Reading lists

Must-read books by women, as chosen by our readers

From acclaimed works of fiction and poetry to unforgettable memoirs and eye-opening non-fiction, these are our readers' favourite books to mark International Women's Day.

A flatlay of must-read books by women.
Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

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.

And if you find this useful, check out our list of our readers' 100 favourite classic novels, learn about their favourite children's books and see the best memoirs they've ever read. 

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 


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2017)

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.

allmanbrown, Instagram

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!

allmanbrown, Instagram

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

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