Necessary Reads with Strong Female Leads

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This has been a tough week, let’s admit it. The U.S. Presidential election has finally come to an end. Some of us are pleased. Others are disappointed, hoping for a fem-fantastic victory. The entire world is in need of more female empowerment and encouragement. Thankfully, we have books to bolster our strength and keep up hope. Looking through the Book of the Month choices, we have plenty of powerful females to keep us company and ignite a fiery flame of inspiration.

Book of the Month is a great book subscription service which delivers books right to your door! Every month, their panel of esteemed judges chooses five books to be featured in that month’s box. As a subscriber, you can select your three favorite of the five by the 6th of the month, and your books are on their way the next day.

Which female lead books should you go for next? Here’s some of our top picks.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith


Swing Time features two powerful women: Tracy and an unnamed narrator. They are best friends- two black girls living in a public housing complex. They are propelled through their youth by their personal bond, a love of dance and the unyielding force of time. Tracy is a talented dancer and resists the swing of time by creating her own, counting time through her body’s rhythm. The narrator, on the other hand, desperately wishes she could dance. Unlike Tracy, she is raised by a family of intellectuals. Instead of dance, they teach her the roots of black culture and imbue her childhood with a deep sense of racial awareness. “The book feels like the culmination of all her talents: a gift for character and dialogue, a story rooted in a deep cultural and racial awareness,” writes Book of the Month Judge Kevin Nguyen.

Nicotine by Nell Zink


“I couldn’t help but love Penny Baker,” Book of the Month Judge Nina Sankovitch writes in her review of Nicotine, and it’s hard to disagree. Penny, the protagonist, is a chain smoking, bone be-jeweled college student with no sense of direction save for that which will lead her to the nearest drum circle. She is, moreover, a deeply sensitive and empathetic character. After the death of her father, Penny needs care and time to grieve. Instead, she is more or less shooed away from her family to their abandoned home in Jersey. Penny quickly realizes she is not alone: the place is now home to several squatters. Through the help of a few strangers and her own stubborn indecision, the dust begins to settle and Penny begins to see through the wreckage of loss. It’s the classic bildungsroman with a twist and a whole lot of cigarettes. 

The Trespasser by Tana French


French’s latest edition to the Dublin Murder Squad series is “an intricately-plotted thriller and a love letter to strong-willed women,” writes Book of the Month Judge Gaby Dunn. Antoinette Crowley, the protagonist of The Trespasser, is the Squad’s first female character to step on the scene. Antoinette is not only a woman, but a mixed race woman, lacing her story with gender and race hurdles that must be surpassed if she wants to succeed in her job. To overcome the feeling that she is a stain in the pool of her white male coworkers, she works harder, stays thick-skinned, and tries her best to overcome the paranoid thought that her co-workers might sabotage her investigation. Running through the gender and racial complexities of the narrative is a domestic murder with hellish twists. In both the subtle racist remarks of Antoinette co-workers, and the blatant domestic aggression that propel discrimination, The Trespasser is topical for today’s world. Antoinette stands a figure of resistance and strength. 

The Mothers by Brit Bennett


The Mothers tells the story of Nadia Tuner, daughter of Elise and heir to her mother’s “unfinished business”, which Nadia inherits when Elise commits suicide after a church service. Still reeling from her mother’s death, Nadia must deal with the wayward glances from fellow churchgoers who believe a streak of madness runs through the family. She must deal with the impact of her mother’s decisions, and see how her own create a binding implication on those around her. Woven into the plot are also critical looks at black culture, sexual stigma and cultural judgment. “How do I start to describe The Mothers?” writes Book of the Month Judge Morgan Jerkins; “Visceral? Riveting? Heart-wrenching… The Mothers is a rollercoaster ride that picks up very quickly even while maintaining complexity.” Through loss and love and social imposition, Nadia emerges a character of great grace and thought, and a powerful proxy for women everywhere. 

All the Ugly Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood


“Prepare yourself for one of the strangest but also one of the most genuine, and unforgettable, love stories you’ll ever read,” writes Book of the Month Judge Nina Sankovitch. Growing up in in the back of a meth lab and under the authority of abusive parents, Wavy’s childhood is a steady string of mistreatment. Yet for all the ugly things in her life, there is solace to be found. In herself and in the form of the new bodyguard, Kellen, Wavy retains a glimmer of hope and optimism despite the chains of reality. A difficult and wonderful love story develops between the two misfits, each crooked in their own way, and the two begin to heal amidst the wreckage. Wavy’s positivity and strength are mesmerizing, and her will to find the wonderful things in an ugly world makes this one a must read.

Image courtesy of The Horizon Sun.