My favourite women authors – a double day celebration #IWD

With two important days to celebrate, I thought it would be appropriate to combine them – so we cheer for World Book Day March 7th, 2019 and International Women’s Day March 8th 2019.

As the theme for #InternationalWomen’sDay in 2019 is #BalanceforBetter, what better way for me to express my admiration, with a balance of excellent books and great women, than to list my top 20 choices of books written by women authors whom I admire.

INternational Women's Day World Book Day

Let’s celebrate World Book Day and International Women’s Day together.

Please feel free to add your own choices in the comments below. But for my own choices…

The top 20 books written by women that mean the most to me

Some of these authors are famous. Some are not – yet. Some are dead. But all have touched me deeply.

Let’s celebrate them all … in their balance across generations, fame and achievements.

Agatha Christie. I have loved crime fiction from an early age and although many crime fiction purists may sneer at Agatha’s ‘populist’ prose, I love it: not just because it’s an easy read and not hard to understand, but also because of just that. She managed to weave intricate plots and combine them into the incredibly snotty upper and upper middle class societies of her era which gave each story a sense of snobbishness … while at the same time making sure the story, narrative and dialogue were easily understood by everyone. Her fame was well deserved.

Ali Moore. A new author, a client and friend of mine: an experienced psychotherapist who has captured the way to repair and close that terrible gap between who you have become and who you really are. If that sounds trite, it isn’t. So many of us have allowed that gap to pull our lives apart, to our detriment and pain. Her book, Reconnect Your Life, is published March 15th (2019) on all the Amazons and offers readers a way to take a little time out to rediscover the person they once weree, what they really want, and how they’re going to readjust their lives accordingly. In amongst a flurry of self-help books all promising to help you make your life better, this one – written by a highly-qualified professional – is a breath of fresh air.

Barbara Grengs. What a brilliant author who can teach children English without their even noticing! Minnesota-based retired English teacher Barb and I became internet buddies many years ago and finally met when my son and I visited her when she lived in St Pauls. Wonderful lady whose Toby Martin – Pet Detective books, aimed at 12-year-olds, are among my own favourites of kids’ fiction. Her first adult novel, Delicate Dames, is probably the funniest yet most bitter-sweet work of fiction I’ve read in a long time. And her most recent fictionalised rendition of her autobiography, Rainbow House, is an absolutely delightful vintage piece in which Barb borrowed my name (Suze) as the character representing herself. I was truly honoured. And the book makes you want to cry with its honesty, humility and humour.

Cheryl Salmon. Another new author, client and friend whose book, A Private Education Without The Fees, is about to shake the foundations of school-think for parents of children in the UK. In her book former head teacher (school principal) Cheryl shows parents how to augment what their kids learn at “state” school and open up their minds and hearts beyond what often amounts to “teaching to the test.”  Without getting political, we should not blame teachers or individual schools for serving up what amounts to a fairly narrow curriculum which parents need to augment if they want their kids to have the benefits they might gain from a private education. This book provides parents with the inside knowledge and educational savvy, to share with their children the extra educational dimensions a private education would offer.

Evelyn Harrison. Romantic (adult) novelist Evelyn, a client and friend, recently has taken to writing a lovely children’s saga about a skateboarding little girl with a love for hats, called Tilly, starting with Finding Willow which will be published a little later in 2019. What really resonates with me about Evelyn’s writing for kids is that it manages to include up-to-date characters and culture that your average on-trend 6-8-year-olds will love, while simultaneously luring them into old-fashioned environments with dogs, ponies and the countryside … along with some spooky magic that raises everyone’s eyebrows. Watch this space.

Jane Austen. What can I say other than I, like millions of other readers, am still enchanted by Austen’s books and read them over and over. I never tire of her wry humour, subtle attention to detail, and a genuine build of suspense over something as simple as a candlelit ball. It’s hard to pick a favourite amongst her books but if I had to, I would probably say Northanger Abbey which I think shows off Austen’s sense of satire to her best. It was my GCSE novel and I have loved it ever since.

Joanie Chevalier. A writer and editor of considerable merit, Joanie lives an idyllic life in an RV in which she tours western United States, calling its beauty and charm her true home. Her favourite writing genre is horror, and we “met” (virtually) through having contributed short stories to the Corona Book of Horror Stories and the Second Corona Book of Horror Stories. She also runs a wonderful journal for book lovers called the Reader/Author Connection Magazine (RAC).

Joanna Penn. I don’t know Joanna personally but I rate one of her many nonfiction titles, How to Market a Book, as the best advice I have ever seen on this increasingly complex activity. In the book’s 300 pages she packs in everything, and I mean everything any self-promoting author needs to know on how to get their book out to market and selling. Whether you are a self-published or traditionally published author, buy that book! She is also a very successful author of thrillers, as well as being an international speaker and entrepreneur. Busy, talented lady.

Jules White. Another client and friend of mine, a former Dragon’s Den (like Shark Tank in the USA) winner, who is rattling many cages now in her friendly, informal and conversational way with Live It, Love It, Sell It ® – the book of the excellent training, workshops and talks (including a TEDx talk) she does in the UK and more recently in the USA. The book’s tagline, “How to win at sales with the art of human conversation,” says it all. As we know only too well, people when buying or thinking about buying want conversations – not presentations, and this book not only shows you how to use conversations to help customers to buy but also dissolves all the old fashioned stigma attached to the corporate sales approaches still, sadly, in common use today. A real eye opener.

Kelsey Ramsden. A fellow Canadian who was guest speaker at an event I attended a few years ago near Toronto, Kelsey is one of North America’s leading women entrepreneurs having started and built up a number of hugely successful businesses across Canada. Her recent book, Success Hangover: Ignite your next act. Screw your status quo. Feel alive again. opens up a very important can of worms for entrepreneurs and other go-getters: once you are successful, what next? Brilliant book that makes you think. Entrepreneurs will love it. (And bear in mind that Kelsey and I share a love for using strong language…)

Louisa May Alcott The author of my youth! I think Louisa May Alcott’s books about the March family surviving and dealing with the US Civil War in the 19th century is utterly amazing, if only because despite the stories being set so long ago they still have a poignant and heartfelt ring to them. I read Little Women and its sequel, Good Wives and later Little Men and loved them all. Today we might look back on Louisa’s work and point a feminist finger at it, but in many ways her work was ahead of its time, with all her female and even a few of the male characters embracing more or less equal roles in their adult lives. It’s no wonder that these books are still family favourites 150 years after they were published.

Mazo de la Roche Another author of my youth, and that of my late mother. Mazo de la Roche’s amazing family saga, the Jalna books, was the Dallas or Dynasty of its era and had thousands of readers on the edge of their seats waiting for the next book in the series to emerge. The saga was about a family having emigrated to Canada in the late 19th century and settled in a gorgeous rural spot just up from the shores of Lake Ontario west of Toronto – superb countryside then but now part of the city of Mississauga. My mother, a war bride from Belgium faced with moving to Canada with my (Canadian Forces) father some years after WW2, had based her assumptions of Canadian life on the Jalna books and expected her own life there, only a couple of hours’ drive from the supposed Jalna location, to be a similarly rugged yet vibrant experience. After many years, having recently given birth to me, my mother changed her mind which is why we ended up in Europe. Another story for another day, but the books are glorious.

Penelope Mortimer. Her superb collection of short stories – Saturday Lunch with The Brownings – was a book I read over and over again. I met her and two of her daughters (one of whom I knew and had worked with in my scriptwriting days, actor Caroline Mortimer) out in St Lucia years ago and remember what a fascinating family they were. Loved Penelope’s subtle style and also loved the writing of her ex, Sir John Mortimer, lawyer and writer of such wonderful stuff as “Rumpole of the Bailey” and much more.

Rayne Hall. Raine is another “virtual” friend, a British lady who moved to Bulgaria a while back. She resides in glorious countryside with an increasing tribe of feral cats who now live in a feline lap of luxury and earn their keep by helping advertise Rayne’s writing. And that is prolific. Not only does she write vast numbers of skin-crawler spooky horror stories, but also a huge range of short books to help other authors. She is a gem for anyone starting to write and we should all be very grateful for her advice and guidance. Follow her on Twitter where she shares her latest stories, help for other authors, and photos of the cats…

Roberta Aarons. Roberta was a client of mine back in the days when I was a mere business TV scriptwriter and she was the boss of a large production company. Most of us were terrified of her as she came from a background of TV commercials production and would not accept anything less than excellence! Anyway I managed to keep up the standards and now that she and I have moved on, we are still good friends and still admire each other’s work. Today Roberta writes the most charming and funny novels – sadly she has only done two so far but I’m really hoping she will do more. You’d enjoy My Grandfather’s False Teeth – the saga of a Jewish family coming to the east end of London from Poland, and Slippers In The Oven, how a cruise holiday brings two estranged sisters back together through the common experience of holiday cruising at its worst. Both books are very funny and poignant at the same time.

S L Powell. Sarah Powell has written a superb children’s book about bullying: Visible Ink. Now I know there are lots of children’s books about bullying out there but this one stands out not only as a good story complete with some magic and humour, but also as a message that bullying often occurs due to people being different, and being different is not wrong. Being different is OK. In the book both the bullyer and bullyee come to an amicable understanding and agree that they are just – different. A strong message that could go a long way towards resolving bullying issues in schools: teachers of Years 4-6 (UK) and 4th-7th graders (USA/Canada) take note.

Sally Farmiloe-Neville. Sally was a good friend of mine for many years and when she was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer she and I became even closer, as I am a 2 x cancer survivor and in my spare time do a lot of voluntary work in that field. Her diagnosis worried me as triple-negative breast cancer is harder to treat than some types. Sally had been told to have a mastectomy but, being quite a well known actress and socialite (who, through her glittering social events, raised millions of pounds for charity) her view was that her boobs were part of her working costume and even with a reconstruction she would be disfigured. The story in My Left Boob trots on in Sally’s wonderfully cheerful and no-nonsense way and ends on an upbeat note with her having been declared in remission after a lumpectomy and oncological treatment. Sadly, not long after the book was published the cancer came back and she died. The book is a good read full of social London (England) gossip and stories of her interesting life, but it’s also a warning to other women that triple-negative breast cancer is not to be trifled with.

Sue Bentley. A famous author of fabulous children’s books and also books for young adults, Sue’s latest title – We Other – is a much more grown-up story although still aimed at the teen-plus age group. In it she combines stark realities of gritty modern life with fantasy plus a bit of magic and sci-fi thrown in for good measure. Young adult reading or not, it’s a rollicking-good tale that any age group will enjoy.

Sue Eaton. As with Joanie Chevalier (see above), Sue and I met as co-contributors to the same two anthololgies of short horror stories. But as Sue lives in the UK where I live we were able to meet face-to-face and enjoy some good chats about setting the world to rights. Sue is a very clever and talented spooky writer covering both the horror and science fiction genres and recently has published The Woman Who Was Not His Wife, an intriguing story about a woman abducted to an alien civilisation that combines totally unhuman cultures with scarily human undercurrents. It’s funny, well written and is the perfect starter book for someone new to the science fiction genre.

Virginia Woolf  I have loved the stories of the “Bloomsbury Set” for many years and anyone who thinks that, er, life was much more conventional back in those days will not have read any of the novels and memoirs from that era. Incest, bisexuality, group sex and quite a few other things were routine pastimes for people in Virginia’s social class in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. And what I’ve always found especially interesting about Virginia Woolf’s books, and those of others in her group, is the way they show how despite significant privilege, money, promiscuity and idleness, none of it made them any happier: if anything, it added to their depression, debauchery and boredom. Maybe my love of books from this era is a little voyeuristic, but it’s fascinating. At least a lot of literary excellence emerged from the less savoury bits.

Congratulations ladies. You all have made my day at one time or another so let’s celebrate both World Book Day and International Women’s Day together!

Who are your favorite women authors? Please share in the comments.