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60 of the Best Books for Women Written by Female Authors

Are you hoping to read more books for women that inspire, encourage and entertain? Consider this list the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

60 Best Books By WomenVIA MERCHANT (7)

Books for women, by women

Maybe you’re seeking an empathetic story about mothering. Or perhaps you’re craving a rollicking adventure tale that reminds you of fun nights out with the girls. Whatever your reading preference, you’ll find something to inspire, motivate or entertain you in the massive series of great books for women by female authors.

Our curated list of the best books for women (and, well, anyone!) includes recommendations from Reader’s Digest editors (look for the Reader’s Digest Editor’s Choice seal), along with bestsellers, award winners and a handful of classics that have helped shape the landscape of women’s literature today. We’ve also inserted a few delightful page-turners that received rave reviews from the sisterhood on Amazon and Goodreads. So whether you want to read romance novels, mother-daughter books, books about friendship or LGBTQ books, these books for women are a great place to start.

For more book trivia and inside info on authors and book news, follow the Reader’s Digest Select Editions page on Facebook.

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1. The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Historical fiction/mystery

“Dark, clever and wickedly funny,” according to Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation, this biting 2021 debut novel from Sarah Penner takes place in two timelines: present day and the 1790s. It centers around a mysterious apothecary shop that specializes in poisons, which it sells to women for use on oppressive men. Books for women don’t get more empowering than this dark, edgy tale, which is perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern and Rachel Kadish.

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2. An Everyday Hero by Laura Trentham

Contemporary romantic fiction

Published in early 2020, while the world was being plunged into a pandemic, Laura Trentham’s An Everyday Hero became a lovely quarantine escape for women who enjoy contemporary romantic stories—especially those with connections to the military. In the novel, washed-up singer-songwriter Greer Hadley spends her days doing community service at a nonprofit organization focused on helping veterans and their families. There, she meets Emmett Lawson, whose time in the service ravaged him. When the two team up to help someone else in pain and danger, they realize that everyone—yes, perhaps even themselves—deserves a second chance. This emotional work of fiction will impact veterans and those who love them with a reminder that there’s hope and redemption just around the corner.

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3. Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

Historical fiction

Kitty Zeldis’s 2018 novel smashes together two women’s lives in the wake of World War II. Jewish Eleanor Moskowitz and WASP Patricia Bellamy seem to have nothing in common, but a chance encounter in New York City leads Eleanor to join Patricia’s family estate to tutor the latter’s difficult daughter, Margaux. Friendship blossoms, love sparks and an unsettling summer evening leads the women to make decisions about their lives that could change everything. Not Our Kind isn’t a Holocaust book but instead helps illuminate for readers the impact WWII had on women everywhere. And Brooklyn-based Kitty Zeldis is one of the best female authors to get the job done with tenderness and panache.

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4. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Literary fiction

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2013 novel draws readers into a tangle of love and regret through the story of a Nigerian woman named Ifemelu. After immigrating to the United States—and being forced to leave her beloved Obinze behind—Ifemelu must learn what it’s like to be Black in her new country. Fans gush that Americanah brilliantly showcases the African diaspora in both the United States and United Kingdom, making it one of the best books about racism. It won the 2013 U.S. National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, landing it among literary classics such as Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and Ian McEwan’s Atonement. It’s worth a read for any woman who loves sinking her teeth into a thick tome.

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5. Home Front by Kristin Hannah

Domestic fiction

Published in 2013, Home Front unpeels the layers of modern marriage through the story of Michael and Jolene Zarkades. From the outside, the pair seems to have it all together. But inside the walls of their home, the couple knows that their relationship is unraveling. After Jolene is unexpectedly deployed, Michael begins parenting solo and trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Through alternating settings and narratives, Kristin Hannah paints a picture of marriage, love, war and the way all three can change us. Targeted toward all who enjoy domestic fiction, Kristin Hannah’s novel will appeal to a wide swath of readers—just like these great book subscription boxes.

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6. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Poetry

Whether you devour poetry books in one sitting or savor them over weeks or months, Milk and Honey will delight your feminine senses. This 2015 collection of poetry and prose from poet, speaker and female author Rupi Kaur grapples with the female experiences of beauty, abuse, societal expectations, love and more. The book is crafted in four segments meant to reflect the bitterness and sweetness of life as a modern woman. It’s a lovely gift to give other women or a beautifully bound collection for your own bedside stand or coffee table. It pairs well with other inspirational books for women.

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7. Rainwater by Sandra Brown

Historical fiction

Before publishing Rainwater in 2009, author Sandra Brown wrote books for women that encapsulated modern romance in contemporary settings. In this brilliant departure from her norm, Brown immerses readers in Depression-era Texas. There, a single mother takes in a mysterious man who can help her financially. The two grow close, and a quiet love begins to simmer. A gripping ending and painful sacrifice will have readers remembering this book for years to come. This one belongs on the shelf of fans of historical fiction, historical romance and heartbreakingly good reads.

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8. Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

Mystery/thriller

It’s 1944. Twenty-year-old Aki Ito and her parents have just left a Japanese internment camp. Instead of being sent home to California, they’re shuttled to a Japanese American neighborhood in Chicago. A family member dies, and the death is ruled a suicide. But was it intentional? And who will possibly take the new family’s side? Inspired by true events and a real crime, Clark and Division, published in 2021, is a heart-pounding read for thriller aficionados, true-crime buffs and anyone who wants to learn more about the bitter history of Japanese Americans in the 20th century.

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9. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Literary fiction

Toni Morrison won both the National Book Award and the 1977 Nobel Prize in literature for this masterpiece, which explores the life of Macon “Milkman” Dead, as well as his coming of age as a Black man in Michigan during the mid–20th century. This novel provides an insightful look at a person’s striving for identity, acceptance and, most of all, love. What makes this book particularly compelling for women is how it delicately showcases the way they’re essential to a functioning, balanced society. This is one of those incomparable books you have to read before you die.

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10. What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Domestic fiction

If you loved Naima Coster’s debut, Halsey Street, you’ll fall for this 2021 release too. The book details the integration of a public high school in Piedmont, North Carolina. Predictably, it covers the complexities of race, community, love and friendship. Less predictably, it does so across decades and urban centers—from Los Angeles to Paris—as the high school students’ choices about love, lust and loyalty ripple out for generations. This page-turner is perfect for women who enjoy plunging headfirst into the thicket of complicated relationships or anyone who wants to read more books by Black authors.

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11. The Tobacco Wives by Adele Myers

Historical fiction

North Carolina. 1946. The tobacco empire fuels the Southern economy and the dizzying array of soirees and social frippery. But when Maddie Sykes, dressmaker for the town’s upper crust, notices that many of the women around her are struck by similar health problems, she investigates. It turns out that the truth has the power to sever some bonds of friendship while strengthening others. Adele Myers’s debut is sure to make waves with its compelling characters, feminist themes and empowering story.

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12. The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

Historical fiction/mystery

The Mad Girls of New York follows female reporter Nellie Bly—yep, she’s based on the historical figure—as she sleuths her way around New York City in 1887. From brazen undercover operations to titillating scenes of flirtation and humor, this 2022 mystery book unfolds at a fun, breakneck speed that belies the seriousness of the topic Bly is investigating: the horrific conditions of a local insane asylum for women. This upbeat feminist mystery adventure showcases why women love reading tales spun by the inimitable Maya Rodale.

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13. The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher

Historical fiction

If the story of a Paris bookshop isn’t enough to make you swoon, there’s this: The shop, Shakespeare and Company, is a real, thriving operation even to this day. In The Paris Bookseller, released in early 2022, Kerri Maher fictionalizes the account of the real-life American woman who founded the shop and made a lasting impact on the literary world. For dreamers, entrepreneurs and bookworms, the fictional story of Sylvia Beach will inspire you and remind you that a little feminine magic can make all the difference.

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14. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Thriller

If your hackles rose at the 2019 film Bombshell, expect a similar response to this 2020 thriller with a sharp #MeToo focus. Whisper Network details the careers of three ambitious women who take a stand against their male boss after he makes inappropriate advances toward a colleague. Despite the shifting politics of modern-day offices, these women still face an avalanche of consequences for their courage. So, whose secrets will be revealed? Who will be rewarded for their sacrifice? A thriller like this might not top your list of motivational books for women, but we can’t deny there’s something energizing about a powerful, of-the-moment read like this one.

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15. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Domestic fiction

What would you do if the man you loved was accused of the unthinkable? Would you leave? Would you trust his denial? And how long is too long to wait for the truth? Celeste, the main character in Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage, must answer these questions at breathtaking speed. It’s a tightly wound tale of how a relationship bends and shifts under external pressures—and, in the end, how a marriage can dissolve slowly, quietly and from a distance. The novel received widespread praise when it was published in 2018 and will appeal to any woman who loves Oprah’s book club picks.

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16. Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart

Biography

No matter your politics, there’s no denying that Ruth Bader Ginsburg made an impact on gender issues and women’s history in the United States. Jane Sherron De Hart’s sweeping narrative about Ginsburg’s life would make a great gift, coffee table book or read for any American woman. The 2018 biography, following Justice Ginsburg’s career and private life over more than 500 riveting pages, is one of the best biographies to add to your must-read list.

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17. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Contemporary fiction

The accolades for Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing seem to stretch as far as the road trip in the plot. In addition to winning Ward the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction, this beauty was named a Time magazine Best Novel of the Year in 2017. The story centers on a less-than-classic American road trip: A drug-addicted mother hauls her two children, 13-year-old Jojo and his little sister, on a long journey to pick up their father from prison. Though anchored by the family’s struggles, this novel is one of our favorite books for women because of its clear reflection on the wider social and racial tensions still present in the American South.

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18. When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Historical fiction

From award-winning sportswriter Marjorie Herrera Lewis comes the story of how one woman led a Texas town’s high school football team while the men headed off to war in 1944. This 2018 novel based on a true story is part feminist rallying cry, part vibrant small-town tale. It’s also one of the best books for women who love a good game and who wonder about the impact women have had on sports for many decades. Even if you’re not a football fan, you’ll find yourself cheering for the Brownwood Lions under the Friday night lights. This would make a great book club read for women of all ages and interests.

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19. Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao

Contemporary fiction

Shobha Rao’s 2018 debut novel whisks readers from the rural hills of India to the dark, chaotic underbelly of a human trafficking ring in Seattle. The story is at turns heartbreaking and hopeful, but it is always timely. Dealing with issues from misogyny and sexual assault to immigration and class disparities, Rao’s brave writing leaves no stone unturned. Girls Burn Brighter follows two Indian girls as they leave their homes to find work. The friends become separated quickly, but the novel follows both until the moment they find out whether it’s possible to unite again. It’s an impactful tale of friendship that will appeal to women of all ages and backgrounds.

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20. All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung

Memoir

Author Nicole Chung was born in Korea and raised by white parents in Oregon. The older she got, the more feverishly curious she became about the mystery of her birth family. This memoir, published in 2018, is Chung’s story of searching for her roots, of familial redemption and of building a new family through, as she writes, “sheer force of will.” As mothers and daughters already know, love and belonging are complex. The book tackles these topics with unflinching candor. Chung deftly weaves universal truths into her very private story in All You Can Ever Know. Whether you have ever experienced adoption personally or not, this is a memoir everyone should read.

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21. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Literary fiction

Arundhati Roy’s contemporary classic was first published in 1997, and it made Roy a household name. USA Today called it “haunting” and full of “mystery, magic and sadness.” The story follows young twins Estha and Rahel as they are devastated by a series of events that dictate who they are allowed to love. Between forbidden love and political clashes, readers will find themselves questioning their preconceptions and ideals. It is the sort of story that will stick with you whether the women’s plights resonated with you or not.

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22. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Memoir

We would be remiss to leave out Michelle Obama’s powerhouse memoir—a standout story in any collection of books for women. It covers Obama’s roots, her time in the White House, her experiences with motherhood and her quest to find her own voice in all the noise. Published in 2018, Becoming has been on bestseller lists and book-club schedules ever since. Regardless of political affiliation, many women can appreciate Obama’s commitment to peeling back the layers of her public persona to relate to others on a more personal level. It is a peek into the life of one of the most prominent female figures of our time. Next, snag one of the best self-help books to keep you motivated to achieve your dreams.

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23. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Classic fiction

This 1927 novel by Virginia Woolf tells the story of the Ramsay family and their vacation to the Isle of Skye to escape the turmoil of living in London. While the plot appears simplistic from the outset, the classic novel is widely considered to be some of Woolf’s best writing. It effectively captures the power and poignancy of life’s “little moments” and how they come together to help shape a person’s purpose. This is a must-read for women who lean into psychological narratives and enlightening literary reads.

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24. Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich

Science fiction

Louise Erdrich’s dystopian story of evolution in reverse will chill you to your bones. Listed as a “Notable Book” by the New York Times, this science fiction title pushes hot-button topics such as women’s rights to their bodies and the clash between science and politics. It can leave as much of an impact now as it did when published in 2017. The bizarre, twisty story of a young woman fighting for the survival of her unborn child might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying Erdrich’s powerful writing and gut-wrenching plotline.

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25. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald

Memoir

Every once in a while, a book comes along that smashes two incongruent subjects together and turns the combination into something more beautiful, more true and more life-giving than the two could be on their own. Such is the case with British author Helen Macdonald’s 2014 H Is for Hawk. In this memoir, the author grapples with training a ferocious bird of prey while navigating the wild chaos of grief after her father’s death. Angry, intimate and beautiful, this is a story that will resonate with anyone who has faced unimaginable loss. It is truly one of the best inspirational books for women.

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26. What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Romantic fiction

Fans of classic “chick lit,” this one’s for you! Katherine Center’s 2020 novel follows school librarian Samantha Casey as she clashes with the new principal, a Type A steamroller of a man who just happens to be Samantha’s long-lost, unrequited love. This is the sort of delicious love story that can successfully buoy a bleak week or offer you an escape into someone else’s happily ever after. It’s perfect for lovers of romance novels, witty banter and easy, breezy reads.

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27. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Women’s fiction

This 1989 debut novel by Amy Tan tells the story of four immigrant Chinese women and the delicate relationships they foster with their American-born daughters. In the novel, which was a finalist for a National Book Award, Tan addresses universal themes of family, love, femininity and forgiveness while never losing sight of the fundamental struggles that mothers and daughters encounter. It’s a must-read for mothers everywhere and one of the best Asian American books.

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28. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Literary fiction

This epic 1982 novel by Alice Walker won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and spawned a 1985 Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. The intense book, which ranks as one of the most frequently banned books in America because of its violence and language, focuses on the lives of a group of African American women living in the rural South in the 1930s. As such, it addresses weighty themes such as racism, religion, love, marriage and sexual identity. If you’re looking for books about racism, this title is a must-read.

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29. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Historical fiction

This 2000 award-winning debut novel by British author Zadie Smith tells the story of two friends whose lives are forever intertwined—for better and for worse—after their shared experiences in World War II. Its fast-moving plot touches on everything from race, ethnicity and religion to society, class struggles and identity. The novel’s complex analysis of these heavy themes is even more remarkable if you consider the fact that Smith was only 24 when she wrote it. The result is a remarkably entertaining book for women and anyone who loves a powerhouse novel.

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30. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

Memoir

In her 1995 memoir, Mary Karr tells the story of her childhood growing up in the 1960s in an East Texas oil town. In the book, she shares intimate details about her alcoholic but hardworking father, her secretive and put-upon mother, and her complicated relationship with her older sister. It’s a haunting but humorous reminder for women that when it comes to family, there is a fine line between tragedy and comedy. If you’re looking for a good laugh, check out the funniest books of all time.

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31. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Dystopian

This award-winning 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood shares the point of view of a nameless “handmaid” narrator who is subjugated to a male “commander” for the sole purpose of conceiving a child. In this critically acclaimed novel (that’s now also a critically acclaimed TV series), women in the futuristic society are stripped of their identity and trapped in servitude to their male owners—and can experience love only through their memories. This gripping little book is a powerful read for women now and in the future.

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32. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Horror

In 1816, 18-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was hanging around with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and a few other male literary types, including the poet Lord Byron. Bored, she challenged the group to come up with the scariest stories they could muster. It was then that the future Mary Shelley crafted one of the most legendary and enduring stories in all of English literature: Frankenstein, a tale of the horrors that can result from testing the limits of consciousness and scientific inquiry. This tense, entertaining read made a splash when female authors were few and far between. It’s still a must-read for women who love literature.

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33. If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? by Erma Bombeck

Humor anthology

Long before comedic moms like Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Jenny Lawson were making us laugh, there was Erma Bombeck, a humor columnist who found literary success in the ’70s and ’80s sharing the everyday trials and tribulations of being a housewife and mother. Throughout her career, Bombeck published more than 4,000 newspaper columns and 15 books, including this laugh-out-loud one from 1978, in which she pokes fun at everything from marriage to family vacations to the national anthem.

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34. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Middle grade/science fiction

Published in 1962, this children’s novel by American writer Madeleine L’Engle was considered groundbreaking because it featured a young female as the protagonist of a science fiction novel, which was practically unheard of at the time. The book, which won the 1963 Newbery Medal and has never gone out of print, is a supernatural tale of 13-year-old Meg Murry’s adventures with time travel, but it also touches on themes of fate versus free will and good versus evil. It’s a female coming-of-age book for teens, tweens, adults and everyone in between.

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35. The Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector

Psychological thriller

Published in 1977, the year of its author’s death, The Hour of the Star has been a sleeper hit for generations. Jewish Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector spins an imaginative tale about a poor, plain typist named Macabéa, who mesmerizes the story’s narrator, Rodrigo. This is the sort of book that will remind women how talented writers, both vintage and modern, can switch prose quickly from wickedly funny to wise. It’s a suitable choice for any reader who loves psychological thrillers or clever turns of phrase.

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36. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Essay collection

Called “the antidote to mansplaining” by Seattle’s The Stranger, this 2015 short book of essays wrestles with gender, power and sexism in sentences sharp and witty. At turns cutting and hilarious, Rebecca Solnit (a writer, historian and activist) manages to capture what it feels like to be a modern-day woman. This timely collection would make the perfect gift for mothers, sisters, aunts or friends who need to be reminded that they’re not alone in the battle of the sexes.

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37. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Biography

A New York Times bestseller and winner of the Chicago Tribute Heartland Prize for Nonfiction, Rebecca Skloot’s 2011 book about Henrietta Lacks is part biography, part investigative journalism, part science narrative. The truth is that though the cells taken from Henrietta became the foundation for several scientific discoveries, there’s little known about the woman herself. Author Rebecca Skloot spent years speaking to the Lacks family about Henrietta, pulling together the threads of conversations and history to present what she learned about this remarkable woman. An important note: This story of a historic Black woman is told by a white biographer. Still, it is a powerful retelling of events every modern woman should know.

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38. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Memoir

There are dozens of books detailing the fraught relationship between mothers and daughters. In Alison Bechdel’s 2007 graphic memoir, she tackles the tension between herself and her late gay father. In Fun Home, Bechdel dives into the experience of learning about her dad’s homosexuality while coming to terms with her own. Punctuated by death, sexual themes and poignant literary references, this memoir was crafted for women navigating the muddy waters of their own identity and highlights how they were shaped by the public and private personas of their family members. If you love this approach to storytelling, check out these graphic novels.

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39. Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Literary fiction

One of the best books by Latinx authors, Afterlife follows recently widowed Antonia and her immigrant neighbors. The compact novel, published in 2020, manages to draw out and lay bare some of the most poignant thoughts and emotions of someone left behind by a loved one. Through Antonia’s sharp dialogue and encounters with the souls around her, the book asks and answers questions like “How do we truly honor those we’ve lost?” and “What is our enduring responsibility to the humans who enter our orbit?” This beautiful work of literary fiction will touch women readers who have ever loved and lost.

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40. The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson

Women’s fiction

What happens when a stranger can give more love to children than their mother? What happens when the mother returns, healed and whole and ready to take charge again? What is right or wrong when two good women want to mother the same children? In this emotional roller coaster of a story, Seré Prince Halverson presents readers with a grief-stricken stepmother, a changed mother and the custody battle that ensues. Published in 2012, The Underside of Joy will resonate deeply with anyone who has experienced the plight of either mother, but it will pull at the heartstrings of all readers—especially mothers and those who were raised by multiple caregivers.

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41. In the Shadow Garden by Liz Parker

Magical realism

Meet the Haywoods: three generations of women whose magic can read the future in tea leaves and ease the townsfolk’s heartache and sorrow. It’s because of their shadow garden that the bourbon from the Bonner’s distillery can wipe away your worst memory once each year. But two decades ago, the town gave up an entire summer’s worth of memories, including the key to a death that’s haunted the Haywoods for years. The richly atmospheric tale unravels the mystery like a slow sip of bourbon, letting readers sink into themes of grief and trauma, love and betrayal, and what it means to be a family. Fans of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Sarah Allen Addison’s Garden Spells will find themselves enraptured by this fantastical 2022 debut novel.

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42. The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Dystopian

Imagine a world where eyes are watching a mother’s every move. In this 2022 cautionary tale by Jessamine Chan, single mother Frida Liu is sentenced to a full year of parenting rehab for leaving her toddler unattended. But instead of equipping Frida with resources to navigate solo parenting, the instructors belittle and control her, even providing a script for video calls to check in with her daughter. If you love The Handmaid’s Tale and other dystopian books, The School for Good Mothers is sure to raise your hackles and grip your attention.

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43. The Maid by Nina Prose

Mystery

Nita Prose’s 2022 debut also landed on our list of best fiction books of the year. The delightful whodunnit has an eccentric collection of characters in a lavish old hotel. What setting could be more perfect for a cozy mystery? After the requisite murder is discovered, housekeeper Molly Gray comes under scrutiny. Where was Molly when the murder took place? What has she seen or heard in the inner sanctums of each guest? Fans of Agatha Christie books will adore The Maid and its namesake character.

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44. The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Science fiction

Didn’t read Jennifer Egan’s The Goon Squad? No problem! This 2022 sister novel can stand on its own. Here, readers are immersed in the Black Mirror-esque world of tech tycoon Bix Bouton. The man has built an empire upon “Own Your Unconscious”—a controversial technology that allows users to share their own memories in exchange for immersing themselves in someone else’s. But how do real love stories, authentic friendships and even sweet, sweet alone time exist in such a world? This helter-skelter science fiction book explores life in which role-playing is the standard rather than an escape.

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45. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Historical fiction

Not only does Yaa Gyasi’s book make our list of the best books for women, but it also snagged a top spot on our curation of the best books by Black authors. It’s a tale of two Ghanaian sisters: one who married rich and the other who was enslaved and shipped off to America. Over the next generations, these divergent paths reflect the painful depths of colonization and how trauma passes down from mothers to daughters.

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46. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Literary fiction

Though some readers decry the young heroine’s unrealistic survival skills, most critics have raved about Delia Owens’s tale of an impoverished girl who learns to write poetry and study physics in a swamp shack in 1960s North Carolina. The plot thickens when the girl emerges and is pinned for the murder of a man from her past. Whether you love or hate the haunting story, Delia Owens has cemented herself as one of the best female authors of our time—so much so that Where the Crawdads Sing has also been turned into a movie.

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47. Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Domestic fiction

Called “a story of absolute, universal timelessness” by Entertainment Weekly, this 2022 coming-of-age story grapples with the weighty themes of racism, colorism, classism and identity. The story begins in a tiny Southern town called Mallard. But Mallard isn’t just any old town. It’s populated by white-passing Black families. When the 16-year-old Vignes twins decide to cut loose and seek a life beyond Mallard, they realize the world beyond is much more complex than they knew. Readers, prepare to mull over this taut, poignant work of fiction long after the last page.

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48. Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Memoir

Like many memoirs by female authors, Untamed (2020) is hard to pin down. Part autobiography, part self-help, part female empowerment manifesto, Glennon Doyle’s New York Times bestseller has captivated and inspired readers all over the globe. As bestselling author, researcher and speaker Brené Brown put it, “Some books shake you by the shoulder while others steal your heart. In Untamed, Glennon does both at the exact same time.” And while billed as one of the best books for women, the inspirational messages can resonate with all readers.

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49. Normal People by Sally Rooney

Fiction

Recently transformed into a Hulu series, this 2020 New York Times bestseller flings readers headfirst into the romantic experiences of 21st-century college students. Will all readers love this female author’s sensitive take on the emotional landscape of young adults? Perhaps not. But in Normal People, Sally Rooney manages to delicately clasp and then lay bare the ephemeral experience of first loves and forever friendships.

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50. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Classic

Jane Austen’s 1813 story of the Bennet sisters has made its way through women’s homes, classrooms and libraries for more than 200 years. The young ladies’ sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant pursuit of marriage is often considered one of the best romance novels, but it’s a good old-fashioned page-turner for fans of domestic fiction, literary fiction and witty banter too.

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51. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Anthology

All of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books make an impression on readers, but why not start at the beginning? Her 1999 collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, uses familiar themes—love, lust and loss—to dissect the ways Indian and American cultures intersect and clash. The universal appeal of Lahiri’s prose makes this book full of some of the best short stories and one of the best books for women.

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52. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Contemporary fiction

Female author Gail Honeyman’s 2017 debut took bookstores by storm. Some readers were charmed by the loner protagonist’s unwitting humor. Others saw glimpses of themselves in Eleanor’s commitment to routine to avoid pain. Of course, when Eleanor and her coworker Raymond finally interact while helping a pedestrian in need, will Eleanor open herself up to human connection after all? This beautiful novel brims with redemptive perspectives on mental health and friendship.

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53. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Magical realism

Isabel Allende’s groundbreaking 1982 novel follows multiple generations of women in the Trueba clan, all strung together by a common man: Esteban. This instant bestseller celebrates the power of women, the magic of love and the way fate ties a family together. (It’s been a banned book too!)

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54. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Historical fiction

Most know Elizabeth Gilbert for Eat, Pray, Love. But in 2019, the bestselling author released an escapist fiction story that goes down like a fizzy cocktail on a hot summer day. City of Girls plucks wealthy college student Vivian Morris straight from Vassar College and sets her down in a 1940s New York City playhouse packed with sizzling showgirls and sexy actors. The result is a coming-of-age plot about living large, learning what matters and rolling with the punches.

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55. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Crime thriller

“This scorpion-tailed little thriller leaves a response, and a sting, you will remember,” according to the New York Times. An instant 2018 hit, My Sister, the Serial Killer makes every sentence of its 240 pages count. There’s Korede, a Nigerian woman wracked by unrequited love and a dogged obligation to clean up her sister’s mistakes. Then there’s the sister: beautiful, deadly Ayoola, who can barely keep her sociopathic tendencies under wraps. So when Ayoola sets her sights on Korede’s crush, what’s an embattled sibling supposed to do?

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56. Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris

Travel memoir

Whether Kate Harris’s 2018 chronicle of her bicycle journey along the ancient Silk Road sparks wanderlust or gratitude for the comforts of home, it’s the sort of armchair travel memoir women of all ages and all walks of life can enjoy. Suspicious border crossings and swashbuckling adventures aside, the book shines with lyrical sentences, lush descriptions and witty self-awareness.

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57. These Tangled Vines by Julianne Maclean

Family drama

For fans of cozy mysteries, domestic fiction and a splash of romance (the setting is Italy, after all) comes this juicy novel bursting with old secrets, new flames and the courage to be yourself. Julianne Maclean’s 2021 These Tangled Vines teleports readers to the sun-soaked hills of Tuscany. But all is not well at the family vineyard. In fact, it might not be protagonist Fiona’s family vineyard at all. At 30 years old, she learns that her estranged biological father has died and left her an inheritance. But when she shows up in Italy to collect, the rest of the family is shocked that she exists.

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58. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

Contemporary fiction

This 2018 masterpiece from Fatima Farheen Mirza was dubbed “one of the best books of the year” by the Washington Post, NPR, People magazine and more. Through the perspective of two Indian American parents as the family reunites for a wedding, the story explores questions of international identity, belonging and what it truly means to be part of an American family. Rafiq and Layla’s aching desire for their children to belong in two worlds at once gives way to both joy and sorrow, bonds and breaks.

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59. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Young adult/LGBTQ

Gabby Rivera is the first Latina to write for Marvel Comics. She’s also the author of the 2016 (2021 reprint) Juliet Takes a Breath, an adult rom-com about a Puerto Rican lesbian who decides to come out to her mom the night before jetting across the country for a summer internship. Thrumming with themes of identity—both sexual and racial—and belonging, this irreverent, laugh-out-loud book will speak just as much to established women reinventing themselves as it does to young women finding their footing on the cusp of adulthood.

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60. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Mystery fiction

The 2015 debut of Celeste Ng offers a heartbreaking story of a Chinese American family upended by sudden tragedy. Fans of Little Fires Everywhere will recognize Ng’s poignant way of delving deep into characters’ internal conflicts while still keeping the plot moving at a brisk clip. In Everything I Never Told You, the author is particularly deft at exploring the intricacies of mother-daughter relationships and the unique burden of family secrets.

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Leandra Beabout
Leandra is a lifestyle writer covering health, travel, and literature. A former high school English teacher, she covers books, words, and grammar for RD.com. When she’s not on deadline, you can find her curled up with a new library book or road-tripping through Europe or the American West.