I just finished My Antonia by Willa Cather, and her prose is so engrossing, I couldn't put it down. So if you haven't read that yet, give it a try!
I loved My Antonia as well. Beautiful prose. Male narrator, but the eponymous heroine is a strong, independent frontier woman.
Alas, I read it in high school, where my English teacher sucked all the joy from it. I did quite love Death Comes for the Archbishop though - it probably helped that I read it on my own.
Maybe once you get enough distance, try it again? I was really loathe to try it, because my English teacher sucked the life from O, Pioneers!.

Depending on what kind of writing style you like, Vendela Vida is an author I've recently gotten into. She writes short novels, well-paced, all female protagonists. An interesting novel I enjoyed was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, I think?
Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the rest of that series?

I can't much help you here, I'm afraid; I read precious little non-genre fiction.
I haven't. Everyone keeps recommending it to me, but I walked in on my boyfriend watching the movie, and it was a really horrifying rape scene. I just don't know if I could withstand reading it in print.
Mm, I had forgotten about that -- the actual rape; I remembered the other bit of sexual assault, however, as it's a fairly major plot point. Though Lisbeth does get her revenge (the series' original title was "the men who hate women", not "the millennium series"; it was renamed because they didn't think they could sell it in the U.S.)
I walked out of that scene in the movie. I knew it was coming and couldn't deal. The book scene is just as bad, and a lot longer. :-/

I loved Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres - King Lear from the point of view of Goneril and Regan, transposed into the American Midwest.

I'm also really enjoying working my way through Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie series.

Have you read Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy?

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - the description didn't grab me, but once I started reading it was very compelling.

The Still Point by Amy Sackville - a first novel that has me eagerly awaiting whatever she comes up with next.
Hmm, I tend to prefer fantasy and such, but...
Have you read...

To Kill a Mocking bird?
Little Women?
Anything by Sherman Alexie, Jane Austen or Nick Hornby?
Sherlock Holmes?
Possession by AS Byatt?

My mom usually talks up The Cider House Rules.
Everyone in my office is going wild over Amor Towles' Rules of Civility.

I haven't read it, but here's the summary:

Set in New York City in 1938, Rules of Civility tells the story of a watershed year in the life of an uncompromising twenty-five-year- old named Katey Kontent. Armed with little more than a formidable intellect, a bracing wit, and her own brand of cool nerve, Katey embarks on a journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool through the upper echelons of New York society in search of a brighter future.


Edited at 2011-09-23 03:30 pm (UTC)
Have you read any Sarah Waters? If not, Fingersmith is great, and so is The Night Watch.
Though the plot stretches credulity by the end, I enjoyed Kate Atkinson's Behind the Scenes at the Museum, about an odd British family that runs a shop. (Don't care for her Jackson Brodie mystery series, though.)

If you like interesting old children's books, try The Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit (Bastable children) -- or any of her magic books (Five Children and It, The Phoenix and the Carpet, etc.)
I just finished Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto and thought of you so much while reading it! Having lived over there, I imagine it's been on your radar, but on the off chance it hasn't-- go get it! A little sad, but incredibly beautiful prose and I think you'd love the food/kitchen themes.

I also enjoyed Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald-- it's kinda chick lit-y, but the themes and descriptions of this young Iranian woman coming to America and her reactions to things and the culture clash are wonderful. The supporting characters are all wonderfully flawed but likable, and the male romantic lead is adorable.
I love Kitchen! I bought it by pure chance when it came out and it's one of my favorites. (I even used the first line as a prompt in a drabblefest at where_no_woman. ITA that igs would enjoy the food and kitchen themes. Seconded!
Omg. Kitchen was one of the books I was batting around in my head when I saw the topic! I also liked Sleep, by Banana Yoshimoto, but I don't remember it as well.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Why must Barnes & Noble torment me so! Kitchen sounded perfect, but it's not available for Nook.
If you haven't read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I highly recommend it. (Anne Bronte.)
I love Michael Chabon, and very especially recommend several of his books:

- if you want something longer and absorbing, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (golden age of comic books, lots of wonderful meditative stuff about art and suffering and love and redemption, also amazing characters) or The Yiddish Policeman's Union (which is alt-history so may run afoul of your "no fantasy" rule, but the worldbuilding! takes place in Alaska in the present day, but Alaska has been the homeland of the Jews since the end of WWII, this book is flat-out brilliant and amazing)

- shorter works, if you prefer less of a time commitment, but still delightful: The Final Solution: A Story of Detection (a retired and increasingly impaired Sherlock Holmes, keeping bees in the country, crosses paths with a mute boy--a Jewish war refugee--and his parrot; there's a chapter from the parrot's POV, I don't even know but it's awesome) and Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure which I just read and could not put down. It's hard to explain but it's the adventures of a couple of con artist/travelers in central Asia in the 10th century. (Also, Michael Chabon always makes me feel excellent about my tendency to construct very elaborate sentences, and reading him is fantastic for the vocabulary.)
Of course, the two of those I haven't read are not available for Nook. It's a shame; the Sherlock Holmes one sounded particularly interesting.
I recently read A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, which I liked a lot.
Oh, and if you haven't read Foucault's Pendulum, I suspect you'd probably like it despite its relative lack of female characters.
You could also try "The School of Essential Ingredients" by Erica Bauermeister. It's a series of short stories that revolve around a resturant owner and her cooking class students.