Posted July 7, 2014 by in Book Lists

20 Best Female Authors, Part 4

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

Welcome to the final installment of the 20 Best Female Authors! Writing the first three articles in this series was challenging at times, but this one has been the most difficult. Why? Because now I have to make the final cut, which is never easy. Although I have fretted over my final five, I am happy with the results.

Eudora Welty. Picture from eudorawelty.org.

Eudora Welty. Picture from eudorawelty.org.

16. Eudora Welty

I teach American literature survey courses, so several of my choices have been influenced by my profession. If my list has had a preponderance of American authors, at least now you know why. I selected author Eudora Welty because of her books One Writer’s Beginnings and On Writing. Although most readers like Welty because of her short story “A Worn Path,” I enjoy her nonfiction pieces about the craft of writing even more. Welty is a “no-nonsense” writer. She’s not careless with her words, which she loves, and she’s not selfish with her ideas. In both of her nonfiction pieces about writing, Welty shares with readers how to develop their own thoughts into beautiful works as well. Not all writers are willing to divulge the secrets of their writing style with others, but Welty encourages readers to become writers. Sitting down with One Writer’s Beginnings is like taking the author to lunch for a discussion about all of life’s mysteries. She’s a great essayist, and her fiction isn’t too bad either.

Anne Perry. Image from anne-perry.blogspot.com.

Anne Perry. Image from anne-perry.blogspot.com.

17. Anne Perry

Like Agatha Christie, Anne Perry has penned a staggering number of novels. Perry, a native of England, also uses crime and suspense as her primary motifs. I like Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series, which numbers about 30 books total. In these works, wealthy, upper-class Charlotte marries beneath her when she selects police detective Thomas Pitt as her husband. In Victorian England, class marriages were still the norm, so Charlotte’s actions result in her ostracism from certain circles. That does not bother Charlotte, though, who finds herself helping out with her husband’s cases. Although Thomas is quite competent, he works best when Charlotte lends a hand. Between the rigors of raising a growing family and a genuine love for each other, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt are quite the dynamic duo. Perry’s writing style is plain and straightforward. She doesn’t blow up her novels with needless description or lead readers off on wild goose chases. In addition to the Pitt books, Perry has a series about a different detective named Monk, and she also writes a World War I series, fantasy, and young adult fiction.

Margaret Atwood. Picture from upnorthgeorgia.org.

Margaret Atwood. Picture from upnorthgeorgia.org.

18. Margaret Atwood

Canadian author Margaret Atwood is a diverse writer. She’s completed more than forty volume, including poetry as well as children’s literature, nonfiction, and fiction works. Her best known book is The Handmaid’s Tale, which has been described as a work of dystopian literature set in a world where the government’s control is absolute. Atwood is one of the first female writers to cross over into dystopian-style fiction, but many female authors have now followed her in this genre, including Suzanne Collins with her Hunger Games trilogy. Atwood’s concepts are deep, and she forces the reader to pull back the layers of ideas she presents and really think about all the implications of her books’ issues. Atwood always gives readers works they can sink their teeth into.

Louisa May Alcott. Image from americanliterature.com.

Louisa May Alcott. Image from americanliterature.com.

19. Louisa May Alcott

During her own lifetime and amongst her circle of friends, which included Concord’s great writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott’s works were not taken seriously by her peers. Instead of the lofty, idealized material Emerson and Thoreau both penned, Alcott wrote children’s books that did not require deep thought from readers. Although Alcott may have wanted to write soul-searching books, that was not what sold. Instead, her children’s stories put food on the table, and in a family that became increasingly dependent on her for its livelihood, that’s what mattered. Most modern readers consider Alcott’s novel Little Women as her best work; however, scholars of her writing tend to prefer such pieces as Transcendental Wild Oats, in which she describes growing up in a commune her father, Bronson, helped create. Louisa’s anger and indignation at the idealistic Bronson Alcott takes center stage in the short piece, which allows readers to see just how difficult her life truly was. Although her children’s books have secured her place in history, there’s so much more to this author than just Little Women.

Flannery O'Connor. Picture from famousauthors.org.

Flannery O’Connor. Picture from famousauthors.org.

20. Flannery O’Connor

Yes, there are quite a few American authors in my list, and many of them are Southern, which may be expected considering I’m a Southerner, too. Still, you have to admit there’s something special in the writing style of Flannery O’Connor, who created deliciously evil grotesques. Characters such as “The Misfit” from “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” and Manly Pointer from “Good Country People” stick with you long after you’ve finished reading their stories. O’Connor seems to understand the dark side of human nature more so than other writers. Even her bad guys have a few redeeming qualities, but most humans are neither completely bad nor good. O’Connor gets that. She also regularly delivers comeuppances to characters who genuinely deserve them. When Julian’s mother gets knocked down in “Everything that Rises Must Converge,” you can’t help but cheer a little, even though you feel sorry for her by the time the story ends. O’Connor often creates resentment for a character, only to have the reader pitying the same individual before the conclusion. In addition to her short stories, O’Connor wrote several novels, of which Wise Blood is probably the best known. With Wise Blood, O’Connor tackles faith and redemption; a devout Roman Catholic, the author was never afraid to explore her religious ideology in her writing. Sometimes it is hard to believe that O’Connor turned out as much literature as she did in her short 39 years.

That’s it! My 20 Best Female Authors! It pains me to leave off some of my favorites, such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry, and Elly Griffiths, but when you can only include 20, you have to make sacrifices. Here’s hoping a few of your favorites made the cut as well.

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On Writing (Modern Library) (Hardcover)

By (author): Eudora Welty

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The Handmaid’s Tale (Paperback)

By (author): Margaret Atwood

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Little Women (Bantam Classics) (Paperback)

By (author): Louisa May Alcott

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Transcendental Wild Oats (Paperback)

By (author): Louisa Alcott

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Wise Blood: A Novel (Paperback)

By (author): Flannery O’Connor

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Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4

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.