100 books like Femina

By Janina Ramirez,

Here are 100 books that Femina fans have personally recommended if you like Femina. 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 Medieval Bodies: Life, Death and Art in the Middle Ages

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

This book is filled with fascinating facts about medieval medicine, surgery, humoural theory, disease, and diagnosis. But what is surprising is how many other aspects of the Middle Ages are covered through the theme of bodies.

We learn about strange creatures like blemmyae (who have no heads and faces in their chests) and cynocephali (dog-headed people), saints and relics, race relations and politics, manuscript manufacture, religion, literature, travel, eating habits, love, sexuality, and gender identity.

I love how the chapters are organized by body part, from head to feet, a clever approach I have never seen in a history book before. Hartnell demonstrates how the medieval past is "an uncanny place at once startlingly different from and strangely familiar to our own."

By Jack Hartnell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Just like us, medieval men and women worried about growing old, got blisters and indigestion, fell in love, and had children. And yet their lives were full of miraculous and richly metaphorical experiences radically different from our own, unfolding in a world where deadly wounds might be healed overnight by divine intervention, or where the heart of a king, plucked from his corpse, could be held aloft as a powerful symbol of political rule.

In this richly illustrated and unusual history, Jack Hartnell uncovers the fascinating ways in which people thought about, explored, and experienced their physical selves in the…


Book cover of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

Reading this book is like listening to your incredibly knowledgeable historian friend talk about medieval society over drinks. Janega’s turns of phrase and sharp observations make me laugh, and at the same time, I feel my mind soak up knowledge like a sponge.

This book is about what medieval people thought and why, going back to the philosophies and influences of ancient Greece and Rome. It tackles medieval beauty standards, sexual practices, family life, and work life. It addresses fart jokes and eyeliner, as well as ideas about biology and class disparities. We see women farming, ruling, weaving, brewing, and writing.

Janega argues that it is through seeing the past truly that we can "imagine new futures," making the necessary changes for "a more equitable world."

By Eleanor Janega,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Once and Future Sex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What makes for the ideal woman? How should she look, love and be? In this vibrant, high-spirited history, medievalist Eleanor Janega turns to the Middle Ages, the era that bridged the ancient world and modern society, to unfurl its suppositions about women and reveal what's shifted over time-and what hasn't.

Enshrined medieval thinkers, almost always male, subscribed to a blend of classical Greek and Roman philosophy and Christian theology for their concepts of the sexes. For the height of female attractiveness, they chose the mythical Helen of Troy, whose imagined pear shape, small breasts, and golden hair served as beauty's…


Book cover of Disobedient

Kathleen B. Jones Author Of Cities of Women

From my list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my college days, I majored in dance and political science. It was the 1960s, so marrying art with politics made countercultural sense. After realizing I wouldn’t become the next Martha Graham, I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in political science. But I never abandoned my first love, the arts. Following a more than twenty-year career teaching about women and politics at several universities, I returned to school myself, completed an M.F.A. in creative writing, and published my debut novel, Cities of Women

Kathleen's book list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history

Kathleen B. Jones Why did Kathleen love this book?

In seventeenth-century Rome, a talented young woman artist, Artemesia Gentileschi, is put on trial for accusing her painting instructor of rapeUnwilling to bow to convention, Artemesia pours her rage into her art, inventing an aesthetic against the voyeurism and female submissiveness found in traditional artistic representations of women.

Fremantle heightens the drama and contemporary relevance of Artemisia’s life and art by telling her story in the present tense. Drawing subtle connections between women’s struggles for autonomy and dignity in the past and those in the present, this page-turner of a novel is a searing, nuanced portrait of a woman’s passion for art, determination to right being wronged, and steadfast resolve to be recognized as a great artist. 

By Elizabeth Fremantle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'This is the ring that you gave me, and these are your promises.'

Rome 1611. A jewel-bright place of change, with sumptuous new palaces and lavish wealth on constant display. A city where women are seen but not heard.

Artemisia Gentileschi dreams of becoming a great artist. Motherless, she grows up among a family of painters - men and boys. She knows she is more talented than her brothers, but she cannot choose her own future. She belongs to her father and will belong to a husband.

As Artemisia patiently goes from lesson to lesson, perfecting her craft, a mysterious…


Book cover of For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain

Kathleen B. Jones Author Of Cities of Women

From my list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my college days, I majored in dance and political science. It was the 1960s, so marrying art with politics made countercultural sense. After realizing I wouldn’t become the next Martha Graham, I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in political science. But I never abandoned my first love, the arts. Following a more than twenty-year career teaching about women and politics at several universities, I returned to school myself, completed an M.F.A. in creative writing, and published my debut novel, Cities of Women

Kathleen's book list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history

Kathleen B. Jones Why did Kathleen love this book?

Today’s book-banning efforts replicate the dynamics of past political and religious upheavals when books were destroyed, including thousands of medieval manuscripts, many written by women.

Among those that survived were two mystical treatises: The Book of Margery Kempe discovered by chance in the 1930s in a dusty cupboard on an English country estate, and Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love, given its first complete printing in 1901.

Victoria MacKenzie’s delicate, meditative novel evokes the lives of the two female mystics who authored these texts. In exquisite, spare prose, she conjures the distinctive voices of Margery and Julian, two souls seeking solace from the crushing orthodoxy threatening to envelop them.

Read this book slowly, in a quiet place.

By Victoria MacKenzie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked For Thy Great Pain Have Mercy On My Little Pain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astounding debut, both epic and intimate, about grief, trauma, revelation, and the hidden lives of women - by a major new talent 'Miraculously conjured ... Brilliantly done' THE TIMES, Book of the Month 'A beautiful book ... It warmed my heart' MAX PORTER 'Electrifying ... A pocket epic' GUARDIAN 'The best first novel I've read in years ... So full and so vivid; it is amazing' RODDY DOYLE 'A vibrant portrait of female courage' OBSERVER In the year of 1413, two women meet for the first time in the city of Norwich. Margery has left her fourteen children and…


Book cover of Every Rising Sun

Kathleen B. Jones Author Of Cities of Women

From my list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my college days, I majored in dance and political science. It was the 1960s, so marrying art with politics made countercultural sense. After realizing I wouldn’t become the next Martha Graham, I chose to pursue a doctoral degree in political science. But I never abandoned my first love, the arts. Following a more than twenty-year career teaching about women and politics at several universities, I returned to school myself, completed an M.F.A. in creative writing, and published my debut novel, Cities of Women

Kathleen's book list on women forgotten, misunderstood, or hidden from history

Kathleen B. Jones Why did Kathleen love this book?

Readers may be familiar with The Arabian Nights, the source material behind this fascinating novel. Yet, what distinguishes Jamila Ahmed’s retelling is her focus on the famed storyteller, Shaherazade, whose exposure of the Seljuk king’s wife’s infidelity sets in motion a violent chain of events in twelfth-century Persia.

In lush, sensuous prose, Ahmed fills this vividly imagined, action-packed novel with compelling characters and labyrinthine tales within tales populated with mythical adventurers and creatures with magical powers.

The elaborate, psychologically complex portrait of Shaherazade at the heart of the novel celebrates the power of storytelling while paying homage to the agency of the storyteller.

By Jamila Ahmed,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named a Best Book of 2023 by NPR

In this riveting take on One Thousand and One Nights, Shaherazade, at the center of her own story, uses wit and political mastery to navigate opulent palaces brimming with treachery and the perils of the Third Crusade as her Persian homeland teeters on the brink of destruction.

In twelfth century, Persia, clever and dreamy Shaherazade stumbles on the Malik’s beloved wife entwined with a lover in a sun-dappled courtyard. When Shaherazade recounts her first tale, the story of this infidelity, to the Malik, she sets the Seljuk Empire on fire.

Enraged at…


Book cover of Lilith

Malayna Evans Author Of Neferura

From my list on badass women who left a mark on the ancient world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Egyptologist by training and a storyteller by nature. Fascinated by the origins of patriarchy since I was a small girl raised by strong women in a patriarchal context, I turned to Greek and Roman history for answers. I earned an MA and a richer understanding of the civilizations that influenced the classical period, which led to the study of Egypt and Mesopotamia and finally to a Ph.D. in Egyptology. At heart, I’m more creative than scholar. Telling stories that bring ancient Egypt to life and leave readers better informed of the challenges women have faced, and sometimes overcome, is my passion.

Malayna's book list on badass women who left a mark on the ancient world

Malayna Evans Why did Malayna love this book?

This book fueled my feminist rage and left me thinking about it for months after I put it down.

Unapologetically pro-women, Marmery challenges some of the patriarchy’s most sacred foundations. I love the courage of this book. It’s an intimate read but somehow also feels large and distant. For me, this one is a ca n’t-miss read that makes you think, wonder, and fume.

By Nikki Marmery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A triumphantly feminist retelling of ancient creation myths in the tradition of Madeline Miller and Claire North.

Lyrically rendered, this epic U.S. debut tells the story of the woman known as Adam's first wife and her fall from Paradise and quest for revenge.

Before Eve, there was Lilith.

Lilith and Adam are equal and happy in the Garden of Eden. Until Adam decides Lilith should submit to his will and lie beneath him. She refuses—and is banished forever from Paradise.

Demonized and sidelined, Lilith watches in fury as God creates Eve, the woman who accepts her submission. But Lilith has…


Book cover of The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

This book is about medieval manuscripts, but those parchment pages are only the "portals that connect us to lives in the past." This book’s stories are, in fact, about the hands that wrote, illustrated, commissioned, collected, and composed those manuscripts.

Wellesley’s enthusiasm for the forensic study of the physical as well as textual past is infectious. She gently corrects popular assumptions about the Middle Ages (yes, women were involved in all aspects of book-making, from commissioning to composing to writing to illustrating), all the while dropping in delectable details that make you stop and think (the word "artist" doesn’t appear in English until after the medieval period).

By Mary Wellesley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A breathtaking journey into the hidden history of medieval manuscripts, from the Lindisfarne Gospels to the ornate Psalter of Henry VIII

“A delight—immersive, conversational, and intensely visual, full of gorgeous illustrations and shimmering description.” –Helen Castor, author of She-Wolves

Medieval manuscripts can tell us much about power and art, knowledge and beauty. Many have survived because of an author’s status—part of the reason we have so much of Chaucer’s writing, for example, is because he was a London-based government official first and a poet second. Other works by the less influential have narrowly avoided ruin, like the book of illiterate…


Book cover of How to Live Like a Monk: Medieval Wisdom for Modern Life

Hana Videen Author Of The Deorhord: An Old English Bestiary

From my list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in medieval history comes from a love of language. My favourite Old English word is wordhord, which refers to a poet’s mental stockpile of words and phrases. My word hoarding (and sharing) started with tweeting the Old English word of the day in 2013. This spread to other social media platforms, a blog, an app, and now two books. I have a PhD in English from King’s College London (my thesis was on blood in Old English, even though blood actually makes me squeamish). I enjoy histories that make me think about the past from a different perspective.

Hana's book list on books with a unique perspective of the medieval past

Hana Videen Why did Hana love this book?

This is a medieval history unlike any other you’ll read, literally bringing the past into the present. How do medieval thoughts and practices relate to modern life, from the usefulness of minimalism to church "vision boards" to the healing properties of green spaces?

Cybulskie is lightheartedly critical of certain practices of the past but is always respectful, never treating people as strange or backward.

Illustrated with images from medieval manuscripts, this book covers everything from Easter ball games to party saint Brigid to Benedict’s vision of a room for communal undies. We see medieval religious folks interested in science and innovation, as well as history and ritual, and connected to the world around them in ways we might not have imagined.

By Danièle Cybulskie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Live Like a Monk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We know that they prayed, sang, and wore long robes, but what was it really like to be a monk? Though monastic living may seem unimaginable to us moderns, it has relevance for today. This book illuminates the day-to-day of medieval European monasticism, showing how you can apply the principles of monastic living, like finding balance and peace, to your life.

With wit and insight, medievalist and podcaster Daniele Cybulskie dives into the history of monasticism in each chapter and then reveals applications for today, such as the benefits of healthy eating, streamlining routines, gardening, and helping others. She shares…


Book cover of Mysteries of the Middle Ages

Frank Shapiro Author Of The Conspiracy against Mary Magdalene

From my list on gripping fiction for history enthusiasts.

Why am I passionate about this?

History is my passion. I’m a graduate of medieval history from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and post-graduate of London University. Former high school history teacher, and previously held the post of assistant researcher at the Museum of the Diaspora, Tel Aviv. I was commissioned by the Council of Zambian Jewry to research and write the history of Northern Rhodesian/Zambian Jewry. I have lectured frequently on my subjects and have contributed diverse historical articles in newspapers and journals. I have published six books, fiction, and non-fiction.  

Frank's book list on gripping fiction for history enthusiasts

Frank Shapiro Why did Frank love this book?

I often like to break away from in-depth academic historical reading and indulge in lighter yet informative work. This always leads me to Cahill’s history books. He always has a new take, such as ‘how the Irish saved civilization’ to this intriguing book, Mysteries of the Middle Ages. He skillfully portrays here how medieval thought foreshadowed the making of the Renaissance and the development of the modern scientific era. Cahill’s talent is in his easy-to-read excellent prose and intellectual richness. His books are also well-illustrated with beautiful pictures and artistic layout.  

By Thomas Cahill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mysteries of the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the national bestselling author of How the Irish Saved Civilization—a fascinating look at how medieval thinkers created the origins of modern intellectual movements.

“Intoxicating.... Cahill's command of rich historical detail makes medieval cities and their colorful characters come to alive.” —The Los Angeles Times

After the long period of decline known as the Dark Ages, medieval Europe experienced a rebirth of scholarship, art, literature, philosophy, and science and began to develop a vision of Western society that remains at the heart of Western civilization today, from the entry of women into professions that had long been closed to them…


Book cover of The Making of the Middle Ages

David Horspool Author Of Richard III: A Ruler and his Reputation

From my list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by medieval history ever since I played hide and seek around Welsh castles as a boy. At university – a medieval invention, of course – I was able to sit at the feet of some of the finest historians of the Middle Ages, experts like Maurice Keen and Patrick Wormald. As a writer, I have tackled medieval subjects like Alfred the Great and Richard III, as well as the history of English rebellion. I have come to realise that the Middle Ages could be cruel and violent, just like our own time, but that they were also a time of extraordinary achievements that form the foundations of the world we live in.

David's book list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult

David Horspool Why did David love this book?

This was the first book to open my eyes to the strangeness and sophistication of medieval life. To an English reader, its focus on the European Middle Ages is revelatory, as is its concentration on writers and travellers rather than kings and knights. At the time he wrote the book, the brilliant Richard Southern was hospitalized with tuberculosis. The book seems to be a distillation of a lifelong passion, which, fortunately, he was able to pursue for another four decades.

By R.W. Southern,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A distinguished Oxford historian presents an absorbing study of the main personalities and the influences that molded the history of Western Europe from the late tenth to the early thirteenth century, describing the chief forms of social, political, and religious organization.
"A book of rare value."-Sidney Painter, American Historical Review


5 book lists we think you will like!

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