The best books about rediscovered women's history with badass book covers

Susan Blumberg-Kason Author Of Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong
By Susan Blumberg-Kason

Who am I?

My name is Susan Blumberg-Kason and I write books about strong women who have a strong sense of place. I think we are all partly defined by where we live and I enjoy examining how our environment informs our choices. My first book centers around someone I know very well—me! My memoir, Good Chinese Wife, takes place in my favorite city—Hong Kong—the place where I came of age and married for the first time, as well as China and a few cities in the US. I’m also a sucker for a good cover and I absolutely love my Good Chinese Wife cover!


I wrote...

Book cover of Good Chinese Wife: A Love Affair with China Gone Wrong

What is my book about?

At nineteen I moved to Hong Kong to study abroad for a year. Everything about Hong Kong blew me away: the architecture, mix of cultures, food, and great friends. So I moved back a few years later for graduate school and quickly met and married another student from mainland China. It seemed like our romance was made for the movies. And it may have been, but it didn’t turn out to be a meet-cute story. Through five years of marriage, I struggled to figure out if our problems were cultural or just personality differences, and I examine this question throughout the book. I love how the tea cups on my cover show the fragility of my first marriage and how everything could tumble down with just a slight shift. 

The books I picked & why

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Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt's Roaring '20s

By Raphael Cormack,

Book cover of Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt's Roaring '20s

Why this book?

I have to say that I do sometimes judge a book by its cover and this one blew me away. I could already tell it would be a fun account of women in 1920s Cairo. I loved learning about the positions in society these divas held at a time when women around the world were just starting to get some rights—maybe. 

Midnight in Cairo: The Divas of Egypt's Roaring '20s

By Raphael Cormack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Midnight in Cairo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the world's most multicultural cities, twentieth-century Cairo was a magnet for the ambitious and talented. During the 1920s and '30s, a vibrant music, theater, film, and cabaret scene flourished, defining what it meant to be a "modern" Egyptian. Women came to dominate the Egyptian entertainment industry-as stars of the stage and screen but also as impresarias, entrepreneurs, owners, and promoters of a new and strikingly modern entertainment industry.

Raphael Cormack unveils the rich histories of independent, enterprising women like vaudeville star Rose al-Youssef (who launched one of Cairo's most important newspapers); nightclub singer Mounira al-Mahdiyya (the first woman…


The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

By James McAuley,

Book cover of The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

Why this book?

There’s so much texture on this cover, and the Renoir painting stands out because it’s probably the most recognizable part. The story involves Irene Cahen d’Anvers, the woman who sat for Renoir as a young girl, and how she came from a prominent Jewish family in France. Irene made some pivotal decisions that would forever change the lives of her ex-husband and daughter.

The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France

By James McAuley,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The House of Fragile Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful history of Jewish art collectors in France, and how an embrace of art and beauty was met with hatred and destruction

"The depths of French anti-Semitism is the stunning subject that Mr. McAuley lays bare. . . . [He] tells this haunting saga in eloquent detail. As French anti-Semitism rises once again today, the effect is nothing less than chilling."-Diane Cole, Wall Street Journal

"Elegantly written and deeply moving. . . . [A] haunting book."-David Bell, New York Review of Books

In the dramatic years between 1870 and the end of World War II, a number of prominent…


Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War

By Deborah Cohen,

Book cover of Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War

Why this book?

This cover completely drew me in because the typewriter, cityscape, and WWII airplanes all show an urgency and a story just waiting to be told. Cohen writes about prominent WWII foreign correspondents, including Dorothy Thompson and Frances Fineman, who travel the world in search of the latest war update. It was certainly not as easy to get from country to country back then—especially across vast oceans—so I really appreciated their determination to travel. 

Last Call at the Hotel Imperial: The Reporters Who Took On a World at War

By Deborah Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Last Call at the Hotel Imperial as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • A prize-winning historian’s “effervescent” (The New Yorker) account of a close-knit band of wildly famous American reporters who, in the run-up to World War II, took on dictators and rewrote the rules of modern journalism

“High-speed, four-lane storytelling . . . Cohen’s all-action narrative bursts with colour and incident.”—Financial Times

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, NPR, BookPage

They were an astonishing group: glamorous, gutsy, and irreverent to the bone. As cub reporters in the 1920s, they roamed across a war-ravaged world, sometimes perched atop mules on wooden saddles,…


The Bridal Chair: A Novel of Love and Art in WWII Paris

By Gloria Goldreich,

Book cover of The Bridal Chair: A Novel of Love and Art in WWII Paris

Why this book?

Marc Chagall is a household name to arts aficionados, but his daughter Ida was also renowned in the Paris art world before World War II. This lovely novel tells of the overbearing way Chagall treated Ida and how he viewed her more as an assistant than a daughter. And when she married, he painted “The Wedding Chair” as a gift to her, which represented his anger at her leaving. This novel helped bring about a new trend to recount the untold stories of women alongside—or even in front of—famous men.

The Bridal Chair: A Novel of Love and Art in WWII Paris

By Gloria Goldreich,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"In prose as painterly and evocative as Chagall's own dazzling brushstrokes, Gloria Goldreich finely evokes one of the most significant masters of modern art through the discerning eyes of [his] loyally protective daughter."—Cynthia Ozick, award-winning author of Foreign Bodies

An exquisite, haunting exploration of the complex mind of Marc Chagall, and the artist's famous chair, through the eyes of his daughter during World War II—perfect for fans of Mrs. Poe and The Paris Wife

Beautiful Ida Chagall, the only daughter of Marc Chagall, is blossoming in the Paris art world beyond her father's controlling gaze. But, her newfound independence is…


Empire's Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper

By Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez,

Book cover of Empire's Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper

Why this book?

Isabel Rosario Cooper was not just a movie starlet during the golden age of Hollywood; she was also preyed on by General MacArthur. The book shows just how difficult it was for Asian American actors to make it in Hollywood and leads one to wonder if things have really changed that much today.

Empire's Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper

By Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empire's Mistress, Starring Isabel Rosario Cooper as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Empire's Mistress Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez follows the life of Filipina vaudeville and film actress Isabel Rosario Cooper, who was the mistress of General Douglas MacArthur. If mentioned at all, their relationship exists only as a salacious footnote in MacArthur's biography-a failed love affair between a venerated war hero and a young woman of Filipino and American heritage. Following Cooper from the Philippines to Washington, D.C. to Hollywood, where she died penniless, Gonzalez frames her not as a tragic heroine, but as someone caught within the violent histories of U.S. imperialism. In this way, Gonzalez uses Cooper's life as a…


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