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    20 Books Featuring Single Protagonists Where Remaining Single Is The Happy Ending

    From modern-day London to the mythic world of ancient Greece, these novels all feature happily single women with full lives — just what you need for a dose of single positivity!

    1. The Confession by Jessie Burton

    Picador

    Why you should read it: The Confession was the book that inspired me to write this list! It felt so refreshing to read about Rose, who finds the strength to leave her just-OK relationship and then grow into her new independence. While searching for the mother who abandoned her as a baby, Rose discovers that knowing who you are is about so much more than knowing where you came from. I also loved the central, supportive role that friendships between women play in the characters’ development.

    Get it from Amazon or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.  

    2. Circe by Madeline Miller

    Little, Brown

    Why you should read it: In this feminist retelling of an ancient Greek myth, Circe is exiled to a lonely island when she angers her father Helios. Rather than being despondent, she creates a haven where she is eventually joined by nymphs and other minor goddesses. Within her realm, Circe can embrace the strange, frightening powers that allow her to distil potent elixirs and turn a posse of threatening soldiers into pigs. Men come and go (at their peril!), but Circe’s island remains an island of women, full of magic, witchcraft, and a tame lion or two.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    3. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West

    Vintage Classics

    Why you should read it: All Passion Spent centers on the octogenarian widow Lady Slane, who enjoys a new lease of life when her husband’s death frees her from social expectations. Defying the wishes of her children, she rents a house in Hampstead and pursues her youthful dream of becoming an artist. There is a disappointing lack of older women in fiction, and All Passion Spent steps into this gap, with a protagonist who refuses to quietly retreat into her golden years. I was surprised to find out that the novel was first published in 1931, since the irrepressible Lady Slane feels delightfully modern!

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    4. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

    Gallery/Scout Press

    Why you should read it: Following a messy breakup, Queenie enters full rebound mode, and so begins an inevitable sequence of poor decisions. As the fallout grows more and more damaging, she realizes that she’s never going to conquer the perils of dating apps, racial fetishization, and toxic male colleagues until she gets more comfortable in her own skin. I found it easy to root for this bold yet vulnerable heroine, watching her gain self-acceptance with the help of what might be the best group of girlfriends in the bookish universe!

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    5. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

    Park Row Books

    Why you should read it: Dark and deliciously subversive, this historical fiction novel traces the story of Nella, an apothecary offering her services to women who need to rid themselves of the men in their lives — for good. Meanwhile, in the present day, Caroline is fleeing from the breakdown of her 10-year marriage to a cheating husband. In the hidden streets of London and among the shelves of the British Library, she discovers a new purpose in the unsolved mystery of the apothecary murders from centuries ago. 

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.  

    6. The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

    William Morrow

    Why you should read it: Nobody defies the general contempt of spinsterhood quite like Christie’s Miss Marple! Bringing killers to justice closely follows knitting as one of her favorite pastimes. With an ear for gossip, an eye for detail, and the handy ability to slip under the radar, she can reveal crucial clues for solving crimes that the authorities cannot. In The Body in the Library, Miss Marple puts her amateur sleuthing skills to the test when a young dancer is found dead in a nearby manor house. 

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.  

    7. Outlawed by Anna North

    Bloomsbury Publishing

    Why you should read it: If you get tired of the patriarchy, why not run away and join a gang of feminist outlaws in the Wild West? Unable to conceive a child, Ada is rejected by her husband and their village, who threaten charges of witchcraft. She finds refuge with the infamous Hole in the Wall gang, led by an enigmatic figure known only as the Kid. I relished spending time in this alternative history where gender and sexuality are fluid, and a woman’s worth lies not in her reproductive organs or potential to please a man, but whether she can shoot straight!

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    8. The Silence of Bones by June Hur

    Feiwel & Friends

    Why you should read it: In 19th-century Joseon Korea, teenage orphan Seol understands the value of silence and the dangers of curiosity. Indentured to the police bureau as an assistant to Inspector Han, she lends her perception and resourcefulness to investigations and resists the constraints of her lowly station. The duo’s latest case is the murder of a noblewoman, but things take an unexpected turn when Inspector Han is identified as a prime suspect. Seol must strike out on her own to uncover the truth in the turbulent, politically divided capital city. 

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    9. The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

    Berkley

    Why you should read it: This novel is based on the real-life story of Belle da Costa Greene: personal librarian to J.P. Morgan, respected museum curator, and sought-after socialite. Yet her success rests on continued dissembling, since she is a Black woman passing as white. Although Belle is influential and independent, her singlehood takes on more ambiguity in The Personal Librarian. Passing as white means she cannot marry or have children for fear of her racial identity being revealed, which blurs empowered choice with sheer necessity. 

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    10. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

    Greenwillow Books

    Why you should read it: Verity City is a world of two halves. The North is ruled by Callum Harker, a scheming crime lord, while the South falls under the leadership of Henry Flynn. Harker’s daughter, the rebellious Kate, forms an unlikely allyship with August Flynn when he is sent to spy on her at her posh boarding school. Facing conspiracy and monsters, the two have to pull together to protect the fragile peace between North and South. Schwab offers a thrilling urban fantasy world where the focus is on the relentless plot, unstoppable heroine, and imaginative escapism, rather than on love interests.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    11. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

    Grove Atlantic

    Why you should read it: I found all of the characters in Girl, Woman, Other unforgettable. Nonetheless, Amma, who introduces us to the experimental and audacious atmosphere of the novel, became a particular favorite. Not only is she a successful playwright at the National Theatre, but she is a single mother by choice, doing an amazing job of raising the equally unapologetic Yazz. Amma shows that single life can be an exciting dream of liberation and not a sentence to be feared.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    12. Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori)

    Grove Atlantic

    Why you should read it: Keiko, the endearingly odd protagonist of Convenience Store Woman, is devoted to her dead-end job working in a konbini. She finds solace in the neatly ordered shelves, the predictable daily routine, and the scripted customer interactions. However, Keiko finally caves to her family’s pressure to get a ‘real’ job and find a boyfriend, which leads to disastrous consequences. Grappling with the disconnect between her own needs and society’s expectations, Keiko starts to question whether being a perpetually unattached konbini worker is really such a terrible destiny.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    13. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

    Amistad

    Why you should read it: Janie has been married three times, pursuing men who she believes can provide money, security, love, respect, or happiness. Eventually, all of her marriages come to an end, often turning bitter beneath the burden of her constantly repressed emotions. By the end of the novel, Janie is alone again, but accepting of the lessons life has taught her, comfortable with her identity, and certain of the inner strength that has carried her through.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    14. Illusive by Emily Lloyd-Jones

    Little, Brown Young Readers

    Why you should read it: If you’re looking for science fiction with a strong superpowered heroine, look no further! When a vaccine causes her to develop superpowers, Ciere is expected to put her newfound illusionist abilities into the service of the country’s corrupt government. Instead, she chooses a life of crime, becoming a thief of unparalleled skill in the illicit underworld. After Ciere teams up with a gang of other superhuman criminals, an action-packed race against time ensues; they must hunt down the formula that gave them their abilities before it falls into evil hands.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    15. Animal by Lisa Taddeo

    Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster

    Why you should read it: There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy (or maybe not-so-healthy) expression of feminine rage, and the shock factor in Taddeo’s dark, vengeful debut is entirely irresistible. The story centers on Joan, who moves to Los Angeles and seeks help from Alice, a woman somehow connected with her disturbed past. As Joan unravels the trauma she has suffered at the hands of men, insidious paths start to open that will, finally, allow her to take back control.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    16. Loveless by Alice Oseman

    Scholastic Inc.

    Why you should read it: I was delighted to encounter a YA contemporary in which coming-of-age is not defined by romance! Eighteen-year-old Georgia has never been kissed or even had a crush on anybody. Determined to change this when she moves away to university, Georgia immediately commences her mission to discover the life-altering love story promised by fanfiction and her favorite Shakespeare plays. Her fixation on finding romance, though, quickly derails her friendships and makes Georgia question what she is really searching for. By exploring her asexual/aromantic identities, Georgia begins to appreciate the multitude of ways to love outside of romantic relationships.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    17. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

    Redhook

    Why you should read it: Ask yourself what the suffragists would do with magical powers, and you have the enthralling concept at the heart of The Once and Future Witches. After Juniper is expelled from the New Salem Women’s Association for promoting now-illegal witchcraft alongside women’s suffrage, she forms the Sisters of Avalon movement with Beatrice and Agnes. However, reclaiming their lost magic will be no easy feat. Suspicion of witchcraft is on the rise, the authorities will do anything to suppress the sisters, and the stakes have never been higher.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    18. The Trespasser by Tana French

    Penguin Books

    Why you should read it: My interest in a crime thriller will always be piqued if it features a kickass woman detective! In the sixth book of her Dublin Murder Squad series, French brings tough, abrasive Antoinette Conway to the fore. Although the murder of a pretty blonde woman seems like a cut-and-dry case of jealous lovers, Antoinette senses there is more to the story. To see justice done, Antoinette must not only contend with the elusive killer, but the male colleagues set on watching her fall.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    19. The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska (trans. by Maya Zakrzewska-Pim)

    Forge Books

    Why you should read it: This book has been described as a real-life Game of Thrones, an epic historical novel based on the forgotten Polish queen Swietoslawa. Being the daughter of the duke of Poland, Swietoslawa is merely a pawn in her father’s power plays, representing the opportunity for an advantageous marriage alliance. Yet she harbors an insatiable desire for a crown of her own; her defiance and determination in following these ambitions will earn her the epithet "the bold one." It doesn’t get much more single-positive than that!

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.    

    20. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

    Penguin Books

    Why you should read it: Eleanor Oliphant arrives on time each day to her finance job, avoids her colleagues, and spends weekends alone in her flat with frozen pizza and vodka. An incident outside of the office one day unexpectedly introduces Eleanor to new friends, who she gradually opens up to. In turn, they offer unconditional support when she faces her long-buried childhood trauma. Giving Eleanor a romantic partner would have been an easy option to show her leaving loneliness behind, but, instead, the author emphasizes that friendship and platonic connection are enough to save her.

    Get it from Bookshop or at a local bookstore through Indiebound here.