To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee takes top spot in #ThisBook campaign to find the most life-changing novels written by women
Back in May 2014, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction launched the #ThisBook campaign. The aim was simple: to find out which books, written by women, have had the biggest impact on readers.
We enlisted nineteen inspirational women – from Dawn O’Porter to Jennifer Saunders, Sandi Toksvig to Joanna Trollope – to launch the campaign and tell us about the books that most impacted, shaped or changed their lives.
The reasons for their choices varied greatly – while Kate Mosse attributes Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte to kick-starting her writing career, for Edith Bowman, The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold helped her deal with a personal loss. Saffron Burrows said that I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou made her fall in love with storytelling, while Zawe Ashton’s experience of The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison made her truly understand just how books can really change you.
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Following the launch, we took to Twitter to ask the general public to share their submissions and we were overwhelmed with the response. Thousands used the #ThisBook hashtag to take part and nominate the book that changed their life, and the final top twenty list, revealed today, features a diverse and eclectic mix of literary greats.
Harper Lee’s timeless classic To Kill a Mockingbird took the top spot as the most influential book written by a woman, with Margaret Atwood’s dystopian fiction The Handmaid’s Tale and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre taking second and third place respectively.
Interestingly, nearly half of the top 20 books, as nominated by the public, were published before 1960, including Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (8th place) and Middlemarch (16th place) by George Eliot – confirming that classic novels continue to inspire readers today.
The full #ThisBook top 20 is as follows:
- To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
- Harry Potter – J.K Rowling
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
- Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
- Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
- Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
- The Secret History – Donna Tartt
- I Capture The Castle – Dodie Smith
- The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
- Beloved – Toni Morrison
- Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
- We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
- The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- Middlemarch – George Eliot
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
- The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing
- The Colour Purple – Alice Walker
- The Women’s Room – Marilyn French
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Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty who was announced today as Chair of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction 2015 judging panel, took part in the campaign launch in May and selected To Kill a Mockingbird as her #ThisBook. She comments, “With human rights under attack the world over, the enduring appeal of Harper Lee’s great tale gives hope that justice and equality might yet triumph over prejudice”.
For more information on the #ThisBook campaign, head to www.thisbook.com.
Reprinted on www.startsatsixty.com.au in Australian Book Week by kind permission of the author – sincere thanks to Lucy Pearson and Amanda Johnson of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for your assistance.
So Starts at Sixty community, over to you what is your opinion – are these the 20 Most Influential Books written by Women? The final 20 include many of my favourites, although not in my order of preference, however I am surprised at some choices, and even more surprised at some of the omissions. But what do you think? Which books written by women would you add or delete?