram

45. Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover and The Skills by Mishal Husain, two books that have inspired and informed me recently. ❤️

pip_eats, Instagram

46. Possession by A.S. Byatt

My all time favorite book: Possession by A.S. Byatt! No one else could make a satirical story about competitive Victorian literature academics so moving and absorbing. Not to mention the brilliant poetry she wrote herself! A feat of true art and a lesson in all kinds of love.

nycbookworms, Instagram

47. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith!!! White Teeth and the Autograph Man are some of my all time favourite books. All literature is reactionary in a sense and these were the first books I read that truly spoke to what it is to live in the glittering bitterness of a 21st century world.

madeleine.fenn, Instagram

48. Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Heartburn by Nora Ephron, a great read and a fantastic woman to celebrate!

_rosiegallagher, Instagram

49. Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

All Malorie Blackman is AMAZING. She goes places no one else dares to go and is so inspirational. I love her Noughts and Crosses series and Chasing The Stars is one of my favourite books ever!!!!

crazy_yellow_giggles_xx, Instagram



50.  Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

She took a classic novel and somehow managed to elegantly inject it with nuance, tragedy and truth in a way no one else could have. 

miz.possible, Instagram

51. The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich – putting the "International" in International Women's Day

loclife2016, Instagram

52. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Katherine Arden. Her Bear and the Nightingale trilogy was addictive.

kathezine, Instagram

53. The Contant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy

Margaret Kennedy, a great writer who has practically vanished. She is witty, created amazing characters and her emotional perception is amazing. My favourites are The Constant Nymph, The Fool of the Family, Not in the Calender, and Ladies of Lyndon.

literarygem, Instagram

54. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

A feminist view at classic fairy tales by a very talented writer. Her images are so powerful!

b.go_osl, Instagram

55. The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Mind blowing and unputdownable.

c.a.l.photography, Instagram

56. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

The perfect easy read about a very poignant subject. Women having the freedom to love who they want. 

a.g.roche, Instagram

57. The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

A book that stayed with me far longer than the time it took me to read it. 

dalia_akar, Instagram

58. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

She offers an introspective look on society and culture as a whole. It shows how we can go through life quite blindly in the name of tradition, and highlights that we should be more open to change as a society. Just as important and relevant 70 years on! 

Charlotte E, Twitter

59. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I loved Little Women by Louisa May Alcott growing up because it taught me to appreciate all the different positives of each sister. I always wanted to be a confident writer like Jo but kind as Beth, loving as Meg, I even saw myself in Amy sometimes. It's one of my faves.

Helena W, Twitter

60. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This gripped me from the first line, made me laugh, made me cry (loads). One of the best books I've ever read. (soooo much better than the film, by the way).

Helen Y, Twitter


Books ranked in no particular order. Some answers have been edited for clarity and style.  

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