The best books on or by maverick women

The Books I Picked & Why

The Gastronomical Me

By M. F. K. Fisher

The Gastronomical Me

Why this book?

To call Fisher merely a food writer is to miss out on one of the most provocative essayists of the 20th century. This exploration of her departure from American life to live in Dijon, France, is a celebration of what it means to be truly engaged in one’s own story. For those with ravenous appetites for not just food, but the stuff of life.


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Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

By Joan Didion

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

Why this book?

Joan Didion is one of my all-time favorite writers. Ever. Full stop. Choosing one book by this remarkable journalist and author was difficult, but this collection of essays—centered mainly on Didion’s experiences reporting on life during the late ‘60s in California—showcases not only her talents as a storyteller, but also her uncanny ability to at once inhabit and observe events. I have read it multiple times and find something new to admire with every visit to her prose.


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Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

By Karen Abbott

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Why this book?

As not only a reader but also as a writer I enjoy coming at significant moments in American history through distinct experiences and characters, with all of their talents and trials and shortcomings explored along the way. This look at the Civil War is intimate and engrossing, taking readers through tremendous conflict with four very unique women as their guides.


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Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

By Donna M. Lucey

Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

Why this book?

There are many ways to approach history. Donna Lucey brilliantly chose to usher readers into the world of the Gilded Age via the captivating canvases of that era’s most sought-after portraitist, John Singer Sargent. There are always more stories lurking behind Sargent’s luxurious depictions of his subjects, and Lucey gets beneath the paint and the posing to give us her own picture of four very real women whose lives are far more nuanced than any portrait sitting can convey.


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First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

By Kate Andersen Brower

First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

Why this book?

The First Lady of the United States is a challenging role that has been navigated by an incredibly wide array of women over the years. Brower has interviewed many of them, and the insights she gives readers into their day-to-day lives—at turns uplifting and heartbreaking—make for an incredibly relatable and inspiring book. This is as behind-the-White House-scenes as you can get. From Jaqueline Kennedy to Michelle Obama, Brower offers an incredibly intimate look at this often misunderstood role in American politics.


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