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What to read now: A-list women authors share picks

A.M. Homes, author of 'May We Be Forgiven,' took home the top honor at the Women's Prize for Fiction on Wednesday.

American author A. M. Homes became the surprise winner of the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction on Wednesday for her novel “May We Be Forgiven.”

At the ceremony in London on Wednesday night, the judges called Homes’s sixth novel, but first win, “a dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy,” and a book “we want to read again and give to our friends.”


Homes said she was awed by her victory, and paid tribute to her father and grandmother, who had both passed away before seeing her win. This win makes Homes the third American in the last four years to win the prize, which includes a check for $46,000.

When asked to list her own favorite writers, Homes, a former writer and producer for TV show “The L Word,” said there were so many choices this year for great books.


She particularly mentioned British author Jeanette Winterson’s memoir about her difficult childhood, “Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal," calling it an “incredible book.”

Homes also recommended fellow shortlisted author Hilary Mantel, saying her work was “astounding.”

Mantel’s book “Bringing Up the Bodies,” about the last days of English Tudor queen Anne Boleyn, had already won several other major book awards and had been the bookmakers’ favorite to win the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year as well.

For a darker read, Homes touted contemporary American writer Jayne Anne Philips, calling her collection of short stories, "Black Tickets," “very daring.”

“They’re very much about kind of a sexual tension and a darkness, things that people don’t expect women to write about.”

Barbara Kingsolver, author of 'Flight Behaviour,' said she was hoping Homes would win.

Homes was one of three American authors shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year.

Barbara Kingsolver, one of this year’s American finalists for her book “Flight Behavior,” won the prize in 2010 and said that she had been actually hoping for Homes to win.

Kingsolver said she had just finished reading a nonfiction book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” which had changed her life because “pretty much all novelists are introverts, and it gives you permission to be the person you are.”

She also recommended one of her favorite writers, Margot Livesey, saying her book “The House on Fortune Street” was “everything a great novel should be.”

Maria Semple, author of 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette,' was shortlisted for the prize.

Also shortlisted was Maria Semple, a former TV writer based in Seattle, who was selected for her second novel, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.”


She attended the ceremony with fellow author Barbara Trapido, whose novel “Brother of a More Famous Jack” is one of Semple’s favorites and one that she said she would give everyone to read first.

Semple said she was currently reading “The Love Song of Johnny Valentine” by Teddy Wayne, describing it as a funny, sweet and smart book “that might be my new favorite book of the year.”

She also picked out Rachel Kushner’s “The Flamethrowers” as one to watch.

“I think it’s really brilliant, and I think that that’s going to be a big award book next year,” she said.