It’s been a packed year of books and a tough year for women. Maybe in some twisted way it seems triumphant, like a forward march towards equality, but really it’s been painful, angry, and exhausting. 2017 feels like one giant I-told-you-so, but already I can feel the backlash brewing, the Roy Moore’s of the world getting away with the same damn thing over and over again. It’s been triumphant in that some of these predators have finally fallen from grace, but our fight, in the harshest reality, is just getting started.
But books, as always, have served as my escape from the horror show that is 2017, and, while about half of the books I’ve read this year were written by men, I want to honor only the female authors who have inspired, empowered, and held me captive in their imaginations.
Let me know what your favorite female-written books were this year in the comments!
Without further ado, these, in no particular order, are my favorite reads of 2017, written exclusively by women:
The Song Rising – Samantha Shannon (Goodreads)
The Bone Season, The Mime Order, The Song Rising – Samantha Shannon
I am unhealthily obsessed with this series and Samantha Shannon. She makes me feel like my writing is absolute garbage in the best possible way. If I wasn’t confined by societal pressures, I’d probably get every word she’s ever written tattooed on my body.
Okay, I’m done.
The Song Rising is the newest addition to The Bone Season series that follows clairvoyant Paige Mahoney on her quest against her corrupt Syndicate government that sells its clairvoyant citizens to the demon, puppet-master race of Rephiam. If you understood none of that, you are not alone. The first book is a full immersion into Paige’s world, and it’s good to know there is a glossary on the back cover before you’re over halfway through it. But don’t let the unique language that Shannon has created throw you off; the depth and sheer size of the world and story she’s built is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Each book gets better, darker, sexier, and while Paige is 19, this isn’t classified as a YA novel. I’m deeply protective of this series, but also want the whole world to know it exists, so do yourself a favor and GO GET IT!
“Never allow yourself to believe you should be silent.” – Samantha Shannon
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi (Goodreads)
Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
This story is told through the linage of two half-sisters born in Ghana, one sold into slavery, one wed into royalty. Each subsequent chapter is their children’s stories, and their children’s children’s stories, working across 250 years of slavery and oppression, hope, love, and freedom. This felt like the most important book that I read this year, and Gyasi’s storytelling is breathtaking, so full of sorrow and joy. I highly, highly recommend.
“You want to know what weakness is? Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.” – Yaa Gyasi
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas (Goodreads)
The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Timely and poignant, The Hate U Give begins with the police shooting of an African-American boy, and trails Starr, the witness in the car and friend of the murdered, as she struggles with justice and her role in activism in the aftermath. This is Angie Thomas’ first novel and it debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and is already getting the silver screen treatment, starring Amanda Stenberg (Rue from The Hunger Games) as Starr. If you’re worried that the subject matter will make you uncomfortable, this novel serves as a perfect opportunity for you to explore a narrative about police shootings that differs from you own views.
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” – Angie Thomas
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi (Goodreads)
Persepolis I & II –Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis is an autobiographic graphic novel that details Satrapi’s childhood as she grew up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It’s hilarious and moving and heart-breaking. My knowledge about much of the Middle East is admittedly lacking, and this was a fun way to learn more about a culture that we all desperately need a better understanding of. To paraphrase one of my favorite lines in the book, “in every religion you find the same extremists.”
“I had learned that you should always shout louder than your aggressor.” – Marjane Satrapi
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (Goodreads)
The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
This. Book. UGH, I loved it. The Night Circus is a dark, fairytale of a book and I love all things dark and fairytale-esque. The powers that be have pitted two magicians against each other in a show of strengths as they try to out-do each other’s showmanship. Add a little bit of mystery and romance and magic and you have this enchanting debut novel from Erin Morgenstern. I didn’t realize how much I missed magic until I put this one down. Fans of the movies The Prestige or The Illusionist should definitely check this one out.
“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.” – Erin Morgenstern
Rebel of the Sands – Alwyn Hamilton (Goodreads)
Rebel of the Sands, Traitor of the Throne – Alywn Hamilton
Gun-slinging Amani lives at the edge of the world and is ready to get the hell out of the podunk town of her childhood, and finds the perfect way out when a handsome and wanted stranger intercepts her at the shooting range. This series is so cool. It manages to twine so many varying mythologies into one fantasy story, from Navajo to Hindu lore, and, in my opinion, is a great example of a white author competently writing characters of color in their fictitious worlds. *Ahem* looking at your George R. R. Martin.
“[He] had told me once there was no arguing against belief. It was a foreign language to logic.” – Alwyn Hamilton
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling (Goodreads)
Harry Potter (all of them) – JK Rowling
Because you can’t talk about losing yourself in the magic without mentioning Harry Potter. I devoted an entire post to that one: After All This Time? A Tribute to the Boy Who Lived
“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – JK Rowling
This is Really Happening – Erin Chack (Goodreads)
This is Really Happening – Erin Chack
This is really funny. Erin Chack is a senior writer at Buzzfeed and This is Really Happening chronicles some of her wildest adventures, from panicking that she was going to get caught for trespassing on the Buzzfeed roof, to a bear trying to eat it’s way into her tent while her and her friends roadtripped to the west coast. This book holds a special place in my 2017 heart because I laughed along to these bizarre stories on a Hawaiian beach while, unbeknownst to me, I was sustaining the worst sunburn of my entire life. Yes, I though to myself while I lay on the floor of my friend’s bathroom that night trying not to pass out from the pain – this is really happening.
“And that’s true friendship, isn’t it? Giving each other space to be your true, weird selves.” – Erin Chack
the sun and her flowers – Rupi Kaur (Goodreads)
the sun and her flowers – Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur writes beautiful, empowering poetry. The topics are intense, sometimes graphic, but always with the intention of teaching self-worth and female empowerment. I recently discovered that Kaur self-published her first book, Milk & Honey, with no idea that she would, in months, become a movement.
“a lot of times
we are angry at other people
for not doing what
we should have done for ourselves
This doesn’t do justice to all of the great books I’ve read by women this year, but it’s a taste of the creative, harrowing, hilarious and gut-wrenching stories that women bring to this planet, stories that are jeopardized when our society allows power, inequality, and sexual harassment to try to silence us.