11 modern female authors full of brain magic that you need to read

I was a writer before I ever really wrote anything down. I grew up fascinated with words. My mom told me a story of when I was around 3 watching one of my favorite movies, Mary Poppins. I was singing along with the final song, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” because even though I’ve never had much musical talent, I’ve always loved to sing.

Let’s go fly a kite,
Up to the highest height,
Let’s go fly a kite, and send it soaring.
Up to the atmosphere,
Up where the air is clear.
Oh, let’s go, fly a kite.

My inquisitive little mind had to know exactly what words I was saying, so I turned to my mom with perfect pronunciation and asked, “Mommy, what does atmosphere mean?” And that poor patient woman had to try and describe the blend of gases that surround the earth that allow us to, you know, live.

But that was just the child I was. Eventually, I realized that I could manipulate the words I loved to tell stories I wanted to tell, and I started writing. And like so many writers before me, books showed me the way. Whenever I feel stuck and the words get clogged up in my brain, I crack open the pages of a book written by an author I admire to help knock the ideas loose.

Since we here at Brain Magic love to celebrate women’s voices, we have to celebrate some female authors that you should read to get inspired. Here’s a list of some modern mavens of the written word that you need to read (or read again).

1. Octavia Butler

The first science fiction writer to win the McArthur Genius Grant, Octavia mixes fantasy worlds with a strikingly realistic criticism of humanity’s flaws. Octavia’s adventures will make you dream and think, which is what we love about her.

Brain Magic specialty: Sci-fi fierceness

Books to read: Kindred, Fledgling, Xenogenesis Series

2. Zadie Smith

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Zadie Smith made a huge splash into the literary world, generating buzz for her first novel before she graduated from university. Her novels deal with themes of multiculturalism and have a healthy level of humor mixed with their insight.

Brain Magic specialty: Making you laugh, think, and cry all at once

Books to read: White Teeth, Swing Time, On Beauty

3. Margaret Atwood

This distinguished author has been much in the zeitgeist lately thanks to her most famous work being adapted to an award-winning TV show, but I’m constantly surprised by the people who still haven’t read Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale remains one of the most important works of feminist fiction, tackling issues of reproductive rights and women’s position in a future dystopian society.

Brain Magic specialty: Biting social commentary re: women in society

Books to read: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin

4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Born in Nigeria, Chimamanda has quickly become a superstar of the literature world. This McArthur Genius Grant winner and TED Talk Lecturer writes and speaks about race, feminism, and identity, and hers is a voice we all should be listening to.

Brain Magic specialty: Confronting the modern realities of racism in a beautiful way

Books to read: Americanah, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun

5. Alice Walker

If you’re looking for a world-class, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist whose work has become a symbol for black feminism, then you’re searching for Alice Walker. Her work is amazingly grounded while also transcendent, which makes it something truly special.

Brain Magic specialty: Creating strong women that make a powerful statement

Books to read: The Color Purple, Meridian, The Third Life of Grange Copeland

6. J.K. Rowling

If you haven’t read the woman who reshaped the world of fantasy as we know it, then you might as well have Stupefied yourself! J.K. famously wrote her way out of hard times, starting her famous Harry Potter series while struggling as a single mother on welfare. And let’s not forget that she created a now-iconic feminist character, Hermione Granger.

Brain Magic specialty: Making us all believe in magic

Books to read: All the Harry Potter novels

7. Amy Tan

Few author’s works are more beloved and yet more criticized than Amy Tan’s. Her novels explore mother-daughter relationships in all their heartbreaking beauty, and they heavily feature the Chinese American experience, which reflects Amy’s life. However, she’s been widely critiqued for her portrayal of Chinese culture, but even with the criticisms, her novels are beautifully written and refreshingly unique.

Brain Magic specialty: Writing books that make us want to hug the women around us

Books to read: The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

8. Julia Alvarez


Born to a pair of political rebels, Julia Alvarez fled the Dominican Republic with her parents and settled in New York. Her heritage made her feel like an outcast, but also contributed to her work. Her first major success, How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, was so deeply personal that her mother didn’t speak to her for a long time after its publication.

Brain Magic specialty:  Pulling beautiful stories out of personal experience

Books to read: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, In the Time of the Butterflies

9. Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan’s work is characterized by her experimental style, including a chapter of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, that was formatted as a Powerpoint presentation. Her work is so unique that you just have to experience it.

Brain Magic specialty: Making magic from the unconventional

Books to Read: A Visit from the Goon Squad, Manhattan Beach

10. Ruth Ozeki

Ruth Ozeki is a buddhist novelist not afraid to tackle social issues like the environment or religion. Her work has been described as bewitching, hilarious, and heartbreaking, so get ready to go on the ride.

Brain Magic specialty: Sewing her spirituality into the fabric of her words

Books to read: A Tale for the Time Being, All Over Creation

11. Toni Morrison

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We’ve saved possibly the most iconic for last. Toni Morrison’s Beloved remains a legendary work of literary genius. Her work tackle race, identity, and suffering, often with a lyrical feeling and a touch of magic. Reading her books will transport you, so let yourself go on a journey.

Brain Magic specialty: Creating work that truly sticks with you

Books to read: Beloved, Sula, Song of Solomon

Have you read some of these fabulous women? What was your favorite book? Let us know in the comments below!

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