100 books like A Lab of One's Own

By Patricia Fara,

Here are 100 books that A Lab of One's Own fans have personally recommended if you like A Lab of One's Own. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Gabrielle Petit: The Death and Life of a Female Spy in the First World War

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

British people have often heard of Edith Cavell, who has been commemorated in Britain as a national heroine of the war after she was executed by the Germans in 1915 for her role in running an escape network in Belgium for Allied Soldiers. But Cavell was only one individual amongst hundreds who resisted the authorities in occupied France and Belgium. Like Cavell, young Belgian woman Gabrielle Petit was remembered as a national heroine after her execution during the war. De Schaepdrijver’s book vividly brings her story to life, explaining how she was became involved in espionage, as well as showing how a cult of remembrance grew around her in the decades following the 1918 armistice.

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In central Brussels stands a statue of a young woman. Built in 1923, it is the first monument to a working-class woman in European history. Her name was Gabrielle Petit. History has forgotten Petit, an ambitious and patriotic Belgian, executed by firing squad in 1916 for her role as an intelligence agent for the British Army. After the First World War she was celebrated as an example of stern endeavour, but a hundred years later her memory has faded.

In the first part of this historical biography Sophie De Schaepdrijver uses Petit's life to explore gender, class and heroism in…


Book cover of The Business of Beauty: Gender and the Body in Modern London

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

Am starting with a tiny cheat as this book isn’t just about women – although it is about the beauty industry which is usually associated with women. What this book is -however – is an exploration about the history of beauty, consumption and gender in Victorian and Edwardian London. It is packed with stories of women beauty salon owners like Sarah “Madame” Rachel Leverson, Helen Rubinstein and Anna Ruppert. I’ve been working on a book that features Anna Rupert and Clark’s book has been an invaluable resource and a great in depth study on the subject.

By Jessica P. Clark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Business of Beauty is a unique exploration of the history of beauty, consumption, and business in Victorian and Edwardian London. Illuminating national and cultural contingencies specific to London as a global metropolis, it makes an important intervention by challenging the view of those who-like their historical contemporaries-perceive the 19th and early 20th centuries as devoid of beauty praxis, let alone a commercial beauty culture.

Contrary to this perception, The Business of Beauty reveals that Victorian and Edwardian women and men developed a number of tacit strategies to transform their looks including the purchase of new goods and services from…


Book cover of Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

This fantastic creative non fiction book tells the story of two unlikely friends – the dancer Loïe Fuller and the scientist Marie Curie. Through my research for Half Lives I have read a lot about both of these women – Marie Curie isolated the element and Loïe Fuller developed a fascination with it as she wanted to incorporate its glow in the dark properties into her stage costumes. Heinecke does an amazing job of bringing the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries alive with this book and shines a light on two fascinating women pioneers.

By Liz Heinecke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the "imaginative and immersive" (The Star Tribune) true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.
 

At the turn of the century, Paris was a hotbed of creativity. Technology boomed, delivering to the world electric light, the automobile, and new ways to treat disease, while imagination blossomed, creating Art Nouveau, motion pictures, and modernist literature. A pivotal figure during this time, yet largely forgotten today, Loie Fuller was an American performance artist who became a living…


Book cover of Mrs. P's Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map

Lucy Jane Santos Author Of Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

From my list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer interested in the odd areas where science and consumerism touch – particularly where this intersects with women workers. My debut book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium tells the history of radioactivity through the eyes of the people who made, bought, and sold products laced with radium in the 20th century. The follow-up title will explore the deadly element Uranium.

Lucy's book list on jobs for women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Lucy Jane Santos Why did Lucy love this book?

This is the true story of Phyllis Pearsall who (amongst other adventures in a remarkable life that was also filled with personal tragedy) decided to chart and map the geographical districts of London – a project which eventually tuned into the A-Z map. Over a year Pearsall walked 23,000 London streets to achieve this remarkable feat and set up the Geographers’ Map Company. Pearsall is complex and flawed and Hartley wasn’t always able to separate fact from the fiction (Mrs P was a wonderful storyteller but sometimes contradicted herself). Ultimately Hartley concludes ‘If there is a scene, or a word, or a character, you believe to be too fantastical, it is likely they are real.’ Mrs P did have an extraordinary life.

By Sarah Hartley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

MRS P'S JOURNEY is the enchanting story of Phyllis Pearsall. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not restrain her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires.

After an unsatisfactory marriage, Phyllis, a thirty-year-old divorcee, had to support herself and so became a portrait painter. It is doing this job and trying to find her patron's houses that Phyllis became increasingly frustrated at the lack of proper maps of London. Instead of just…


Book cover of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

Kate Moore sucked me into the world of the radium girls, who literally glowed from the radium dust that covered them at work, and that they ultimately ingested, sickening them in horrific ways.

The book made me want to scream in anger at their treatment and cheer for those who were determined to defend them and deliver justice. The story is a huge eye-opener about the importance of industry oversight and occupational health regulations. 

By Kate Moore,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Radium Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club choice
New York Times bestseller

'Fascinating.' Sunday Times
'Thrilling.' Mail on Sunday

All they wanted was the chance to shine.

Be careful what you wish for...

'The first thing we asked was, "Does this stuff hurt you?" And they said, "No." The company said that it wasn't dangerous, that we didn't need to be afraid.'

As the First World War spread across the world, young American women flocked to work in factories, painting clocks, watches and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and…


Book cover of Women and the First World War

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

This is an excellent introduction to the varied experiences of women in the war, both those on active service as workers or volunteers, those who were victims of the war, fleeing their homes as refugees, and those who remained at home, carrying out domestic roles as wives and mothers in what were often difficult circumstances. It is a book I regularly recommend to my students. Although no book could cover all nations and contexts in a four-year global war, it shows not only how the war had an impact on millions of women’s lives, but also how women’s actions had significant impacts on the war and its legacies. It has a useful chronology of the war, and a good bibliography for further reading.

By Susan R. Grayzel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women and the First World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women and the First World War provides an introduction to the experiences and contributions of women during this important turning point in history. In addition to exploring women's relationship to the war in each of the main protagonist states, the book also looks at the wide-ranging effects of the war on women in Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand and North America. Topical in its approach, the book highlights: The heated public debates about women's social. cultural and political roles that the war inspired Thier varied experiences of war Women's representation in propaganda Their roles in peace movements and revolutionary activity…


Book cover of Unknown Warriors: The Letters of Kate Luard RRC and Bar, Nursing Sister in France 1914-1918

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

Although it’s not as well-known as Vera Brittain’s powerful 1933 memoir Testament of Youth, British military nurse Kate Luard’s letters deserve to be widely read, for the vivid and moving picture they paint of life in a front-line hospital in the last two years of the war. Luard had already worked as a military nurse in the Boer War, and was a confident and highly skilled nurse, but it is clear that four years of nursing seriously ill and wounded soldiers often stretched her to her professional and emotional limits. There are lighter moments, too, and Luard pays tribute not only to the men she nursed, but to the courageous and tenacious women she worked alongside. Make sure you also read nurse historian Christine Hallett and Tim Luard’s excellent introduction.

By John Stevens, Caroline Stevens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The words of Unknown Warriors resonate as powerfully today as when first written. The book offers a very personal glimpse into the hidden world of the military field hospital where patients struggled with pain and trauma, and nurses fought to save lives and preserve emotional integrity.

The book's author was one of a select number of fully trained military nurses who worked in hospital trains and casualty clearing stations during the First World War, coming as close to the front as a woman could. Kate Luard was already a war veteran when she arrived in France in 1914, aged 42,…


Book cover of They Fought for the Motherland: Russia's Women Soldiers in World War I and the Revolution

Alison Fell Author Of Women as Veterans in Britain and France After the First World War

From my list on women and the First World War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the First World War ever since I read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth at the age of 19. When I lived in France in my twenties I started to read French nurses’ memoirs and diaries, and for the last fifteen years or so have continued to read and write about women’s experiences during and after the war as a university academic researcher, often from a comparative perspective. Men’s stories and memories of the First World War still dominate our understanding of it, but I believe that women’s perspectives give us a vital and often overlooked insight into the war and its consequences.

Alison's book list on women and the First World War

Alison Fell Why did Alison love this book?

Although they are largely forgotten now, the five to six thousand Russian women who enlisted as soldiers were amongst the most photographed and written about women in the First World War, especially the charismatic but tyrannical leader of the 1st Russian Women’s Battalion of Death, Maria Bochkareva. Stoff’s book gives a highly readable and fascinating account of their formation, their military action, their ill-fated involvement in the defence of the Winter Palace when it was stormed by the Bolsheviks in November 1917, and their reception by the rest of the world as the only battalions of women to carry out officially sanctioned combat roles in the war.

Stoff uses their own memoirs alongside other first-hand accounts by American, British, and French diplomats stationed in Russian in the tumultuous year of 1917, and her book provides a balanced and nuanced analysis.

By Laurie S. Stoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Fought for the Motherland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women have participated in war throughout history, but their experience in Russia during the First World War was truly exceptional. Between the war's beginning and the October Revolution of 1917, approximately 6,000 women answered their country's call. These courageous women became media stars throughout Europe and America, but were brushed aside by Soviet chroniclers and until now have been largely neglected by history. Laurie Stoff draws on deep archival research into previously unplumbed material, including many first-person accounts, to examine the roots, motivations, and legacy of these women. She reveals that Russia was the only nation in World War I…


Book cover of Science and Islam: A History

Kersten T. Hall Author Of The Man in the Monkeynut Coat: William Astbury and How Wool Wove a Forgotten Road to the Double-Helix

From my list on to think differently about the history of science.

Why am I passionate about this?

The discovery of the structure of DNA, the genetic material was one of the biggest milestones in science–but few people realise that a crucial unsung hero in this story was the humble wool fibre. But the Covid pandemic has changed all that and as a result we’ve all become acutely away of both the impact of science on our lives and our need to be more informed about it. Having long ago hung up my white coat and swapped the lab for the library to be a historian of science, I think we need a more honest, authentic understanding of scientific progress rather than the over-simplified accounts so often found in textbooks. 

Kersten's book list on to think differently about the history of science

Kersten T. Hall Why did Kersten love this book?

As the Western Roman Empire crumbled in the early 5th century, science and learning were extinguished for a thousand years…or, perhaps not. As Ehsan Masood shows in this highly enjoyable book to accompany a BBC series, Islamic scholars did much more than simply blow on the cinders of ancient Greek learning to keep them burning from the 8th to the 16th century. Names such as ibn-Sina, Jabir ibn-Hayyan, and Al-Khwarizmi may not be quite so well known to Western European ears as Copernicus, Galileo, and Descartes, but Masood shows that they were actively involved in medicine, chemistry and mathematics during this time. So go with Masood on a journey through the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties, and beyond to be persuaded that the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ were perhaps not quite so dark as we’ve been led to believe.

By Ehsan Masood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Long before the European Enlightenment, scholars and researchers working from Samarkand in modern-day Uzbekistan to Cordoba in Spain advanced our knowledge of astronomy, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine and philosophy.

From Musa al-Khwarizmi who developed algebra in 9th century Baghdad to al-Jazari, a 13th-century Turkish engineer whose achievements include the crank, the camshaft and the reciprocating piston.

Ehsan Masood tells the amazing story of one of history's most misunderstood yet rich and fertile periods in science, via the scholars, research, and science of the Islamic empires of the middle ages.


Book cover of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science

Nicholas Spencer Author Of Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

From my list on science and religion through the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on science and religion for 15 years now. While there are a number of books on Darwinism and religion (too many to count), the number on Darwin himself and his own (loss of) religion is far smaller. So, I wrote a short "spiritual biography" of the great man. Reading through the Darwin archives, it emerged that there was so much more to the story than “man finds evolution but loses God,” and the more I read around this topic and spoke to the leading academic scholars on the subject, the more I realized that that was the case for science and religion overall.

Nicholas' book list on science and religion through the ages

Nicholas Spencer Why did Nicholas love this book?

The popular view is that “mediaeval science” is a contradiction in terms, but this is… well, nonsense, really. The mediaeval world did not have “scientists” (the term was only invented in the 1830s), but it did have “natural philosophers” who studied the world about them with great care and interest.

True, they worked within a totally different framework from later scientists, and that made the kind of leaps forward that were made in the 17th century impossible. But nevertheless, they thought logically, examined carefully, reasoned well, and even sometimes experimented successfully.

James Hannam’s book is a great introduction to a world that seems very alien to us but is closer than we might think.

By James Hannam,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked God's Philosophers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a powerful and a thrilling narrative history revealing the roots of modern science in the medieval world. The adjective 'medieval' has become a synonym for brutality and uncivilized behavior. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. In "God's Philosophers", James Hannam debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth is flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere; the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution; no Pope tried…


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