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!
list ordered by

1
90 21
Mary Shelley is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Mary Shelley Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Political Justice

The Best Ever Female Sci-Fi Authors The Scariest Novels of All Time

2
146 56
Jane Austen is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Jane Austen Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice

3
147 54
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
114 38
Charlotte Brontë is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Shirley

5
140 58
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird

6
81 31
Margaret Atwood is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Margaret Atwood The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Blind Assassin

7
89 37
Virginia Woolf is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Virginia Woolf Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own

8
160 88
J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 8 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

9
89 36
Louisa May Alcott is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Louisa May Alcott Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys

10
62 29
Madeleine L'Engle is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added 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
82 29
Emily Brontë is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Joh1 added Emily Brontë Wuthering Heights, Gondal poems, Poems by Currer - Wuthering Heights

12
54 26
George Eliot is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Joh1 added 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
58 29
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Edith Wharton Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth - Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence

14
62 23
Daphne du Maurier is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Daphne du Maurier Rebecca, Mary Anne, The Birds II: Land's End

15
73 33
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

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16
48 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
44 22
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Flannery O'Connor Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, Everything That Rises Must Converge

18
64 31
Laura Ingalls Wilder is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie

19
32 22
Anne Brontë is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Joh1 added Anne Brontë The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Agnes Grey, Best Poems of the Brontë Sisters - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

20
41 26
Lucy Maud Montgomery is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Lucy Maud Montgomery Anne of Green Gables, The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set, Emily Climbs

21
23 13
Dorothy Parker is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
GregerNordstrom added Dorothy Parker Saboteur, A Star Is Born, A Star Is Born

22
20 6
Patricia Highsmith is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Patricia Highsmith The Talented Mr. Ripley, The American Friend, Strangers on a Train

23
50 43
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
44 24
Harriet Beecher Stowe is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Minister's Wooing, Men of our times

25
37 26
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My Ántonia - My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop

26
24 14
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
34 17
P. D. James is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added P. D. James The Children of Men, Cover Her Face, The Private Patient

28
14 4
Baroness Emma Orczy is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Baroness Emma Orczy The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel

29
31 24
Alice Munro is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Alice Munro Dear Life, The Love of a Good Woman, Runaway

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30
17 9
Sigrid Undset is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Sigrid Undset The snake pit, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Cross

31
21 13
Alice Walker is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
but chickens double d added Alice Walker The Color Purple, Possessing the Secret of Joy, The Temple of My Familiar

32
25 24
Kate Chopin is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Kate Chopin The Awakening, The awakening, and other stories - The Awakening

33
35 30
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
26 20
Dorothy L. Sayers is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors, Murder Must Advertise, Gaudy Night

35
25 19
Elizabeth Gaskell is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Elizabeth Gaskell North and South, Cranford, Mary Barton

36
19 13
Doris Lessing is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook, The Grass Is Singing, Shikasta

37
17 11
Marguerite Yourcenar is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Marguerite Yourcenar Memoirs of Hadrian, Oriental Tales, Fires

38
11 4
Thea von Harbou is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Thea von Harbou Metropolis, M, The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

39
10 3
Countess of Ségur is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Countess of Ségur La fortune de Gaspard, Les Deux Nigauds, Mémoires d'un âne

40
22 17
Iris Murdoch is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Iris Murdoch The Bell, Under the Net, The Sea

41
10 4
Geneviève Dormann is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Geneviève Dormann Coup de Grâce, Colette--a passion for life, Mauritius from the air

42
35 33
E. Annie Proulx is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
E. Annie Proulx The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain, Close Range: Wyoming Stories

43
8 2
George Sand is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Shushan added George Sand Little Fadette, Flaubert-Sand: The Correspondence, Lelia

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44
19 16
Muriel Spark is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Muriel Spark The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means, The Mandelbaum Gate

45
7 2
Angela Carter is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Haricot added Angela Carter The Passion of New Eve, Wise Children, Nights at the Circus

46
9 5
Anne McCaffrey is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
ChrisLeonard added Anne McCaffrey Dragonflight, Dragonsong, Sassinak

47
46 50
Anne Rice is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Anne Rice Interview with the Vampire, The Queen of the Damned, Merrick

48
54 68
Ayn Rand is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
tcjx14me added Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Fountainhead

49
8 5
Sibylle Lewitscharoff is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added Sibylle Lewitscharoff

50
19 18
Anita Diamant is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Anita Diamant The Red Tent, Pitching my tent, The new Jewish baby book - The Red Tent