10 books like A Woman of No Importance

By Sonia Purnell,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like A Woman of No Importance. Shepherd is a community of 6,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Madame Fourcade's Secret War

By Lynne Olson,

Book cover of Madame Fourcade's Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France's Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

On finishing my book, I wanted to write a companion novel, based this time in Paris. My inspiration for the lead character in that book was Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, an extraordinary woman who led the Alliance network in France, operating on behalf of SIS, as MI6 was then known. Her handler Sir Kenneth Cohen described her as the ‘textbook beautiful spy,’ but her intelligence and courage marked her out even more. Marie-Madeleine lived a life on the run, operating under the radar via a string of false identities, and even escaping imprisonment. Lynne Olsen’s riveting account tells the story of Marie-Madeleine’s terrifying existence in Nazi-occupied France, and of a heartbreaking love affair. 

Madame Fourcade's Secret War

By Lynne Olson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Madame Fourcade's Secret War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE WASHINGTON POST 

In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a…

Invisible Agents

By Nadine Akkerman,

Book cover of Invisible Agents: Women and Espionage in Seventeenth-Century Britain

A few years ago I spoke at the London History Festival alongside Nadine Akkerman, and we realised how much the female spies of 17c Britain and the Second World War had in common, not only conveniently overlooked in their own day, but also disregarded subsequently. This brilliant study explores the gendered dimension of early modern spycraft.

Invisible Agents

By Nadine Akkerman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It would be easy for the modern reader to conclude that women had no place in the world of early modern espionage, with a few seventeenth-century women spies identified and then relegated to the footnotes of history. If even the espionage carried out by Susan Hyde, sister of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, during the turbulent decades of civil strife in Britain can escape the historiographer's gaze, then how many more like her lurk in the archives?

Nadine Akkerman's search for an answer to this question has led to the writing of Invisible Agents, the very first study to analyse…

Gabrielle Petit

By Sophie de Schaepdrijver,

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

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.

Gabrielle Petit

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…

A Life in Secrets

By Sarah Helm,

Book cover of A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII

Sarah Helm’s biography of Vera Atkins is perfectly titled. On one level, Vera was the 2nd in command of SOE’s French Section, responsible for recruiting, training, and deploying SOE operatives into France. On another level, there were the closely guarded secrets of her own life.

Sarah Helm’s biography revealed a workaholic, an immigrant who became more English than the English, and whose loyalty to her charges, and the Allied cause, was unswerving. After the war, when 118 SOE agent didn’t make it home, Vera launched a personal crusade to find out what happened to them – a mission that took her across Allied-Occupied Germany to the concentration camps. (She found all but one.)

On a side note, Vera Atkins has been fictionalised on both big and small screens, from Ian Fleming’s Miss Moneypenny to Foyle’s War Hilda Pierce. Her legacy remains an inspiration.

A Life in Secrets

By Sarah Helm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Life in Secrets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During World War Two the Special Operation Executive's French Section sent more than 400 agents into Occupied France -- at least 100 never returned and were reported 'Missing Believed Dead' after the war. Twelve of these were women who died in German concentration camps -- some were tortured, some were shot, and some died in the gas chambers. Vera Atkins had helped prepare these women for their missions, and when the war was over she went out to Germany to find out what happened to them and the other agents lost behind enemy lines. But while the woman who carried…

Hidden Figures

By Margot Lee Shetterly,

Book cover of Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

I’m a science writer and love to read and write about history’s hidden figures—especially women in science, art, and technology. Margot Lee Shetterly masterfully blends the biographies of five brave Black female mathematicians with the stories of America’s space program and the Space Race. Hidden Figures is a wonderful, inspiring book that illuminates an era bursting with creativity but weighed down by discrimination, introducing readers to a new group of American heroes.  

Hidden Figures

By Margot Lee Shetterly,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Hidden Figures as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Golden Globe-winner Taraji P. Henson and Academy Award-winners Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner Set against the backdrop of the Jim Crow South and the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA's African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America's space program-and whose contributions have been unheralded, until now. Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as "Human Computers," calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American…

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Book cover of The Nightingale

The Nightingale touches me on a couple of levels. First it is the story of women at war—more specifically sisters who follow remarkably different paths to find their way through France occupied by the Nazis. Second like Hannah, I was fascinated by the true story of a Belgian woman leading Allied airmen over the Pyrenees to safety during the war and used a similar plot line in my novel (written under my pen name, Anna Schmidt).

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


The Second World War

By Antony Beevor,

Book cover of The Second World War

It's too easy to dismiss the Second World War. To relegate that epochal conflict into realms of ancient history, action films, kitset models, unread Father's day gifts, and black & white footage. But we all live through the consequences of this epic global struggle. This was the last time western civilisation brought itself close to destruction and it was a close call. 60 million lives were lost and no one died easily. The war was also raging just shy of 80 years ago. In the scheme of human history, that's recent.

Beevor's history of the global conflict - and it was global - is a page-turning affair. Vivid, engaging, heartbreaking, shocking. Really fine storytelling and a first class history, encompassing the great conflicts of east and west (China's experience of the war is much overlooked in the west but not in these pages). I found myself engrossed by this monumental…

The Second World War

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Second World War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magisterial, single-volume history of the greatest conflict the world has ever known by our foremost military historian.

The Second World War began in August 1939 on the edge of Manchuria and ended there exactly six years later with the Soviet invasion of northern China. The war in Europe appeared completely divorced from the war in the Pacific and China, and yet events on opposite sides of the world had profound effects. Using the most up-to-date scholarship and research, Beevor assembles the whole picture in a gripping narrative that extends from the North Atlantic to the South Pacific and from…


The Historical Atlas of World War II

By Alexander Swanston, Malcolm Swanston,

Book cover of The Historical Atlas of World War II: 170 Maps that Chart the Most Cataclysmic Event in Human History

The maps in this volume are so instructive, and it offers comprehensive information on all fronts of the war. For one lacking in geographical and military strategy knowledge, I count this book as invaluable to my research.

The Historical Atlas of World War II

By Alexander Swanston, Malcolm Swanston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Historical Atlas of World War II as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Historical Atlas of World War II examines all the key events of the six-year conflict, with thoroughly researched text accompanied by 170 highly detailed maps. Incredible multimedia profiles of World War II's most significant battles make Historical Atlas of World War II the next best thing to a time machine.

With realistic maps, detailed accounts, and vibrant illustrations, the book transports the reader to famous World War II battles. Using state-of-the-art technology, special microchips translated the contours of two-dimensional maps of battlefields into realistic renderings of actual landscapes. Illustrators then overlaid these maps with all of the information at their…

No Time for Fear

By Diane Burke Fessler,

Book cover of No Time for Fear: Voices of American Military Nurses in World War II

It’s almost impossible to embrace what deployed nurses went through in World War II. This book reveals some of the trials they endured, depending on their theater. Some suffered imprisonment and torture, while nearly all of these women worked under duress and danger we can scarcely imagine.

No Time for Fear

By Diane Burke Fessler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Time for Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

No Time for Fear summons the voices of more than 100 women who served as nurses overseas during World War II, letting them tell their story as no one else can. Fessler has meticulously compiled and transcribed more than 200 interviews with American military nurses of the Army, Army Air Force, and Navy who were present in all theatres of WWII.

Their stories bring to life horrific tales of illness and hardship, blinding blizzards, and near starvation - all faced with courage, tenacity, and even good humour. This unique oral-history collection makes available to readers an important counterpoint to the…

Anne Frank

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart,

Book cover of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Even though this story has a tragic ending, Anne Frank is a true inspiration through her words. She kept this diary while she and her family hid from the Nazis during WWII. She shares with us her hopes, fears, and dreams and through her eyes we can feel a sense of hope, love of family, and so much strength. I’ve read it several times and I still can’t get over how Anne, after all she went through, could say, “In spite of everything, I still believe people are good at heart.” Wow. I wish I knew her. 

Anne Frank

By Anne Frank, B.M. Mooyaart,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Anne Frank as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With 30 per cent more material than previous editions, this new contemporary and fully anglicized translation gives the reader a deeper insight into Anne's world. Publication of the unabridged Definitive Edition on Penguin Audiobook, read by Helena Bonham-Carter, coincides.

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