My top picks: (in no particular order)
Genre: Collection of Essays
Roxane Gay's collection of essays about women, race, pop culture, scrabble and life. It's incredibly well-written and touches on every topic you never knew you always thought about.
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical Fiction
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are [both women and] best friends. When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. This book is thrilling and a page-turner, and both the women are exactly the plucky, inventive ladies we've come to expect from the Greatest Generation.
The Golem and the Jinni
by Helen Wecker
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy
Drawing on various folklore and legends, the Golem (female) and the Jinni (male) arrive in New York at the turn of the century. They recognize each other for the non-humans they are, and develop a bond as they try to navigate a city and culture they don't understand. It's a story of two incredible creatures attempting to be "normal" and their relationship is fantastic and refreshingly unstereotypical.
The Distant Hours
by Kate Morton
Genre: Fiction, semi-historical
Kate Morton's books have long been something I refer to as a "guilty pleasure" because her books can be somewhat formulaic and a bit contrived. However, the pattern she follows is almost always an everyday relatable woman in the modern age discovering truths about the rather extraordinary female members of her ancestry. They are always set around an incredible moment in history and filled with intrigue, but the heart of her novels usually lies in strong mother-daughter relationships and the ties that bind family together. I read The Distant Hours this year, but I also would recommend The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper.
The Girls of Atomic City
by Denise Kiernan
Genre: History, Biography
At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians—many of them young women from small towns across the South—were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it, The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. The science can be a bit thick at times, but the sheer will of these women will inspire you.
by Amy Poehler
Amy Poehler's writing is just as funny and quirky as her performances have always been, and there's so much honesty in what she has to say. She touches on every subject from growing up in Boston, to finding her own way into comedy, to being a working mother to having her eyes opened to the contributions she can make through her charities and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls. A fun and engaging read.
The Lace Reader
by Brunonia Barry
From the author herself: "For quite some time, I have been fascinated by the Hero’s Journey or the monomyth...I wondered if there might be an alternate form, a feminine Hero’s Journey. So I began to look at stories that featured female protagonists to see if they offered something different. What I found surprised me. Most of these women were either killed off or were ultimately rescued from their plight by male heros. Unsatisfied, I wondered if I could write a Hero’s Journey for women where the strong but wounded heroine must find a way to save herself." She succeeded.
by Megan Abbott
Genre: [Young] Fiction
I did not expect to be so thoroughly engrossed in a book about cheerleaders, but I found myself constantly invested in what would happen next to Addy and Beth. Caught up in what many would consider the toxic environment of adolescent cheerleading - popularity contests, eating disorders, a strong desire to be desired - Addy is the "everyman" of teenage girls and this book will put you right back into the hallways of your highschool.
Sin in the Second City
by Karen Abbott
Genre: History, Biography
An engaging historical look at the Victorian era, the Everleigh Club and the two sisters who ran it. This perhaps may be romanticized, but I've long thought that brothels hold their own kind of feminism...or at least this one does. These are two power-house women who run their own lives and their own business and they do it in the seedy under-belly of turn-of-the-century Chicago.
by J.K. Rowling
Genre: Young Fiction
All of them. I reread the series this year (it's nearly an annual thing) and I will always and forever love Hermione Granger. She's a role model for young girls everywhere. She's smart, independant, talented and just as often saves her friends as they save her. It's a glorious give and take relationship, and let's just be honest: if not for Hermione, Harry wouldn't have gotten half so far as he did. Primary lesson we learn from her: reading a book can save your life.