Podcasts & Books

8 Female-Written Books To Sink Your Literary Teeth Into This Year

By Jessica Best
3rd Mar 2021

collage of epic female written books

While the pool of epic female-written books is deeper than ever, we could write about Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and Harper Lee all-day long, we’re taking a look at some serious new talent that’s surfacing in the 21st Century. Think new talent, new reads and new voices that are well worth your time.

Check out the best female-written books you need to read this year.

Emotional Female

By Yumiko Kadota

Is it the book of the year? We’d back that. This brilliant read is an absolute must for anyone this year and tales the toxic culture of bullying and overwork that junior doctors can experience in the workplace as part of their training (hint: it’s not pretty). In its true essence, Emotional Female is the memoir of Yumiko Kadota—the pinnacle representation of every Asian parent’s dream (her words). She was a model student, top of her class in med school and was on the trajectory to becoming a top surgeon.

As you might guess, the punishing hours of surgery took up most of her life but along with this, Yumiko also went up against a myriad of challenges. Sometimes she was left to carry out complex procedures (sans a senior surgeon), sometimes she was called too “emotional” or “confident” and sometimes, she was expected to work 70 hours a week or more, just to prove herself. Emotional Female is a true account of burnout and finding resilience to rebuild yourself after suffering physical, emotional and existential breakdowns. We take out hats off to Yumiko for sharing her story.

The Terrible

By Yrsa Daley-Ward

This is not like any other book you’ve read. It’s a memoir, coming-of-age story and beautiful collection of dark yet endearing poems all in one. If you haven’t heard of Yrsa Daley-Ward, she’s one of the best contemporary female authors and she’s known as the “Instagram Poet” (go chuck her a quick follow to light up your feed with her profound words) and her lyrical creations will definitely cut deep at times. The Terrible is about Yrsa’s childhood, the short-lived magic of adolescence, about growing up after, fearing her sexuality and of course, all the pain that comes with life. While it’s not the most cheerful book you’ll pick up, it’s a mind-blowingly refreshing look at life and that’s exactly why you need to read it. The Terrible is pure genius.

Homegoing

By Yaa Gyasi

When Ya Gyasi won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award for the best first book back in 2016—she was only 26-years-old. Since then, she’s also written Transcendent Kingdom (also worth your time) however the power of her debut still stands today and we may or may not have read it a few times over—it’s that good. Homegoing follows the lives of two sisters, Effia and Esi—one gets sold into slavery, the other a slave trader’s wife. Tying in the consequences of their different destinies, the book dives into seven generations and the stark difference between family and history that follows on from each sister. It takes you from the coast of Africa to the picking plantation of Mississippi and from the missionary schools of Ghana to the bars of Harlem. It’s been dubbed the Beloved of the 21st Century and we entirely back the idea that Yaa Gyasi has the writing superpowers of Tony Morrison too.

The Power

By Naomi Alderman

If you can’t hear, we’re already clapping Nicola Kidman Oscars-style circa 2017. How can we even begin to explain the magnitude of The Power? Basically, it’s a book that flips reality, a book where women actually rule the world (the fact that this is such a fantasy is an entirely different conversation) because one day, teenage girls wake-up and realise that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonising pain and even death on others. And there is your next can’t-look-away read.

Songlines

By Margo Nylle and Lynne Kelly

Having only dropped last year, we’ll forgive you (for now) if you haven’t sunk your literary teeth into the brilliance that is Songlines (which is actually part of a wider six-part series you need to get into) written by two of the best female authors of 2020. This is an absolute staple in any home library because Songlines is an archival read of knowledge stemming from Australia’s First Nations people which saw its culture flourish for over 60,000 years. While other books in this series delve into First Nation knowledge around design, land management and medicine, Songlines is a vice to provide a greater understanding in how First Nations people kept knowledge alive, not through written recordings, rather through song, art and most importantly—Country.

In At The Deep End

By Kate Davies

Okay, think the queer version of Bridget Jones. Exactly—what’s not to love about that? In At The Deep End is a hilarious sexual awakening and turning point for Julia. The book kicks off with Julia not having sex in three whole years, a very audible roommate of hers who’s still lapping up the honeymoon phase with her new boyfriend, a dead-end job, Julia’s know-it-all therapist and a cesspool of… men (sorry). When Julia gets invited to a warehouse party, her new lesbian life snowballs into a life filled with queer swing dancing classes, gay bars, BDSM clubs and the hard-to-navigate world of polyamory. In At The Deep End is a literary theme park on the peaks and troughs of life and we love it in all its unfiltered glory.

Everything I Know About Love

By Dolly Alderton

If you haven’t seen anyone and everyone posting photos of this book on their socials—where on earth have you been? This wildly hilarious read is another take on growing up and working through all kinds of love along the way (and journo Dolly Alderton has done and tried it all). In her memoir, she recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. Everything I Know About Love is witty and just damn great and when you finish this one, it would also do you a world of good to read her other book Ghosts.

The Yield

By Tara June Winch

Say hello to, what will no doubt be, one of the best reads of your life. Written by Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch, a contemporary female author you should very well be across now, The Yield is an exceptional novel of people and culture dispossessed. Knowing that he will soon die, Albert “Poppy” Gondiwindi takes to writing—his life has been spent on the banks of the Murrumby River and he’s determined to pass on the language of his people and everything that was ever remembered. Enter August Gondiwindi, who after living overseas for 10 years returns home for her grandfather's burial. Upon arrival she finds a family wracked with grief and the news that her homeland is about to be repossessed by a mining company. This one also just scored the Miles Franklin Award so go forth and delve into its pages.

Now fill your time with all the best LGBQTI+ movies and shows on Netflix.

Design Credit: Dom Lonsdale

Editor's note: Urban List editors independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. Urban List has affiliate partnerships, so we get revenue from your purchases.

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