Of Petaluma’s current Top 10 books, 8 center kickass female characters

From Madeline Miller’s take-no-BS sorceress to an Irish diplomat battling climate disasters, Petaluma readers are choosing stories featuring badass women.|

The top selling titles at Copperfield’s Books, in Petaluma, for the week of Dec. 5-Dec. 11, 2022

With the exception of Demon Copperhead – the fierce and cynical title character of Barbara Kingsolver’s acclaimed American South adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” currently Petaluma’s No. 1 bestselling book – the majority of the books appearing on this week’s Top 10 (every one of them a novel) feature girls or women as their primary voices.

In Madeline Miller’s enduringly popular 2016 fantasy “Circe” (No. 2), which also appears in the No. 2 spot on Copperfield’s Books year-long 2022 bestseller list (see accompanying story), the character is the sorceress from Homer’s “The Odyssey,” famed for turning piggish men into actual pigs.

In Jeff Vandermeer’s 2014 science-fiction head-turner “Annihilation” (No. 3), all of the main characters are women, scientists sent into the mysterious Area X, where something unexplainable seems to have taken root. Bianca Pitzorno’s “The Seamstress of Sardinia” (No. 4) follows an unnamed 19th century woman who, at the age of 16 has earned a reputation as a skilled seamstress, and is introduced into the lives of the wealthy families on the Italian island of Sardinia.

In James Baldwin’s 1974 classic “If Beale Street Could Talk” (No. 5), the narrator is a pregnant 19-year-old Black woman whose life changes after her boyfriend is charged with a crime he did not commit, and in Poppy Alexander’s “The Littlest Library” (No. 6), a grieving librarian sets up a new home in a small English village, and promptly transforms a telephone booth near her house into a community library.

“The Girls in Navy Blue” (No. 7) by Alix Rickloff, is set in 1942 and 1968, tracking the friendships of a group of WWII Navy women and their children and grandchildren a quarter-century later.

While there are certainly a few notable women in JRR Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” (the new illustrated version of which is currently Petaluma’s No. 8 book), such indomitable characters as Lady Haleth and Idril Celebrindal are hardly the focus of the author’s obsessive world-building, women are once again the at the center of Petaluma’s current No. 9 and 10 books. The latter, Elinor Liman’s sexy comedy “Ms. Demeanor” follows the life-changing six-month-long house arrest of lawyer Jane Morgan, and what she learns about life, herself and her neighbors while stuck at home with an ankle monitor.

And finally in Kim Stanley Robinson’s chilling science-fiction thriller “The Ministry for the Future” (No. 10), our protagonist is the unstoppable Mary Murphy, former foreign minister of Ireland, who is put in charge of saving humanity as the head of the titular Ministry, formed battle the deadly global results of a horrifyingly well-described climate crisis of her species own making.

Whether the preponderance of women characters in these works is because more female-driven stories are being published, or that more women are reading books than men these days, or that good books are good books regardless of the genders of the characters (and that Petalumans simply like to read quality fiction), it’s hard to say.

And such philosophical questions hardly matter. We’ll worry about it later.

For now, with so many great stories to experience, we’d rather spend our spare time with our nose in a book.

Here are the Top 10 Books on Copperfield’s Fiction and Nonfiction list, along with the full Kids and Young Adults list.


1. ‘Demon Copperhead,’ by Barbara Kingsolver – The Pulitzer-winning author returns with a novel inspired by Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” only set in the present day rural American south.

2. ‘Circe,’ by Madeline Miller - A 2016 novel about abuse and resilience told as a romance where things go wrong, but with plenty of surprises and twists along the way.

3. ‘Annihilation,’ by Jeff Vandermeer – Creepy 2014 bestseller about an all-female team of scientists exploring Area X, and off-limits section of the American coast where something alien has landed and is gradually transforming everything it encounters.

4. ‘Seamstress of Sardinia,’ by Bianca Pitzorno – A newly-released, thoroughly delightful family comedy-drama set on the island of Sardinia at the end of the 19th Century.

5. ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ by James Baldwin – Told from the POV of a 19-year-old, New York City Black girl, Baldwin’s luscious 1974 novel is sweet, hard, soft, heart-breaking and uplifting all at once.

6. ‘The Littlest Library,’ by Poppy Alexander – A village in England is unexpectedly brought closer together when an outsider buys a cottage and turns the red telephone booth out front into a community library.

7. ‘The Girls in Navy Blue,’ by Alix Rickloff – Skipping back-and-forth from the ‘40s to the ‘60s, this new novel follows three Navy women during WWII and their descendants in 1968.

8. ‘The Silmarillion: Illustrated Edition,’ by JRR Tolkien – Crammed with “historical” details of the people, places and events around which “The Lord of the Rings” revolved, this new illustrated version features a fresh new look at Middle Earth.

9. ‘Ms. Demeanor,’ by Elinor Lipman – A sexy new comedy about house arrest from the author of “Rachel to the Rescue.”

10. ‘The Ministry for the Future,’ by Kim Stanley Robinson – A gripping thriller about the global climate crises and revolutionaries attempting to save the world.


1. ‘Sour Grape,’ by Jory John – Author Jory John and illustrator Pete Oswald add a charming new title to their #1 New York Times bestselling “Food Group” series, this one about a grudge-carrying grape and what happens when it’s served a taste of its own bad attitude.

2. ‘The Tale of Magic,’ by Chris Colfer – The first of three books from Colfer’s series of fantasies set in the world of his popular Land of Stories” books.

3. ‘Little Blue Truck Makes a Friend,’ by Alice Schertle – Blue the truck and Toad the, well, the toad, try to calm the other animals when a newcomer moves into the neighborhood.

4. ‘Escape at 10,000 Feet,’ by Tom Sullivan – Subtitled “D.B. Cooper and the Missing Money,” this 2021 graphic novel, another in Sullivan’s popular “Unsolved Case Files” series, is a deep dive (parachute implied) into the only unsolved commercial hijacking in the history of modern aviation.

5. ‘Truly Devious,’ by Maureen Johnson – A YA murder mystery set in a prestigious academy where a decades old crime haunts the imaginations of a group of new students.

6. ‘The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid,’ by Colin Meloy – Set in 1961 Marseilles, France, this YA adventure follows a would-be pickpocket and a gang of juvenile criminals.

7. ‘Inheritance Games: Hawthorne Legacy,’ by Jennifer Lynn Barnes – Another in this series about high-schooler Avery Grambs, who inherits a vast fortune and a mysterious house from a game-and-riddle loving billionaire she’s never heard of.

8. ‘Hooky,’ by Míriam Bonastre Tur – A pair of magical twins take on some truly nefarious otherworldly shenanigans.

9. ‘School for Good and Evil: A Crystal of Time,’ by Soman Chainani – The fifth in Chainani’s sensational series about a school for fairytale villains and heroes.

10. ‘Coraline: 10th Anniversary Edition,’ by Neil Gaiman – The vividly imaginative adventure of a girl who discovers an alternative version of her own life on the other side of mysterious door.

Data compiled by Amber-Rose Reed, Manager of Copperfield’s Book.

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