Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Kickass Heroines)

April 16, 2013 Classics, Coming of Age, Crime, Dystopian, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Women's Studies 53

What’s Up, Bookworms?

The ladies at The Broke and The Bookish do an amazing job of coming up with Top Ten Tuesday prompts, you know? They’ve kept this going for a couple of years now, which is kind of incredible. This week’s topic is a “rewind,” so it gives me the opportunity to do one of the top ten lists that were used before I started blogging. I have chosen to make a list of Kickass Heroines! There are so many awesome female characters in literature; this should be a super fun showcase!


1. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I really don’t care if The Hunger Games are teetering on the brink of overexposure. Katniss is BADASS. She learns to hunt with a bow and arrow to provide for her family. She steps up to take her little sister’s place in a barbaric contest put on my her oppressive government. She manages to NOT DIE during the tournament. And then? She outsmarts the game makers. I want Katniss on my side in the Zombie Apocalypse. I”m just putting that out there.

2. Caris from World Without End by Ken Follett. World Without End is the sequel to Pillars of the Earth but since it’s set 300 years into the future, it’s only sort of sequel-ish. Anyway. Caris is awesome because she keeps up a rockin’ hospital during the bubonic plague. Nobody at the time understands germ theory,  but she makes some brilliant decisions (face masks, regular hand washing) that keep the medical staff alive. This seriously pisses off the priests who claim only God can prevent illness- the nuns in the hospital that take this approach to healing drop like flies. She may never have gotten the upper hand in the church, but at least she outlived the jerkface Prior. Take that!

3. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Hermoine RULES. She is smart and brave and fabulous. She could easily have carried her own series. ADORE. Book Hermione isn’t as drop-dead-gorgeous as Emma Watson, but I think if Hermione were real, she’d totally approve of the casting decision. It may only be a Muggle university, and she may have dropped out, but Emma Watson DID get into Dartmouth.


4. Claire from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I know I talk about loving Jamie all the time, but Claire is pretty stupendous. I love what she does with all her modern medical knowledge when she goes back in time. Making ether? Making peni-freaking-cillin? Removing tonsils at the dinner table with only whiskey as anesthetic?! Plus, she is really resourceful and accepts some old school remedies that actually WORK. Leeches? Gross, but effective at swelling bruise reduction. She’s pretty fabulous. No wonder Jamie adores her.

5. Arya Stark from Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Arya starts out as a spoiled tomboy, but once her father is executed, she’s forced to grow up fast. It’s a good thing she’s not gone through puberty yet, and that she took those fencing lessons. Disguised as a boy? Apprenticing to creepy temple? Keeping herself alive when all the Lannisters in the land would have her head on a pike? I wouldn’t cross her, she’s scrappy.

6. Joan from Pope Joan by Diana Woolfolk Cross. Joan loves to read, and she’s smart. Sadly, her dad is a jerkwad who doesn’t believe women should be educated. Thanks to a stubborn tutor, she’s taught the basics and accepted with her less scholarly brother into a real school. She goes to great lengths to ensure her right to learn. After a marauding band of vikings lay waste to her town, she escapes by dressing in her brother’s robes and joins a monastery. Oh, yeah. And she sort of accidentally becomes the Pope. Woops.


7. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Jane refuses to believe she’s a horrible human being despite the horrendous treatment she endures in her childhood. She goes on to excel in her studies and become a governess. She’s making her own way in the world when fate steps in, and she falls hard for Mr. Rochester. However, when the whole crazy wife in the attic comes to light, Jane has enough self respect to skip town. Then, when the crazy wife jumps off the roof and Rochester is a broken man, she finds it in her heart to forgive him. Compassion, resilience, strength? Yep, Jane is totally role model material.

8. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Series by Stieg Larsson. Alright. Confession time. I didn’t LOVE these books. They were alright. A lot of talk about Swedish politics I wasn’t crazy about, sexual violence repels me, and Blomquist was a man-whore (he seriously would bang any breathing female, I swear.) HOWEVER! Lisbeth was AWESOME. Super smart, photographic memory, badass hacker with a penchant for leather and exposing corrupt government officials? Oh yeah. She’s nobody’s victim!

9. Colonel Christina Eliopolis from World War Z by Max Brooks. This book is written in vignettes with a wide swath of humanity describing their experiences during the Zombie Apocalypse. This woman was AMAZING. She’s stranded alone in Zombie ridden territory and manages, with the help of another woman on a CB radio (real or imagined, it’s up for debate), to kick a whole lot of zombie butt all by herself. I want her on my team, yo. Can you imagine a Z team with Eliopolis and Katniss? It would be like a Rick and Daryl duo, but they’re sisters killing zombies for themselves. (While we’re on the subject, I want Michonne on my team too. If you don’t know who Rick, Daryl, and Michonne are, you need to stop what you’re doing and check out the first three seasons of The Walking Dead in their entirety.)

10. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Who doesn’t love Jo?! I could gush about how much I love her, but I’ll let her explain why… “I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Who are some of your favorite literary ladies, Bookworms? Tell me all about it. Girl Power!

53 Responses to “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves (Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Kickass Heroines)”

  1. Liesel Hill

    Hands down my fave is Arya! She’s totally rockin’ the 7 Kingdoms–and the stuff on the other side of the ocean as well–and I totally love her. I can get behind what you say about Lisbeth Salander. I always go on and on about how I didn’t like the books. In the first one, I didn’t really like her story (probably for the same reasons as you: sexual violence). It just didn’t interest me. What I liked was the whodunit Bloomkvist was investigating. I thought it was very well-written. Not that I liked him. He made me laugh sometimes because he was such a wuss, but that’s about it. I suppose you’re right about her character, though. She was pretty badass. Just didn’t like the books. (Nothing redeeming about 2 or 3 for me). Great list! 😀
    My TTT

    • Words for Worms

      Thanks Liesel! It almost feels sacrilegious to admit to not enjoying those books as much as the rest of the world seemed to :). Glad I’m not alone!

  2. Megan M.

    I haven’t read Stieg Larsson’s books but I did watch the Swedish subtitled film and… Lisbeth is a total badass. I want Katniss on my team in a zombie apocalypse too!

    I would like to nominate Claire from the Morganville Vampires series. She’s a super smart chick who doesn’t back down against vampire or human bullies. I also feel I should mention Nancy Drew. She’s vintage badass.

  3. Rhian

    The following easily spring to mind because they are in series I enjoy.

    Eve Dallas from J D Robb’s “In Death” series. She’s clever and tough, but compassionate. She’s overcome a really terrible start to become her own woman.

    Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. She plots for ten years to topple the man who killed her whole family when she was a child. Once she has impressed her dragon, she refuses to follow the rules about what they “should” do and finally, when Thread falls again and all seems lost, she travels back in time 400 years to get help.

    Mary Russell from Laurie R King’s series. As clevel and observant as Sherlock Homes, she also overcomes the death of her family as a teenager to become her own woman in the early part of the 20th century.

  4. The Greedy Reader

    Phew ! At last somebody who doesn’t like Stieg Larssen’s trilogy. I agree with you on Lisbeth. She totally rocks. I’m thrilled to see two of my other favourites here, Arya and Jane. I love Jennifer Parker from Rage of Angels. She pulled herself up by the bootstraps when she hit rock bottom and still gets a bad deal. The sheer injustice made me want to weep!

  5. LisaG

    Pointless to tell you my choices since most of them are the same as yours – and the two that aren’t I can’t recall the names right now (and can’t check since I’m at work). But the girl from the Book Thief is one of them. Anyhow – in regards to Clare the amazing and fantastic it was a hernia with whiskey at the dinner table. The tonsils were with Ether. I’m listening to that bit on Audiobook right now. LOL. Also? Bree kicks butt too.

    • Words for Worms

      Oh man! I could have sworn she did the twins’ tonsils pre-ether. I remember the appendix surgery having the ether… But you’re right. The dude at the dining table was a hernia. I’ll own my mistake, and congratulate you on your superb memory :).

  6. Rory

    I love Lisbeth and (as something I can relate too) I love that she’s short and a badass. And I wouldn’t mind being Jane…

    Daenerys is my favorite in A Game of Thrones.

  7. Sarah Says Read

    Woooo for kick-ass ladies! I want to hug so much of this list.

    And I am WITH YOU on wanting Michonne on my team if there are zombies around. Chicka is a BAD ASS!

  8. Jayne

    There’s a action/thriller/mystery series by Taylor Stevens (first book is called The Informationist) and her main character, Vanessa Michael Munroe, is a complete bad-ass. She grew up in Africa as the daughter of missionaries but ended up working for a gunrunner in her teens and went through all sorts of violence and difficulties growing up. After escaping Africa she started working in Houston dealing in “information gathering” for companies. She often has to go undercover in foreign countries to do this – languages come naturally for her – and there’s often lots of danger involved, which she has excellent skills for handling. She’s a really cool character with lots of depth, even though I’m having a really hard time thinking of how to describe her. The series is really good if you want to try something a little different (2 books so far, a third coming out this summer).

  9. Care

    I loved Pope Joan! good one. I only recently put World War Z on my list and I’m still not sure about it. I think I’ve read the rest of your list, or enough of the series you mention (I’m notorious for only reading the first of)

    • Words for Worms

      World War Z definitely gave me nightmares, but it was worth it. I won’t lie and say it isn’t scary, but if you’re into zombies at all, you’ll dig it. If not, maybe read something less end of the world-ish.

  10. Sami

    So glad you included Jo in this list!! I love her!! If you ever make a list of characters that need their asses kicked you can add Amy!

  11. Daddio

    How could you skip ALL of the Bond Girls? Lisbeth could hack the day lights out of any of them but they all ended up with great modeling contracts. And PERHAPS Ms Eyre is growing on me.

    • Words for Worms

      Daaaaaaaaad! I haven’t read any Bond yet. YET. Reagan gave me Casino Royale for Christmas. I’ll dedicate the post to you and your old-man-ness. XOXO

  12. Books, Tea & Me

    I cannot agree more with some of your choices—Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger and Jane Eyre. I haven’t read the other books you mentioned, but I love books with strong and vibrant characters, so it looks like I’ll have to give some of the others a try.

  13. acps927

    I agree with Katniss and Jo as being favorite literary ladies! But that’s probably quite clear from my blog name… 🙂

  14. Sarah

    Eowyn! She killed the witch king. If that had been me, I would have crumpled at his feet and sobbed. I really need to become more heroic.

  15. Zen A.

    Love that you included Jo and Hermione! Some other favourites of mine include Thursday Next from the Jasper Fforde books, Tiffany Aching from Terry Pratchett’s books, Izzy Spellman from the Spellmans series by Lisa Lutz and Katy Karr from What Katy Did. Just off the top of my head. 😀

  16. Eagle-Eyed Editor

    Another vote here for J.D. Robb’s Eve Dallas. Tough, compassionate, sometimes haunted by her past, loyal, and a smartmouth. Plus, there’s Roarke, Peabody, and other great characters in that series. What’s not to like? 😉

      • Eagle-Eyed Editor

        Yes, Nora also writes under the name of J.D. Robb. Definitely worth your time, whether she’s writing as Nora Roberts or J.D. Robb. I like her because she writes good, strong characters with a lot of humor and great plots. And well, of course, there’s the romance….

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