91 books like American Woman

By Susan Choi,

Here are 91 books that American Woman fans have personally recommended if you like American Woman. 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 Crime and Punishment

Sam Martin Author Of To John Love Lauri

From my list on questioning reality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I look to books as an enlightening way to escape. I’ve always sought out things that paint the world in different hues than what is often presented in reality. When the lines between what you’re told and what it really is become blurry, I like to find the truth that is often available by reading between the lines. 

Sam's book list on questioning reality

Sam Martin Why did Sam love this book?

A classic must-read for anyone who is satiated by oxygen. I love the psychology of the main character. His decline after committing an atrocity is notable for its detail. The concern shown for him by his friends and family, who do not know the truth, feels natural and warranted in spite of the reader's knowledge.

Is it possible to feel empathy for someone who commits such an act? In a strange way, I found myself questioning my own biases on the topics of crime and punishment after reading this classic. 

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky (translator)

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Crime and Punishment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed by Washington Post Book World as “the best [translation] currently available" when it was first published, this second edition has been updated in honor of the 200th anniversary of Dostoevsky’s birth.

With the same suppleness, energy, and range of voices that won their translation of The Brothers Karamazov the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky offer a brilliant translation of Dostoevsky's astounding pyschological thriller, newly revised for his bicentenniel. 

When Raskolnikov, an impoverished student living in the St. Petersburg of the tsars, commits an act of murder and theft, he sets into motion a story that is…


Book cover of The Mars Room

Andy Mozina Author Of Tandem

From my list on literary with criminal protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books in which there are moral stakes, which sometimes draws me to stories with criminals, and I like when the character at the center of the problem is complex or destabilizes things. Dark humor always helps. Average people should be able to see themselves in some way in the criminal’s bad behavior or at least in their desires. I have published two story collections and two novels. My first collection of short stories won the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award. My fiction has appeared in Tin House, Southern Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. I'm a professor of English at Kalamazoo College. 

Andy's book list on literary with criminal protagonists

Andy Mozina Why did Andy love this book?

A masterful book about a tough subject.

Separated from her young son, Romy Hall is serving two consecutive life sentences for killing a customer from the Mars Room, a strip club where she’d been dancing. Brilliantly written with compassion and dry, dark humor, the book explores Romy’s relationships with her fellow prisoners and the despair, dangers, and absurdities of life behind bars.

I loved this novel’s gritty texture, its sentences, its characters, and how it forced me to think more deeply about why and how we incarcerate people. The final sequence in Muir Woods is heart-pounding, wondrous, devastating, and strangely hopeful.

By Rachel Kushner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018**
**A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER AND CRITICS' TOP BOOK OF 2018**

'An unforgettable novel.' DAILY TELEGRAPH
'More knowing about prison life [than Orange Is The New Black]... so powerful.' NEW YORK TIMES
'One of America's finest writers.' VOGUE

Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences, plus six years, at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility. Outside is the world from which she has been permanently severed: the San Francisco of her youth, changed almost beyond recognition. The Mars Room strip club where she once gave lap dances for a living. And…


Book cover of Harlem Shuffle

Andy Mozina Author Of Tandem

From my list on literary with criminal protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books in which there are moral stakes, which sometimes draws me to stories with criminals, and I like when the character at the center of the problem is complex or destabilizes things. Dark humor always helps. Average people should be able to see themselves in some way in the criminal’s bad behavior or at least in their desires. I have published two story collections and two novels. My first collection of short stories won the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award. My fiction has appeared in Tin House, Southern Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. I'm a professor of English at Kalamazoo College. 

Andy's book list on literary with criminal protagonists

Andy Mozina Why did Andy love this book?

Raymond Carney—savvy furniture store owner in 1960s Harlem; a small-time, look-the-other-way fence for stolen goods—is one of the most likable criminals I’ve ever read about.

He dreams of moving his young family on up to a nice apartment on Riverside Dr. and scraps for every dollar. His hustling ways occasionally flare into big-time crime or revenge, but his insights into the teeming city are always keen.

Whitehead can do it all: perfectly observed details of the time and place, great characters, wry humor, surprising plot developments, devastating emotional scenes. The implications of race and class are deftly drawn. The prose is gorgeous.

Really, no American writer is better than Whitehead right now. A fun and profound ride. 

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Harlem Shuffle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, this gloriously entertaining novel is  “fast-paced, keen-eyed and very funny ... about race, power and the history of Harlem all disguised as a thrill-ride crime novel" (San Francisco Chronicle).

"Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked..." To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents…


Book cover of The Paper Wasp

Andy Mozina Author Of Tandem

From my list on literary with criminal protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books in which there are moral stakes, which sometimes draws me to stories with criminals, and I like when the character at the center of the problem is complex or destabilizes things. Dark humor always helps. Average people should be able to see themselves in some way in the criminal’s bad behavior or at least in their desires. I have published two story collections and two novels. My first collection of short stories won the Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award. My fiction has appeared in Tin House, Southern Review, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. I'm a professor of English at Kalamazoo College. 

Andy's book list on literary with criminal protagonists

Andy Mozina Why did Andy love this book?

This is a beautifully written psychological thriller.

At a high school reunion, a polite invitation between old friends—Elise, a successful actor, invites Abby, who is floundering, to visit her in LA—spirals into Abby’s attempt to infiltrate the star’s life. The novel fearlessly plumbs the mysteries and complications of friendship and shows how misguided impulses can gradually take over our psyches.

I’m a fan of big endings, and this novel’s final paragraphs, which cap Abby’s disturbed yet compelling emotional journey, are stunners. 

By Lauren Acampora,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Acampora is an original' Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

An electrifying debut novel of two women's friendship, a haunting obsession and twisted ambition, set against the feverish backdrop of contemporary Hollywood.

Abby Graven is a dreamer. She dreams her way through her small, lonely life - hiding back at her parents, working at the grocery store. At night, she collects tabloid clippings that taunt her with Elise - her best friend, now Hollywood's hot new starlet.

When a school reunion throws Elise in her path, Abby seizes her chance. With feverish certainty, she boards a one-way flight…


Book cover of The Widow's House

Tara Laskowski Author Of One Night Gone

From my list on thrillers with incredibly spooky atmosphere and mood.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born on Halloween, so I’m officially a card-carrying member of all things creepy, right? However, I’m definitely drawn to books with mood and atmosphere over outright horror and gore. I find the subtle aspects of fear so much more interesting—how is it that one person’s reality can be so different than another’s? I write domestic suspense because I think the people we are closest to and the places we think are safest are often the ones that can hurt us the most. Where a story takes place is so very important. I need to know the geography, the feel, the history of a place—then I can put people in it and make bad things happen.

Tara's book list on thrillers with incredibly spooky atmosphere and mood

Tara Laskowski Why did Tara love this book?

I will never look at apples the same way again after reading The Widow’s House. Set in the Hudson River Valley in Upstate New York, this winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award is a modern Gothic suspense filled with atmosphere. From snakes in mailboxes, to rotting apples, to a creepy old professor and a suspicious husband, this book will give you goosebumps and keep you guessing. Read it on a rainy dark night—but make sure the doors are locked.

By Carol Goodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This chilling novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of The Lake of Dead Languages blends the gothic allure of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca and the crazed undertones of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper with the twisty, contemporary edge of A.S.A. Harrison's The Silent Wife-a harrowing tale of psychological suspense set in New York's Hudson Valley. When Jess and Clare Martin move from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to their former college town in the Hudson River valley, they are hoping for rejuvenation-of their marriage, their savings, and Jess's writing career. They take a caretaker's job at Riven House, a crumbling estate and the…


Book cover of World's End

Snowden Wright Author Of American Pop

From my list on multi-generational family saga soap operas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Soap operas may have no actual relation to soap—the term comes from radio dramas that were sponsored by soap companies—but they’re certainly related to opera, full of melodrama and grandiosity. With my second novel, a multi-generational family saga, my goal was to write a literary soap opera. I wanted it to be finely crafted, attuned to language and characterization, but also dishy, riddled with heightened drama, vivid personalities, and theatrical events. Below are five literary soap operas I studied while writing my own.

Snowden's book list on multi-generational family saga soap operas

Snowden Wright Why did Snowden love this book?

History can be a challenge and a rebuke to novelists. How can we expect, I’ve often wondered, to create a work of the imagination as surprising and majestic as the trajectory of time? World’s End is T.C. Boyle’s answer to that question. Set in the Hudson River Valley and spanning four centuries, with enough characters to fill a three-page list of them in the front matter, this darkly comic, brightly tragic novel proves that history doesn’t repeat, as the saying goes, nor does it rhyme. History braids, over and over, strand upon strand, and the only people who can see the tapestry are those who take a step back. Boyle, like all great historical novelists, knows how to step back.

By T.C. Boyle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Haunted by the burden of his family's traitorous past, woozy with pot, cheap wine and sex, and disturbed by a frighteningly real encounter with some family ghosts, Walter van Brunt is about to have a collision with history.

It will lead Walter to search for his lost father. And it will send the story into the past of the Hudson River Valley, from the late 1960's back to the anticommunist riots of the 1940's to the late seventeenth century, where the long-hidden secrets of three families--the aristocratic van Warts, the Native-American Mohonks, and Walter's own ancestors, the van Brunts--will be…


Book cover of HEX

James Pack Author Of The Hook

From my list on where real-life horror meets the supernatural.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always had a greater interest in supernatural horror compared to the other subgenres of horror. Another way to describe it is fantasy horror. However, sometimes the fantasy can take away from the overall story. I find the best stories with supernatural elements also have a lot of real-life horror to balance with the fantasy. Magic realism is also a trope of Post-Modern Culture and I find myself drawn to stories with post-modern elements versus those that don’t. These are my top five pics for the best “Real-Life Horror Meets Supernatural Horror” novels.

James' book list on where real-life horror meets the supernatural

James Pack Why did James love this book?

This novel was not what I was expecting. It was dark and provides an interesting commentary on human behavior. The town of Black Spring and its locals are cursed. If someone is born there, or moves into the town, they’re doomed to stay until they die. If they try to leave and never come back, they’ll die. The town is also home to the Black Rock Witch, whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. She’s been there since the town was cursed in the seventeenth century. The town was cursed because people did terrible things. The novel takes place during the final days of the town because some people did more terrible things to the Black Rock Witch.

By Thomas Olde Heuvelt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked HEX as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The greats of fiction Stephen King and George R. R. Martin lead the fanfare for HEX, so be assured that Thomas Olde Heuvelt's debut English novel is both terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed…


Book cover of Unwind

Kawika Miles Black Author Of Saga of the Nine: Origins

From my list on dystopia that is more relevant than ever.

Why am I passionate about this?

For ten years I’ve been perfecting my own dystopian saga, and with that has come a great love for the genre as I’ve studied and dissected it. Having been involved in the political arena as well, the utopian language politicians have always caused some great concern for me, and through my study of dystopias, these great authors have not only seen dark futures of their respective countries and times, but they’ve always tried to bridge the gap between fiction and societal reality, which I am a great admirer of.  

Kawika's book list on dystopia that is more relevant than ever

Kawika Miles Black Why did Kawika love this book?

With the topic of Roe V. Wade in the United States, the chasm between pro-life and pro-choice has grown even more, and in a novel that is solely about a great compromise between the two ideologies, Shusterman’s dystopian saga could not be more relevant. Ultimately, Shusterman seems to have great worry about societies lack of value for human life, taking the choice away from those whose lives are being debated over. 

Unwind is a classic study on the intertwining of personal choice and the value of human life. Who owns our bodies? Do we? Does someone else? Does the government? Does anyone but the individual have the right to determine the value of their life? Because of society’s proximity to abortion, this storyline seems extreme and disturbing. However, The Unwind Dystology is no more extreme and disturbing than other classic dystopian novels such as 1984 and A Brave New World…

By Neal Shusterman,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Unwind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when…


Book cover of What Isn't Remembered: Stories

Rachel Swearingen Author Of How to Walk on Water and Other Stories

From my list on debut story collections to read cover to cover.

Why am I passionate about this?

From childhood on, I’ve been drawn to storytellers, especially those who use their imagination to captivate and question. My favorite stories twist and turn, and throw light on the every day to reveal what is inexplicable, weird, wondrous, and often heartrending. My taste runs wide, and I could list dozens of favorite collections. Having released my own debut book of stories during the pandemic, I learned firsthand how difficult it can be to find readers for story collections, especially when those collections are published by smaller presses. For that reason, I’ve chosen five recent debuts from masterful authors I hope more readers will discover. 

Rachel's book list on debut story collections to read cover to cover

Rachel Swearingen Why did Rachel love this book?

Kristina Gocheva-Newberry is a natural storyteller. Her narrators tend toward disarming authenticity. They tell it like it is, rather than censoring themselves out of politeness—a habit several of her characters see as problematic and uniquely American. What Isn’t Remembered features a plethora of characters of Russian and Armenian descent, both in the US and in Russia, and depicts their lives as citizens, immigrants, and the children of immigrants. Cultural tensions wind through the book and are tempered by startling moments of tenderness. At heart, the book is about messy relationships and the invisible histories that press and bind. What Isn’t Remembered is the perfect book to sink into on a quiet, rainy day. 

By Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Isn't Remembered as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, the stories in What Isn't Remembered explore the burden, the power, and the nature of love between people who often feel misplaced and estranged from their deepest selves and the world, where they cannot find a home. The characters yearn not only to redefine themselves and rebuild their relationships but also to recover lost loves-a parent, a child, a friend, a spouse, a partner.

A young man longs for his mother's love while grieving the loss of his older brother. A mother's affair sabotages her relationship with her daughter, causing…


Book cover of Outsiders: 22 All-New Stories From the Edge

Paul Carro Author Of The House: A Horror Novel

From my list on horror anthology story standouts.

Why am I passionate about this?

Horror spoke to me early. In fifth grade a teacher submitted my story which landed in an anthology of Maine authors alongside Stephen King. King being a local made writing real. Whether movies or books I could not consume enough of the horror genre. My local bookstore had me (a customer) curate their horror section given my knowledge and depth of reading in the field. Anthologies excited me most with so many authors packed into one volume. I detoured into producing/writing in Hollywood for years in the non-horror field. But now I author books in the genre that means the most to me. I also edit the Little Coffee Shop of Horrors Anthology series.

Paul's book list on horror anthology story standouts

Paul Carro Why did Paul love this book?

Like the title suggests, this anthology is for those on the outside. It is a weird blend of strange works from well-known authors in the industry. I tend to like anthologies such as this because it creates work somewhat out of the norm for the writers. The standout story here is from Tanith Lee. I do not recommend it purely for the story as I do not consider it the best of this bunch. What did strike me was the prose. From her first words the reader knows they are in the hands of a master. It is simply impossible to stop reading once one starts because of the incredible descriptions and tone of the story. It is technically an excerpt from one of her novels but it does wow with the beauty of the words on the page. If someone believes horror cannot be literary they have not read…

By Nancy Holder (editor), Nancy Kilpatrick (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Some of today's leading masters of speculative fiction, dark fantasy, and horror contribute a collection of original tales of the macabre in an anthology that features works by Neil Gaiman, Poppy Z. Brite, Yvonne Navarro, Tanith Lee, John Shirley, Brian Hodge, and Kathe Koja, among others. Original.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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