Posted June 16, 2014 by in Awesome Books

20 Best Female Authors, Part 1

I’ll admit that trying to create a list of “Top 20” anything when it comes to reading is downright difficult. Yet, here I am about to give you a list of the “20 Best Female Authors.” I must have been nuts when I accepted this assignment! Because I’m so passionate about each one of these ladies, I can’t say just a few words. For that reason, you’ll find out all of the top 20 in four installments over the next few weeks.

My criteria for admission to this list includes my interest in the authors, volume of work, longevity in the writing world, impact of work, and fun factor. The list is not arranged in any particular order, so off we go!

Agatha Christie. Image from www.nostalgic-radio.com

Agatha Christie. Image from nostalgic-radio.com.

1. Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie is not everyone’s cup of tea, but she’s on my list. Why? I have been reading her books for as long as I can remember, and I have yet to exhaust her extensive body of work. Starting in 1920 with the publication of her first mystery, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie published about a book a year. For me, reading Agatha Christie is like eating home cooking! When I’m having a difficult time, or want something easy that flows, I return to her. Most Christie fans like her egotistical private investigator Hercule Poirot best, but I delight in Miss Marple. What a sharp old cat! Even though I have read most of her novels and know her style, with the least likely suspect usually being the guilty party, Christie still manages to throw me for a loop on occasion. Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, and The Body in the Library are among my favorites by Dame Agatha.

Author JK Rowling. Picture from nerdist.com.

Author J. K. Rowling. Picture from nerdist.com.

2. J.K. Rowling

Ah, Harry Potter. I can remember sitting down with my son, age four at the time, and watching the first Harry Potter film together. After that, we devoured Rowling’s books! We simply could not read them fast enough. What I love best about Rowling’s writing of the Harry Potter series is her ability to create a realistic fantasy world and how she made me love her characters. With the first major death of the series, Rowling removes the veil of innocence and shows us that even children must face all of life’s challenges. To this day I am angry with her about some of the deaths in book seven, and (SPOILER ALERT) I still cry when Hedwig and Dobby die, but I love this series all the same. Even though Harry Potter is marketed as a children’s series, Rowling’s books are just as much fun for adults as they are for kids. We owe her our admiration for introducing an entire generation to the wonderful world of magic.

Author Harper Lee. Image from biography.com.

Author Harper Lee. Image from biography.com.

3. Harper Lee

Speculation in my part of the world, only 50 miles from where Harper Lee lives today, is that Lee wrote other books but under a different name. But what if she really did write only the one? Well, if that book is To Kill a Mockingbird, would you need to write another? Trying to pick a favorite book is like trying to pick a favorite child in a family of multiple children: you just shouldn’t. Still, if I had to name a favorite, TKAM would be it. Perhaps it is because I am Southern that I love Lee’s book so much; perhaps it is because I live where she does (rural Alabama) and understand the struggle she describes in her work and can see how that struggle continues to exist in all parts of the world that I find her novel so engaging. Lee’s book is not one about racial discrimination alone; class and gender discrimination rear their ugly heads in this novel as well. Yet because we are told the story through the eyes of an innocent little girl, we only realize when Scout does that humans complicate things unnecessarily. Lee’s writing is brilliant.

The Brontë sisters. Photo from bbc.co.uk.

The Brontë sisters: Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. Photo from bbc.co.uk.

4. The Brontë Sisters

Okay, I understand that I am cheating here! Still, the Brontës were a like-minded group of sisters, enough so for me to list them together. To my shame be it spoken, I’ve only ever liked Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Charlotte’s Jane Eyre. Am I Team Heathcliff or Team Rochester? I’ll readily admit that while Heathcliff’s love borders on the obsessive, I’ll take his devotion, crazy though it may be, any day. On the other side, I’m certainly Team Jane instead of Team Catherine. “Catherine Earnshaw Linton Heathcliff Earnshaw” (yes, I know that’s actually two Catherines, and if you have never read the books, that won’t make any sense) is too wishy-washy. By comparison, Jane Eyre is a steadfast woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. Although the Brontë sisters lived in a time when women were second-class citizens, they must have been headstrong girls to have assumed men’s names in order to be published. If they were anything like the beautiful, haunting characters they created, they were forces to be reckoned with.

Author Zora Neale Hurston. Picture from kulturekritic.com.

Author Zora Neale Hurston. Picture from kulturekritic.com.

5. Zora Neale Hurston

I cannot imagine the literary world without the gem that is Zora Neale Hurston. Yet, had it not been for author Alice Walker’s efforts, Hurston would be a relative unknown to today’s readers. Yes, I love Their Eyes Were Watching God, and while it is a beautiful tale of survival and coming into one’s own, this novel is not my favorite of Hurston’s work. I like her short stories, especially “Sweat.” Many of Hurston’s female characters start off as doormats for abusive husbands and boyfriends, but the ones with any grit usually grow a backbone and turn the tables on their oppressors before the story ends. I love that about Hurston’s stories, and I enjoy her use of dialect. As an anthropologist, she understood the value of preserving life as it was, which she captures in her literature.

So, that’s part one of four in this series on “20 Best Female Authors.” Did your favorite make the list? Want to make some suggestions about who else should be included? Send me a comment in the space below. Who knows! Your favorite may appear in the next installment.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God (Paperback)

By (author): Zora Neale Hurston

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Jane Eyre (Paperback)

By (author): Charlotte Bronte

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The Queen of Mystery has come to Harper Collins! Agatha Christie, the acknowledged mistress of suspense—creator of indomitable sleuth Miss Marple, meticulous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, and so many other unforgettable characters—brings her entire oeuvre of ingenious whodunits, locked room mysteries, and perplexing puzzles to Harper Paperbacks…including And Then There Were None, the world’s bestselling mystery, in which ten strangers, each with a dark secret, are lured to a mansion on an uninhabited island and killed off one by one.
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20 Best Female Authors, Part 1 5.00/5 (100.00%) 1 vote

Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.