Guess which book written by a woman was voted the most influential! Following the announcement of the winner of the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize this year (Eimear McBride for A Girl is a Half-formed Thing) the organisers launched a campaign to find novels ‘that have impacted, shaped or changed readers lives’. The top 20 were reported in the Guardian in July.
Top of the list was To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I suspect that some of its influence is due to the 1962 film of the book, starring Gregory Peck. It’s also a book that is often on the school curriculum, despite Michael Gove’s attempts to promote British fiction over all others. (For readers outside the UK, Gove was the Conservative Secretary of State for Education until recently.)
The top 10 most influential books in the Baileys’s poll:
- To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling
- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- I Captured the Castle by Dodie Smith
My list of 10 most influential books by women:
These are in chronological order, rather than reflecting any hierarchy of influence.
- What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge: a manual for growing up a good girl, now rejected!
- The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff: perhaps the source of my enduring love of history and the reason it was the focus of my first degree.
- Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden: adolescence anticipated.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: nothing to be said except it is #6 on the Baileys’s list.
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy: a world where gender was not predominant fed into my growing feminism.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot: another classic and #16 on the list.
- The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: more feminism.
- The Women’s Room by Marilyn French: yet more feminism.
- Writing a Woman’s Life by Carolyn G Heilbrun: see my post about this one, here.
What I like about this topic is that it bypasses any notion of favourite. What would be on your list of influential books by women?
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