We've Read a Lot of "Girl" Books Lately. Will 2017 Be the Year of the "Woman"?

Year of the WomanOne year ago, as our editorial team looked at the long list of forthcoming books, a clear pattern popped out: Almost any book that could cram "girl" into the title was doing so. Go ahead and blame the success of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl for this phenomena. Thrillers especially hewed to this approach, but nonfiction got in on the action as well (Rise of the Rocket Girls, Lab Girl).

The Woman in Cabin 10So it was refreshing when, starting in the summer of 2016, even thrillers started edging away from "girl." (Perhaps authors and publishers realized that the books were all starting to sound alike and, worse, interchangeable.) Ruth Ware came out with The Woman in Cabin 10, a suspense novel set on a luxurious yacht, and Karin Slaughter ratcheted up the chills with The Kept Woman. James Patterson and Maxine Maetro speculated on the possible election of the first female Pope in Woman of God.

So what about 2017? A peek ahead reveals that this new pivot toward "woman" is holding steady, at least in fiction.

Roxane Gay's short story collection Difficult Women assembles tales of women seeking strength and independence in our modern world. In early February comes Yewande Omotoso's novel The Woman Next Door, about a black woman and a white woman who are neighbors in South Africa and who "share a hedge and a deliberate hostility" until an event binds them together. Also in February is the UK-set police thriller The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel, in which a woman on the Missing Persons list for almost 20 years is found dead.

Men without WomenHaruki Murakami and Orhan Pamuk contribute to the trend with Men without Women and The Red-Haired Woman, respectively. And though I hesitate to mention this--because how could you not use "woman" in the title of a book about Wonder Woman?--Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows) is writing Wonder Woman: Warbringer in August. But I will mention it because Bardugo has a gift for peering into the dark corners of the soul, and her take on the Amazonian princess should be fascinating.

But aside from Ivanka Trump's Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success and Camille Paglia's Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism, nonfiction books coming out in 2017 are still vigorously swinging "girl" around in the title--especially books on history or war.

Shoot Like a GirlDoes anyone else thing it's odd that nonfiction that focuses on women doing supposedly nontypical activities--like Dust Bowl Girls (playing basketball during the Depression), Shoot Like a Girl (fighting in Afghanistan), The Hello Girls ("America's First Women Soldiers"), and The Radium Girls (painting toxic radium on clocks and therefore getting cancer)--are using a noun that far more often describes young females than mature ones? Yes, I might be overthinking this (consider The Boys in the Boat and Trouble Boys)...but then again, maybe not. I sometimes have this horrible suspicion that, consciously or no, a book title is whispering, "Read about 'girls.' They're less troublesome than women." (Though anyone who has a preteen or teenage daughter knows this is hilarious.)

The Trapped GirlIn any case, there are lots of "girl" novels I'm looking forward to in 2017: Robert Dugoni's The Trapped Girl, Amanda Quick's The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister about the first female Pinkerton agent, and (my most highly anticipated read) The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White. JP Delancy's upcoming suspense novel, The Girl Before, has received a lot of good responses here as well.

Ultimately, a book is going to make it or break it due to the words on the inside instead the words on the outside. But if only so that I can keep all the titles straight in my head, I'm glad we're starting to put "girl" in the past. More troublesome "women," please.


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Comments (2)

The use of Girl in the title was pretty obvious, but it seemed to me that Gone kept popping up also. I assume the idea was that we would just remember Gone and Girl and buy any book with them thinking they were best sellers. Even TATOO came up again!

Posted by: Lee Hoekje | Monday January 2, 2017 at 3:36 PM

I made this comment just the other day! I couldn't agree more. It's a trend that needs to go away.

Posted by: Beth | Monday January 2, 2017 at 6:36 PM

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