23 books by women writers you need to be reading right now
There are so many amazing books out there right now. Books that will make you think, books that will make you weep, books that are written with such ethereal language you just want to soak up every single letter. It’s especially been an awesome year for women writers —newcomer Stephanie Clifford debuted her New York social horror story Everybody Rise in August, selling it for an impressive seven-figures and even landing a film deal. Claire Vaye Watkin’s September release, Gold Fame Citrus, is being called “One of the most anticipated books of 2015.” And no one can let go of Toni Morrison’s incredibly powerful God Help the Child.
So, if you haven’t already, be sure to add all of these newly released books written by smart, smart ladies. Fall is almost here and nothing goes better with a cinnamon latte than a really perfect book.
1. Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
Stephanie Clifford’s New York is full of tea sandwiches, charity events that cost thousands to attend, boating events sponsored by Fruit Stripe (yup, like the gum), and weekends on Lake James.
2. Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht
For someone who spends half her work day on Facebook (for work…I swear!), Leave Your Mark was the smart, funny, mentoring textbook I needed. But Leave Your Mark isn’t just for those in social media —it’s for working gals who live for that career hustle. Aliza Licht, a global fashion communications exec, knows what she’s talking about. In fact, Licht’s book will make you feel like you’re just getting coffee with her —it’s personable, filled with it-really-happened stories, and it’s kind.
3. The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
A beautiful story about family, place, and friendship, The Star Side of Bird Hill is one book I haven’t stopped thinking about. In the story, sisters Phaedra and Dionne are sent to go live in Bird Hill, Barbados since their mom isn’t able to take care for them anymore. The two make Bird Hill theirs —Dionne makes it her goal to find love, and their grandmother teaches Phaedra midwife duties. When the sisters’ father comes to fetch them from Bird Hill, the girls have a hard choice to make.
4. Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Fates and Furies is an achingly beautiful, expertly dramatic story about a married couple. Lotto, a famous playwright, and Mathilde, his manager, are desperately in love. Marrying right after they graduated college, they’ve stuck to each other through everything —but there’s more to their relationship than perfection. In fact, it’s anything but perfect. Considered this year’s Gone Girl, Fates and Furies tells the tale of a marriage through two very, very different perspectives.
5. In the Country by Mia Alvar
A collection of stories about the displaced, Mia Alvar creates poignant, beautiful, and often times painful universes for her struggling characters. In In the Country, Alvar writes about a pharmacist who tries to help his family in Manila by stealing drugs. And a college student’s relationship with her brother who lives in Saudi Arabia. As the collection travels across the globe, the reader is given a gorgeous, personal insight to the realities of many who struggle with belonging and finding their identities.
6. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine smartly communicates the ways we as a culture are imprisoned to media, to insane body standards, and to the idea of relationships. The story focuses on A, whose roommate B wants to be her. And C, A’s boyfriend, who wants to go on the reality show That’s My Partner! A, who survives off popsicles and fruit, watches TV all day long, and becomes obsessed with Michael, a local celeb who just bought out Wally Supermarket’s supply of veal. Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is bizarre. It’s really, really weird. But it’s a book you won’t be able to stop thinking about.
7. Spinster by Kate Bolick
Kate Bolick takes the word “spinster” and dismantles it so brilliantly and wonderfully in her new-ish memoir Spinster. The idea of the single woman has long been akin to a scary story, and it’s about time we tackled that issue —Bolick does so by examining why so many women in the US are staying single (over 100 million), and why this is important. This is a must-read for any woman, single or married.
8. Days of Awe by Lauren Fox
All at once, everything in Isabel Moore’s life changes, and shatters. Her best friend dies. Her marriage is on the verge of crumbling. Her tween daughter becomes emotionally impossible. As Moore faces the darkest days of life, she learns more about herself than she ever thought possible. Be prepared to feel your heart swell.
9. A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
A Window Opens is getting a ton of praise right now because of its depiction of the working mom —a rare trope in literature. The story follows Alice, a married woman who has three kids, a part-time editing job, and a dog. And then one day, she lands a full-time job for a start-up —all goes well until it doesn’t. Alice’s dad gets sick, her marriage begins to wilt, and her kids grow frustrated with her “balancing act.” In a culture that’s obsessed with “having it all,” Elisabeth Egan’s world opens the conversation on just how hard (and complicated) it is to truly “lean in.”
10. Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
In Claire Vay Watkins’ world, California has succumb to its drought, and everyone has left. Except for Luz and Ray, who have holed up in an abandoned celebrity mansion and survive off soda and scavenged food. Seemingly all they need is each other —until they run into a mysterious kid. Their views on survival and quality of life change, and they abandon their home for a hopeful future. With language that is vivid, complex, and compelling, Watkins creates a story about relationships, environment, and the human condition.
11. The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
The Country of Ice Cream Star is about a future America —and it’s not in good shape. After a devastating plague, the country has been left in shambles and total destruction. And it’s up to 15-year-old Ice Cream Star to save everyone. This thriller is smart, creative, and will probably keep you up all night.
12. Hotel by Joanna Walsh
This book, the size of your hand, is filled with beautiful meditations on marriage, the nature of relationships, and what “home” means. Joanna Walsh, who worked as a hotel reviewer, goes from hotel to hotel, creating a gorgeously jolty narrative you’ll quickly eat right up.
13. God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Like most Toni Morrison novels, this one is just as gorgeously dense, calamitous, and gut-wrenching. Meet Bride, a woman who is successful and confident —she has everything except for her mother’s love. A story about the consequences of denying a person unconditional love, God Help the Child is another example of Morrison’s brilliant contribution to the contemporary literary canon.
14. The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts is part memoir, part academic conversation on gender/sexual identity, fully beautiful and smart and honest. The poet/professor/non-fiction writer reflects upon her relationship with gender-fluid artist Harry Dodge and their non-traditional family. The Argonauts is raw and wonderful, and truly indicative of how brilliant Nelson is.
15. South on Highland by Liana Maeby
Based on Liana Maeby real-life experiences, South on Highland follows screenwriter Leila Massey’s life of the chaotic city of LA, drugs, and rehab. A story about one woman’s dark, spiraling odyssey, South on Highland is refreshingly honest, and will remind you of the greats like Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Mary Karr’s memoir, Cherry.
16. Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
The story of Deb and Jack Shanley and the hurt they cause their children when it’s discovered Jack has been cheating on Deb is devastating. But this is more than a novel about marriage —it’s a novel about trust, how fragile a family can be, and just how much one person’s actions can affect the lives and decisions of other people —a ripple effect observed most poignantly and beautifully by recent MFA grad (and smart smart writer) Julia Pierpont.
17. The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein
To its core, The Sunlit Night, by Rebecca Dinerstein, is about how one learns to be alone. The story is about two friends, Frances and Yasha, whose lives are shaken up. Frances is going through some major heartbreak, and Yasha needs to deal with her father’s difficult, kind of insane wish before he dies. The underlying theme in this killer novel is love —and how much it means to us all.
18. The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch
The Small Backs of Children takes place in Eastern Europe, where an American photographer takes a picture of a small girl running away from something catastrophic. That photograph goes on to draw the attention of thousands and winning awards. It also becomes an emotional catalyst for the photographer’s best friend, a writer who experienced something that nearly broke her.
19. A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin
This salmon-colored collection of stories deserves forever real-estate on your bookshelf. Why? Because the late Lucia Berlin was a masterful writer of short stories, creating gritty, clever worlds where anything is possible. In A Manual for Cleaning Women, stories of families, laundromats, and hitchhikers will charm you, and leave you in awe.
20. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North
Sophie Stark is filmmaker who uses real-life material to create her stories. Her husband’s experiences with his sick mother, her girlfriend’s story of abuse, the crush she had on a guy in college —but is the critical acclaim and success really worth it? The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is more than just about filmmaking and the hunt for a “good” story —it’s also about betrayal, about the limits of one’s artistic license, and the consequences of selfishness.
21. Dietland by Sarai Walker
Plum Kettle works for a popular teen girls’ magazine and is literally surrounded by the idea of being thin and idealized beauty. So, she tackles these mounting insecurities about her body by getting weight-loss surgery. However, before she can do that, she begins noticing a bizarre lady following her around. A novel that encompasses the true costs of beauty, Dietland is unapologetic and makes a cunning statement about our narrow and impossible standards of what makes a person desirable.
22. Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry
Leslie Parry’s debut novel is dark and wonderful, complete with in-depth detail of old New York and centered on a family’s Coney Island sideshow. The show’s star, Belle, has disappeared, and while that’s happening, a woman named Alphie finds herself trapped in an asylum because of her mother-in-law. Church of Marvels will leave you haunted.
23. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Mindy Kaling is back with a new memoir, and it’s just as smart, relatable, and funny as Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?. The all-grown-up follow-up has a lot to say about Hollywood, the media industry, dating, and what it’s like when no one else in the TV biz looks like you. Fierce, honest, and crazy funny, Why Not Me? is your fall must-read.
(Images via Barnes & Noble, iStock)