Top 10 Books to Read if your Book Club likes Strong Female Characters

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books To Read If Your Book Club Likes ______ (if your book club likes historical fiction, inspiring stories, YA books, non-fiction, controversial books to debate about, or pick a specific book)

Okay, so let me start out by saying that I have FAILED at every book club I have ever tried to join.  At least where I live, it seems that the main staple in every book club is Chick Lit and that’s just not an area of fiction that really interests me at all.  So, inevitably, I join a book club, get bored, and eventually stop showing up.

What does interest me regardless of genre, however, are strong female characters. If I ran a book club, literally every title I selected would feature a badass female protagonist.  Someone who is strong, complex, fierce, stubborn, and someone who is not caught up in love triangles or squares or whatever the latest trend is.  So my top ten list for this week focuses on ten books featuring badass female characters that I would choose for my own book club.  I chose from several different genres and tried to choose books about women who I considered strong for a variety of reasons and whose experiences differ greatly from one another.  There are tons more that I could easily choose, but for this list, I specifically tried to pick titles I imagined would generate interesting discussion at an actual book club meeting.  Enjoy!

Top Ten Book Club Reads Featuring Strong Female Characters


1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


Goodreads Synopsis: Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.  (Read more…)

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2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Goodreads Synopsis: The nation of Panem, formed from a post-apocalyptic North America, is a country that consists of a wealthy Capitol region surrounded by 12 poorer districts. Early in its history, a rebellion led by a 13th district against the Capitol resulted in its destruction and the creation of an annual televised event known as the Hunger Games. In punishment, and as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol, each district must yield one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 through a lottery system to participate in the games. The ‘tributes’ are chosen during the annual Reaping and are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.

When 16-year-old Katniss’s young sister, Prim, is selected as District 12’s female representative, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She and her male counterpart Peeta, are pitted against bigger, stronger representatives, some of whom have trained for this their whole lives. , she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.   (Read more…)

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3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver


Goodreads Synopsis:  The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa..   (Read more…)

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4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg


Goodreads Synopsis:  It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women — of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.  (Read more…)

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5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker


Goodreads Synopsis:  The Color Purple is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.

Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of women of color in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture. The novel has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 at number seventeen because of the sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence. (Read more…)

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6. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler


Goodsreads Synopsis:  When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.  (Read more…)

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7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


Goodreads Synopsis:  Since its immediate success in 1813, Pride and Prejudice has remained one of the most popular novels in the English language. Jane Austen called this brilliant work “her own darling child” and its vivacious heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, “as delightful a creature as ever appeared in print.” The romantic clash between the opinionated Elizabeth and her proud beau, Mr. Darcy, is a splendid performance of civilized sparring. And Jane Austen’s radiant wit sparkles as her characters dance a delicate quadrille of flirtation and intrigue, making this book the most superb comedy of manners of Regency England.  (Read more…)

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8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


Goodreads Synopsis:  Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.   (Read more…)

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9. Room by Emma Donoghue


Goodreads Synopsis: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.  (Read more…)

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10. Cinder by Marissa Myers


Goodreads Synopsis:  Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.  (Read more…)

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I realized when I got to the bottom of my list that I didn’t have any nonfiction titles, so I’m throwing in this bonus selection.  I chose Hillary’s autobiography, because love her or hate her, I think everyone will agree that she is the badass of all badasses in the political world!

11. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton


Goodreads Synopsis:  Hillary Rodham Clinton is known to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Yet few beyond her close friends and family have ever heard her account of her extraordinary journey. She writes with candor, humor and passion about her upbringing in suburban, middle-class America in the 1950s and her transformation from Goldwater Girl to student activist to controversial First Lady.

Living History is her revealing memoir of life through the White House years. It is also her chronicle of living history with Bill Clinton, a thirty-year adventure in love and politics that survives personal betrayal, relentless partisan investigations and constant public scrutiny.

Hillary Rodham Clinton came of age during a time of tumultuous social and political change in America. Like many women of her generation, she grew up with choices and opportunities unknown to her mother or grandmother. She charted her own course through unexplored terrain — responding to the changing times and her own internal compass — and became an emblem for some and a lightning rod for others. Wife, mother, lawyer, advocate and international icon, she has lived through America’s great political wars, from Watergate to Whitewater.

The only First Lady to play a major role in shaping domestic legislation, Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled tirelessly around the country to champion health care, expand economic and educational opportunity and promote the needs of children and families, and she crisscrossed the globe on behalf of women’s rights, human rights and democracy. She redefined the position of First Lady and helped save the presidency from an unconstitutional, politically motivated impeachment. Intimate, powerful and inspiring, Living History captures the essence of one of the most remarkable women of our time and the challenging process by which she came to define herself and find her own voice — as a woman and as a formidable figure in American politics.  (Read more…)

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Question:  Have you read any of these titles? What are your favorite reads that feature strong female characters?

24 replies
  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    I’d love to have a book club where you could discuss books like The Hunger games- how cool would that be? Where are these clubs?? lol. And Fried Green Tomatoes- loved the movie, never read the book. Seems like it would be a great book club pick. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seems edgy and I like those, along with thrillers sometimes- another fun pick. Great list! If you find a book club like this let me know ha ha.

  2. Angela
    Angela says:

    Great list! I love the mix of classics and newer books. Jane Eyre is one of my favorites of all time! I also love the inclusion of Hillary Clinton’s memoir – very timely!

  3. Wendy @ Birdie Bookworm
    Wendy @ Birdie Bookworm says:

    I’ve never been a part of a book club either, if you don’t count online Goodreads Groups. (I don’t.) I adapted my TTT today.

    My Grandma’s favorite book is Jane Eyre. She gave me an antique copy that sits on my bookshelf, and someday I’ll read it. 🙂

  4. Jane @ Raincity Librarian
    Jane @ Raincity Librarian says:

    This is a fantastic list – I really love that you’ve considered strength from a number of different angles. It drives me nuts when authors consider only physical strength, and this that a strong female character must be a kick-ass fighter or tough chick. That’s just one kind of strength – there’s moral, emotional, and mental strength too! A great collection of stories with fantastic characters.

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Thank you! Yes, I have to say when I think of strength, physical strength is probably at the bottom of the list of things I consider. As you say, there’s so much more to it than that.

  5. Jazz
    Jazz says:

    Great choices! ‘Jane Eyre’ is one of my all time favorite books. It’s just so…un-Victorian. Jane takes the Victorian lady stereotype and completely obliterates it. She shows women, both past and present, that they can take control of their lives and don’t simply have to endure a situation because they’re expected to. She’s a badass <3

  6. Diana
    Diana says:

    Great selection of books. I have been reading Jane Eyre, a bit too slowly but I like it so far.I loved Jack and Ma in Room and Celia in Purple. All these books are wonderful and I hope to add some to my TBR. Great post!

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