Books By Women Authors To Look Out For In 2020 – SheThePeople

Posted: February 6, 2020 at 12:43 am

From sizzling fiction to searing memoirs to thought-provoking essays, this list has offerings not just from celebrated women authors but dazzling debuting ones too. With almost a hundred books to choose from, this year holds the promise of an exciting reading experience. Add your own finds to this list, send your recommendations to us and embark on your reading odyssey. Compiled by Archana Pai Kulkarni.

1) The Mirror And The Light, by Hilary Mantel

This eagerly awaited book has been eight years in the making. With it Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of aferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common mans vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion, and courage.

2) Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, by Deepa Anappara

This story is a talisman. Hold it close to your hearts, were told, at some point, in this debut novel. Anapparas years of journalistic work, wide-ranging awards, fellowships, and advance praise, precede the arrival of her foray into full-length fiction. Drawing on real incidents and a spate of disappearances in metropolitan India, the novel captures the fierce warmth, resilience, and bravery that can emerge in times of trouble.

3) Jaipur Journals, by Namita Gokhale

Told from multiple perspectives, set against the backdrop of the vibrant multilingual Jaipur Literature Festival, diverse stories of lost love and regret, self-doubt, and new beginnings come together in a narrative that is as varied as India itself. Part love letter to the greatest literary festival on earth, part satire about the glittery attendees who go year after year, and part ode to the many up-and-coming writers, Gokhales book stages and makes space for the pretensions and the pathos of the loneliest tribe of them all: the writers.

4) No Straight Thing Was Ever Made by Urvashi Bahuguna

After Terrarium, a richly layered and deeply felt poetry debut, Bahugunas new book is a collection of essayssitting on the fence between personal narratives, conversational anecdotes, and research. She discusses living with mental illness in all its forms and facetsfrom family to physical fatigue and professional impact.

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5) The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

This novel is based on the life of Erdrichs grandfather, a night watchman who fought in the 1950s against Native dispossession. Louise Erdrich creates a fictional world populated with memorable characters who are forced to grapple with the worst and best impulses of human nature. Illuminating the loves and lives, the desires and ambitions of these characters with compassion, wit, and intelligence, this powerful novel explores themes of love and death with lightness and gravity and unfolds with the elegant prose, sly humour, and depth of feeling of a master craftsman.

6) Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the centre of Afterlife has just retired from her college, when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. Then, her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis, including maybe especially members of our human family How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves?

7) American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins

Lydia Quixano Prez runs a bookstore in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. Lydia stocks some of her all-time favourite books in her store. And then one day Javier, a charming, erudite man comes to the store to buy a few books. Unknown to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has taken over the city. When Lydias husbands tell-all profile of Javier is published, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca are forced to flee. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed.

8) This Is One Way to Dance, by Sejal Shah

In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place, and reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of colour, and feminist. These essays some narrative, others lyrical and poetic explore how we are all marked by culture, gender, and race; by the limits of our bodies, by our losses and regrets, and by trauma and silence.

9) Manto and I, by Nandita Das

In this book, I have chosen to share not just my creative, but also my emotional, political, and spiritual experiences of the six years I spent with Manto, says Das. If youve watched the film, this book will serve as a companion, as it candidly cuts into the behind-the-scenes moments and the making-of the story on screen. I believe, together, the images and words will tell you a story you havent seen on the screen. With Manto and I, my journey feels complete.

10) You Exist Too Much, by Zaina Arafat

On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mothers response only intensifies a sense of shame: You exist too much, she tells her daughter. Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, the novel is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings for love, and a place to call home.

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11) A Room Made of Leaves, by Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville is best known for her 2006 novel The Secret River, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin award. Her bibliography covers historical fiction, non-fiction, biography, and books about her writing process. Her new novel, titled A Room Made of Leaves, sees her returning to historical fiction, taking place in early colonial Sydney and centring around a woman, Elizabeth Macarthur, described as a woman of spirit, cunning and sly wit.

12) Summer, by Ali Smith

From the Man Booker short-listed author of Autumn, Winter, and Spring comes Summer, the highly anticipated fourth novel in her acclaimed Seasonal Quartet. Here is the exciting culmination of Ali Smiths celebrated Seasonal Quartet, a series of stand-alone novels, separate but interconnected (as the seasons are), wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories.

13) The Loneliness Of Hira Barua by Arupa Kalita Patangia, translated from Assamese, by Ranjita Biswas

The English translation of the 2014 Sahitya Akademi Award-winning collection of short stories, originally titled Mariam Austin Othoba Hira Baruah, from one of our leading feminist voices. It paints powerful portraits of ordinary people, especially women, negotiating their personal lives in times of socio-political strife and turmoil in Assam.

14) The Girl with the Louding Voice, by Abi Dar

Adunni is a fourteen-year-old Nigerian girl who wants an education. As the only daughter of a broke father, she is a valuable commodity, who is removed from school and sold as a third wife to an old man. When unspeakable tragedy swiftly strikes in her new home, she is secretly sold as a domestic servant to a wealthy household, where no one will talk about the strange disappearance of her predecessor. But Adunni wont be silenced. She is determined to find her voice in a whisper, in song, in broken English -until she can speak for herself.

15) Strange Hotel, by Eimear McBride

From the author of the award-winning A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, comes the beguiling travelogue of a woman in exile: from her past, her ghosts, and herself. A nameless woman enters a hotel room. There, amid the detritus of her travels, the matchbooks, cigarettes, keys and room-service wine, she negotiates with her memories, with those she has lost or left behindand with what it might mean to return home. Urgent and immersive, its a novel of enduring emotional force.

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16) Resisting Disappearance: Military Occupation and Womens Activism in Kashmir by Ather Zia

Drawn from Ather Zias ten years of engagement with the APDP as an anthropologist and fellow Kashmiri activist, the book follows mothers and half-widows as they step boldly into courts, military camps, and morgues in search of their disappeared kin. Through an amalgam of ethnography, poetry, and photography, Zia illuminates how dynamics of gender and trauma in Kashmir have been transformed in the face of South Asias longest-running conflict, providing profound insight into how Kashmiri women and men nurture a politics of resistance.

17) Sex and Lies, by Lela Slimani

In these essays, the author gives voice to young Moroccan women who are grappling with a conservative Arab culture that at once condemns and commodifies sex. In a country where the law punishes and outlaws all forms of sex outside marriage, as well as homosexuality and prostitution, women have only two options for their sexual identities: virgin or wife. Sex and Lies is an essential confrontation with Moroccos intimate demons and a vibrant appeal for the universal freedom to be, to love and to desire.

18) My Past is a Foreign Country: A Muslim Feminist Finds Herself, by Zeba Talkhani

28-year-old Zeba Talkhani charts her experiences growing up in Saudi Arabia amid patriarchal customs, and her journey to find freedom in India, Germany and the UK. She offers a fresh perspective on living as an outsider and examines her relationship with her mother and the challenges she faced when she experienced hair loss at a young age. Drawing on her personal experiences Talkhani shows how she fought for the right to her individuality as a Muslim feminist and refused to let negative experiences define her.

19) Weather, by Jenny Offill

Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian, which gives her a vantage point to practise her other calling: as an unofficial shrink. For years, she has supported her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. Her old mentor, Sylvia Liller wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives. As she dives into this polarized world, her brother becomes a father and Sylvia a recluse, and Lizzie is forced to acknowledge the limits of what she can do. But if she cant save others, then what, or who, might save her?

20) Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency, by Olivia Laing

In this remarkable, inspiring collection of essays, acclaimed writer and critic Olivia Laing makes a brilliant case for why art matters, especially in the turbulent political weather of the twenty first century. She profiles Jean-Michel Basquiat and Georgia OKeefe, interviews Hilary Mantel and Ali Smith, writes love letters to David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, and explores loneliness and technology, women and alcohol, sex and the body. With characteristic originality and compassion, she celebrates art as a force of resistance and repair, an antidote to a frightening political time.

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21) Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick, by Zora Neale Hurston

In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurstonthe sole black student at the collegewas living in New York, desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world. During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This is an outstanding collection of stories about love and migration, gender and class, racism and sexism that proudly reflect African American folk culture. All are timeless classics that enrich our understanding and appreciation of this exceptional writers voice and her contributions to Americas literary traditions.

22) Passage to the Plaza, by Sahar Khalifeh, translated from Arabic by Sawad Hussain

In Bab Al-Saha, Palestine, sits a house of ill repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracized by her community. When the Intifada breaks out, Nuzhas abode unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary. In the furnace of conflict at the heart of the 1987 Intifada, notions of freedom, love, respectability, nationhood, the rights of women, and Palestinian identity will be melted and re-forged. Vividly recounted through the eyes of its female protagonists, the novel is a groundbreaking story that shatters the myth of a uniform gendered experience of conflict.

23) Victory Colony, by Bhaswati Ghosh

This 1950s-set story speaks of the resilience of refugees from East Pakistanand specifically of Amala Mannawho found themselves mostly unwanted on either side of the border following Partition. In the face of government apathy and public disdain, they started anew their lives from scratch, and in the process, changed the sociocultural landscape of Calcutta, the city they claimed as home, forever. Needless to say, Victory Colony has renewed resonance and significance in our current political climate.

24) Breasts and Eggs, by Mieko Kawakami (translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd)

Coming out this spring is this novella, which details a three-day reunion between a 30-year-old unmarried narrator, her sister Makiko and Makikos daughter, Midoriko. Kawakami focuses in on each womans respective struggles with identity and the female body, tackling big themes with humour and offering a cold, hard look at the many pressures facing women in Japan. Breasts and Eggs opens a discussion on reproductive rights within Japan, and the social struggles associated with one woman making her choice.

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25) Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda (translated by Polly Barton)

Feminist retellings of classic tales are always fun and rapidly growing in popularity around the world. In 2020, taking a collection of traditional Japanese ghost stories and crafting them into often humorous yet painfully relevant tales is a move of pure genius by Aoko Matsuda. Taking place in a contemporary setting, with a decidedly feminist bend, the book takes classic Japanese ghost stories and rewrites them to make them relevant to the current gender climate of modern-day Japan. Witty, biting, and poignant, Matsudas collection is a pleasantly haunting surprise.

26) My Dark Vanessa, by Kate Elizabeth Russell

Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. Alternating between Vanessas present and her past, the novel juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. A masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions, it raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood, and brilliantly captures the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

27) Brother & Sister: A Memoir, by Diane Keaton

With prose as quirky and affecting as her on-screen personas, actress Diane Keaton has already chronicled her extraordinary life in two memoirs. Keatons third, is the most wrenching yet as she tries to understand how her beloved younger brother Randy became a troubled recluse who lives on the other side of normal. In beautiful and fearless prose thats intertwined with photographs, journal entries, letters, and poetry, this insightful memoir contemplates the inner workings of a family, the ties that hold it together, and the special bond between siblings even when they are pulled far apart.

28) Recollections of My Nonexistence, by Rebecca Solnit

Solnits first full-length memoir is the transfixing account of the feminist firebrands intellectual awakening. In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco, where she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.

29) More Myself: A Journey, by Alicia Keys

As one of the most celebrated musicians in the world, Alicia Keys has enraptured the globe with her heartfelt lyrics, extraordinary vocal range, and soul-stirring piano compositions. Yet away from the spotlight, Alicia has grappled with private heartacheover the challenging and complex relationship with her father, the people-pleasing nature that characterized her early career, the loss of privacy surrounding her romantic relationships, and the oppressive expectations of female perfection. Here, she shares her quest for truthabout herself, her past, and her shift from sacrificing her spirit to celebrating her worth.

30) Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler

Tylers second novel in two years is about a creature of habit named Micah whose life is turned upside down by two peoplefirst, his thirty-something girlfriend who has nowhere to go after being evicted from her apartment, and then the teenager who shows up at his door claiming to be his son. Classic Tyler, a la The Accidental Tourist.

31) The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd

Did Jesus have a wife? A 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus suggests he might have. The author of The Invention of Wings, takes that enduring scholarly mystery and delivers unto us the story of Ana, who meets Jesus when hes 18 and falls in love with him. This historical saga conjures a woman who defies the expectations of her time by becoming a scholar and philosopher ultimately in exile from Nazareth and her husband.

32) If I Had Your Face, by Frances Cha

Chas striking first novel follows four young women in Seoul, South Korea trapped in a sphere of impossible beauty standards, a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret room salons to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move. Unsettling and deeply affecting.

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33) The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel

Half a decade after her best-selling, ground-breaking dystopia, Station Eleven, the writer returns with a mystery about the relationship between a New York financier, his waiter lover, and a disappearance. Set across a ship, Manhattan skyscrapers, and the wilderness of remote British Columbia, the novel paints a heady and breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

34) Little Eyes, by Samanta Schweblin, translated from Spanish by Megan McDowell

The characters in Samanta Schweblins brilliant new novel reveal the beauty of connection between far-flung soulsbut yet they also expose the ugly side of our increasingly linked world. Trusting strangers can lead to unexpected love, playful encounters, and marvellous adventure, but what happens when it can also pave the way for unimaginable terror? Schweblin creates a dark and complex world thats sensible, recognizable. A visionary novel about our interconnected present, about the collision of horror and humanity, from a master of the spine-tingling tale.

35) The Heart Asks Pleasure First, by Karuna Ezara Parikh

It is 2001 and Daya and Aaftab have just met in a park in Cardiff. This, the poets debut work of fiction has been a decade in the makingand its not your average love story, were told, but one of impossible, forbidden love, difficult joyous friendship in a world of migration, xenophobia, Islamophobia and jihad.

36) Postcolonial Love Poem, by Natalie Diaz

Diazwho is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribewon an American Book Award for her debut poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec. Her transformative second collection, described as an anthem of desire against erasure, and a thunderous river of a book about bodies, is already being welcomed with warm, rapturous praise on both sides of the Atlantic.

37) Shameless, by Taslima Nasreen, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha

Shameless, the sequel to the controversial and best-selling Lajja, had never been published in Bengali, or any other language, until very recently, when a Hindi translation was printed. This timely, topical and outspoken novel about communal tensions in India is, according to its author, not a political noveland instead about what the politics of religion does to human beings and their relationships: a ruthless, uncompromising, heartbreaking tale of ordinary peoples lives in our times.

38) Name, Place, Animal, Thing, by Daribha Lyndem

Set in politically charged Shillong, this interconnected collection of stories speaks of the coming-of-age of a young womanand the city and community she calls home. As each chapter gently lifts a curtain to reveal glimpses of the protagonists Protestant, Khasi life, we see her cross the threshold from childhood to adulthood.

39) The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, by Suzanne Collins

The prequel to the trilogy will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games. Yes, this will be a major event in the book world this year. Yes, you should reread the trilogy while you wait.

40) How Much of These Hills is Gold, by C. Pam Zhang

This epic debut novel, set during the Gold Rush in a reimagined American West, has received early praise from the likes of Daisy Johnson and Lauren Groff. Lucy and Sam are two newly orphaned siblings who travel an unforgiving landscape with their fathers body on their backs. This is the story of the myth of the American Dream, of memories, of (an immigrant) family and fortune, and more.

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41) Death in Her Hands, by Ottessa Moshfegh

Your year of rest and relaxation is overfor the Booker Prize-shortlisted writer of Eileen, and unlikeable female protagonists, is back with a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense, horror, and the pitch-black comedy we love her for. A forest, a handwritten note, a dead body are you hooked and spooked yet?

42) A Thousand Cranes for India: Reclaiming Plurality Amid Hatred, edited by Pallavi Aiyar

This anthologycomprising 23 pieces of reportage, stories, poems, memoir and polemicuses the mythology, history, and symbolism of Japanese Origami paper cranes as a pathway for some of Indias best-known writers, poets and artists to pave a shared, civic space for a conversation about the fault lines in India at a time of darkness.

43) Why is my hair curly? by Lakshmy Iyer

Meet 10-year-old Avantika, adopted at the age of six months. In a family where everybody has sleek, straight hair, she has a head full of unruly curls. Interspersed with illustrations, the protagonists preoccupation with her hair becomes a starting-point for conversations about genetics and the fabric of a family.

44) Sisters, by Daisy Johnson

Lauren Groff has called her a goddamn swaggering monster of fiction. Johnson was shortlisted for the Booker Prize with the magical, mesmerizing, murky-with-genre, Everything Under. With this new novel about sibling love, she steers closer to psychological horror, and perhaps, to her debut work of fiction, the short story collection, Fen.

45) Hunted by the Sky, by Tanaz Bhatena

From the author of A Girl Like That, this YA fantasy explores identity, class inequality, alongside a high-stakes romance story. Hunted by the Sky is set in the Kingdom of Ambara world inspired by medieval India, and a world of deadly, dark secrets and adventures.

46) Little Gods, by Meng Jin

On the night of June Fourth, a woman gives birth in a Beijing hospital alone. Thus begins the unravelling of Su Lan, a brilliant physicist who until this moment has successfully erased her past. Years later, when Su Lan dies unexpectedly, her daughter Liya, who grew up in America, takes her mothers ashes to Chinato her, an unknown country, where her memories are joined by those of Zhu Wen, the woman last to know Su Lan before she left China, and Yongzong, the father Liya has never known. This lyrical and thought-provoking debut novel explores the complex web of grief, memory, time, and selfhood in the immigrant experience, and the complicated bond between daughters and mothers.

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Books By Women Authors To Look Out For In 2020 - SheThePeople

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