Books By Women Authors To Look Out For In 2020
From sizzling fiction to searing memoirs to thought-provoking essays, this list has offerings not just from celebrated women authors but dazzling debuting ones too. With almost a hundred books to choose from, this year holds the promise of an exciting reading experience. Add your own finds to this list, send your recommendations to us and embark on your reading odyssey. Compiled by Archana Pai Kulkarni.
1) The Mirror And The Light, by Hilary Mantel
This eagerly awaited book has been eight years in the making. With it Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a
ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion, and courage.
2) Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, by Deepa Anappara
“This story is a talisman. Hold it close to your hearts,” we’re told, at some point, in this debut novel. Anappara’s years of journalistic work, wide-ranging awards, fellowships, and advance praise, precede the arrival of her foray into full-length fiction. Drawing on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India, the novel captures the fierce warmth, resilience, and bravery that can emerge in times of trouble.
“This story is a talisman. Hold it close to your hearts,” we’re told, at some point, in this debut novel.
3) Jaipur Journals, by Namita Gokhale
Told from multiple perspectives, set against the backdrop of the vibrant multilingual Jaipur Literature Festival, diverse stories of lost love and regret, self-doubt, and new beginnings come together in a narrative that is as varied as India itself. Part love letter to the “greatest literary festival on earth”, part satire about the glittery attendees who go year after year, and part ode to the many up-and-coming writers, Gokhale’s book stages and makes space for “the pretensions and the pathos of the loneliest tribe of them all: the writers”.
4) No Straight Thing Was Ever Made by Urvashi Bahuguna
After Terrarium, a richly layered and deeply felt poetry debut, Bahuguna’s new book is a collection of essays—sitting on the fence between personal narratives, conversational anecdotes, and research. She discusses living with mental illness in all its forms and facets—from family to physical fatigue and professional impact.
5) The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich
This novel is based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, a night watchman who fought in the 1950s against Native dispossession. Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humour, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.
6) Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez
Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the centre of Afterlife has just retired from her college, when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. Then, her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis, including maybe especially members of our human family How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves?
7) American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins
Lydia Quixano Pérez runs a bookstore in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. Lydia stocks some of her all-time favourite books in her store. And then one day Javier, a charming, erudite man comes to the store to buy a few books. Unknown to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca are forced to flee. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed.
8) This Is One Way to Dance, by Sejal Shah
In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place, and reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of colour, and feminist. These essays – some narrative, others lyrical and poetic – explore how we are all marked by culture, gender, and race; by the limits of our bodies, by our losses and regrets, and by trauma and silence.
9) Manto and I, by Nandita Das
“In this book, I have chosen to share not just my creative, but also my emotional, political, and spiritual experiences of the six years I spent with Manto,” says Das. “If you’ve watched the film, this book will serve as a companion, as it candidly cuts into the behind-the-scenes moments and the making-of the story on screen. I believe, together, the images and words will tell you a story you haven’t seen on the screen. With Manto and I, my journey feels complete.”
10) You Exist Too Much, by Zaina Arafat
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: You exist too much, she tells her daughter. Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, the novel is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings for love, and a place to call home.
Also Read: 15 books to read before you are 15!
11) A Room Made of Leaves, by Kate Grenville
Kate Grenville is best known for her 2006 novel The Secret River, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin award. Her bibliography covers historical fiction, non-fiction, biography, and books about her writing process. Her new novel, titled A Room Made of Leaves, sees her returning to historical fiction, taking place in early colonial Sydney and centring around a woman, Elizabeth Macarthur, described as a woman of “spirit, cunning and sly wit.”
12) Summer, by Ali Smith
From the Man Booker short-listed author of Autumn, Winter, and Spring comes Summer, the highly anticipated fourth novel in her acclaimed Seasonal Quartet. Here is the exciting culmination of Ali Smith’s celebrated Seasonal Quartet, a series of stand-alone novels, separate but interconnected (as the seasons are), wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories.
13) The Loneliness Of Hira Barua by Arupa Kalita Patangia, translated from Assamese, by Ranjita Biswas
The English translation of the 2014 Sahitya Akademi Award-winning collection of short stories, originally titled Mariam Austin Othoba Hira Baruah, from one of our leading feminist voices. It “paints powerful portraits of ordinary people, especially women, negotiating their personal lives in times of socio-political strife and turmoil in Assam”.
14) The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Daré
Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who wants an education. As the only daughter of a broke father, she is a valuable commodity, who is removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man. When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a wealthy household, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor. But Adunni won’t be silenced. She is determined to find her voice – in a whisper, in song, in broken English -until she can speak for herself.
15) Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride
From the author of the award-winning A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, comes the beguiling travelogue of a woman in exile: from her past, her ghosts, and herself. A nameless woman enters a hotel room. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she negotiates with her memories, with those she has lost or left behind–and with what it might mean to return home. Urgent and immersive, it’s a novel of enduring emotional force.
16) Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation and Women’s Activism in Kashmir by Ather Zia
Drawn from Ather Zia’s ten years of engagement with the APDP as an anthropologist and fellow Kashmiri activist, the book follows mothers and “half-widows” as they step boldly into courts, military camps, and morgues in search of their disappeared kin. Through an amalgam of ethnography, poetry, and photography, Zia illuminates how dynamics of gender and trauma in Kashmir have been transformed in the face of South Asia’s longest-running conflict, providing profound insight into how Kashmiri women and men nurture a politics of resistance.
17) Sex and Lies, by Leïla Slimani
In these essays, the author gives voice to young Moroccan women who are grappling with a conservative Arab culture that at once condemns and commodifies sex. In a country where the law punishes and outlaws all forms of sex outside marriage, as well as homosexuality and prostitution, women have only two options for their sexual identities: virgin or wife. Sex and Lies is an essential confrontation with Morocco’s intimate demons and a vibrant appeal for the universal freedom to be, to love and to desire.
18) My Past is a Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself, by Zeba Talkhani
28-year-old Zeba Talkhani charts her experiences growing up in Saudi Arabia amid patriarchal customs, and her journey to find freedom in India, Germany and the UK. She offers a fresh perspective on living as an outsider and examines her relationship with her mother and the challenges she faced when she experienced hair loss at a young age. Drawing on her personal experiences Talkhani shows how she fought for the right to her individuality as a Muslim feminist and refused to let negative experiences define her.
19) Weather, by Jenny Offill
Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian, which gives her a vantage point to practise her other calling: as an unofficial shrink. For years, she has supported her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. Her old mentor, Sylvia Liller wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives. As she dives into this polarized world, her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, and Lizzie is forced to acknowledge the limits of what she can do. But if she can’t save others, then what, or who, might save her?
20) Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, by Olivia Laing
In this remarkable, inspiring collection of essays, acclaimed writer and critic Olivia Laing makes a brilliant case for why art matters, especially in the turbulent political weather of the twenty first century. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia O’Keefe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, writes love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, she celebrates art as a force of resistance and repair, an antidote to a frightening political time.
21) Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, by Zora Neale Hurston
In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurston—the sole black student at the college—was living in New York, “desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.” During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This is an outstanding collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, racism and sexism that proudly reflect African American folk culture. All are timeless classics that enrich our understanding and appreciation of this exceptional writer’s voice and her contributions to America’s literary traditions.
22) Passage to the Plaza, by Sahar Khalifeh, translated from Arabic by Sawad Hussain
In Bab Al-Saha, Palestine, sits a house of ill repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracized by her community. When the Intifada breaks out, Nuzha’s abode unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary. In the furnace of conflict at the heart of the 1987 Intifada, notions of freedom, love, respectability, nationhood, the rights of women, and Palestinian identity will be melted and re-forged. Vividly recounted through the eyes of its female protagonists, the novel is a groundbreaking story that shatters the myth of a uniform gendered experience of conflict.
23) Victory Colony, by Bhaswati Ghosh
This 1950s-set story speaks of the resilience of refugees from East Pakistan—and specifically of Amala Manna—who found themselves mostly unwanted on either side of the border following Partition. In the face of government apathy and public disdain, they started anew their lives from scratch, and in the process, changed the socio‐cultural landscape of Calcutta, the city they claimed as home, forever. Needless to say, Victory Colony has renewed resonance and significance in our current political climate.
24) Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd)
Coming out this spring is this novella, which details a three-day reunion between a 30-year-old unmarried narrator, her sister Makiko and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Kawakami focuses in on each woman’s respective struggles with identity and the female body, tackling big themes with humour and offering a cold, hard look at the many pressures facing women in Japan. “Breasts and Eggs” opens a discussion on reproductive rights within Japan, and the social struggles associated with one woman making her choice.
25) Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton)
Feminist retellings of classic tales are always fun and rapidly growing in popularity around the world. In 2020, taking a collection of traditional Japanese ghost stories and crafting them into often humorous yet painfully relevant tales is a move of pure genius by Aoko Matsuda. Taking place in a contemporary setting, with a decidedly feminist bend, the book takes classic Japanese ghost stories and rewrites them to make them relevant to the current gender climate of modern-day Japan. Witty, biting, and poignant, Matsuda’s collection is a pleasantly haunting surprise.
Feminist retellings of classic tales are always fun and rapidly growing in popularity around the world.
26) My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell
Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, the novel juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. A masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions, it raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood, and brilliantly captures the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.
27) Brother & Sister: A Memoir, by Diane Keaton
With prose as quirky and affecting as her on-screen personas, actress Diane Keaton has already chronicled her extraordinary life in two memoirs. Keaton’s third, is the most wrenching yet as she tries to understand how her beloved younger brother Randy became a troubled recluse who lives “on the other side of normal.” In beautiful and fearless prose that’s intertwined with photographs, journal entries, letters, and poetry, this insightful memoir contemplates the inner workings of a family, the ties that hold it together, and the special bond between siblings even when they are pulled far apart.
28) Recollections of My Nonexistence, by Rebecca Solnit
Solnit’s first full-length memoir is the transfixing account of the feminist firebrand’s intellectual awakening. In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco, where she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.
29) More Myself: A Journey, by Alicia Keys
As one of the most celebrated musicians in the world, Alicia Keys has enraptured the globe with her heartfelt lyrics, extraordinary vocal range, and soul-stirring piano compositions. Yet away from the spotlight, Alicia has grappled with private heartache―over the challenging and complex relationship with her father, the people-
pleasing nature that characterized her early career, the loss of privacy surrounding her romantic relationships, and the oppressive expectations of female perfection. Here, she shares her quest for truth―about herself, her past, and her shift from sacrificing her spirit to celebrating her worth.
30) Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler
Tyler’s second novel in two years is about a creature of habit named Micah whose life is turned upside down by two people—first, his thirty-something girlfriend who has nowhere to go after being evicted from her apartment, and then the teenager who shows up at his door claiming to be his son. Classic Tyler, a la The Accidental Tourist.
31) The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd
Did Jesus have a wife? A 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus suggests he might have. The author of The Invention of Wings, takes that enduring scholarly mystery and delivers unto us the story of Ana, who meets Jesus when he’s 18 and falls in love with him. This historical saga conjures a woman who defies the expectations of her time by becoming a scholar and philosopher ultimately in exile from Nazareth and her husband.
32) If I Had Your Face, by Frances Cha
Cha’s striking first novel follows four young women in Seoul, South Korea trapped in a sphere of impossible beauty standards, a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move. Unsettling and deeply affecting.
33) The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
Half a decade after her best-selling, ground-breaking dystopia, Station Eleven, the writer returns with a mystery about the relationship between a New York financier, his waiter lover, and a disappearance. Set across a ship, Manhattan skyscrapers, and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, the novel paints a heady and “breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts”.
34) Little Eyes, by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell
The characters in Samanta Schweblin’s brilliant new novel reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung souls–but yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvellous adventure, but what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? Schweblin creates a dark and complex world that’s sensible, recognizable. A visionary novel about our interconnected present, about the collision of horror and humanity, from a master of the spine-tingling tale.
35) The Heart Asks Pleasure First, by Karuna Ezara Parikh
“It is 2001 and Daya and Aaftab have just met in a park in Cardiff.” This, the poet’s debut work of fiction has been a decade in the making—and it’s not your average love story, we’re told, but one of “impossible, forbidden love, difficult joyous friendship” in a world of migration, xenophobia, Islamophobia and jihad.
36) Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz
Diaz—who is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe—won an American Book Award for her debut poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her “transformative” second collection, described as “an anthem of desire against erasure”, and “a thunderous river of a book” about bodies, is already being welcomed with warm, rapturous praise on both sides of the Atlantic.
37) Shameless, by Taslima Nasreen, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha
Shameless, the sequel to the controversial and best-selling Lajja, had never been published in Bengali, or any other language, until very recently, when a Hindi translation was printed. This “timely, topical and outspoken novel about communal tensions in India” is, according to its author, “not a political novel–and instead about what the politics of religion does to human beings and their relationships: a ruthless, uncompromising, heartbreaking tale of ordinary people’s lives in our times.”
38) Name, Place, Animal, Thing, by Daribha Lyndem
Set in politically charged Shillong, this interconnected collection of stories speaks of the coming-of-age of a young woman–and the city and community she calls home. As “each chapter gently lifts a curtain to reveal glimpses of the protagonist’s Protestant, Khasi life”, we see her cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood.
39) The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins
The prequel to the trilogy will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games. Yes, this will be a major event in the book world this year. Yes, you should reread the trilogy while you wait.
40) How Much of These Hills is Gold, by C. Pam Zhang
This epic debut novel, set during the Gold Rush in a reimagined American West, has received early praise from the likes of Daisy Johnson and Lauren Groff. Lucy and Sam are two newly orphaned siblings who travel an unforgiving landscape with their father’s body on their backs. This is the story of the myth of the American Dream, of memories, of (an immigrant) family and fortune, and more.
41) Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh
Your ‘year of rest and relaxation’ is over—for the Booker Prize-shortlisted writer of Eileen, and “unlikeable” female protagonists, is back with a novel of “haunting metaphysical suspense,” horror, and the pitch-black comedy we love her for. A forest, a handwritten note, a dead body… are you hooked and spooked yet?
42) A Thousand Cranes for India: Reclaiming Plurality Amid Hatred, edited by Pallavi Aiyar
This anthology—comprising 23 pieces of reportage, stories, poems, memoir and polemic—uses the mythology, history, and symbolism of Japanese Origami paper cranes as a pathway for some of India’s best-known writers, poets and artists to pave a “shared, civic space for a conversation about the fault lines in India at a time of darkness.”
43) Why is my hair curly? by Lakshmy Iyer
Meet 10-year-old Avantika, adopted at the age of six months. In a family where everybody has sleek, straight hair, she has a head full of unruly curls. Interspersed with illustrations, the protagonist’s preoccupation with her hair becomes a starting-point for conversations about genetics and the fabric of a family.
44) Sisters, by Daisy Johnson
Lauren Groff has called her a “goddamn swaggering monster of fiction.” Johnson was shortlisted for the Booker Prize with the magical, mesmerizing, murky-with-genre, Everything Under. With this new novel about sibling love, she steers closer to psychological horror, and perhaps, to her debut work of fiction, the short story collection, Fen.
45) Hunted by the Sky, by Tanaz Bhatena
From the author of A Girl Like That, this YA fantasy explores identity, class inequality, alongside a high-stakes romance story. Hunted by the Sky is set in the Kingdom of Ambar—a world inspired by medieval India, and a world of deadly, dark secrets and adventures.
46) Little Gods, by Meng Jin
On the night of June Fourth, a woman gives birth in a Beijing hospital alone. Thus begins the unravelling of Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who until this moment has successfully erased her past. Years later, when Su Lan dies unexpectedly, her daughter Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mother’s ashes to China—to her, an unknown country, where her memories are joined by those of Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Su Lan before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. This lyrical and thought-provoking debut novel explores the complex web of grief, memory, time, and selfhood in the immigrant experience, and the complicated bond between daughters and mothers.
47) A Country Called Childhood: A Memoir, by Deepti Naval
A multi-faceted personality, Deepti Naval has not only made major contributions as an actress in the Indian cinema but donned various caps like that of a director, writer and a painter. She has won critical acclaim for her sensitive and close to life characters emphasizing the changing roles of women in India. Her recent book, ‘A country called childhood’ is a candid memoir of her growing up in Amritsar in the 1950s and 60s before moving to Bombay to chase her dreams.
48) The Magical Language of Others, by E.J. Koh
This is a powerful and aching love story in letters, from mother to daughter. After living in America for over a decade, Eun Ji Koh’s parents return to South Korea for work, leaving fifteen-year-old Eun Ji and her brother behind in California. Overnight, Eun Ji finds herself abandoned. Her mother writes letters, in Korean, over the years seeking forgiveness and love―letters Eun Ji cannot fully understand until she finds them years later hidden in a box. This is a profound tale of hard-won selfhood and our deep bonds to family, place, and language.
49) Blue Flowers, by Carola Saavedra
Saavedra is one of Granta’s “best young Brazilian writers,” and this partially epistolary novel follows a recently divorced man receiving obsessive letters from an anonymous woman, who signs off as A. and who clearly believes she is writing to the former tenant, her ex-lover, in the aftermath of a violent heartbreak. Marcos falls under the spell of the manic, hypnotic missives and the letters become a kind of exorcism. Possessed by A., he is driven to discover her true identity. Blue Flowers is a dark portrait of desire, undermining accepted truths about love and sex, violence and fear, men and women.
50) A Map Is Only One Story: Twenty Writers on Immigration, Family, and the Meaning of Home, by Nicole Chung and Mensah Demary
From rediscovering an ancestral village in China to experiencing the realities of American life as a Nigerian, the search for belonging crosses borders and generations. Selected from the archives of Catapult magazine, the essays in A Map Is Only One Story highlight the human side of immigration policies and polarized rhetoric, as twenty writers share provocative personal stories of existing between languages and cultures.
51) The Book of Rosy, by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo
A nonfiction account of a family of Guatemalan migrants separated at the border of Arizona. The Book of Rosy is told by Rosayra Pablo Cruz, the mother of the family, and Julie Schwietert Collazo, co-founder of Immigrant Families Together, a grassroots organization working to reunite mothers with their children.
52) A Burning, by Megha Majumdar
An attack on a train leaves 104 people dead, and the lives of three people change forever. Jivan wants to rise above poverty, but one comment on Facebook makes her guilty of planning the attacks. Jivan’s former high school teacher joins a right-wing party in the hopes of climbing up the ladder of his aspirations, and his success depends on Jivan’s fall. Then, there is Lovely, a hijra, who wants to become a Bollywood star, and can prove Jivan’s innocence, but her court appearance has unexpected consequences. A debut novel about power and greed, Megha Majumdar’s fiction is all set to dazzle us.
53) Hunted By The Sky, by Tanaz Bhathena
In the kingdom of Ambar, girls with star-shaped birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul has the same mark, and it is also why her parents have been murdered by the King’s ruthless soldiers. When the Sisters of the Golden Lotus take her in and train her in magic, Gul is hell-bent on avenging the murder of her parents. Cavas is ready to join the King’s army in order to save his ill father. But one meeting with Gul draws him in to her battle for vengeance. Mysterious and deadly, this book is the adventure of a lifetime.
54) Happy for No Reason, by Mandira Bedi with Satyadev Barman
Behind the six-pack fitness enthusiast is also a snotty, complaining, can’t-get-out-of-bed-today girl, who in her own way is still searching for true happiness. Mandira says that she hasn’t yet cracked it but she genuinely believes that she’s headed in the right direction. In her own chaotic way, she seems to have discovered some kind of non-scientific, non-spiritual and as-yet-non-existent formula for finding peace in everything. Just being happy-for no reason. This book is about that.
55) A House Is a Body, by Shruti Swamy
In two-time O. Henry-prize winner Swamy’s debut collection of stories, dreams collide with reality, modernity collides with antiquity, myth with true identity, and women grapple with desire, with ego, with motherhood and mortality. In the title story, an exhausted mother watches, distracted and paralyzed, as a California wildfire approaches her home. With a knife blade’s edge and precision, the stories of A House Is a Body travel from India to America and back again to reveal the small moments of beauty, pain, and power that contain the world.
56) The Women Who Forgot To Invent Facebook And Other Stories, by Nisha Susan
Nisha Susan’s debut is a collection of stories that tap into the rich vein of love, violence, intimacy and strangeness that technology, particularly the Internet, have brought to the lives of Indians. A woman in Mumbai becomes obsessed with a dead woman’s online relics, a writer in Bangalore gets stuck in a strange (and familiar) troll war, a cook in Delhi wonders whether her daughter’s cellphone is making her insane — these are unexpected stories of a country relishing and resisting technology and globalisation.
57) Destination Wedding, by Diksha Basu
Tina wants to feel Indian. She wants to know the real India and she gets her chance to get to know the country when she heads to Delhi for her glamorous cousin Shefali’s week-long wedding, with her best friend Marianne, her parents and her mother’s all-American boyfriend in tow. Navigating a world of Delhi playboys, models, dating agencies for widows, and wedding guests with personal bodyguards, Tina is determined to have an authentic Indian experience, now if only someone would tell her what that was…
58) The Golden Rule, by Amanda Craig
When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web. Hannah’s husband has left her, and she has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. But when Hannah goes to Jinni’s husband’s home, he claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth – and who is the real victim?
When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web
59) Piranesi, by Susanna Clarke
Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid. He lives to explore the house. There is one other person in the house-a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel. Piranesi introduces an astonishing new world, an infinite labyrinth, full of startling images and surreal beauty, haunted by the tides and the clouds.
60) The Liar’s Dictionary, by Eley Williams
Peter Winceworth, a disaffected Victorian lexicographer, inserts false entries into a dictionary in an attempt to assert artistic freedom. Mallory, a young overworked and underpaid intern, is tasked with uncovering these entries before the work is digitised. As the novel progresses and their narratives combine, as Winceworth imagines who will find his fictional words in an unknown future and Mallory discovers more about the anonymous lexicographer’s life through the clues left in his fictitious entries, both discover how they might negotiate the complexities of an absurd, relentless, untrustworthy, hoax-strewn, undefinable life.
61) Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun
When Ada Calhoun found herself in the throes of a midlife crisis, she thought that she had no right to complain. So why did she feel miserable? Speaking with women across America, Calhoun found that most were exhausted, terrified about money, under-employed, and overwhelmed. Instead of their issues being heard, they were told instead to lean in, take ‘me-time’ or make a chore chart to get their lives and homes in order. Calhoun book is reassuring, empowering and essential reading for all middle-aged women, and anyone who hopes to understand them.
62) Topics of Conversation, by Miranda Popkey
What is the shape of a life? This debut novel follows one woman as she makes her way through two decades of bad relationships, motherhood, crisis and consolation, each new episode narrated through the conversations she has with other women. Full of the uncertainty of the present and the instability of the past, it is a seductive exploration of life as a woman in the modern world, of the stories we tell ourselves and of the things we reveal only to strangers.
63) How Beautiful We Were, by Imbolo Mbue
We should have known the end was near. So begins Imbolo Mbue’s powerful second novel. Set in the fictional African village of Kosawa, it tells of a people living in fear amid environmental degradation wrought by an American oil company. Told from the perspective of a generation of children and the family of a girl named Thula, the novel is a masterful exploration of what happens when the reckless drive for profit, coupled with the ghost of colonialism, comes up against one community’s determination to hold on to its ancestral land and a young woman’s willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her people’s freedom.
64) Stray: A Memoir, by Stephanie Danler
After selling her first novel—a dream she’d worked long and hard for—Stephanie Danler knew she should be happy. Instead, she found herself driven to face the difficult past: a mother disabled by years of alcoholism, a father now a meth addict in and out of recovery. Lucid and honest, heart-breaking and full of hope, Stray is an examination of what we inherit and what we don’t have to, of what we have to face in ourselves to move forward, and what it’s like to let go of one’s parents in order to find a peace—and family—of one’s own.
65) Godshot, by Chelsea Bieker
The area of the Central Valley where fourteen-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live was once an agricultural paradise. Now it’s an environmental disaster. In their desperation, residents have turned to a cult leader named Pastor Vern for guidance. Lacey has no reason to doubt the pastor. But then, her mother, exiled from the community for her sins, leaves Lacey and runs off with a man she barely knows. Abandoned, she must find her own way through unthinkable circumstances. Possessed of an unstoppable plot and a brilliantly soulful voice, Godshot is a book of grit and humour and heart, a debut novel about female friendship and resilience, mother-loss and motherhood, and seeking salvation in unexpected places.
66) Dear Edward, by Ann Napolitano
One summer morning, twelve-year-old Edward Adler, his beloved older brother, his parents, and 183 other passengers board a flight in Newark headed for Los Angeles. Halfway across the country, the plane crashes. Edward is the sole survivor. Struggling to survive, he makes an unexpected discovery that will lead him to the answers of some of life’s most profound questions: When you’ve lost everything, how do you find the strength to put one foot in front of the other? Dear Edward is a breathtaking illustration of all the ways a broken heart learns to love again.
67) Happy and You Know It, by Laura Hankin
A dark, witty page-turner about a struggling young musician who takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets. Filled with humour and shocking twists, the book is a brilliant take on motherhood, and celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.
68) Blue Ticket, by Sophie Mackintosh
In a world where women can’t have it all, is choice the biggest burden of all? Calla knows how the lottery works. On the day of your first bleed, you report to the station to learn what kind of woman you will be. A white ticket grants you children. A blue ticket grants you freedom. And, once you’ve taken your ticket, there is no going back. But what if the life you’re given is the wrong one? Bold and chilling, Blue Ticket pushes beneath the skin of female identity and patriarchal violence, to the point where human longing meets our animal bodies.
69) The Illness Lesson, by Clare Beams
At the farm of Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, a mysterious flock of red birds has descended. Samuel will start a school for young women, guiding their intellectual development as he has so carefully guided his daughter’s. It’s not long before the students begin to manifest bizarre symptoms: rashes, seizures, verbal tics, night wanderings. The school turns to the ministering of a sinister physician, just as Caroline’s body, too, begins its betrayal. Written in intensely vivid prose and brimming with insight, The Illness Lesson is a powerful exploration of women’s bodies, women’s minds and the time-honoured tradition of doubting both.
70) Recipe for a Perfect Wife, by Karma Brown
In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband–and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society.
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2) Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India, by Ghazala Wahab
3) After I Was Raped: The Untold Lives of Five Rape Survivors and Their Emotional Journeys, by Urmi Bhattacharya.
4) Srilaaji: Diary of a Marwari Dowager, by Shobhaa De
5) The Three Khans, by Kaveree Bamzai
6) Cat People, by Devapriya Roy
7) The Longest Kiss, a biography of Devika Rani, by Kishwar Desai
8) From the Table of My Friends, by Sunita Kohli
9) Poison on a Platter, by Maneka Sanjay Gandhi
10) Virginity, by Jennifer Niven
11) Gazing Eastwards: Glimpses of China’s Pasts, by Romila Thapar
12) The Heart Asks Pleasure First, by Karuna Ezara Parikh
13) Landscapes of Loss, by Arati Kunar-Rao
14) Hellfire, by Leesa Gazi/Shabnam Nadia
15) Flower Shower, by Alka Pande
16) The Phoenix, by Rituparna Chatterjee
17) Who, Me, Feminist? by Gayatri Jayaraman
18) Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, by Holly Whitaker
19) The Lost Homestead: My Family, Partition and the Punjab, by Marina Wheeler
20) She – Screw Silence! by Reecha Agarwal Goyal
21) Ghosts of the Silent Hills, by Anita Krishan
22) The Legend of Himal and Nagrai: Greatest Kashmiri Folktales Retold, by Onaiza Drabu
23) Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country, by Sierra Crane Murdoch
24) Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains, by Cassie Chambers
25) Uncanny Valley: A Memoir, by Anna Wiener
26) Murder in Shimla, by Bulbul Sharma.
27) V P Menon: The Unsung Architect of Modern India, by Narayani Basu.
28) In-Between: Love Poems, by Maria Goretti
Archana Pai Kulkarni is the Books Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.