Books With Action Heroines

This is a list for books that depict strong female characters in action roles. To make the list more manageable, please just list the first book of a series, not all of the subsequent ones. (If an action heroine first shows up only in a later book of a series, you can add that one instead of the first; but let's keep it to one book per series!) Thanks for your cooperation.
1

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4.33 avg rating — 5,539,983 ratings
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2

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4.18 avg rating — 122,590 ratings
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3

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4.18 avg rating — 150,662 ratings
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4

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4.07 avg rating — 86,747 ratings
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5

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4.09 avg rating — 333,347 ratings
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6

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4.13 avg rating — 491,754 ratings
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7

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 53,972 ratings
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8

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4.05 avg rating — 83,181 ratings
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9

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4.34 avg rating — 32 ratings
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10

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4.15 avg rating — 120,625 ratings
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11

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4.02 avg rating — 123,014 ratings
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12

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4.12 avg rating — 77,298 ratings
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13

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4.04 avg rating — 102,350 ratings
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14

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4.13 avg rating — 2,196,879 ratings
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15

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4.11 avg rating — 65,453 ratings
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16

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3.87 avg rating — 28,327 ratings
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17

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3.79 avg rating — 31,950 ratings
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18

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4.06 avg rating — 45,675 ratings
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19

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4.22 avg rating — 433,801 ratings
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20

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3.90 avg rating — 28,848 ratings
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21

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3.73 avg rating — 12,394 ratings
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22

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4.29 avg rating — 85,226 ratings
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23

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4.22 avg rating — 2,502,392 ratings
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24

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3.96 avg rating — 1,098,260 ratings
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25

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3.70 avg rating — 30,541 ratings
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26

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3.91 avg rating — 85,089 ratings
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27

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3.91 avg rating — 102,181 ratings
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28

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3.94 avg rating — 49,277 ratings
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29

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3.71 avg rating — 11,378 ratings
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30

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4.17 avg rating — 63 ratings
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31

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3.90 avg rating — 27,926 ratings
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32

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3.75 avg rating — 26,931 ratings
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33

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3.73 avg rating — 13,450 ratings
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34

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3.73 avg rating — 17,390 ratings
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35

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3.82 avg rating — 13,156 ratings
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36

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3.79 avg rating — 6,562 ratings
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37

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3.74 avg rating — 5,502 ratings
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38

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3.96 avg rating — 465,924 ratings
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39

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3.70 avg rating — 15,748 ratings
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39

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4.27 avg rating — 101,133 ratings
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41

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3.67 avg rating — 6,373 ratings
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42

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3.76 avg rating — 6,975 ratings
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43

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3.89 avg rating — 2,666 ratings
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44

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4.44 avg rating — 292,274 ratings
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45

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3.89 avg rating — 10,824 ratings
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46

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3.65 avg rating — 12,063 ratings
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47

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3.92 avg rating — 86,009 ratings
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48

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4.39 avg rating — 11,882 ratings
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49

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4.23 avg rating — 50,080 ratings
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50

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4.16 avg rating — 54,703 ratings
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51

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3.64 avg rating — 490 ratings
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52

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really liked it 4.00 avg rating — 17,745 ratings
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53

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4.12 avg rating — 36,891 ratings
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54

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3.79 avg rating — 175 ratings
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55

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3.58 avg rating — 5,989 ratings
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56

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4.25 avg rating — 46,427 ratings
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57

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4.14 avg rating — 57 ratings
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57

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4.16 avg rating — 830 ratings
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59

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3.96 avg rating — 22,728 ratings
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60

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4.59 avg rating — 13,150 ratings
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61

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3.78 avg rating — 2,592 ratings
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62

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4.03 avg rating — 74,777 ratings
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63

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4.14 avg rating — 206,064 ratings
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64

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3.20 avg rating — 459 ratings
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64

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4.10 avg rating — 531 ratings
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66

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3.99 avg rating — 162 ratings
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67

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3.86 avg rating — 503,331 ratings
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68

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3.70 avg rating — 2,247 ratings
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69

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3.78 avg rating — 906 ratings
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70

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3.96 avg rating — 61,111 ratings
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71

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4.30 avg rating — 16,486 ratings
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72

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4.03 avg rating — 11,176 ratings
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73

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4.08 avg rating — 48,828 ratings
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74

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3.92 avg rating — 61,361 ratings
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75

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3.63 avg rating — 13,729 ratings
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76

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4.08 avg rating — 8,785 ratings
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77

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4.08 avg rating — 218 ratings
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78

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3.61 avg rating — 1,152 ratings
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79

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3.58 avg rating — 1,614 ratings
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80

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3.78 avg rating — 9,433 ratings
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81

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3.91 avg rating — 14,931 ratings
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82

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3.86 avg rating — 14,588 ratings
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83

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4.29 avg rating — 11,169 ratings
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84

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3.75 avg rating — 4,809 ratings
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84

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3.67 avg rating — 1,637 ratings
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86

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3.22 avg rating — 3,122 ratings
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87

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3.91 avg rating — 78,871 ratings
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88

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3.80 avg rating — 11,574 ratings
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89

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4.07 avg rating — 1,266 ratings
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90

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3.76 avg rating — 180 ratings
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91

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3.64 avg rating — 3,639 ratings
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92

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4.25 avg rating — 12,106 ratings
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93

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3.88 avg rating — 6,659 ratings
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94

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4.03 avg rating — 438,734 ratings
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95

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3.93 avg rating — 2,715 ratings
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95

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4.06 avg rating — 64,341 ratings
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97

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3.96 avg rating — 2,097 ratings
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98

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3.37 avg rating — 2,418 ratings
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99

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3.93 avg rating — 1,092 ratings
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100

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3.66 avg rating — 32 ratings
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494 books · 629 voters · list created December 19th, 2009 by Werner (votes) .
63 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Werner 1881 books
165 friends
new_user 1435 books
188 friends
Thad 15 books
27 friends
Katherine 85 books
24 friends
Darcy 10329 books
595 friends
Sarah 2889 books
281 friends
Sheela 115 books
13 friends

More voters…


Comments Showing 1-40 of 40 (40 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) Thanks for starting this list, Werner. I love action heroines!


message 2: by new_user (new)

new_user Kate Daniels definitely takes the cake. :D


message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner You're welcome, Danielle. Thank you for adding some books; that's exactly what the list needs!


message 5: by C-tim (new)

C-tim Seems list a definite slant to this list, without the supernatural there are only about 6 books.


message 6: by Werner (new)

Werner C-Tim, I counted nine rather than six (though I'm not familiar with most of the books, which were added by others), but you're right --at the moment, we have a very marked preponderance of heroines from the fantasy and supernatural genres. That's not intentional, though; this is supposed to be an inclusive list for the fighting females of ALL genres! Why don't you add some books with non-magical action heroines? (I can't do much along that line; I haven't read as many books of this type as I'd like, and I've already added what I've read.)


message 7: by new_user (new)

new_user Yeah, we can always use more. Add, add, add! :D


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Okay, not a "kick ass" on every page heroine, but at the end she fights the forces of evil to save her lover (admitted, the first part of the book, she sorta comes off like a victim, but there's good reasons.) Anyway, does this count? The Ballad of Young Tam Lin by Patricia A. Leslie


message 9: by Werner (new)

Werner Laurie, if you feel that the heroine here is a strong female (however you define "strong" --not necessarily physically!) in an action role, I'd say she qualifies; she doesn't have to be depicted as fighting on every page, just when it's really called for. IMO, you should add The Ballad of Young Tam Lin to the list, if you haven't already!


message 10: by Kelley (last edited Jun 28, 2013 03:23PM) (new)

Kelley Ceccato Found another one:

Doesn't this list specify action HEROINES? Girls and women who use their butt-kicking powers for good, not evil?

Then Iain Cross's "OSS: Dirty Tricks" should definitely not be on this list. If the main butt-kicking female character is an SS officer, it's a pretty safe bet we're looking at a villainess, not a heroine. Action villainesses should get their own list and not creep into this one.


message 11: by Werner (new)

Werner Kelley, that's a legitimate point. Do you recall what number the book by Cross is on this list? If not, I'll hunt it down myself and delete it; but I can find it more quickly if I have the number for it.


message 12: by Kelley (last edited Jun 28, 2013 02:02PM) (new)

Kelley Ceccato It was listed as one of several with the number "160" by it.


message 13: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks, Kelley! I deleted it just now.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Wow, lots more I need to read.


message 15: by Charles (new)

Charles Is the Hunger games on here twice? at 2, and 51?


message 16: by Werner (new)

Werner Charles, thanks for catching that duplication! I used the "check for duplicates" function just now to remove that duplication and three others.


message 17: by Joelle (new)

Joelle Werner wrote: "C-Tim, I counted nine rather than six (though I'm not familiar with most of the books, which were added by others), but you're right --at the moment, we have a very marked preponderance of heroines..."

Werner wrote: "C-Tim, I counted nine rather than six (though I'm not familiar with most of the books, which were added by others), but you're right --at the moment, we have a very marked preponderance of heroines.

Can you please name the 9 books you found, I've been searching for action heroines minus the supernatural, science fiction stuff.



message 18: by Werner (last edited Nov 15, 2013 05:49PM) (new)

Werner Joelle, it's been almost 2 1/2 years since I counted those nine; although this list is still pretty heavily dominated by speculative fiction titles (fantasy, urban fantasy/paranormal, sci-fi, etc.), the pickings here for descriptive fiction books with action heroines have improved a lot! Just now, I went through and made a list of 39 (out of 402) entries you might be interested in; and some of these are series books that have other volumes of the series on the list as well. (I did NOT list books that I'm not sure are properly listed here as action heroine titles, nor books that seem to be mostly erotica.)

Westerns with action heroines: Mustang Wild by Stacey Kane; Lady Deception by Bobbi Smith; The Vengeance of Fortuna West by Ray Hogan; The Bandit Of Hell's Bend by Edgar Rice Burroughs; and The New Adventures of Senorita Scorpion. (The latter is a short story collection, by modern authors, imagining further adventures by pulp era great Les Savage Jr.'s trail-blazing lady outlaw Senorita Scorpion. His original Senorita Scorpion stories have recently been reprinted in two volumes, The Complete Adventures Of Senorita Scorpion Volume 1 and Complete Adventures of Senorita Scorpion, Volume 2, which aren't on this list but might also interest you.)

Historical fiction with action heroines: Sword Woman by Robert E. Howard (he was famous for swords-and-sorcery fiction, but the Dark Agnes stories here are mostly straight historical fiction set in 16th-century France; only the third one has a supernatural menace); Gladiatrix by Russell Whitfield; Pandora Driver: The Origin by John Picha; Daughter of the Eagle by Don Coldsmith; Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles; Dave Dawson on the Russian Front by R. Sidney Bowen; and Point of Honour by Madeleine E. Robins.

Novels with action heroines in modern settings: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson; The Geneva Decision by Seeley James; Last Exit In New Jersey by C. E. Grundler; Queen and Country: A Gentleman's Game by Greg Rucka; Demolition Angel by Robert Crais; Exit Strategy by Kelley Armstrong; Shadow Man by Cody McFadden; Monarch by Michelle D. Argyle; Flint by Paul Eddy; The Assassin's Wife by Roger Weston; A Beautiful Heist by Kim Foster; Bullet to the Heart by Lea Griffith; A Cold Day For Murder by Dana Stabenow (the first book in her Kate Shugak mystery series); and Before Dawn Breaks by Rae Lori. Zoe Sharp's Charlie Fox series is represented by Hard Knocks and Philip Pullman's Sally Lockhart series by The Tiger in the Well, but neither of these are the series openers. Also, we don't have Peter O'Donnell's Modesty Blaise listed, but we do have another of his Modesty novels, Dragon's Claw. Replaced by Emma Harrison is a spin-off novel from the TV series Alias. I'm not sure if The Gates to Love and War by Janie Pendleton is currently in print or available by interlibrary loan. Finally, I'm not sure if Adventure Dawns by Ben White has a modern or an historical setting.

Short action heroine fiction in a modern setting: Pieces of Modesty by Peter O'Donnell (story collection); The Smoking Gun Sisterhood by Thad Brown (story collection); "How I Met Your Mother" by Mark Cooper (this is part of a story cycle that may not be available for sale any more, but is available online); and Last Minute Replacement by Billy Wong (short story).

Hope this gives you some reading suggestions you can use!


message 19: by Werner (new)

Werner Oops! Joelle, I'd already signed off when I realized I'd accidentally omitted several books from my list (that's what comes of not listing them in order, but jumping around to categorize them!). Sara Paretsky's tough female detective V. I. Warshawski is the protagonist of several books on this list (I only counted these as one, since it's all the same series). And romance writer Cherie De Sues has four books listed here: Lacy: A Bad Girl's Revenge, Lacy: A Bad Girl's Romance, South of the Border, and TRIAGE. These all have a significant romantic element (and probably some explicit sex), but they don't appear to be erotica as such.


message 20: by Joelle (new)

Joelle Well that is too much work, i don't know what to say!! That must have took you a LOT of time! And you also categorized them!! Thank you so much, really this is awesome! i put a lot of those books on my to-read list, out of respect for all the work that must took you to list them. And again thank you so much. I don't know if you read all those books, but i'd like to recommend for you one you happened to listed on your list, that i read a week ago it's "Bullet to the Heart" by Lea Griffith. It has a kick-ass heroine and the book is full of action, suspense plus the romantic part which was great but sometimes too much if you know what i mean (the idea of the series is so cool, and the heroines are an amazing action heroines!) there's only one book of the series published so far:( but hey, i have a lot of action heroine books to read till the next installment thanks to you!!


message 21: by Werner (new)

Werner No problem, Joelle, glad I could point you to some books that look interesting! Although I started this list, I don't do much maintenance on it, so it was good for me to give it a once-over for a change. (Now I know that I need to go back in, sometime soon, and delete a few titles that don't belong here.) Thanks for the recommendation for Bullet to the Heart; I just added it to my to-read shelf.

I moderate or help moderate a couple of Goodreads groups you might be interested in: Action Heroine Fans, which I started a few years ago (www.goodreads.com/group/show/23366-ac... ), and Girls and Guns, which I didn't start, but wound up as moderator of through a LONG story (www.goodreads.com/group/show/78287-gi... ). The latter group is small and not very active, and we only have 20 books on our bookshelf. But the former group is larger and a bit more active (we're planning to do a common read in February) and we have 236 books on our bookshelf (www.goodreads.com/group/bookshelf/233... ); which I'm trying to build into the best action-heroine bibliography on Goodreads. (Of course, that group has the same wide focus as this list, so a lot of our listed books are fantasy and SF, too.) You're invited to check out either or both groups, if you want to!


message 22: by Thad (new)

Thad Brown My story collection, The Smoking Gun Sisterhood, has been out of print for some time, but has recently been republished by Pro Se Press, and can be ordered at www.amazon.com/The-Smoking-Gun-Sister... . (I'm posting this notice in case anyone has tried to look it up online in the past, only to discover it was out of print!)


message 23: by Kelley (last edited Sep 21, 2015 05:51AM) (new)

Kelley Ceccato I have questions about whether "Sacrifice (Ryan Drake 2)", #174, and "Sword from the Sky," #231, belong on this list. Others may know more about these than I do, but based on the descriptions, the central female "action characters" in these books are villainesses, not heroines. Again, action villainesses may be cool in their way and deserve their own list, but this list should be reserved for female characters who use their butt-kicking prowess to aid and protect, not to destroy. Villainesses would belong here only if heroines rise to challenge them.


message 24: by Werner (new)

Werner Kelley, I completely agree that this list is for heroines, not villainesses! Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I'll look at these entries as soon as I get a chance (not today, though, as it's going to be a hectic day!), unless some other Goodreads librarian does so first, or some one who's actually read the books wants to weigh in with more information.


message 25: by Kelley (last edited Sep 22, 2015 07:31AM) (new)

Kelley Ceccato Thanks, Werner. I know I love to read about action heroines (and while fantasy is my preferred genre, it's good to see them in other genres as well), but nothing will chase me away from a book faster than learning it centers on a conflict between he-man heroes and a scary-powerful villainess who must be killed or de-fanged in order for Right to prevail.


message 26: by Werner (new)

Werner I hear ya, Kelley!

Based on a review of Sacrifice, (www.goodreads.com/review/show/614505593 ), I decided to leave it on the list for now. It appears that the book has at least three kick-butt female characters, and it doesn't sound like any of them are part of the villain side of the novel's conflict. I haven't had a chance to check out Sword from the Sky yet.


message 27: by Kelley (new)

Kelley Ceccato Thanks, Werner! That's a relief about "Sacrifice." Thank you for your diligent care for this list.


message 28: by Werner (new)

Werner You're welcome, Kelley! (Truth to tell, I don't actually give this list the care it needs, since I have too many irons in the fire; but I try to keep tabs on it as best I can. :-) ) Input from action heroine fans like you is a big help.

When I checked just now, it appears that someone else already took care of deleting Sword from the Sky. Thanks for the assist, whoever you were!


message 29: by Sadie (new)

Sadie Forsythe Thank you for this. It'll make finding action heroines easier to find!


message 30: by Werner (new)

Werner Glad to help with that, Zarah!


message 31: by Rory (new)

Rory Here's one character to add to the list Modesty Blaise (Modesty Blaise, #1) by Peter O'Donnell


message 32: by Werner (new)

Werner Rory, thanks for that suggestion! Up until now, I'd never added Modesty Blaise, because I haven't read it yet (it's been on my to-read shelf forever!). Usually, I don't add books to lists if I haven't read them; but in this case, I was amazed, when I went through the list just now, that no one else had, because it's a genre classic. I've now added it, and hopefully others will vote for it, too. BTW, you do know that you (and any other Goodreader who wants to) can add books to any list, right?


message 33: by Rory (new)

Rory I'm very aware of that.

It's just that I have not read any of these books on the list and I couldn't think of any others so I suggested that one (since I had read it).


message 34: by Werner (new)

Werner Rory wrote: "I'm very aware of that.

It's just that I have not read any of these books on the list and I couldn't think of any others so I suggested that one (since I had read it)."


And it was a great suggestion, Rory; thanks again! (I'd say it was high time Modesty got added to this list.)


message 35: by Werner (new)

Werner The Sacred Band, by Janet and Chris Morris, is #65 on this list, and apparently eight people voted for it. But from the book description and the reviews that I've read (and admittedly I haven't read many of them), I'm not finding any indication whatsoever that it actually has any action heroine figure in it at all; the warriors all appear to be male. Can someone who's read it address that point? If it doesn't actually have an action heroine, it should be removed from this list.


message 36: by Philatelia (new)

Philatelia This list would be more useful if limited to the first book in a series.


message 37: by Werner (new)

Werner Philatelia, I've seen that suggestion made before on other lists; and on reflection, I think it's a good one. The idea of these lists is to provide reading suggestions for readers who like particular types of books; and once you direct someone to the first book of a series, he/she can easily follow up with the other books, without having to have every one of them listed. Listing the additional books just makes the list more cluttered and harder to browse. Right now, I'm going to amend the list description to incorporate your suggestion, but it may be awhile before I can remove all of the extra books (this is a busy time of year). Thanks for sharing this idea! (Any other Goodreads librarians can feel free to remove later series books!)


message 38: by Jim (new)

Jim Well, this should keep me going for a bit. :)

Definitely appreciate the list has only one book per series!


message 39: by Werner (new)

Werner Thanks for the "like," Jim, and hope you find some good reading suggestions here! You can also check out the bookshelf in the Action Heroine Fans group (https://www.goodreads.com/group/books... ); there's some overlap, but both resources list books the other one doesn't.

Theoretically, I'm trying to remove the extra books per series, and list just one (usually the first), except for cases where a book is listed as part of more than one series; and I have removed a number of books for that reason on the first two or three pages of the list. But it takes time to do a complete job, and I'd be the first to admit that there are probably still a lot of series installments here that need to be removed. Bear with me; I've got quite a few irons in the fire! (And other Goodreaders who have "librarian" privileges are also welcome to help.)


message 40: by Werner (new)

Werner By way of update, I've finally finished the project of removing all of the "extra" series books that had been listed before we set a "one book per series" rule. This was a long, time-consuming operation, because this list has a LOT of series represented here, and quite a few of them originally had multiple books listed. (All in all, around 150 books were removed, though I didn't keep an exact count.) Hopefully this will make the list easier to browse! Thanks to Philatelia for the idea!


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