The Next Best Book Club discussion

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Looking For Recommendations > Strong Independent Female Characters?

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message 1: by Adrienne (last edited Jun 03, 2010 02:52PM) (new)

Adrienne (A-Town) | 308 comments Most of the books I find are generally written about men or if it has women, they're weak and meant as damsels in distress solely for the purpose of a love interest for the male.
I am looking for gritty females who are strong, (physically and/or mentally ie. stubborn/smart), tough (not crying all the time or acting like "oh pity me"), and/or spunky. I really like Miss Marple, Hester Prynne, Elizabeth Bennet, and Luna Lovegood, I like almost all genres except for romance and religious (with very few exceptions) and I really enjoy adventure books, classics, or books that really make you think.

Any suggestions would be awesome.


message 2: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (RachelSessum) | 859 comments I have never read any books with stronger women than the Millenium series by Steig Larsson.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2) by Stieg Larsson The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3) by Stieg Larsson The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest


message 3: by Rachel (new)

Rachel (RachelSessum) | 859 comments In fact, I think that the main character, Lisbeth Salander, is exactly what you are looking for. She is gritty, strong, tough, and well, tough. I don't know if you could use the word "spunky" to describe her. Maybe "feisty".

The books were translated from Swedish, but you can't tell. I think it is one of the best translations I have ever read.


Angela Sunshine (AngelaSunshine) | 18 comments My suggestions are YA, but adults will enjoy them to.

Katniss from The Hunger Games
Katsa from Graceling
Tally from Uglies


message 5: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Rachel is on the money when it comes to Lisbeth Salander. I just finished the third in the series and it was wonderful. Read them in order so you understand the character development.


message 7: by Elena (new)

Elena | 127 comments The classic Gone With the Wind


message 8: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (Eliza_Morgan) | 151 comments Katniss from The Hunger Games is an excellent suggestion...she is an amazing female character. Young Adult novel, but I promise you won't be able to put it down!

I love Connie Willis, so I will also recommend Passage and Doomsday Book. Both have brilliant female main characters.


message 9: by Lianne (new)

Lianne (eclecticreading) | 337 comments Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South came to mind when I read the title of this thread. Margaret Hale is pretty independent and tough for someone in her position in Victorian England =)


message 10: by Jackie (last edited Jun 07, 2010 08:21AM) (new)

Jackie (TheNightOwl) I have to agree with The Hunger Games and Graceling.

Other recs:
Crocodile on the Sandbank- Amelia Peabody series. She's headstrong, intelligent, spunky and hilarious.

Vampire Academy- Told from the perspective of Rose. She's a badass guardian. There is some romance, but it doesn't overpower the story IMO.

These are more serious reads featuring strong women:
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Twentieth Wife
The Feast of Roses: A Novel


message 11: by Samantha (new)

Samantha (samjaymc) | 226 comments Personally, I love Jane Eyre. I think as a character, she is headstrong and defiant, I've recently listened to this on audio, and I love Jane!


message 12: by Alex (last edited Jun 07, 2010 09:54AM) (new)

Alex Just to bring in some wicked old stuff: Sophocles' Antigone features a strong female protagonist. (I recommend Robert Fagles' translation; relatively modern and easy.)

Boccaccio's Decameron presents, for one of the first times, women who insist on their right to sexual pleasure. Money quote, from Day II story 10:

"If you gave as many holidays to the laborers who work on your estates as you gave to the man who was supposed to work my little field, you would never have harvested a single grain of wheat."

(I like Mike Musa's translation; very easy to read. And no, it isn't all that dirty; some of it is much dirtier.)

Unfortunate that both of these were written by men, but it's a bit tough to find female authors from antiquity. (Other than Homer, of course. *cough*) There's always the mighty Sappho.

Edit: I love that you put Luna Lovegood right next to Elizabeth Bennet. Awesome.


message 13: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 262 comments Suggestions:
1. Ahab's Wife, or The Star Gazer: A Novel, by Sena Jetter Naslund.
2. Harriet the Spy by Lousie Fitzhough.
3. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.


message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex Ha! Harriet the Spy! Great suggestion. High five.


message 15: by El (new)

El Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings.
The Wife of Bath from The Canterbury Tales.
Also Medea by Euripides would qualify in some minds as a "strong, independent woman", though she's a little more mean and scary than anything.


message 16: by Bridgit (new)

Bridgit | 475 comments A few suggestions:
Silent in the Sanctuary - fun victorian mystery

The Tea Rose - Jennifer Donnelly - story of how one impoverished woman starts her own Tea Empire in Victorian England/US

People will debate the book to the ends of the earth, but you cant deny that Dagny Taggert is one hell of a strong, independent woman in Atlas Shrugged


Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader) (ListObsessed) | 317 comments Phryne Fisher and her series of books by Kerry Greenwood beginning with Cocaine Blues


message 18: by Elena (new)


message 19: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne (A-Town) | 308 comments Thank you guys so much for all of these wonderful recommendations. I really got to add a lot to my TBR list and I just recently got Jane Eyre and I really love Lord of the Rings. I probably reread those once every other year or so. Eowyn has always been my favorite character, Samwise Gamgee coming in close second, even though he isn't a woman. ;) I read the Uglies series as well and enjoyed it, not one of my favorites, but it was fun. I have been wanting to check out Hunger Games for quite some time, so I may just have to visit Barnes and Noble tomorrow. Again thank you all so much, please keep the good recommendations coming. They all look great so far!


message 20: by Alex (new)

Alex I might have to read Hunger Games too. Everybody keeps talking about it, and now I'm starting to get the idea that it might be Actual Literature, not just a fun read. I read a sample chapter and it certainly engaged me right away.


message 21: by El (new)

El Alex, I've been feeling the same way about Hunger Games. Like maybe I am missing something. My BFF read it and told me I should as well, and I can usually trust her judgment on things like books.


message 22: by Alex (new)

Alex Jayme and I are starting an Imaginary Book Club where we pretend to read all the books we wish we had time to read. The first selection is gonna be that Disappearing Spoon book you turned me on to, but maybe we can [not:] do Hunger Games next.


message 23: by El (new)

El Cool, sign me up. Or not. However it works. :)


message 24: by Brenda (new)

Brenda | 262 comments Alex wrote: "Jayme and I are starting an Imaginary Book Club where we pretend to read all the books we wish we had time to read. The first selection is gonna be that Disappearing Spoon book you ..."

Hey Alex, just noticed this post now. Ha ha...
I'd have to add Gilgamesh to the list.


message 25: by Emily (new)

Emily  O (ReadingWhileFemale) | 142 comments That sounds like the book club for me. I think I'll add almost ever book on my TBR list. It seems that I never get anything done.

As for strong female characters, I'd say Lyra from the His Dark Materials Trilogy is pretty good. I'd also recommend The Two Princesses of Bamarre. While these are both YA books,I absolutely loved them, and I still remember how I felt when I first read them. Another good YA pick would be Ursual K Le Guin's Annals of the Western Shore trilogy, which includes Gifts, Voices, and Powers. Voices is especially good for female characters. A more adult book would be her Four Ways to Forgiveness, which is actually a set of four novellas, each with wonderful female characters and an overarching theme of people breaking free from oppression. It's a wonderful book.

I'm not sure exactly what the definition of a strong woman is. I know the obvious answer would be girls that get into adventures and generally kick butt (like Lyra). I haven't read many books with characters like that, but I also think that there are different kinds of strong. Possession has exquisitely crafted female protagonists. They may not have gone on any crazy adventures, but they are good moral people who you can respect and relate to. And the book was written by a woman. I would definitely recommend it, but then I have to recommend that book every chance I get. ;)


message 26: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca | 14 comments Anything by Robin McKinley. In her own words she likes to write about "women who do things." I love her Newbery Award speech! I think it's inspiring and hilarious all at the same time. Her blog is also hilarious.


message 27: by Emily (new)

Emily  O (ReadingWhileFemale) | 142 comments Rebecca wrote: "Anything by Robin McKinley. In her own words she likes to write about "women who do things." I love her Newbery Award speech! I think it's inspiring and hilarious all at the same time. Her blog..."

I've heard her retelling of Beauty and the Beast is really good.


message 28: by Kaion (last edited Aug 02, 2010 12:02AM) (new)

Kaion (kaionvin) Ooo, so many different ways to be strong. (Ha at Medea, El.)

Looking at recent reads, Lucile in "Dolce" (second book of Suite Française) stands out for growing into some strength. Wow, this makes me kind of sad that I don't read more books with "strong, independent, spunky" female characters. Particularly every example I can think of (several mothers of Joy Luck Club) seems to be countered by an example in the same book (several daughters of the Joy Luck Club).

Older reads: I recall some strong females in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister (though very, very flawed). Someone already cited the Millenium books, so I don't feel bad continuing in the twisted thriller realm with Out's Masako (twisted book but also a pretty damning of society). And to round out the grey morality, I'll throw in The Dress Lodger (but cannot say more without being spoiler-y).

In young adult, I'd be remiss to not mention Yuki of Shizuko's Daughter for 'realistic' (and she's so very heartbreakingly realistic with the small towering victories) and Sybil of The Forgotten Beasts of Eld for fantasy (she's powerful, dammit, and doesn't let men put her into easy categories). In children's lit, is there anyone more spunky than Pippi Longstocking? (Though I am in the middle of an Oz reread, and boy is Baum full of fun radical early 20th century feminist ideas in Marvelous Land.)


message 29: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer The Synthesis (Powerless, #1) by Jason LettsI really loved the strong female protagonist in this book, Powerless: The Synthesis. She has that great mix of smarts, naivete, and hope that I never get tired of reading about. It's not a well-known work though, so check it out!


message 30: by M. (new)

M. Clifford (MCliffordAuthor) I'm so glad it seems like this type of character is what people want right now! That's been my goal with the book I've been working on all summer -- a strong female lead. It's called Felinian, but it's not quite finished yet, so no spamming for me today. ;) I'm just happy to know that she has a chance at being well received.


message 31: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 592 comments I just finished My Name is Mary Sutter and while the ending was a bit ehh, the female was definately a strong woman. She wants to become a surgeon during the Civil War - keeps getting turned away because she is a female. Ends up volunteering in Washington DC at the military hospitals and on the front lines of several big battles. The historical accuracy was the book was also pretty good


message 32: by Betsy (new)

Betsy (mistymtladi) | 511 comments Alex wrote: "I might have to read Hunger Games too. Everybody keeps talking about it, and now I'm starting to get the idea that it might be Actual Literature, not just a fun read. I read a sample chapter and ..."

Alex,ad my name to the list of reccommendations you have for the HungerGames.


message 33: by Caity (new)

Caity (adivineeternity) | 123 comments A book I read a month or so ago had a strong female character. She wasn't the main character, but she was a very prominent character throughout most of the book.

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

The main female in it, Royesse Iselle, is the type of girl who takes matters into her own hands and figures things out for herself. Was it the greatest book I ever read? Nope, but I know I really enjoyed it.


message 34: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (SarahSaysRead) I just started the Wilderness series by Sara Donati and the main character is Elizabeth Middleton, and she's awesome. She has a sharp tongue, she stands up to the men around her (it takes place in the 1700's), and she doesn't complain.

The first one is Into the Wilderness and I'm just flying through it, and have the next on hold at the bookstore. It's a good series, and a really independent heroine.


message 35: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 592 comments Sarah, have you read the Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - Claire the main character in there actually gets a mention in Donati's series...I read Into the Wilderness a long time ago, but never finished out the series


message 36: by M. (new)

M. Clifford (MCliffordAuthor) Delicious Dee the book slut wrote: "Sarah, have you read the Outlander by Diana Gabaldon - Claire the main character in there actually gets a mention in Donati's series...I read Into the Wilderness a long time ago, but n..."

Outlander is freaking awesome!! I highly, highly, highly recommend the whole series. Claire is a great, strong female lead.


message 37: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (SarahSaysRead) YUP - Outlander was actually the reason I picked up the Wilderness series, because there's a praise blurb on the front cover from Diana Gabaldon.


message 38: by Lahni (new)

Lahni | 290 comments I really like Ruth Galloway in The Crossing Places. I like that she is who she is.


message 40: by I (new)

I Read (IReadB00ks) | 2 comments The book I'm reading at the moment seems to have the type of charater you are looking for.

"No Name" by Wilkie Collins


message 41: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I'm reading A Town Like Alice right now. Jean Paget is definitely the kind of character you are looking for.


message 42: by Dana * (last edited Sep 28, 2010 10:18AM) (new)

Dana * (QueenofEgypt) Try this one: Talk Talk Talk Talk by T.C. Boyle

and
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn


message 43: by Natalie (new)

Natalie (Aquariusnat) | 39 comments I'm currently in the middle of reading The Mists of Avalon . Its the women's version of events in the King Arthur legend .


message 44: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Lang | 14 comments Sara Paretsky's, V.I. Warshawski is a strong female character. An independent P.I. She has a series of novels.

Indemnity Only
Deadlock
Total Recall

The first P.D. James books I read were not the Dalgliesh ones. They had a female PI, Cordelia Gray.
An Unsuitable Job For A Woman
The Skull Beneath The Skin


message 45: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) The In Death series by JD Robb has a very strong independent female character!

I love her character and the premise of the books. Eve is a police Lieutenant in the Homicide division and solves cases. There are also quite a few strong female side characters.


message 46: by Dee (new)

Dee (austhokie) | 592 comments I love Eve and Peabody is a hoot, and Dr Mira makes for a good side-kick too


message 47: by ♥Meagan♥ (new)

♥Meagan♥ (fadedrainbows) And Eve's best friend, Mavis, too. :)


message 48: by Sheenah (new)

Sheenah Freitas (SheenahFreitas) | 2 comments Elphaba, from Wicked, is an interesting female lead. I think she makes a strong female lead and it's always interesting to hear the other side of the story...


message 49: by Christy (new)

Christy | 181 comments Lifee in The Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper. Lifee is a freed slave and manages to lead her family to safety and prosperity. A great love story as well.


message 50: by A.M. (new)

A.M. (amharte) | 13 comments Sheenah wrote: "Elphaba, from Wicked, is an interesting female lead. I think she makes a strong female lead and it's always interesting to hear the other side of the story..."

I recently saw the musical of Wicked and thought it was AMAZING. I've actually added the book to my to-read pile.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (other topics)
The Girl Who Played with Fire (other topics)
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (other topics)
Uglies (other topics)
Graceling (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Kerry Greenwood (other topics)
Anne Brontë (other topics)
J. California Cooper (other topics)
Jorge Amado (other topics)
Jacques Antoine (other topics)
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