The best books about women in the United States military

Why am I passionate about this?

The relationship between servicewomen and the US military is a complicated one. It’s love, strength, comradery, and also abuse, manipulation, sexual harassment, and soul-crushing institutional betrayal. After leaving the military, I found most books or movies didn’t adequately represent this complex relationship, either ignoring the abuse altogether, or focusing too much on it and erasing the bravery and resilience of women service members. I strive to write books that better represent this conflicting relationship, and I hope this book list helps better reflect women’s experiences in the US military.  

I wrote...

Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

By Ryan Leigh Dostie,

Book cover of Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

What is my book about?

Named by Esquire as one of the Best Nonfiction Books of the Year: a powerful literary memoir of a young soldier driven to prove herself in a man's world.

Ryan never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army. Then the unthinkable happens: she’s raped by a fellow soldier. Struggling with PTSD and commanders who don't trust her, Ryan finds herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. What follows is a riveting story of one woman's extraordinary journey to prove her worth, physically and mentally, in a world where the odds are stacked against her.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did I love this book?

This is the gold standard of military memoir written by and about women. Published in 2006, and surrounded by male after male written war memoirs, this is the book that showed me women can write military memoirs, too. It proved to me that our voices matter and people want to hear from us women, as well. It’s powerful, gripping, and poignantly balances on the paradoxical line of the rage women carry towards the Army, but also the love. Filled with humor, camaraderie, as well as the everyday struggles of women in uniform, this is a must-read, penned by an intelligent and extremely accomplished woman.

By Kayla Williams, Michael E. Staub,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love My Rifle More Than You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kayla Williams is one of the 15 percent of the U.S. Army that is female, and she is a great storyteller. With a voice that is "funny, frank and full of gritty details" (New York Daily News), she tells of enlisting under Clinton; of learning Arabic; of the sense of duty that fractured her relationships; of being surrounded by bravery and bigotry, sexism and fear; of seeing 9/11 on Al-Jazeera; and of knowing she would be going to war.

With a passion that makes her memoir "nearly impossible to put down" (Buffalo News) Williams shares the powerful gamut of her…

Book cover of It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did I love this book?

This incredibly well-researched and powerfully written anthology does the one thing I always want to remind people: that women have always served and fought for our country. Women are usually invisible when it comes to military representation, especially in a historical sense. Either ignored or forgotten, our existence has continuously been minimalized. Bell and Crow’s anthology, with acute detail, tells stories of women who served from the birth of our nation up to modern day. In excerpts from diaries, letters, oral histories, published and unpublished memoirs, generations of women reveal why and how they chose to serve their country, often breaking the social norms, even to great personal peril. An excellent reference guide to get that one, random guy to shut up when he complains “women don’t belong in the military.”    

By Jerri Bell (editor), Tracy Crow (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It's My Country Too as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring anthology is the first to convey the rich experiences and contributions of women in the American military in their own words-from the Revolutionary War to the present wars in the Middle East. Serving with the Union Army during the Civil War as a nurse, scout, spy, and soldier, Harriet Tubman tells what it was like to be the first American woman to lead a raid against an enemy, freeing some 750 slaves. Busting gender stereotypes, Josette Dermody Wingo enlisted as a gunner's mate in the navy in World War II to teach sailors to fire Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns.…

Book cover of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did I love this book?

Helen Benedict’s book chronicles the lives of several women serving in Iraq. It is searing and appropriately disturbing. These are stories told by the women themselves, which range from harassment, rape, or manipulation from fellow soldiers and command to the devastating medical issues and battles with the VA afterward. This collection shows that often women’s greatest enemies in wartime are not on the other side of the gate but instead inside the camp with her. While the book does focus single-mindedly on abuse in the military, there’s no denying that these women’s stories are real, poignant, and deserve to be heard.       

By Helen Benedict,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Lonely Soldier--the inspiration for the documentary The Invisible War--vividly tells the stories of five women who fought in Iraq between 2003 and 2006--and of the challenges they faced while fighting a war painfully alone.

More American women have fought and died in Iraq than in any war since World War Two, yet as soldiers they are still painfully alone. In Iraq, only one in ten troops is a woman, and she often serves in a unit with few other women or none at all. This isolation, along with the military's deep-seated hostility toward women, causes problems that many female…

Book cover of Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did I love this book?

Band of Sisters gives us a book full of heroism, valor, combat action, and real sacrifices of women fighting in a foreign war. For me, this book beautifully portrays why women continue to serve—it highlights comradery, the willingness to put oneself in danger for another, the pride in a job well done, the ability to continue on after the unthinkable. Especially after reading a book such as The Lonely Soldier, Band of Sisters shows what The Lonely Soldier is missing—that women, too, want to fiercely fight and fiercely protect. It also proves that there are no front lines in modern war, and that women engage in combat, proving themselves well-suited for the role. A must-have to shut up those people who say, “Well, women don’t actually see combat.”   

By Kirsten Holmstedt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Band of Sisters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Iraq, the front lines are everywhere . . . and everywhere in Iraq, no matter what their job descriptions say, women in the U.S. military are fighting--more than 155,000 of them. A critical and commercial success in hardcover, Band of Sisters presents a dozen groundbreaking and often heart-wrenching stories of American women in combat in Iraq, such as the U.S.s first female pilot to be shot down and survive, the militarys first black female pilot in combat, a young turret gunner defending convoys, and a nurse struggling to save lives, including her own.

Book cover of Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield

Ryan Leigh Dostie Why did I love this book?

There is a very good reason this book has been adapted into a movie—it tells the very real story of women who circumvent Congressional law to fight alongside Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, and other special operations teams in Afghanistan. Female Engagement Teams (FET) take part in secret missions, under the dark of night, “attached” to special ops and not only proving they can keep up, but they are mission essential. It’s about friendship, loss, the bonds made in war, and a march towards equality, as combat roles weren’t open to women at the time—but these women did it anyway. Great to counter those people want to lavish praise on Rangers, SEALs, or Special Ops because they’re “the best of the best” and “only men.” Surprise! Women do it, too. 

By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ashley's War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2010, the Army created Cultural Support Teams, a secret pilot program to insert women alongside Special Operations soldiers battling in Afghanistan. The Army reasoned that women could play a unique role on Special Ops teams: accompanying their male colleagues on raids and, while those soldiers were searching for insurgents, questioning the mothers, sisters, daughters and wives living at the compound. Their presence had a calming effect on enemy households, but more importantly, the CSTs were able to search adult women for weapons and gather crucial intelligence. They could build relationships-woman to woman-in ways that male soldiers in an Islamic…

You might also like...

Book cover of This Animal Body

Meredith Walters

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Neuroscience PhD student Frankie Conner has finally gotten her life together—she’s determined to discover the cause of her depression and find a cure for herself and everyone like her. But the first day of her program, she meets a group of talking animals who have an urgent message they refuse to share. And while the animals may not have Frankie’s exalted human brain, they know things she doesn’t, like what happened before she was adopted.

To prove she’s sane, Frankie investigates her forgotten past and conducts clandestine experiments. But just when she uncovers the truth, she has to make an impossible choice: betray the animals she’s fallen in love with—or give up her last chance at success and everything she thought she knew.

By Meredith Walters,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked This Animal Body as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Frankie Conner, first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley, is finally getting her life together. After multiple failures and several false starts, she's found her calling: become a neuroscientist, discover the cause of her depression and anxiety, and hopefully find a cure for herself and everyone like her.

But her first day of the program, Frankie meets a mysterious group of talking animals who claim to have an urgent message for her. The problem is, they're not willing to share it. Not yet. Not until she's ready.

While Frankie's new friends may not have her highly evolved, state-of-the-art, exalted human brain,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in women, the Iraq War, and Women in the military?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about women, the Iraq War, and Women in the military.

Women Explore 590 books about women
The Iraq War Explore 57 books about the Iraq War
Women In The Military Explore 21 books about Women in the military