Lilian Min
Updated Mar 05, 2015 @ 5:14 pm

Is there anything better than getting lost in a good book? Days disappear as you fall down the reading rabbit hole and then get sucked into the post-reading feelings vortex — and when you finally reconnect with the outside world, you’re changed for the better.

That’s the power of good storytelling in general, but as today is World Book Day, we’re spotlighting the literary heroines who’ve opened our eyes, hearts, and minds to worlds beyond ours, even when they’re from Earth. There are literally hundreds of thousands of amazing fiction lady leads published across the centuries, but these are ten of the ones who’ve affected us the most:

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

We have love for all of the Bennet sisters, but this particular Ms. Bennet is the witty center of this story and the standout protagonist from the sizable Jane Austen universe. Also, her relationship with Mr. Darcy ruined many a would-be significant other, from 1813 onward.

Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl

This charming, under-appreciated, telekinetic kindergartener was unlike any other character Dahl, who’s known for his charming, under-appreciated characters, had ever written. While having those kinds of powers in real life would’ve inevitably led to disaster (see: Carrie), we all lived vicariously through Matilda’s revenge on Miss Trunchbull and her caring relationship with Miss Honey.

Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Before Katniss became a symbol of blockbuster box office success (and further proof of the power of the female moviegoer), she was Catnip, a stoic, determined girl whose greatest joys were her community and hunting. The initially “simple” facade of Katniss’s character was shattered almost as soon as it was presented, but throughout the mayhem of the Games and the revolution to come, she was our steady lens on Panem’s society, the everygirl reluctantly taking a place in the spotlight and reporting back on the ridiculousness and depravity of it all.

Sabriel from Sabriel by Garth Nix

Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy is one of the best fantasy universes I’ve ever read, and the first book and its necromancer protagonist set the tone for the rest of the series. What starts out as a rescue quest turns into a moving meditation on politics, family, and death, all framed with memorable magic and creature characters. Sabriel herself is the steady, inventive center of it all, seeking to save not one but two worlds.

Kathy from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is one of those books that starts off very unassuming and then slowly makes its way right into the center of your aching heart. Narrator Kathy holds the reader’s hand through her account of her life and loves, and when you realize what’s been happening all along, you’ll cry for days.

Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

John Green’s book releases often correspond with spikes in Kleenex sales, but unlike all of his other books, he finally found a female POV in the form of cancer patient Hazel Grace Lancaster. Wise for her age and resigned to her reality, Hazel’s strength comes not from her ability to beat up bad guys, but instead from her understanding and acceptance of the human condition in all of its imperfect forms.

Tris Prior from the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth

She embraces her fear, fights with her family, and gets the guy — no, this isn’t a regular day of high school for Tris Prior. Another dystopian YA juggernaut, the Divergent series benefits greatly from its steely protagonist, who handles everything that comes her way with a supernatural calm.

Lyra Belacqua from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

The His Dark Materials trilogy is a story of parallels, but our introduction into the story is the wide-eyed Lyra, who seeks to save her friend and gets caught up in a conflict of biblical proportions. Featuring what might be the most heart-breaking “happy” ending of all time, Lyra’s story is, once removed of its fantastical setting, utterly relatable: that of a girl trying to make her own way in a world set on determining her fate.

The ladies from the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

Okay, we’re cheating a little bit with this one — it’s too difficult to choose just one of the amazing lady demi-gods from Rick Riordan’s modern take on mythology. Between Annabeth, Piper, Hazel, Thalia, Reyna, and Rachel Elizabeth Dare, these girls have enough power to take on any of the guys in the series, but also uniquely tackle issues like race, cultural expectations, relationships, and family.

Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

What’s left to be said about how amazing Hermione is? She’s the brains of the main trio and the baddest witch around — the ultimate combination of sassy, sweet, capable, and bookish.

(Images via here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)