Notable Nonfiction Written by Women


Writing for New York magazine, Ann Friedman has provided the following list of “The Queens of Nonfiction: 56 Female Journalists Everyone Should Read.” The list is organized chronologically by the illustrative selections from the authors’ work and includes links to those selections which seem to have been chosen at least partly because they are available online.

Jan Morris, The World of Venice, 1960.

Martha Gellhorn, “The Arabs of Palestine,” The Atlantic Monthly, 1961.

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, 1962.

Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale,” Show Magazine, 1963.

Lillian Ross, “Dancers in May,” The New Yorker, 1964.

Elaine Dundy, “Can a Simple Welsh Lass of Thirty-Six Find Happiness?Esquire, 1965.

Joan Didion, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” The Saturday Evening Post, 1966.

Renata Adler, “Letter From the Palmer House,” The New Yorker, 1967

Mary McCarthy, “Hanoi—1968.” The New York Review of Books, 1968.

Ellen Willis, “Up From Radicalism,” US Magazine, 1969

Nora Ephron, “Helen Gurley Brown Only Wants to Help,” Esquire, 1970.

Lucy Eisenberg, “The Politics of Cancer,” Harper’s, 1971.

Gail Sheehy, “Inside Grey Gardens,” New York, 1972.

Frances FitzGerald, “Can the War End?” The New York Review of Books, 1973.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, 1974.

Sara Davidson, “The Man With Ten Wives,” Rolling Stone, 1975

Loretta Schwartz, “The Forgotten Children,” Philadelphia, 1976.

Elizabeth Vorenberg, “The Biggest Pimp of All,” The Atlantic Monthly, 1977.

Mimi Sheraton, “A Gastronomic Miracle in the Midwest,” Esquire, 1978.

Moira Johnston, “Hell on Wheels,” New West, 1979.

Flora Johnson, “The Intelligence Question,” The Chicago Reader, 1980.

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, “What Do Women Want? Feminism and Its Future,” Harper’s, 1981.

Shana Alexander, “The Patriot Game,” New York, 1982.

Debby Miller, “The Secret Life of Prince,” Rolling Stone, 1983.

Lynn Hirschberg, “The Fifty-Two Days of Alfre Woodard,” Esquire, 1984.

Alice Steinbach, “A Boy of Unusual Vision,” Baltimore Sun, 1985.

Edna Buchanan, “Miami, It’s Murder,” Miami Herald, 1986.

Sara Suleri, Meatless Days, 1987.

Svetlana Alexiyevich, War’s Unwomanly Face, 1988.

Katie McCabe, “Like Something the Lord Made,” Washingtonian, 1989.

Connie Bruck, “The Deal of the Year.” The New Yorker, 1990.

Gayle Pemberton, “Do He Have Your Number, Mr. Jeffrey?” The Threepenny Review, 1991.

Jane Kramer, “Whose Art Is It?” The New Yorker, 1992.

Lucy Grealy, “Mirrorings,” Harper’s, 1993

Susan Orlean, “Figures in a Mall,” The New Yorker, 1994.

Mimi Swartz, “Not What the Doctor Ordered,” Texas Monthly, 1995.

Lisa Pollak, “The Umpire’s Sons,” Baltimore Sun, 1996.

Hanna Rosin, “The Madness of Speaker Newt,” The New Republic, 1997.

Jennifer Egan, “Uniforms in the Closet,” The New York Times Magazine, 1998.

Jennifer Gonnerman, “The Supermax Solution,” The Village Voice, 1999.

Pamela Colloff, “The Sins of the Father,” Texas Monthly, 2000.

Penny Wolfson, “Moonrise,” The Atlantic Monthly, 2001.

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Lucky Jim,” GQ, 2002.

Katherine Boo, “The Marriage Cure,” The New Yorker, 2003.

Samantha Power, “Dying in Darfur,” The New Yorker, 2004

Marjorie Williams, “A Matter of Life and Death,” Vanity Fair, 2005.

Wendy Brenner, “Life and Death in the Cape Fear Serpentarium,” The Oxford American, 2006.

Rebecca Solnit, “Detroit Arcadia,” Harper’s, 2007.

Vanessa Grigoriadis, “The Autumn of the I-Banker,” New York, 2008.

Sheri Fink, “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” The New York Times Magazine, 2009

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, “The Third Man,” The New Yorker, 2010.

Alma Guillermoprieto, “In the New Gangland of El Salvador,” The New York Review of Books, 2011.

Mac McClelland, “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” Mother Jones, 2012.

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, “If He Hollers Let Him Go,” The Believer, 2013.

Rachel Monroe, “Fire Behavior,” The Oxford American, 2014.

Taffy Brodesser-Akner, “Searching for Sugar Daddy,” GQ, 2015.

Danyel Smith, “When Whitney Hit the High Note,” ESPN the Magazine, 2016

Ann Friedman’s complete article is available at:


I like to think of myself as a literary generalist, rather than a specialist: that is, I like to believe that I have read the work of a fairly wide range of authors, especially contemporary authors. But I have read the work of only about twenty of the authors on Friedman’s list, and that admission, sadly, provides further support, albeit personal and anecdotal support, that these writers have not received the attention that they deserve–that there is still a bias in favor of male writers in terms of recognition.


And addressing that imbalance is the reason that Vela Magazine exists. It is devoted to nonfiction written by women, and its website [] includes two lengthier lists that complement Friedman’s:

Short form


Alice Walker, “Looking for Zora

Amy Boesky, “The Ghost Writes Back

Amy Leach,” I’ll Be The Moon

Amy Tan, “Mother Tongue

Anne Fadiman, “Under Water

Anne Marie Slaughter, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse

Annie Dillard, “Living Like Weasels

Ariel Levy, “Thanksgiving in Mongolia”

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano, “I Can Handle It: On Relationship Violence, Independence, and Capability

Cheryl Strayed, “The Love of My Life”

Courtney Queeney, “The View From the Victim Room”

E.J. Levy, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Emily Bernard, “Fired

Emily Rapp, “Where is God in Tay-Sachs?

Emily Witt, “What Do You Desire?

Eula Biss, “Goodbye to All That

Eula Biss, “The Pain Scale

Eula Biss, “No Man’s Land

Francine Prose, “Scent of a Woman’s Ink

Jamaica Kincaid, “On Seeing England for the First Time

Jamaica Kincaid, “A Small Place”

Jamaica Kincaid, “Flowers of Evil

Jennifer Percy, “Life Keeps Changing: Why Stories, Not Science, Explain the World”

Jina Moore, “The White Correspondent’s Burden”

JoAnn Beard, “The Fourth State of Matter

Joan Didion, “Goodbye to All That

Joan Didion, “Marrying Absurd

Joan Didion, “Why I Write

Katherine Anne Porter, “The Future Is Now

Katy Butler, “What Broke My Father’s Heart

Lauren Slater, “Tripp Lake”

Lauren Slater, “A Raccoon of My Own

Leslie Jamison, “The Empathy Exams: A Medical Actor Writes Her Own Script” 

Lia Purpura, “On Gunmetal

Mary McCarthy, “Artists in Uniform

Maya Angelou, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”

Maxine Hong Kingston, “No Name Woman

Meghan Daum, “My Misspent Youth

Meredith Hall, “Shunned

Natalia Ginzburg, “He and I

Naomi Shihab Nye, “This Is Not Who We Are

Nora Ephron, “A Few Words about Breasts

Rachel Carson, “The Marginal World

Roxane Gay, “Bad Feminist

Sandra Tsing Loh, “The Bitch is Back

Sandra Cisneros, “Only Daughter

Sherry Simpson, “Killing Wolves

Susan Griffin, “Our Secret

Susan Sontag, “Regarding the Torture of Others

Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp

Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill”

Zadie Smith, “Joy



Alma Guillermoprieto, “Bolivia’s Wrestlers

Alma Guillermoprieto, “Day of the Dead

Ariel Levy, “Trial By Twitter

Ariel Levy, “Basta Bunga Bunga

Barbara Ehrenreich, “Welcome to Cancerland”

Cienna Madrid, “Faith Healers

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Lucky Jim

Janet Malcolm, “The Journalist and the Murderer, The Journalist-I

Janet Malcolm, “The Journalist and the Murderer, The Murderer-II

Janet Malcolm, “Iphigenia in Forest Hills

Janet Reitman, “Jahar’s World”

Jeanne Marie Laskas, “Underworld

Jeanne Marie Laskas, “Have You Heard The One About President Joe Biden?

Jill Lepore, “The Prism

Joan Didion, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream

Joan Didion, ”Girl of the Golden West”

Katherine Boo, “The Marriage Cure: Is Wedlock Really a Way Out of Poverty?

Katherine Boo, “Shelter and the Storm

Karen Russel, “The Blind Faith of the One-Eyed Matador

Kelly Benham, “Never Let Go”

Kiera Feldman, “Sexual Assault at God’s Harvard”

Lillian Ross, “Portrait of Hemingway”

Lillian Ross, “Picture”

Mimi Swartz, “The Lost Girls”

Naomi Klein, “Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World

Pamela Colloff, “The Innocent Man,” Part I and Part II

Rachel Aviv, “God Knows Where I Am

Rachel Aviv, “The Science of Sex Abuse”

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, “If He Hollers Let Him Go”

Sallie Tisdale, “We Do Abortions Here

Sarah Stillman, “The Invisible Army”

Sarah Stillman, “The Throwaways

Sonia Nazario, “Enrique’s Journey

Susan Baer, “A Family Learns the True Meaning of the Vow ‘In Sickness and in Health‘”

Susan Orlean, “The American Man at Age 10

Svetlana Alexiavich, “Voices from Chernobyl

Tamara Jones, “The Other American Dream

Vanessa Veselka, “The Truck Stop Killer”


The Vela Magazine site is a treasure trove of articles by women writers, but it also includes these “Longform” lists:



Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Random Family
Alma Guillermoprieto, The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
Ariel Levy, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture
Barbara Demick, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed
Elizabeth Gilbert, The Last American Man
Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II
Isabel Wilkerson, The Warmth of Other Suns
Janet Malcolm, Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial
Janet Reitman, Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion
Jean Stein, Edie: American Girl 
Jeanne Marie Laskas, Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People Who Make This Country Work
Joan Didion, Salvador
Katherine Boo, Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Laura Hillebrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Martha Gellhorn, The View from the Ground
Melissa Fay Greene, Praying for Sheetrock
Michela Wrong, It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower
Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Samantha Power, A Problem from Hell
Sonia Faleiro, Beautiful Thing
Sonia Nazario, Enrique’s Journey
Susan Orlean, The Orchid Thief



Abigail Thomas, Safekeeping
Alexandra Fuller, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood
Alice Sebold, Lucky
Annie Dillard, An American Childhood
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
bell hooks, Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood
Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Elizabeth Scarboro, My Foreign Cities
Eugenia Semyonovna Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind
Gretel Ehrlich, A Match to the Heart: One Woman’s Story of Being Struck by Lightening
Hilary Mantel, Giving Up the Ghost
Jamaica Kincaid, A Small Place 
Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother
Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood
Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
Jill Ker Conway, The Road from Coorain
Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave
Judith Moore, Fat Girl: A True Story 
Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Kathleen Finnernan, The Tender Land: A Family Love Story
Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies 
Leymah Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation At War
Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water
Mary Crow Dog, Lakota Woman
Mary Karr, The Liars’ Club
Mary Karr, Cherry
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts
Megan Stack, Every Man in this Village is a Liar: An Education in War
Michelle Tea, Valencia
Michelle Tea, The Chelsea Whistle
Natalie Kusz, Road Song
Nien Cheng, Life and Death in Shanghai 
Patti Smith, Just Kids
Sandra Steingraber, Having Faith
Sarah Manguso, The Guardians: An Elegy
Sonali Deraniyagala, Wave
Suzannah Lessard, The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family 
Tracy Ross, The Source of All Things
Vivian Gornick, Fierce Attachments



Amy Leach, Things That Are
Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never
Barbara Kingsolver, Small Wonder
Cynthia Ozick, Art & Ardor
Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
Eula Biss, Notes from No Man’s Land: American Essays
Janet Malcolm, The Purloined Clinic: Selected Writings
Jo Ann Beard, The Boys of My Youth
Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Joan Didion, The White Album
Kim Dana Kupperman, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence
Leslie Marmon Silko, Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit
Lia Purpura, On Looking
Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures
MFK Fisher, How To Cook a Wolf
Michelle Orange, This is Running for Your Life
Natalia Ginzburg, The Little Virtues
Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
Pam Houston, A Little More About Me
Sarah Vowell, Take the Cannoli: Stories from the New World
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Sherry Simpson, The Way Winter Comes: Alaska Stories
Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others
Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader
Zadie Smith, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays



Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
Barrie Jean Borich, Body Geographic
Jenny Boully, The Book of Beginnings and Endings
Lauren Redniss, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout
Lisa Gill, Caput Nili: How I Won the War and Lost My Taste for Oranges
Maggie Nelson, Bluets



Andrea Lee, Russian Journal
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Beryl Markham, West With The Night
Deb Olin Unferth, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War
Dervla Murphy, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle
Doris Lessing, African Laughter: Four Visits to Zimbabwe
Eleanor Clark, Rome and a Villa
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Freya Stark, The Valley of the Assassins and Other Persian Travels
Freya Stark, A Winter in Arabia: A Journey Through Yemen
Freya Stark, Riding to the Tigris
Gretel Ehrlich, In The Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape
Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Jane Kramer, Europeans
Jane Kramer, The Last Cowboy
Jenny Diski, Skating to Antarctica
Kira Salak, Four Corners: A Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea
Mary Morris, Nothing to Declare
M.F.K Fisher, As They Were
Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Gray Falcon
Rosemary Mahoney, Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff
Rosemary Mahoney, Whoredom in Kimmage
Sara Wheeler, Terra Incognita
Susan Jane Gilman, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
Susan Orlean, My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere



Ellen Meloy, The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky
Florence Williams, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History
Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces
Kathleen Norris, Dakota 
Mary Austen, Land of Little Rain
Natalie Angier, Woman: An Intimate Geography
Olivia Laing, To The River
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams
Sandra Steingraber, Living Downstream: An Ecologist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment
Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place



Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Intuition
Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
Elizabeth McCracken, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination
Emily Rapp, Still Point of the Turning World



Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings
Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them
Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Patricia Hampl, I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory
Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative


We all need to get reading, and Vela Magazine [] is very obviously a good place to start.


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