50 Novels by Female Writers Under 50

Last week, Emily Temple of Flavorwire wrote an article that caught my eye: 50 Excellent Novels by Female Writers Under 50 That Everyone Should Read. Naturally, I’m excited about any article that promotes reading more female authors. I decided to go through Temple’s list and see which books I would like to add to my own to-read list.

Here’s what I’m thinking. Like anyone who takes a look at the list, I have Opinions. Also, a staggering addition to my “to-read list”.

What about you? What would you have added or removed from the list? Any of these books on your to-read list?


  • Boy, Snow, Bird  by Helen Oyeyemi: This critically acclaimed novel would not have been one I would have wandered to prior to making a concerted effort to read books out of my typical realm. Great opportunity to expand my reading.
  • An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay: How have I not already heard of this?? Ransom, psychological after math, Haiti… I can’t wait.
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones: The first line of this book (“My father, James Winterspoon, is a bigamist) is enough to have me totally hooked.
  • The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton: I actually received this book as a Christmas present and have yet to tackle it. At 832 pages, It’s one of those “I know I’ll love it once I get into it but it just feels daunting right now” books.
  • No One is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel: The premise is intriguing and the Goodreads reviews are polarizing. Again, not the type of book I would pick out unless I was actively trying to expand my horizons. Excited to see how it goes!
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I have picked up this book time and time again and I just need to read it. Officially on The List.
  • Kinder Than Solitude by Yiyun Lee. A mystery and character exploration that moves between the 1980’s and present day, China and the US. I’m in!
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo. How have I not read this yet??
  • A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois. While I don’t care much about chess, I do find Huntington’s terrible and fascinating. Plus, I loved her other book, Cartwheel.
  • Salvage the Bone by Jesmyn Ward. The cover is familiar but I don’t think I’ve ever picked up the book. It looks brutal- the kind of book that will break your heart.
  • 2 A.M. At the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino. I just picked this one up the other day! It looks like a sweet novel.
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. The story of a girl who is sent from the impoverished village in Haiti to live in New York with her mom, whom she doesn’t know or remember.
  • The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour. A boy raised in a bird cage who is then let loose. I’m a sucker for books that focus on childhood development (We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesLucy)
  • The Enchanted by Rene Dunfield. The story of a death row inmate who finds escape through reading books and re-imagining the world around him. Definitely out of my wheelhouse by the reviews are amazing.
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. I read her most recent book Night Film and loved it for all of its gritty weirdness. Will definitely check this one out.
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. The timing (Great Migration) and the structure (1-2 chapters devoted to each character) are interesting to me.
  • The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan. I have had this on my iPad for so long and I just need to sit down and read it.
  • The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt. A novel about time travel, love, and Nicola Tesla. Very intrigued.
  • Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. A political Middle Eastern love story. Yes.
  • Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. Family coming together after a death and trying to make sense of the family connections, secrets and lore. Set in Ghana.
  • The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. A ‘grand love story’  and a story of brothers whose lives are torn apart by war. The reviews are good. I’ll check it out.


  • The Anatomy of Dreams by Chloe Benjamin. This one doesn’t come out until September but is already getting great reviews. However, I once made the mistake of taking classes at a psychoanalytic institute and don’t have a lot of patience with psychological theories that don’t have some sort of strong scientific basis. The plot looks interesting but I have the feeling the characters may get on my nerves.
  • The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits. While I’m interested in readying about the female power dynamic, I’m hesitant about this book in general. The “psychic powers” element of the book could be really fantastical and interesting (evoking a feeling similar to The Night Circus) or just really cheesy. We shall see.
  • Vacation by Den Olin Unferth. This one’s straddling “possibly” and “probably not” for me. It’s received some amazing reviews. That being said, I don’t tend to enjoy books that are very stylistic with the prose. Also, the premise of a man following his wife following another man- with some dolphins and a boy thrown in- sounds a little bit too whimsical/trying to be very clever for me. That type of clever-whimsy- while I feel like I should like- just tends to annoy me.
  • Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen. This one has an interesting premise: a husband obsessed with the idea that is wife has been replaced by a simulacrum. However, there are a lot of negative reviews on Goodreads that cause me to pause. One reviewer commented that this book is “so hip I can’t see past my pelvis”. Other reviews complain that it is too self-consciously smart- leaving readers with a feeling that the author’s main point is to prove how smart she is. That concerns me. But I love dark books, so I may end up reading it after all.
  • White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I did not love On Beauty. I felt it had a lot of potential and I liked a few of the characters a lot- unfortunately, they were not the ones the reader spends the most time with. I despised the main character and felt that there wasn’t much resolved or changed by the end. However, White Teeth‘s plot seems interesting and it has received a lot of critical acclaim. I think I will end up reading it- but probably not any time soon.
  • Ugly Girls: A Novel by Lindsay Hunter. This book has the danger/thriller aspect that I love, but the female power struggle plotline could go either way. I was one of the few people who really didn’t like Megan Abbot’s The Fever.
  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff. I bought this one for my mom a few years ago and neither of us got around to reading it. Looks like it could be good but isn’t particularly compelling.
  • A Person of Interest by Susan Choi. The premise is interesting but the reviews are very divided. It’s been criticized for being dense and spending too much time on scene descriptions. I think I may still pick it up, but not feeling a sense of urgency.
  • Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey- seems like it could be the kind of book that puts the reader in a funk. That being said, I do love books that portray mental deterioration, so I may end up reading it.
  • Tampa by Alissa Nutting. Novel of a female teacher who obsessively goes after young male students to have sex with them. Super on the fence about this one. Not so interested in the sex scenes but the characters could be interesting.
  • We Take Me Apart by Molly Gaudry. A novella in free verse written about mothers and daughters, cooking and cleaning and home- doesn’t really sound like my thing. But those who enjoy that sort of thing have loved it. So if my tastes begin to expand in this direction, I will definitely pick it up.
  • Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel.The plot seems really interesting but the reviews on Goodreads are all over the place. A lot of complaints about over-stylized prose and underdeveloped characters makes me think I’ll wait on this one and focus on some of the other books I’m more excited about.
  • Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet. It was short-listed for a Pulitzer, which is interesting- and it sounds like it could be pretty funny. But the narrator seems like kind of a jackass and I’m not really sure I want to spend that much time with him.
  • Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson. Looks like it could be very good but I don’t feel compelled to purchase it right now. Something to check out next time I’m at a loss for something to read.

Probably Not:

  • The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner. This book is also critically acclaimed. However, I don’t tend to do well with books about artists in New York in the 60’s and 70’s. I think I may be the only person on the planet who really didn’t like Patti Smith’s memoir of her relationship with Robert Maplethorpe: Just Kids.
  • The Peculiar Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I have picked up this book so many times- I even had a copy at one point. But I just have this feeling that reading this book will leave me feeling vaguely depressed while I’m reading it.
  • Madeleine is Sleeping by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum. The concept of this book seems to be to be a little bit too pretentious for me. I’m not really interested in the intersection of a young girl’s dreaming and reality (certainly not enough for an entire novel). Throw in the blurred lines between dream & reality and the erotic overtones, and I see myself getting annoyed.
  • Threats by Amelia Gray. This book has been described as having an “experimental” style. If there are 2 things I don’t appreciate in novels, it is experimental style and magical realism. Just can’t get into it.
  • Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique. Another one with magical realism. Yanique was compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I know we’re supposed to love him, but Love in the Time of Cholera just annoying. Too silly. I did like 100 Years of Solitude. Anyway, this book also apparently deals with incest, which is another dealbreaker for me. Regardless of the literary merit, once incest comes into play I can’t hang.
  • Green Girl by Kate Zambreno. I already survived my own shallow, coming-of-age meditations on beauty and life and the “emptiness” and “cruelty” of humanity. I don’t want to spend time in someone else’s.
  • The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. Quantum physics, philosophy, and a manuscript containing a metaphysical spell? No thank you.
  • The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich. The main character spends the entire novel meandering around while on drugs. Nope- I’m not 18 anymore and don’t find it interesting.
  • Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta. The book is touted as a “rock and roll novel”, which does nothing to entice me. Also sounds like the author moves back and forth in POV without much notice. As mentioned, experimenting too heavily with structure does nothing for me.
  • Among Others by Jo Walton. If I go through a phase where I’m craving a memoirish book that also includes elements of sci fi and fantasy, I will definitely go for this one. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Already Read:

  • Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. Not a fan. It had huge promise and I was so excited about the idea of it. But I never really connected with the characters and I spent the last half of the book feeling bored and empty. 2 stars.
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Probably the best book I’ve read this year. My sister loves Adichie’s TED talk & the book was getting such good review that I decided to give it a try. Just- so fantastic. 5 stars.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. It has been so long since I’ve read this one, but I remember really enjoying it. It’s a graphic novel memoir that describes a young girl’s experience growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. 4 stars.
  • In the Woods by Tana French. I love, love Tana French. Her novels: psychological thrillers wrapped in murder mysteries centered around various detectives on the Dublin Murder squad- are deliciously chilling and fascinating. I would probably recommend The Likeness over In the Woods, but everything she writes is worth reading if you enjoy the genre. 5 stars.
  • The History of Love I liked the idea of this book and I think it could have been amazing. I loved the parts that followed the young girl. But the parts that followed the old man were really boring and depressing. 3 stars.

Books I Would Add to the List

  • The Possibilities by Kaui Hart Hemmings. This book was funny, touching & included some of my favorite characters in recent memory. Hemmings wrote The Descendents, which I have yet to read or see- so The Possibilities was my first introduction to her.
  • Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh. Brosh has developed a devoted legion of fans from her website: Hyperbole and a Half. She is brilliant at depicting her childhood absurdities, explaining depression and somehow making you laugh along the way. Anyone- especially those who have struggled with depression and/or anxiety- will feel a connection to this book
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Fantastic, compelling and unselfconsciously clever. I love, love this book.
  • I wish I could include Ann Patchett and Marian Keyes, but they are both exactly 50. But check them out anyway.

What about you? What books would you add/remove? Does the “50 Under 50” inspire you to pick up any of the books included on the list?

About theslipperyreader

When I was ten, I was grounded for reading and riding my bike at the same time. I know what you're thinking. The answer is "Boxcar Children".
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