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Summer Reads: Novels by Female Authors That Should Be at the Top of Your Reading List

Updated: Mar 30

Photograph by Stella de Smit

Something about summer makes picking up a new book all the more compelling. Whether you are looking for an escape from reality or a taste of it, here are five unputdownable novels which deal with the modern female perspective and their interactions with mental health.

1. Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach

Written by Indigenous-Canadian author Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach follows Lisamarie Hill, a young Haisla woman living in Kitamaat, British Columbia, forced to find herself as she wades through tragedy. The novel explores womanhood, Haisla and Canadian culture, generational trauma, and, at the core of it all, family. Robinson’s writing takes the overarching theme of suffering and creates something lively, fantastical and, at times, comedic.

Trigger Warning: Monkey Beach does deal with difficult topics including sexual assault.

2. Susannah Cahalan’s Brain On Fire

New York Post Journalist Susannah Cahalan shares the triumphant and heartbreaking autobiographical tale of her battle against a rare brain condition. Cahalan approaches her health as any true journalist would, with investigative prowess wrapped up in a compelling narrative that could tug on anyone’s heartstrings. The details of Cahalan’s life are consistently complimented by the reality of the American healthcare system and mental health stigmas. Cahalan’s story, which has now been adapted into a movie (also titled "Brain on Fire"), is an honest and eloquent reminder of the true power of our minds.

3. Jenny Heijun Wills' Older Sister, Not Necessarily Related: A Memoir

Canadian writer and professor Jenny Heijun Wills opens herself up to the world in this intimate novel. Wills expresses the distinct experiences of life as a Korean woman, adopted into a white Canadian family, reconnecting with her roots. Wills’ honest expression of her experiences as an outsider, both in Canada and South Korea, sparks a timely conversation regarding the treatment of Asian-Canadians. There is an undeniable rawness to Wills’ writing that simply cannot be mimicked in the narrative style.

Trigger Warning: the novel does deal with topics of self-harm and eating disorders.

4. Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Korean-American poet, writer, and professor, Cathy Park Hong effortlessly blends private and public history in her novel, Minor Feelings. Hong takes the reader on a tour through American life, with a stop in each major milestone. Childhood ignorance, riots on the news, pre-teen insecurities, racial targeting, college drama, neglect of mental health needs, adulthood stress and the threat of fetishization. Hong, in a collection of essays, uses her experiences as a testimony to the realities of Asian-Americans.

5. Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff’s Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-to Guide

American true-crime podcasters Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff published their autobiographical self-help novel in 2019 for their crime-loving fanbase and beyond. Weaved into their success story is a narrative of self-love and preservation, preached by women who encourage their audience to learn from their mistakes. Kilgariff and Hardstark share the growing pains of womanhood. While the novel is gift-wrapped in the endearing personalities of podcast superstars, the nit-and-grit of their stories provoke a reevaluation of how we treat ourselves and others.


Melissa is a 20-year-old undergraduate student at the University of Toronto, heading into her fourth year of study. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Arts with a major in English and History and a minor in Religion. She has a passion for reading and writing, and intends to pursue a career in publishing.

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