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March is Women’s History Month, and we have compiled a list of must-read books to celebrate women and inspire you.

Our selection includes both fiction and nonfiction, featuring women with various backgrounds, unique viewpoints, and riveting stories. You will find local Swansea stories as well as those from across the UK and beyond.

So celebrate the strong, smart, defiant women in your life, and pick up one of these fantastic reads!

Joan of Arc by Helen Castor

The story of one of the most remarkable women of the medieval world, as you have never read it before.

Acclaimed historian Helen Castor, taking us to the heart of a tumultuous and bloody moment in the fifteenth century and the short but astonishing life of an extraordinary woman, brings Joan of Arc and her world vividly to life.

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I am Malala by Yousafzi Malala

The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.

‘I am Malala’ tells the inspiring story of a schoolgirl who was determined not to be intimidated by extremists, and faced the Taliban with immense courage. Malala speaks of her continuing campaign for every girl’s right to an education, shining a light into the lives of those children who cannot attend school.

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Jill by Amy Dillwyn

Jill is an unconventional heroine, a lady who disguises herself as a maid and runs away to London. Life above and below stairs is portrayed with irreverent wit in this fast-paced story. However, at the centre of the novel is Jill’s unfolding love for her mistress.

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Pigeon by Alys Conran

Pigeon is the tragic, occasionally hilarious and ultimately intense story of a childhood friendship and how it is torn apart, a story of guilt, silence and the loss of innocence, and a story about the kind of love which may survive it all.

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And Suddenly You Find Yourself by Natalie Ann Holborow

The poems in this collection explore what it means to be human: where the mythological meets the modern, where fairytales, family and revenge collide, and a haunting mix of love, loss, desire, fear and revenge that is unafraid to unsettle the reader.

Natalie Ann Holborow is a Swansea-born writer of poetry and fiction. In 2015, she won both the Terry Hetherington Award and the Robin Reeves Prize.

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Amy Dillwyn by David Painting

Born into one of Swansea’s most distinguished families, Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) was a Welsh novelist who tackled complex class issues in her works. Following the deaths of her brother in 1890 and her father in 1892, Dillwyn inherited her father’s bankrupt business and, employing an aggressive management style, restored it to prosperity.

In this biography, based largely on Dillwyn’s diaries, David Painting sheds light on this extraordinary woman of exceptional spirit and personality, revealing her to be not just a pioneering female British industrialist and novelist but also an ardent proponent of social justice.

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Firebird by Iris Gower

Iris Gower was a local novelist, noted for her many historical romances, most of them set in Swansea and Gower.

Firebird is the first novel of her saga set in the china clay potteries of South Wales, where a 14-year-old girl becomes the owner of the Tawe Pottery Company, and as she tries to keep the business afloat on a shoestring, her world is complicated by the two men in her life.

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

‘Girl, Woman, Other’ follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.

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A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

An epic that starts in 1939 and spans decades and continents…

Fleeing war-torn Europe, Spanish exiles seek refuge in Chile, boarding a ship to the promised ‘long petal of sea and wine and snow’ over the seas.

There, they find themselves enmeshed in a rich web of characters who come together in love and tragedy over the course of four generations, destined to witness the battle between freedom and repression as it plays out across the world.

A masterful work of historical fiction about hope, exile and belonging, A Long Petal of the Sea is Isabel Allende at the height of her powers.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful and brave young adult novel about what prejudice looks like in the 21st century.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

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These are just ten of the outstanding books by women or about female characters. Naturally, there are many more worthy books we’ve had to leave on the shelf.

Which female authors would be on your reading list?

What books featuring female characters?

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