Late last year we asked you, our loyal customers and keen bibliophiles, to name the greatest living female author. We knew J.K. Rowling would lead the votes after the final count, which she did by a country mile, but it was intriguing to see who would be next.
In short, it was Canada who ran closest to the Harry Potter creator, with Margaret ‘Peggy’ Atwood at No. 2 and Alice Munro at three. American Toni Morrison was in fourth place.
Rowling, Atwood, Munro and Morrison garnered the vast majority of the votes between them and there was some distance between them and Joyce Carol Oates, who is followed by Harper Lee, Joan Didion and Zadie Smith. Hilary Mantel and Barbara Kingsolver round out the top 10. Lee makes the list with just a single book to her name, To Kill a Mockingbird published in 1960.
Customers could vote for any living female writer, regardless of genre or standing or her number of published works, so this list is broad and stretches from bestsellers you find by the supermarket checkout to Nobel Prize winners and authors whose books are studied in universities. A number of these authors have been writing for decades and we should applaud the likes of Atwood, Morrison, Munro, Oates, Ursula Le Guin, Penelope Lively and PD James for their ability to regularly produce books that people want to read.
The 75 Greatest Living Female Authors
3. Alice Munro – another Canadian, queen of short stories and Nobel winner.
5. Joyce Carol Oates – more than 40 novels since the 1960s.
6. Harper Lee – a true one-hit wonder but what a one-hit wonder!
7. Joan Didion – non-fiction, fiction, screenplays. She can do it all.
9. Hilary Mantel – double Booker winner and undisputed queen of historical fiction.
11. Marilynne Robinson – won Pulitzer in 2004, written four outstanding novels.
12. Anne Rice – Gothic fiction and erotica, and lots of die-hard fans.
15. Jhumpa Lahiri – short stories and novels make her a rising star.
16. Ursula Le Guin – prolific author of science fiction and fantasy, a legend.
18. Connie Willis – Hugo awarding-winning science fiction.
20. Rose Tremain – written 13 novels since the 1970s.
21. Isabel Allende – the pride of Chile but adored throughout South America.
24. Donna Tartt – slow but good, just three novels published in three decades.
25. Amy Tan – six novels exploring mother-daughter relationships.
25. Suzanne Collins – young and old are hungry for the Hunger Games trilogy.
27. Beverly Cleary – bestselling children’s books with vibrant characters like Ramona Quimby.
28. Geraldine Brooks – Australian journalist with four successful novels.
29. Tamora Pierce – loved by teenagers for her feminist-themed fantasy.
31. P.D. James – the English crime writer who created Adam Dalgliesh.
32. Sarah Waters – carved her own niche of Victorian-Lesbian fiction.
34. Anne Perry – prolific writer of historical detective fiction.
36. Nadine Gordimer – South African writer known for her political activism.
37. Anna Quindlen – former journalist who writes fiction and non-fiction.
38. Maggie O’Farrell – Northern Irish author of six novels.
40. Pat Barker – best known for her Regeneration trilogy.
42. Kathy Reichs – a much-loved crime writer and forensic scientist.
44. Sue Grafton – American detective novelist best known for the Kinsey Millhone series.
45. Edna O’Brien – Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer.
46. Miriam Toews – Canadian author with six books to her name.
47. Philippa Gregory – historical novelist famous for the Tudor series.
48. Louise Penny – another Canadian, who pens compelling mystery novels.
54. Stephenie Meyer – the Twilight author captured the teen market.
56. Janet Evanovich – sells oodles of Stephanie Plum mysteries.
58. Judy Blume – someone who has sold 80 million books can’t be bad.
61. Tracy Chevalier – historical novelist with seven books.
62. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – one of Africa’s brightest star with four novels.
63. Penelope Lively – too many books to mention, won Booker in 1987.
64. Mary Higgins Clark – ex-air stewardess who became a bestselling suspense writer.
67. Kristine Rusch – talented writer of science fiction, fantasy, mystery and romance.
68. Deborah Harkness – professor of history who has written three novels.
69. Tanith Lee – British writer of sci-fi, horror and fantasy. 90+ novels.
71. Ruth Rendell- mystery writer who created Chief Inspector Wexford.
73. Margaret Weis – expert creator of fantasy worlds.
75. Jodi Picoult – over 20 books and more in the pipeline.
Notable female writers who received no votes and did not make the list include Danielle Steel, Mary Stewart, Donna Leon, AS Byatt, Margaret Drabble, Anita Brookner, PC Cast, Lois Lowry, Joanna Trollope, Jane Urquart, Kate DiCamillo, Kiran Desai, Diana Wynne-Jones and Patricia Cornwell.