Inspired by For Harriet's list of 100 Books by Black Women Everyone Must Read, I have compiled a complimentary list of books written by white women. The colour of their skin, however, was less important to me than the fact that they are and were women whose names are mostly unknown. This is because only very few female authors received important literary prizes in the past, and because even today most authors featured in popular book recommendation lists are male. By offering this very subjective list of books written by European and American women, I am hoping to add a few names to those that come to mind when you think of great female writers. There could have been many more featured on the list. If you miss someone, please feel free to leave your own recommendation in the comment section.
As to the list itself: The authors are sorted by surname, not importance. I have consciously decided not to link to online shops but to the authors' Wikipedia pages instead (regarding the four cases I couldn't because there was no article yet - is anyone up for writing them?). Personally, I like to support small local bookshops by stopping by and ordering my literature through them. If you spot a mistake or can provide me with any of the first sentences that are still missing - great, let me know!And now, finally, please follow the jump for the 100 Books By White Women Everyone Must Read!
- Anderson, Laurie Halse - Speak.
It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomachache.
- Arendt, Hannah - Eichmann in Jerusalem.
"Beth Hamishpath"--the House of Justice: These words shouted by the court usher at the top of his voice make us jump to our feet as they announce the arrival of the three judges, who, bareheaded, in black robes, walk into the courtroom from a side entrance to take their seats on the highest tier of a raised platform.
- Arnow, Harriette - The Dollmaker.
Dock's shoes on the rocks up the hill and his heavy breathing had shut out all sound so that it seemed a long while she had heard nothing, and Amos lay too still, not clawing at the blanket as when they had started.
- Atksinson, Kate - Case Histories.
How lucky were they? A heat wave in the middle of the school holidays, just where it belonged.
- Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale.
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there;
- Bachmann, Ingeborg - Malina.
- Bechdel, Alison - Fun Home.
Like many fathers, mine could occasionally be prevailed on for a spot of "airplane".
- Beck, Martha - Expecting Adam.
This happened when Adam was about three years old. I was sitting in a small apartment with a woman I had barely met, talking to her about her life.
- Belli, Gioconda - The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir Of Love And War.
With each shot I fired my body shuttered, the impact reverberating through every last joint, leaving an unbearable ringing in my head, sharp and disturbing.
- Berkewicz, Ulla - Angels Are Black And White.
One day without food, one week without games, and Rachele you will never see again, shouted the father.
- Blum, Arlene - Annapurna: A Woman's Place.
- Bosworth, Patricia - Diane Arbus: A Biography.
As a teen-ager, Diane Arbus used to stand on the window ledge of her parents' apartment at the San Remo, eleven stories above Central Park West. (...) Years later Diane would say: "I wanted to see if I could do it." And she would add, "I didn't inherit my kingdom for a long time."
- Brown, Rita Mae - Rubyfruit Jungle.
No one remembers her beginnings. Mothers and aunts tell us about infancy and early childhood, hoping we won't forget the past when they had total control over our lives and secretly praying that because of it, we'll include them in our future.
- Casey, Joan Francis - The Flock.
Anyone can walk a tightrope. All it takes is practice and luck.
- Christensen, Inger - Alphabet.
apricot trees exist, apricot trees exist.
- Cox, Lynne - Swimming To Antarctica.
It is August 7, 1987, and I am swimming across the Bering Sea. I am somewhere near -- or across -- the U.S.-Soviet border. The water stings.
- Davidson, Robyn - Tracks.
I arrived in the Alice at five a.m., with a dog, six dollars and a suitcase of inappropriate clothes.
- De Beauvoir, Simone - Memoirs Of A Dutiful Daughter.
I was born at four o'clock in the morning on the 9th of January 1908 in a room fitted with white-enamelled furniture and overlooking the boulevard Raspail.
- Deledda, Grazia - Reeds In The Wind.
Efix, the Pintor sisters' servant, had worked all day to shore up the primitive river embankment that he had slowly and laboriously built over the years.
- Didion, Joan - The Year Of Magical Thinking.
Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.
- Dische, Irene - The Empress of Weehawken.
Much of what went kaput, as the Americans say, in the generations after mine can be blamed on Carl´s low sperm count.
- Ditto, Beth - Coal To Diamonds.
There was a time when Judsonia, Arkansas, was a booming metropolis keeping pace with the rest of the country.
- Duras, Marguerite - The Lover.
One day, I was already old, in the entrance of a public place a man came up to me.
- Edelman, Hope - Motherless Daughters.
My mother died in the middle of summer, with everything in full bloom.
- Emin, Tracey - Strangeland.
When I was born, they thought I was dead. Paul arrived first, ten minutes before me. When it was my turn, I just rolled out, small and yellow with eyes closed.
- Ensler, Eve - The Vagina Monologues.
I bet you're worried. I was worried. That's why I began this piece.
- Ephron, Nora - Heartburn.
The first day I did not think it was funny. I didn't think it was funny the third day either, but I managed to make a little joke about it.
- Erdrich, Louise - The Round House.
Small trees had attacked my parent's house at the foundation. They were just seedlings with one or two rigid, healthy leaves.
- Fallaci, Oriana - A Man.
- Fisher, M.F.K. - A Stew Or A Story.
Nini was destined, foreordained, to be the final victim. She had everything that was needed, all the requisite virtues of a murderee--or so it seemed for a time.
- Fitch, Janet - White Oleander.
The Santa Anas blew in hot from the desert, shriveling the last of the spring grass into whiskers of pale straw. Only the oleanders thrived, their delicate poisonous blooms, their dagger green leaves. We could not sleep in the hot dry nights, my mother and I.
- Flynn, Giliian - Gone Girl.
When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with.
- Frame, Janet - An Angel At My Table.
The future accumulates like a weight upon the past. The weight upon the earliest years is easier to remove to let that time spring up like grass that has been crushed.
- Frank, Anne - The Diary of Anne Frank.
I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.
- Freedman, Nancy - Mrs. Mike.
The worst winter in fifty years, the old Scotsman had told me. I'd only been around for sixteen, but it was the worst I'd seen, and I was willing to take his word for the other thirty-four.
- Gordon, Jaimy - She Drove Without Stopping.
Only later, I began to dream of murder. By then I was living on a little mountain near Antietam with my dog The Norn. There I heard about the shooting of Martin Luther King over an old tombstone-shaped radio that crackled like a rooftop in flames, but my own life was still as only a season of docile penury can make it.
- Greer, Germaine - The Whole Woman.
The woman question is answered. It is now understood that women can do anything men can do. Anyone who tries to stop them will be breaking the law.
- Gur, Batya - Literary Murder.
Because it was led by Shaul Tirosh, the departmental seminar was being documented by the media.
- Harryson, Kathryn - The Kiss.
We meet at airports. We meet in cities where we've never been before. We meet where no one will recognize us.
- Haushofer, Marlen - The Wall.
Today, on November 5, I commence my report. I will tell as many details as I can. But I'm not even sure today is really November 5.
- Hayden, Torey - One Child.
I should have known. The article was a small one, just a few paragraphs stuck on page six under the comics. It told of a six-year-old girl who had abducted a neighbourhood child.
- Hazzard, Shirley - People in Glass Houses.
'The aim of the Organization,' Mr. Bekkus dictated, leaning back in his chair and casting up his eyes to the perforations of the sound-proof ceiling; 'The aim of the Organization,' he repeated with emphasis, as though he were directing a firing-squad --
- Hermann, Judith - Sommerhouse, Later.
My first and only visit to a therapist cost me my red coral bracelet and my lover.
- Hersh, Kristin - Rat Girl.
The handmade Jesus on Napoleon's living room wall has no face, just a gasping, caved-in head with blood dripping down its chest. He appears to have been crucified on some popsickle sticks.
- Highsmith, Patricia - Edith's Diary.
Edith had left her diary among the last things left to pack, mainly because she didn't know where to put it.
- Holt, Anne - Fear Not.
It was the twentieth night of December. One of those Saturday nights that promise more than they can deliver had imperceptibly slipped into the last Sunday of Advent.
- Jackson, Shirley - The Haunting Of Hill House.
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality, even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.
- James, P. D. - An Unsuitable Job For A Woman.
On the morning of Bernie Pryde's death -- or it may have been the morning after, since Bernie died at his own convenience, nor did he think the estimated time of his departure worth recording -- Cornelia was caught in a breakdown of the Bakerloo Line outside Lambeth North and was half an hour late at the office.
- Kaysen, Susanna - Girl, Interrupted.
People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well.
- Keun, Irmgard - The Artificial Silk Girl.
It must have been around twelve midnight last night that I felt something wonderful happening inside of me.
- Krog, Antjie - Country Of My Skull.Sunk low on their springs, three weathered white Sierras roar past the wrought-iron gates of Parliament. Heavy, ham-like forearms bulge through the open windows -- honking, waving old Free State and Transvaal flags.
- Lee, Harper - To Kill A Mockingbird.
When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. When it healed, and Jem's fears of never being able to play football were assuaged, he was seldom self-conscious about his injury.
- Lindgren, Astrid - The Brothers Lionheart.
Now I want to tell you of my brother. I want to tell you of Jonathan Lionheart.
- Lively, Penelope - Moon Tiger.
'I'm writing a history of the world', she says. And the hands of the nurse are arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman.
- Mantel, Hilary - Giving Up The Ghost.
It is a Saturday, late July 2000; we are in Reepham, Norfolk, at Owl Cottage. There's something we have to do today, but we are trying to postpone it.
- Maraini, Dacia - The Silent Duchess.
Here they are, a father and a daughter. The father fair, handsome, smiling; the daughter awkward, freckled, fearful.
- McCullers, Carson - The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.
In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.
- McDermid, Val - A Place Of Execution.
"Help me. You've got to help me." The woman's voice quavered on the edge of tears.
- Michaels, Anne - Fugitive Pieces.
Time is a blind guide. Bog boy, I surfaced into the miry streets of the drowned city.
- Miller, Alice - The Drama of The Gifted Child.
Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.
- Mitchell, Margaret - Gone With The Wind.
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
- Müller, Hertha - The Hunger Angel.
All that I have I carry on me. Or: All that is mine I carry with me.
- Munro, Alice - Carried Away: A Selection Of Stories.
- Nin, Anaïs - Cities Of The Interior.
Lillian was always in a state of fermentation. Her eyes rent the air and left phosphorescent streaks.
- Nothomb, Amlie - The Character Of Rain.
In the beginning was nothing, and this nothing had neither form nor substance -- it was nothing other than what it was. And God knew that it was good.
- O'Connor, Flannery - A Good Man Is Hard To Find.
The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey's mind.
- Oates, Joyce Carol - A Garden Of Earthly Delights.
On that day many years ago a rattling Ford truck carrying twenty-nine farmworkers and their children sideswiped a local truck carrying hogs to Little Rock on a rain-slick country highway.
- Peck, Ellen - The Baby Trap.
- Penny, Laurie - Meat Market.
The sexual bodies of women are out of control. (...) Children delinquently rummage in each other's pornographic pencil cases. Even babies are now born with the Playboy Bunny image tattooed onto their eyeballs.
- Phillips, Jayne Anne - Machine Dreams.
It's strange what you don't forget. We had a neighbor called Mrs. Thomas.
- Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar.
It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn't know what I was doing in New York.
- Porter, Katherine Anne - The Collected Stories.
María Concepción walked carefully, keeping to the middle of the white dusty road, where the maguey thorns and the treacherous curved spines of organ cactus had not gathered so profusely.
- Proulx, E. Annie - Brokeback Mountain.
Ennies Del Mar wakes before five, wind rocking the trailer, hissing in around the aluminium door and window frames. The shirts hanging on a nail shudder slightly in the draft.
- Rendell, Ruth - A Demon In My View.
The cellar was divided into rooms. Each of these caverns except the last of them was cluttered with the rubbish which usually encumbers the cellars of old houses.
- Rich, Adrienne - On Lies, Secrets, And Silence.
- Rogers, Morgan Callan - Red Ruby Heart In A Cold Blue Sea.
After we almost burned down a summer cottage, my friends and I were not allowed to see each other for the rest of July and August. It was 1963, and I was twelve.
- Rowling, J.K. - Harry Potter 1 - 7.
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
- Sagan, Francoise - A Certain Smile.
We had spent the afternoon in a cafe on the Rue Saint-Jacques, a spring afternoon just like any other. I felt bored, after a fashion;
- Sarton, May - Journal Of A Solitude.
Begin here. It is raining.
- Sebold, Alice - Lucky.
In the tunnel where I was raped, a tunnel that was once an underground entry to an amphitheater, a place where actors burst forth from underneath the seats of a crowd, a girl had been murdered and dismembered.
- Seghers, Anna - The Seventh Cross.
Never perhaps in men's history were stranger trees felled than the seven plane trees growing the length of Barrack III. Their tops had been clipped before, for a reason that will be explained later.
- Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein.
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
- Shriver, Lionel - We Need To Talk About Kevin.
Dear Franklin, I'm unsure why one trifling incident this afternoon has moved me to write to you.
- Smith, Betty - A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.
Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912.
- Smith, Patti - Just Kids.
When I was very young, my mother took me for walks in Humboldt Park, along the edge of the Prairie River. I have vague memories, like impressions on glass plates, of an old boathouse, a circular band shell, an arched stone bridge.
- Spark, Muriel - The Girls Of Slender Means.
Long ago in 1945 all the nice people in England were poor, allowing for some exceptions. The streets of the cities were lined with buildings in bad repair or in no repair at all, bomb-sites piled with stony rubble, houses like giant teeth in which decay had been drilled out.
- Spyri, Johanna - Heidi.
From the old and pleasantly situated village of Mayenfeld, a footpath winds through green and shady meadows to the foot of the mountains, which on this side look down from their stern and lofty heights upon the valley below.
- Sontag, Susan - Regarding The Pain Of Others.
In June 1938 Virginia Woolf published Three Guineas, her brave, unwelcomed reflections of the roots of war.
- Tartt, Donna - The Secret History. Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw", that showy dark crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't.
- Ueland, Brenda - If You Want To Write.
Everybody is talented, original, and has something important to say.
- Ulitskaya, Lyudmila - Medea And Her Children.
Medea Mendez had the maiden name of Sinoply and was, if we disqualify her younger sister Alexandra who moved to Moscow in the 1920s, the last remaining poor-blooded Greek of a family settled since time immemorial on the Tauride Coast, a land still mindful of its ties with Ancient Greece.
- Vanderbeke, Birgit - The Mussle Feast.
- Veteranyi, Aglaja - Why The Child Is Cooking In The Polenta.
I imagine the sky. It is so large I fall asleep right away, just to calm myself.
- Walls, Jeannette - The Glass Castle.
I was sitting in a taxi, wondering whether I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out of the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.
- Winterson, Jeanette - Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit.
Like most people I lived for a long time with my mother and father. My father liked to watch the wrestling, my mother liked to wrestle; it didn't matter what.
- Wolf, Christa - Patterns Of Childhood.
What is past is not dead; it is not even past.
- Wolf, Naomi - The Beauty Myth.
- Woolf, Virginia - The Waves.
The sun had not yet risen. The sea indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as a cloth had wrinkles in it.
- Yourcenar, Marguerite - The Abyss.
Young Henry Maximilian Ligre was making his way toward Paris, taking the long journey in short stretches.
- Zimmer Bradley, Marion - The Mists Of Avalon.
Even in high summer, Tintagel was a haunted place; Igraine, Lady of Duke Gorlois, looked out over the sea from the headland.
|Cover Detail: Ingeborg Bachmann, Malina|
|Cover Detail: Tracey Emin, Strangeland|
|Cover Detail: Janet Frame, An Angel At My Table|
|Cover Detail: Kathryn Harrison, The Kiss|
|Cover Detail: Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar|
|Cover Detail: Patti Smith, Just Kids|