The best novels about history’s remarkable women

Why am I passionate about this?

T.K. Thorne became a police officer during the first decade of women policing in Birmingham, Alabama, retiring as a captain. Her background as a woman in a macho man’s world helped inform the writing of award-winning historical novels about completely unknown women in two of the world’s oldest and most famous stories—the tale of Noah’s flood and the burning of Sodom (Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate). An experienced speaker, T.K. shares the fascinating background research into the culture of those early civilizations, as well as the scientific discoveries behind the flood in the Mideast and first-hand information gained from her personal trips to the area.

I wrote...

Noah's Wife

By T.K. Thorne,

Book cover of Noah's Wife

What is my book about?

Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey—a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother and the love of two men. Her savant abilities and penchant to speak truth force her to walk a dangerous path in an age of change. When foreign raiders kidnap her, Na’amah’s journey to escape and return home becomes an attempt to save her people from the disaster only she knows is coming.

What I loved about writing Noah’s Wife was experiencing the ancient world through the lens of a neuro-diverse girl/woman. She was in my head for four years of writing and researching this book, which is loosely based on the biblical tale, often surprising me with her perspectives and her wisdom. I still miss her.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Clan of the Cave Bear

T.K. Thorne Why did I love this book?

Ayla’s amazing story of survival in ancient times no doubt influenced me in writing my own book, although I didn’t realize it until I was deep into telling my own story.

Both Ayla and Na’amah were, in a way we find difficult to grasp today, intimately connected to nature. Their very survival turned on that deep understanding. Both women were considered “different,” a feeling that resonated with me.  

I was particularly drawn to the premise that explored how two distinct, but related tribes of humans could have evolved with different innate characteristics and capacities (one relying more on instincts and the other on problem solving).

Not to mention how fascinating that Auel imagined a course of evolution that modern anthropology is only recently vindicating!

By Jean M. Auel,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Clan of the Cave Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by…

Book cover of The Red Tent

T.K. Thorne Why did I love this book?

Anita Diamant takes a little-known character in the Bible, Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, and expands upon the one line of text given to give us.

The result is a rich, lyrical tale of women in a difficult time. This story is loosely woven on the biblical one, offering alternative, intriguing views and viewpoint. The red tent itself is a symbol of the unique bonding of women, how they find strength, support, and resilience in each other, a network of supporting roots.

I always thought of myself as a loner, but the older I get, the more I rely on this sisterhood under the red tent. 

By Anita Diamant,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Red Tent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Red Tent Anita Diamant brings the fascinating biblical character of Dinah to vivid life.

'Intensely moving . . . feminist . . . a riveting tale of love' - Observer

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons. Anita Diamant's The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah's voice, it opens with the story of her mothers -…

Book cover of The Invention of Wings

T.K. Thorne Why did I love this book?

This masterpiece is a story of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina—path-breakers in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements—interwoven with the story of Hetty, a young slave girl given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.

Hetty and Sarah find their way through the prejudice and barriers of a patriarchal society that views them as less than. Both learn to soar.

This book affected me deeply as a writer. Kidd is simply a master of words. But the story itself stripped away my naivety about what our society would look like had these women not taken on the patriarchal system. It is jolting to realize that the fight for women’s rights is not over, but ongoing.

We owe such a debt to those who struggled through the painful and sometimes deadly slings and arrows of culture to stand up for what was right. And we are not done.

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Invention of Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees and the forthcoming novel The Book of Longings, a novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty "Handful" Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke's daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something…

Book cover of My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

T.K. Thorne Why did I love this book?

My Dear Hamilton is a compelling novel of a Revolutionary woman who falls in love with a dashing man destined for greatness and tragedy.

Richly imagined and researched, Eliza’s story gives us, on one level, an in-depth understanding of one of American history’s founders. But it is also a story about strength, resilience, and forgiveness. I loved this story for the depth of Eliza’s character and her untold contribution to history and for what I learned about the details and dynamics of the era that so inform our own time.

By Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked My Dear Hamilton as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the New York Times bestselling authors of America's First Daughter comes the epic story of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton-a revolutionary woman who, like her new nation, struggled to define herself in the wake of war, betrayal, and tragedy. Haunting, moving, and beautifully written, Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to tell Eliza's story as it's never been told before-not just as the wronged wife at the center of a political sex scandal-but also as a founding mother who shaped an American legacy in her own right.

A general's daughter...

Coming of age on the perilous frontier…

Book cover of The Help

T.K. Thorne Why did I love this book?

It feels strange that a book written in the time of my youth is historical fiction, but it is so!

I found great resonance in this tale set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. Like Skeeter, I was confronted by the disparate roles of black women caretakers who nourished my early years counterpoised against the cruelties and injustices of the world they lived in. Unlike her, I didn’t really comprehend it or write about it until I was much older.

Fighting the pressures of her family and society to settle down and marry, Skeeter determines to tell the stories of the amazing Black women who weave the invisible threads of white society. The risks Skeeter takes are real, but pale beside theirs, yet they speak, giving voice to their situation and rich humanity.

I love this book for its boldness and for making me think harder about my past and the people in it. A must read!

By Kathryn Stockett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling novel and basis for the Academy Award-winning film-a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't-nominated as one of America's best-loved novels by PBS's The Great American Read.

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who's always taken orders quietly, but lately she's unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She's full of ambition, but without a husband, she's…

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The Midnight Man

By Julie Anderson,

Book cover of The Midnight Man

Julie Anderson Author Of Opera

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author History nut Europhile Artist London lover

Julie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A historical thriller set in south London just after World War II, as Britain returns to civilian life and the men return home from the fight, causing the women to leave their wartime roles. The South London Hospital for Women and Children is a hospital, (based on a real place) run by women for women and must make adjustments of its own. As austerity bites, the coldest Winter then on record makes life grim. Then a young nurse goes missing.

Days later, her body is found behind a locked door, and two women from the hospital, unimpressed by the police response, decide to investigate. Highly atmospheric and evocative of a distinct period and place.

The Midnight Man

By Julie Anderson,

What is this book about?


Winter 1946

One cold dark night, as a devastated London shivers through the transition to post-war life, a young nurse goes missing from the South London Hospital for Women & Children. Her body is discovered hours later behind a locked door.

Two women from the hospital join forces to investigate the case. Determined not to return to the futures laid out for them before the war, the unlikely sleuths must face their own demons and dilemmas as they pursue - The Midnight Man.

‘A mystery that evokes the period – and a recovering London – in…

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