Alright, I know. I get it. You’ve all missed my amazing lists. Well, don’t worry… I’m back!
Here I am this time with some enviably clever ladies to celebrate female authors and their incredible masses of compelling and unstoppable work. I’ve hand-picked five of the top most “I’m-so-unable-to-put-this-book-down-how-will-I-ever-go-on-once-it-ends” authors and the best books from their collections to get yourself started. Now, there are literally hundreds, thousands even, of fantastic female authors including (but not limited to) the Brontë sisters, Mary Shelley, Harper Lee, Jane Austen, Maya Angelou and Sylvia Plath… but I’m going to just be focusing on some slightly “geekier” ladies for you. We’ll be looking at horror and mystery (hold your surprise), science-fiction, fantasy, alchemy and dystopia. So, find your special reading glasses and pay attention! I’m only going to list them once. Here we go.
For the love of God, pick up a book by Mo Hayder. Hayder has written some of the most terrifying crime thrillers you will ever read, and you are completely missing out if horror or mystery is, in any way, your “jam.” Her first novel was Birdman. Some reviewers found the novel (which concerns a serial killer with a particularly vicious modus-operandi) too violent and disturbing yet, despite this, the book became an international bestseller, and her follow-up, The Treatment was voted by The Times as one of “the top ten most scary thrillers ever written.” After years as a barmaid, security guard, filmmaker and hostess at a Tokyo nightclub, Hayder collected all her experience and began writing some of the most compelling books I’ve ever read in my life.
Not the least of which is her novel The Devil of Nanking (which is where I recommend that you start). It gave me literal nightmares and kept me awake at night thinking about it. Yes me, the Princess of Darkness and Horror herself. Don’t believe me? Here’s a quick plot summary:
The Devil of Nanking (also published as Tokyo) is about a young woman, nicknamed “Grey,” who becomes obsessed with the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking, also known as the Rape of Nanking. She travels to Japan in order to find a professor said to have rare footage of the massacre detailing an event that she could not otherwise prove occurred. The professor decides that he will only show her the tape if she was to procure an unknown ingredient of Chinese medicine from a notorious Yakuza group with an even more infamous and terrifying leader. This throws Grey into a world of insane violence, fear and horror as she tries to survive long enough at the fringe of one of the most terrifying gangs in Tokyo. Think torrents of rain on dark neon-lit streets where the gutters fill with puddles of water and buckets blood. Sounds good doesn’t it? Yeah, I know.
No one can deny the exquisite talents of Gillian Flynn. An astonishing writer of compelling dramas such as Gone Girl and Dark Places, Gillian Flynn has swiftly become a master of dark drama, turning her words inwards and dissecting the human condition, mental health and the very worst temptations our brains offer up to us in moments of hot desperation. The former television critic as slid herself into the role of author with enviable ease. She is often accused of being a misogynist because her female characters are often depicted unflatteringly, but the mere idea that women are innately good or innately nurturing is frustrating — and Gillian proudly promotes the idea that women can also be pragmatically evil, bad and selfish which makes for delicious reading. More good, potent female villains please!
Start with Sharp Objects, a stomach-wrenching journey into family politics. Like Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, Sharp Objects invites you into the head of a character trying to pull herself together and failing every step of the way. Camille Preaker is the estranged daughter of a wealthy and emotionally distant Missouri matriarch. With the only happy memories from her childhood consisting of a long-dead sister, Camille is not eager to return to her one-stoplight town to cover the murder of one little girl and the disappearance of another. Camille manoeuvres through the situation with heavy drinking, a loathing compulsion to please the people who constantly hurt her and the ever-present, dark desire to pick up a blade again, just once more, to carve another word into her already heavily-marked skin. Go, right now, read it!
With all the hype and excitement surrounding the latest trailer for the new adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, I thought it more than fitting to put Margaret Atwood in this list. An amazing author with more than 20 fiction novels to her name (not counting her nonfiction works, 15 books of poetry, 7 children’s books, a graphic novel and multiple short fiction collections *pause to catch breath*), Margaret Atwood is nothing short of legendary. A well-known feminist, humanist, environmental activist and proud Canadian, Maggie totally dominates the world of print and as kept the genre of science fiction alive since the mid-60s. *applause*
Start your Atwood journey with The Handmaid’s Tale. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the futuristic Republic of Gilead. Sometime in the future, conservative Christians take control of the United States and establish a dictatorship. Most women in Gilead are left infertile after repeated exposure to pesticides, nuclear waste or leakages from chemical weapons. The few fertile women are taken to camps and trained to be handmaidens, birth-mothers for the upper-class. Infertile lower-class women are sent either to clean up toxic waste or to become “Marthas,” house servants. No women in the Republic are permitted to be openly sexual; sex is for reproduction only. The government declares this a feminist improvement on the sexual politics of today when women are seen as sex objects. I dare you to try to close this book once you start it!
I mean… I gotta put Her Majesty on this list, right? J.K Rowling, author of the incredible Harry Potter series (I’m pretending like you don’t know this shit already and it’s cracking me up) is now one of the most well-known authors in the entire world. The Potter books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, sold more than 400 million copies and been the basis for a stratospherically popular series of films. Time magazine named her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral and political inspiration she has given her fandom, but did you know that she has also written a series of books under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith? No? Finally, something you didn’t know about world famous J.K Rowling? Well, then listen up!
The Cormoran Strike series begins with the stellar The Cuckoo’s Calling. Lula Landry, a celebrity model rumoured to have a drug problem, falls to her death one snowy night. Lula’s brother asks struggling London PI Cormoran Strike to investigate. Cormoran knows what he’s up against: the rich are famously good at blockading information sharing. Laden with plenty of twists and distractions, this book ensures that readers will be puzzled and totally engrossed for quite a spell (sorry, I couldn’t help it). These books are filled with INCREDIBLE mystery and will keep you hooked from cover to cover. J.K proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that she deserves every ounce of credit for her talent for writing about both the Wizarding World and this far less magical but equally as compelling Muggledom.
I thought I’d end on a nice manga series for you! As the creator of the award-winning series Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa is among the most successful manga artists of this century. The series has sold over 64 million volumes and earned two anime adaptations and two separate theatrical releases. Fullmetal Alchemist (Japanese title Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) follows the story of the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, who live in a world where those who know how to do so can practice the art of alchemy (transmuting one material into another or reshaping it into new forms). The brothers’ skill with alchemy at an early age led them to believe they could bring their recently-deceased mother back to life using human transmutation — a forbidden, taboo practice of alchemy. It ends up costing Ed his right arm and left leg (now replaced with artificial “automail” limbs) and leaves Al as a soul affixed to an empty suit of armour. It’s completely badas, full of action, suspense and buckets of emotion just right for pulling your heart out and stomping it into the ground.
Incidentally, Hiromu Arakawa is a pen name. Her real first name is Hiromi, and she is among the growing number of female artists in the shonen manga industry. In a more enlightened world, this would not be a surprise. It wouldn’t even matter. But it is incredibly common to find online comments like, “I had no idea the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist was a woman! Weird!” There is still a perception among people that women can’t write “boy’s stuff” or “action stuff.” But she follows in the footsteps of a woman she cites as one of her influences, the creator of Inuyasha and Ranma ½, Rumiko Takahashi. The shonen mangaka (manga artist) Takahashi is not only one of the richest manga artists in Japan but is also said to be the best-selling female comics artist in world history. GET IT, GIRLS!
So, what did you guys think? Any delicious female authors you think I need to check out? Read any of the books or authors I’ve mentioned here? Or, did you just miss me a whole lot? Tweet me @mickeyralph so we can have a nice big chat about it! Yass!