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100 Must-Read Books with Unlikable Women

20 March 2017

From BookRiot:

Nothing makes me reach faster for a book than seeing people complain about an unlikable character. I already know it’s going to be a woman–or girl. While literature has been steeped with unlikable men since the beginning, they get to be part of literature because they’re complicated and compelling. The male anti-hero is actually cheered for and loved. Women on the other hand get labeled annoying, unlikable, and not someone to be friends with. Sometimes it honestly feels like a woman is unlikable just for breathing, which is why I welcome with open arms all the unlikable women flooding into publishing.

. . . .

Most of these unlikable women are the main character(s) while some are not but are important characters. Some are intentionally written by authors as unlikable characters with the purpose of pushing back against sexism, while others are on this list because reviews about how unlikable they are crossed my path enough times to make me scratch my head as a reader but left me unsurprised as a woman.

. . . .

Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller: Claustrophobic and lonesome, acerbic and magnetic, the women in Always Happy Hour seek understanding in the most unlikely places—a dilapidated foster home where love is a liability, a trailer park laden with a history of bad decisions, and the empty corners of a dream home bought after a bitter divorce.

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis: A sharp, funny, delightfully unhinged collection of stories set in the dark world of domesticity, American Housewife features murderous ladies who lunch, celebrity treasure hunters, and the best bra fitter south of the Mason Dixon line.

. . . .

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark: Samantha Brinkman, an ambitious, hard-charging Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, is struggling to make a name for herself and to drag her fledgling practice into the big leagues. Sam lands a high-profile double-murder case in which one of the victims is a beloved TV star—and the defendant is a decorated veteran LAPD detective. It promises to be exactly the kind of media sensation that would establish her as a heavy hitter in the world of criminal law.

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina: Award-winning author Meg Medina transports us to a time when New York seemed balanced on a knife-edge, with tempers and temperatures running high, to share the story of a young woman who discovers that the greatest dangers are often closer than we like to admit — and the hardest to accept.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Books in General

11 Comments to “100 Must-Read Books with Unlikable Women”

  1. What? Of course there are likable, charming female villains, and of course there are flawed heroines with bad attitudes too.

    People do not love male anti-heroes unless they have charm or say snarky things that heroes cannot.

    But if you want the reader to spend hours of time with someone with no attractive features, you are running a punishment facility instead of writing a book.

    You have to make characters at least charming enough that the reader will love to hate them and wish for their comeuppance.

  2. The male anti-hero is actually cheered for and loved. Women on the other hand get labeled annoying, unlikable, and not someone to be friends with.

    Annoying character != anti-hero. It can if that’s the writer’s aim (and sometimes in spite of) but it’s isn’t axiomatic by any means.

    Women on the other hand get labeled annoying, unlikable, and not someone to be friends with.

    Given the statement about male anti-heros above, how much of this claim is projection?

  3. I thought Scarlett O’Hara was considered an anti-heroine? I never read the book or saw the movie, but I’ve seen her in lists of anti-heroes and I never got the impression she was wrongly placed.

    Scott McGlasson says, Annoying character != anti-hero.

    Is it possible that this can be engraved somewhere? This is probably a writing rule that can safely be set in stone.

    Suburbanbanshee points out, People do not love male anti-heroes unless they have charm or say snarky things that heroes cannot.

    Case in point, Mr. Bennett. I re-watched the BBC edition of Pride & Prejudice a few weeks ago (it’s on Prime!) which prompted me to re-read the book. I failed to notice before that Elizabeth’s father is a villain in his own way. It’s just easy to glide over because he’s snarky. See this old post at Mending My Own Pen, and follow the two links in the post. Or at least the second link, here.

    I like my anti-heroes roguish and witty. I prefer them to be competent at whatever they’re supposed to be doing (which is why Mr. Bennett isn’t my favorite) and have a heart of gold after a fashion. But if there’s no HoG factor I at least want the first three criteria to be met. And they can’t be annoying. Can’t stress that enough.

    The post doesn’t describe what makes the heroines of these books anti-heroines, so I can’t tell if they fit my definition or not.

  4. I wish she’d told us who was the unlikeable character and why, because I can’t tell from the book descriptions. And for some books, she and I must have very different ideas.

  5. Not sure where Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg fit in the hero/anti-hero categorisation, but neither of them are “nice people”. Female though…

    • Granny and Nanny are my favorites. They’re funny and formidable and I’d totally want them watching my back even if I couldn’t stand the thought of living with them. Good examples.

  6. Al the Great and Powerful

    There is just not enough time in my life to waste on unlikable characters of either sex (or none… though I give HAL higher marks after seeing 2010).

    Al the Escape(Reading) Artist

  7. Some of my favorite books are rife with unlikable characters. Just make me empathize in some way and I’ll follow.

  8. Having set up her straw men, the author knocks them down quickly to make way for the real purpose of this listicle: an excuse to share 100 books by female authors for the clicks. Just because some readers find characters unlikeable, however, doesn’t automatically mean the book is good. Sometimes, unlikeable characters have everything to do with the way an author writes them and nothing to do with their gender. I would prefer lists like “Top 20 New Female Writers”, “Best 10 Mysteries Written by Women”, etc. In those cases, the basis for merit is more focused.

    There were some fantastic cover designs in the list, though, and a few summaries that caught my interest. Thanks for sharing.

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