literature The Greatest Female Novelists Ever  

Originally by
5.5k votes 519 voters 17k views 133 items Follow Embed

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!
list ordered by

1
+ - 85 20
Mary Shelley is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mary Shelley Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Political Justice

The Best Ever Female Sci-Fi Authors The Best Novels Ever Written

2
+ - 141 55
Jane Austen is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Jane Austen Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

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
+ - 108 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
+ - 87 36
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
+ - 156 85
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
+ - 85 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
+ - 79 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
+ - 60 22
Daphne du Maurier is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Daphne du Maurier Rebecca, Mary Anne, The Birds II: Land's End

15
+ - 71 31
Beatrix Potter is listed (or ranked) 15 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

Famous Lesbian Authors The Best Autobiographies Ever Written

16
+ - 45 33
Ursula K. Le Guin is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Ursula K. Le Guin A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed

17
+ - 62 30
Laura Ingalls Wilder is listed (or ranked) 17 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

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
+ - 38 25
Lucy Maud Montgomery is listed (or ranked) 22 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

23
+ - 48 42
Toni Morrison is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Toni Morrison The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon

24
+ - 43 23
Harriet Beecher Stowe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Minister's Wooing, Men of our times

25
+ - 37 25
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 25 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

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
+ - 33 17
P. D. James is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
P. D. James The Children of Men, Cover Her Face, The Private Patient

28
+ - 31 23
Alice Munro is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Alice Munro Dear Life, The Love of a Good Woman, Runaway

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

The Greatest Female Film Directors 29 Things Worth Spending a Little Extra On

30
+ - 25 18
Elizabeth Gaskell is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Elizabeth Gaskell North and South, Cranford, Mary Barton

31
+ - 19 12
Doris Lessing is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook, The Grass Is Singing, Shikasta

32
+ - 10 2
Countess of Ségur is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Countess of Ségur La fortune de Gaspard, Les Deux Nigauds, Mémoires d'un âne

33
+ - 17 10
Marguerite Yourcenar is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Marguerite Yourcenar Memoirs of Hadrian, Oriental Tales, Fires

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

35
+ - 16 9
Sigrid Undset is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Sigrid Undset The snake pit, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Cross

36
+ - 19 12
Alice Walker is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Alice Walker The Color Purple, Possessing the Secret of Joy, The Temple of My Familiar

37
+ - 24 23
Kate Chopin is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Kate Chopin The Awakening, The awakening, and other stories - The Awakening

38
+ - 22 16
Iris Murdoch is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Iris Murdoch The Bell, Under the Net, The Sea

39
+ - 10 3
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Thea von Harbou Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

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
+ - 25 20
Dorothy L. Sayers is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors, Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night

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

The Funniest Female Comedians of All Time The Best Netflix Original Drama Movies

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
+ - 45 47
Anne Rice is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Anne Rice Interview with the Vampire, The Queen of the Damned, Merrick

47
+ - 6 1
Angela Carter is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Angela Carter The Passion of New Eve, Wise Children, Nights at the Circus

48
+ - 8 4
Sibylle Lewitscharoff is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever

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
+ - 52 65
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead