Fiction/Novels with Female Protagonists That Aren't About Love or Romance

Short list, huh? I've started this list because there is shockingly little fiction out there geared towards women that doesn't center around a girl falling in love, most commonly with a dude. And it needs to be a thing.

Not that I have a problem with romance novels or fiction that is about/involves love or has romantic subplots, but I'm frankly bored with books about women chasing love. Love is great, but is it our raison d'etre? Of course not. Can we have experiences that don't involve the pursuit or the management of love/marriage? Can we exist without a soulmate by our side? Hell yes!

I mean really, the boys have Kerouac and Hemmingway and an overflowing cup of introspective life lessons, coming of age stories, bromance and platonic partnerships, and political intrigue. C'mon, our turn! I would really like to find more fiction that explores women as the complex and multi-faceted people we are. so, I present to you a list, however depressingly meagre, of work that doesn't make women feel like our existences are only validated by being someone's wife/girlfriend/mistress. Enjoy, and please add!

Update: Umm... I've noticed some ( or, a lot) of the books people have added to this list are Romantic Fiction; as in, romance - whether successful or not- is important enough to the plot of the book to be mentioned in the plot description of the novel. Specifically: The Dressmaker, the COVE!!!, Elizabeth Gilbert novels (The Signature of All Things), The Bride's Farewell, Becoming Clementine, A Ring of Endless Light, etc are all guilty of having romantic elements that are important to the plot. Perhaps my explanation was vague, so hopefully this clarifies what I hope this list will include..

New Criteria: if the novel has anything to do with romance it doesn't count. Even if the protagonist ends up single, or goes on a journey of self-discovery that involves forsaking poisonous relationships, or even if the romantic relationship is some kind of social metaphor, or the central plot is not completely about love but the novel spends a lot of time talking about love interests, it still involves someone's love life. To qualify for this list, the plot must not involve woman+romantic interest (s) unless the romance is so negligible it isn't even mentioned in the book description/can be completely removed from the novel in such a way that it in no way changes the essence of the story.

In short, this list is meant to be of novels that are completely AROMANTIC and have female protagonists.
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Kat 617 books
26 friends
Marilee 1250 books
50 friends
Fijke 462 books
30 friends
Jennifer 3042 books
969 friends
Claire 3512 books
1068 friends
Nadosia Grey 281 books
6 friends
Susan 2205 books
79 friends
Ranya 134 books
4 friends

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Comments Showing 1-23 of 23 (23 new)

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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads A Girl of the Limberlost? The second half is all romance.


message 2: by Richard (new)

Richard Mason Excellent list. Thanks so much. I would add Pulse from political and military fiction writer Robert Cook. In fact anything from the series is pretty awesome.
It features a great female protagonist called Dr. Caitlin. A physicist who won a MacArthur fellowship in her early 20s and is just a super intelligent and strong female character. Something that is all too rare in such a genre. Overall it is a brilliantly written book with excellent attention to detail and a really exciting, fast paced story.
http://robertcooknovels.com/


message 3: by Kent (new)

Kent I would add Who Fears Death.


message 4: by Patricia (new)

Patricia The Yellow Wallpaper is on there twice.

I would add Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates. It's been awhile, but I don't think that it had any romance.


message 5: by Joclyn (new)

Joclyn Norris Thanks so much for this list! I'm always looking for more books like this!


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

The female protagonist (i.e., the unnamed narrator) in Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs would make this book qualify on this list, but I would be somewhat weary of actually including this book on this list because one of the most important subplots in it involves a woman named Joanna ("poor Joanna"), who ends up living the remainder of her life as a recluse on Shell-Heap Island because her fiance left her and married another woman. As Mrs. Fosdick states in the book, "All her hopes were built on marryin', an' havin' a real home and somebody to look to; she acted just like a bird when its nest is spoilt" (Chapter 13).


message 7: by Maria (new)

Maria Humphreys Who is the creator of this list?


message 8: by Stef (new)

Stef Rozitis Seems to me some of those books DO have romance. They may have powerful female protagonists that do things other than just fall in love but not all of the ones I see on this list are completely aromantic (just saying)


message 9: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Removed for being explicitly mentioned in the list description as novels that do NOT qualify:

The Signature of All Things
The Cove
The Bride's Farewell
Becoming Clementine


message 10: by Kelley (new)

Kelley Ceccato I like "Mistborn: The Final Empire" (#84), but it includes a fairly significant romance plot so I'm not sure it belongs here.


message 11: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea I just wanted to let you all know that you're using the word "aromantic" incorrectly. Aromantic is a romantic orientation that means someone experiences little or no romantic attraction to other people. It's an orientation not a choice. The way you're using aromantic to mean "a lack of romance plot" is incorrect and hurtful to aromantic people. This is the first list that pops up for "aromantic" and doesn't fit the orientation's criteria, so anyone looking for representation will be mislead. Please update your description.

For more info: http://wiki.asexuality.org/Aromantic


message 12: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis Valley of the Dolls, page 2, is about romance as much as it's about addiction. One character chooses to die of breast cancer because her man adores her for her breasts, and without them, she feels she has no value. Do you want me to pull it down?


message 13: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Magic America has a lot of romance in it mid-read. It shouldn't really be on this list


message 14: by Evelyn (new)

Evelyn Marshall All of my novels analyze some aspect of love stories, but they are not romances: THE PROVIDER (2012), THE WAY THEY SEE (2013),
CONCERNING GEORGIA STEKKER (2014), THE ROMANTIC IMPERATIVE ebook (2017), and coming in October AN INCIDENT IN THE FAMILY. Visit my website: EvelynMarshall.com


message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis Evelyn wrote: "All of my novels analyze some aspect of love stories, but they are not romances: THE PROVIDER (2012), THE WAY THEY SEE (2013),
CONCERNING GEORGIA STEKKER (2014), THE ROMANTIC IMPERATIVE ebook (2017..."

This is a clear and flagrant violation of Goodreads authors' policy. I have flagged your comment.
Good reads librarians are volunteers, and anytime a list that we are responsible for editing gets a comment, one of us is alerted to go to the thread in question. So you're basically setting off an auto-alarm to tell us that you're spamming the thread that exists for technical issues.


message 16: by Rosa (new)

Rosa "Is love our raison d'etre?"
Yes.


message 17: by Michelle (last edited Nov 08, 2017 08:56AM) (new)

Michelle Karen Azinger has a wonderful series with a great heroine called The Silk and Steel Saga, starting with The Steel Queen. In addition to the heroine, there are several other very strong female characters, including one female antagonist who is excellent! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...


message 18: by Lily (last edited Nov 13, 2017 04:17PM) (new)

Lily Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is definitely a romance - the whole book is about Miss Pettigrew spending a day with a woman who has three boyfriends and has to decide which she loves, with Miss Pettigrew's help.

The Snow Child also has a romance which is a big part of the second half of the book, even if it's not the protagonist's romance. It certainly has a big impact on the ending and the plot itself.

Some other books you might consider for your list though:
How Saints Die by Carmen Marcus
Call of the Undertow by Linda Cracknell
The Good People by Hannah Kent
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo
The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
The Earth Hums in B Flat by Mari Strachan
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (Will doesn't appear until the second book so this one's clear of romance)

Also possibly:
The Unseen World by Liz Moore (there is a vague kind of romantic suggestion right at the end, but it's of the negligible/easily removed kind that has no influence on the plot, so I think you'd be cool with it?)


message 19: by Yinzadi (new)

Yinzadi The Scarlet Letter has a romance which is definitely an integral part of the plot.


message 20: by Tina (new)

Tina Most of my favorite books have no romance in them or if they do, it's just incidental. I'm not aromatic but do get tired of a plot being pushed along with just a love interest. The characters are richer when not bogged down with the romance.


message 21: by Tina (new)

Tina Lily wrote: "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is definitely a romance - the whole book is about Miss Pettigrew spending a day with a woman who has three boyfriends and has to decide which she loves, with Miss Pet..."
I'm not the maker of this list, but I would think that if a character is married or has a partner or even a love interest but it was a very small part and if the part about romance could be taken out and doesn't effect the book, I'd say sure. Like "her marriage was good" done. Like in the book "The Help" Skeeter had a love interest but he was used to make the character choose between love and her beliefs. But he is just incidental to the book and the plot doesn't rely on him. Also it is only a small part of the book and really isn't "romantic" at all.

Another example is in The Secret Life of Bees" one of the characters has a love interest but it's purely incidental and is a very small part. I think those are fine for this list.

Just my thought on this.

There are some books that I could just skip all the romance and it didn't change the plot at all. As if the author said "I better put some romance in this." It really bogs a book down.


message 22: by JZ (new)

JZ There are a few autobiographies and non-fiction books in here, too. Not all here are novels.


message 23: by Jess (new)

Jess Something I've noticed about many of these is that they focus on young women (of an age prior to when romantic relationships will become a consideration).

Why aren't there more stories about adult women whose lives are not somehow defined by love and relationships? Is it because that is truly the central focus of our lives, or is it because that's what we've been told is the central focus of our lives?


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