10 Books For International Day Of The Girl, Because A Strong Female Protagonist Never Goes Amiss

It would be tempting to suggest that International Day of the Girl is more important than ever this year. Over the last few weeks, the fight for women to be believed, to receive the respect, safety, and opportunities they deserve, at work and at home, has played out at the heart of the American political establishment. But for countless women and girls around the world, this is a familiar story. The sad, injurious events of the preceding weeks should serve as a reminder of how far we still have to go in pursuit of true, systematic equality. Women need to lift one another up in this fight, and trivial as it may seem, literature driven by strong female protagonists is a powerful way to do that.

In celebration of International Day of the Girl, I asked The Reading Agency to put together a list of 10 books with inspiring women at their core. If you haven't heard of the Agency before, together with ambassadors like Malorie Blackman, Martina Cole, Jacqueline Wilson, they help "people tackle life’s big challenges through the proven power of reading." In the list below you'll find stories about women and girls from all walks of life, in tales that speak to the true nuance and complexity of the female experience. You'll also notice that two of the writers in the list below are men because, like strong female protagonists, male allies never go amiss either. Read on to find out what the Agency recommends and why.

'Home Fire' by Kamila Shamsie

£6.99

Waterstones

Isma, studying for a PhD in America, finds herself torn between her new life and the troubles of her twin siblings back in London. Shamsie’s modern reworking of Greek tragedy Antigone shows the difficulties still faced by ambitious, career-minded women in the 21st century.

'Little Fires Everywhere' by Celeste NG

£2

Amazon

Photographer and single mother Mia Warren and Pearl, her daughter, rent a house from the Richardson family in Cleveland, Ohio. Free-spirited Mia and Pearl quickly clash with the more repressed Richardsons in this engrossing mystery.

'The Sealwoman's Gift' by Sally Magnusson

£15.47

Amazon

The wild, true-life story of a pirate raid off the coast of Iceland in 1627. After Asta is taken into slavery in Algiers, she displays a strength of will that reminds us of so many iconic women, real or fictional, throughout history.

'Artemis' by Andy Weir

£4.50

Amazon

Fans of sci-fi and ass-kicking female characters are in for a treat here. Jazz Bashara lives in poverty on Artemis, the first city on the moon. Can she pull off the heist of a lifetime in zero gravity?

'Red Clocks' by Leni Zumas

£11.73

Amazon

For fans of 'The Handmaid’s Tale,' this story of female oppression reflects arguments playing out right now in Ireland and Donald Trump’s America. Five women must find a path through a U.S. where abortion is illegal, IVF banned, and embryos have human rights.

'Things A Bright Girl Can Do' by Sally Nicholls

£7.99

Waterstones

Imagine the frustration of being forced to marry when all you want is to go to university. 17-year-old Evelyn joins the Suffragettes in protest, but is she prepared for the dangers the fight for freedom will throw at her?

'Evening Primrose' by Kopano Matlwa

£7

Amazon

Apartheid ended officially in South Africa on April 27, 1994, but the divisions it caused didn’t. Masechaba has beaten the odds to become a doctor but even in a new South Africa that’s only the first part of her fight.

'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

£5.99

Waterstones

16-year-old Starr is plunged headlong into the race debate in 21st century America when she watches a police officer kill her best friend Khalil. Thomas’s book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

'Manhattan Beach' by Jennifer Egan

£6.99

Amazon

Egan’s novel emphasises the huge importance of women to the Second World War effort. Anna faces ridicule when she decides to become a diver in Brooklyn Navy Yard. But her skill and hard work quickly turns the joke on her male colleagues.

'My Absolute Darling' by Gabriel Tallent

£6.47

Amazon

Turtle Alveston lives under the influence of her abusive father in Tallent’s debut novel. Her attempts to forge an identity away from his dark shadow show the enduring power of the female spirit.