Not Just Chick Lit

Library Journal‘s sister company Publishers Weekly sparked a literary tempest two weeks ago with its now notorious Top 10 Best Books of 2009 list, which did not feature any women writers. As the intern responsible for sending out book assignments to LJ reviewers, I was struck by the omission almost immediately‚ and so, it seems, were others. The list ignited a series of discussions concerning the state of women in the publishing industry. The Guardian lamented the overuse of the chick-lit label, and even the New York Times addressed the contention. At Salon, book critic Laura Miller acknowledged that while literary quality remains of the utmost importance, the publication does take into account gender, if only to give credence to variety. But the microblogging service Twitter became the main battleground for the discussion: self-proclaimed publishing insurgent Charlotte Abbott started the hash tag #fembook for readers to sound off on the books penned by women writers they thought deserved to be listed, and the Women in Letters and Literary Arts even created a Wiki to serve as a repository for these titles.

We at LJ know that PW‘s omission was not intentional, and their comprehensive Best Books List included many female authors. But as both a feminism and a book enthusiast, I couldn’t help but ask my bosses if they’d let me compile an un-ordered list of the Top 10 Best Books of 2009 written by female authors. These are titles I personally loved, as well as suggestions from LJ editors and Twitter users. Considering the sheer amount of talented female writers out there, I realized how difficult it is to come up with just ten books. Below is the list. Please feel free to add to it in the comments.

LJ’s Best Books of 2009 list will run in the November 19th issue of BookSmack!, so be sure to keep an eye out! And if you want to join the #fembook conversation, #followreader is having a Twitter discussion Friday November 13 from 4‚ 5pm.

Wolf Hall
Hillary Mantel

Lark and Termite
Jayne Anne Phillips

A Gate at the Stairs
Lorrie Moore

The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
C.M. Mayo

Short Girls
Bich Minh Nguyn

Too Much Happiness
Alice Munro

31 Hours
Masha Hamilton

The Believers
Zoe Heller

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It
Maile Meloy

Repeat After Me
Rachel DeWoskin

SELF-eLearn More
SELF-e is an innovative collaboration between Library Journal and BiblioBoard® that enables authors and libraries to work together and expose notable self-published ebooks to voracious readers looking to discover something new. Finally, a simple and effective way to catalog and provide access to ebooks by local authors and build a community around indie writing!


  1. michalsong says:

    Love the list. I’d add Last Night in Montreal, Emily St. John Mandel.

  2. suer says:

    I’m happy to say that I reviewed the Maile Meloy book for Library Journal. I loved it, and I’m glad you did, too.