International Day of the Girl 2018: The best modern books with powerful female protagonists

Laura Hampson

Today, October 11, is the United Nation’s International Day of the Girl Child - a day to celebrate young women around the world, who inspire, innovate and have taken charge of their futures, often in the face of adversity.

This year's theme is "With Her: A Skilled Girl Force" - the aim of which is to promote the empowerment of young women and draw attention to the challenges they face: less access to education and communication technology, the gender pay gap and so it goes on.

To mark this day, The Reading Agency have compiled a list of recent novels with strong female leads.

You can see their top 10 below.

1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Photographer and single mother Mia Warren rents a house with her daughter Pearl from the Richardson family in Cleveland, Ohio. Free-spirited Mia and Pearl quickly clash with the conventional Richardsons in this engrossing mystery – which shows strong-minded Mia standing up for what she thinks is right.

2. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Isma is studying for a PhD in America and finds herself torn between her new life and the troubles of her twin siblings back in London. Shamsie’s modern reworking of the Greek tragedy Antigone shows the difficulties still faced by ambitious, career-minded women in the 21st century.

3. The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson

Based on real events, this is story of a pirate raid off the coast of Iceland in 1627. After Asta is sold into slavery in Algiers, she is forced to endure the hardship of captivity. Grieving the loss of her children, she turns to the folk tales of her country, using storytelling as a powerful coping mechanism.

4. Artemis by Andy Weir

Fans of sci-fi and powerful female characters will love Jazz Bashara, who lives in poverty on Artemis, the first city on the moon. Can she pull off the heist of a lifetime in zero gravity?

5. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

For fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, this story of female oppression addresses modern day issues. Five women must find a path through a U.S.A. where abortion is illegal, IVF banned, and embryos have human rights.

6. Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

This novel follows 17-year-old Evelyn who wants to go to university, but instead is forced into marriage. She joins the Suffragette movement and there she meets May and Nell. Things A Bright Girl Can Do tells the tale of three brave women's journey, in the fight for women's rights.

7. Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa

Apartheid ended officially in South Africa on April 27, 1994 but the divisions it caused did not. Masechaba has beaten the odds to become a doctor, but even in a 'new' South Africa, that’s only part of her fight.

8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This novel centres on 16-year-old Starr who witnesses a police officer shoot her best friend Khalil. A powerful and gripping read, it was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

9. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Longlisted for this year's Women's Prize for Fiction, this novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jennifer Egan explores the life of protagonist Anna, who grows up during the Great Depression. Anna's father goes missing during her childhood and she later finds out he was murdered. As Anna begins to explore the reasons behind her father's death, she also has to balance her job as the first female diver at the Brooklyn Navy Yard with being the sole provider for her mother and severely disabled sister.

10. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Tallent’s debut novel tells the tale of Turtle Alveston and her relationship with her abusive father. As she attempts to forge an identity away from his dark shadow, the strength of the female spirit is revealed.