50 Great Books About Deliciously Bad Women


What is it about bad girls that is so alluring? Maybe it’s the seized power they signify, or the agency their badness implies, or just the comebacks and leather jackets, but I always love the “bad” women in literature best. Here are some books that are blessed with such mavens, whose antics range from mere misbehavior to pure evil, who are antagonists and antiheroines and just plain heroines who just also happen to be jerks a lot of the time. Some of these characters are deeply lovable despite their flaws, and some readers just love to hate. But no matter what, they will delight you in all of their badness. Read on for some deliciously bad ladies of literature, and if I’ve missed your favorite, sing her praises (er, or shriek her name in terror) in the comments.

The Days of Abandonment, Elena Ferrante

The narrator of this extraordinary novel’s husband has just left her, and as the book unfolds, so does Olga. She ignores her sick children. She throws screaming fits in public. She makes dismal attempts at sexual encounters with her neighbors. She thinks the worst things and develops a keen taste for what she calls “obscene language.” She is bad — but her badness is a reaction to grief, to abandonment, to despair, and her abject rage will make you love her.

My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante

And while we’re on Ferrante, let’s not forget about Lila, who in the first installment of the Neapolitan series is a total bad girl — often mean for the sake of being mean, irreverent and sexual in a way that makes the neighborhood women tsk and groan. But the narrator’s fascination and love for her are so intense that you can’t help but feel the same — even when she’s dropping your doll into the dusty basement just because she knows you’re scared to go down there.

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