The best books with terrifying female villains

Why am I passionate about this?

I started out as a sketch writer, (writing for TV sketch shows like Tracy Ullman’s Show and That Mitchell and Webb Look) but I’ve always been drawn to big, exciting thrillers and high-concept speculative fiction. Sketch writing is kind of high-concept fiction in micro. Ultimately, these stories are all about vanquishing evil. These female villains embody the protagonist’s worst fears, and in doing so, the story contains and defeats those fears. Since I have a lot of fears, I don’t imagine I’ll get bored of this type of story any time soon. There’s nothing like a truly amazing villain to keep you reading deep into the three o’clock dark.

I wrote...

Mother's Day

By Abigail Burdess,

Book cover of Mother's Day

What is my book about?

The last thing Anna needs is a baby. Abandoned, adopted, and living hand to mouth, she never dreamt of having a real family. But when she meets her birth mother, everything changes - because the same day, she learns she's going to be a mother too.

Marlene is eccentric, generous with her considerable fortune, and overjoyed to become a grandmother. Anna's living the dream. But is it her dream, or someone else's? Now she will have to decide what she's willing to sacrifice for a real family - her future, her freedom, even her unborn child.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Northern Lights

Abigail Burdess Why did I love this book?

I first read Philip Pullman’s incredible world-hopping trilogy when I was working in a bookshop, and when I realised the ambition of what he was attempting in what is, ostensibly, a children’s book, I shouted out loud in front of the book-buying public.

Northern Lights, and the other two books, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass feature a truly terrifying female villain in the double form of Mrs Coulter and her golden monkey dæmon.

At school, the teacher who took care of me when I was sent away from home was also called Mrs. Coulter. Though my Mrs. Coulter was kind and loving, it added to my fascination with, and terror of, this appalling but appealing narcissist.

By Philip Pullman, Chris Wormell (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Northern Lights as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A stunning full-colour illustrated gift hardback to celebrate
the 25th anniversary of NORTHERN LIGHTS, with breathtaking
art throughout by Chris Wormell.
First published in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece,
this first book in the series won the UK's top awards for
children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all die."

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live half-wild and carefree
among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands
of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences
far beyond her own…

Book cover of Flowers in the Attic

Abigail Burdess Why did I love this book?

In my school, a dog-eared copy of the completely messed-up and horrifying Flowers In The Attic was passed around as contraband. We were not allowed to read it, which, of course, added to the appeal.

Many people find the character of “the grandmother” of the kids locked up in the attic pretty terrifying. But for me, Corinne, their weak and stupid mother, is the true villain of the story.

The slow betrayal she indulges in, as her children lose out to her desire for social acceptance and the high life is utterly heartbreaking.

If you like a very sick story about how the sins of one generation get visited upon the next, you will love Flowers in the Attic.

By V.C. Andrews,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Flowers in the Attic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The haunting young adult gothic romance classic that launched Virginia Andrews' incredible best-selling career.

Up in the attic, four secrets are hidden. Four blonde, beautiful, innocent little secrets, struggling to stay alive...

Chris, Cathy, Cory and Carrie have perfect lives - until a tragic accident changes everything. Now they must wait, hidden from view in their grandparents' attic, as their mother tries to figure out what to do next. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the siblings endure unspeakable horrors and face the terrifying realisation that they might not be let out of the attic after…

Book cover of Misery

Abigail Burdess Why did I love this book?

Many of us know Misery’s story from the excellent film adaptation starring Kathy Bates, but the book is even better, drawing out writer Paul Sheldon’s withdrawal from the world, in excruciating interiority. His tormentor, Annie Wilkes, his “biggest fan” is an amazing creation.

For me, it’s her blankness, the way she sometimes just zones out and separates from reality, along with her incredible neediness, that makes her not just an amazing metaphor for addiction and the process of creation, but the kind of character who'll haunt your nightmares.

Annie Wilkes just beat another King creation, Carrie’s mother, Margaret White, for a spot in this top five.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the exciting build-up to publication of Stephen King's new mainstream novel, LISEY'S STORY, enjoy this world-famous classic novel on audio.

Book cover of Sharp Objects

Abigail Burdess Why did I love this book?

I worried about including this one, because there are two female villains, Adora Crellin, and her fourteen-year-old daughter Amma, both of them are terrible humans and great villains, and I didn’t want to include any spoilers.

So, I’m not going to say who’s the worst. I read this next to the pool after I submitted to my agent and she had compared my own first book to it, and I was massively relieved to discover that I loved it.

I hadn’t read Gone Girl and still haven’t because I’m scared I’ll be disappointed after enjoying Sharp Objects as much as I did. If you guess the end you’re a cleverer reader than me.

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Sharp Objects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family's Victorian mansion, Camille finds…

Book cover of Pride and Prejudice

Abigail Burdess Why did I love this book?

As an erstwhile comedy writer, I had to include one comic novel, and this is the best of all time.

If you don’t think Mrs. Bennett is a truly horrifying, you’ve never been embarrassed by your mother! This book is perfectly put together, the plot is a structure masterclass and Mrs. Bennett: hysterical, gossipy, nosy, and a massive hypochondriac is one of the funniest characters ever put to paper.

On the page, it’s even better than Colin Firth in a wet shirt.

By Jane Austen,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Pride and Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World.

Jane Austen's best-loved novel is an unforgettable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, the power of reason, and above all the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition is illustrated by Hugh Thomson and features an afterword by author and critic, Henry Hitchings.

A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and…

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The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was, she would kill him.

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…

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