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10 Most Important Women Fiction Writers of Our Time

Updated on July 3, 2014

When it comes to American fiction, we are lucky to have available to us some of the most talented and inspiring women writers. There is fiction - the kind of novel that entertains and you can breeze through in a couple of days. But then there is literary fiction - the kind of novel that grabs you and spits you out at the end. The following contemporary novelists will suck you in with not only the beauty of their prose, but with their ability to climb into your window and make you part of the story. Following are the best of the best.

Elizabeth Berg - From Chicago, Elizabeth Berg was a registered nurse before becoming a full time writer. Perhaps this is why she is able to capture the nuances and emotions of ordinary people, particularly women. She knows how women think, she explores the very real drama of common circumstances.

Durable Goods (1993)
Talk Before Sleep (1994)
Range of Motion (1995)
The Pull of the Moon (1996)
Joy School (1997)
What We Keep (1998)
Until the Real Thing Comes Along (1999)
Open House (2000)
Never Change (2001)
True to Form (2002)
Say When (2003)
The Art of Mending (2004)
The Year of Pleasures (2005)
We Are All Welcome Here (2006)
The Handmaid and the Carpenter (2006)
Dream When You're Feeling Blue (2007)
Home Safe (2009)

Barbara Kingsolver - From Kentucky, Barbara Kingsolver has mastered the art of writing outstanding literature. Her work has a literary quality like no other and she sees her literature as a tool for social awareness. If you read one book this year, read "The Poisonwood Bible".

Animal Dreams (1987)
The Bean Trees (1988)
Pigs in Heaven (1993)
The Poisonwood Bible (1998)
Prodigal Summer (2000)
The Lacuna (2009)

Anne Tyler - From Maryland, Anne Tyler is one of the most beloved contemporary fiction writers. He understanding of relationships and the quirks of maintaining them is paramount. He prose flows, her characters could be members of your own family.

If Morning Ever Comes (1964)
The Tin Can Tree (1965)
A Slipping Down Life (1969)
The Clock Winder (1972)
Celestial Navigation (1974)
Searching for Caleb (1975)
Earthly Possessions (1977)
Morgan's Passing (1980)
Dinner At the Homesick Restaurant (1982)
The Accidental Tourist (1985)
Breathing Lessons (1988)
Saint Maybe (1991)
Tumble Tower (1993)
Ladder of Years (1995)
A Patchwork Planet (1998)
Back When We Were Grownups (2001)
The Amateur Marriage (2004)
Digging to America (2006)
Noah's Compass (2009)

Anna Quindlen - From New York, Anna Quindlen is great at exploring the individual's need to be true to herself. She creatively reveals the steps people take when given a particular situation. He novels can make you cry but you'll rejoice in the end at the human way we all eventually succeed.

Object Lessons (1991)
One True Thing (1994)
Black and Blue (1998)
Blessings (2002)
Being Perfect (2005)
Rise and Shine (2006)

Margaret Atwood - From Canada, Magaret Atwood received her education in Massachusetts. Known as an accessable writer, she enjoys taking sarcastic jabs at social situations. She often examines the relationship between men and women. Her protagonists are usually strong but flawed women. Once you read a Margaret Atwood novel, you'll wonder why you haven't done so before.

The Edible Woman (1969)
Surfacing (1972)
Lady Oracle (1976)
Up in the Tree (1978)
Life before Man (1979)
Anna's Pet (1980)
Bodily Harm (1981)
Unearthing Suite (1983)
The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
The Labrador Fiasco (1986)
Cat's Eye (1988)
For the Birds (1990) (with Shelly Tanaka)
The Robber Bride (1993)
Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)
Alias Grace (1996)
The Blind Assassin (2000)
Oryx and Crake (2003)
The Year of the Flood (2009)

Toni Morrison - From Ohio, Toni Morrison has a keen ear for dialogue combined with a powerful writing seldom seen. Her expressive depiction of Black America and distinctive prose, make her a novelist not to skip. She is a classy, smart, and energetic writer.

The Bluest Eye (1969)
Sula (1973)
Song of Solomon (1977)
Tar Baby (1981)
Beloved (1987)
Jazz (1992)
Paradise (1997)
Love (2003)
A Mercy (2008)

Jacquelyn Mitchard - From Wisconsin, Jacquelyn Mitchard, more than most writers, has a grip on the emotional vulnerability of each of us. Readers identify wih her because of her authentic human voice. Her characters are far from perfect but they are real.

The Deep End of the Ocean (1996)
The Most Wanted (1998)
A Theory of Relativity (2001)
Twelve Times Blessed (2003)
Christmas, Present (2003)
Starring Prima!: The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie (2004)
Rosalie, My Rosalie: The Tale of a Duckling (2005)
The Breakdown Lane (2005)
Now You See Her (2005)
Cage of Stars (2006)
Still Summer (2007)
All We Know of Heaven (2008)

Jane Hamilton - From Wisconsin, Jane Hamilton possesses the ability to use descriptive phrases that make ordinary life extraordinary. She has the knack for placing the reader at the scene where one is able to see, smell, hear and feel what she writes - the mark of good writing.

A Map of the World (1994)
The Short History of a Prince (1998)
Disobedience (2000)
When Madeline Was Young (2006)
Laura Rider's Masterpiece (2009)

Sheri Reynolds - From South Carolina, Sheri Reynolds is a contemporary southern writer who has a great feel for her roots. Her novels make you feel like you are participating in a play, only the acting can be a heart-wrenching or jubilant experience.

Bitterroot Landing (1994)
The Rapture of Canaan (1995)
Gracious Plenty (1997)
Firefly Cloak (2006)
The Sweet In Between (2008)

Jane Smiley - From California, Jane Smiley is one of America's most beloved literary writers. Her characters are vibrant and complex. Her work takes the reader for a ride they'll never want to end.

Barn Blind (1980)
Duplicate Keys (1984)
The Greenlanders (1988)
A Thousand Acres (1991)
At Paradise Gate (1993)
Moo (1995)
The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998)
Horse Heaven (2000)
Good Faith (2003)
Ten Days in the Hills (2007)
Ordinary Love (2008)

Readers would be doing themselves a favor by picking up any of the books by any of these authors who make us proud to be Americans.


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    • Birdie Fitch profile image

      Birdie Fitch 

      3 years ago

      Great list! I totally agree with Atwood, Morrison, and Kingsolver. I'm not familiar with the others, so I don't feel qualified to comment on them. I love that you listed their work. Now I can get to know the ones I don't already!

    • jenbeach21 profile image


      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Thanks for list. I love Margaret Atwood's books and I am excited to discover new authors here.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 

      6 years ago from California

      This is a great list of books and authors bookmarked and voted up. Socially shared.

    • GoodLady profile image

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      So excited by your list. I have not read all these wonderful American writers but now, with this list at hand I will. Come summertime and I have a few weeks to read a lot, I usually look on The Guardian newspaper's list of author's favourite reading (because I am British by birth, living in the Italian countryside, far from English/American book stores) ) and always find lovely books, but this time I'll run through your list. MAny thanks.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Dawn - I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth Berg but one of my favorite books is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • dawnowens profile image


      7 years ago from Jersey Girl

      Great list! Elizabeth Berg, Margaret Atwood & Toni Morrison are truly great writers and I love their work. Joy School was my first Elizabeth Berg find and is still one of my favorite books to this day, along with Durable Goods, What We Keep & The Pull of the Moon. I loved Atwood's Alias Grace. With Toni Morrison, I'm looking forward to reading Jazz, but loved The Bluest Eye, Paradise & Beloved.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

      Adele - I'll check them out. Thanks.

    • profile image

      adele visser 

      7 years ago

      I Gree with the list and would like to include Jodi Picoult

      and Paullina simons

    • PiaC profile image


      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I love this list! The Poisonwood Bible is one of my favorite books. And I love everything by Anne Tyler.

    • glassvisage profile image


      7 years ago from Northern California

      Thank you for this Hub. A very good idea to consider the importance of their role in the world of fiction and in society. I've read some of these works, but I admit that some of these authors I have not heard of, so it is good to get to know their names and familiarize myself with them :)

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Gayle - you're right, Joyce Carol Oates is a wonderful American fiction writer. Thanks for the reminder.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      sorry you did not mention Joyce Carol Oates!

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      offyrface - I will check out these other writers. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Excellent list. A couple authors there I'm not familiar with, but Kingsolver, Tyler and Smiley are among my favorites. I think it's also worth mentioning Marilynne Robinson (author of Housekeeping and Gilead). Alice Munro, Cynthia Ozick and Annie Proulx are all quite good as well, though known more for short stories than novels.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Hi 2patricias - Of course it's okay with me - thanks.

    • 2patricias profile image


      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Very interesting lists - will be coming back to make notes.

      I will put up a link from our hub 'Books about Teeth and Smiling' as you have included Jane Smiley. I hope this is okay with you.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      USMCwife - Kingsolver is great indeed. Thanks for commenting.

    • USMCwifey09 profile image


      8 years ago

      B. Kingsolver's brother was a professor of mine in college, and I had the pleasure of meeting her a few times. I've loved everything she's written. Great list!

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Dardia - Anything by Barbara Kingsolver or Elizabeth Berg is a great read. Thanks so much for stopping by.

    • Dardia profile image

      Darlene Yager 

      8 years ago from Michigan

      I have heard a lot of good comments on Barbara Kingsolver's, The Poisonwood Bible. I haven't read it yet but I will certainly be adding it as well as these other authors to my list to read. Thanks!

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Riviera Rose - thanks for commenting. All these writers are wonderful.

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 

      8 years ago from South of France

      To my shame there were a few authors there I hadn't heard of - thanks for the good advice!

    • sheila b. profile image

      sheila b. 

      8 years ago

      Hi! My list would be different from yours, but you've told me about some authors to try. That's good, I'm always looking for someone new to read. Thanks.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Chloe - There really is so much junk out there - it's good to know people are reading these books. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Chloe Comfort profile image

      Chloe Comfort 

      9 years ago from Long Island

      I formerly worked in a used book store and each of these authors were in such high demand. Could barely keep their books on the shelves. Very good authors.

    • suziecat7 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Thank you for the comment. Yes, Flannery O'Conner is an excellent choice though not included because I was concentrating on living contemporary writers. Thanks to you, I have revisited her work and will read her stuff again.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Good list. One of my favorites is Flannery O'Connor.


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