The best books featuring badass women–in history and fiction

Who am I?

My first career in archaeology fed my love of history and cultures, giving me insight into human motivations. As a writer, I also love a good action scene, and I began taking mixed martial arts when I was writing the Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries and then the “Fangborn” urban fantasy novels. I soon realized I wanted to write a thriller with female characters who were badass—tough and smart—women I’d want to have at my back in a fight. I found them when I wrote Exit Interview. I love a book where a woman takes charge to change things, whether it's in her community or more globally.


I wrote...

Exit Interview

By Dana Cameron,

Book cover of Exit Interview

What is my book about?

Reporter Amy Lindstrom has just witnessed the sudden, suspicious death of the powerful arms dealer she's been investigating. Jayne Rogers, the deadly covert operative assigned to work with the arms' dealer, has been accused by her boss of killing him, as well as turning traitor and picking off her former colleagues one by one. The only one who believes Jayne is being framed is Nicole Bradley, whose technical skills are as stealthy and lethal as Jayne's abilities with her fists and weapons. All three must work together to prevent a hidden arms cache from falling into the wrong hands.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Crocodile on the Sandbank

Dana Cameron Why did I love this book?

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for archaeologists, but Amelia Peabody is one of a kind. Armed with her tool belt (she calls it her “chatelaine”), her pistol and parasol, and her courage, she is a force to be reckoned with on the late 19th-century Egyptian archaeology scene. A firm believer in equality, Peabody (as her husband calls her) doesn't hesitate when action is required, facing down everyone from site looters to bureaucrats. Written by noted Egyptologist Barbara Mertz (as Elizabeth Peters), the books get the history and archaeology right, and the mysteries have more than a dash of humor and a nod to the thrillers of H. Rider Haggard—without the same imperialist overtones.

By Elizabeth Peters,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Crocodile on the Sandbank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Amelia Peabody is Elizabeth Peters' most brilliant and best-loved creation, a thoroughly Victorian feminist who takes the stuffy world of archaeology by storm with her shocking men's pants and no-nonsense attitude!

In this first adventure, our headstrong heroine decides to use her substantial inheritance to see the world. On her travels, she rescues a gentlewoman in distress - Evelyn Barton-Forbes - and the two become friends. The two companions continue to Egypt where they face mysteries, mummies and the redoubtable Radcliffe Emerson, an outspoken archaeologist, who doesn't need women to help him solve mysteries -- at least that's what he…


Book cover of The Serpent in Heaven

Dana Cameron Why did I love this book?

In an alternate 1930s America, Lizabeth Rose is known to be the best gunslinger around. Canny and a crack shot, Gunnie Rose is tough, and her life has been rough, but she's young enough to adapt to changing situations. She has strong feelings about her family (born and made), and not all of them are good, so she has to navigate politics, magic, and an often lawless countryside—all while keeping a dangerous secret. Harris switches the tone of her series effortlessly, and this world has its own unique voice: a brutal frontier life that never was, but drawing on history that makes it familiar all the same.

By Charlaine Harris Schulz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Serpent in Heaven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Charlaine Harris returns to her alternate history of the United States where magic is an acknowledged but despised power in this fourth installment of the Gunnie Rose series.

Felicia, Lizbeth Rose’s half-sister and a student at the Grigori Rasputin school in San Diego—capital of the Holy Russian Empire—is caught between her own secrets and powerful family struggles. As a granddaughter of Rasputin, she provides an essential service to the hemophiliac Tsar Alexei, providing him the blood transfusions that keep him alive. Felicia is treated like a nonentity at the bedside of…


Book cover of Runner

Dana Cameron Why did I love this book?

Cass Raines was once a cop, and now is a private investigator. She understands all too well that life is harsh and circumstances can change in an instant, especially in the criminal realms of modern-day Chicago. Smart, savvy, and tenacious, Cass is slow to trust but when she trusts you, you are her people. Dealing with dirty cops, kidnappers, and murderers, Cass walks the fine line between knowing her limits and pushing them to their utmost. Writer Tracy Clark hits every beat and then some, with a unique voice that never plays coy or saccharine, taking a realistic look at the subject of missing children and foster care.

By Tracy Clark,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Exceptional…The action builds to an exciting showdown. Those who like their crime novels with a social conscience will be amply rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

Former homicide cop turned private investigator Cass Raines gets the job done in this page-turning Chicago-set novel from award-winning author Tracy Clark. For mystery/suspense fans as well as fans of Laura Lippman.
 
Chicago in the dead of winter can be brutal, especially when you’re scouring the frigid streets for a missing girl. Fifteen-year-old Ramona Titus has run away from her foster home. Her biological mother, Leesa Evans, is a recovering addict who admits she failed…


Book cover of The Hunger Games

Dana Cameron Why did I love this book?

Katniss Everdeen is a survivor: she can hunt, trade, and fight, doing whatever it takes to keep her family alive in the dystopian world of Panem. She takes the place of her younger sister in the fight to the death of the wildly popular "Hunger Games," which pits children against children. Although this series is considered to be for young adults, Suzanne Collins explores ideas from this world, including class imbalances, child soldiers, and the distraction of politically-inspired  “bread and circuses” entertainment. The brutality of this world explains Katniss's capabilities and her adaptability, and her imagination is only matched by her iron-cold will to live and keep her family safe.

By Suzanne Collins,

Why should I read it?

41 authors picked The Hunger Games as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before - and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever...


Book cover of Cleopatra: A Life

Dana Cameron Why did I love this book?

This next one is a bit of a curve ball, but it also reflects my interest in strong women in history and fiction—as well as my love of history and archaeology. Cleopatra: A Life, takes a historical figure who was nearly mythological, and roots her firmly within a cultural and historical context. Gone is the wily temptress of fiction and antiquity; Stacy Schiff's subject is a queen, a military strategist, an ingenious diplomat, and a polymath. She waged (and survived) civil war and foreign invasions, and reshaped the ancient world. The book reads like a novel, but never skimps on the historical and archaeological data--even the footnotes are compelling. Who wouldn't want this woman as backup?

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Cleopatra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as…


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By Kerry M. Olitzky, Deborah Bodin Cohen,

Book cover of Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Rabbi Academic Practitioner Educator

Kerry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In Heroes with Chutzpah, readers will meet 101 Jewish changemakers from the recent past and present, who challenged the status quo in the arts, sciences, social justice, sports, and politics. Each one-page biography is accompanied by an original digital portrait. This children’s book about Jewish heroes is inspiring and fun.

Heroes with Chutzpah captures the diversity of the global Jewish community, showcasing Jews of different racial backgrounds, gender and sexual identities, and religious orientations from secular to Orthodox. Instead of focusing exclusively on icons, we included an eclectic mix of both lesser-known and renowned personalities with engaging, inspiring, and meaningful stories that will resonate with children of all backgrounds.

Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

By Kerry M. Olitzky, Deborah Bodin Cohen,

What is this book about?

A young teenager who spoke out for gun control in front of tens of thousands.

An Israeli street artist who painted an ancient city with modern images.

A biotechnologist who led the quest for a Covid vaccine.

In Heroes with Chutzpah, readers will meet 101 Jewish changemakers from the recent past and present, who challenged the status quo in the arts, sciences, social justice, sports and politics. Each one-page biography is accompanied by an original digital portrait. This children's book about Jewish heroes is inspiring and fun.

Heroes with Chutzpah captures the diversity of the global Jewish community, showcasing Jews…


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Interested in ancient Egypt, survival, and Chicago?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ancient Egypt, survival, and Chicago.

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