The best books featuring quirky, funny female protagonists

The Books I Picked & Why

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By Maria Semple

Book cover of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Why this book?

Bernadette Fox—certified genius, failed architect, reluctant Pacific Northwesterner, loving mother, PTA-dodger, and quite possibly the worst neighbor ever—is one of my favorite quirky protagonists. I love the structure of this book, laid out in epistolary form as Bernadette’s daughter Bee’s search for her mother when she disappears in Antarctica. (Yep, Antarctica. Trust me.) This is a funny, quirky read, but the book is also about creativity, mental illness, motherhood, and what happens to women who need to create and are stymied. I hit a big reading slump during my own entrance into motherhood—Bernadette lifted me out, reminding me of who I was outside of being a caretaker, what I loved to do, and the characters I love to read.

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

By Gail Honeyman

Book cover of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Why this book?

A quirky loner, Eleanor Oliphant is the ultimate in unreliable narrators. Blissfully un-self-aware, Eleanor’s story unfolds through her own first-person point of view as we slowly come to understand the inner workings of her personality and her tragic backstory. Along the way, though, there are wild crushes, lots of vodka, and an unlikely friendship that blossoms into something more. Eleanor’s humor and heart captivated me from the beginning.

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Bridget Jones's Diary

By Helen Fielding

Book cover of Bridget Jones's Diary

Why this book?

Bridget Jones stands out in my mind as one of my favorite funny female narrators. You might have noticed that I’m a sucker for the epistolary form, and Bridget’s diary entries—self-deprecating, hilarious—really made me realize how much that form can hold. My other soft spot for Bridget is that she doesn’t quite understand just how resilient and wonderful she is, and we get to see her finally begin to come to that realization.

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By Sara Pritchard

Book cover of Crackpots

Why this book?

I laughed out loud reading Sara Pritchard’s Crackpots, the story of spunky Ruby Reese and her complicated coming-of-age. This book was a huge influence on the structure of my own novel. Pritchard plays with chronology and point of view in a way that made me think, wow, I didn’t know you could do that. And then, ooh, I want to do that. Lyrical, detailed, and hilarious, this ranks as one of my all-time faves.

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Stop That Girl

By Elizabeth McKenzie

Book cover of Stop That Girl

Why this book?

Original and funny, Stop That Girl chronicles the coming-of-age of Ann Ransom, an offbeat heroine navigating her equally unconventional family life and upbringing. I loved discovering this character and equally loved the novel-in-stories structure of the book. Fast-paced and quirky, this book illuminated a manner of storytelling that I thought fit the coming-of-age genre really well.

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