The best books by and about kick-ass, strong-willed, independent women

Marlene Adelstein Author Of Sophie Last Seen
By Marlene Adelstein

Who am I?

As a reader, I’m drawn to characters and subjects I can relate to. Strong women who go their own way, ones who march to their own drummer. There is a raw honesty to their stories with subjects of creativity, grief, and loss. And as a writer of both fiction and personal essay, I write about these same issues as well, subjects I seem to turn to again and again. When I write, I try to tap into the emotions that might be buried but I’m always looking to move my readers whether it’s with tears or laughter, and the women in the books I chose do that for me. 


I wrote...

Sophie Last Seen

By Marlene Adelstein,

Book cover of Sophie Last Seen

What is my book about?

In Marlene Adelstein's debut novel, Sophie Last Seen, it is six years after the disappearance of ten-year-old Sophie from a shopping mall. Her mother, Jesse, is living in self-destructive limbo as any sense of closure eludes her. Jesse is observed by her daughter’s best friend, Star, who carries her own secrets about that day. These two wounded souls come together to follow clues left by Sophie in her birding journals hoping to be led to Sophie or answers to her disappearance.

This inspiring tale of one woman’s journey in search of the truth about her child weaves together themes of forgiveness, romance, and acceptance. In staying true to herself, Jesse also gains strength and understanding about love and the fragility of life.

The books I picked & why

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The Loft Generation: From the de Koonings to Twombly: Portraits and Sketches, 1942-2011

By Edith Schloss,

Book cover of The Loft Generation: From the de Koonings to Twombly: Portraits and Sketches, 1942-2011

Why this book?

The Loft Generation is unlike any other memoir or autobiography I’ve read. It’s written in short pieces, not exactly essays or chapters but remembrances of painter and writer, Edith Schloss’s, amazing life. Her memories are so vivid. Each person, place, and piece of artwork leaps off the page. It makes one wonder how she recalled all the amazing details that bring this to life. She seemed to collect fascinating people from Willem and Elaine deKooning to John Cage to Fairfield Porter. She met and befriended everyone from the abstract expressionist period in New York and then during her time in Italy where she later settled. A fascinating tale of an unusual woman, artist and writer living in a colorful, changing time. 


Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout,

Book cover of Olive Kitteridge

Why this book?

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is a collection of stories all set in the fictional small Maine town of Crosby. We meet various residents and learn of their own dramas but it is Olive who is at the epicenter. Everyone knows this difficult, stern, grumpy, maddening woman, a retired schoolteacher. Yet as the book goes on we gain deep insight into Olive. Under her gruff exterior is a woman of empathy, real emotions, and humor. Through the townspeople of Crosby, we learn who the real Olive is and I was completely won over. I came to understand and love her. Strout is able to pull us in, repeatedly surprise us and make us laugh and cry. 


The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion,

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why this book?

So raw. Joan Didion’s memoir about the sudden loss of her husband, John Gregory Dunne, while also dealing with her daughter’s illness is powerful in its simplicity. A woman’s two most important relationships being pulled out from her touched me deeply. How she explores her long marriage while grieving hit me hard. Although we all deal with grief in different ways, I think there are universal aspects that many will respond to in this lovely, haunting book.


Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

By Sally Mann,

Book cover of Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

Why this book?

Hold Still by Sally Mann – another memoir by an intriguing, strong-willed, fascinating woman. I became interested in Sally Mann when I first saw her book of amazing photographs of her children, Immediate Family. Since then I kept up with her photography and was thrilled to read her memoir. She writes of her childhood in the south, her parents, her relationship with her husband and children, the controversy surrounding those early stages photographs, her career, and beyond in absolutely lovely prose accompanied by many photos. She’s an impressive, talented woman, and her success is well deserved.


Writers & Lovers

By Lily King,

Book cover of Writers & Lovers

Why this book?

This book really spoke to me as a writer, maneuvering my way through the challenging and sometimes difficult writer's life. I loved the protagonist Casey who was struggling with grief, her love life, and most importantly, her writing/creative life. It made me laugh and cry, the perfect combination. Lily King is a wonderful writer and in Casey, created a real protagonist, with honest emotion, touching, funny, and sad. All the emotions rolled together.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in fine art photography, love triangle, and Maine?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about fine art photography, love triangle, and Maine.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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