General Fiction

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Classics (by women writers)


Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

I had not planned to participate on today’s Top Ten Tuesday, mainly because I forgot to check the theme. But seeing all your wonderful posts about classic literature, I thought I could do a very special post: all classic – in the most traditional way of the word – works written by women, both British and American. So, here are ten books that I have read and that I have loved, written by women who defied social expectations about what to do – write – and what to write about. I have also decided to include pictures of the authors rather than of the covers of the books, as I usually do, because I think it is important to put a face to the works. These were, above all, real women.

1. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather .- Cather wrote about what it meant to be a woman in the late 19th-century frontier. The main character in this novel, Alexandra, is a role model even for nowadays’ standards.


2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin.- This is a classic that really changed me when I read it. The main character defies social expectations of what being a woman means vs. what it means to her.


3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.- My grandma gave me a 1970’s edition of a Spanish translation and I immediately fell in love with the novel. However, I prefer what is classically understood as Little Women: modern editions also include a second part, Good Wives, that has a totally different tone and morality behind.


4. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.- What if I told you this classic is probably behind modern productions such as Desperate Housewives? I love the idea of a town populated only by women where they feel comfortable and support each other.


5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.- A beloved classic from the moment I read the first chapter, this novel has the perfect, dark and gothic atmosphere for a winter’s evening.


6. Wüthering Heights by Emily Brontë.- Did anyone say gothic? Emily’s novel is far darker and twisted than Charlotte’s. I loved the typically Romantic story between Cathy and Heathcliff. Not to take out of the literary walls, though!


7. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn.- Behn was the first women writer to live by the pen and her novel is a testament of her passion and her drive.


8. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.- If there is a classic non-fiction work, written by a woman to read, this is it. Woolf has no rival defending women’s rights that – sadly – are still being fought for nowadays.


9. The Poirot series by Agatha Christie.- Because being a crime fiction fan, I could not forget her! Death on the Nile (1937) read and perfect for a sunny evening outside.


10. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins-Gillman.- A dark and realistic account of post-natal depression and how it has been ignored and stigmatized for centuries.




  • Stephen

    I haven’t heard of some of these — far too little literature is taught in schools these days — so thank you for sharing them, especially that first one about frontier life. Whenever I want to read about the west my choices seem to be the Little House series or western adventures!

    • Elena

      Far too little literature and even less written by women! I hope this lists helps a little and I totally recommend you O Pioneers! Please come back to share your thoughts if you read it. We would love to hear and we usually have some interesting discussions going on.

    • Elena

      I think you would love it, Ellie. It is dark, twisted, cold… I wish some crime fiction had such phantasmagoric and powerful seetings as Wüthering Heights.

    • Elena

      Thanks 🙂 I really liked the idea and I hope that – although most are well-known to most of us- they’ll be even better known for future readers.

    • Elena

      Aren’t they? I think that reading them before 21 is totally necessary for growing up. Please do ask me anything about the authors or the works if you want to know more. The books in this list are all very special to me.

  • yasmine rose

    Great list! I will be adding Kate Chopin onto my wish list and perhaps Agatha Christie. I really feel I ought to read some crime fiction. I guess that would be as good a place to start as any!

    • Elena

      The Awakening makes a perfect summer reading and I think you can download the digital version at Project Guttenberg. Please let me know if you read it, because I love talking about it x

    • Elena

      Oh please do! I thought you had, but if not, I totally agree it’s not the best time to read it. You’ll get around it later on and I’m sure that some parts will hit home. They did for me and I haven’t had a baby!

  • amanda

    Great list, Elena! I haven’t read them all, but I’m sure I’ll get there eventually. The ones I have read are all truly wonderful.

  • priscilla

    This is a solid list of classics by women. I am so happy to see you mentioned Aphra Behn–I actually just recommended her in a comment on another blog! She doesn’t get enough attention. The Cranford television series really helped gain attention for Elizabeth Gaskell (outside the UK), so I was happy to see her mentioned on a lot of lists today as well.

    • Elena

      Thanks, Priscilla. I think Behn is not so well-known and it’s a pity because she was the first woman to live by the pen.

      I don’t know in other countries, but I live in Spain and I studied English literature. I did a course on 19th century literature that asked us to do a half an hour presentation on a 19th century writer and work from a list where Gaskell was not included. I told the professor I wanted to work on Gaskell and she agreed. Luckily, she is not teaching Gaskell as well and with my course project! Step by step we can change things 🙂

    • Elena

      Thanks, Alice. Oh please come back or email me when you read The Yellow Wallpaper. It changes your life, the way you see your body and the way you see how science treated women for centuries. I love dicussing it.

    • Elena

      Thank you! I’m very surprised to see how many of us women like the story despite how terrible it is. It’s better to know about post-natal depression beforehand, right?

  • Leah

    I love that you chose to highlight classics written by women! They are so often overlooked in the mostly-male cannon. I’ve read about half of these, but I need to read the rest.

    • Elena

      I was very much inspired by your post and my replying to you. I know there is A canon, but there are women there as well. Once you get the names and the titles out, people start to say “oh, this rings a bell.” Isn’t that great?

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