My favorite books with powerful female protagonists

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Valentine

Serena Burdick Why did I love 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.

By Elizabeth Wetmore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Valentine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A top ten New York Times bestseller. With the haunting emotional power of American Dirt and the atmospheric suspense of Where the Crawdads Sing: a compulsive debut novel that explores the aftershock of a brutal crime on the women of a small Texas oil town.

'The very definition of a stunning debut' Ann Patchett

'Brilliant, sharp, tightly wound, and devastating' Elizabeth Gilbert
'Quite simply one of the best books I've ever read' Jeanine Cummins, author of American Dirt

Mercy is hard in a place like this. I wished him dead before I ever saw his face...

In a place like…


Book cover of The Lost Apothecary

Serena Burdick Why did I love 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.   

By Sarah Penner,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Lost Apothecary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Named Most Anticipated of 2021 by Newsweek, Good Housekeeping, Hello! magazine, Oprah.com, Bustle, Popsugar, Betches, Sweet July, and GoodReads!

March 2021 Indie Next Pick and #1 LibraryReads Pick

“A bold, edgy, accomplished debut!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network

A forgotten history. A secret network of women. A legacy of poison and revenge. Welcome to The Lost Apothecary…

Hidden in the depths of eighteenth-century London, a secret apothecary shop caters to an unusual kind of clientele. Women across the city whisper of a mysterious figure named Nella who sells well-disguised…


Book cover of Three Women

Serena Burdick Why did I love 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. 

By Lisa Taddeo,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Three Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The International No. 1 Bestseller A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick 'Cuts to the heart of who we are' Sunday Times 'A book that begs discussion' Vanity Fair All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn't touch her? All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town? All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object…


Book cover of Mischling

Serena Burdick Why did I love 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.

By Affinity Konar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mischling as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's 1944 when the twin sisters arrive at Auschwitz with their mother and grandfather. In their benighted new world, Pearl and Stasha Zagorski take refuge in their identical natures, comforting themselves with the private language and shared games of their childhood. As part of the experimental population of twins known as Mengele's Zoo, the girls experience privileges and horrors unknown to others, and they find themselves changed, stripped of the personalities they once shared, their identities altered by the burdens of guilt and pain.

That winter, at a concert orchestrated by Mengele, Pearl disappears. Stasha grieves for her twin, but…


Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Serena Burdick Why did I love 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. 

By Tara Westover,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Educated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE MULTI-MILLION COPY BESTSELLER

Selected as a book of the year by AMAZON, THE TIMES, SUNDAY TIMES, GUARDIAN, NEW YORK TIMES, ECONOMIST, NEW STATESMAN, VOGUE, IRISH TIMES, IRISH EXAMINER and RED MAGAZINE

'One of the best books I have ever read . . . unbelievably moving' Elizabeth Day
'An extraordinary story, beautifully told' Louise O'Neill
'A memoir to stand alongside the classics . . . compelling and joyous' Sunday Times

Tara Westover grew up preparing for the end of the world. She was never put in school, never taken to the doctor. She did not even have a birth certificate…


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The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

Book cover of The Last Bird of Paradise

Clifford Garstang Author Of Oliver's Travels

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Fiction writer Globalist Lawyer Philosopher Seeker

Clifford's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Two women, a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives after leaving their homelands. Arriving in tropical Singapore, they find romance, but also find they haven’t left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

Haunted by the specter of terrorism after 9/11, Aislinn Givens leaves her New York career and joins her husband in Southeast Asia when he takes a job there. She acquires several paintings by a colonial-era British artist that she believes are a warning.

The artist, Elizabeth Pennington, tells her own tumultuous story through diary entries that end when World War I reaches the colony with catastrophic results. In the present, Aislinn and her husband learn that terrorism takes many shapes when they are ensnared by local political upheaval and corruption.

The Last Bird of Paradise

By Clifford Garstang,

What is this book about?

"Aislinn Givens leaves a settled life in Manhattan for an unsettled life in Singapore. That painting radiates mystery and longing. So does Clifford Garstang's vivid and simmering novel, The Last Bird of Paradise." –John Dalton, author of Heaven Lake and The Inverted Forest

Two women, nearly a century apart, seek to rebuild their lives when they reluctantly leave their homelands. Arriving in Singapore, they find romance in a tropical paradise, but also find they haven't left behind the dangers that caused them to flee.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and haunted by the specter of terrorism, Aislinn Givens leaves her…


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