How to be a Heroine

"All the books I love, remembered."—Nigella Lawson

"Wonderful"—Jacqueline Wilson (who picked it as one of her six favourite books)

"A fantastically inspirational memoir that makes you want to reread far too many books"—Viv Groskop, Observer

"My new best friend in book form...like stumbling into the kitchen at a party and discovering everyone you liked in one room."—Sam Baker, Harper's Bazaar

"Any woman...with a remotely bookish childhood will find great pleasure in How to be a Heroine"—Daisy Goodwin, Sunday Times

"It's not so much self-help as shelf-help, as Ellis applies fresh insights to her own life dilemmas and proffers some inspiring solutions to everyday problems. A truly brilliant read" — Eithne Farry, Marie Claire

"A brilliant book."—Nicola Beauman, Persephone Books

"How to Be a Heroine is an honest, warm and readable book about the plots we follow in order to make sense of our lives, the selves we adopt as we grow up and the selves we shed... Wise, courageous and endlessly generous, Ellis is something of a heroine herself." — Frances Wilson, Literary Review

"This warm, witty memoir is...a life-affirming feminist text...delivered with...dexterity and sly humour."—Lee Randall, The Scotsman (and books of the year for 2014).

"Ellis’s sensitive and witty analyses reflect the power classic fictional heroines have not only to inspire but also—as in Jane’s Eyre’s case—to endlessly surprise, even horrify"—Bidisha

"Nora Ephron's injunction to 'be the heroine of your life, not the victim' is the inspiration for Ellis's jaunty, witty book. Her eclectic heroines, from Shakespeare's to Jilly Cooper's, allow her to think about feminism without tangling with theory"—Ruth Scurr, Telegraph

"Delightful and hilarious"—Lucy Farmer, The Economist

"Listen up, ladies: it's never too late to become your own heroine. This warm, spry tale of a textual coming of age leads the way through a gallery of literary role models, introducing and reintroducing warriors and worriers, spinsters and seductresses. Plucked from the pages of authors from Jane Austen to Jilly Cooper, there are heroines here to make you bold, make you laugh, and make you mad. They'll all get you thinking." — Hephzibah Anderson 

"How To Be A Heroine happily reminds all bookworms of years of their life spent in the company of Scarlett, Katy, Jane Eyre, the March family and all those wonderful friends that only really exist in our hearts." — Shirley Conran

"Pithy, funny and poignant"—Simon Round, Jewish Chronicle

"A totally glorious celebration of what it is to grow up loving books, a fascinating examination of femininity in literature"—Nicci Cloke, Someday Found

"Her voice—hyper verbal, witty, pragmatic, learned and emotional—is one of the strongest I've read recently. Best of all...she has written herself a barnstorming ending: a culmination of confessional writing, joyful imagination and clever reasoning that might just really help people. What more, frankly, could a heroine hope for?"—Daisy Parente, Book Reporter

"The best kind of book: one that I gobbled up, wanting to go slow to savour it but unable to stop reading until it was all gone. One that made me want to run to the bookshop to buy copies of novels I've never got round to reading and devour those, too."—Rebecca Armstrong, Independent on Sunday

"Ellis not only makes you want to go and re-read your own teenage canon but to recapture that mode of absorbing novels...If this is a defence of 'reading for wisdom', then the wisdom in her own writing makes an eloquent testimony"—Joanna Thomas-Corr, Evening Standard

"Brilliant... From Lizzy Bennet to 'go-getting Judy Jordan' from Lace, Samantha Ellis did what we all do, mostly without realising: tried other people's lives on for size in literature" — Viv Groskop, Red

"A treasure-trove of once beloved characters"—Lucy Scholes, Independent

"Delightfully funny and warmly honest"—Eithne Farry, Mail

"A real treat"—Good Housekeeping

"It fizzes along, thanks to Ellis's warm humour and interesting back story...Plus how could we resist a book that reminisces about Judy Blume novels?"—Glamour

"All books should be this much fun to read"—Madam J-Mo

"Amusing...breezy"—Cressida Connolly, Spectator

"warm-spirited biblio-autobiography...She is endearingly open about her vulnerabilities, superstitions, love tangles and defeats and is adept at droll asides"—Claire Harman, Guardian

"An honest and open-hearted book by someone whose life has been informed and enriched by her reading"—Susan Hill, The Times

"A joy to read"—Running in Heels

"brilliant, beautifully written and unbelievably insightful"—Feed Me Books Now

"an extraordinary read which had me constantly wanting to go back and read the books of my childhood and teenage years (and beyond)"—Girl Reporter

"a celebration of the companionship reading brings, and the comfort and guidance that provides. I was left feeling happily reassured that whatever one goes through in real life, a reader will always have a bank of fictional heroines to whom she can turn."—Emily Rhodes, Emily Books  (and books of the year for 2014)

"Fantastically empowering"—Kat Brown, Domestic Sluttery

"This book is made of awesome"—Lit Nerd

"She articulates so brilliantly the feeling I have always had—that characters from the books I've read and loved are real people in my life, with just as much influence as actual friends."—Helen Chandler, Life, Love, Books and Cake

"I'd like to give this to all my women friends—and my daughter."—Amanda Craig on Amazon

"A book for anyone who was once (or perhaps, like me, who still is!) a bookish, slightly odd girl, happiest to take their cues on living from the characters in novels because they feel like our friends"—Janet at Words That Can Only Be Your Own

"I loved every minute of reading this book. It went too quickly. I gobbled, as I often do, but this book sent me back for seconds, it sent me to my own bookshelves"—Nathalie Foy

"Warm and welcoming—like chatting to a big sister"—Lizzy Dening, Grazia

"Her sentences...bloom with a grave beauty...Ellis...reaches the end of her quest, modestly, hopefully enlightened. Which is why anyone who expresses an interest in Eat, Pray, Love should be handed this book instead"—Carlene Bauer, The Tablet

"A book to love for its heart, its soul, and its bookishness"—Fleur in Her World

"A really great read that immediately shot to the very top of my personal 'Books That I Wish I'd Thought Of First' list"—Melanie Clegg (Madame Guillotine)

"A delight"—Jeanne Sutton, Image Magazine

"Laugh-out-loud, intensely observed...Nostalgic, warming and a stern lesson for life, How to Be a Heroine should be on everyone’s bookshelf"—Georgia Mizen, The Upcoming

"Compelling...a brilliant read"—Aimee Cottle, Life Through Books


"Like being in a book group without leaving the house"—Katie Fforde

"Unusually candid"—Hannah Rosefield, Prospect

"I was utterly gripped...a brilliant, brilliant read"—Sara Sheridan

"Ellis combines serious intent with wonderful wit, panache, and whilst taking her journey seriously, has great droll fun at her own expense—and that of her heroines"—Lady Fancifull

"Wonderfully entertaining"—Nicola Weideling

"Beautiful and uplifting"—Natalie Sewell at Veni Vidi Green Tea

"a funny, interesting and intelligent trip through one woman's bookshelf"—JC

"Charming, fascinating and deeply resonant"—Kathy at The Shake

"Lovely...moving and astute and fascinating"—Emma Beddington aka Belgian Waffle

"Funny, brilliant"—Lyn Julius at Point of No Return

"The book I'm most likely to recommend"—Lucybird's Book Blog

"Wonderfully witty"—Ceris Aston in The Skinny

"Fresh, clever and perceptive"—Jane Brocket

"Pure pleasure—and thought-provoking, revealing, brave, frank and funny too."—Alison Mercer

"This is the book for those of us who really like reading"—Moira Redmond at Clothes in Books

"Just magical"—Alice at Of Books

"Celebrates but also bravely criticises great literary heroines whom most would not dare to challenge"—Frieda Ford in The Lady

"As a 17 year old girl who has based an alarming number of decisions on what I believed my favourite protagonists would do, I feel like I kind of needed this book"—Sonia Mansouri at Smoke and Velvet

"Invigoratingly feminist"—Amy Wootten in The Edge

"Flawless"—Ivonne Garcia at The Cat in the Bookshelf

"Very entertaining"—Charlie Edmunds at Screenful of Words

"Anyone with any serious interest in English Literature, storytelling, the development of characters, narrative and feminism should read this charming work"—Julie Mullins at Julie Arts

"A book I wish I had written. You need it in your life"—Paula at Cornflakegirl's Musings

"An entertaining, intelligent read—the perfect choice for all women who grew up loving books"—Berwyn Peet at Nudge

"Ellis shows how she took what she needed from her heroines and how that's changed whilst leaving space for the reader to consider the relationship they have with the same books. I can't recommend How to be a Heroine highly enough"—Naomi Frisby at The Writes of Woman

"Ellis becomes as much a heroine as the women who inspired her."—Tracey Sinclair in Exeunt

"The book you want to read and then discuss with all your friends"—Lindsay Stefan at Literary Lindsey

"Warm, witty, and makes you want to rush off and re-read all the books"—Sarah LeFanu in CAM magazine

Observer Rising Star of 2014

Best books of the year so far in Harper's Bazaar

A book of the year for 2014 in the Sunday Herald

A book of the year for 2014 in the Independent

A book of the year for 2014 in Clothes in Books

"Dazzling, witty and heartwarming"—Sally Morris in the Mail's must-reads.

"Stimulating and thought-provoking"—Daisy at Chapter and Verse Reviews

"A brave, intelligent read"—Fran Roberts, The House of Blog


American reviews

"A love letter to the world of books"—Miranda Kennedy in the LA Review of Books


"Charming, gracefully-written"—Kirkus Reviews

"A rousing call for women to be the heroines in their own lives, and it’s good fun, to boot"—Bridget Thoreson, Booklist starred review


A book of the year for 2014 in the Chicago Reader.


"I felt like this book had been written for me"—Carole Besharah at Barda Book Talk


"Fascinating"—Rebecca Foster at Booktrib


"Feels like you're talking to a good friend over a glass of wine, with Ellis's charming and witty way with words"—video review from Abby Reads


"This memoir...will be the soundtrack to Belle's new reading life"—Dana Staves in Book Riot


"You'll love Ellis's enthusiasm and humour"—Caroline Goldstein in Bustle


"I love the whole premise of this book"—The Readist


"Ellis[s]...reflections on a conservative childhood and how books offered indispensable companionship and insight will hit a soft spot for anyone who grew up reading late into the night beneath the covers"—Leah Dearborn on LitReactor


"Witty charmer of a memoir"—Cathleen Medwick in More magazine

"A gem for any bibliophile"—Ms magazine

"Ellis relives her life, sometimes nostalgically, sometimes ruefully, through the novels which once enlivened her. The result is sometimes shocking, but always honest."—Kevin Nenstiel at Wordbasket

"Irresistible"—Meagan Lacy, Library Journal

"Like a warm cup of tea and a good talk with my closest girlfriend...a  book that sparked my brain and made me want to talk about the girls I've loved—Anne, Lucy, Jo—with the woman that I've become"—Elisabeth Donnelly at Flavorwire

"Poignant, hilarious and fascinating"—Carolyn Gruss at Kid Lit Frenzy

"I found myself delighting over this book and devouring it slowly, like a rich chocolate cake. For the woman finding her place, or the wrier looking to find her historical heritage I cannot think of a better book to lose yourself in"—Victoria Irwin at Fan Girl Nation

"A delightful journey down the bookish rabbit hole of female characters and their creators"—Meganne Fabrega at the Star Tribune

"Compelling insights about the narratives of women's lives"—Anne Boyd Rioux at The Rumpus

"How to Be a Heroine made me feel like I was sitting with a friend and gossiping about our favorite books, and I loved it."—Megan Gianniny at The Daily Geekette 

"Provoking and interesting"—Sally Allen at HamletHub

"Incisive and hilarious"—Kasia Hopkins at The News Gazette

"Addictive"—Patricia Duffaud at The Book Bag

"Like having a heartfelt conversation about life and favourite novels with an avid, well-read best friend"—Jenny Hagerty at AustenProse

"How to be a Heroine is a smash"—Grace Labatt at Santa Fe New Mexican

"How to be a Heroine will inspire you"—Catherine Kovach in Bustle, on 13 Books That Could Help You Find Yourself

"Insightful critical...memoir of a lifetime of reading"—Jennifer Vega on Effusions of Wit and Humour

"Ellis rejects the notion that life just happens to women"—PopMatters

"Her love of literature, coupled with a warm, engaging style, makes this feel more like an enjoyable book conversation with a friend than some attempt at armchair literary criticism"—It's a Hardback Life

"The book every reader wishes they had written"—Shaun Byron Fitzpatrick on the Barnes and Noble blog

"Full of the same charm, wit and warmth befitting any good Jane Austen protagonist"—Kristen Zory King at Vegas Seven

"Nostalgic, clear-eyed, critical"—Dana Staves at BookRiot

"Fascinating and enjoyable"—Kaitlyn at A Comfy Chair

"Pure delight"—Amanda Romine Lynch

"If you are a book lover, especially if you have read classic female characters with a passion that has almost seemed scary, you need this book"—Meghan at Loving Literature

"Accessible and thoughtful"—Snark Notes

"Tender...critical"—Davida Chazen at The Chocolate Lady's Book Reviews

"As an avid reader, this memoir of sorts was one of the best I've read"—Rachel at Definitely Not For the Birds

"Literacy autobiography on steroids"—Ms Angie at A Series of (Un)Fortunate Reviews

"The perfect combination...of memoir and literature"—Julie G at Book Hooked Blog

"Fresh and funny"—Molly Crumbley at Hey Boo Books

"Fascinating"—Lesa Holstine at Lesa's Book Critiques

"Inspirational"—Eugenia Shmulevich at Jewish Books Are Awesome

"I devoured it"—Jess Gofton at Curiouser and Curiouser

"Delightful!"—Carin Siegfried at Caroline Bookbinder

"A grand literary tour"—Alex Bledsoe

"Awesome...she talks about all her favs like old friends"—Donna at Tell Me a Story

"Enchanting"—Roz Writes

"Witty"—Kristian Wilson in Bustle's 15 Books for Confident Women

"Ellis cheerfully romps across genres"—Orchestrating a Sea Change

"I want to be bolder"—Marissa Skudlarek in San Francisco Theatre Pub

"Unique and brilliant"—Read. Write. Repeat.

How to be a Heroine on the 2016 Amelia Bloomer List of recommended feminist books