Women’s Literature: The 60 Best Novels About Strong Women

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The emancipation of women is on everyone’s lips. While the terms “gender,” “feminism,” and “me too” now often have a bitter taste in society, many women are putting outstanding literary works on paper. From a historical perspective, it is not self-evident that any woman can be an author in our country today.

But in literary terms they are in no way inferior to the masters of creation and write stories that life writes, that move the heart, and that shape one’s own image of true strength. Whether it is a liberation story that has become a classic or a modern biography, the following 60 titles represent a selection of the best novels by strong women about strong women that everyone, and especially everyone, should have read at least once.

1. Blossoming femininity: “Desert Flower” by Waris Dirie

Desert Flower
The author depicts with tear-jerking depth the story of a nomadic African girl who had to go through hell in her homeland – a true story – her story. At the age of 13 she is circumcised, and a few years later she is threatened with forced marriage to a much older man. Against all odds, she decides to flee and eventually arrives in London, where her steep rise to top model begins.

She overcomes all the obstacles that bureaucracy, society, and her past put in her way and starts the fight for the rights of women, especially African women. Waris Dirie becomes a symbol of female self-confidence and self-realization.

2. A classic reinterpreted: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee as a graphic novel

To Kill a Mockingbird ... Graphic Novel
The Grapic Novel is on everyone’s lips right now. Now he’s also taken a look at a classic novel Harper Lee wrote in the 1960s. The novel revolves around a murder trial in which a dark-skinned man is accused of rape. From the point of view of the daughter of the public defender, Harper Lee creates an emotional but equally truthful story in which racism in America in the 1960s is the main protagonist.

Lawyer’s daughter Scout’s worldview, shaped by her father’s enlightened upbringing, takes you through the entanglements of the trial and shows how society’s pressures weigh on those who side with the discriminated against. Emotions that leap straight into the face of the graphic novel’s viewer.

3. Literary Tug of War: “The Skyscraper Jumper” by Julia von Lucadous

The Skyscraper Jumper: Novel
In her debut novel, Lucadous paints the picture of a high-rise jumper who has been beaten to death by the meritocracy and who wants to retire after several years of success. Opposing this “denial of service” as an unseen observer is Hitomi, a psychologist who is pressured by sponsors and economic drivers to spur the successful star to return to her discipline.

In this novel, the leap from the skyscraper becomes a symbol for the “taking to extremes” of the instrumentalization of man for economic purposes and strategically demonstrates the failure of humanity in such a society. A story you won’t want to put down, but one that won’t leave your memory for a long time either. A story to think about.

4. (Not) a kitsch novel: “A Whole Six Months” by Jojo Moyes

A whole six months (Lou, Volume 1)
What looks like a tragedy of love on the outside is actually the story of immense mental strength, unconditional sacrifice, and love. Moyes tells the story of young, fun-loving Louisa Clark, who, after losing her job at a coffee shop, takes a job as a caregiver in the service of a wayward, paraplegic man. Formerly athletic Will is confined to a wheelchair after an accident, sending him into a depression that poses a challenge to the life-affirming Lou.

When she learns that Will has decided to take his own life, she is able to persuade him to give her six months in which to convince him that his existence is worth living despite his physical limitations. What began as an in-between job has long since grown into a deep emotional connection for Lou, and so the next six months become a struggle not only for Will’s life but also for her own, which Lou can’t imagine and doesn’t want to be without Will.

5. More than a memoir: “Becoming” by Michele Obama

BECOMING: My Story
In the circles of well-known public figures, it is not uncommon to memorialize oneself with a biography or autobiography. One rarity, however, is that such memoirs don’t spiral into self-insertion or tedious reporting. That’s exactly what Michelle Obama has accomplished in her work “Becoming”. Her book is peppered with aphorisms that challenge and motivate women around the world to take initiative in their own lives.

At the same time, it is a stirring account of a balancing act between being the supportive wife of a man who is at the center of worldwide political interest and being a self-determined, independent power woman. Michele Obama tells her own story in such a way that every woman can find herself in it or feels addressed by it.

6. A Mother’s Struggle: “Seeing My Mother One More Time” by Zana Muhsen

Seeing my mother once again: Sold into slavery by her own father
Zana is fifteen years old when she travels to Yemen for the first time to learn about her family’s roots. There she must learn that the trip was merely a pretext by her father to take the daughters to the country where they would face forced marriage. For the young girl, a life of oppression begins in a foreign country among foreign people, surrounded by a foreign language and culture, with the only ray of hope being the birth of her son and her mother’s efforts back home to bring her home.

When this struggle succeeds after eight years, the young Zana has to leave her son and sister behind in Yemen, and once again a struggle against the Yemeni patriarchy begins. Zana Muhsen puts this struggle, theirs, into words that affect and make the reader feel the injustice as if it affected their own lives.

7. The value of family: “Little women” by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women. Four sisters stick together: New translation for the film adaptation
In this novel, written in 1869 and rediscovered in 2019 through its film adaptation, the author introduces the reader to the family life of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, their mother, and father. While their father is away at war, the young girls slowly develop into unique women with individual characters, life goals, and desires. In it, Louisa May Alcott paints striking pictures of a Jo striving for financial and personal independence, and Amy devoted to the arts, an altruistic Beth who succumbs to scarlet fever, and an almost conservative Meg who soon marries and leaves home.

A special focus of the book is Jo’s striving for autonomy, which she also tries to live out in her work as a writer. However, her desire for freedom gets in the way of her love affairs, so that by hesitating too long, she loses her lover to her own sister, Amy. A book about strong family ties and self-discovery, which raises the question of one’s own priorities in life.

8. The classic: “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice: Novel
In 19th century English society. In the eighteenth century, a woman’s worth is determined by her financial background, which Jane Austen demonstrates through the daughters of the Bennet family. The small dowry that parents are able to give their children results in Jane being denied the marriage of the love of her life, who is required to marry according to convention and his class.

After numerous entanglements and misunderstandings, Jane is finally confronted with the unexplained disappearance of Bingley. There is a reunion and a clarification of circumstances, but the complicated relationship between Jane’s sister Elizabeth and her friend Charlotte has not yet reached its climax.

What at first glance appears to be a superficial love story turns out to be more and more a critique of the categorization of people according to their financial background as the book progresses. The underlying romanticism is nevertheless permanently palpable and enriches the socio-critical work.

9. Courage knows no minimum age: “I am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai

I am Malala: the girl the Taliban wanted to shoot for fighting for the right to education
In this work, Malala describes her struggle for the right to education. The 15-year-old almost had to pay for her inquisitiveness, her striving for autonomy, and for standing up for what she was entitled to under the human rights conventions with her death, but miraculously she survived being shot in the head at close range.

More determined than ever since this incident, the Pakistani continues her fight against the Pakistanis, for the rights of children around the world, against the oppression of those who can not defend themselves against the overwhelming front. This is their story.

10. A Piece of World Literature: The Diary of Anne Frank

Diary
These are indescribable scenarios that the 13-year-old Anne Frank experienced in the period from 12. June 1942 to 1. August 1944 in a small notebook. The Nazi regime gains increasing power and the Jewish family is targeted by the Gestapo, which rigorously persecutes Jews.

Anne cannot imagine that the personal words she writes down in a time of uncertainty, first in her hiding place in the apartment on the Merwedeplein, then in the back of the building at Prinsengracht 263 (today’s Anne Frank House) in Amsterdam, will much later go around the world. The emotional account from the child’s point of view ends with the arrest of the family on 1. August 1944. And then silence reigns.

11. A Life in Art: “Frida” by Maren Gottschalk

Frida: novel
While her name is associated worldwide with the image of a strong, eccentric artist, few know the incredible story and the tedious ordeal that so shaped Frida Kahlo’s character and art and made them unique. In this novel, Maren Gottschalk brings the background to the surface without creating a dry biography.

The book presents Frida’s dazzling appearance in New York after her failed marriage, her move to Paris, and finally her return to Mexico. It traces the artist’s spectacular life, marked by successes and low blows, with emotional intimacy, and makes you want to delve deeper into this fascinating woman and her expressive art.

12. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth: “The Tributes of Panem” by Suzanne Collins

The Tributes of Panem 1. Deadly Games
In the first book of the trilogy, Suzanne Collins takes her readers to a utopian world where wars and disasters have destroyed the landscape and the land has been divided into tributes. These subfields send one member each year who is forced to participate in the Hunger Games, a battle for life and death.

The entire population becomes an audience to the gruesome events in the battle arena, portrayed as natural, in which the “tributes” confront each other. Only one will leave the battlefield alive, and so the tributes must leave their morals and ethics behind and become fighters of their own, nefarious, opportunistic, strategic killers to save themselves.

In this world, the reader accompanies Katniss, a sixteen-year-old girl from District 12. Caught between the will to survive and humanity, she makes her way through the wilderness of decaying social values. A book, not just for young people, that takes social and governmental criticism to a new level

13. The driving force in the background: “Helene Schweitzer Bresslau – a life for Lambarene” by Verena Mühlstein

Helene Schweitzer Bresslau: A Life for Lambarene (Beck'sche Reihe)
The name Albert Schweitzer is connoted worldwide with outstanding medical and social achievements. In her biography of Helene Schweitzer Bresslau, Verena Mühlstein takes a detailed look at the woman in the background of the influential man and thus adopts a perspective that has been rather alien to the public until now. The courage, initiative, and self-determination of this woman are made obvious, but at the same time, previously hidden dark sides of the couple’s life and the burden that lay on the shoulders of the dedicated nurse are revealed.

The correspondence between Albert and Helene Schweitzer included in the publication, edited and annotated by their daughter Rhena, allows the reader to participate in the family relationship and shows Helene’s existence as a self-sacrificing wife, loving mother, and strong woman.

14. A myth revisited: “The Cat Years of Florence Nightingale” by Christine Meiering

Cat Years of Florence Nightingale: On the 200th Birthday of the 'Lady with the Lamp
What drives a person to dedicate his life to the common good? In her work, Christine Meiering takes a new perspective on the pioneer of nursing and empathetically describes the path of a girl who cannot identify with the values of the aristocratic society in which she grows up. In defiance of the mentality of the upper class, which considers

Florence’s commitment to the hospital a scandal, the young woman follows God’s inspiration, setting in motion countless family disputes. An emotional novel about a self-determined young woman who refuses to be swayed from her path and should serve as a role model for all women, not only because of this but also because of her strong sense of altruism.

15. (K)ein Modepüppchen: “The Devil Wears Prada” by Lauren Weisberger

Revenge Wears Prada. The Devil Returns: Novel
This work, which has already been made into a film, has long since joined the ranks of classics of women’s literature, because who doesn’t know her: Miranda Prisley, the bossy, domineering editor-in-chief who embodies everything that makes the fashion business an incomparably tough industry that demands everything of its members.

This is the world into which Andrea Sachs, initially uninterested in fashion, enters to make a name for herself as a journalist. More and more she gets caught in the web of conformity that her job demands of her and is in danger of losing herself in the process. Weisberger creates an ambiguous image of the “strong woman” in this novel, because who is the strong one here? Andrea or Miranda?

16. Mysterious Literary Worlds: “The Bookshop” by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Bookshop: Novel (insel taschenbuch)
In a sleepy village, Florence Green builds a new existence by opening a bookstore in an old house. She ignores the warnings that a poltergeist is up to no good in there and lives out her passion for literature undeterred. Only when she acquires a new publication by a newcomer to the author scene and tries to market it, does a scandal arise that she would not have anticipated.

In this work, Penelope Fitzgerald not only demonstrates a flair for the use of words but also shows her enthusiasm for the world of books and languages, which she puts into the mouths of her protagonist. In Florence, the novel finds an independent, unwavering woman who turns her passion into a profession and defends her values against all evil voices.

17. World of words: “Far from Verona” by Jane Gardam

Far from Verona: Novel
Who better to understand the fervent desire to become a writer than a writer herself. In “Far from Verona” Jane Gardam gives insight into the mind of a young woman, Jessica, who devotes all her energy to becoming an author. She doesn’t mince words and doesn’t exactly make friends with this unsparing honesty.

Her only friend, however, appreciates her qualities and supports young Jessica, with her reluctance to conform, in her actions and thoughts. Isn’t that what we value in literature? Swimming against the current? The uniqueness of the personalities in and behind the works?

18. Letting go: “The last days of Rabbit Hayes” by Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes (The Rabbit Hayes Novels, Volume 1)
No one who hasn’t been in the same situation can even begin to imagine how it feels to be confronted with the diagnosis that cancer you thought you’d already successfully fought has returned. Nor can outsiders put themselves in the position of the relatives who have only a few days left with the sick person. Hayes is in her early 40s when the doctor tells her she has only nine days left. 9 days to say goodbye to her family, her friends, her life.

Sensitive and unspeakably sad, Anna McPartlin describes the last nine days in the life of a mother, daughter, wife, and friend from different perspectives. In doing so, she immerses herself in different perspectives, thus giving her novel a realistic depth that moves the reader to tears. An enriching reading experience for anyone who wants to broaden their horizons and delve into the vastness of familial inclusiveness and love.

19. The path to self-discovery: “The Great Trip – WILD” by Cheryl Strayed

The big trip: A thousand miles through the wilderness to myself
After a series of strokes of fate and self-destructive behavior, Cheryl Strayed has become so removed from herself that her last refuge is the unknown. Inspired by a guidebook, the 26-year-old decides to take a trip along a long-distance hiking trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, to find her way back to herself.

With no previous experience, she embarks on a 1,600-mile trek where she meets personalities that change her life, braves the forces of nature, and, above all, realizes how grueling it is to have to deal with herself. By confronting her own self, she tries to bring order and structure into her life, and in the process makes experiences for which she was not prepared.

20. Key moments: “The child in you must find a home” by Stefanie Stahl

The child in you must find home: The key to solving (almost) all problems
This book is about the strongest woman in our own lives: Ourselves. It sees itself as a guide to one’s own strength, to one’s own self, and begins this path via the most primal thing in every woman: the inner child.

Stefanie Stahl describes sensitively and comprehensibly where our nature originates and how childhood determines and shapes our existence. She empowers her readers to take the initiative in their lives. Only when we have accepted the child within us can self-awareness and self-discovery be achieved.

Ranked 21-60 of the best novels about strong women:

Place: Novel: Author: Link to book:
21. The Destiny Veronica Roth
22. Serafina – The Kingdom of Dragons Rachel Hartman
23. The Gifted Kristin Cashore
24. A teaspoon of land and sea Dina Nayeri
25. Infatuation Stieg Larsson
26. M: A Tabor South Novel Frederick Ani
27. Fate is a lousy traitor John Green
28. The Granddaughter or How I Didn’t Know the Four Questions at Passover Channah Trzebiner
29. Legend – Falling Sky Marie Lu
30. Song of the Crows Leigh Bardugo
31. The tea rose Jennifer Donnelly
32. Like moons so silver Marissa Meyer
33. The Wandering Whore Iny Lorentz
34. The Book Thief Markus Zusak
35. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë
36. The betrayed Ursula Poznanski
37. The Hate U Give Angie Thomas
38. Far away and very near Jojo Moyes , Karolina Fell
39. The report of the maid Margaret Atwood
40. The realm of the seven courts – thorns and roses Sarah J. Maas , Alexandra Ernst
41. The Golden Compass Philip Pullman
42. The package Sebastian Fitzek
43. Good spirits Kathryn Stockett
44. The essence of things and love Elizabeth Gilbert
45. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
46. The realm of the seven courts 3 – Stars and swords Sarah J. Maas
47. Anne in Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
48. Golden Flames Leigh Bardugo
49. Fortuna’s daughter Isabel Allende
50. The heart is a lonely hunter Carson McCullers
51. Game of Power (The Shadows of Valoria 1) Marie Rutkoski
52. Inkheart Cornelia Funke
53. Chain of Gold: The Last Hours 1 Cassandra Clare
54. Children of the mist Brandon Sanderson
55. Outlander Diana Gabaldon
56. With a view of the sea Elizabeth Strout
57. Hemingway and I Paula McLain
58. Life of course Elizabeth Strout
59. Flamethrower Rachel Kushner
60. Three strong women Marie NDiaye

Individual like their creators and readers

Literature by women and about women is a dime a dozen, but not every book you stick your nose into is worth the read. Among numerous trivial and kitsch novels, however, some pearls of women’s literature are hidden. What at first glance may be dismissed as superficial beach reading can turn out to be an enriching experience for the personality upon closer examination of the subject matter.

Ultimately, every reader has very individual preferences, and the wide range of books on the market is very much to their liking: their works are as individual as each author’s personality. But maybe we shouldn’t approach every book with the pretense of world literature, because, if truth be told: sometimes you just want to read about an ideal world, a cheesy love entanglement, a banal incident to unwind your soul. Every strong woman needs that.

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