When it comes to
female icons in literature, it's hard to find any that are happily single at any point in the story. A vast majority of books feature some kind of romantic plot or subplot, and it sometimes feels like readers have to wade through countless stacks of all genres to find a single woman who is contentedly uncoupled. Because when there is a single woman in a book, she is most often the sad, lonely spinster of the story, desperate for love she seems doomed to never receive.
But single women with all of their self-esteem and autonomy intact, deserve to have their stories told, too. And although we still have quite a way to go on getting to a place where the list of these women in our favorite books is long and diverse, there are a few characters who have already found their ways into the distinctive group. Below, authors like
Jojo Moyes, Sonali Dev, and Morgan Matson — who have all written romantic plots into their own stories — share their favorite inspirational single lady characters from books that they love. And although some of them had to bend the rules, including women who were, in fact, eventually coupled up, they've still created the ultimate TBR of books with fierce female leads.
Jojo Moyes, Author Of 'Still Me' Is Inspired By:
Jojo Moyes, photo courtesy of Stein Heilmann Velvet Brown from Enid Bagnold's National Velvet
For a book published in 1935, it’s an oddly radical book," Moyes tells Bustle. "Young Velvet Brown, a weedy teenager, trains her wild horse to run in the Grand National — Britain’s toughest horse race — helped by her mother, who was once a cross channel swimmer. Women who do things can be surprisingly hard to find in commercial literature. Female characters are often defined by their romantic lives or what they wear. I want today’s girls to read about other girls being strong and pushing beyond their boundaries, being true to themselves and their ambitions. Velvet Brown embodies this and she is funny, original and inspirational."
Click here to buy Still Me. Click here to buy National Velvet.
Sonali Dev, Author Of 'A Distant Heart' Is Inspired By:
Sonali Dev, photo courtesy of Vernice Dollar of Studio 16 Hermione Granger from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter
"This is probably the hardest question one could ever ask me and I’ll probably think of someone else the second I answer but I’m going to go with Hermione Granger from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series," Dev tells Bustle. "She is possibly the most perfect female protagonist for this millennium because she is a girl who is better than everyone around her at almost everything and she feels no angst about it. Every female protagonist I’ve ever read, from Lizzie Bennet to Scarlett O’Hara to even my own heroines, struggle not just with what they want out of life but with their own competence and abilities because they’re reflecting a society that does not take kindly to perceived arrogance and self-possession in women. Hermione struggles only with how to get things done using her exceptional abilities. Totally a hero for the ages."
Click here to buy A Distant Heart. Click here to buy Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Ashley Herring Blake, Author Of 'How to Make a Wish' Is Inspired By:
Ashley Herring Blake, photo courtesy of the author Gem from Sara Zarr’s Gem & Dixie
"Put a Sara Zarr book in front of me and chances are, I’m going to start salivating and fall in love by the end of the first page.
Gem & Dixie is no different," Zarr tells Bustle. "It’s a complicated story about sisters, about family and loyalty, and ultimately, about the tough choices one has to make sometimes to survive. Gem’s life is anything but stable, but she’s always had her younger sister, Dixie. Gem has no love interest in this book and while I love me some romance, I found it so refreshing to read about a teen dealing with some really serious issues with her family that simply didn’t leave any room for romance. Survival — hers and her sister’s — had to come first. I love books like Gem & Dixie that remind us that there are so many different kinds of love." Click here to buy How to Make a Wish. Click here to buy Gem & Dixie.
Jasmine Guillory, Author Of 'The Wedding Date' Is Inspired By:
Jasmine Guillory, photo courtesy of Andrea Scher Miss Marple from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple Mystery series
"I adore Agatha Christie’s famous old maid. My favorite Miss Marple books are
4:50 From Paddington and The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side, but they’re all wonderful," Guillory says. "I love her for so many reasons — her charm, her coziness, how well she treats her servants — but my favorite thing about Miss Marple is how she uses her spinsterhood to her advantage. Everyone always underestimates her; they think of her as a sweet, harmless, gossipy old lady and nothing more, and she knows it. She uses their prejudices as a weapon; she goes places she shouldn’t go, and hears stories she shouldn’t hear, and uses her knowledge of human nature to stop evil in its tracks. And she does it all while knitting some fluffy garment or eating delicious cake. May we all be smart, well fed, cozy avenging angels like her." Click here to buy The Wedding Date. Click here to buy The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side.
Helen Hoang, Author Of 'The Kiss Quotient' Is Inspired By:
Helen Hoang, photo courtesy of Eric Kieu Scarlett O'Hara from Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind
"I know Scarlett married three times, but she was at her best when she was single, and I think we can agree that what made her special had nothing to do with the men in her life," Hoang tells Bustle. "I was in elementary school when I read
Gone with the Wind and watched the film with my grandma. I still remember how when that scene came up — you know which scene I’m talking about— my grandma pointed to the screen and said, 'This is the best part of the movie. Look at how strong she is.' My grandma, a WW2 nurse, was a strong woman herself, and she admired the way Scarlett grew from a spoiled brat into a determined woman who saved her family with business savvy and a gown made of curtains. As I grew, I carried that image of Scarlett standing in the fields swearing she’d 'never be hungry again' with me. She reminded me of my grandma and my war refugee mom, women whom I’ve always tried to emulate when I face adversity. In my writing, I attempt to give that same fierceness to my heroines, strength that comes from within, independent of a romantic relationship. Click here to buy The Kiss Quotient. Click here to buy Gone With the Wind.
Gabby Rivera, Author Of 'Juliet Takes A Breath' Is Inspired By:
Gabby Rivera, photo courtesy of Julieta Salgado Tomato Rodriguez from Erika Lopez's Flaming Iguanas
"All 18-year-old me ever wanted was permission to be loud, free, and ride cross-country on a motorcycle. Thank the goddesses for Tomato Rodriguez in Flaming Iguanas," Rivera tells Bustle. "
Flaming Iguanas is all double Ds, gritty heartbreak, and every ounce of the sharp ass honesty that you get from your one homegirl who never lies or shuts up. Tomato shares all her messy and tragic-funny encounters from one wild summer on the road. And the best part is that she doesn't let empty gas tanks or ex-girlfriends keep her from doing what she wants to do. Bisexual af and totally fearless, Tomato is a complicated anti-hero that I was in awe of as a teenager. As I read Flaming Iguanas now, there are definitely places where Tomato's politics could use some adjustments. So if I could also have a call-in conversation with a fellow queer-ish Latina book character, it would definitely be Tomato Rodriguez." Click here to buy Juliet Takes a Breath. Click here to buy Flaming Iguanas.
Maurene Goo, Author of 'The Way You Make Me Feel' Is Inspired By:
Maurene Goo, photo courtesy of the author Bridget Jones from Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary
"It is perhaps the most obvious thing to pick Bridget Jones as my favorite single character in literature but she’s iconic for a reason," Goo tells Bustle. "Was there ever a character more endearing in her self-deprecation, her humor, and endless optimism about changing her own life? Bridget has informed every main character I’ve ever written— from Desi’s haplessness in romance to Clara’s sharp observations about the world around her. Bridget really paved the way for “singletons” in a world full of paired-off 'smug marrieds.'"
Click here to buy The Way You Make Me Feel. Click here to buy Bridget Jones's Diary.
Emma Mills, Author Of 'Foolish Hearts' Is Inspired By:
Luna Lovegood from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series
"Pottermore post-series lore aside, Luna Lovegood remained single within the pages of the Harry Potter series, and is among my very favorite characters in literature, single or otherwise," Mills tells Bustle. "As a kid growing up reading the Harry Potter books, I loved that Luna always marched to the beat of her own drum, and never spared a second thought as to whether she may appear out of step with everyone else. She is steadfastly loyal, not only to her friends, but to herself. That level of self-possession and self-knowledge is something that I would love to one day achieve."
Click here to buy Foolish Hearts. Click here to buy Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Morgan Matson, Author Of 'Save The Date' Is Inspired By:
Morgan Matson, photo courtesy of Gina Stock Valancy Stirling from L.M. Montgomery's The Blue Castle "The Blue Castle is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it once a year, at least," Matson says. "One of the reasons I adore this book and keep going back to it is the main character of Valancy Stirling. This book takes place in the 1920s in Canada, and the book opens on Valancy’s 29th birthday. Being single at 29 in that time basically meant that you’ll be an old maid in perpetuity and Valancy has resigned herself to this fact. But the book really begins when Valancy is told she has a heart condition — and one year to live. This shakes her up, and she begins to focus on how she wants to live her life — as opposed to dwelling on the fact that everyone thinks she’s an old maid. The idea that you have to love yourself, and be happy with yourself, is paramount in this book, and in my opinion, it’s one of the best lessons to learn." Click here to buy Save the Date. Click here to buy The Blue Castle.
Sophie Kinsella, Author of 'Surprise Me' Is Inspired By:
Sophie Kinsella, photo courtesy of John Swannell Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
"I adore Lizzy Bennet for so many reasons, but particularly for her independent spirit," Kinsella tells Bustle. "As far as Lizzy's mother is concerned, the only aim in life is to snag a husband. Doesn’t matter if you love him or not. It takes great strength of mind for Lizzy to resist her mother’s influence, but she does — turning down a proposal that isn’t right for her and refusing to compromise. She’s determined not to be stressed out by the whole process of finding love but to find it amusing. So when she hears Mr Darcy describe her as ‘tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ at a dance, she is not crushed or vengeful. Instead she entertains her friends with the story. What a great girl. I aim to be just as good-humoured, principled and amused by life’s ups and downs as she is."
Click here to buy Surprise Me. Click here to buy Pride & Prejudice.