The best books to feature a memorable female protagonist

Who am I?

When I was little I used to seek out stories that featured strong female characters—especially in genre fiction. This proved to be quite difficult, even as I enlisted my entire family to help in the search. Because of this, ensuring that each of my own works feature this is a must. I am an author, artist, and podcast host who focuses on understanding the importance of story elements. I am an active martial artist, have a degree in creative writing from Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and often get mesmerized by the process of creating comics and music. I hope you enjoy these recommendations as much as I did.


I wrote...

Violent Skies

By T.J. Lockwood,

Book cover of Violent Skies

What is my book about?

Violent Skies is one story in a series of books meant to be read in any order. Each tale features a woman on a journey to survive in a world struggling to keep balance with both its population on the ground and in the sky. 

In a world overstretched in population and resources, the skies were meant to be the greatest beacon for innovation and freedom. The flying cities were constructed in a time of need, driven by hope and fuelled by ambition. The end results, however, cast an unintentional shadow upon those still making a home below. This is the story of a wanderer named Wallflower, a package named Jace and their journey to confront the echoes of mankind’s past.

The books I picked & why

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The Innocence Treatment

By Ari Goelman,

Book cover of The Innocence Treatment

Why this book?

From the get-go the reader is introduced to Lauren Fielding, a teenager living with a condition that makes her believe everything she is told. When the opportunity for her to surgically correct this comes up, she takes it and sets much of the plot in motion. What I love is the narrative style; a set of journal entries, scenes, and supporting materials which serve to present the events as Lauren and the people around her see it. This is a classic coming-of-age speculative fiction story with sprinkles of a possibly unreliable narrator, leaving the reader to follow along with the events and create their own conclusions about what is happening. Laura and the pacing her story provides are both memorable and noteworthy.

The Innocence Treatment

By Ari Goelman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Innocence Treatment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lauren has always been naive. She has a disorder that makes her believe everything that everyone tells her - to the point that she often puts herself in danger. When she has the opportunity to have an operation to correct her disorder, she and her family are thrilled. Now Lauren can live a normal life. But after the surgery Lauren grows more and more paranoid, convinced that she's part of a government conspiracy that only she can uncover.

Told in journal entries and therapy-session transcripts, The Innocence Treatment is a collection of Lauren's papers, annotated by her sister long after…


Planetfall

By Emma Newman,

Book cover of Planetfall

Why this book?

In comparison to others on this list, Planetfall’s Ren is certainly one of the more senior characters. At over seventy years old, she’s an engineer, a scientist, and the keeper of a secret that greatly affects her day-to-day life. Her story is told in the present with scattered flashbacks which reveal the intricate details associated with coming to a new world. She is brilliant, she is vulnerable, and she is extremely human. Her complexity as a character is equal parts real and haunting. My favorite aspect of this story is the pacing. We learn about Ren and the events of the initial "Planetfall" in very small reflective scenes. The effect is a steady and deliberate amount of exposition rather than an all-out information dump.

Planetfall

By Emma Newman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Emma Newman, the award-nominated author of Between Two Thorns, comes a novel of how one secret withheld to protect humanity's future might be its undoing...

Renata Ghali believed in Lee Suh-Mi's vision of a world far beyond Earth, calling to humanity. A planet promising to reveal the truth about our place in the cosmos, untainted by overpopulation, pollution, and war. Ren believed in that vision enough to give up everything to follow Suh-Mi into the unknown.

More than twenty-two years have passed since Ren and the rest of the faithful braved the starry abyss and established a colony at…


Lazarus: The Third Collection

By Greg Rucka,

Book cover of Lazarus: The Third Collection

Why this book?

I am a fan of the in medias res technique and this story has one of the best openings I have seen in a long time. Yes, it is a graphic novel, but the character of Forever Carlyle embodies pure science fiction goodness. As the champion or “Lazarus” of her family, she is strong, intelligent, and striving to find a balance between family loyalty and discovering what she wants out of life. The reader feels her doubts and insecurities just as prominently as they feel her strength. The connection between Forever and fellow Lazarus Joaquin is a personal favourite, and it is moments like this that provide a fairly hard and fast-paced sci-fi with some softness.

Lazarus: The Third Collection

By Greg Rucka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There are sixteen families fighting to control the world. That's fifteen too many. The time has come for the Cull. So begins the next phase of the Conclave War that has plunged the entire world into chaos and instability, in the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling series by Eisner winners MICHAEL LARK and GREG RUCKA. But Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family, has been sidelined, and her loyalties are thrown into question as she struggles to come to terms with who and what she is. To win her trust, her sister Johanna must reveal the Family's most…


Sleeping Giants

By Sylvain Neuvel,

Book cover of Sleeping Giants

Why this book?

Like an earlier entry on this list, this story utilizes a unique format. In Sleeping Giants the reader is exposed to a first contact-like plot. Rose is a scientist and the woman spearheading a project to make sense of the discovery of giant robot parts hidden beneath the Earth’s surface. She, along with one of the project pilots, Kara, provide both depth and distance to events thanks to the help of a mysterious interviewer who does well to keep the reader engaged. We discover things as the characters do, and their revelations linger just enough for the reader to crave a sequel. I appreciate the complexity of the sci-fi in the story—there are aliens, robots, and perhaps a few international conspiracy theories.

Sleeping Giants

By Sylvain Neuvel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery…


The Devil's Right Hand

By Lilith Saintcrow,

Book cover of The Devil's Right Hand

Why this book?

This is one of the first stories I ever read with a strong female protagonist at the helm. Dante Valentine is a bounty hunter, necromancer, and a no-nonsense kind of woman. She is stubborn, flawed, and her story is a classic answer to what happens when you make a literal deal with the devil. I appreciate that she is unapologetically human and blatantly admits to her faults as a person. She is honest—perhaps sometimes too much so—and perseveres when things go awry. If anything, I would say she is a stand-out not only as far as female protagonists are concerned, but protagonists in speculative fiction as well.

The Devil's Right Hand

By Lilith Saintcrow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Devil's Right Hand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dante Valentine, Necromancer and bounty hunter, just wants to be left alone. But the Devil has other ideas.

The Prince wants Dante. And he wants her now. And Dante and her lover, Japhrimel, have no choice but to answer the Prince's summons. And to fulfill a seemingly simple task: become the Devil's Right Hand, hunt down four demons that have escaped from Hell, and earn His gratitude.

It's a shame that nothing is ever easy when it comes to the Devil. Because of course, he doesn't tell Dante the whole truth: there is a rebellion brewing in Hell. And there…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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