This weekend I went away for Memorial Day to a beautiful riverside cabin in the woods upstate. At one point, sitting by the riverbank in the sunshine, I looked up from my book to take note that all five of us were reading when we could’ve been doing anything we wanted. (We’d all packed more than one book even though we were limited to one duffel bag each—just in case.) It warmed my heart, I tell you. There was also much discussion of what we were reading—particularly of the third book in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, which one person had brought along and another had already read.
People who’ve read these particular books tend to invoke the heroine’s enviable toughness. I’m often struck by conversations about a heroine so badass that it makes the book worth reading, because it’s not something I can really recall experiencing. I like to think I’m pro-woman (at the very least because I am one, and I’m pretty pro-me) and have a good handle on which ladies supposedly kick ass, but I don’t have that gut reaction of identification or aspiration or whatever it is that so many women (and men) I know do to a tough heroine and the book in which she lives. Of those incredible female characters I can identify off the top of my head, they’re really supplied by my childhood reading: Laura Ingalls; Pippi Longstocking; Jo March, up until the regrettable point that she ditches Laurie for the old German at which point I pretend the book is over so that I can still love it; etc. When I think of my favorite characters from non-children’s books, they’re really all men. As are a large percentage of my favorite authors.
I’m not 100% sure it matters—a great book is a great book, and a great character is a great character—but I still feel like I must be missing something. So this summer, I’m challenging myself to focus my personal reading on amazing women.
Here’s where you come in: since my natural reading proclivities have been steering me the wrong way, I’m going to need a list. I’ll stick Larsson on there, but I’m feeling the overwhelming buzz kick up my contrarian nature, and I’m just not ready to tackle the girl or her dragon tattoo quite yet. So below, let me know your favorite female characters, your favorite female authors, and why (without spoilers), and I’ll give as many as I can a shot. Then I’ll let you know how I fare when the summer is through!