Your Summer Reading List of Women Writers

Written by Ella Cashman



Even though it’s April, it’s not too early to plan your summer reading list! I feel like we know a lot of female writers from a few centuries ago: Jane Austen, The Brontë Sisters, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, or Emily Dickinson. But what about the women who are currently writing groundbreaking contemporary novels? Who is writing about the current times? Who is paving the way for the 21st century?


Like in many industries, female authors don’t always get the same visibility as male authors, especially female authors who may be facing additional prejudices besides just gender (i.e. race, sexual orientation, age, religion, etc.). So, while many women writers do get published, they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.


Take J. K. Rowling for instance. She decided to use initials instead of her real name, Joanne, because her editors told her that not as many people would read her books if they saw it was written by a woman. When the first few Harry Potter books came out, many people thought they were authored by a man, thus lending her more success with her series. What’s in a name? Well, actually, quite a bit.


So this summer, I encourage you to make an effort to read books by women writers, especially a wide variety of women, all of whom will have different (and amazing) stories to share. It’s time to put together your summer reading list, and lucky for you I’ve got several fantastic author and book recommendations right here for you.



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Lucia Berlin, born in 1936, was an American short story writer but didn’t start writing until relatively late in her life. In her lifetime, besides a small and loyal following, her work never reached a mass audience. It wasn’t until a few years after her death in 2015 when Farrar, Straus and Giroux's published a collection of her stories, A Manual For Cleaning Women. In less than two weeks, it hit The New York Times bestseller list. It even made the New York Times Book Review’s “10 Best Books of 2015."

Recommended Reading: A Manual For Cleaning Women (2015)



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Zadie Smith is a contemporary British writer. Her début novel, White Teeth, was an instant bestseller and has won over five awards. Her writing has been described as hysterical realism, usually involving elaborate exaggerations as a means of exploring real issues. Smith writes in complex but beautiful prose that will leave you starstruck. Smith has described her writing as not "plot-based" but just "people, living their lives." Although you can’t go wrong with anything Smith has written, I have two suggestions for your summer reads.

Recommended Reading: White Teeth (2000)

Zadie Smith: Dance Lessons For Writers (2016)



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Sandra Uwiringiyimana is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her book, How Dare The Sun Rise, is the story of her life—how at just ten years of age she survived a massacre in a refugee camp but lost her six-year old sister, how she immigrated to America, and overcame her trauma through art and activism. It’s an emotional but important story and definitely worth the read.

Recommended Reading: How Dare The Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child (2017)



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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer and the author of four books, for which she has won countless awards. Adichie has become a contemporary literary giant, and if you haven’t heard of her, then you better catch up! One of my favorite quotes from her book Americanah is: “If you don't understand, ask questions. If you're uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway. It's easy to tell when a question is coming from a good place. Then listen some more. Sometimes people just want to feel heard.”

Recommended Reading: Americanah (2013)



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Sabaa Tahir is a Pakistani-American young-adult fiction writer. If you are looking for some good YA books, then her New York Times bestselling series should definitely be your to-read list this summer. Tahir is not only an exceptional writer, but a wildly fascinating person. If you can’t read her books, then you should at least read her bio on her website, which will then convince you to read her books.

Recommended Reading: An Ember in the Ashes (2015), A Torch Against the Night (2016) [book 2]



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Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1925 and she is famous for her Southern Gothic style of writing, which frequently included influences from her Roman Catholic faith. Her stories focused on the grotesque and often examines questions of morality and ethics. O’Connor once said, "Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic." Usually taking place in the South, her stories follow morally flawed characters and the disturbing topics of society.

Recommended Reading: A Good Man Is Hard to Find (1955)



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Jhumpa Lahiri is an American author. Her debut short story collection Interpreter of Maladies won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2000. On her writing, Lahiri has said "When I first started writing I was not conscious that my subject was the Indian-American experience. What drew me to my craft was the desire to force the two worlds I occupied to mingle on the page as I was not brave enough, or mature enough, to allow in life." My personal favorite short story of hers is titled “A Temporary Matter.”

Recommended Reading: Interpreter of Maladies (1999)


Happy reading!