literature The Greatest Female Novelists Ever  

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List Rules Only women authors. Please rank only based on their fiction novels, not on short stories or non-fiction work.

The best female novelists are arguably the top and most talented women who penned some of the most popular and most influential novels of all time. These women, from around the globe over the last few centuries, changed the landscape of fiction writing with their work. These ladies are not just the best female novelists ever, but easily among the best writers of all time.

These female novelists represent many genres of literature such as romance, science fiction, fantasy, adventure and mystery, to name a few. Their works have inspired countless others and spurred numerous movie adaptations. Quite simply, these women are some of the best female authors to have ever lifted the pen.

From the classics from Agatha Christie and Jane Austen to the modern favorites from Stephenie Meyer and J.K. Rowling, it’s hard to find a book from a female novelist on this list that isn’t a favorite of millions of readers around the world.

Which of these female novelists is the best? Share your picks by voting for your favorites, adding any not listed or re-ranking this list of the best female novelists below!

1
+ - 140 54
Jane Austen is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Jane Austen Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

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2
+ - 84 20
Mary Shelley is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mary Shelley Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Political Justice

3
+ - 142 52
Agatha Christie is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The ABC Murders

4
+ - 106 37
Charlotte Brontë is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Shirley

5
+ - 135 56
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

6
+ - 86 35
Virginia Woolf is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own

7
+ - 153 84
J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
J. K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Casual Vacancy

8
+ - 76 31
Margaret Atwood is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Blind Assassin

9
+ - 84 34
Louisa May Alcott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Louisa May Alcott Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys

10
+ - 58 29
Madeleine L'Engle is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Madeleine L'Engle A Wrinkle in Time, A Ring of Endless Light, A Wind in the Door - A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet

11
+ - 78 28
Emily Brontë is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights, Gondal poems, Poems by Currer - Wuthering Heights

12
+ - 52 25
George Eliot is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
George Eliot A Simple Twist of Fate, RoThe Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch - The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, Silas Marner, Adam Bede, Brother Jacob, The Lifted Veil

13
+ - 56 28
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Edith Wharton Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth - Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence

14
+ - 71 31
Beatrix Potter is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Beatrix Potter The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemimi Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny

15
+ - 59 22
Daphne du Maurier is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Daphne du Maurier Rebecca, Mary Anne, The Birds II: Land's End

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16
+ - 62 29
Laura Ingalls Wilder is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie

17
+ - 44 33
Ursula K. Le Guin is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed

18
+ - 42 21
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Flannery O'Connor Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, Everything That Rises Must Converge

19
+ - 31 21
Anne Brontë is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Anne Brontë The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Agnes Grey, Best Poems of the Brontë Sisters - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

20
+ - 22 12
Dorothy Parker is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Dorothy Parker Saboteur, A Star Is Born, A Star Is Born

21
+ - 19 5
Patricia Highsmith is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Patricia Highsmith The Talented Mr. Ripley, The American Friend, Strangers on a Train

22
+ - 43 22
Harriet Beecher Stowe is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Minister's Wooing, Men of our times

23
+ - 38 25
Lucy Maud Montgomery is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne of Green Gables, The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set, Emily Climbs

24
+ - 37 25
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My Ántonia - My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop

25
+ - 47 42
Toni Morrison is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon

26
+ - 23 12
Judy Blume is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Judy Blume Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret., Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

27
+ - 31 23
Alice Munro is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Alice Munro Dear Life, The Love of a Good Woman, Runaway

28
+ - 32 17
P. D. James is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
P. D. James The Children of Men, Cover Her Face, The Private Patient

29
+ - 13 4
Baroness Emma Orczy is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Baroness Emma Orczy The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel

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30
+ - 10 2
Countess of Ségur is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Countess of Ségur La fortune de Gaspard, Les Deux Nigauds, Mémoires d'un âne

31
+ - 10 2
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Thea von Harbou Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

32
+ - 17 10
Marguerite Yourcenar is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Marguerite Yourcenar Memoirs of Hadrian, Oriental Tales, Fires

33
+ - 34 29
Barbara Kingsolver is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Barbara Kingsolver The Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, Animal

34
+ - 16 9
Sigrid Undset is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Sigrid Undset The snake pit, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Cross

35
+ - 24 18
Elizabeth Gaskell is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Elizabeth Gaskell North and South, Cranford, Mary Barton

36
+ - 24 23
Kate Chopin is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Kate Chopin The Awakening, The awakening, and other stories - The Awakening

37
+ - 22 16
Iris Murdoch is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Iris Murdoch The Bell, Under the Net, The Sea

38
+ - 18 12
Doris Lessing is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook, The Grass Is Singing, Shikasta

39
+ - 25 20
Dorothy L. Sayers is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors, Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night

40
+ - 10 3
Geneviève Dormann is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Geneviève Dormann Coup de Grâce, Colette--a passion for life, Mauritius from the air

41
+ - 18 12
Alice Walker is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Alice Walker The Color Purple, Possessing the Secret of Joy, The Temple of My Familiar

42
+ - 8 1
George Sand is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
George Sand Little Fadette, Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence, Lelia

43
+ - 35 32
E. Annie Proulx is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
E. Annie Proulx The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain, Close Range: Wyoming Stories

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44
+ - 9 3
Anne McCaffrey is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Anne McCaffrey Dragonflight, Dragonsong, Sassinak

45
+ - 17 14
Muriel Spark is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Mandelbaum Gate

46
+ - 6 1
Angela Carter is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Angela Carter The Passion of New Eve, Wise Children, Nights at the Circus

47
+ - 8 4
Sibylle Lewitscharoff is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever

48
+ - 44 47
Anne Rice is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Anne Rice Interview with the Vampire, The Queen of the Damned, Merrick

49
+ - 6 2
Carol Shields is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Carol Shields The Stone Diaries, Unless, A celibate season

50
+ - 51 64
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead