The best novels for her side of history

Why am I passionate about this?

 I’ve always loved history, and especially those small stories, so often about women, that never made the history books. No big surprise then that as an author I eventually gravitated to historical fiction, and that all of my novels have featured strong, independent women. Women were wonderful sources for the kinds of stories I wished to tell – they kept journals and diaries; they wrote voluminous letters; they were excellent chroniclers of their time; they were clever and witty and brave, and they bared their souls. To be able to bring some of these women to life has been a most rewarding experience for me. I hope reading my books proves as rewarding for you.

I wrote...

Painting the Light

By Sally Cabot Gunning,

Book cover of Painting the Light

What is my book about?

A rising, well-to-do 19th century Boston artist runs away from family tragedy by leaping into an impulsive marriage that lands her on a sheep farm on Martha’s Vineyard, where she must re-invent herself while sorting truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Circling the Sun

Sally Cabot Gunning Why did I love this book?

Circling the Sun tells the story of real-life Beryl Markham, one of the earliest female aviators, and her life in Africa, where she intersects with other real-life characters like writer Isaak Dinesen and fellow pilot and adventurer Denys Finch-Hatton, played by Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in the stunning movie Out of Africa. I loved this book because of the boldness of the main character, the beautiful writing, the engaging storyline, and the fact that it stayed true to the historical record without bogging down in it. Reading McLain inspired me in writing my own historical fiction, teaching me to keep it moving, keep it real, and keep it fun. 

By Paula McLain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller

As a young girl, Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from Britain by parents dreaming of a new life. For her mother, the dream quickly turned sour, and she returned home; Beryl was brought up by her father, who switched between indulgence and heavy-handed authority, allowing her first to run wild on their farm, then incarcerating her in the classroom. The scourge of governesses and serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of sixteen Beryl had been catapulted into a disastrous marriage - but it was in facing up to this reality that she…

Book cover of Hamnet

Sally Cabot Gunning Why did I love this book?

The facts: Shakespeare had a son named Hamnet, sometimes spelled Hamlet, who died. That’s it. That’s all we know. And yet Maggie O’Farrell has taken that slim fact and turned it into a heartrending novel of a parent’s grief, seen from both sides. Hamnet’s mother grieves in one way. Hamnet father’s grieves in another. Hamnet’s mother can’t reconcile herself to her husband’s silent, absent form of grief until she tracks him down in London and sees his play. Don’t miss this one.

By Maggie O'Farrell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Richly sensuous... something special' The Sunday Times
'A thing of shimmering wonder' David Mitchell


On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.


Book cover of Stormy Weather

Sally Cabot Gunning Why did I love this book?

For me, the most important thing in writing historical fiction is to discover a character that the reader can fall in love with and root for. Jiles’s Jeanine is just that character. Growing up in dustbowl Texas with the weight of her crumbling world on her shoulders, Jeanine projects the necessary courage and wit to survive and get what she’s after. One thing she’s after is Ross Everett, and in Jeanine he’s met his equal in cleverness, determination, and sass. All Jiles’s characters shine, but in Jeanine she’s found a treasure. 

By Paulette Jiles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The Stoddard girls—responsible Mayme, whip-smart tomboy Jeanine, and bookish Bea—know no life but an itinerant one, trailing their father from town to town as he searches for work on the pipelines and derricks. But in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves the girls and their mother, Elizabeth, alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times.

Returning to their previously abandoned family farm, the resilient Stoddard women must…

Book cover of The Postmistress

Sally Cabot Gunning Why did I love this book?

There are a lot of World War II books out there, and in truth, I was growing tired of them until I read Sarah Blake’s. Partially located on my home turf of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the brush against our local history pre-World War II fascinated me. But Blake doesn’t stay local; she leaves the postmistress to do—or not doher job and flies off to London with a female war correspondent. How their stories cleverly intertwine is part of my fascination with this tale. Blake has a habit of dropping unforgettable characters on my doorstep, where they tease and tantalize long after I’ve turned the last page. 

By Sarah Blake,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Experience World War 2 through the eyes of two very different women in this captivating New York Times bestseller by the author of The Guest Book.

"A beautifully written, thought-provoking novel."-Kathryn Stockett, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Help

In 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn't deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow.…

Book cover of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Sally Cabot Gunning Why did I love this book?

Marie Benedict is an author after my own heart – she decided to solve the historical mystery of Agatha Christie’s eleven-day disappearance, for which no explanation was ever given. When I wrote my own book I decided to solve another old mystery: who was the mother of Franklin’s illegitimate son, a boy he convinced his common-law wife to raise as her own? Benedict does an excellent job of capturing the fascinating Christie and presenting a plausible tale grounded in historical fact, a must for all good writers of historical fiction. In addition, much is learned about Mrs. Christie – did you know she was the first woman to stand-up surf? Such fun facts are always a boon to a historically based novel, and Franklin was most generous with his. 

By Marie Benedict,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mystery of Mrs. Christie as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



"A stunning story... The ending is ingenious, and it's possible that Benedict has brought to life the most plausible explanation for why Christie disappeared for 11 days in 1926."―The Washington Post

The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Only Woman in the Room returns with a thrilling reconstruction of one of the most notorious events in literary history: Agatha Christie's mysterious 11-day disappearance in 1926.

In December 1926, Agatha Christie goes missing. Investigators find her empty car on the edge of…

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The Unproposed Guy

By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

Book cover of The Unproposed Guy

Bhavik Sarkhedi Author Of The Unproposed Guy

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Why am I passionate about this?

Author Wanderlust Film Aficionado Bibliophile Solo Traveler Movie Buff

Bhavik's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

The Unproposed Guy is a captivating journey through the life of Kevin, a character stuck in a mundane existence and unfulfilling relationships, who discovers his passion for stand-up comedy and rapping amidst an existential crisis.

This contemporary fiction is peppered with humor, sarcasm, and poignant insights into modern relationships and societal expectations. Kevin's struggles and transformations offer a unique blend of comedy and emotional depth, making it a must-read for those seeking a fresh, humorous perspective on love, life, and self-discovery. Dive into Kevin's character of failed relationship and who portrays himself as "Every guy's best friend and every girl's worst nightmare".

The Unproposed Guy

By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

What is this book about?

There has been no significant change in the life of Kevin—a monotonous routine, ordinary family, and miserably failing relationships—until he finds out he is going through something abnormal: 'Existential Crisis'.

He has always been a marvellous entertainer, but has a mysterious way of putting off girls. The talent in him is growing creatively, and abundantly, but his inability to impress a girl keeps pulling him down slowly. He realises he can be any guy’s best friend, but he also seems to be every girl’s worst nightmare.

Hop onto the rollercoaster journey of Kevin’s life, as he navigates through mocking friends…

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