There are so many online book clubs and reading challenges and so little time to read everything. This year, I decided to embark on my own reading challenge to only read books by (mostly Canadian) female authors—you can follow my progress at The 50 Book Pledge—and so far I’ve found myself empowered by these talented writers. I fought back a curious mixture of laughs and tears while reading Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows on the TTC; Caitlin Moran’s outrageous coming-of-age novel, How to Build a Girl, reminded me of the confusing rebellion of teenage girls; and, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please inspired me to be a better human, a badass feminist, and to live by this important motto: “Good for her! Not for me.”
Since this Sunday, March 8 is International Women’s Day, we thought we’d celebrate BookNet-style by showcasing some of the bestselling female authors of 2014. But first, let’s highlight some other titles that are encouraging female empowerment and helping to redefine feminism: Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, featured in Beyonce’s “Flawless.”
2014’s Bestselling Titles by Female Authors
2014 was the year of Veronica Roth. The film adaptation of Divergent reached #1 at the box office during its opening weekend, and four of her novels ranked in the top 20 bestselling titles of the year, according to BNC SalesData numbers. And joining Roth in her YA domination was Cassandra Clare with City of Heavenly Fire, the sixth book in her Mortal Instruments series.
Finally, Gillian Flynn’s 2012 thriller Gone Girl became a major motion picture in 2014 and re-staked its claim on the bestseller lists. While I would hesitate to describe Amy, the novel’s protagonist, as a “feminist,” there are definitely feminist undertones throughout the novel. In it, Amy delivers a poignant speech about “the cool girl,” and Flynn has said that feminism, for her, includes “the ability to have women who are bad characters.”
2014’s Bestselling Titles by Canadian Female Authors
- Angela Liddon, The Oh She Glows Cookbook
- Miriam Toews, All My Puny Sorrows
- Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything
In Canada, literary awards can influence whether or not a book will become a Canadian bestseller. Among the Canadian female authors who had bestselling titles last year, many were nominated for and won literary awards. Miriam Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows won the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and was a Giller finalist, while Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything won the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.
While female authors have long occupied the Cookbook category, Angela Liddon, author of The Oh She Glows Cookbook, is a perfect example of an enterprising female entrepreneur in the digital age. Five years ago, Liddon built a notable online platform through her blog ohsheglows.com, documenting her road to recovery through healthy eating after a decade-long struggle with an eating disorder. It’s one of the most popular vegan blogs around, and The Oh She Glows Cookbook went on to become a NYT bestseller and was selected as Indigo’s Book of the Year.
In Canada, 59% of book buyers are female (see: Meet the Average Canadian Book Buyer), but male authors continue to dominate bestseller lists across many categories. In 2014, BNC released the Perennial Bestsellers study (available to SalesData subscribers), which documents the most reliable books to stock by category based on consistent sales over the past four years (2010-2014). Among the top 20 Perennial Bestsellers across 15 major subject categories, female authors were responsible for only 25% of the titles. Among these were Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle, and bestselling authors like Janet Evanovich and Nora Roberts. The categories with the highest concentration of female authors are, perhaps unsurprisingly, Cooking, Health/Fitness, and Romance. While these numbers may seem rather discouraging, last year’s titles reflect a growing trend in new feminism and, hopefully, more women reading women.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, I recommend reading at least one female authored book this month. (March is also Women’s History Month!) We’d love to hear about your favourites, and any upcoming titles you look forward to reading this year. You can tweet any bookish recommendations to @saymadison.