Good books with great female heroines

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I know that a lot of the time after a busy day of classes and homework the last thing you want to do is read a book.

But trust me, there is no better way to reclaim reading than finding a wonderful book you can dive into and distract yourself from everything else occurring in your busy life here at St. Olaf. The books I’m recommending are for people sick of reading books written by men about men – which often happens in St. Olaf classes – and in honor of female history month.

So without further adieu, here are four good books with great female heroines.


Selected as one of “The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2018,” this true autobiography follows the life of Tara Westover in a Mormon survivalist family. Growing up in harsh conditions, Tara never attended school and faced dysfunctional family members who believed they needed to prepare for the end of the world.

The books I’m recommending here are for people who are sick of reading books written by men about men (which often happens in St. Olaf classes) and in honor of female history month.Anna Leikvold ’21

Against all odds, Westover began teaching herself and escaped her family. Eventually, Westover ended up at Brigham Young University and then Cambridge and later Harvard to receive her Ph.D.

This wonderful story shows the struggles of a young woman who, after realizing the power of education, completely transformed her life and view of the world.

“Under the Feet of Jesus”

This novel by Helena Marias Viramontes tells the story of a young woman, Estrella, growing up with her mother and siblings as a migrant farm worker in California.

Facing dangerous, unfair working conditions and discrimination, Estrella must overcome major obstacles to become a strong and empowered woman in a society that treats her like a second class citizen. Estrella also must deal with various family and social situations from abandonment to falling in love.

This courageous novel exposes the injustices faced by migrant workers and the strength of a young girl overcoming anything in her way.

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

This novel by Margaret Atwood takes place in a dystopian future under a fundamentalist regime where women become the property of the state due to the astonishingly low birth rates.

Offred, a handmaid, is torn away from her husband and daughter in order to produce children for an elite family who cannot have children of their own. Not accepting this cruel and unfair fate, Offred plans to escape and find her daughter at any cost. This cautionary tale forces readers to look at our society in a different way.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” is also now a Netflix series which I recommend watching after you read it.

“The Great Alone”

This book is perfect for anyone who wants a fast-paced and heart-breaking story about overcoming adversity. Recommended to me by Cordelia Ahner ’21, this novel by Kristin Hannah follows Leni growing up with her family in a survivalist community in rural Alaska.

Along with overcoming poverty and a lack of survival skills, she must face an abusive father traumatized from the Vietnam War in a nearly lawless land. With the help of community members, her love interest and her mother, this story becomes one of self-discovery, growth and adversity despite extreme trauma.

This book has been passed around many of my friends and everyone has said it was a wonderful read and I certainly agree. (It is important to note that this book deals with a good amount of violence and merits a trigger warning.)

I hope this inspires you to find a good book instread of starting a new Netflix series. I have read and enjoyed all of these books, so feel free to shoot me an email about your opinions if you read them.

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