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The Women Faculty Book Club at FIU meets to affirm our membership in a community of book lovers. With each work we discuss, we deepen our shared experience, learn more about each other and ourselves, and honor the heritage of women's creativity across eras and cultures.

Founded in 1991 by Judith Hicks Stiehm and Marilyn Hoder-Salmon, our club has had more than 40 members as part of a continuing conversation. We've read fiction, biography, memoir and history; prize-winners, bestsellers, underrated and classic books.

All are welcome to browse our book list and reviews. Women faculty interested in joining the book club should contact Joyce Peterson at

View or download our bookmark with books list

Previous books

  • 2021

    The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

    The Sentence is "a bewitching novel that begins with a crime that would seem to defy 'relatability' but becomes a practical metaphor for whatever moral felonies lurk unresolved in your guilty heart."(NYT review by Molly Young)

    Matrix, by Lauren Groff

    Groff’s new novel imagines the life of a 12th century French orphan, Marie de France, a member of the royal family exiled from court to manage a run-down abbey. It is the story of an all-female community and of female ambition and power. According to the NYT: “In these pages, men never appear, they only loom-a chronic menace of randy villagers and diocesan superiors...” 

    Damnation Spring, by Ash Davidson

    Davidson’s novel tells the story of a Northern California logging community in the 1970s.  NYT reviewer John McMurtrie finds it “a vivid portrayal of the land and its people, a snapshot of a not-so distant time, but it also digs into the gnarled history of the place.  And it’s a glorious book-an assured novel that’s gorgeously told…and seamlessly flows between tense scene and quiet moment.”  McMurtrie concludes “it’s about human nature.  It’s about our relationship to our loved ones and our communities, it’s about morality and greed, it’s about our understanding of and respect for the natural world.”

    Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead

    Great Circle is historical fiction framed around the stories of two women: Marian Graves, who early in the 20th century decides to devote her life to the adventure of flying and Hadley Baxter, a present-day actress who will portray Marian in a Hollywood biopic based on her life. "At a moment when so many novels seem invested in subverting form Great Circle follows in a long tradition of big sweeping narratives. Critic Lynn Steger Strong notes the novel's "immersive sense of pleasure...It grasps for and ultimately reaches something extraordinary...In thinking about flight (and ambition and art) action- packed book, rich with character."

    Family Happiness, by Laurie Colwin

    Family Happiness is the story of Polly...happily married...with two wonderful children...Polly manages everything: delicious meals, parent-teacher conferences, a job, a peaceful home, and weekly family reunions at which she juggles food aversions, vegetarianism, kosher requirements, and family tradition with aplomb. How could anyone guess that Poly, who has never been anything but good, is conducting a love affair?

    Everybody Knows Your Mother is a Witch, by Rivka Galchen

    This work of historical fiction is set in 1619 in Wurttemburg and involves witchcraft accusations against Katharina Kepler. Reviewer Wyatt Mason describes the novel as "a persuasive and very beautiful work of fiction" that provides "a psychological portrait of mass delusion … alive on every page … this writer can animate even the most familiar material and make it beautifully, and memorably, new."

    Libertie, by Kaitlyn Greenidge

    Libertie is historical fiction inspired by the life of the first Black female doctor in New York State and her daughter, both on different trajectories toward freedom. NYT reviewer Margret Wilkerson Sexton writes that Libertie "is a feat of monumental thematic imagination … that both mines history and transcends time, centering her post-Civil-War New York story around an enduring quest for freedom."

    Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear

    Maisie Dobbs, set in 1929, is the first book in a series that follows the career of a female London detective. Marilyn Stasio's NYT review introduced this series thus: "There's something strange about tie title character of Jacqueline Winspear's deft debut novel,...For a clever and resourceful young woman who has just set herself up in business as a private investigator, Maisie seems a bit too sober and much too sad. Romantic readers sensing a story-within-a-story won't be disappointed. but first, they must prepare to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment, an apparent case of marital infidelity that turns out to be a wrenching illustration of the sorrowful legacies of World War I."

    For those who follow the creed that a series should be read in order, read Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) of which NYT declared Maisie "a heroine to cherish."

    For those who are impressed with the positive critical attention showered on the most recent title in the series, read The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) of which WSJ critic Tom Nolan concludes: "once again Ms. Winspear brings a vanished era to life with clarity and insight. Maisie Dobbs ... continues to mature and impress in her admirable mission to balance the scales of justice."

    The Liar's Dictionary, by Eley Williams

    Williams follows two lexicographers living 100 years apart. Guardian reviewer Anthony Commins describes it as "simultaneously a love story, an office comedy, a sleuth mystery and a slice of gaslight late Victoriana....a glorious novel - a perfectly crafted investigation of our ability to define words and their power to define us. NPR reviewer Helen McAlpin concludes that The Liar's Dictionary "is an audacious dual love story about how language and people intersect and connect, and about how far we'll go to save what we're passionate about."

    The Doctors Blackwell, by Janice Nimura

    In Nimura's "richly detailed and propulsive biography of Elizabeth and her sister Emily Blackwell," reviewer Joanna Scutts says, the sisters "emerge as spiky, complicated human beings, who strove and stumbled toward an extraordinary achievement, and then had to learn what to do with it."

    Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi

    Gyasi's novel relates the experiences of a Ghanian-American family in Alabama. Reviewer Sam Sacks says Gyasi "has produced a powerful, wholly unsentimental novel about family love, loss, belonging and belief."

  • 2020

    Hamnet, by Maggie O'Farrell

    O'Farrell imaginatively explores the death of Shakespeare's son, Hamnet, during a plague and asks the question "Why did Shakespeare title his most famous play for the son who had died several years earlier?" Geraldine Brooks in The New York Times describes Hamnet as "an exploration of marriage and grief written into the silent opacities of a life that is at once extremely famous and profoundly obscure." Brooks concludes that as the novel unfolds, "it brings its story to a tender and ultimately hopeful conclusion: that even the greatest grief, the most damaged marriage and most shattered heart might find some solace, some healing."

    Jane and Prudence, by Barbara Pym, 1953

    The setting of this very funny novel, one of Barbara Pym's earliest, is an English village where Jane's husband is the newly appointed vicar, and where Prudence will pay Jane a visit and find herself courted by a fatuous young widower.

    Loitering With Intent, by Muriel Spark, 1981

    Happily loitering about London, c. 1949, with the intent of gathering material for her writing, Fleur Talbot finds a job “on the grubby edge of the literary world” at the very peculiar Autobiographical Association. 

    The Searcher, by Tara French 

    In The Searcher, French takes an American ex-cop from Chicago and places him in the rugged west of Ireland. Janet Maslin's New York Times review provides a look at what French is up to in The Searcher: "French has said that she didn't care this time about hooks or plotting. Instead, she's interested in stripping away the police authority that Cal once took for granted and seeing how an ex-cop without power can operate on his own. She's also interested in Cal's fundamental sense of right and wrong, and how badly he thinks it has been distorted by the culture wars in America. That's less a matter of politics than of one man's effort to retrieve his moral compass after decades of following orders."

    The Lying Life of Adults, by Elena Ferrante

    New York Times reviewer Dayna Tortorici exclaims: "What a relief it is when an author who has written a masterpiece returns to prove the gift intact." This book is standalone; you do not have to have read the Neopolitan quartet before jumping into Lying Life, also set in Naples.

    A Burning, by Megha Majumdar

    A Burning by Megha Majumdar is set in a present-day Indian city not identified in the novel but identified by New York Times reviewer Susan Choi as Kolkata. Choi describes the novel's opening event: "a train briefly halts in a station, and flaming torches are thrown in through the windows - which are small enough to admit the torches but too small to allow the passengers to escape. Scores burn to death." The novels follows the lives of three characters in the aftermath of this event. "The primary relationship, for each character, is with fate - but fate has rarely been so many-faced, so muscular, so mercurial, or so mesmerizing as it is in A Burning."

    A Children's Bible, Lydia Millett

    "It's a tale in which whoever or whatever comes after us might recognize, however imperfectly, a certain continuity: an exotic but still decodable shred of evidence from the lost world that is the world we are living in right now." - Jonathan Dee, New York Times

    Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler 

    A recent New Yorker appraisal of Butler's work gave Parable (first published in 1993) first place "In the ongoing contest over which dystopian classic is the most applicable to our time," finding its "sheer peculiar prescience unmatched."

    The Fifth Season, M.K. Jemisen 

    New York Times reviewer Naomi Novik concludes that Jemisen "invite us to imagine a dismantling of the earth in both the literal and the metaphorical sense, and suggests the possibility of a richer and more fundamental escape."

    Weather, Jenny Offill

    New York Times critic Leslie Jamison notes that the narrator of the novel is "preoccupied (both) by the apocalyptic horizon of climate change, the dark pulsing terror at the center of the novel, and by the feeling of daily life." The novel explores the "truth that we inhabit multiple scales of experience at the same time…"

    The Night Watchman, Louise Erdrich

    New York Times reviewer Luis Alberto Urrea deems Louise Erdrich's latest novel The Night Watchman to be "a magisterial epic that brings her power of witness to every page. High drama, low comedy, ghost stories, mystical visions, family and tribal lore-wed to a surprising outbreak of enthusiasm for boxing matches-mix with political fervor and a terrifying undercurrent of predation and violence against women. For 450 pages we are grateful to be allowed into this world."

    Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, Liza Munday

    Meryl Gordon writes in The New York Times that Mundy's "prodigiously researched and engrossing new book … describes the experiences of several thousand American women who spent the war years in Washington, untangling the clandestine messages sent by the Japanese and German militaries and diplomatic corps."

    Trust Exercise, Susan Choi 

    Dwight Garner praises Choi's novel (which won the National Book Award 2019 for fiction) as "psychologically acute" and able to "enlist your heart as well as your mind...It's about sophomore theater students, their souls in flux, It's about misplaced trust in adults, and about female friendships gone dangerously awry. In the end, it's about cruelty. Satisfyingly, it's also about revenge.

    The Dutch House, Ann Patchett

    Critic Martha Southgate lauds the novel's "distinctive and believable characters," characters that Patchett makes you care about "no matter who they are or what their circumstances."

    More Reads

    Possible Future Book Club Choices

    Transcendent Kingdom, by Yaa Gyasi - about the experiences of a Ghanaian-American family in Alabama

    In a Lighter Vein

    All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny - takes place in Paris instead of her usual Quebec village

    Maybe You should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb - therapist and her therapist discuss herself, her patients, life, etc.

    What Rose Forgot, by Nevada Barr - Nancy says LOL

    The Proposal, The Wedding Date and other rom-coms by Jasmine Guillroy

    More Humor Titles

    The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy, 1958

    The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s.

    The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Armim, 1922

    Four very different women, looking to escape dreary London for the sunshine of Italy, take up an offer advertised in the Times for a “small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.” As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur.

    Picks from Joyce's Folder

    Summer, by Ali Smith - Eric Garner says "a boon companion for these days"

    Abigail, by Magda Szabo - we read The Door, Abigail was written earlier and is her most popular in her native Hungary

    The Shadow King, by Maaza Mengiste - shortlisted for this year's Booker-set during the Second Italo-Ethiopian War with a proud female warrior

  • 2019

    The Testaments, Margaret Atwood 

    New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani praises Atwood's "sheer assurance as a storyteller" and finds The Testaments "a fast, immersive narrative that's as propulsive as it is melodramatic."

    Haunting Paris, Mamta Chaudhry

    Amazon describes Haunting Paris as a "timeless story of love and loss." More importantly, this novel comes with a strong endorsement from book club member Manek Daruwala and this assessment from Marilynne Robinson: "This fine first novel explores the ways history abides in the streets and monuments of an old city, and in the human souls who love it and grieve for it and struggle to forgive it. This book is a small parable, pondering the nature of civilization itself."

    Family Lexicon, Natalia Ginzburg 

    Critic Cynthia Zarin in her New Yorker essay on Ginzburg's work states "It is perhaps best to say straight off that the book is a masterpiece." 

    The Witch Elm, Tana French 

    Stephen King calls French's "extraordinary new novel...a meditation on luck-the good, the bad and the extremely ugly." King concludes "the bottom line is this: The prose, as fine as it is, as dense as it is, as obsessive as it is, remains in service to the story....For the reader, what luck."

    The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother's Life in the Detroit Numbers, Bridgett M. Davis

    New York Times' Kaitlyn Greenidge says the book describes "the triumph and good life of a lucky black woman in a deeply corrupt world."

    She Would Be King, Wayetu Moore

    Summer: Fiction in Translation by Women Authors with Women Translators

    Celestial Bodies, Jokha Alharti

    Celestial Bodies “is a densely woven, deeply imagined tour de force that follows Omani families between the 1880s and the early years of the 21st century.”

    The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck 

    The End of Days “opens with the death of an infant in 1902 near the eastern border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and ends with the death, nine decades later, of a woman in an old people’s home in Berlin, but the book, bracketed as it is by death, is so alive that one closes it gently.”

    The Vegetarian, Han Kang

    The Vegetarian “zigzags between domestic thriller, transformation parable and arborphiliac meditation…there is no end to the horrors that rattle in and out of this ferocious, magnificently death-affirming novel.” “All the trigger warnings on earth cannot prepare a reader for the traumas of this Korean author’s translated debut in the Anglophone world.” So, consider yourselves warned.

    Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors

    Mirror, Shoulder, Signal tells of Sonja and her driving lessons. “We’re locked in Sonja’s consciousness, but the novel never becomes claustrophobic. Opening it feels like opening a window -there’s a bracing freshness and chill to the writing and the unforced ease of a song.”

    Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk

    Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead review finds the book to be a “murder mystery…a primer on the politics of vegetarianism, a dark feminist comedy, an existentialist fable, and a paean to William Blake. And for one reviewer it is “the most bravura translation performance I have ever seen.”

    The Queue, Basma Abdel Aziz (Arabic) 

    This Too Shall Pass, Milena Busquets (Spanish)

    The Last Lover, Can Xue (Chinese)

    Always Coca Cola, Alexandra Chreiteh (Arabic)

    Go, Went, Gone, Jenny Erpenbeck (German) 

    Umami, Laia Jufresa (Spanish)

    The Story of My Teeth, Valeria Luiselli (Spanish)

    Seeing Red, Lina Meruane (Spanish) 

    Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata (Japanese) 

    The Girl Who Played Go, Shan Sa (French) 

    Mrs. Sartoris, Elke Schmitter (German) 

    A Greater Music, Bae Suah (Korean)

    Flights, Olga Tokarczuk (Polish)

    The Slynx, Tatyana Tolstaya (Russian) 

    Published before 2000

    Love in a Fallen City, Eileen Chang (1943 in Chinese) 

    The Bridge of Beyond, Simone Schwarz-Bart (1972 in French - Guadeloupe)

    Family Lexicon, Natalia Ginzburg (1963 in Italian) 

    The Blood of Others, Simone de Beauvoir (1945 in French)

    The Mandarins, Simone de Beauvoir (1954) 

    The House of the Spiritz, Isabel Allende (1982 in Spanish - Chile) 

    Alberta Trilogy, Cora Sandel (1926, 1931, 1939 in Norwegian)

    Woman at Point Zero, Nawal el Saawi (1975 in Arabic - Egypt) 

    Abahn Sabana David, Marguerite Duras (1970 in French) 

    The Sphinx, Anne Garreta (1986 in French) 

    Near to the Wild Heart, Clarice Lispector (1943 in Portuguese - Brazil)

    History, Elsa Morante (1974 in Italian) 

    So Long a Letter, Mariama Ba (1981 in French - Senegal)

    Dance on the Volcanco, Marie Vieux-Chauvet (1967 in French - Haiti) 

    Love, Anger, Madness, Marie Vieux-Chauvet (1968) 

    Divided Heaven, Christa Wolf (1963 in German) 

    The Quest for Christa T., Christa Wolf (1968) 

    The Time of the Doves, Merce Rodoreda (1986 in Catalan)

    The Summer Book, Tove Jansson (1972 in Swedish) 

    The True Deceiver, Tove Jansson (1982)

    A Jewish Refugee in New York, Kadya Molodovsky (1942 in Yiddish)

  • 2018

    Transcription, Kate Atkinson

    Transcription tells the story of Juliet Armstrong, recruited as a young woman by British intelligence agency MI5 to transcribe recorded phone conversations of suspected fifth columnists during World War II. "There is in this novel, as in all of Ms. Atkinson's, a sense of absurd predicament expressed in wonderful comic set pieces filled with material detail and running jokes. Often enough they involve complacently held, patronizing assumptions about the role of women, assumptions that persist in even ludicrously extreme situations." Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, September 22, 2018, p. C10

    Florida, Lauren Groff

    Reviewer Christine Schutt says "Lauren Groff is a great storyteller" whose stories are "full of event and surprise, instruction and comfort." Set mostly in our state of Florida, a state with the menace of "snakes, sinkholes, panthers, storms that strike windows with personal animus." 

    The Temptation of Forgiveness, Donna Leon

    In addition to following Commissario Guido Brunetti as he deals with crime and corruption, there is this added benefit of reading Leon: "Tagging along after this sleuth is a wonderful way to see Venice like a native" (Marilyn Stasio, March 16, 2018, NYT review.)

    Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Fraser 

    Reviewer and western historian Patricia Nelson Limerick calls Prairie Fires "an essential text for getting a grip" on Wilder's literary enterprise and indicates that Wilder was a "major sculptor of American identity." In addition, she indicates, "Prairie Fires demonstrates a style of exploration and deliberation that offers a welcome point of orientation for all Americans dismayed by the embattled state of truth in these days of polarization." 

    Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng

    New York Times reviewer Eleanor Henderson states "the magic of this novel lies in its power to implicate all of its characters-and likely many of its readers-" in the "innocent delusion" expressed by one of the characters that "'no one sees race here.'"

    The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry

    Critic Jennifer Senior describes The Essex Serpent as "a novel of almost insolent ambition - lush and fantastical, a wild Eden behind a garden gate. Set in the Victorian era, it's part ghost story and part natural history lesson, part romance and part feminist parable. It's wonderfully dense and serenely self-assured."


    Hotel Du Lac, Anita Brookner (1984) 

    This is Brookner’s best-known work and was a very controversial winner of the Booker Prize. It tells the story of a romance writer on holiday in Switzerland. Rumaan Alam’s Enthusiast essay notes Brookner’s “ironic wit, cultured mind, sensualist’s delight in detail and casual disregard for the rules of novel-writing.”

    The Garden Party and Other Stories, Katherine Mansfield (1921) 

    Chimanda Ngozi Adichie describes it as “pitiless and clear-eyed in its engagement with class, its questioning of the willful blindness and privileges of the upper-middle classes. It is my idea of the perfect story: realistic and subtle but never hiding behind the idea of art for art’s sake. It actually has something to say.”

    Girls of Slender Means, Muriel Spark (1961) 

    Spark is widely recognized by critics but little read beyond The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Carol Shields comments “Innocence is abruptly overturned in these pages. But Spark has structured her novel so that we realize we are about to be blown into tragedy.” Reading this novel is “to encounter the rarest of fiction and to appreciate the early and enduring genius of Muriel Spark.”

    Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (1973) 

    Writer Parul Sehgal notes “how deep she takes us into the strange cities and foreign lands within ourselves, into those emotions that stay coiled out of view-our envy and resentment. And what a great many things she knows: about the mystery of personality, about how terror and beauty can be inextricable, and the monstrous and the familiar.” You may have seen the movie; now try the book.

    The Dressmaker, Beryl Bainbridge (1973)

    Reviewer Mavis Cheek describes Bainbridge’s writing as “spare, sharp, and disturbing…She knows that our struggles and hopes make comic figures of us all and sometimes, quite often, turn us nasty.”

    Lolly Willows, Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926) 

    Women Against Men, Storm Jameson (3 novellas - 1932, 1933, 1937) 

    In a Summer Season, Elizabeth Taylor (1961) 

    A Legacy, Sybille Bedford (1956) 

    The Barsetshire Novels, Angla Thirkell (1933) 

    Life and Loves of a She Devil, Fay Weldon (1983) 

    Lymond Chronicles, Dorothy Dunnet (1961-1975)

  • 2017

    Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan

    New York Times reviewer Amor Towles reports that the novel takes us to "the crooked culture of the New York piers," the "uppermost tier of New York society," and the "nascent and risk-laden world of commercial diving." 

    The Burning Girl, Claire Messud

    The Kukotsky Enigma, Ludmila Ulitskaya. 

    Summer: Historical Novels by Women Writers 

    Pre-Historic and Classical Greece and Rome

    The Persian Boy, Mary Renault (Classical Greece)

    Masters of Rome series, Collen McCullough

    Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar

    Pre-20th Century Asia, Africa, Middle East, Caribbean 

    The Architects Apprentice, Elif Shafak (16th century Turkey)

    Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi (18th century Ghana and 20th century. U.S.)

    The Long Song, Andrea Levy (19th century slavery in Jamaica)

    Empress Orchid, Amchee Min (19th and early 20th century China)

    The Last Empress, Amchee Min 

    20th Century Asia, Africa, Middle East, Caribbean

    Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeline Thien (7 decades and three generations in 20th century China)

    Heat and Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1920s colonial India)

    The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli (1975 Vietnam)

    Pre-19th Century Europe

    Hild, Nichola Griffith (St. Hilda, 7th century England) 

    Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks (Plague in 17th century England) 

    Romola, George Eliot (15th century Florence)

    Katherine, Anya Seton (14th century England) 

    Innocent Traitor: A Novel of Lady Jane Grey, Alison Weir (16th century England) 

    Wine of Violence, Priscilla Royal (Medieval Mystery) 

    The Novice's Tale, Margaret Frazer (Medieval Mystery)

    Restoration, Rose Tremain (17th century England)

    Merivel: A Man of His Time, Rose Tremain 

    People of the Book, Gerladine Brooks (15th century Spain to WWII Bosnia)

    Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (Tudor England sequel to Wolf Hall)

    A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel (French Revolution)

    Game of Patience, Susanna Alleyn (1796 Paris, post-French Revolution)

    In the Name of the Family, Sarah Dunant (15th century Italy)

    19th Century Europe 

    Fingersmith, Sarah Waters (Victorian England)

    Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell (Period before 1832 Reform Bill) 

    Jamaica Inn, Daphne DuMaurier (1820s England)

    Luncheon of the Boating Party, Susan Vreeland (1880 Renoir painting)

    20th Century Europe 

    Sarah's Key, Tatiana de Rosnay (1942 Paris to 2002 Paris)

    Fortunes of War, Olivia Manning (WWII)

    The Painted Girls, Cathy Buchanon (Belle Epoque Paris)

    Enchantments, Kathryn Harrison (Tsarist and revolutionary Russia)

    The Night Watch, Sarah Waters (WII England and after) 

    Suite Francaise, Irene Nemorovksy (World War II)

    Mischling, Affinity Konar (WWII)

    Valiant Gentleman, Sabina Murray (Early 20th century Ireland)

    The Women in the Castle, Jessica Shattuck (WWII)

    19th Century U.S. 

    The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (1790s southern U.S. plantation) 

    Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather (1850s New Mexico Territory)

    A Million Nightingales, Susan Straight (Early 19th century Louisiana) 

    Clara and Mr. Tiffany, Susan Vreeland (1890s New York Tiffany Studios)

    News of the World, Paulette Jiles (19th century U.S. West)

    20th Century U.S. 

    Wonderland Quartet, Joyce Carol Oates (1930s through 1960s)

    Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen (1930s U.S.)

    Loving Frank, Nancy Horan (1920s Frank Lloyd Wright)

    The Birth House, Ami Mc Kay (1910s Nova Scotia – not U.S.)

  • 2016

    The Signature of all Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

    New York Times book reviewer Barbara Kingsolver calls The Signature of All Things "a bracing homage to the many natures of genius and the inevitable progress of ideas in a world that reveals its best truths to the uncommonly patient minds."

    Little Red Chairs, Edna O'Brien

    O'Brien's novel has been described as "boldly imagined and harrowing" and explores the themes of "Irish provincial life from the perspective of girls and women" and provides "an alternate history in which the devastation of a war-town Central European country intrudes upon the 'primal innocence' ... of rural Ireland." It asks fundamental questions about the meaning of innocence and of complicity with evil.

    Outline, Rachel Cusk 

    New York Times reviewer Heidi Julavits describes Cusk's novel this way: "The narrator of Rachel Cusk's lethally intelligent novel, Outline, is a cipher who inspires other people to confess. In her presence, they divulge stories about their wives and husbands and mistresses, their parents and children and careers. The narrator's bio, meanwhile, remains faintly sketched. She is a woman. She lives in London. She is the mother of more than one child. She is divorced. She is a novelist teaching a summer writing course in Greece." And the reviewer concludes of Cusk "spend much time with this novel and you'll become convinced she is one of the smartest writers alive."

    Daughters of the Samurai, Janice Nimura 

    H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald 

    Vicki Constantine Croke in the New York Times calls Macdonald's memoir a "breathtaking new book" in which Macdonald "renders an indelible impression of a raptor's fierce essence-and her own- with words that mimic feathers, so impossibly pretty we don't notice their astonishing engineering."

    A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

    Reviewer Tom Perrotta describes A God in Ruins as "a sprawling, unapologetically ambitious saga that tells the story of postwar Britain through the microcosm of a single family."

    Summer - Short Story Collections

    Honeydew, Edith Pearlman 

    These stories “excel at capturing the complex and surprising turns in seemingly ordinary lives.” 

    A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin 

    “Berlin’s stories are the kind a woman in a Tom Waits song might tell a man she’s just met during a long humid night spent drinking in a parking lot.”  

    Mendocine Fire, Elizabeth Tallent 

    These stories are “immediately engaging.”

    The Complete Stories, Clarice Lispector 

    Brazilian writer Lispector “is exhilaratingly, arrestingly strange.”

    The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories, Joy Williams

    “The plots of these stories give only a small indication of the grim delight ‐ the despair and elation and queasy comedy ‐ that awaits.”

    Cockfosters, Helen Simpson

    These these stories are “little miracles that cut straight to the heart of the matter.”

    Homesick for Another World, Otessa Moshfegh

    Moshfegh says, “All the stories are about people wanting things they cant hae and struggling to understand themselves.”  

    Miss Grief and Other Stories, Constance Fenimore Woolson

  • 2015

    The Green Road, Anne Enright 

    In reviewing The Green Road, The New York Times critic David Leavitt remarks that Enright "writes with authority and confidence" in relating the story of a family whose individual lives tell us much about our recent history. 

    The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah

    "In this epic novel set in France in World War II, two sisters who live in a small village find themselves estranged when they disagree about the imminent threat of occupation. Separated by principles and temperament, each must find her own way forward as she faces moral questions and life-or-death choices. Haunting, action-packed, and compelling."

    The Door, Magda Szabo

    The Door relates the story of a friendship between two very different women in Communist Hungary. First published in 1987, it has been recently reissued by New York Review Books Classics. The women's friendship is "set on the stage of a single street in mid-twentieth century Budapest" and has been described as an "account of humanity's struggle to love fully and unconditionally, a struggle that is perhaps doomed."

    Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, Hermione Lee

    Fitzgerald began publishing as a writer of novels when she was in her fifties "after one of the longest limbering-ups in literary history." She has been described as a writer "who turns out to be a protector of the confused, a lover of lost worlds and causes, rhapsodic on uncertainty and ambivalence." Once awarded and three times nominated for the Booker Prize she had quite a fascinating life for a woman who described herself as "not a professional writer, but only very anxious to write one or two things which interest me."

    How To Be Both, Ali Smith 

    "An heir to Virginia Woolf, Ali Smith subtly but surely reinvents the novel ... How To be Both brims with palpable joy, not only at language, literature and art's transformative power but at the messy business of being human, of wanting to be more than one kind of person at once". (The Telegraph)

    The Liar's Wife, Mary Gordon


    The Abandoned Baobab: The Autobiography of a Senegalese Women, Ken Bugul 

    Reviewer Norman Rush notes “One comes away from The Abandoned Baobab reluctant to take leave of a brave, sympathetic and resilient woman. And one comes away with a salutary reminder of how difficult it is truly to cast a cold eye on what we are and on the obstacles we face in the attempt to make ourselves into something we would prefer to have been.”

    Gellhorn: A Twentieth Century Life, Caroline Moorehead

    From reviewer Rose Marie Burwell: “With the publication of this solidly documented, gracefully written biography, readers finally have a large serving of the true gen on Martha Gellhorn as the subject of her own life and master of her own work, rather than as the third wife of Ernest Hemingway.”

    Harriet Jacobs: A Life, Jean Fagin Yellin

    Reviewer David Reynolds finds “Yellin’s biography suggests that as terrible as slavery was for women, it did not necessarily crush their spirits. Harriet Jacobs, like Anne Frank, endures as a symbol of hope and perseverance in the face of relentless persecution.”  

    The Upstairs Wife, Rafia Zakaria

    In this memoir, told from the point of view of a child, and including interspersed sections of the history of Pakistan, reviewer Mythili Rao tells us Zakaria “discovers how deeply entangled her family’s fate was with that of her country. Together they are knotted and inextricable, inside and outside, male and female, no longer separate.”

    Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman, Robert Massie

    Reviewer Karhryn Harrison finds the book “juicy and suspenseful” and notes: “One of the unexpected pleasures of Catherine the Great is the degree to which Massie invites us to identify with his subject as she grows and changes in a role she began cultivating herself to attain at the age of 14.” Harrison deems Catherine “an extraordinary woman secure in her gifts and her authority…we want her to remain forever where she placed herself‐in history’s pantheon.”

    Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life, Julia Briggs 

    Reviewer Jane Stevenson notes that “Briggs shows how Woolf’s developing feminism was often at odds with her desire to earn money and please her friends; her self censorship in a world of largely male reviewers, commissioning editors and publishers.”

    Michelle Obama: A Life, Peter Slevin

    Reviewer Amy Chozick notes that in this biography Michelle Obama “comes across … as constantly searching and frequently torn between different worlds‐not just black and white but also working‐class and elite.”

    Tales From the Heart: True Stories From My Childhood, Maryse Conde

    Reviewer Grace Ryan says: “Through her powerful yet humorous depictions of the seventeen influential moments that she chose to write about in this book, Conde guides her readers through her struggle to understand both what it means to grow up and what it means to be alienated because of her racial identity.”

    Infidel: A Memoir, Ayaan Hirsi Ali

    Reviewer William Grimes tells us Hirsi Ali has written a “brave, inspiring and beautifully written memoir. Narrated in clear, vigorous prose, it traces the author’s geographical journey from Mogadishu to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya, and her desperate flight to the Netherlands to escape an arranged marriage” At the same time it describes a journey “from the world of faith to the world of reason.”

    Poet of the Appetites: Life and Loves of M.F.K. Fisher, Joan Reardon 

    Nancy Daley describes this biography as “The story of an American woman who lived her own life by her own rules before we were supposed to do such things and who could write like no one else, before or since.”

  • 2010-2014
    • The Story of a New Name, Elena Ferrante 
    • My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante 
    • The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
    • The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton
    • Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland, Matthew Goodman
    • Still Life with Bread Crumbs, Anna Quindlen 
    • Women Travelers: A Century of Trailblazing Adventures, Alexandra Lapierre
    • Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver 
    • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn 
    • Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, Katherine Boo 
    • Kind of Kin, Rilla Askew 
    • Claire of the Sea Light, Edwidge Danticat 
    • The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
    • Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
    • Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
    • Magpies, Lynne Barrett
    • How It All Began, Penelope Lively
    • Malintzin's Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico, Camilla Townsend 
    • Believing the Lie, Elizabeth George 
    • NW, Zadie Smith
    • The Round House, Louise Erdrich 
    • I'm Down: A Memoir, Mishna Wolff 
    • This Child Will be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
    • Great House, Nicole Krauss
    • The Cookbook Collector, Allegra Goodman 
    • Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff 
    • Away, Amy Bloom 
    • Bird of Paradise, Diana Abu-Jaber
    • State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
    • Pavilion of Women, Pearl Buck 
    • Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, Jung Chang
    • Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls 
    • A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert 
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life, Lori D. Ginzberg 
    • The Help, Kathryn Stockett
    • What I Loved, Siri Hustvedt 
    • Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson
    • The Children's Book, A.S. Byatt
    • Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel 
  • 2000-2009
    • A Mercy, Toni Morrison
    • The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
    • Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude
    • Bell, Janet Wallach
    • Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, Georgina Howell
    • Goldengrove, Francine Prose
    • A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
    • The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean
    • There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
    • The Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey
    • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
    • The Fig Eater, Jody Shields
    • The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart, Alice Walker
    • Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, Lyndall Gordon
    • The Bastard of Istanbul, Elif Shafak
    • The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood, Helene Cooper
    • Home, Marilynne Robinson
    • The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: My Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World, Lucette Lagnado
    • The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
    • Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl
    • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter and The Ballad of the Sad Café, Carson McCullers
    • Sisters: the Lives of America’s Suffragists, Jean H. Baker
    • Champions for Peace: Women Winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Judith Hicks Stiehm
    • Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
    • Gabriela Mistral: Selected Poems, Ed. Ursula K. LeGuin
    • Nelly Sachs: Collected Poems 11, Nelly Sachs
    • Monologue of a Dog, Wislawa Szymborska
    • The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber
    • Small Island, Andrea Levy
    • Begums, Thugs and White Mughals: The Journals of Fanny Parkes, Ed. William Dalrymple
    • North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
    • Memories of Marbacka, Selma Lagerlof
    • Cosima, Grazia Deledda
    • Kristin Lavransdatter, Sigrid Undset
    • Burger’s Daughter, Nadine Gordimer
    • Wonderful, Wonderful Times, Elfriede Jelinek
    • Intuition, Allegra Goodman
    • March, Geraldine Brooks
    • The Jane Austen Book Club, Karen Joy Fowler
    • Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, Amanda Foreman
    • Gilead and Housekeeping, Marilynne Robinson
    • The Death of the Heart and The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen
    • The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism, Megan Marshall
    • My Heart is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots, John Guy
    • Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, Catherine Clinton
    • Pearl: A Novel, Mary Gordon
    • The Last Samurai, Helen DeWitt
    • Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak
    • Blacklist, Sara Paretsky
    • Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi
    • Easter Island, Jennifer Vanderbes
    • The Great Fire, Shirley Hazzard
    • The Beecher Sisters, Barbara A. White
    • Brick Lane, Monica Ali
    • Moments of Being, Virginia Woolf
    • Borrowed Finery, Paula Fox
    • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
    • Paula, Isabel Allende
    • The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
    • Desirable Daughters, Bharati Mukherjee
    • Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam, Robin Wright
    • Mona in the Promised Land, Gish Jen
    • Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage, Alice Munro
    • The Peppered Moth,Margaret Drabble
    • Rubyfruit Jungle, Rita Mae Brown
    • Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
    • Breathing Lessons, Anne Tyler
    • In the Family Way, Lynne Sharon Schwartz
    • A Woman’s Education, Jill Ker Conway
    • The Gastronomical Me, M.F.K. Fisher
    • The Back Room, Carmen Martín Gaite
    • The Last Life, Claire Messud
    • The Mortal Storm, Phyllis Bottome
    • Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf
    • The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold
    • Not So Quiet, Helen Zenna Smith
    • The Face of War, Martha Gellhorn
    • Test Pattern, Marjorie Klein
    • The Map of Love, Ahdaf Soueif
    • The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Amy Tan
    • Caucasia, Danzy Senna
    • Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende
    • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, Louise Erdrich
    • So Long a Letter, Mariama Ba
    • Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St.Vincent Millay, Nancy Milford
    • Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
    • Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Susan Vreeland
    • The Music Lesson, Katharine Weber
    • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
    • White Teeth, Zadie Smith
    • Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers: A Critical Reader, Karen Kilcup, Ed.
    • Niccoló Rising, Dorothy Dunnett
  • 1991-1999
    • The Secret Names of Women, Lynne Barrett
    • The Awakening, Kate Chopin
    • The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Sandra Gulland
    • Ahab’s Wife: Or, the Star Gazer, Sena Jeter Naslund
    • Eleanor Roosevelt, Vols. 1 and 2, Blanche Wiesen Cook
    • The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean
    • Daughter of Earth, Agnes Smedley
    • Iola Leroy, Frances Watkins Harper
    • Women in Their Beds, Gina Berriault
    • Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, Ruth Reichl
    • Paradise, Toni Morrison
    • The Bookshop, Penelope Fitzgerald
    • The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
    • The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Nineteenth-Century New York, Patricia Cline Cohen
    • Charming Billy, Alice McDermott
    • My Home is Far Away, Dawn Powell
    • New York Mosaic, Isabel Bolton
    • The Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
    • Le Divorce, Diane Johnson
    • The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
    • Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
    • Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River, John Rothchild
    • A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
    • The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi, Jacqueline Park
    • Across New Worlds: Nineteenth-Century Women
    • Travellers and Their Writings, Shirley Foster
    • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
    • Regeneration, Pat Barker
    • We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates
    • Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography, Peter Conn
    • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton
    • Brown Girl, Brownstones, Paule Marshall
    • The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
    • Out of Africa, Isak Dinesen
    • Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
    • Quicksand and Passing, Nella Larsen
    • Persuasion, Jane Austen
    • Open Secrets, Alice Munro
    • The Matisse Stories, A.S. Byatt
    • House of Splendid Isolation, Edna O’Brien
    • The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Gui
    • Choices, Mary Lee Settle
    • The Fatigue Artist, Lynne Sharon Schwartz
    • Stones from the River, Ursula Hegi
    • Familiar Heat, Mary Hood
    • Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson
    • In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
    • The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
    • The Face of an Angel, Denise Chavez
    • When I was Puerto Rican, Esmeralda Santiago
    • Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat
    • The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag
    • The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields
    • Ségu, Maryse Condé
    • A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton
    • Beloved, Toni Morrison
    • The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood
    • The Holder of the World, Bharati Mukherjee
    • Love Medicine, Louise Erdrich
    • Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, Ellen Chesler
    • Fair and Tender Ladies, Lee Smith
    • The Shipping News, E. Annie Proulx
    • Behind a Mask, Louisa May Alcott
    • A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, Susan Griffin
    • Women of Sand and Myrrh, Hanan Al-Shaykh
    • The Living, Annie Dillard
    • Turtle Moon, Alice Hoffman
    • Dreaming in Cuban, Cristina Garcia
    • Sugar Cage, Connie May Fowler
    • Crossing Blood, Nanci Kincaid
    • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
    • Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
    • The Kitchen God’s Wife, Amy Tan
    • July’s People, Nadine Gordimer
    • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
    • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, P. D. James
    • Burn Marks, Sara Paretsky
    • Possession: A Romance, A. S. Byatt
    • Anywhere But Here, Mona Simpson
    • A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley