Celebrating women authors: favourites from the Listening Books team

Celebrating women authors: favourites from the Listening Books team

To mark International Women’s Day we’re celebrating some of Listening Books’ favourite women authors. We’ve not based it on the top sellers, or necessarily the most poignant – but on the most enjoyment and satisfaction we get when listening to or reading their books. So here’s to the women we love to read!

Claire’s pick:

M. C. Beaton.  I love her books and she is such a nice lady.  The Agatha Raisin or Hamish Macbeth series.”

women authors: M. C. Beaton
M. C. Beaton

Claire interviewed Marion Chesney, known for her crime and mystery novels as M. C. Beaton, in 2010 – and the chat seems to have cemented her affection for Beaton’s books. The first of the Hamish Macbeth series was published in 1985. Chesney then created the Agatha Raisin series when she moved to the Cotswolds; she had seen the success of Hamish Macbeth and felt it was time for a change from her prolific historical romance writing.

You can listen to the interview here.

We have a large collection of the Agatha Raisin series available in the Listening Books catalogue to download or borrow on MP3 CD.

Jo’s picks:

“I’ve recently read a couple of great books by Mary Renault. I’ve also been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer novels, which I would recommend to any Jane Austen fans out there! I’m always going on about her.”

Mary Renault Georgette Heyer
Mary Renault (left), Georgette Heyer (right)

Mary Renault was an English writer in the twentieth century and is best known for her historical fiction, which is set in Ancient Greece. Her books include The Persian Boy and The Charioteer. She is also known for her themes of homosexuality that appear throughout her books, which won her a wide gay readership.

Georgette Heyer was born in Wimbledon in 1902 and her writing career began 19 years later, when she turned a story for her younger brother into the novel The Black Moth. She was primarily a historical romance and detective fiction novelist, her books including The Grand Sophy and Devil’s Cub. It is argued that Heyer essentially established the historical romance genre and its sub-genre Regency romance.

You can find a selection of novels by Geogette Heyer in the Listening Books catalogue.

Jeremy’s picks:

“I would recommend Carson McCullers and Edith Wharton.”

Carson McCullers Edith Wharton
Carson McCullers (left), Edith Wharton (right)

Carson McCullers was a twentieth century American novelist, short story writer, playwright, essayist, and poet. Many of her novels are set in the American South – she grew up in Georgia – though they were penned after she had left the area. She also had some of her stories adapted for films and the stage. Her début novel, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, was published in 1940 when she was just 23.

Edith Wharton was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, short story writer, and designer. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. Wharton combined her insider’s view of America’s privileged classes with a brilliant, natural wit to write humorous, incisive novels and short stories of social and psychological insight. It was her book The Age of Innocence which won her the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, making Wharton the first woman to win the prize.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers is available for members to stream, download and borrow on MP3 CD. You can also check out a selection of books by Edith Wharton, including The Age of Innocence, in the Listening Books catalogue.

Amy’s pick:

“I would suggest Sue Townsend – mainly for the Adrian Mole books, which everyone MUST READ at some point in their lives. But also I think she is very inspirational as a person, as well as writer. She was a single parent with three kids by her early twenties, had little money and had a really hard life. Then in her thirties she joined a theatre group where she started writing plays which led to her being mentored by some theatre directors. Then when she was older she went blind but still kept writing!”

Sue Townsend
Sue Townsend

Sue Townsend was born in Leicester in 1946, and set her most famous work in her home city. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13 3/4, was followed by The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole in 1984. The two books made her the best-selling novelist of the 1980s and they were followed by others in the Mole series, including The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole. Several of her books were adapted for the stage, while the Mole series was adapted for radio, television and theatre.

Members can check out books from the Adrian Mole series available in the Listening Books catalogue on MP3 CD.

Louise’s picks:

“I will read anything by Robin Hobb. There is nothing she has written that I haven’t enjoyed. She writes fantasy, but not with loads of battles and wars – with genuine story lines, and she spends time developing the characters and the worlds, which I actually think a lot of fantasy misses. For anyone new to her, I would suggest starting with the The Farseer Trilogy, as this sets you up for the world she writes in, and is arguably her most popular trilogy. (She does seem to write in trilogy’s so if you aren’t a fan of these then keep clear!)

“I’ve also recently read Among Others by Jo Walton, which was really enjoyable. It’s like a lesson in the greats of sci fi writing. The main character in the story loves books and loves sci fi, so if you like me are the same it’s great to relate. This was the first book I’d read by Walton, but I will certainly be picking up some more.”

Robin Hobb Jo Walton
Robin Hobb (left), Jo Walton (right)

Robin Hobb is a pseudonym of Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden, an American writer born in 1952. Though she has been writing and publishing from the age of 18, the name Robin Hobb didn’t appear until 1995, used for her writing of epic traditional fantasy. Her best known Farseer Trilogy is accompanied by five other Robin Hobb series and trilogies.

Jo Walton has written 12 science fiction and fantasy novels, the first published in 2000. She also writes poetry, short stories and plays, as well as creating vast collection of recipes that can be found on her website! She grew up in Wales, then lived in London, Lancaster, and Swansea, and has now moved to Canada. Walton, who has been writing since the age of 13, now has a number of writing awards to her name. Her thirteenth novel, Necessity, is out this summer.

Members can find books from Robin Hobb’s Rainwild Trilogy in the Listening Books library on MP3 CD.

Member favourites:

Top downloads: J. K. Rowling and Kristina Ohlsson

J. K. Rowling Kristina Ohlsson
J. K. Rowling (left), Kristina Ohlsson (right)

We’ve mentioned before on the blog that our members – and a huge swathe of the population – love J. K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books, and her success is incredible.

New to our list of top 10 most downloaded are two books by Kristina OhlssonUnwanted and The Disappeared. Kristina is a political scientist, and has previously worked for the National Swedish Police Board as a security analyst. She now lives in Stockholm, where she works full-time as a writer. She has written both crime novels and children’s books – and our members seem to rather like them, so we know they must be great listens!


These women authors have all achieved (and written!) fantastic things, so don’t hesitate to investigate them and their books further! The success of women authors in the last year has been great – as you’ll find in our Books of 2015 quiz! (Hint: women authors do pretty well for dominating the top 10 bestsellers). We hope that the efforts of fantastic women authors and writers will be noticed increasingly more in the years to come.

Who are your favourite women authors?


Picture credit: LohusaluSource Fair useFair useHarmonia AmandaFazalmajidDaniel OgrenVon VoglerSource (WP:NFCC#4) Fair use

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