Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Feel the Love for the Ladies, People!

Inspired by the folks at Books on the Nightstand, I've been thinking about some lady authors out there who don't get nearly enough love. Let's not make this a strictly female issue - plenty of great male authors fade into obscurity, as well. Alas, since there are not as many well known women writers in the first place, their loss is felt all the more strongly.

Here are a few female wordsmiths who should get more love. Some of these are more obscure than others (especially to those on the west side of the Pond), but all could stand to find a few more readers:

If you like Jane Austen, try Barbara Pym. Her most excellent book is Excellent Women, but rest assured, all of her work is great. She has Austen's piercing social analysis mixed with not a little bit of humor towards her characters.

If you like Dead Poet's Society, try Muriel Sparks' The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Love boarding school, angst, and a life changing teacher? Muriel brings it all in her most well known novel (though her novellas are pretty great, too). But unlike the beloved (and admittedly sappy) Robin Williams movie, Sparks explores the seedier side of a teacher with so much hold over her pupils.

If you like Agatha Christie, try Dorothy Sayers. A pal of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy is known for both her laymen's theology (The Mind of the Maker) and for her Lord Peter Wimsey detective stories. I'll be honest, I prefer the stories with his gal pal, Harriet Vane, so I'd recommend starting with Gaudy Night and then Busman's Honeymoon. They are a little more challenging with the language and take a high minded view of crime, but they are delightful artifacts of the 1930's English mystery epoch.

If you like the Harry Potter series, try Jenny Nimmo's The Snow Spider.  I haven't read the full series yet, but the first book is amazing. Aimed at a slightly younger audience that Harry Potter, the writing still manages to be almost lyrical and portrays the relationships with an unsentimental sensitivity. Magic and Wales? Yes please!

If you like Flannery O'Conner, try Shirley Jackson. Okay, okay, I know you all read The Lottery in school and probably saw one of the adaptations of The Haunting of Hill House. But for reals, guys, Shirley is awesome. She pulls off the whole gothic/creepy thing just like Flannery, minus the grotesque elements, so that works better for some folks.

If you like fairy tales, try Angela Carter. Angela is a piece of work, that's for sure, and she's definitely not hiding her feminist leanings. That said, the writing is gorgeous and she brings her unique POV to any project she tackles. I especially love her short story collection, The Bloody Chamber.

If you like C.S. Lewis, try Evelyn Underhill and Carolyn Custis James. Evelyn Underhill was another contemporary of Lewis, and though she tended towards the mystical end of the spectrum, her musings on the spiritual life are as instructive as Lewis at the height of his powers. And for laymen's theology, you don't get much better than Carolyn Custis James. With or without an extra X chromosome, every Christian should read When Life and Belief Collide and especially Half the Church.

Who are your favorite female writers, either known or obscure?


  1. I love Jane Austen, so I will definitely look for the title you mentioned. When it comes to female writers, I love Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, a Finnish author Sofi Oksanen, Sarah Dessen.... there are so many I could mention. :)

    1. I keep hearing about this Sarah Dessen... people seem to love her. I think I'm going to have to check her out :)