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In 2014, and again in 2015, I decided to see if I could read at least twelve new-to-me female authors, and possibly review them to share my discoveries. I’m continuing the trend into 2016 because I think there’s still a need for it, because reviewers and good friends of mine have confessed that they still read far fewer women than men, because a recent Facebook post I read asking people to list their five favourite FEMALE SFF writers was crammed with replies like “Mark Lawrence” and “Brandon Sanderson” and because some idiots complained that Mad Max : Fury Road had too many women in it to be a proper action film…  We clearly still have some way to go *rolls eyes*

It’s not hard, whether you read 30 books a year, or 60, or 100, to make sure you read one book a month by a female author you’ve never read before, in any genre, fiction or non fiction – there are a lot of books out there, after all!

And doing the challenge has led me to discover some faboulous writers who might otherwise have passed me by. Notable and recommended firsts this year include Madeline Ashby, Margret Helgadottir, Rebecca Skloot and Kate Coe.

I’m going to repeat the experiment again in 2016, aiming to read twelve female authors who are new to me and making sure I review a selection of them. I’ll update the list on this page, and as I post reviews I’ll link to them, and we’ll see if we can’t get some more of that discoverability going. This year Pete Sutton from BRSBKBLOG has agreed to have a go at the challenge, so I’ll be goading and cajoling him throughout the year and getting his opinions on the challenge and the books he’s read (he doesn’t know this yet…)

If you feel that your 2015 reading list was a little lacking in women, or you just want to discover some great new writers, why not join in with the challenge, share your lists and see how you get on? You might discover some awesome new books, and you’ll be helping to promote awesome female writers at the same time – it’s win-win!


  1. Sarah Pinborough – The Death House ( reviewed )

2. Sarah Lotz – The Three

3. Sandi Toksvig – Girls Are Best

4. Bobbi Brown – Bobbi Brown Make-Up Manual

5. Octavia Butler – Kindred

6. Genevieve Cogman – The Invisible Library ( reviewed )

7. Nina Allan – The Race

8. Naomi Novik – Uprooted

9. Jean Donaldson – Fight! A Practical Guide to the Treatment of Dog-Dog Aggression / Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs (Two for the price of one here)

10. Madeline L’Engel – A Swiftly Tilting Planet

11. Susan Ee – Angelfall

12. Emmi Itaranta – Memory of Water (reviewed)

I’ll keep you updated as the year goes on. And if you decide to take up the challenge, let me know how you get on, and keep sharing those undiscovered women writers!

Update – 1/1/2016

Happy New Year! Several people have now expressed an interest in joining that challenge or made suggestions – thank you all for the input! If you’re looking for inspiriation, you could always check out the link to Ian Sales SF Mistressworks, as suggested by Pete, for reviews of pre-21st century SF written by women.


Just a quick note – someone asked Pete if this challenge only applied to SF and F authors. My list might lean more heavily towards women in genre fiction, because I am a woman writing genre fiction and that’s where my interest lies. If you want to take part in the challenge, it’s 12 books by ANY women you haven’t read before, in ANY genre, fiction or non fiction. The only critera is they have to be female authors you haven’t read before.


In the face of another “Influential White Men in SF” list at SF Signal (no, I’m not linking. Google it if you must but it’ll only depress you) – here’s a list of ten WOMEN in SF you should be reading right now (influential or up-and-coming)

  1. Octavia Butler
  2. Ursula LeGuin
  3. Emma Newman
  4. Emily St John Mandel
  5. Paige Daniels
  6. Ann Leckie
  7. Tricia Sullivan
  8. Stephanie Saulter
  9. Connie Willis
  10. Janet Edwards

Add them to your lists!


Still ahead of target for the year. and I’m also making a conscious effort this year (more than I did last year) to make sure I also read women I’ve already read – currently Trudi Canavan and Joanne Harris. Reading published books is currently taking a back seat to reading submissions for Kristell Ink, some of which are by women but don’t actually count towards the list) but as I’m already ahead I’m not too worried.


Check out this great post on Bookends Blog which has a list of recommendations for books for people to try out if they’re new to SFF and want to dip a toe in the water. And, most excellently, ALL the books on their list are by women – thank you Bookends!


As you know, Pete Sutton and Kate Coe are both taking part in the Discovery Challenge this year, and today Pete has interviewed Kate on BRSBKBLG about her own writing, and how she’s getting on with the Challenge – check it out here!


Another interesting link for you – Kate Elliott (Black Wolves) has posted on the Barnes and Noble blog with a list of depictions of women in fantasy that didn’t want to make her want to SMASH ALL THE THINGS. Lots of female authors on this list – follow this link to read it.


Halfway through the Challenge and we’re not quite halfway through the year. It’s been quiet on the reviews side because I’ve been reading submissions for Kristell Ink, but that’s done now (and I can reassure you that we’ve sent contracts to some fabulous writers, some of whom happen to be women…) So hopefully a few more reviews in the second half of the year!


It’s been quiet, but I’m still reading away and will be adding another book to this years list in 50 or so pages. In the meantime, those fine people at Ladybusiness have just produced a very interesting list of “60 Essential SF and Fantasy Reads” that you need to check out – see if you can spot what they’ve done here?


Smashed it for 2016, ending with a five-star zinger! How did you get on?