The best books to inspire adventurous and courageous girls

Who am I?

I was a steampunk girl before the word existed. I blame my dad! He always encouraged me to be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. He read my creative writing, helped me build a weather station on the roof (to the horror of my mother), and bought me a microscope. We built model rockets and fired them into the skies. We tore apart old radios to see how they worked. We restored a 1929 Ford truck. Best dad ever? Yes. Oh, and I’m a lifelong bookworm. As a kid, I read lots of stories about Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew, and anything by Ray Bradbury or Larry Niven.

I wrote...

The Flight To Brassbright

By Lori Alden Holuta,

Book cover of The Flight To Brassbright

What is my book about?

Constance is a wild, stubborn young girl growing up poor in a small industrial town in the late 1800s. Beneath her thread-worn exterior beats the heart of a dreamer and a wordsmith. But at age twelve, she’s orphaned. Running away to join the circus—like kids do in adventure books—seems like such a brilliant idea… or is it?

The books I picked & why

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Anne of Green Gables

By L.M. Montgomery,

Book cover of Anne of Green Gables

Why this book?

My first impression of meeting Anne was positive. I figured with her hopeful attitude and wild imagination, the quirky orphan would win everyone’s hearts and live happily ever after. My second impression showed up fairly soon, though—annoyance! Anne, you are self-sabotaging yourself! Change, and do it fast, or you’re not going to have a family after all.

I cringed as Anne bumbled simple tasks, and drove her potential mother crazy with endless fantasy stories. But her sincerity and determination always came through, and in the end… well, that would be telling. Anne taught me that we shouldn’t apologize for being who we are, and we shouldn’t forget to nurture our unique selves.

The Wee Free Men

By Terry Pratchett,

Book cover of The Wee Free Men

Why this book?

Nine-year-old Tiffany Aching has a bothersome younger brother, and as the older sister to a younger brother myself, I sympathized with her troubles. Like Tiffany, I sometimes wished my brother would go away, but luckily my brother wasn’t kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies, like Tiffany’s was.

I love her determination to get the boy back, even though her only weapons are a frying pan and her witchy skills… which are still shaky. I love that she finds allies to help her out, even though they’re just a clan of six-inch-tall blue men. Tiffany reminds me that we need to work with what we have, get creative, and get the job done.

The Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Lizbeth Zwerger (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wizard of Oz

Why this book?

I love Dorothy’s ‘whirlwind’ journey to the crazy land of Oz! The mental imagery is such fun. I love ‘road trip’ plots (and I count this as a road trip), and the whole adventure really fed my imagination. 

Besides the delicious surrealness of the story, I like how Dorothy accumulates friends along the yellow brick road. Each of these new friends has an imperfection that’s holding them back. What a great opportunity to demonstrate the power of friendship. When we act alone, our imperfections can overwhelm us and keep us from reaching our goals. But when we team up with friends we love and trust, we are stronger together.

The Case of the Missing Marquess

By Nancy Springer,

Book cover of The Case of the Missing Marquess

Why this book?

I’ve been a Sherlock Holmes fangirl since my teenage years. When my high school friends were hanging band posters on their walls, I opted for a huge black and white poster of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes instead.

When I learned that there was a book series featuring Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister, I gleefully leapt on it. I appreciate that Enola’s not a helpless girl, dependent on her famous older brothers. She’s gutsy, clever, and very, very brave. Braver than I could ever be. I enjoyed living vicariously through Enola as she endeavored to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.

Etiquette & Espionage

By Gail Carriger,

Book cover of Etiquette & Espionage

Why this book?

Whenever friends share that ‘one fact you didn’t know about me,’ I like to mention that I graduated from a finishing school. No one believes me, since I’m rather clumsy and not very refined, but my personal takeaways were the fencing and acting lessons.

When a favorite author released a series about young girls learning the fine arts of espionage under the guise of attending finishing school, I dove in immediately. I quickly identified with fourteen-year-old Sophronia, a tomboy who’d rather find adventures than learn how to curtsey. There’s lots of humor scattered throughout the story, from situational comedy to clever conversation. I do love good wordplay and absurd situations. This first book in the Finishing School series gives me heaps of both.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in robots, Canada, and witches?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about robots, Canada, and witches.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Defender of Canada, Volume 40, Camp X, and Holding Their Breath if you like this list.