Bestselling Women’s Fiction

From a very young age, Enid Blyton had a profound impact on my life. My favourite childhood book is unquestionably The Magic Faraway Tree but there were so many of her stories which swept me up into thrilling adventures and magical worlds: The Famous Five, The Naughtiest Girl in the School, Adventures of the Wishing-Chair, Thirteen O’clock and Other Stories… The list goes on. I can remember visiting a second-hand bookshop in Falmouth (sadly no longer there) on holidays to Cornwall as a child, excitedly choosing my next Blyton read. She may have been a controversial figure and there is much debate over the quality of her writing but she has nonetheless inspired a passion for fiction in millions of children.

Most of us will be familiar with other female authors such as J. K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Hilary Mantel, Zadie Smith, to name but a few – yet it is only in recent years that the conversations and perceptions of women writers have really begun to change. Up until the mid 19th Century, female writers were seen as akin to prostitutes. There existed the expectation that the path which all respectable women took led to marriage – not getting paid to write mediocre novels.

It’s with relief that I can say the situation looks very different now. These days women writers are often championed and lauded for their achievements and societal influence rather than merely being dismissed as writing easy-to-read novels for women, about women.

So who are the best selling female fiction writers?

When looking at those who have sold the most books to date, you’ll find names such as Agatha Christie, Barbara Cartland, Danielle Steele and – two authors I’ve previously mentioned – Enid Blyton and J. K. Rowling. But who is taking to the stage now? According to Amazon’s Bestsellers in Books for 2020, the top five best selling women’s fiction books were:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  • The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

If you’d like to discover exciting female literature to add to your ‘to read’ shelf, look no further than the Women’s Prize for Fiction.

The Women’s Prize Trust is a registered charity championing women writers on a global stage.

With the shortlist revealed back in April, I’m sure some of you have been furiously trying to read your way through the six finalists:

  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

The Women’s Prize for Fiction is a way of recognising the plethora of female writing talent out there who may otherwise be overlooked. It was created in response to the 1991 Booker Prize failing to include one woman on the shortlist. Now it’s in its 26th year of judging the most exciting and unique female voices in literature. Those who are shortlisted are decided on by a panel of five members, the line-up of which changes each year. Each book is judged on three key components: accessibility, originality and excellence.

“We empower all women to raise their voice and own their story, shining a spotlight on outstanding and ambitious fiction by women from anywhere in the world, regardless of their age, race, nationality or background.”

And the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction is…

Susanna Clarke takes this year’s crown with her fantasy novel, Piranesi. Congratulations!

There is a treasure trove of wonderful female fiction writers out there just waiting to be read by you. Podcasts are just one of the ways to get reading recommendations and there is an abundance of them. Here are a few to get you started:

  • The Women’s Prize Podcast
  • BBC Radio 4’s Open Book
  • The High Low
  • You’re Booked
  • Ourshelves

So give that reading list a refresh. Pre-ordering really helps authors out by creating a buzz around their work so if you have your eye on an upcoming book, get that order in!