12 Badass Women Authors You Should Be Reading Now

by The Hairpin Sponsors


Brought to you by Open Road Media.

There are scores of brilliant women writers worth spending your precious time on. Here we present just 12 of those authors — along with some of the incredible characters they bring to life — in genres ranging from autobiography to suspense to science fiction. So what are you waiting for? Download an ebook and start educating yourself.

Octavia E. Butler


Octavia E. Butler was a trailblazer for women in the science fiction field. She was also the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the “genius grant.” Butler used the hyperbolic reach of speculative fiction to explore social issues including race, sexuality, gender, religion, social progress, and class. For example, in Bloodchild, an alien race uses human males to bring forth their children; arguably no other science fiction story out there packs such a punch about gender, family, and choice. When she passed at a young age in 2006, the whole science fiction community mourned the loss of this genius.

Sparkle Hayter


Before writing her breakthrough Robin Hudson series, Sparkle Hayter worked as a reporter for CNN, WABC and Global Television. During the Afghan civil war, she traveled to Pakistan — following the Mujahedin to Afghanistan as a reporter for The Toronto Star. After returning to the U.S. she got married, wrote her first (less than successful) book, moved to Tokyo, got divorced, and lived in the famous Chelsea Hotel. Only then did she write her breakthrough novel.

In What’s a Girl Gotta Do, Robin Hudson is a third-rate newscaster struggling to find love and solve murders in New York City’s East Village. She’s successful, outspoken, and has an unabashed love for the opposite sex. Part Carrie Bradshaw, part Sherlock Holmes, she’s no damsel in distress, which is why we love this vivacious, sassy, and sexy sleuth.

Barbara Parker


A successful female lawyer turned author, Barbara Parker’s Suspicion of Innocence follows Gail Conner’s success as a fast-rising attorney at a major law firm who is about to make partner, when she becomes the prime suspect in her sister’s murder. Gail fearlessly takes matters into her own hands to fight the system that is trying to bring her down. She proves that she’s not one to be pushed around by the big boys in this legal thriller.

Ruth Rendell


Not only is Ruth Rendell a badass who has been pioneering the modern suspense novel since 1964, she’s also a bonafide baroness — technically, the Baroness of Babergh — and sits in the House of Lords for the Labour Party. So, it’s no surprise that her book, The Crocodile Bird also features two very badass characters. Liza is a life-long hermit whose mother has been busy murdering men. However, after a visit from the police, Liza gets the chance to start her own life, minus the murderous mother, and with new lover in hand. She gets a rude awakening though, when she realizes just how similar she is to her sinister mother in this tale of an obsessive mother-daughter bond that is very hard to break.

Robin McKinley


Robin McKinley has been praised for her contributions to the fantasy genre and noted for her novels featuring strong heroines who appeal to both children and adults. She has won some of the world’s top awards for her writing, including the Newbery Medal for The Hero and the Crown and a Newbery Honor for The Blue Sword. Her novel Deerskin, a fairy-tale retelling of Charles Perrault’s Donkeyskin, is a remarkably magical, challenging, and important work about surviving rape, and about perseverance and self-love.

Jane Yolen


One of the most acclaimed and honored authors in science fiction and fantasy, Jane Yolen has been called “the Hans Christian Andersen of America” (Newsweek) for her brilliant reimagining of classic fairy tales. Her accolades include the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Awards, the Kerlan Award, two Christopher Awards, and six honorary doctorate degrees from universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Cards of Grief is about an alien civilization forever changed by the incursion of human social scientists, and invites us to take a closer look at what humanity means.

Ultra Violet

Ultra Violet

Ultra Violet was one of Andy Warhol’s “Superstars.” Born Isabelle Collin Dufresne, she was a muse of Salvador Dali before meeting Warhol in the 1960s and becoming a regular at Warhol’s Silver Factory. Ultra Violet (a name she took on after her hair color of choice) went on to star in many of Warhol’s films in the 1960s and 70s, and eventually left the Factory in the 80s to pursue her own art. Her memoir Famous for Fifteen Minutes details her time as a Warhol superstar.

Robyn Davidson

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At age 27, Robyn Davidson walked across the Australian desert, accompanied only by her dog and four camels. In her memoir Tracks (now a major motion picture) Davidson recounts her journey, even more harrowing then Cheryl Strayed’s trek across the PNT.

Robin Morgan

Robin Morgan Author Photo

Award-winning poet, novelist, journalist and feminist leader Robin Morgan first appeared to the public eye at a young age with her own radio show Little Robin Morgan and later with her role in television’s Mama. But Morgan left the life of stardom to become a key figure in the global women’s movement, whose work as an activist spans from the 1960s to today (including leading the first protest against the Miss America Pageant.) In 2005 she co-founded the Women’s Media Center with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda. Her memoir Saturday’s Child chronicles her transition from child star to activist.

Elsa Lewin

I, Anna

Anna — the protagonist in Elsa Lewin’s I, Anna (made into a film of the same name) — is as badass as it gets. After splitting from her husband, Anna sets out to find a new man, flirting her way through Manhattan’s single scene. She decides to have a one-night stand, but the next morning, Anna’s lover is dead — and she’s the main suspect. When a handsome lawyer is appointed to her case, Anna can’t help but switch on her powers of manipulation one more time in this sinister novel that has you guessing the outcome.

James Tiptree, Jr.


James Tiptree, Jr. was the pseudonym of the late Alice Bradley Sheldon. She wrote for years in the ’60s and ’70s under the male pseudonym in secret, and wrote the male point of view so well that several prominent science fiction authors who’d praised her writing as obviously masculine were a bit embarrassed by the revelation. An ex-CIA employee, Sheldon had the honor of being known as one of the best science fiction writers of the twentieth century. Brightness Falls from the Air is a science fiction tale set far in the future and far away, but the themes of exploitation and complicity have much to say about here and now.

Radclyffe Hall


Best know for penning the first lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness in 1928, Radclyffe Hall made waves when her publisher was put on trial and the novel was banned under Britain’s Obscene Publications Act. Distinguished author Diana Souhami brings Radclyffe Hall to life in her Lambda Award-winning biography The Trials of Radclyffe Hall. Souhami’s portrait of Hall gives an intimate look into the fascinating personal and professional life of a daring and controversial woman.