The best anti hero books 📚

Browse the best books on anti heros as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of A Doll's House

A Doll's House

By Henrik Ibsen

Why this book?

A controversial play because of its end. Nora Helmer is the main character, a Norwegian married woman, wife of a bank manager, and a mother of three. Her life elapses day after day without opportunities for self-fulfillment in the last decades of the 19th century. I can’t say this female character is a feminist for its time, because she lives in a world full of laws made by men; so, in this sense she is like a doll, a superficial and wasteful person, and she changes slowly from act to act; she feels empty, she contemplates killing herself and…

From the list:

The best books by European authors with female anti-heroes characters through time

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Book cover of The Piano Teacher

The Piano Teacher

By Elfriede Jelinek, Joachim Neugroschel

Why this book?

Elfriede Jelinek has many anti-heroines in novels and plays, but I pick Erika Kohut, a repressed Austrian piano teacher who in her late thirties is still living under the power of her stifling elderly mother. Vienna, the city of music and great composers like Franz Schubert, is seen not only through the Vienna Conservatory but inside peep-shops that Erika frequently visits to escape from her mother. Although she is a masochist and self-mutilates, she begins a relationship with Walter, a new student, and gives him the instructions through an atypical letter. Jelinek's work makes me feel many things, not only…

From the list:

The best books by European authors with female anti-heroes characters through time

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Book cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

By Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Why this book?

This is an intriguing murder mystery set in the evocative Winter landscape of the Silesia Region of Poland, close to the Czech Border. When Janina’s two pet dogs go missing, a murderous chain of events begins. The eccentric and feisty Janina is funny and warm and cantankerous – I love how she stands up for what she believes in, taking on her neighbours and haranguing the police and bureaucrats.

From the list:

The best books with brilliant old women as heroines

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Book cover of Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy

By Leslie Brody

Why this book?

As a native New Yorker and lifelong fan of Harriet the Spy (one among legions) reading the product of Leslie Brody’s detective work into the life of her creator is a special pleasure. Born in 1928, Fitzhugh was the product of a high society Memphis marriage that ended in scandal. She went on to live a vibrant, turbulent life in the queer artist and writers scene in New York. It makes total sense that someone who straddled so many different worlds had such a deep understanding of the multiple lives we all lead, and such a keen ability to perceive…

From the list:

The best books about beloved children’s books

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Book cover of A Crown for Cold Silver

A Crown for Cold Silver

By Alex Marshall

Why this book?

There is not a thing about this book that I don’t love. Marshall (a pseudonym for Jesse Bullington) tells the story of Zosia – Cold Cobalt, The Banshee with a Blade, First Villain – who is just a few steps past her prime. Twenty-some years have passed since she led her notorious band of generals – The Five Villains – in a war that put her on the throne. A throne she walked away from. She was done with it all, until fate and mistake shatter her retirement, drawing her back into the world and war. Marshall does some really…

From the list:

The best fantasy books led by brutal female characters

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Book cover of Frankenstein

Frankenstein

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Why this book?

If someone else at the Villa Diodati had come up with the idea of Frankenstein, I believe the Creature would have been a two-dimensional foil, good only for a quick scare in that “year with no summer.” Not much better than Frankenstein himself, who had the hubris to create but not the courage to nurture. Abandoned by his progenitor, rejected by society, Shelley’s Creature is a battered soul in stitched skins. He is capable of wonder at the natural world and desperate to give and have kindness. There are so many descriptions of him looking through windows or through chinks…
From the list:

The best stories told by monsters

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