4 female authors worth binge reading

4 female authors worth binge reading

Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon a new-to-me author and feel immediately compelled to read everything they’ve ever written—preferably before the week is over.

I’m always delighted to find another author whose work I love, whose books feel compulsively readable, whose work I can’t get enough of.

The ninth category for the 2017 Reading Challenge—for those of you who want to put the “oomph” back in your reading life—is “a book in the backlist of a new favorite author.” Now, you may already have your favorite authors whose work you are still catching up on. I hope you do. But just in case, I’m sharing some of my favorites today to bolster/crush your personal To Be Read list. (And yes, they all happen to be female. Hmm…)

Feel free to borrow as needed; I’m happy to share the book love.

Some of you have told me you don’t know what “backlist” means, so here’s the scoop: it just means a book that’s not an author’s newest. As in, when John Green’s new book Turtles All the Way Down hits shelves in October, The Fault in Our Stars will become a backlist title. Now you’re in the know. (Wasn’t that easy?)

Series: To Binge Read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah

Americanah

This is Nigerian novelist Adichie's third novel, but the first I read. A highlight: Adichie seamlessly weaves blog posts—about race, national identity, class, poverty, and hair—into the narrative. The novel grapples with difficult issues without becoming overwrought. I would not have read this based on the flap copy, but I was hooked from page one. Haunting, moving, incredibly well done. Terrific on audio. Heads up, Reading Challenge players: this is a fantabulous pick for your immigrant story. More info →
Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

In 1967 Nigeria, the Igbo people of the East seceded to form their own nation of Biafra, inciting a bloody three-year civil war followed. This novel tells the story of that conflict, known as the Biafran War—an event largely forgotten outside Nigeria—through the eyes of five diverse characters: a university professor, his privileged girlfriend, their servant boy, her twin sister, and her British journalist boyfriend. This is a story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. (Hot tip: the audio version is fantastic.) More info →
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

This little book packs a powerful punch. When a friend asked for advice on how to raise her new daughter as a feminist, Adichie responded with this letter, which includes 15 suggestions for how to empower her baby girl to become a strong, independent written. Easy to read in one sitting, and worth doing so. More info →
Series: To Binge Read Jennifer E. Smith
Windfall

Windfall

Alice doesn't believe in luck, at least not the good kind. But when she buys her friend Teddy a lottery ticket for his 18th birthday, she picks the good ones: 31 (Teddy's birthday). 9 (the number of years they've been friends). And for the Powerball number: 13 (the date both her parents died, 13 months apart, making her an orphan). That unlucky number wins him 140 million dollars. Teddy promises her the money won't change anything, but of course it does. A novel of love, family, fate, and Chicago, and one that you could read in the course of one happy afternoon. More info →
The Geography of You and Me

The Geography of You and Me

An MMD Summer Reading Guide pick. Owen and Lucy live in the same apartment building, but don’t meet until they’re stuck in an elevator together during a blackout. They forge an instant connection—but almost immediately after, Owen and his father take off for New Mexico, then California, then Seattle, and Lucy and her parents move to Scotland, then England. As they move farther apart, their connection deepens, which makes them wonder: what if home isn’t a place, but a person? More info →
This Is What Happy Looks Like

This Is What Happy Looks Like

This is such a fun read for anyone who has a soft spot in their heart for a solid YA novel, and it's a must-read if you loved the movie Notting Hill. When a teenage Hollywood star mistypes an email address, his message ends up in the inbox of a small-town teenage girl in Maine. The two strike up a witty correspondence, even though (or really, because) she doesn't know who he is. When his latest film is shot on location in her town, the relationship moves from online to real life. But the paparazzi make his life miserable, and the girl has secrets of her own. You could read this in one afternoon. More info →
Series: To Binge Read Joshilyn Jackson
The Almost Sisters

The Almost Sisters

I loved Jackson's latest novel, about a complicated Alabama family and the "two Souths" it inhabits. graphic novelist Leia finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after a drunken one-night-stand at a comic book convention. She doesn't know the father's name, but she knows he was a handsome black man who looked even cuter in his Batman suit. As Leia absorbs the knowledge that she'll soon be a mother to a biracial baby, she is summoned home to Alabama to do what she can for her struggling family—her stepsister's unraveling marriage, her grandmother's worsening dementia, and a shocking secret hidden in the family attic. This is a fast-reading, big-hearted novel that tackles Serious Issues really, really well—while spinning a terrific story. More info →
Gods in Alabama

Gods in Alabama

I LOVED this (and gushed about it on What Should I Read Next). Part love story, part murder mystery, and pure Southern fiction. After spending ten years in Chicago, hiding from her past, Arlene returns home to face a secret she's been hiding since she fled town after high school, and introduce her black boyfriend to her racist mother. There's a lot of strong language and more than a few triggers, so do a little research before diving in if you're a sensitive type, but the author does it for a reason, to powerful effect. Perhaps my favorite Joshilyn Jackson novel, and that's saying something. More info →
Someone Else’s Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story

This was my first Joshilyn Jackson novel. Several devoted readers told me they didn't fall in love with Joshilyn Jackson's writing until they listened to her narrate her own stories on audio and from the opening scene you'll understand why. This Southern novel begins with a holdup at the Circle K, and weaves together themes of loss, love, date rape, and Asperger's Syndrome into one strange but strangely fitting story. Heads up for a few disturbing/graphic scenes. More info →
Series: To Binge Read Tana French
The Likeness

The Likeness

Author:
This taut psychological thriller has great characters, F-bombs galore, and kept me glued to the couch for two days. It's the second (and perhaps the best) in French's Dublin Murder Squad series, which doesn't need to be read in order. The premise might be a tiny-bit far-fetched (although it's certainly interesting to think about), but if you go with it, you'll be rewarded with a great read. More info →
Faithful Place

Faithful Place

Author:
This addictive mystery plays with the ideas of long-lost love and what might have been—and it's a good one. When he was 19, Frank Mackey planned to run off with his girlfriend Rosie Daly: they would cut ties to home, get married, and start a new life in England. When Rosie didn't show, Frank assumed she changed her mind and left without him. But 22 years later, Rosie's suitcase is found hidden in their planned meeting spot. Frank never got over her, and he'll do whatever it takes to uncover what happened. This is a sad, sad story, but it's such a good one. (Hot tip: the fabulous accents in the audio version bring it to life.) More info →
The Trespasser

The Trespasser

Author:
In her latest Dublin Murder Squad novel, French shines her spotlight on Antoinette Conway, who readers first met in The Secret Place. Conway and her partner are assigned to work what appears at first glance to be an ordinary domestic dispute that ended badly, but the evidence makes her suspect there's a little more to it. As they investigate, they keep bumping up against obstacles from within their own squad. Riveting from start to finish. More info →

Who are your favorite authors worth binge reading? What are YOU reading for this category?

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73 comments

  1. Lori Narlock says:

    An author with a fantastic back list is Richard Russo. He won a pulitzer for Empire Falls, but his earlier books, Risk Pool, Straight Man and Nobody’s Fool are his best books IMHO. All three can be read in a day or two and you’ll want to swallow them whole.

  2. Halle says:

    I love discovering an author and having her entire backlist to devour. I’ve done that with Liane Moriarty, Kristan Higgins, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and Louise Penny!

  3. You have to read Jackson’s The Opposite of Everyone for Paula (I liked it better than Someone) and don’t skip her novella of Shandi’s story–it’s also fantastic on audio and a great listen for one of those 2-3 hour drives you probably have coming up with the book appearances.

  4. Kelly says:

    I’m so glad I’m not the only one that does this! When I find an author I like I immediately want to grab all the books she’s written from the library and read them.
    Here’s my all-time fav list (besides Jane Austen, of course! :):
    Gene Stratton Porter 1863-1924
    The most well-known of Mrs. Porter’s is Girl of the Limberlost, which was made into a movie (Freckles should really be read first as the backstory & to get to know the characters). The first of her books I read was The Keeper of the Bees. At first I struggled to get into the story & initially found the characters a tad too strong and somewhat unlikable; but then I got hooked. I found that most of her characters & books hit me the same way (initially turned off by the character or plot, then couldn’t put it down!). Some of my favs besides those I already mentioned include The Harvester, A Daughter of the Land, Her Father’s Daughter & The Magic Garden. Her characters & themes aren’t namby pamby!
    Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865):
    Loved North and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford & Mary Barton
    Flannery O’Connor – Amazing writer who tackles fallen humanity head on…
    Meg Clayton Waite – Loved the Four Mrs. Bradwells and The Race for Paris
    Kate Moriarty
    First book I read was The Forgotten Garden & I’ve gobbled up every one of her books since. I did have a struggle getting into The Lake House, but on the second try I found I really liked it!!
    Nancy Turner – Loved the Sarah Agnes Prine series and my name is Resolute Sandra Dallas – Diary of Mattie Spenser was my fav
    Jennifer Chiaverini
    Right now I’m binge reading my way through The Elm Creek Quilt Series & am looking forward to reading more of her historical fiction. What I especially like about Mrs. Chiaverini’s writing is that she presents strong characters and the different books give you deeper glimpses into their stories. A big plus for me is that there’s no smut or profanity (I like a clean read).
    Kate Jacobs – the Knitting Series hooked me (as did The Elm Creek Quilters)
    Pam Jenoff
    Susan Meisner – Bridge Across the Ocean, Shape of Mercy, Secrets of a Charmed Life, Fall of Marigolds
    Karen White – Sound of Glass, Memory of Water, Flight Patterns
    Tracy Chevalier – just happened upon her books at the library when picking up a Jennifer Chiaverini book… just finished The Last Runaway and I look forward to reading more.
    Beth Hoffman
    She hasn’t written too much but I absolutely LOVED saving CeCe Honeycutt & Looking for Me
    Anne Applebaum
    I’m a Sovietologist by training, so I really like Mrs. Applebaum’s treatment of Soviet history.

    • Mimi says:

      I read Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter this year and loved it. You are right – her characters are strong and in spite of when the books were written, not namby pamby.

      • TRACY LEMOS says:

        I absolutely adore Beatriz Williams and highly recommend her books! I’ve read them all…. thanks for the great list of books!

    • Betsy says:

      Thanks for this amazing list!

      I was hoping to see Tracy Chevalier in the comments! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Remarkable Creatures, The Last Runaway, and Girl with a Pearl Earring, of course. I’m about halfway through At the Edge of the Orchard right now and really enjoying it, too.

    • Lee Ann says:

      Gene Stratton-Porter can be horribly racist – Her Father’s Daughter is particularly offensive, and A Daughter of the Land isn’t much better. Keep that in mind if you choose to try her books.

      • Kelly says:

        That’s what I thought too at first – the rashness of her characters & their unabashed racism was off-putting to me. I did some research, though, and realized that she wasn’t actually racist herself, although the theme pops up in her characters and story lines. She was endeavoring to shine a light on prejudices & confront people with them to help them see the good in every person. Flannery O’Connor is another author many vehemently react to – because she shines a light on fallen human nature.

  5. Victoria says:

    I’m reading all of the Maisie Dobbs books this year, by Jaqueline Winspear. I read Elegy for Eddy last year after you recommended Maisie Dobbs on WSIRN. Then began with the first in the series in January, and have got to A Lesson in Secrets so far (interspersed with other reading). Love them, not super deep, but page turners and just a little bit more meat than a ‘beach read’!
    What am I going to read next year though….already I can see the end of the list!

  6. Cindy Courtney says:

    I recommend Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace), Jane Smiley (A Thousand Acres, Horse Heaven), Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion), Edith Wharton (The House of Mirth, Age of Innocence, The Buccaneers), Philippa Gregory (The Other Boleyn Girl, The Boleyn Inheritance). I could go on and on!

  7. Christine says:

    I’ve loved everything by Kate Morton and her backlist would be great while waiting for her next book to come out (she’s working on book 6 now but I can’t find when it’s supposed to come out). Other authors I’ve binge-read the backlists of (or am still working on!) … Joshilyn Jackson, Liane Moriarty, Sarah Addison Allen, Louise Penny, Fredrik Backman, Chris Bohjalian, Susan Meissner, Adriana Trigiani.

  8. Kathy says:

    This is such a good topic. Maeve Binchy, Sandra Dallas, Philippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier, Alice Hoffman- wonderful lists to enjoy from these authors.

  9. Berta says:

    This anglophile can’t stop reading Barbara Pym. Even though I have her complete collection I’ve begun collecting them in e-books (just because).

  10. Mimi says:

    For this challenge I read the only Ruta Sepetys book I haven’t read – Out of the Easy. It was so good – set in New Orleans. She also wrote Between Shades of Gray (which was unfortunately released at about the same time as Fifty Shades of Gray but is about Siberia during WWII) and her latest Salt to the Sea.

  11. Laura Salles Schwartz says:

    You introduced me to Tana French, and I devoured the Dublin Murder Squad series, so now I’m adding Joshilyn Jackson and Jennifer E. Smith to my TBR!

  12. “Backlist”- what a cool word to know. Weird question, but is there a specific word for an author’s best-known work, or the one that is the gateway to all his/her other novels? (Like, L. Frank Baum wrote hundreds of books but is known for Wizard of Oz)

    All of these books sound great.

  13. Anne says:

    Joshilyn Jackson and Tana French are my two favorite authors, so I would most definitely agree on this. So much that I kind of wish I had never read any of their stuff so that I could have a whole backlist to binge. As it is, I’m stuck waiting for them to release something new (and it’s going to be a while, I imagine, since they both have pretty recent ones…boo).

    Other women writers with a good lineup: Kate Atkinson, Liane Moriarty (such guilty pleasures!), Kate Morton.

  14. Jennifer N. says:

    I’m reading my first Octavia Butler right now, Parable of the Sower, and man, it is so good. She is considered one of the best female authors in science fiction, so definitely one I will be binge-reading – she has SO much out there.

    Margaret Atwood and Liane Moriarty are also great female authors I plan to binge read at some point.

  15. Anna Quindlen is a female author that comes to mind that is worth binge-reading! My favorite of her books is the “Every Last One.” I don’t love all of her books equally but they are all good in their own way, and they have gotten better as she has aged.

  16. Jen G says:

    Recently discovered Susan Meissner and have been binge-reading her backlist. For this category, though, I read a Richard Paul Evans book. I love most of his books and have enjoyed reading his backlist.

  17. Meghan says:

    I am really loving this post and all the comments! In addition to the many great suggestions above, I would add A.S. Byatt (Possession is a good example of the kind of “gateway book” one of the other commenters mentioned) and Ellis Peters (she wrote my go-to comfort series, the Brother Cadfael mysteries). Madeleine L’Engle is not only my favorite backlist binge read, she’s also one of the few whose books make my multiple-copies list (surely I’m not the only one who has a handful of books of which I need more than one copy, *just in case*).

  18. Pam says:

    Louise Penny is a must back, forward and in between read for me. I’m waiting for her newest to be my turn at the library. Also Kristin Hannah, even before she hit the jackpot with The Nightingale.

  19. Lee Ann says:

    For fun, rather fluffy novels, try Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. They’re well-written, clean, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Try The Grand Sophy (caveat – there is one Jewish character who is an anti-Semitic stereotype) or Frederica for starters.

  20. I love everything by Joshilyn Jackson. Her characters are all different, unpredictable, and round! Our book club started with “Between, GA” and read several more since 2008! Speaking of classes taught by great authors: you should check out “Writers in Paradise,” a week long class at Eckard College in St. Petersburg, FL in late January. Ann Hood and Laura Lipmann are frequent teachers.

  21. Emily says:

    Deanna Raybourn is a great author to binge read! Starting with the Veronica Speedwell series (next book comes out in January!) and then the seven books in the Lady Julia Gray series. She writes historical fiction mysteries and they are so fun!

    • Vickey says:

      Outlander Series!! I binge-read the first five books while nursing my son 15 years ago!! Got through the whole series in about 3 months, and my boy was very well fed! #Unputdownable

  22. Stacey says:

    You introduced me to Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety via this blog a couple of years ago, and I’m so grateful! I have since read some Stegner each year: Angle of Repose, Big Rock Candy Mountain, Spectator Bird, and I just finished All the Little Live Things. I’ve now started doing the same with Jane Gardam, first with A Long Way From Verona and then The Hollow Land. She has nice long backlist, so I am looking forward to more of her books.

  23. Colleen Hoover is a great new binge author for me. Her books have never failed to deliver a highly emotive reading experience filled with great twists and engaging storylines. I also love her writing style because she doesn’t write an overbearing or florid manner. Her writing flows beautifully and her dialogues (spoken and unspoken) really make you connect with her characters.

    I just finished “Ugly Love,” which is being made into a movie and I can’t stop thinking about it. I call it a “Hoover Hangover.”

  24. I did this with Maggie O’Farrell. The first of her books I read was “The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox” and then went on to read her “blacklist” books, “After You’d Gone,” “My Lover’s Lover,” and “The Distance Between Us.” I’ve read everything she wrote after “Esme Lennox” as they came out, but dearest Esme will always have a special spot in my heart!

  25. Rachel B. says:

    The timing of this post couldn’t be better. I just finished Bel Canto by Ann Patchett after reading her most recent works (This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, Commonwealth, and State of Wonder). I kept wondering if there was a word for this – going back to older books – and now you’ve given it to me: backlist! I would definitely consider binge-reading Ann Patchett’s books if you haven’t yet.

  26. Leigh says:

    Marissa de los Santos. Her first book, Love Walked In, is one of my all time favorite books. The sequel is Belong to Me. Her other works are Falling Together, and The Precious One. Exquisite prose, wonderful characters and compelling plots.

    Sarah Pekkanen Another all time favorite bok comes from her backlist: Skipping A Beat. Others I enjoyed are The Opposite of Me, Catching Air, and The Perfect Neighbors. As much as I loved these, I did not like The Best Of Us. There was not a redeemable character in the entire book!

  27. Heather says:

    Anne, this post IS timely. I just finished Liane Moriarty’s “Truly Madly Guilty” and enjoyed it so much that I want to read her other works. (I haven’t read anything else of hers.) And now you have given me some more in this post to add to my TBR. Plus, of course I just downloaded your own “Reading People” and can’t wait to dive into that. So Much Reading, So Little Time!!! And yes, I think I do tend to favour female authors. Hmmm…

  28. liz n. says:

    Jhumpa Lahiri. She can tell a story so heartbreaking and yet so beautiful, creates characters hardened to the world and yet still full of life and spirit…and she creates a sense of place that makes you feel as if you’ve been there.

  29. Lucinda says:

    Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Margaret Atwood, and Louise Erdrich are all authors who I could see myself binging . . . I have collected and read as many of their books as possible. Still working my way through most of them . . . because I get diverted, but did binge Atwood’s early work when I first discovered her in the late 1980s. Adding several of the authors you and the commenters mention to my list.

  30. As a swedish reader and reading mostly english, i am off course an Janeite, i therefor want to recommend the australian Rebecka Ann Collins Pride and Predudice sequels. She has written a serie of 15 books with the original people as background setting. The serie is about the 2-4th (?) generations of Elisabeth, Jane, Charlotte and Col Fiztwilliam. They are so good and you will enjoy them without making the original different. There is also if you like English country one author Erika James with books about english village life. There is also Rebecka Shaw that also has written a serie of an english village with its + and -.
    The 4th is not female but a serie by a swedish author called the The Emigrants in the serie there is 4 novels by Vilhelm Moberg: The Emigrants (1949); Unto a Good Land (1952); The Settlers (1956); The Last Letter Home (1959). The plot is about swedish farmers that settles in Minnesota. There is a musical done with the libretto from the book with music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulveus, yes the ABBA boys. I know it had been played in New York.

  31. I made a list some minutes ago i cant find it now but then i will tell you about Cynthia Harrod Eagles Morland saga, it is not finished yet but she started many years ago with the medieval times and are now aproaching modern time. I really loved the first 15 that was more history novels. Then there is S Barrows Jane books a kind of crime books but with Jane as the heroin. She has tried to make the plot with the same life happenings as Jane herself. . Hope my other comments is there somewhere

  32. Benita says:

    I have to admit to binge reading the Outlander books. And then, once the show began, I went back to the beginning and started over!
    I also have been known to binge read Elizabeth Gouge and Rosamund Pilcher. I’ve read Shell Seekers several times and then it prompts me to read two or three more of her books, “September” being a favorite, and fueling my love of all things Scotland.

  33. Dawn says:

    I can’t believe nobody has mentioned my favorite backlist author!!
    Anne Tyler!!!!

    If you love family stories without anything that will offend your HSP tendencies, Anne is your girl!! I have read almost everything she has written…almost. There are a few I haven’t gotten my hands on yet.

    I love her multi-generational stories as well as the ones about only a single day or week in the character’s life. My two top faves of hers are Ladder of Years and A Spool of Blue Thread.

  34. Pam says:

    I used “Another Man’s Moccasins” by Craig Johnson as my backlist title. It’s the fourth in his western mystery series about Walt Longmire. I’d read the first three books in 2016, and liked them so much, I decided to read the rest of the series this year. Almost there! Then I’ll binge watch the TV series on Netflix 🙂 // For female authors, I want to read more of/all the backlist for these authors: Elizabeth George (Inspector Lynley series), Barbara Kingsolver, and Minette Walters. For starters!

  35. Lori Narlock says:

    Another favorite of mine is Laurie Colwin. I knew her first as a columnist for Gourmet and then discovered her fiction. I’ve devoured all of her books but my favorites (re-read dozens of times each) are Shine On Bright and Dangerous Object and Goodbye Without Leaving. Both are about love and marriage and while written a looooonnnnggg time ago, the writing in both feels timeless.

    • Lucinda says:

      Thanks for the reminder about Laurie Colwin. I did binge read her many years ago. If you’re not into books about love and marriage you should still read her two COOKBOOKS! Home Cooking, and More Home Cooking. I still use those.

  36. BookLoverForever says:

    Another good author to binge-read is Nadia Hashimi. I recently read “The Pearl that Broke its Shell”, and I LOVED IT!

  37. Jamie says:

    I recommend Louise Erdrich and Ann Patchett! I read LaRose and Commonwealth recently. I’m definitely moving through more books by these two women!

  38. Elizabeth says:

    Someone mentioned Minette Walters…if you like spooky mysteries try Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series, I think she is up to 10 Books. Must read!

  39. Abby says:

    I’m glad Tana French is on here. She’s my favorite author this year. I can’t get enough of her work! Close second is Louise Penny. I don’t know if its a series, but I will read anything by Liane Moriarty. Most anything by JoJo Meyer. But all time has to be J.K Rowling. 🙂

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