The best novels about a woman writer finding her own voice

Why am I passionate about this?

I love novels that show female characters finding their way in life, and especially women who use writing to help themselves to grow and evolve. Finding my own voice through writing has been my way of staking my claim in the world. It hasn’t always been easy for us to tell our stories, but when we do, we’re made stronger and more complete. The protagonist of my novel The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann fights hard to tell her own story. I know something about being held back by male-dominated expectations and Victoria’s situation could easily take place today. But when women writers finally find their voices, the works they create are of great value. 


I wrote...

The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann

By Virginia Pye,

Book cover of The Literary Undoing of Victoria Swann

What is my book about?

Victoria Swann is a successful author of popular romance and adventure novels who becomes a champion of women’s rights as she takes on the literary establishment and finds her true voice, both on and off the page. Everything changes for Victoria when she abandons writing the pulp fiction her publisher expects from her in order to tell her own authentic story. She loses her publisher’s regard, her income, her husband, and her home, and joins the legions of hard-working women who have been her most faithful readers in their fight for better pay and better working and living conditions. And in this LGBTQ-inclusive tale, her new, young, Harvard-educated editor becomes her unexpected ally, mentor, and friend, while he himself finds the courage and freedom to love who he wants.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Writers & Lovers

Virginia Pye Why did I love this book?

Lily King’s Writers & Lovers is set in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1997, where my own novel takes place a century earlier. It’s a fictional coming-of-age story of a young woman who tries to write her way into adulthood.

Casey Peabody works as a waitress in Harvard Square, spends time with her aspiring writer friends, walks along the Charles River, and sits for hours at her desk trying to write, all of which I did in those same places at her same age and often with the same sense of longing—and which, incidentally, Victoria Swann does, too, albeit while wearing a floor-length skirt and using a fountain pen.

Casey, Victoria, and I, (and I assume Lily King herself), were not alone: so many people I’ve met over the years have spent time in their twenties hanging out around Harvard Square, anxious and waiting to become the grown-ups we hoped to be. This novel spoke to me because it shows the daily doubts and dreams of a would-be writer who hits the jackpot eventually. 

By Lily King,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Writers & Lovers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#ReadWithJenna Book Club Pick as Featured on Today
Emma Roberts Belletrist Book Club Pick
A New York Times Book Review’s Group Text Selection

"I loved this book not just from the first chapter or the first page but from the first paragraph... The voice is just so honest and riveting and insightful about creativity and life." —Curtis Sittenfeld 

An extraordinary new novel of art, love, and ambition from Lily King, the New York Times bestselling author of Euphoria

Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with another instant New York Times bestseller:…


Book cover of Little Women

Virginia Pye Why did I love this book?

The much-loved American tale Little Women tells the story of four sisters in Civil War era Concord, Massachusetts, and their quests for love and happiness.

Based on author Louisa May Alcott herself, the character of Jo March, the second daughter, is headstrong, independent, and loves to read and write. Many young female readers have taken Jo as a role model because she speaks her mind and pursues her goals—writing first among them.

Much like my own character Victoria Swann, writing helps Jo forge her independence and it becomes clear as the story progresses that it’s her voice telling the family’s tale. Many bookish girls—me included—can thank Jo for encouraging the dream of becoming a writer.  

By Louisa May Alcott,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Little Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Louisa May Alcott shares the innocence of girlhood in this classic coming of age story about four sisters-Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

In picturesque nineteenth-century New England, tomboyish Jo, beautiful Meg, fragile Beth, and romantic Amy are responsible for keeping a home while their father is off to war. At the same time, they must come to terms with their individual personalities-and make the transition from girlhood to womanhood. It can all be quite a challenge. But the March sisters, however different, are nurtured by their wise and beloved Marmee, bound by their love for each other and the feminine…


Book cover of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

Virginia Pye Why did I love this book?

A complex, deeply researched epic, The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois spans multiple generations of a Southern Black family, from slavery to the present.

The story takes place in several different worlds: an African village, the experience of Southern sharecroppers, sorority life at a Black college. Author Honoree Fanonne Jeffers creates a huge cast of sympathetic characters, especially the protagonist, Ailey Pearl Garfield.

I loved how Ailey’s character evolves through the years and settings until we understand that she has taken the many stories passed down to her and is using them in her PhD thesis, and that we are essentially reading her research. It’s such a clever way of weaving a woman writer’s tale into the story of many generations of a heroic family. 

By Honoree Fanonne Jeffers,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today Bestseller • AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION • ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021 • WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: New York Times • Time • Washington Post • Oprah Daily • People • Boston Globe • BookPage • Booklist • Kirkus • Atlanta Journal-Constitution • Chicago Public Library

Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel • Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction • Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Fiction • Nominee for…


Book cover of Yellowface

Virginia Pye Why did I love this book?

Everyone has been talking about Yellowface by R.F. Kuang, and for good reason.

This is the story of a young white woman with a mediocre debut novel who steals the manuscript of a highly successful Asian American woman friend who died, finishes it, and publishes it to great success, thereby changing the course of her life as a writer. Morally repugnant, June Hayward ends up being somehow relatable because she shares her writerly insecurities, jealousies, and the deep loneliness that seems a necessary part of this solitary art.

I didn’t want to feel for her, but I did, even though I felt more for Athena Liu, whose work was taken while in her grave. No one comes out looking good in this novel, most especially the publishing industry, which shamelessly encourages this extreme example of cultural appropriation. Still, the protagonist woman writer certainly learns to use her voice—for better or worse.  

By R. F. Kuang,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked Yellowface as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller from literary sensation R.F. Kuang

*A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick*

'Propulsive' SUNDAY TIMES

'Razor-sharp' TIME

'A wild ride' STYLIST

'Darkly comic' GQ

'A riot' PANDORA SYKES

'Hard to put down, harder to forget' STEPHEN KING

Athena Liu is a literary darling and June Hayward is literally nobody.

White lies
When Athena dies in a freak accident, June steals her unpublished manuscript and publishes it as her own under the ambiguous name Juniper Song.

Dark humour
But as evidence threatens June's stolen success, she will discover exactly how far she…


Book cover of The Wife

Virginia Pye Why did I love this book?

This novel, by Meg Wolitzer, offers such a twist at the end, I’m not sure how to write about it as an example of a woman writer finding her voice without giving too much away.
The Wife is the story of a Noble Prize-winning author, Joe Castelman, and his wife, Joan, who have kept a terrible secret for all the years of their marriage. Because you know the topic of my selections here, you can surmise that Joan is also a writer, though she hides that fact. Her character tells the story, and we only slowly see the facets of their strange and deceptive marriage. It becomes clear that Joan is a very good writer indeed, and she’s tired of keeping her secret.

This clever tale will make you think about what it means to invent a life both on and off the page. And that there’s no stopping a woman writer when she finally has her say! 

By Meg Wolitzer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE WIFE is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan and the secret they've kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honour his career as one of America's preeminent novelists of the Mailer-Bellow-Updike school. But this isn't a book for writers; it's a book for readers, for people who are interested in questions such as: Is there a 'male' voice and a 'female' voice? Do men and women see the world differently, and how? THE…


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Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

Book cover of Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

Sam Baldwin Author Of For Fukui’s Sake: Two years In Rural Japan

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Author Snow lover Fish out of water Traveller

Sam's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house, but what was meant as a pitstop becomes life-changing when he decides to stay. Along the way, he meets a colourful cross-section of Slovene society: from dormouse hunters, moonshine makers, beekeepers, and bitcoin miners, to a man who swam the Amazon, and a hilltop matriarch who teaches him the meaning of being 'priden'.

Struggling with Slovene, a language with grammar so complex it can cause brain damage, and battling bureaucracy, he explores the culture and characters of this underappreciated ex-Yugoslav republic, its wild beauty, and its wild animals.

A love letter to Slovenia, this rare, adventurous account follows a foreigner trying to build a new life — and rebuild an old house — in a young country still finding its own place in the world.

Dormice & Moonshine: Falling for Slovenia

By Sam Baldwin,

What is this book about?

'Charming, funny, insightful, and moving. The perfect book for any Slovenophile' - Noah Charney, BBC presenter

'A rollicking and very affectionate tour' - Steve Fallon, author of Lonely Planet Slovenia

'Delivers discovery and adventure...captivating!' - Bartosz Stefaniak, editor, 3 Seas Europe

When two brothers discover a 300-year-old sausage-curing cabin on the side of a Slovenian mountain, it's love at first sight. But 300-year-old cabins come with 300 problems.

Dormice & Moonshine is the true story of an Englishman seduced by Slovenia. In the wake of a breakup, he seeks temporary refuge in his hinterland house but what was meant as…


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