The best books with powerful female protagonists

Serena Burdick Author Of The Girls with No Names
By Serena Burdick

Who am I?

As a child, I devoured stories of the past. I wanted to live in a different century despite the fact that as a stubborn, loud, girl, I would not have been accepted because I understood these traits were not acceptable anyway. So, I learned to be quiet. It has taken me a long time to see myself as a powerful woman, to stop apologizing, to believe that when I speak up, people will listen. My goal in writing is to create characters worthy of our attention, characters who can empower us. We must imagine what we want before we can create it, and be vulnerable enough to believe in the power of that creation. 


I wrote...

The Girls with No Names

By Serena Burdick,

Book cover of The Girls with No Names

What is my book about?

Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.

Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to saving her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible - unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Valentine

By Elizabeth Wetmore,

Book cover of Valentine

Why this book?

I am drawn to books about strong women fighting against social norms and the society that limits them. Elizabeth Wetmore’s, Valentine, shows us how challenging this fight can be, how frightening, and how it requires choices some women aren’t willing to make. In 1976, in a small town in Texas, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramirez is violently attacked. When she drags herself to Mary Rose’s front porch, her story forces the women in Odessa to confront their own brutal experiences. Told from multiple perspectives, Whitmore’s skillful, raw prose draws us into the lives of each woman, leaving us wondering what it truly takes to stand up for our beliefs, and ourselves.


The Lost Apothecary

By Sarah Penner,

Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

Why this book?

As a historical fiction author, I am a picky historical fiction reader, which made Sarah Penner’s, The Lost Apothecary, an exciting find. Who doesn’t love a good murder mystery? Set in the back alley of London in 1791, in an apothecary shop, we meet Nella, a woman selling poisonous potions to other women who are looking to kill off the men in their lives. Weaving in a modern-day component, Penner takes us into the life of Caroline Parcewell, a historian on a trip to London who accidentally discovers this series of unsolved murders from centuries earlier. A fantastic story of revenge, and the strength of women who band together.   


Three Women

By Lisa Taddeo,

Book cover of Three Women

Why this book?

Three Woman is a powerful book that reveals a side of our society, and women, we are rarely exposed to. I’ve never read anything so remarkable, and daring. This true account of three women’s lives reads like a novel, taking us into the lives of Maggie, Lina, and Sloan. Maggie claims she had a sexual relationship with her teacher, Lina is a rape victim who is now a mother and wife and embarking on an affair with an old boyfriend, and Sloan is a wealthy, successful woman whose husband likes to watch her have sex with other men. This book is an exploration of desire that challenges women to look at themselves, and the beliefs they hold about their own desires. It’s a brave work for the writer, and for the women who were willing to tell their stories. 


Mischling

By Affinity Konar,

Book cover of Mischling

Why this book?

Mischling is the story of twin sisters, Stasha and Pearl, who were sent to Auschwitz during WWII. The connection between these young girls, their strength and willpower, their ability to know what the other is thinking, to protect and care for one another, is astonishing. In this camp, these girls go through puberty, fall in love, and endure more than it seems possible for any child to survive. That they do so, is impressive, and when Pearl disappears, Stasha refuses to believe her sister is dead. When the war ends, and the camp is liberated, Stasha and a young boy navigate Poland’s war-torn land looking for Pearl. This book is intense, and painful, and yet the prose is so astounding, and done with such skill and care, it makes a topic that would seem impossible to stomach, not only bearable, but full of hope and beauty.


Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover,

Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Why this book?

In many stories about powerful women, it is often the closest people in their lives these women must rebel against. Family is at the core of Tara Westover’s memoir, a family she is fiercely loyal to, and must find a way out of. In the mountains of Idaho, Tara grew up isolated from society. Her family didn’t believe in formal education, in doctors or institutions. They had almost no interaction with the outside world. It wasn’t until her brother went away to college that Tara began to understand the world of knowledge that was out there. Education became her weapon, one which took tremendous courage to wield. It meant recognizing the abuse in her family that was not only permitted, but treated as customary. It meant fighting this abuse and breaking her bonds of loyalty. Westover’s story is a journey of personal truths, self-discovery, and deep understanding. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in apothecary, romantic love, and Idaho?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about apothecary, romantic love, and Idaho.

Apothecary Explore 8 books about apothecary
Romantic Love Explore 417 books about romantic love
Idaho Explore 9 books about Idaho

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Unbroken, Night, and Wild Swans if you like this list.