Wednesday, December 19, 2007

100 Most Influential Books by Women

via Bookey Wookey, who says to add a missing title to your own list.

The ones I've read--39--are in bold.

1. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
2. Anne Rice, Interview With the Vampire
3. Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
4. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
5. Virginia Woolf, The Waves
6. Virginia Woolf, Orlando
7. Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
8. Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth
9. Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence
10. Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
11. Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
12. Nadine Gordimer, Burger’s Daughter
13. Harriette Simpson Arnow, The Dollmaker
14. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
15. Willa Cather, My Ántonia
16. Erica Jong, Fear of Flying
17. Erica Jong, Fanny
18. Joy Kogawa, Obasan
19. Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
20. Doris Lessing, The Fifth Child
21. Doris Lessing, The Grass Is Singing
22. Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
23. Marge Piercy, Woman on the Edge of Time
24. Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres
25. Lore Segal, Her First American
26. Alice Walker, The Color Purple
27. Alice Walker, The Third Life of Grange Copeland
28. Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon
29. Muriel Spark, Memento Mori
30. Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
31. Dorothy Allison, Bastard Out of Carolina
32. Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea
33. Susan Fromberg Shaeffer, Anya
34. Cynthia Ozick, Trust
35. Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club
36. Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife
37. Ann Beattie, Chilly Scenes of Winter
38. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
39. Joan Didion, A Book of Common Prayer
40. Joan Didion, Play It as It Lays
41. Mary McCarthy, The Group
42. Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps
43. Grace Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man
44. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
45. Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
46. Elizabeth Bowen, The Death of the Heart
47. Flannery O’Connor, Wise Blood
48. Mona Simpson, Anywhere But Here
49. Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
50. Toni Morrison, Beloved
51. Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
52. Sylvia Townsend Warner, Mr. Fortune’s Maggot
53. Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools
54. Laura Riding, Progress of Stories
55. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Heat and Dust
56. Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower
57. Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits
58. A.S. Byatt, Possession
59. Pat Barker, The Ghost Road
60. Rita Mae Brown, Rubyfruit Jungle
61. Anita Brookner, Hotel du Lac
62. Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus
63. Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca
64. Katherine Dunn, Geek Love
65. Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle
66. Barbara Pym, Excellent Women
67. Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony
68. Anne Tyler, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
69. Anne Tyler, The Accidental Tourist
70. Nancy Willard, Things Invisible to See
71. Jeanette Winterson, Sexing the Cherry
72. Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Disturbances in the Field
73. Rosellen Brown, Civil Wars
74. Harriet Doerr, Stones for Ibarra
75. Harriet Doerr, The Mountain Lion
76. Stevie Smith. Novel on Yellow Paper
77. E. Annie Proulx, The Shipping News
78. Rebecca Goldstein, The Mind-Body Problem
79. P.D. James, The Children of Men
80. Ursula Hegi, Stones From the River
81. Fay Weldon, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
82. Katherine Mansfield, Collected Stories
83. Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
84. Louise Erdrich, The Beet Queen
85. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness
86. Edna O’Brien, The Country Girls Trilogy
87. Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold
88. Margaret Drabble, The Waterfall
89. Dawn Powell, The Locusts Have No King
90. Marilyn French, The Women’s Room
91. Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter
92. Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries

93. Jamaica Kincaid, Annie John
94. Tillie Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle
95. Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
96. Iris Murdoch, A Severed Head
97. Anita Desai, Clear Light of Day
98. Alice Hoffman, The Drowning Season
99. Sue Townsend, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole
100. Penelope Mortimer, The Pumpkin Eater

My addition:
101: Anagrams. Lorrie Moore


  1. This list makes me realize that I have a lot more reading to do.

  2. Me too. There are books on this list that I've never even heard of.

  3. MargaretWV4:06 PM

    I had to hunt this list down. About a hundred mouse clicks later: "Erica Jong did a survey in 1996. asking thirty prominent male authors to put together a list of 100 influential female writers, in contrast to the male-majority Modern Library list. This is just a duplication of it." The title was originally: "100 Influential Modern Novels Written by Women."

  4. Wow, Margaret. Thanks for taking the time to track down its origins. Did Jong ask any women authors to contribute names to a list? That would make an interesting comparison, wouldn't it?

  5. S, - Lorrie Moore!! I so agree. Great detective work, Margaret.

  6. I had to scour my shelves after observing some surprising omissions. A few of these were after 1996, but I think are better than some on the original list:

    Andrea Barrett, Ship Fever
    Aimee Bender, An Invisible Sign of My Own
    Doris Betts, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Other Stories
    Karen Joy Fowler, Sister Noon
    Ellen Gilchrist, Light Can be Both Wave and Particle
    Julia Glass, Three Junes
    Haven Kimmel, The Solace of Leaving Early
    Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain
    Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies
    Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time
    Kelly Link, Magic for Beginners
    Lois Lowry, The Giver
    Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country
    Bharati Mukherjee, The Holder of the World
    Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler's Wife
    Z.Z. Packer, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
    Francine Prose, Blue Angel
    Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping
    Lee Smith, Fair and Tender Ladies
    Donna Tartt, The Secret History
    Sheri S. Tepper, Beauty
    Connie Willis, Passage

  7. Great list, John! And how the heck are you? Are you enjoying the new library?

  8. I wondered where that list came from. I wonder why she asked only men to vote on the authors?

  9. Things are going great here in the midwest, Susan; thanks for asking! Very busy with teaching and research, but the students are great. The famed Urbana Free Library is nearby, and the UIUC library is the largest public university library (>10 million volumes), but somehow I still end up buying more books. :)

  10. Well of course you're still buying--you have to eventually give back the library books!

    I'm very glad things are going well for you, John. Hope you'll have more time to show yourself in 2008.

    Danielle, I'm not sure what point Jong was trying to make by asking only men. It does seem she ought to have asked women as well, so that the "influences" lists could be compared.

  11. Aaaagh! I hate these lists! Admittedly they're fun to look over, but for god's sake, how can anyone come up with a list that has any real meaning? And why only male authors (as though somehow they are the ones with authority in list making matters). I'll get off my high horse now. I just spotted a couple of books/authors here that I was all tweaked about being omitted (The Ghost Road by Pat Barker, AS Byatt,Angela Carter). But where is Alice Munro? Did I miss her?

  12. MargaretWV7:32 PM

    The list was compiled in 1998, not 1996. Here's the scoop from Erica Jong herself:

    "The attempt to create a women's fiction list proved a fascinating exercise. I wrote to the 250 or so distinguished women writers and critics whose correct addresses I have in my database. I posted a notice on the rather lively writers' forum that's on my Web site (, and then, for good measure, I wrote to about thirty male novelists, critics and poets whose judgment I respect and whose addresses I happen to have. The results of this informal survey were instructive."

    Happy holidays, Susan!

  13. Thanks for this list which has provided me with a new mission: Read the many I have not read already.

  14. Totally totally agree with your addition to the list. You rock.


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