I want to add Sarah Dreher who wrote criminal novels about the lesbian detective Stoner McTavish. The one I have read deals also with native Americans.
I’ll second Helen Oyeyemi - actually, much of her stuff, especially the earlier work, has a strong Shirley Jackson vibe to me so I get why @EJoyce mentions them in the same breath! She also does a lot of riffs on fairy tales, which I think of as her Angela Carter stuff (Angela Carter is great too).
I know I’ve mentioned Hilary Mantel in previous threads, but I can’t shut up about how much I’ve enjoyed her novels - especially the Cromwell trilogy and A Place of Greater safety. There’s no better writer of politics-focused historical fiction that I’ve found; she marries intensive research with deep character work to capture the subjectivity of people working to change their worlds.
Ali Smith is probably my favorite writer of fiction right now though - How to be Both is incandescent and unforgettable, and her seasons quartet is an amazing literary feat, using some light Shakespeare frameworks and ripped-from-headlines subject matter to engage with what it’s like to live in the world today and be able to connect with others across difference.
Perhaps of more interest to this crowd, I’m like 50 pages into Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a novel about a pair of video game developers by Gabrielle Zevin, and digging it so far.
(Jane Eyre is Charlotte Brontë and Wuthering Heights is Emily, FYI; both quite good though the latter is a bit adolescent, Middlemarch is more my jam these days).
Echoing the praise for Diana Wynne Jones - her usually fantasy books, often for children or YA readers, are a constant delight.
And yes Hilary Mantel! The Wolf Hall trilogy is probably the most immersive experience I have ever had in works of fiction.
And I’d like to also praise Mary Stewart, primarily for her 5 Merlin books, that are a wonderfully fresh take on Arthurian myth. Though she wrote much else besides.
And for historical fiction Ellis Peters - aka Edith Pargeter - wrote dozens of Brother Cadfael mysteries. All good reads. She also wrote other crime and other books that are good too.
Oh yeah, and duh, Sylvia Plath - I’d read the Colossus and the Bell Jar and liked them both, then picked up Ariel. I tore through it one sitting and then started right back at the beginning to read it again, marveling all the while.
Made me laugh, but also understandable.
Yeah I should pay better attention lol. Also the mystery mother/daughter writers are Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark.
I actually encountered Patricia Wrede in the usenet Writing newsgroup back in the day!
I am kind of basic. I know I’ve read and enjoyed many female authors, but I remember when I was young my mom loved Erma Bombeck’s comedic books about family life and I read all the ones she had. Later I encountered Jean Kerr’s similar autobiographical comedy oeuvre in a secondhand bookstore, only she was a NY-dweller (married to critic Walter Kerr) making bon-mots about things like a lengthy argument-by-mail she had trying to obtain tickets to a Broadway show.
One fond memory of childhood is my mother curled up on the couch eating ice cream and reading Erma Bombeck. She would laugh so hard she would cry, and I had trouble understanding if she was happy or sad.
For manga, there’s the always entertaining Rumiko Takahashi. A lot of variety in her works.
In the other direction, Fumiyo Kouno’s In This Corner of the World. I have both the manga and anime.
For novels, there’s Jean Auel’s Clan of Cave Bear, while James Tiptree Jr has some original science fiction ideas.
Just remember, C is for charmless (like Jane), E is for eerie (like the moors), and A is for afterthought (like poor Anne).
I haven’t read a lot of fiction in the past decade or so.
- I love Mary Gaitskill’s debut story collection, Bad Behavior, which features a lot of, well, bad behavior, mostly in 1980s New York.
- Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric is a collection of lyric essays about race in America. Transformational.
- I would recommend Patricia Smith’s Blood Dazzler, a collection of poems about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.
- The poems in Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Miracle Fruit are often, ahem, miraculous.
So far as the Victorians go, I would rate Wuthering Heights as one of the very best novels of the century. I appreciate its ambitious structure and poetic language. What other novels of the 19th century do I like as much? Only Heart of Darkness and Bleak House, I think.
I’ve said it on this forum, separately in the book-reading thread, in my Kickstarter video and on my website: Ruth Rendell. She also wrote a third strand of fiction (the second strand was also under Ruth Rendell) as Barbara Vine.
She wrote crime and psychological thrillers over 50 years before she died in 2015. I think she wrote a wider range of humans, with greater psychological insight, truth and accuracy than anyone else I’ve read, and in beautiful sentences.
She probably pioneered the Whydunnit, and created all kinds of unconventional paths through suspense narratives. She wrote police procedurals on the one hand (primarily her Inspector Wexford series) where the reader and protagonist are in the same place all the way, and on the other hand, novels where the opening might tell you everything, but also nothing about how the destination will be reached. The famous first line of A Judgment in Stone is “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.”
Her omniscient voice can occasionally be withering, or blackly funny, but within characters she’s a kind of empiricist.
Her work and ways and outlook are in my mind all the time as I work on my WIP.
Her ‘origin story’ is a good one. I quote the following from wikipedia, but it’s not some bit of apocryphal wikipedia surmising, it’s well known of Rendell:
After high school, she became a feature writer for her local Essex paper, the Chigwell Times. However, she was forced to resign after filing a story about a local sports club dinner she hadn’t attended and failing to report that the after-dinner speaker had died midway through the speech.
*waving excitedly and running over from where I’ve been standing by the punch bowl* Same! It’s haunting in the best ways. My golden shelf also features Wuthering Heights, Austen (my first handbinding project!), and George Sand (Valentine is my poison of choice).
I haven’t sat down with much in the way of fiction for a while (sadly!) but I do come with an armful of poet recommendations:
- Valzhyna Mort - my all-time favourite poet for how she splices womanhood with expectations of it. The way her language engages with grief always hits me.
- Kim Hyesoon’s Autobiography of Death is the kind of poetry that smacks you with a confusing blend of emotions and makes you work to untangle each and every one of them. You should call your mother after this one. Also a shoutout to Don Mee Choi for some really fabulous translation work (there’s a very interesting translator’s note/interview that goes into her process that I highly recommend if you’re interested in translation).
- M. NourbeSe Philip - She Tries Her Tongue - Her Silence Softly Breaks is a collection of poems that touch language, racism, colonialism, and exile. Every line has an unexpected pulse.
- Marina Tsvetaeva - verse that’s lyrical and razor-like all at once.
My favorite female authors that I read in the last year:
Jennifer Egan-- A Visit from the Goon Squad and its sequel The Candy House
NK Jemisin-- Anything. Just anything. You can’t get a bad book by her.
Paulette Jiles-- News of the World (they made a movie of this that I didn’t bother seeing because the book was so perfect), but I liked everything else I read by her, too.
Lydia Millet-- A Children’s Bible (it’s a novel, not a bible)
Jesmyn Ward-- Sing, Unburied, Sing
Edit: Oh, and my all-time favorite female author is Edith Wharton.
recently I’ve enjoyed writing by Anne Carson, Lydia Davis, Monique Wittig, and Milena Michiko Flašar!
Well, now that this thread has got me thinking about it, a great deal of my favourite books were written by women.
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrel by Susannah Clarke.
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton.
- City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling.
- Broken Earth-series by N. K. Jemisin.
- Ronja the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren.
- Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.
- The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt.
- Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin.
- Thule-trilogy by Thea Beckman.
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt.
Favourite? I’ll go with Thea Beckman’s oeuvre.
Some recent discoveries:
- Lucia Berlin’s short stories are really good, her writing is very punchy, efficient and information-packed (interesting for IF authors!).
- Nina Lykke’s Full spredning is ferocious, bitter satire, a bit like a feminist Houellebecq.
- Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex trilogy: great choral novels, very political and with lots of pop culture references.
As Astrid Lindgren was mentioned, I must confirm that. One of the most important authors!
And I want to name Enid Blyton and Donna Leon.
It is true, but when people make this list of the most influential books in their lives, I usually stopped in my twenties, until interactive fiction provided relevant authors like her.