Left out of the literary canon for so long that even masters such as George Eliot and Jane Austen were forced to adopt male pseudonyms or obscure their names, the last few centuries have finally made the necessary space for women authors to write – and then re-write – a new one.
As International Women's Day approaches, we asked our readers to tell us about wonderful books by women they love reading, discussing and recommending to others. The result is a brilliantly broad-ranging list of classics and modern masterpieces anyone with a love of great fiction – or non-fictions, memoirs, poetry and more – will enjoy.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
We say: Alice Walker dedicated most of her academic career to researching and upholding Zora Neale Hurston's long-overlooked work. A vital, heady read.
You say: Once read, never forgotten. An emotional journey from girlhood to middle, through race, oppression and femininity. It reads like poetry.
Linda M on Facebook
We said: Yaa Gyasi’s award-winning debut is a harrowing, vivid and generation-hopping story of two sisters separated by slavery in the 17th Century. Homegoing follows their descendents, taking us from the 'Gold Coast' of Africa to the plantations of Mississippi and the dive bars of Harlem in a breathtaking retelling of Black history.
You said: Homegoing should be read by everyone. One of the most beautiful and ambitious books of the past decade.
We said: Using George Orwell’s famous essay ‘Why I Write’ as a jumping-off point, Deborah Levy offers her own reflections on life as a writer and the many challenges she faced in finding her voice as a woman who writes. A reflective book full of wit and quiet brilliance.
You said: 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!
Books ranked in no particular order. Some answers have been edited for clarity and style.