Did you know that most men simply don’t read books by women?
This was the surprising fact discovered by Chair of Judges Mary Ann Sieghart in her bestselling book The Authority Gap. Her research was based on the top ten bestselling female fiction authors including the likes of Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood and Agatha Christie — only 19% of their readers are men and 81% women. But for the top 10 bestselling male authors (who include Dickens and Tolkien, as well as Lee Child and Stephen King), the split in readers is much more even: 55% men and 45% women.
Put simply, women are prepared to read novels by men, but men are much more reluctant to pick up novels by women. The Women's Prize would like to change that.
We have been asking our past judges and friends of the prize to recommend one brilliant novel written by a woman. From crime to classics, thrillers to fantasy, there's a fantastic read here for everyone, all of which you can buy here while supporting independent booksellers.
Bernardine Evaristo£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Lorraine Candy
I Know What You've Done: a completely unputdownable thriller with shocking twists from the bestselling author
Dorothy Koomson£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Dorothy Koomson: 'Back when I was trying to get published in 2000/2001, I was constantly told – overtly and covertly – that Black women didn’t write the types of ‘popular’, ‘lightweight’ books that I was coming up with. I was repeatedly reminded that Black women weren’t the main character in a novel unless they were battling to survive ‘the Black experience’ or the book was a literary tome. Twenty years later, I’m an award-winning author – one of the bestselling novelists in the UK – with my books translated into more than 30 languages. And I’ve achieved that by writing the types of books that I was told I couldn’t. That’s why I’ve chosen my latest novel (there are 17 others) I Know What You’ve Done, as a book by a woman for men to read. I write unashamedly popular fiction, my aim is to tell a fantastic story and keep people reading, to open up new worlds and ideas to people while showing them a good time. I do hope men pick up books by authors like me – writers who have spent years breaking the barriers we faced so that all types of authors can write in whichever genre book they choose.'
How Much of These Hills is Gold: 'A tale of two sisters during the gold rush ... beautifully written' The i, Best Books of the Y
C Pam Zhang£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Okechukwu Nzelu: 'Everybody should read this book. It is a brilliant novel: it’s gripping, endlessly intelligent and deeply moving.’
Virginia Woolf£7.99 £7.59
Nominated by Elif Shafak
Virginia Woolf£14.99 £14.24
Nominated by Salman Rushdie
Hilma Wolitzer£14.99 £14.24
Nominated by Sam Baker: 'Despite the fact most of these immaculate stories - including the title one - were written in the 60s and 70s (and hold a mirror up to what it was to be a certain sort of woman at a particular moment in time), they resonate just as much today. Go to any supermarket on any day and you can still see a woman (and it is always a woman) slowly going mad.'
Olga Tokarczuk£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Lisa Appignanesi: 'It’s a marvel of a novel and alongside episodic, utterly engrossing storytelling includes wonderful, often humorous, riffs on the psychology of travel, on airports and guidebooks, on collections, on leaving and staying, and on body parts. It is the body that tethers. That woman’s subject, love, is here, too - as it is in every great writer from Tolstoy to Roth, George Eliot to Deborah Levy, two more writers every man needs to read.'
Margaret Atwood£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Rob Doyle
Daphne Du Maurier£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Simon Schama
Nominated by Joanne Harris
Rose Tremain£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Bel Mooney: 'Powerful, pertinent and moving, this fine novel about an Eastern European man, Lev, seeking work in the UK makes an extraordinary leap into the character’s soul - and demands of us the acknowledgment that the imagination has no sex.'
Malorie Blackman£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Candice Carty-Williams
Sue Townsend£7.99 £7.59
Nominated by John Boyne
Donna Tartt£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Krishnan Guru-Murthy
Elizabeth Strout£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Tracey Chevalier and Richard Curtis
Elizabeth Strout£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Alexander Armstrong: 'Language, in the hands of Elizabeth Strout, is a tool of such precision. Her characters, their relationships, their conversation, all poke out from the page at precisely the same oblique angles as people do in real life. You would swear that the wind in her stories might actually ruffle your hair.'
Nina Stibbe£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Helen Lederer: 'I name this beautifully observed, final book in Nina Stibbe' s semi-autobiographical trilogy 'Reasons To Be Cheerful'. This novel can be enjoyed for its farce, its sense of the ridiculous and its truth. Just as Philp Roth's 'Portnoy's complaint' shocked and soothed with his truth in the late 60's, Stibbe's writing offers today's version of wit and truth-telling with universal appeal. She has that rare gift - an instinctive comic voice which slices through and connects to all readers.'
Ali Smith£16.98 £16.13
Nominated by Andrew Marr
Karin Slaughter£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Lee Child
Lionel Shriver£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Robert Williams: 'Like another of my favourite novels, The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing, this is an absolutely gripping and psychologically acute story of a woman dealing with the aftermath of creating a monster. You don’t have to be a mother (or a woman for that matter) to love it, you don’t even have to be a parent; it’s a darkly brilliant novel about what makes us human and occasionally, inhuman.'
Great Circle: The soaring and emotional novel shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022 and shortlisted for the Booker
Maggie Shipstead£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Charlie Connelly: 'This book absolutely blew my socks off. I don't have many socks and I still didn't mind. Epic in its scope, Great Circle's story of aviator Marian Graves and her attempt to circumnavigate the globe via both poles is an outstanding piece of storytelling. Why would I recommend it to men? Pretty much because it's just one of the best, most thrllling and beautifully-written novels they'll ever read but if I have to be more specific, well, it's got loads of aeroplanes in it.'
Nominated by Prof Kate Williams: 'This is one of the earliest known novels - and it’s written by a woman. The story of Prince Genji and his fascinating, magical, witty, and searing about gender politics - incredible psychological penetration. Written around 1000-1012, it both brings you into a different world and strikes you with its modern acuity - the bounds between love and exploitation, men and women and how much freedom can we truly have! I love it!'
Carol Shields£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Cathy Newman: 'For me The Stone Diaries is about how multi-faceted female identity is, to the point where sometimes you lose track of who you actually are. I first read it in the mid 1990s, just after I left university, and I can still feel its afterglow. Men should read it because it communicates lived female experience better than any other novel I can think of.'
Mary Shelley£5.99 £5.69
Nominated by Grace Kempster
Elif Shafak£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Peter Frankopan: 'Beautifully written, wonderfully original and deeply moving. Elif is one of my all time favourite novelists. This is a jewel of a book.'
Dorothy L Sayers£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Stig Abell: 'In my view, the greatest ever series of detective fiction comes in Sayers’s stories of the love affair between her fictional sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey and novelist Harriet Vane. Gaudy Night comes in the middle of the series. Men, like women, should read it because it is beautifully written, elegantly plotted, full of likeable folk, and has a beating heart throughout. Sayers is an author for everyone, and could never be pigeonholed by her gender. And these books have both hero and heroine, stumbling towards a way to live together in love and harmony. Hooray for that.'
Francoise Sagan£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Alexandra Shulman: 'A hugely energetic and imaginative novel with great male characters and a memorable voice. Will tell them everything they need to know about teenage girls. A brilliant depiction of envy and sexual attraction. Simply a heavenly escapist read.'
Arundhati Roy£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Stuart Turton: 'The God of Small Things is the only perfect book ever written. There isn’t a wasted word, and every word is poetry. It’s a magical piece of writing that has something to say about every important thing in our lives. It’s funny, beautiful, moving, and playful. Nobody else could have written this. It’s my constant companion, and I’m so glad it exists.'
Gwendoline Riley£12.99 £12.34
Nominated by Chris Power
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Vick Hope
Iris Murdoch£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Justin Webb
Toni Morrison£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Kate Mosse: 'On the surface, it's the story of a neglected little girl, growing up in poverty and segregation in the 1940s, who realises that the children with blonde hair and blue eyes have better lives, so prays to be different. Morrison's debut, published in 1970, it's a brilliant and heart-breaking novel about childhood, racism and the pain of women's lives in the years just after the Great Depression.'
Alice Walker£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Felix Mosse and Edith Bowman
Madeline Miller£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Eric Huang: 'Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles is a recent favourite. Her retelling of a traditionally 'male' tale of war is essential reading for men because it's so nuanced, so meticulously researched and moving. It's this version of the Greek legend that makes Achilles and Patroclus real for me, the only one that delves deeply into who they are: the childhood experiences, emotions, and love that make them men.'
Ursula K. Le Guin£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Sarah Wood: 'Kick ass initiative and without a doubt I'd recommend The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by US author Ursula K Le Guin, the novel that's widely regarded as her best work. Reason for everyone regardless of gender to read it? It's a revolutionary SciFi classic, combining political economy with a cracking plot and reinventing the landscape of sexual identity. Once read, never forgotten.'
Harper Lee£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Grace Kempster
Barbara Kingsolver£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Simon Mayo: 'I remember thinking I had never read anything like it before. That the Price family were all brilliantly realised. That the Belgian Congo was terrifying. And that missionaries were nuts.'
Irmgard Keun£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Muriel Gray
Claire Keegan£10.00 £9.50
Nominated by Prof Gillian Beer: 'This enters into large national subjects through the experience of a 74 year old man; it examines the cost of doing good, not only to himself, but all those around him.'
Meena Kandasamy£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Catherine Mayer: 'I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for the 2018 Women’s Prize, a year that produced a powerful winner in Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, and a shortlist of extraordinary breadth and beauty. I’d like men to read all six of those books, but if I have to choose one, I’d opt for Meena Kandasamy’s When I Hit You. Men often let themselves believe that violence somehow just happens to women, that women provoke it or that the men who perpetrate it are outside society rather than following social and structural prompts. Men of the left are also prone to persuading themselves they’re on the side of the angels even as they enable or directly contribute to a culture of violence. Kandasamy’s autobiographical fiction dismantles these fictions. Her novel is tough, visceral, funny and very moving.'
Natalie Haynes£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Adam Rutherford and Anita Anand
Mo Hayder£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Mark Billingham
Yaa Gyasi£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Michael Donkor
Bernardine Evaristo£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Mary Ann Sieghart
George Eliot£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Howard Jacobson
Jennifer Egan£20.00 £19.00
Nominated by Andrew Billen: 'The Premise of The Candy House is sci-fi: a machine to upload and share your memories. But this is not a retelling of Pandora's Box . It is nearer a metaphor for the one non-negotiable talent demanded of a novelist: an ability to get into the consciousness of her characters, and there are so many here. It is funny, sad, intelligent, humane and beautifully written and requires a little bit of work from the reader, who is duly rewarded. I can't think of a single sense in which this is a "woman's novel".'
Daphne Du Maurier£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Nick Moran: 'Daphne Du Maurier’s last novel, was panned on release. Its premise that the UK, having voted to leave the European Union, falls into near financial collapse and a return to rationing, was thought of as far-fetched and preposterous. Not foreboding or dripping in Cassandrian foresight.'
Elizabeth Day£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Stanley Tucci: 'Elizabeth Day’s Magpie, is at once eerie, darkly funny and very touching. Men should read this book because it is f***ing great. plain and simple.'
Yrsa Daley-Ward£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Derek Owusu
Rachel Cusk£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Ardal O'Hanlon: 'Three precision novellas written with a Stanley knife dipped in lemon juice. Thrillingly deadpan, unflinching, often funny and, for a man, a sometimes uncomfortable insight into the female narrator’s roving mind and her all-too-accurate perceptions of the men she encounters.'
Nominated by Adam Thirwell:
Angela Carter£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Polly Toynbee
Octavia E. Butler£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Scarlett Curtis
Charlotte Bronte£16.98 £16.13
Nominated by Chris Powers
Hanna Bervoets£12.99 £12.34
Nominated by Ian McEwan
Brit Bennett£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Bernardine Evaristo: ' I consider The Vanishing Half to be one of the most exceptional books I’ve read in recent years. Bennett grapples with the far-reaching and deeply historical issue of race, colourism and power, alongside home, belonging and community, refracted through the most accomplished and seductive storytelling.'
Pat Barker£8.99 £8.54
Nominated by Paula Hawkins: 'Regeneration comes to mind because not just because it is a favourite, but because it would be a brilliant gateway book for men who are reluctant to read women. Here is a novel about a “male subject” – war – written by a woman who portrays men sympathetically but not sentimentally, who understands their relationships with each other as well as with women, and who imagines so vividly the psychological trauma young men suffered during the First World War.'
Margaret Atwood£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Natalie Haynes: 'Atwood’s snarky, spiky, funny Penelope is a joy from start to finish. Sample chapter titles: The Suitors Stuff Their Faces, Helen Ruins My Life. I have loved this book since the day I picked it up, recommended it to hundreds of people. Including you: read this book!'
The Handmaid's Tale: the book that inspired the hit TV series and BBC Between the Covers Big Jubilee Read
Margaret Atwood£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Laura Bates: 'This book would encourage men to reflect on the horrors of a world that might seem fictional and shocking to them, but is in reality recognisable and devastating for women across the globe, even today.'
Maya Angelou£9.99 £9.49
Nominated by Moses McKenzie
Don't forget to vote for your favourite book and let's get more men reading women!