As many of us have rediscovered this year, there are few pleasures greater than losing yourself in a good ol’ yarn. And of all the thousands of dazzling literary universes you could escape to, the grimy mafia-tainted underworld of Elena Ferrante’s epic Neapolitan novels must surely be among the most thrilling.
Little is known about the pseudonymous Italian author of ‘My Brilliant Friend’ and ‘The Lying Life of Adults’: she’s never revealed her true identity. But now, in a rare insight into her reading tastes and the literary worlds that have inspired her, Ferrante has released a list of her 40 favourite books written by women, spanning authors from all over the world and ranging from award-winning classics to lesser-known contemporary translations.
Published on Bookshop.org – a new alternative to Amazon that aims to support independent bookshops across the UK and USA – the list includes the likes of Zadie Smith’s ‘White Teeth’, Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ and Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things’. There are also translated works readers are less likely to have heard of, including Michela Murgia’s ‘Accabadora’ and Donatella di Pietrantonio’s ‘A Girl Returned’. All the books are currently available in English.
Ferrante’s publisher, Europa, has said it will donate all the affiliate revenue it makes from sales through its page on the website to the the hundreds of indie stores that have signed up to the platform. If you want to ensure a specific bookshop receives your money, you can pick a specific one on the map.
Here’s the full list of Elena Ferrante’s favourite books written by women:
Alice Munro, ‘Dear Life’
Anna Maria Ortese, ‘Evening Descends Upon the Hills: Stories from Naples’
Annie Ernaux, ‘The Years’
Arundhati Roy, ‘The God of Small Things’
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ‘Americanah’
Christa Wolf, ‘Cassandra’
Clarice Lispector, ‘The Passion According to G.H.’
Donatella di Pietrantonio, ‘A Girl Returned’
Doris Lessing, ‘The Fifth Child’
Edna O’ Brien, ‘The Love Object: Selected Stories’
Elfriede Jelinek, ‘The Piano Teacher’
Elizabeth Strout, ‘Olive Kitteridge’
Elsa Morante, ‘Arturo’s Island’
Flannery O’Connor, ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’
Hanya Yanagihara, ‘A little Life’
Ingeborg Bachmann, ‘Malina’
Irène Némirovsky, ‘Le Bal’
Iris Murdoch, ‘The Bell’
Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘Interpreter of Maladies’
Joan Didion, ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’
Joyce Carol Oates, ‘Blonde’
Lauren Groff, ‘Fates and Furies’
Lucia Berlin, ‘A Manual for Cleaning Women’
Magda Szabò, ‘The Door’
Margaret Atwood, ‘The Blind Assassin’
Marguerite Duras, ‘The Lover’
Marguerite Yourcenar, ‘Memoirs of Hadrian’
Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’
Michela Murgia, ‘Accabadora’
Mieko Kawakami, ‘Breasts and Eggs’
Nadine Gordimer, ‘The Conservationist’
Natalia Ginzburg, ‘Family Lexicon’
Négar Djavadi, ‘Disoriental’
Rachel Cusk, ‘Outline’
Sally Rooney, ‘Normal People’
Sheila Heti, ‘Motherhood’
Shokoofeh Azar, ‘The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree’
Toni Morrison, ‘Beloved’
Valeria Luiselli, ‘Lost Children Archive’
Zadie Smith, ‘White Teeth’
Revealed: these are the best books set in (almost) every country in the world.
Here’s where to get started with reading Zadie Smith and Alice Munro.
Oh, and did you know the villa from ‘Normal People’ is on Airbnb?