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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Edith Schloss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A bristling and brilliant memoir of the mid-twentieth-century New York School of painters and their times by the renowned artist and critic Edith Schloss, who, from the early years, was a member of the group that shifted the center of the art world from Paris to New York

The Loft Generation: From the de Koonings to Twombly is a firsthand account by an artist at the center of a landmark era in American art. Edith Schloss writes about the artists, poets, and musicians who were part of the postwar art movements in America and about her life as an artist…

Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout,

Book cover of Olive Kitteridge

Why did I love 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. 

By Elizabeth Strout,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Olive Kitteridge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • The beloved first novel featuring Olive Kitteridge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Olive, Again
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post Book World • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Plain Dealer • The Atlantic • Rocky Mountain News • Library Journal
At times stern, at…

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why did I love 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.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Year of Magical Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve -the Dunnes were just…

Book cover of Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

Why did I love 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.

By Sally Mann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hold Still as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This National Book Award finalist is a revealing and beautifully written memoir and family history from acclaimed photographer Sally Mann.

In this groundbreaking book, a unique interplay of narrative and image, Mann's preoccupation with family, race, mortality, and the storied landscape of the American South are revealed as almost genetically predetermined, written into her DNA by the family history that precedes her.

Sorting through boxes of family papers and yellowed photographs she finds more than she bargained for: "deceit and scandal, alcohol, domestic abuse, car crashes, bogeymen, clandestine affairs, dearly loved and disputed family land . . . racial complications,…

Writers & Lovers

By Lily King,

Book cover of Writers & Lovers

Why did I love 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.

By Lily King,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Writers & Lovers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#ReadWithJenna Book Club Pick as Featured on Today
Emma Roberts Belletrist Book Club Pick
A New York Times Book Review’s Group Text Selection

"I loved this book not just from the first chapter or the first page but from the first paragraph... The voice is just so honest and riveting and insightful about creativity and life." —Curtis Sittenfeld 

An extraordinary new novel of art, love, and ambition from Lily King, the New York Times bestselling author of Euphoria

Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with another instant New York Times bestseller:…

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