The best fearless females in fiction

Why am I passionate about this?

Maybe because I was raised by strong, independent women. Maybe because I went to an all-women’s college for a bit. Or maybe because I worked with so many powerful women in advertising. All those things combined to create my interest in fearless females in fiction. Women with natural ambition and power needs have many more obstacles put in their way than men do. For me, the character of Angela, the “angel” in Angel of Ambition, emerged naturally. She is part and parcel of the best and worst traits of the fearless females I’ve known in life and the fearless females in fiction that I’ve sometimes loathed and, in the end, always loved.


I wrote...

Angel of Ambition

By Glenn Kaplan,

Book cover of Angel of Ambition

What is my book about?

Determined to escape the poverty and hopelessness of “the projects” of lower Manhattan, Angela Hanson sets out to learn the secrets of the glittering world of success. Armed only with her intelligence, nerve, and beauty, she masters the ice-cold arts of doing whatever it takes. Sweetly seductive and innocently bloodthirsty, Angela slashes and charms her way through the corporate jungle and makes a desperate dash for safety in the kingdom of billionaires.

A fast-paced story with complex, contemporary characters, Angel of Ambition is a glamorous, female-driven thriller. Think Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp meets HBO’s Succession.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Gone Girl

Glenn Kaplan Why did I love this book?

The character of Amy Dunne shatters every imaginable norm of acceptable, expected female behavior.  She left “nice” long, long ago. In spite of (and in part because of) her upbringing of privilege and protection, she has a lifetime’s worth of suppressed bitterness, disappointment, and rage. Even the author admitted in interviews that Amy’s craziness is way over the top. But that’s why Amy is so fascinating. Whatever will she do next? She explodes her way into the front row of the male-dominated Pantheon of dark-hearted anti-heroes.

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked Gone Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE ADDICTIVE No.1 BESTSELLER AND INTERNATIONAL PHENOMENON
OVER 20 MILLION COPIES SOLD WORLDWIDE
THE BOOK THAT DEFINES PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER

Who are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on…


Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Glenn Kaplan Why did I love this book?

Lisbeth Salander. What makes her so good? Still wrestling demons and overcoming unspeakable horrors, Lisbeth blasts ahead, fearlessly righting wrongs and fighting the evil in the world. A weird outsider, she is at heart a good woman who is the ultimate badass. The ultimate badass. Say no more. Just read her stories and watch her movies.

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…


Book cover of Mildred Pierce

Glenn Kaplan Why did I love this book?

Mildred starts out trying to fulfill all the traditional roles society expects of women as a wife and mother.  But she discovers, through travails, that she is too smart, too talented, and too natively ambitious to settle for those limitations. As Mildred gains success in the “man’s world,” she becomes the provider for everyone around her. She learns the bitterest lessons imaginable as her men and her daughter, first use her, then betray her. Against her will, Mildred Pierce becomes a fearless female in a cold cruel world. She triumphs in the end as a woman of courage, relying not on the unreliable love of others, but on her own independent spirit.

By James M. Cain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mildred Pierce as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Mildred Pierce, noir master James M. Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devasting emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.

Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.


Book cover of The Custom of the Country

Glenn Kaplan Why did I love this book?

Over a century before there were the Kardashian women and the Real Housewives, Edith Wharton created the character of Undine Spragg. Undine is the gold medal Olympic champion of social climbingshe needs to be seen and admired, to be at the cutting edge of fashion, and to be indisputably on top.  She will sacrifice anything to satisfy her hunger for status—marriages, children, and love. She fears nothing and no one. In the character Undine, Wharton held a mirror up to the superficial values of the Gilded Age. If Undine Spragg were created today, she would show the Kardashians and the Housewives how a truly fearless Selfie Queen stops at nothing to climb the ladder of social status and success. 

By Edith Wharton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Custom of the Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edith Wharton’s classic story of one woman’s quest for wealth and status after the turn of the twentieth century

Beautiful, selfish, and driven, Undine Spragg arrives in New York with all of the ambition and naiveté that her midwestern, nouveau riche upbringing afforded her. As cunning as she is lovely, Undine has but one goal in life: to ascend to the upper echelons of high society. And so with a single-minded tenacity, Undine continues to maneuver through life, finding all the while that true satisfaction remains just beyond her grasp.

Hailed by Elizabeth Hardwick as “Edith Wharton’s finest achievement,” The…


Book cover of Vanity Fair

Glenn Kaplan Why did I love this book?

Blazing her way through British society of the early 19th century in Thackeray’s rambling serialized novel, Becky Sharp is the spiritual “mother” of all the fearless females in fiction who follow her. Brilliant, charming, ruthless, utterly without principles, and totally amoral, Becky sees the emptiness of polite British society for the sham that it is. And she acts accordingly to do whatever it takes to get what she wants.  Both in fiction and in real life, Becky Sharp is an enduring model for women of relentless ambition.

By William Makepeace Thackeray,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Vanity Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair depicts the anarchic anti-heroine Beky Sharpe cutting a swathe through the eligible young men of Europe, set against a lucid backdrop of war and international chaos. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by John Carey.

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia Sedley, however, longs only for the caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour…


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A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father’s dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.
Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time—a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an alternative proposition—marry his unwanted daughter, Sara Beth, in exchange for a two-year extension. Out of options, money, and time, Layken agrees to the bargain.

Now, he has two years to make a living off the land while he shares his life with a stranger. If he fails at either, he’ll lose it all.

A Beggar's Bargain

By Jan Sikes,

What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

Desperate to honor his father's dying wish, Layken Martin vows to do whatever it takes to save the family farm.

Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

But the banker firmly denies his request. Now what?

Then, the banker makes an…


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