Top 10 Best Fiction Books with Strong Female Characters

From forward-thinking classics to inspiring contemporary reads, this list of the best fiction books with strong female characters features feisty protagonists, daring adventures and plenty of resilience in the face of expectation and oppression.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee | 1960

This highly-acclaimed classic novel follows 6-year-old Scout, a sparky and intelligent little girl, whose tomboyish nature drives her Aunt Alexandra and her teacher Miss Caroline to distraction. Scout is observant and inquisitive, unafraid to ask blunt questions and speak her mind. Throughout the two-year duration of the novel, she develops a deeper understanding of the prejudice and racism present in her own hometown in the American Deep South, and will be courageous enough to fight against it.

2. The Book Thief

Markus Zusak | 2005

Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, this captivating story follows Liesel, an avid young booklover and brave book thief, horrified by the destruction and burning of thousands of newly-banned books under the Nazis. The intrepid young Liesel must help to hide a Jewish boy in the basement, where the power of words and books to enrich the soul is explored by both youngsters as they try to evade danger and even death. This shocking but spellbinding story features a tough and determined female lead.

3. Americanah

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie | 2013

This rich and epic love story stars Ifemelu, a Nigerian woman who has spent 15 years in the United States, accomplishing academic success and writing a successful blog about racism in America. When she returns to the newly-democratic Nigeria, she reunites with her first love, Obinze, whom she hasn't seen since they were teenagers. Obinze had always wanted to join Ifemelu, but was blocked from entering America and thrust into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. What will happen when Ifemelu and the now wealthy Obinze encounter each other once more, under so very different circumstances? This fiercely gripping novel examines love, expectation and race in Nigerian and American culture.

4. Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte | 1847

A novel ahead of its time, the protagonist of Jane Eyre is the feisty, argumentative and keenly intelligent Jane, who refuses to accept her designated position in society. She resolves to find love on her own terms, and thinks she's found it when she meets the dark and brooding Mr Rochester. But she will have to endure tragedies, setbacks and challenges along the way, from a difficult childhood with her cruel aunt, to shocking encounters and fatal fires. This rich and gripping work of literature is simply a must-read.

5. Pippi Longstocking

Astrid Lindgren | 1945

Discover the marvellous adventures of Pippi Longstocking, a red-haired, freckled little girl who is superhumanly strong and fiercely independent! She can cook and clean for herself, repair her house, care for her pets and otherwise manage her affairs all by herself. She absolutely loves animals; her best friends are a horse and a monkey. Join Pippi as she performs at the circus, takes her friends on a trip to the Canny Canny Islands, and has many more daring adventures.

6. Coraline

Neil Gaiman | 2002

This perfectly creepy and thrilling novel stars Coraline, whose family moves into a brand new flat. There, she discovers a door that leads to an unnerving mirror universe, where a mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin beckon Coraline to join them. Whilst this strange other world seems in so many ways far better than the original, Coraline will discover that a host of children's souls are trapped there. Will she be able to save them, as well as herself? This chilling story is guaranteed to captivate readers.

7. Anne of Green Gables

L. M. Montgomery | 1908

Anne is a feisty young girl with flaming red hair and a somewhat difficult attitude, which her new adoptive parents, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, are quick to discover. But as she grows up on the farm in Avonlea, she becomes a highly intelligent and outgoing (if stubborn!) young lady. Follow Anne's journey as she makes friends, goes to college, and has a few misadventures along the way!

8. The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins | 2008-2010

The first in the ground-breaking Hunger Games trilogy, this captivating novel follows gutsy 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen. The post-apocalyptic nation of Panem consists of twelve 'districts', most of them oppressed and miserable places - except for the opulent, shimmering Capitol. But Katniss from District 12 has the chance to change everything once she ends up participating in the brutal 'Hunger Games', a televised fight to the death between a group of teenagers. Featuring adrenaline-pumping action, turbulent romances and a gritty atmosphere, this white-knuckle novel is truly immersive.

9. His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman | 1995-2000

Featuring three books - Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass - this captivating fantasy trilogy follows the courageous and adventurous young Lyra and her 'daemon', the animal embodiment of her inner self. Travel with Lyra to amazing fantastical settings, through snowy hills, to an otherworldly city, and even to the Land of the Dead, on all sorts of daring and dangerous quests.

10. Eat, Pray, Love

Elizabeth Gilbert | 2006

Elizabeth seems to have the life everyone wants in their thirties - a husband, a house, trying for a baby... but she's not happy. Following a bitter divorce and turbulent affair, Elizabeth embarks on an enthralling journey around the world, determined to care for herself for once. She travels to Italy, India and Bali, having all sorts of incredible adventures and novel experiences. Feel inspired by a truly resilient and self-determining woman in this moving memoir.

  • AAAKE
    Elizabeth Gilbert
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    It's 3 a.m. and Elizabeth Gilbert is sobbing on the bathroom floor. She's in her thirties, she has a husband, a house, they're trying for a baby - and she doesn't want any of it. A bitter divorce and a turbulent love affair later, she emerges battered and bewildered and realises it is time to pursue her own journey in search of three things she has been missing: pleasure, devotion and balance. So she travels to Rome, where she learns Italian from handsome, brown-eyed identical twins and gains twenty-five pounds, an ashram in India, where she finds that enlightenment entails getting up in the middle of the night to scrub the temple floor, and Bali where a toothless medicine man of indeterminate age offers her a new path to peace: simply sit still and smile. And slowly happiness begins to creep up on her.

  • KMK2 14 years +
    Harper Lee
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    Harper Lee's acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird won a Pulitzer Prize after its publication in 1960 and is hugely influential in its exposure of racial prejudice.

    Set in the American Deep South, the story is seen through the eyes of six-year-old Scout, whose lawyer father Atticus Finch defends a young black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

    As Scout's family deals with the hostility and prejudice as a result of the case, there's a dawning realisation for Scout of all the inequality and injustice in her world.

    Powerful and moving, this 'Great American Novel' is a must-have addition to every reader's bookshelf and with the publication of follow-up Go Set a Watchman already one of the biggest sellers of the year, now is the perfect time to rediscover the hugely important book.
  • ACYRC 11 years +
    Philip Pullman
    11 years +
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    A modern masterpiece from Philip Pullman, this slipcased collection includes all three books in the His Dark Materials trilogy.

    A bestseller all around the world that tackled a number of important and controversial issues, it also won many awards and has had a remarkable influence on literature since.
  • AEECG 14 years +
    Charlotte Bronte
    14 years +
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    'The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself'. Passionate, poetic and revolutionary, "Jane Eyre" is a novel of naked emotional power. Its story of a defiant, fiercely intelligent woman who refuses to accept her appointed place in society - and instead finds love on her own terms - has become famous as one of the greatest romances ever written, but it is also a brooding Gothic mystery, a profound depiction of character and a transformative work of the imagination. This is the Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.
  • EIL2 9 years +
    Neil Gaiman
    9 years +
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    Widely regarded as a modern classic of children's literature, and also the inspiration for a major film adaptation directed by Henry Selick, this is a special tenth anniversary edition of Coraline.

    Written by the bestselling Neil Gaiman, this edition comes complete with a new foreword from the author, as well as visually striking illustrations from Children's Laureate Chris Riddell.

    There's something strange about Coraline's new home, and it's not the constant mist or the cat that keeps watching her, it's the other house... The one behind the old door in the drawing room, where a mother and father with black-button eyes and papery skin want Coraline to join them. But if Coraline steps through that door, she knows she may not come back...

    A gripping and dark contemporary fairy tale with just the right amount of creepiness.
  • ANIBB
    LM Montgomery
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    When Anne Shirley arrives in quiet Avonlea, everyone is taken by surprise, particularly Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who had been expecting to adopt a boy to help on the farm - not a talkative, red-headed orphan girl with a vivid imagination. Anne is immediately entranced by the beauty of Prince Edward Island, the charm of Green Gables, and the delightful companionship of her new schoolmates - all except mischievous Gilbert Blythe, who becomes her sworn enemy when he makes fun of her red hair. As the years pass, no one in Avonlea, even stern Marilla Cuthbert, can imagine a time without the irrepressible Anne.
  • The Hunger Games Collection - 3 Books - Collection - 9781407130361 - Suzanne Collins
    GAME 12 years +
    Suzanne Collins
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    Suzanne Collins' bestselling YA book series, The Hunger Games trilogy, transports readers to a dystopian future run by the evil President Snow, where children are forced to take part in a deadly game to win favour for themselves and their village.

    When Katniss Everdeen becomes a contestant, she is convinced she won't return, but as she enters the life-or-death world of the televised game, she finds she's stronger than she thought... Will the odds be ever in her favour? She'll need the help of fellow contestant Peeta Mellark, previous winner Haymitch Abernathy and other rebels to help overthrow the sinister government.

    Totally unputdownable, the Hunger Games books - The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay - are a must for any bookshelf and they will surely generate discussion around the world we live in today. The Hollywood films - starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson - have gained the trilogy a legion of dedicated fans and now is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the life-or-death adventures found in The Hunger Games books.
  • MZK2 11 years +
    Markus Zusak
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    Now a major motion picture starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson, The Book Thief is a moving and breathtaking novel that young readers and adults will both be sure to devour.

    Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, the country holds its breath, waiting on the brink of war. Young Liesel's life is changed forever as she stands by her brother's grave and picks up The Gravedigger's Handbook from the snow, committing her first act of book thievery and changing her life forever... So follows her love affair with books in an increasingly dangerous time. When her foster family hide a Jewish boy in their basement her world is both opened up and shut down, but the power of words and the ability for books to feed the soul is explored and enjoyed by both youngsters.

    Superbly crafted and incredibly moving, children aged 11+ simply must read this award-winning tale which has proved to be one of the most enduring and respected of recent times.
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    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
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    From the award-winning author of 'Half of a Yellow Sun,' a powerful story of love, race and identity. As teenagers in Lagos, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Thirteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a blogger. But after so long apart and so many changes, will they find the courage to meet again, face to face? Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, 'Americanah' is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today's globalized world.
  • BPZ2 7 years +
    Astrid Lindgren
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    Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking is a fabulously funny heroine who will delight young readers with her eccentric and outrageous adventures.

    The Best of Pippi Longstocking is a rib-tickling, unmissable collection of three books in one and is complemented by Tony Ross' brilliant black and white illustrations. Pippi lives all by herself with a horse, a monkey, a suitcase full of gold and no grown-ups to tell her what to do.

    In the three stories featured here, Pippi performs at the circus, is reunited with her long-lost father and takes her friends Tommy and Annika on a trip to the Canny Canny Islands.