There is no avoiding the bitter truth: the literary canon remains dominated by the works of men. History has seen its share of breakthrough successes – from Jane Austen to the Brontës – but each woman who has carved her name in the hall of fame only did so after she overcame the various obstacles faced by those of her gender.
At different periods in time, women have been denied education, denied agency and denied access. Their work has been dismissed as light, inconsequential, too romantic or without intellectual merit. Some, like Mary Anne Evans, found the need to write under the guise of a man in order to be heard at all – we know her better now as George Eliot.
The situation has improved greatly since Eliot’s days, but discrimination is still rampant in literary industry. A study from last year, for example, found that books written by women were priced on average 45 per cent lower than books written by men.
There's no better time to consider how we can make a change. The canon must be completely deconstructed and reformed in a way that better reflects the rich, varied world we live in.
There is so much brilliant work out there which not only has failed to receive its dues, but has been robbed of the opportunity to deepen our own experiences. In that light, here’s a list of some of the very best books written by women, encompassing both works that are already considered go-to classics, and work that surely deserves that title in the future.
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