Books by Women That Every Man Should Read

This is one of the 305 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

    Set in the fictitious English town of Middlemarch during the early 19th century, the novel explores the complex web of relationships in a close-knit society. It follows the lives of several characters, primarily Dorothea Brooke, a young woman of idealistic fervor, and Tertius Lydgate, an ambitious young doctor, who both grapple with societal expectations, personal desires, and moral dilemmas. Their stories intertwine with a rich tapestry of other townsfolk, reflecting themes of love, marriage, ambition, and reform, making a profound commentary on the human condition.

    The 23rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

    In this thought-provoking novel, the story delves into the dark and complex world of content moderation on the internet, where a protagonist employed to filter out the worst of humanity's online activities grapples with the psychological toll of the job. The narrative explores themes of morality, censorship, and the impact of constant exposure to graphic content, as the protagonist becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of strangers online while struggling to maintain a sense of reality and personal identity amidst the relentless stream of posts that must be evaluated and often removed.

    The 10044th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

    The novel chronicles a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high-society woman in post-World War I England, as she prepares for a party she is hosting that evening. Throughout the day, she encounters various characters from her past, including a former suitor and a shell-shocked war veteran. The narrative jumps back and forth in time and in and out of different characters' minds, exploring themes of mental illness, existentialism, and the nature of time.

    The 36th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

    The book is a collection of 13 interconnected short stories revolving around Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher living in a small town in Maine. Olive is a complex character with a prickly exterior but a deep well of emotion and empathy beneath the surface. Through her interactions and relationships with various town residents, the book explores themes of love, loss, aging, and change, painting a rich portrait of a community and its inhabitants.

    The 1677th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

    This novel is a poignant tale of fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who navigate through their childhood in Kerala, India, amidst a backdrop of political unrest and societal norms. The story, set in 1969, explores the complexities of their family's history and the tragic events that shape their lives. Their mother's transgression of caste and societal norms by having an affair with an untouchable leads to disastrous consequences, revealing the oppressive nature of the caste system and the destructive power of forbidden love. The novel also delves into themes of postcolonial identity, gender roles, and the lingering effects of trauma.

    The 225th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

    This epic novel traces the lineage of two half-sisters from 18th century Ghana to present day America. One sister is sold into slavery and shipped to America, while the other is married off to a British slaver and remains in Africa. The book follows their descendants through the generations, exploring the lasting impact of slavery and colonialism on Black lives. The narrative showcases the struggles, resilience, and triumphs of each generation, providing a deep and personal view into the historical events and societal changes that shaped their lives.

    The 2173rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker

    "Regeneration" is a historical and anti-war novel set in a mental hospital during World War I. The narrative focuses on the experiences and interactions of a psychiatrist and his patients, most of whom are soldiers suffering from severe shell shock. The novel explores themes of masculinity, identity, and the psychological effects of war, while also critiquing the societal pressures and expectations that led many men to enlist and subsequently suffer from mental trauma.

    The 380th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Autumn by Ali Smith

    "Autumn" is a post-Brexit novel revolving around the deep and complex friendship between an old man, Daniel, and a young woman, Elisabeth. Set in the United Kingdom, the story unfolds as Daniel lies in a care home slipping in and out of consciousness, and Elisabeth visits him, reading to him and reflecting on their shared past. The narrative weaves between the past and present, exploring themes of time, art, love, and political upheaval. It is a meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, on what harvest means.

    The 5060th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Winter by Ali Smith

    "Winter" is a contemporary novel that weaves together themes of family, politics, and history. Set against the backdrop of a cold, post-Brexit Britain, the narrative unfolds over a Christmas gathering at a crumbling house in Cornwall. The story centers around Sophia, a retired businesswoman, her estranged sister Iris, who is a lifelong activist, Sophia's son Arthur, and Lux, a mysterious guest who challenges the family's preconceptions and brings them together. Through a blend of reality and magical realism, the novel explores the complexities of human relationships, the nature of time, and the power of storytelling, all while offering a commentary on the state of modern society.

    The 9613th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Spring by Ali Smith

    "Spring" is the third novel in a seasonal quartet that interweaves the personal with the political, capturing the contemporary zeitgeist through the lives of its characters. The story unfolds with the unlikely friendship between Richard, a grieving film director, and Brittany, a young, disillusioned detention center worker. Their paths cross with that of a mysterious and magnetic young girl named Florence, who possesses an extraordinary ability to change the world around her. Set against the backdrop of a divided and environmentally challenged Britain, the narrative explores themes of renewal, connection, and the transformative power of nature and human kindness in the face of despair and isolation.

    The 9782nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Summer by Ali Smith

    The book is a poignant and timely conclusion to a seasonal quartet, weaving together the lives of characters across contemporary Britain with themes of history, art, nature, and politics. It captures the essence of the summer season, exploring the complexity of human relationships, the passage of time, and the interplay between the personal and the global. Through a narrative that is both fragmented and fluid, the story reflects on the human capacity for kindness and cruelty, connection and separation, and the ever-present impact of past events on the present day.

    The 9947th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Terrible by Yrsa Daley-Ward

    "The Terrible" is a lyrical memoir that delves into the complexities of the author's coming of age as a young woman of mixed race in the north of England. With raw and poetic prose, it explores themes of identity, femininity, mental health, and the transformative power of storytelling. The narrative weaves through the author's challenging childhood, her turbulent teenage years, and her journey towards self-acceptance, as she confronts her personal demons and the "terrible" experiences that shape her. The memoir is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the catharsis found in giving voice to one's truth.

    The 9691st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

    A young woman marries a wealthy widower and moves into his large English country house. She quickly realizes that the memory of her husband's first wife, Rebecca, haunts every corner of the estate. The housekeeper's obsessive devotion to Rebecca and the mysterious circumstances of her death continue to overshadow the second wife's attempts to make a happy life with her husband. As secrets about Rebecca's life and death are revealed, the new wife must grapple with her own identity and place within the household.

    The 57th Greatest Book of All Time
  • My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

    The novel revolves around a young Englishman who seeks the truth about his cousin's mysterious widow, suspecting her of foul play in his cousin's untimely death. As he becomes entangled in the widow's seductive charms, his initial suspicions transform into a complex blend of attraction, jealousy, and uncertainty. Set against the backdrop of a grand Cornish estate, the story delves into themes of obsession, inheritance, and the blurred lines between passion and poison, leaving readers to ponder the true nature of the enigmatic woman at its center.

    The 805th Greatest Book of All Time
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Set in the racially charged South during the Depression, the novel follows a young girl and her older brother as they navigate their small town's societal norms and prejudices. Their father, a lawyer, is appointed to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, forcing the children to confront the harsh realities of racism and injustice. The story explores themes of morality, innocence, and the loss of innocence through the eyes of the young protagonists.

    The 8th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Cheri by Colette

    "Cheri" is a tale of forbidden love set in the Belle Époque era of Paris. The story revolves around a beautiful, young man named Chéri and his passionate affair with Léa, a woman nearly twice his age. Despite their age difference and societal norms, they share a six-year relationship until Chéri's mother arranges for him to marry a woman his own age. The novel explores the themes of love, aging, and the passage of time, showcasing the complexities of their relationship and the consequences of their separation.

    The 1595th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

    Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the novel follows the life of Snowman, who believes he may be the last human on earth, as he struggles to survive in a new, harsh environment. He is surrounded by genetically modified creatures, and his only companions are the Crakers, human-like beings created by his brilliant but disturbed friend Crake. Through Snowman's memories, the story of how the world came to be this way is revealed, involving a love triangle with the mysterious Oryx and the catastrophic consequences of Crake's scientific experiments.

    The 1538th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

    The book follows the life of a young boy who survives a terrorist bombing at an art museum, which kills his mother. In the confusion following the explosion, he steals a priceless Dutch painting, The Goldfinch, which becomes his secret treasure and eventually draws him into the criminal underworld. The narrative explores themes of loss, survival, and the power of art to shape human destiny.

    The 1355th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

    In this gripping thriller, an abduction sets off a chilling chain of events in a case that tests the boundaries of forensic investigation and criminal psychology. A scientist from the Centers for Disease Control is kidnapped in broad daylight, leading to a desperate search by local law enforcement. Amidst the chaos, a series of catastrophic events unfolds, revealing a dark plot that threatens the heart of the city. A pair of investigators, one a medical examiner and the other a special agent, are drawn into the vortex of a sinister conspiracy. As they unravel the mystery, they must confront their own personal demons while racing against time to prevent a potential disaster of national significance.

    The 9782nd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

    A successful and renowned London theatre director retires to a secluded house by the sea in an attempt to write his memoirs. His peaceful solitude is disrupted when he encounters his first love from decades ago and becomes obsessed with winning her back. As he spirals into self-delusion and madness, the narrative explores themes of love, obsession, and the subjective nature of reality.

    The 287th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

    The book is a humorous and touching glimpse into the life and mind of a British adolescent boy, navigating the challenges of teenage life. Written in diary format, the protagonist grapples with everything from acne, unrequited love, school bullies, family issues, and his aspirations of becoming an intellectual. His misinterpretations of the adult world around him, coupled with his overly serious and introspective nature, provide plenty of comedy and make for an endearing and relatable coming-of-age story.

    The 712th Greatest Book of All Time
  • My Phantoms by Gwendoline Riley

    The novel explores the complex and strained relationship between a woman and her estranged parents, particularly her mother. The protagonist grapples with the lasting effects of her upbringing, characterized by emotional distance, misunderstandings, and unmet needs. As she navigates her adult life, she reflects on the enduring impact of her childhood and the challenges of forging her own identity in the shadow of her parents' influence. The narrative delves into themes of memory, alienation, and the search for self amidst the phantoms of familial ties that both haunt and shape our experiences.

    The 10044th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Singin’ Swingin’ And Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou

    This book is an autobiographical work that continues the journey of a young African American woman as she navigates the complexities of life, love, and career during the mid-20th century. With her characteristic lyrical prose, the author recounts her experiences in show business, her travels abroad, and her deepening understanding of herself and the world around her. As she moves through a series of personal and professional highs and lows, she remains resilient, using her talents in singing and dancing to carve out a place for herself and to connect with others across racial and cultural divides. Her story is one of growth, self-discovery, and the joyous celebration of life, even in the face of adversity.

    The 5393rd Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

The Guardian, 23 Books

Chosen by Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Richard Curtis and more. The description on the website says:

Studies show men avoid female authors. Ahead of the Women’s prize for fiction, chair of judges Mary Ann Sieghart finds out why – and we ask male authors to redress the balance

Added 3 months ago.

How Good is this List?

This list has a weight of 52%. To learn more about what this means please visit the Rankings page.

Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • List: only covers 1 specific gender
  • Voters: 6-10 people voted
  • List: criteria is not just "best/favorite"
  • Voters: are mostly from a single country/location

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