The best novels about women who love their job and do not feel guilty about it

Who am I?

As someone who loves my work, I’ve noticed that in fiction when a woman is successful at her career, often that career mainly functions as a source of guilt or stress. Fictional working women spend a lot of time second guessing their choices, and, hey, it is hard to balance work and family. Women are torn in multiple directions. But I also believe it’s okay to love your job. It’s okay to find joy in it and to not beat yourself up. I find deep satisfaction in writing, and I enjoy reading about characters who know the rush of doing a job well.  


I wrote...

Family Law

By Gin Phillips,

Book cover of Family Law

What is my book about?

Set in 1980s Alabama, Family Law follows Lucia, an accomplished lawyer who’s made a name for herself at a time when a woman in a courtroom is still a rarity. She focuses her work on domestic abuse cases, messy divorces, and custody battles. When she meets Rachel, the teenage daughter of a potential client, an unlikely friendship is born – for Rachel, Lucia is proof that there are different ways of being a woman than the ones she’s been shown at home.

But Lucia’s work has put a target on her back. When threats against her start to put Rachel in danger, Lucia must decide what’s more important: the safety of those she cares about or the rights she’s spent her life fighting for. The story is a look at how we choose mothers other than the ones we’re born to, how we shape each other, and how we make a difference.

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).

Light from Other Stars

By Erika Swyler,

Book cover of Light from Other Stars

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for books set in the ‘80s and for books set in the future, and this book is both! You’ve got time travel and astronauts and danger, but alongside the action, Swyler has crafted beautiful, multi-layered characters. I fell in love with them all, particularly Nedda, who loves space as a child and loves it just as whole-heartedly when she’s a crew member on a spaceship.

The novel tapped into a couple of my favorite themes: 1) the bonds of parents and children and 2) what it means to do the right thing. I’m always more interested in good than evil, and these characters understand what it means to choose the greater good. A smart, powerfully written book that will make you care deeply about what happens next.


Landslide

By Susan C. Conley,

Book cover of Landslide

Why this book?

Oh, this book is perfect from the first page. It captures motherhood wonderfully and specifically—in this case, mothering two teenage boys—and it just as successfully captures the Maine coast and the complicated, sometimes fragile ecosystem of a marriage.

Jill is a documentary filmmaker who’s temporarily a single parent to her boys while her husband, a fisherman, recovers in a hospital from a boating accident. There’s nothing flashy about the story—it’s a smart, lovely, often funny look at one woman’s life. It’s a deeply contented life, by the way, which means the stakes are very high when the foundation of it starts to look shaky.


Writers & Lovers

By Lily King,

Book cover of Writers & Lovers

Why this book?

If you’d told me it was possible, I wouldn’t have believed you—Lily King’s written a novel where the love story you care most about is the one between a writer and her unpublished novel. If you’re a writer, you should read this. If you’ve ever loved a thing past all logic and reason, if you stayed up past midnight to get in a few more minutes or a few more hours plugging away at it—if you have a passion—you should read this.

If you love stunning sentences and paragraphs that leave you staring into space, mesmerized, read it.


Moon Tiger

By Penelope Lively,

Book cover of Moon Tiger

Why this book?

Penelope Lively is a rock star in England, but she’s never been quite as known in the U.S. I love all her work, but this one is my favorite. 

We meet Claudia Hampton towards the end of her life. She’s a historian, razor-sharp, fascinating and fascinated, and even at her most self-absorbed, it’s impossible not to love her. I’d name her as one of the greatest female characters of all time, just as complex and shapeshifting as we all are in real life. Every sentence is a gift. If you like Elizabeth Strout or Ann Patchett, you should give this one a go.


The Lotus Eaters

By Tatjana Soli,

Book cover of The Lotus Eaters

Why this book?

I’ve never read anything quite like this novel centering on a female photographer, Helen Adams, covering the Vietnam War. Years after reading it, I can still picture scenes and, I swear, feel the heaviness of the air and hear the fruit falling from the trees. Soli has talked about how she got tired of reading wonderful novels where the men went off and had wartime adventures and the women just dropped off the page. So she wrote her own wartime saga.

Helen Adams never drops off the page—she leaps off them. The writing is as lush as the landscape, and you’ll fall entirely into the world of the book. There’s war and treachery and duty and passion, and nothing is ever simple.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in love triangle, war correspondents, and astronautics?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about love triangle, war correspondents, and astronautics.

Love Triangle Explore 42 books about love triangle
War Correspondents Explore 14 books about war correspondents
Astronautics Explore 9 books about astronautics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Olive Kitteridge, The Uninhabitable Earth, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society if you like this list.