The best novels with women paving their way in a man’s world

Who am I?

I’ve written ten books for children and adults inspired by women throughout history, ones about American outlaws, war-time heroes, resistance groups, and activists. I enjoy learning, researching, and shining a spotlight on the women who shape our world today. In A Betting Woman, the presence of three names for a single woman intrigued me. I wondered how one name bled into the next and how life winded to a seemingly unappealing nickname, given to Eleanor after she’d taken a man’s last dime during a card game. Still, Eleanor kept the moniker for over a decade as she carried on. I hope you’ll enjoy her story, along with the other strong women featured on this list!


I wrote...

A Betting Woman: A Novel of Madame Moustache

By Jenni L. Walsh,

Book cover of A Betting Woman: A Novel of Madame Moustache

What is my book about?

Born Simone Jules, reinvented as Eleanor Dumont, and largely remembered as Madame Moustache, A Betting Woman is a historical novel inspired by the tumultuous life, times, and loves of America’s first professional croupier of modern-day blackjack, bringing to life an intrepid and entrepreneurial real-life woman who lived on her own terms.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Circling the Sun

Jenni L. Walsh Why did I love this book?

I completely lost myself in Paul McLain’s prose and storytelling, along with her character of Beryl Markham. In the novel, Beryl wants to be a horse trainer. She does in fact become one, which made her the very first female horse trainer, and I love that she’s portrayed as an intrepid, resilient, entrepreneurial female who tackles a man’s world and transforms her life and legacy through ambition and sheer will. One of my favorite quotes from the book illustrates this so well: “We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all—are you? The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.”

By Paula McLain,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Circling the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller

As a young girl, Beryl Markham was brought to Kenya from Britain by parents dreaming of a new life. For her mother, the dream quickly turned sour, and she returned home; Beryl was brought up by her father, who switched between indulgence and heavy-handed authority, allowing her first to run wild on their farm, then incarcerating her in the classroom. The scourge of governesses and serial absconder from boarding school, by the age of sixteen Beryl had been catapulted into a disastrous marriage - but it was in facing up to this reality that she…


Book cover of The Other Einstein

Jenni L. Walsh Why did I love this book?

Marie Benedict’s novels are known for introducing us to overlooked women throughout history, In The Other Einstein, we meet Mileva Einstein. I’m so glad to have learned more about her. I knew very little about her relationship with Albert Einstein—and how he often overshadowed her. Still, Mileva—like Beryl—is someone who breaks the female norms of their time and who seeks to make it in a man's world. Though—like Eleanor Dumont—she often has to bend to men and outside forces while she tries to remain true to herself.

By Marie Benedict,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Other Einstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From beloved New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Marie Benedict comes the story of a not-so-famous scientist who not only loved Albert Einstein, but also shaped the theories that brought him lasting renown.
In the tradition of Beatriz Williams and Paula McClain, Marie Benedict's The Other Einstein offers us a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein's enormous shadow. This novel resurrects Einstein's wife, a brilliant physicist in her own right, whose contribution to the special theory of relativity is hotly debated. Was she simply Einstein's sounding board, an assistant performing complex mathematical…


Book cover of Girl in Disguise

Jenni L. Walsh Why did I love this book?

This novel demanded my attention from the title and cover alone. From there, it further clinched my interest when I learned it highlighted the life and times of the real-life Kate Warne, the first female Pinkerton agent. I absolutely adored her pluck, her resoluteness, her successes, her cleverness (in both mind and tongue), and, ultimately, how she was a trailblazer.

By Greer Macallister,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Electrifying...a rollicking nineteenth-century thrill ride." -Amy Stewart, New York Times bestselling author of Girl Waits with Gun
Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country.
With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin-unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move…


Book cover of Becoming Mrs. Lewis

Jenni L. Walsh Why did I love this book?

Becoming Mrs. Lewis is the improbable love story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis. And, at the novel’s onset, their coupling truly feels improbable. While in an unhappy marriage, Joy is very much married. She has young children. Joy has health issues. Joy and C.S. Lewis are separated by a body of water. Yet, Joy is also a very tenacious woman, which also included Joy inserting herself into conversations and places women at that time didn’t frequent. I wholly respect how Joy creates a new life for herself.

By Patti Callahan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Becoming Mrs. Lewis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestseller! Meet the brilliant writer, fiercely independent mother, and passionate woman who captured the heart of C.S. Lewis and inspired the books that still enchant and change us today.

When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis-known as Jack-she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn't holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford professor and the beloved writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters.

Embarking on the adventure of her…


Book cover of The Yellow Wife

Jenni L. Walsh Why did I love this book?

The Yellow Wife is a story about Pheby Brown, an enslaved woman who is sold to a man named Rubin Labier, who is the owner of a jail known as the Devil’s Half-Acre. There, Pheby becomes Rubin’s mistress, and certain expectations, along with limitations, are forced upon her. While Pheby is presented as Rubin’s “wife” and their children are legitimized by his acknowledgment of them, Pheby is far from free. She is very much at the mercy of Rubin and his world. But Pheby is strong and determined. And I delight in how she fights for freedom for herself and her children.

By Sadeqa Johnson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Yellow Wife as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Best Book of the Year by NPR and Christian Science Monitor

Called “wholly engrossing” by New York Times bestselling author Kathleen Grissom, this “fully immersive” (Lisa Wingate, #1 bestselling author of Before We Were Yours) story follows an enslaved woman forced to barter love and freedom while living in the most infamous slave jail in Virginia.

Born on a plantation in Charles City, Virginia, Pheby Delores Brown has lived a relatively sheltered life. Shielded by her mother’s position as the estate’s medicine woman and cherished by the Master’s sister, she is set apart from the others on the plantation,…


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Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

Book cover of Quick Bright Things

Michael Golding Author Of A Poet of the Invisible World

New book alert!

Who am I?

It took me awhile to understand that I was on a spiritual path. I started out as an actor, and working in the theater brought me joy. But as time passed, and I turned to writing novels, the same questions kept emerging: “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” I began to see that I was on a spiritual journey. With A Poet of the Invisible World, I finally felt ready to write about that journey. Nouri’s adventures chart the twists and turns—as well as the deep rewards—of the spiritual path. It’s a book that’s very close to my heart.

Michael's book list on accompanying you on your spiritual journey

What is my book about?

This delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway unfolds the warm story of Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night. 

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, it's a glittering love letter to the Great White Wayand all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.

Quick Bright Things

By Michael Golding,

What is this book about?

This is a delightful fable about the Golden Age of Broadway. It follows Artie, a young rehearsal pianist, Joe, a visionary director, and Carrie, his crackerjack Girl Friday, as they shepherd a production of a musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream towards opening night.

Drawn from the personal experiences of its author, this is a glittering love letter to the Great White Way, and all the crazy, gifted people who keep it humming.


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