Culture

The Greatest Female Novelists Ever  

Ranker Books
Originally by
7k votes 777 voters 27.3k views 141 items

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!
Ranker may collect a commission from links on this page.
list ordered by
1
Jane Austen is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice
2
Charlotte Brontë is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Shirley
3
Mary Shelley is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Political Justice
4
Agatha Christie is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, The ABC Murders
5
Virginia Woolf is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One’s Own
6
Harper Lee is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
To Kill a Mockingbird
7
J. K. Rowling is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Casual Vacancy
8
Margaret Atwood is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Blind Assassin
9
George Eliot is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
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
10
Louisa May Alcott is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys
11
Emily Brontë is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Wuthering Heights, Gondal poems, Poems by Currer
Wuthering Heights
12
Madeleine L'Engle is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added A Wrinkle in Time, A Ring of Endless Light, A Wind in the Door
A Wrinkle in Time, A Swiftly Tilting Planet
13
Edith Wharton is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth
Ethan Frome, The Age of Innocence
14
Daphne du Maurier is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Rebecca, Mary Anne, The Birds II: Land's End
15
Beatrix Potter is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Jemimi Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny
16
Ursula K. Le Guin is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
A Wizard of Earthsea, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed
17
Flannery O'Connor is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Wise Blood, The Violent Bear It Away, Everything That Rises Must Converge
18
Toni Morrison is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon
19
Laura Ingalls Wilder is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Little House in the Big Woods, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie
20
Anne Brontë is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Agnes Grey, Best Poems of the Brontë Sisters
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
21
Lucy Maud Montgomery is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
looksharp added Anne of Green Gables, The Complete Anne of Green Gables Boxed Set, Emily Climbs
22
Dorothy Parker is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
GregerNordstrom added Saboteur, A Star Is Born, A Star Is Born
23
Willa Cather is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
AdmiralCrunch added Death Comes for the Archbishop, A Lost Lady, My Ántonia
My Antonia, Death Comes for the Archbishop
24
Alice Walker is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
but chickens double d added The Color Purple, Possessing the Secret of Joy, The Temple of My Familiar
25
Patricia Highsmith is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Female Novelists Ever
Mollevangsvagen added The Talented Mr. Ripley, The American Friend, Strangers on a Train