100 books like First Women

By Kate Andersen Brower,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

Kate Doyle Author Of I Meant It Once

From my list on making sense of your life by writing about it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of the short story collection I Meant It Once. I often say it’s a book about being a mess in your twenties, but to speak more personally, writing it was a necessity, a way to make sense of both the intensity and mundanity of my own experiences. I love a book where you can palpably feel the author working to make sense of their own life, through language—and, in turn, sorting out what it is for any of us to be a person. Books like these are essential reading when life feels thorny, beautiful, and impossible to make sense of, and all you can do is try to write it down.  

Kate's book list on making sense of your life by writing about it

Kate Doyle Why did Kate love this book?

I’ll end with a book that started it all for me!

I still remember, in the year 2010, reaching the end of the essay "Goodbye to All That" where the date of publication is noted—1967—and how startled I was to realize something that feels so contemporary and alive had been written decades earlier. As in so much of her work, in this collection Didion offers vivid details from her life and brings her extraordinary powers of analysis to understanding their meaning.

As she once put it herself—in another essay, "Why I Write"—"Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write. I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.”

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Slouching Towards Bethlehem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joan Didion's savage masterpiece, which, since first publication in 1968, has been acknowledged as an unparalleled report on the state of America during the upheaval of the Sixties Revolution.

We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were

In her non-fiction work, Joan Didion not only describes the subject at hand - her younger self loving and leaving New York, the murderous housewife, the little girl trailing the rock group, the millionaire bunkered in his mansion…


Book cover of The Gastronomical Me

Denise Kiernan Author Of We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace

From my list on on or by maverick women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. Throughout her career as a journalist and an author, she has explored underrepresented stories and characters and the impact they have had on history. These stories of the unsung offer fresh perspectives on historical tales we think we already know. At the heart of many of Kiernan’s nonfiction explorations are women from a variety of different backgrounds and time periods.

Denise's book list on on or by maverick women

Denise Kiernan Why did Denise love this book?

To call Fisher merely a food writer is to miss out on one of the most provocative essayists of the 20th century. This exploration of her departure from American life to live in Dijon, France, is a celebration of what it means to be truly engaged in one’s own story. For those with ravenous appetites for not just food, but the stuff of life.

By M.F.K. Fisher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1929, a newly married M.F.K. Fisher said goodbye to a milquetoast American culinary upbringing and sailed with her husband to Dijon, where she tasted real French cooking for the first time. The Gastronomical Me is a chronicle of her passionate embrace of a whole new way of eating, drinking, and celebrating the senses. As she recounts memorable meals shared with an assortment of eccentric and fascinating characters, set against a backdrop of mounting pre-war tensions, we witness the formation not only of her taste but of her character and her prodigious talent.


Book cover of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

Cathy Hester Seckman Author Of Rightside/Wrongside

From my list on women being in charge in fiction and nonfiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the ‘60s, when women were not in charge of anything much. I’ve always been fascinated by strong women. Amelia Earhart was a particular favorite, as were the suffragettes, Michelle Obama, and others. The strongest thing I’ve done in my life is to seize opportunities when they arise. I forged a second career that way, taking more than one leap of faith to do what I’ve always known I could do, be a writer. During and after my first career as a dental hygienist I took opportunities to be a newspaper wire editor, then a columnist, a magazine writer, an indexer, a nonfiction writer, and a novelist.

Cathy's book list on women being in charge in fiction and nonfiction

Cathy Hester Seckman Why did Cathy love this book?

This is more historical fiction than nonfiction, but the backmatter contains notes, a bibliography, and a decent index.

It details the work of four Civil War-era women who made significant contributions to the war effort on both sides. Flamboyant teenager Belle Boyd and scheming temptress Rose O’Neal Greenhow spied for the South; Emma Edmonds enlisted in the Union Army as Frank Thompson; and secret abolitionist Elizabeth Van Lew managed an espionage ring under the noses of her Richmond neighbors.

I cheered each one of them through the entire book, wondering if I could have been as strong and resolute as they were. They didn’t cower in their homes. They stood up and made their lives count in an era when the overwhelming majority of women did no such thing.

By Karen Abbott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Not for nothing has Abbott been called a ‘pioneer of sizzle history.’ Here she creates a gripping page-turner that moves at a breathtaking clip through the dramatic events of the Civil War.”  — Los Angeles Times

Karen Abbott, the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and “pioneer of sizzle history” (USA Today), tells the spellbinding true story of four women - a socialite, a farmgirl, an abolitionist, and a widow - who risked everything to become spies during the Civil War.

After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle…


Book cover of Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

Denise Kiernan Author Of We Gather Together: A Nation Divided, a President in Turmoil, and a Historic Campaign to Embrace Gratitude and Grace

From my list on on or by maverick women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Denise Kiernan is a multiple New York Times bestselling author of narrative nonfiction books including The Girls Of Atomic City, The Last Castle, and We Gather Together. Throughout her career as a journalist and an author, she has explored underrepresented stories and characters and the impact they have had on history. These stories of the unsung offer fresh perspectives on historical tales we think we already know. At the heart of many of Kiernan’s nonfiction explorations are women from a variety of different backgrounds and time periods.

Denise's book list on on or by maverick women

Denise Kiernan Why did Denise love this book?

There are many ways to approach history. Donna Lucey brilliantly chose to usher readers into the world of the Gilded Age via the captivating canvases of that era’s most sought-after portraitist, John Singer Sargent. There are always more stories lurking behind Sargent’s luxurious depictions of his subjects, and Lucey gets beneath the paint and the posing to give us her own picture of four very real women whose lives are far more nuanced than any portrait sitting can convey.

By Donna M. Lucey, Donna M. Lucey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With unprecedented access to newly discovered sources, Donna M. Lucey illuminates the lives of four women painted by the society portraitist John Singer Sargent. With uncanny clairvoyance, Sargent's portraits hint at the mysteries, passions and tragedies that unfolded in his subjects' lives. Elsie Palmer carried on a labyrinthine love life in a Rocky Mountain castle; Elizabeth Chanler stepped into a maze of infidelity with her best friend's husband; as the veiled image of Sally Fairchild emerged on the canvas, her sister was lured into an ill-fated life in art; and shrewd Isabella Stewart Gardner collected both art and young men.…


Book cover of Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers

Marsha Hayles Author Of Breathing Room

From my list on when illness touches a young person's life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author fortunate to be alive because of emergency medical treatments I received as an infant, treatments not available to one of my older sisters who died as a result. That I grew up in Rochester Minnesota—home to the world-famous Mayo Clinic where my father worked as a pediatric endocrinologist—also may have increased my awareness of how illness and its medical treatments can affect a young person’s life. 

Marsha's book list on when illness touches a young person's life

Marsha Hayles Why did Marsha love this book?

I greatly admire Michelle Obama and thought I knew her story. I didn’t. In this version of her memoir Becoming, adapted for young readers and full of engaging photos, she shares how her father’s multiple sclerosis marked her life: she was a young child when he first needed a cane, a freshman in college when he needed two, and a young professional in love with a man named Barack Obama when her father died. Though he never wanted his multiple sclerosis to limit his children’s lives—and it didn’t—her father’s illness may also explain Michelle Obama’s remarkable strength in the face of adversity and her genuine compassion and concern for others. 

By Michelle Obama,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Becoming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Michelle Obama’s worldwide bestselling memoir, Becoming, is now adapted for young readers.

Michelle Robinson was born on the South Side of Chicago. From her modest beginnings, she would become Michelle Obama, the inspiring and powerful First Lady of the United States, when her husband, Barack Obama, was elected the forty-fourth president. They would be the first Black First Family in the White House and serve the country for two terms.
 
Growing up, Michelle and her older brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family’s upstairs apartment in her great-aunt’s house. Her parents, Fraser and…


Book cover of Becoming

Wakisha (Kisha) Stewart Author Of Sonata for a Damaged Heart: A Young Mother's Journey of Survival After a Near Fatal Heart Attack

From my list on discovering a path to a better you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who am I? Well, I'm a mother of three, a nurse, a wife, a survivor of a postpartum heart attack, and a new author. I'm living proof that life can throw some curveballs, but I'm also proof that you can bounce back stronger than ever. I'm the conductor of the chaos train, the healer with a heart of gold, and the one who holds it all together when things get crazy. I'm juggling carpool, advocacy, and dinner plans with a smile on my face and love in my heart. I'm embracing every moment of this second chance at life, living it to the fullest, and loving every minute of it.

Wakisha's book list on discovering a path to a better you

Wakisha (Kisha) Stewart Why did Wakisha love this book?

As someone deeply invested in themes of self-discovery and finding inner strength, Michelle Obama's book resonated profoundly with me. Through her candid storytelling, she takes readers on a journey of personal growth, navigating the complexities of identity, purpose, and resilience.

One of the most compelling aspects of the book is her unwavering commitment to authenticity, which inspired how I wanted my own memoir to be seen. She fearlessly confronts the challenges and triumphs that shaped her journey, offering invaluable insights into the power of self-reflection and self-empowerment.

Michelle Obama's narrative highlights the importance of embracing vulnerability as a catalyst for growth. She openly shares her struggles with doubt and insecurity, demonstrating how moments of uncertainty can ultimately lead to profound personal transformation. Her story serves as a powerful reminder that even in the face of adversity, we have the capacity to forge our own path and redefine our narratives.

This…

By Michelle Obama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir; 17 million copies sold worldwide

THE NO. 1 BESTSELLER

BRITISH BOOK AWARDS, NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR

THE SUNDAY TIMES, MEMOIR OF THE YEAR

BOOKS OF THE YEAR: THE TIMES, OBSERVER, GUARDIAN, EVENING STANDARD

Now in paperback featuring a new introduction by Michelle Obama, a letter from the author to her younger self, and a book club guide with 20 discussion questions and a 5-question Q&A, the intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama…


Book cover of First Ladies Fact Book: The Childhoods, Courtships, Marriages, Campaigns, Accomplishments, and Legacies of Every First Lady

Natasha Wing Author Of When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy's Fight for an American Icon

From my list on fabulous First Ladies.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I learned that Jackie Kennedy Onassis had helped save Grand Central I had to know more about her! This lead to being curious about other First Ladies and how they served America during and after they were in the White House. Often their contributions were overshadowed by their husbands, so with this list, I’m shining a light on little-known facts about these well-known women.

Natasha's book list on fabulous First Ladies

Natasha Wing Why did Natasha love this book?

This is a great resource if you’re just wanting to brush up on your First Ladies trivia or if you’re needing a starting point in your research. It contains photos, quotes, and delicious details. Although it’s more of a book for grown-ups, it can be used to explore First Ladies further with your child after reading a picture book.

By Bill Harris, Laura Ross,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked First Ladies Fact Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The revised and updated edition, including all-new information on Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Betty Ford America's first ladies have captured the hearts of the citizens of our country ever since its humble beginnings. This newly updated edition of The First Ladies Fact Book is a comprehensive, fascinating, and intimate look at the life of each first lady from Martha Washington to Michelle Obama. Each profile includes a portrait, key biographical information, and several additional photographs. Among the topics covered are childhood and upbringing, early marriage years, the path to the White House, hobbies, career, style of dress,…


Book cover of A Perfect Union: Dolley Madison and the Creation of the American Nation

Cassandra Good Author Of First Family: George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America

From my list on the fascinating families of America’s founders.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I loved reading books about time travel, and now as a historian, I do a sort of time travel for my job. I have always been especially drawn to reading women’s correspondence, particularly when the women involved were pushing against gender roles and finding ways to access political power. I approach doing history as if it’s an ethnography of a group of people with entirely different beliefs, norms, and even emotions from us today; after all, the past is a foreign country. I’m especially intrigued by uncovering how personal relationships worked in the past and how relationships with political figures allowed family and friends to access power.

Cassandra's book list on the fascinating families of America’s founders

Cassandra Good Why did Cassandra love this book?

Allgor is an expert on women’s important role in building political society in the founding era, and in this compelling biography, she places Dolley Madison at the center of that story.

Indeed, Madison lived in the nation’s capital until 1849, giving her a decades-long career as a prominent figure in society and political operative. James Madison’s presidency was truly a partnership with his wife, as her charismatic sociability complemented his quiet, reserved demeanor. 

By Catherine Allgor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinary American comes to life in this vivid, groundbreaking portrait of the early days of the republic--and the birth of modern politics

When the roar of the Revolution had finally died down, a new generation of American politicians was summoned to the Potomac to assemble the nation's newly minted capital. Into that unsteady atmosphere, which would soon enough erupt into another conflict with Britain in 1812, Dolley Madison arrived, alongside her husband, James. Within a few years, she had mastered both the social and political intricacies of the city, and by her death in 1849 was the most celebrated…


Book cover of The Times of My Life

Scott Kaufman Author Of Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford

From my list on the life and presidency of Gerald R. Ford.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was 16 years old, my father, Burton Kaufman, who is also a historian, took me to the Jimmy Carter Library in Georgia to help him research a book on America's thirty-ninth president. Having had a love of history since the sixth grade, that trip deepened my desire to major in History in college and teach it as a profession. It also made me interested in learning more about the presidency, starting with Carter. Several years ago, I edited a series of essays on both the Ford and Carter presidencies, and realized there was need for an in-depth political biography of our thirty-eighth chief executive. The result was my book on Ford.

Scott's book list on the life and presidency of Gerald R. Ford

Scott Kaufman Why did Scott love this book?

While Gerald Ford’s memoir is useful, I liked Betty’s even more because of her candor. She tells the story of the wife of a congressman, vice president, and president who struggled with loneliness as her husband focused on climbing up the political ranks. His absenteeism contributed to her struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction. Suddenly thrust into the role of First Lady, Betty publicized her fight against breast cancera disease that up to that point had received little public attentionand sought to walk the fine line between acting as White House hostess and drawing attention to issues of women’s rights. 

By Betty Ford, Chris Chase,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This former First Lady candidly describes her life, her unhappy first marriage, her courtship and marriage with Gerald Ford, their independent children, and her battle with cancer


Book cover of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Lisa Ard Author Of Brighter Than Her Fears

From my list on historical fiction with a strong female lead.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love a well-written historical fiction novel that immerses me in the time period and introduces a female character I can relate to. We may live in different times, but women in all eras feel love, attempt and fail, find strength, perform heroic deeds,  suffer mishaps, and experience life. Escaping into their stories makes me question what I would have done in their shoes as well as think about how my own story is still being written. As a historical fiction author, I seek to create those relationships between my characters and readers.

Lisa's book list on historical fiction with a strong female lead

Lisa Ard Why did Lisa love this book?

Imagine a former slave working in the White House before and after Emancipation. What conversations were heard? How was she treated? Did she feel safe or threatened?

Chiaverini dives into the interiority of Mrs. Lincoln's dressmaker's story, the conflicts, the battles, the personal dreams and aspirations, the friendship and falling out around a historical figure few know.

A riveting story.

By Jennifer Chiaverini,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters and Canary Girls unveils the private lives of President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, through the eyes of the First Lady's most trusted confidante and friend in this compelling historical novel.

In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion.

A sweeping historical novel,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in American first ladies, Michelle Obama, and First Ladies of the USA?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about American first ladies, Michelle Obama, and First Ladies of the USA.

American First Ladies Explore 39 books about American first ladies
Michelle Obama Explore 22 books about Michelle Obama
First Ladies Of The USA Explore 16 books about First Ladies of the USA