64 books like Dancing to the Precipice

By Caroline Moorehead,

Here are 64 books that Dancing to the Precipice fans have personally recommended if you like Dancing to the Precipice. 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 Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

This was a page-turner and a great introduction to Russian history. Massie described her so vividly that years later, I can still visualize Catherine. The most fascinating aspect of the book for me was how a German child named Sophie reinvents herself to become Catherine the Great, the longest-serving Russian empress. 

By Robert K. Massie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The fascinating true story behind HBO's Catherine the Great starring Dame Helen Mirren as Catherine the Great.

Born into a minor noble family, Catherine transformed herself into empress of Russia by sheer determination. For thirty-four years, the government, foreign policy, cultural development and welfare of the Russian people were in her hands. She dealt with domestic rebellion, foreign wars and the tidal wave of political change and violence churned up by the French Revolution.

Robert K. Massie brings an eternally fascinating woman together with her family, friends, ministers, generals, lovers and enemies - vividly and triumphantly to life.

History offers…


Book cover of The Life of Elizabeth I

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to recommend this particular work of Alison Weir. A brilliant historian, she – by means of both traditional, meticulously-researched biographies, as well as in her historical fiction offerings –  chronicles many aspects, and a number of personages of Tudor England in all of its – and their – colourfully untidy turbulence. 

Her account of Elizabeth I’s life is amongst her best. I especially appreciate the skillful way in which Weir continuously “introduces” the reader to Elizabeth, as the compelling figure she is – fascinatingly intricate, brilliant, and annoyingly contradictory. Just when one seems to understand her – Weir drops yet another paradox – as the reader learns that this supposedly staunchly Protestant daughter of Henry VIII maintained most aspects of orthodox Roman Catholic practices – including a crucifix – in her private chapel royal.

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Life of Elizabeth I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Elizabeth the Queen begins as the young Elizabeth ascends the throne in the wake of her sister Mary's disastrous reign - both a woman and a queen, Elizabeth's story is an extraordinary phenomenon in a patriarchal age.

From Elizabeth's intriguing, long-standing affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to her dealings - sometimes comical, sometimes poignant - with her many suitors, her rivalry with Mary, Queen of Scots, and her bizarre relationship with the Earl of Essex, thirty years her junior, here, in rich, vivid and colourful detail, Alison Weir helps us comes as close as we shall ever get…


Book cover of Mary Queen of Scots

Gill Arbuthnott Author Of The Amazing Life of Mary, Queen of Scots: Fact-Tastic Stories from Scotland's History

From my list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was utterly uninspired by history at school—couldn’t see the point of it at all—but then I discovered Jean Plaidy’s books and realised history was about people, real people. Dorothy Dunnett propelled me headlong into a fascination with sixteenth-century Europe, a period full of larger-than-life characters and an unusually high number of strong women. Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, Catherine de Medici, Mary of Guise, Hurrem Sultan (wife of Suleiman the Magnificent): they wielded real power. And Mary Queen of Scots was so young—it makes her the perfect starting point to interest young readers in history. I hope I’ve done her story justice.

Gill's book list on Mary Queen of Scots for people who aren't into history

Gill Arbuthnott Why did Gill love this book?

I read this book many years ago, but I went back to it as my first port of call when I began to research my own book on Mary. It’s a fantastically readable, detailed, and sympathetic portrait of Mary. And the sympathetic bit was important to me. It’s almost impossible not to take sides when reading or writing about Mary, and she did make some disastrous decisions, but I keep coming back to how young she was, and that’s well illustrated here.

By Antonia Fraser,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mary Queen of Scots as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A book that will leave few readers unmoved.”–San Francisco Chronicle

She was the quintessential queen: statuesque, regal, dazzlingly beautiful. Her royal birth gave her claim to the thrones of two nations; her marriage to the young French dauphin promised to place a third glorious crown on her noble head.

Instead, Mary Stuart became the victim of her own impulsive heart, scandalizing her world with a foolish passion that would lead to abduction, rape and even murder. Betrayed by those she most trusted, she would be lured into a deadly game of power, only to lose to her envious and unforgiving…


Book cover of Marie Antoinette: The Last Queen of France

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

I am perhaps more familiar with – and fonder of – Marie Antoinette than I am of any other historical personage. Emersed in French history since an early age, I have had a near-lifetime fascination for this complicated woman – who never said, “Let them eat cake!” 

Having researched Antoinette exhaustively (most recently, in connection with her periodic appearances in my own books), since first reading Evelyn Lever’s masterful, beautifully-written work some twenty years ago, I have found myself frequently returning to it. I am drawn to it for its depth and detail, as well as her balanced treatment of an, in many ways, controversial figure. I recommend it as it is a perfect introduction to the life of a captivating woman, as well as presenting a highly satisfying experience for any lover of fine biography. 

By Evelyne Lever,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Married for political reasons at the age of 14, Marie Antoinette was naive, impetuous, and ill-equipped for the role in which history cast her. From her birth in Vienna in 1755 through her turbulent, unhappy marriage, the bloody turmoil of the French Revolution, her trial for high treason during which she was accused of incest, and her final beheading, Marie Antoinette's life was the tragic tale of disastrous circumstances colliding.

Drawing upon her diaries, letters, court records, and memoirs, Evelyne Lever paints a vivid portrait of Marie Antoinette, her inner circle, and the lavish court life at Versailles. What emerges…


Book cover of A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century

Charlotte Gray Author Of Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons: The Lives of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt

From my list on history books by women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I recall my younger self looking at the reading lists on Oxford University history courses, and asking, “Where are all the women?” I have always wanted to know what it was like to be there, in any century up to the present. How did families form and pass on their values, what did people wear and eat, when (and if) children learned to read, and what were people’s daily routines? Political, military, and economic history is important, but I have flourished in the social history trenches. I discovered women writers and historians have more acute antennae for the details I wanted, even when writing about wars and dynasties.

Charlotte's book list on history books by women

Charlotte Gray Why did Charlotte love this book?

Who knew that an account of a disappeared medieval world could be so gripping?

I’ve always regarded history as a literary and intellectual exercise, and Pulitzer-winning Barbara Tuchman has been my model ever since I picked up this absorbing history of a Europe riven by war, climate catastrophes, plague, and religious schisms.

Academic historians might denigrate Tuchman’s approach, but through pen-portraits and narrative momentum, Tuchman immersed me in a world that had subtle echoes of today.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Distant Mirror as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The fourteenth century was a time of fabled crusades and chivalry, glittering cathedrals and grand castles. It was also a time of ferocity and spiritual agony, a world of chaos and the plague.

Here, Barbara Tuchman masterfully reveals the two contradictory images of the age, examining the great rhythms of history and the grain and texture of domestic life as it was lived: what childhood was like; what marriage meant; how money, taxes and war dominated the lives of serf, noble and clergy alike.

Granting her subjects their loyalties, treacheries and guilty passions, Tuchman recreates the lives of proud cardinals,…


Book cover of The Lady and the Unicorn

Madina Papadopoulos Author Of The Step-Spinsters

From my list on transporting you to medieval life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Madina Papadopoulos is a New Orleans-born, New York-based freelance writer and author. She is currently working on the sequel to The Step-Spinsters, the first in the Unspun Fairytale series, which retells classic princess stories set in the late Middle Ages. She studied French and Italian at Tulane University and received her MFA in screenwriting at UCLA. After teaching foreign languages at the university level, as well as in childhood and elementary school programs, she developed and illustrated foreign language coloring workbooks for preschoolers. As a freelance writer, she focuses on food, drinks, and entertainment.

Madina's book list on transporting you to medieval life

Madina Papadopoulos Why did Madina love this book?

Tracy Chevalier once again manages to transport readers into iconic works of art, bringing the story of famed images to life, and exploring the personality of every hand that took to create it. Set in 1490, this book invents a tale behind the creation of “The Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries.” It has everything an engrossing read should have—romance, ambition, betrayal. But for the medieval aficionado, Chevalier’s incredible research on the creation of a tapestry—from designing the cartoon, to sheering the sheep’s wool to the dying it, to the weaving and the warping—is described as a master class that leaves the reader wanting to pick up a loom. 

By Tracy Chevalier,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lady and the Unicorn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A tour de force of history and imagination, The Lady and the Unicorn is Tracy Chevalier’s answer to the mystery behind one of the art world’s great masterpieces—a set of bewitching medieval tapestries that hangs today in the Cluny Museum in Paris. They appear to portray the seduction of a unicorn, but the story behind their making is unknown—until now.

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter,…


Book cover of The Jester

Thomas J. Berry Author Of Iron and Bronze

From my list on history that drops you into adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved reading and feel a natural attraction to history and the lessons it can give us. I want to learn something new whenever I pick up a book but also enjoy the story and characters as well. Since 2010, I have authored six historical novels of my own and am working on my seventh. I carefully weave years of extensive research into a fast-paced, exciting story that pushes all the right buttons! Intrigue, love, fear, and hope are integral parts of my novels, and I hope along the way, my readers will gain a new insight into a different culture or era they never knew before.  

Thomas' book list on history that drops you into adventure

Thomas J. Berry Why did Thomas love this book?

James Patterson is one of my favorite authors and his historical novel The Jester is a masterpiece, blending an intriguing story of treachery, deceit, and love against the backdrop of Medieval Britain. Patterson brings the characters into living color, especially the poor peasants who toil within the cold, stone walls. While the plot is fantastic in its own right, the author does something unique that sets him apart – his chapters are always short and easy to read. Cliffhangers dangle at the end of most of the pages, keeping the reader on the edge of his seat. The combination makes this book hard to put down and you’ll be finished in no time. It's clear he understands what the reader wants, and he delivers!

By James Patterson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Jester 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?

Freedom - in eleventh-century France, it is a luxury enjoyed by only the King and nobility. For the serf, it is surely worth fighting for. But is it worth dying for?

Arriving home disillusioned from the Crusades, Hugh DeLuc discovers that his village has been ransacked and his wife abducted. The dark riders came in the dead of night, like devils, wearing no colours but black crosses on their chests, leaving no clue as to who they are. Knights they may be, but honour and chivalry are not part of their code. They search for a relic, one worth more…


Book cover of Why Kings Confess

Karen Hanson Stuyck Author Of Death of an Unfortunate Woman

From my list on strong women solving mysteries in Great Britain.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up loving stories set in the 1800s. I read Little Women six times, determined to become a writer just like Jo March. Eventually, I became one, writing everything from newspaper articles to medical brochures, short stories, and nine mystery novels. I set my latest book in 1819 Regency England. The myriad rules governing every aspect of proper behavior for “gently bred women” meant that any female refusing to conform faced scandal and ostracism from society. Any woman who managed to forge a life of her own design had to be strong, determined, and feisty—just the kind of female I want to read and write about.

Karen's book list on strong women solving mysteries in Great Britain

Karen Hanson Stuyck Why did Karen love this book?

Unlike my other book choices, Why Kings Confess has a male protagonist, Sebastian St. Cyr. In my opinion, a very good historical mystery series got even better when Sebastian married Hero Jarvis, the brilliant and outspoken daughter of Sebastian’s mortal enemy, Lord Jarvis, a ruthless advisor to the crown. Hero writes searing investigative articles on societal injustice and, despite being heavily pregnant, participates actively in Sebastian’s work. In this book they investigate the brutal death of a man who was part of a secret delegation sent by Napoleon to determine the possibility of peace with Britain. The author is a historian who manages to seamlessly incorporate a lot of fascinating information about Regency England.

By C. S. Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The gruesome murder of a young French physician draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his pregnant wife, Hero, into a dangerous, decades-old mystery as a wrenching piece of Sebastian’s past puts him to the ultimate test.

Regency England, January 1813: When a badly injured Frenchwoman is found beside the mutilated body of Dr. Damion Pelletan in one of London’s worst slums, Sebastian finds himself caught in a high-stakes tangle of murder and revenge. Although the woman, Alexi Sauvage, has no memory of the attack, Sebastian knows her all too well from an incident in his past—an act of wartime…


Book cover of Stalking Shadows

Robyn Tocker Author Of What We Didn't Say: An Ever After Tales Collection

From my list on fairy tale retellings for the young at heart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved fairy tales since I was a little girl and watched my first Disney movie. Over the years, I’ve read many fairy tale retellings, as well as the original versions. I love how writers can see a story like Beauty and the Beast and find ways to make an almost completely new story, but still hold true to the original concepts of the fairy tale. Fairy tales connect us to our childhood and when we read these new versions, it lets us relive a part of our childhood. Not many books can do that! 

Robyn's book list on fairy tale retellings for the young at heart

Robyn Tocker Why did Robyn love this book?

Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairy tale, so not only do I read every retelling I can get my hands on, but I’m quite particular about how I rate them. Stalking Shadows exceeded all expectations. I loved how she changed the genders of her Beauty and Beast (or Beasts). I love when women are allowed to be beastly and monstrous. Panin also didn’t shy away from talking about tough subjects in her book, another reason I loved it so much. I especially liked how she tackled racism and Lord Sebastian’s experiences as a biracial child growing up in the village.  

By Cyla Panin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gothic YA fantasy debut about a young woman striving to break her sister's curse and stop the killing in her small French town—now in paperback

Seventeen-year-old Marie mixes perfumes to sell on market day in her small 18th-century French town. She wants to make enough to save a dowry for her sister, Ama, in hopes of Ama marrying well and Marie living at the level of freedom afforded only to spinster aunts. But her perfumes are more than sweet scents in cheap, cut-glass bottles: A certain few are laced with death. Marie laces the perfume delicately—not with poison, but…


Book cover of The Fatal Friendship

Karen Engelmann Author Of The Stockholm Octavo

From my list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stockholm was the first city that I traveled to outside of the U.S. Landing there at Midsommar and visiting the Old Town made an indelible impression. I lived and worked in Sweden for almost 10 years, and had little time for history then, but later found Stockholm in the Gustavian age irresistible as the basis for my first novel. It was a period of cultural flowering, of occult fascinations, social change, and great drama. Readers tend to look further south, in France and Great Britain, for their historical fiction, histories, and biographies, but there are great stories further north as well. 

Karen's book list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age

Karen Engelmann Why did Karen love this book?

I loved learning about the close ties that existed between Sweden and France in the late 18th century and the French Revolution figured in the plot of my novel. This fabulous non-fiction work explores the politics, intrigues, and plotting of the period through the intimate connection between Marie Antoinette, doomed Queen of France, and her purported lover, Axel von Fersena Swedish nobleman. The revolution was reaching a fevered pitch when King Gustav III of Sweden sent von Fersen to assist the French royal family in their escape from Paris — an epic failure told with passion by Mr. Loomis! 

By Stanley Loomis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Binding: HB Condition: Very Good Dustjacket: Good, top right front chipped. Details: About the puzzling friendship between Count Axel Fersen and Marie Antoinetter, Queen of France, and his role in the Royal Family's disastrous flight to Varennes at the outset of the French Revolution. Book Club Edition. From Stanley Loomis, a well-known author whose books have been published in 8 languages. Size: 22cm X 14.5cm Weight: 500 grams "


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in nobility, France, and the French Revolution?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about nobility, France, and the French Revolution.

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