63 books like Hidden Figures

By Margot Lee Shetterly,

Here are 63 books that Hidden Figures fans have personally recommended if you like Hidden Figures. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II

Kate Andersen Brower Author Of Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon

From my list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women.

Who am I?

When I covered the White House as a young reporter I was always more interested in understanding what was happening in the upstairs residence than in what briefings we were getting from the president’s advisers in the Roosevelt Room. I was raised with the understanding that in the end everyone is equal and that no one, no matter how powerful they are, gets out of the human experience. I think that’s what makes me interested in iconic women, from Elizabeth Taylor to Betty Ford. There’s nothing I like better than reading their letters and trying to understand what made them tick, and how they navigated their complicated and very public lives.

Kate's book list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women

Kate Andersen Brower Why did Kate love this book?

Sonia Purnell vividly captures a pivotal place and time in world history.

She tells the story of Virginia Hall, a woman who became one of the most wanted Allied spies working behind enemy lines during World War II. Even with her prosthetic leg Hall was able to go undercover in Nazi-occupied France. (Before becoming a spy she accidentally shot herself in the foot and her left leg had to be amputated below the knee.)

During the war she had a network of more than a thousand people and helped the Allies reclaim France. President Truman wanted to honor her with a public ceremony – but she declined because she wanted to remain undercover.  That kind of grit and modesty is one of the many reasons why this book, which reads like a spy thriller, is impossible to put down.

All the more so because Hall was not perfect, and she…

By Sonia Purnell,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked A Woman of No Importance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Chosen as a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by NPR, the New York Public Library, Amazon, the Seattle Times, the Washington Independent Review of Books, PopSugar, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookBrowse, the Spectator, and the Times of London

Winner of the Plutarch Award for Best Biography

"Excellent...This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down." -- The New York Times Book Review

"A compelling biography of a masterful spy, and a reminder of what can be done with a few brave people -- and a little resistance." - NPR

"A…


Book cover of Contact

Andrew Fraknoi

From my list on science fiction books that use good astronomy.

Who am I?

I am an astronomer and college professor who loves science fiction. For many years, I have kept a webpage recommending science fiction stories and novels that are based on good astronomy. I love explaining astronomy to non-scientists, and I am the lead author of OpenStax Astronomya free online textbook for beginners, which is now the most frequently used textbook for astronomy classes in the U.S. I actually learned English at age 11 by reading science fiction comics and then books for kids,  After many decades as a fan, I have recently realized a long-held dream and become a published SF author myself.

Andrew's book list on science fiction books that use good astronomy

Andrew Fraknoi Why did Andrew love this book?

I especially enjoyed this book because it was written by an astronomer (with some help from his wife, who was a science writer) and because the main character was based on a colleague of mine, Dr. Jill Tarter.

In the book, Carl Sagan tells the story of how a SETI (search for extra-terrestrial intelligence) project might actually go about finding a signal from a civilization around another star. (The book was made into a movie, where Jodie Foster played the main scientist who made the discovery. She actually came out to the SETI Institute, where Jill Tarter worked, and spent some time with Jill, learning how to portray a scientist in this field.) 

I also liked that the alien civilization we find is more advanced than we are, which is likely, given how long the stars in our Galaxy have been around, and how recently we humans evolved.

By Carl Sagan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In December 1999 a multinational team journeys out to the stars, to the most awesome encounter in human history. Who - or what - is out there?


Book cover of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Mary Shanklin Author Of American Castle: One Hundred Years of Mar-a-Lago

From my list on nonfiction with fantastic storytelling.

Who am I?

As a lifelong journalist, I’m riveted by stories that dissect actual events. Nonfiction is my wheelhouse and I’m fortunate to have a related body of distinguished work. Over the decades, I’ve written for exceptional newspaper and magazine editors who taught me the craft of making reality not only engaging – but also meaningful. Instead of ignoring the not-so-convenient truths – details that might be swept away by a historical fiction writer – I hunt for them. My coverage of inequities, hurricanes, and real estate scams has taught me: show, don’t tell. Any author who can take a mountain of interviews, details, facts and color and transform it into a thought-provoking story, they have my attention. 

Mary's book list on nonfiction with fantastic storytelling

Mary Shanklin Why did Mary love this book?

Only dogged research could unearth the story of how one Black woman’s death – and the harvesting of her cells – could change the course of medical research.

It is a story of how some innocuous biological matter could grow into a hothouse of excess. Pharma companies enriched themselves reproducing the cells of Henrietta Lacks but did little or nothing for the family who lost their matriarch.  

For me, this book unleashed the idea of shaping deep research into a story can change our view of society.

By Rebecca Skloot,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by author of The Tidal Zone, Sarah Moss

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. Born a poor black tobacco farmer, her cancer cells - taken without her knowledge - became a multimillion-dollar industry and one of the most important tools in medicine. Yet Henrietta's family did not learn of her 'immortality' until more than twenty years after her death, with devastating consequences . . .

Rebecca Skloot's fascinating account is the story of the life, and afterlife, of one woman who changed the medical world for ever. Balancing the beauty and drama…


Book cover of The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Kate Andersen Brower Author Of Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon

From my list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women.

Who am I?

When I covered the White House as a young reporter I was always more interested in understanding what was happening in the upstairs residence than in what briefings we were getting from the president’s advisers in the Roosevelt Room. I was raised with the understanding that in the end everyone is equal and that no one, no matter how powerful they are, gets out of the human experience. I think that’s what makes me interested in iconic women, from Elizabeth Taylor to Betty Ford. There’s nothing I like better than reading their letters and trying to understand what made them tick, and how they navigated their complicated and very public lives.

Kate's book list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women

Kate Andersen Brower Why did Kate love this book?

My friend Denise Kiernan shines a light on the thousands of women who worked on the Manhattan Project.

If you’ve seen Oppenheimer and you’re interested in the story behind the development of the atomic bomb, then this book will help you understand the hidden figures behind its creation. What I love the most about Denise’s writing is the way that she brings the mysterious origins of Oak Ridge, a Tennessee town created to house the people working on the bomb, to life. 

At a time when the stakes couldn’t have been higher, women were at the center of the story.

By Denise Kiernan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Girls of Atomic City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—an incredible true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb.

“The best kind of nonfiction: marvelously reported, fluidly written, and a remarkable story...As meticulous and brilliant as it is compulsively readable.” —Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not…


Book cover of Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II

Robbyn Swan Author Of A Matter of Honor: Pearl Harbor: Betrayal, Blame and a Family’s Quest For Justice

From my list on American code-breaking in World War II.

Who are we?

Anthony Summers and I are the authors of several books that focus on the world of intelligence, including The Eleventh Day: The Full Story of 9/11 and Osama bin Laden- which was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. As we revealed in our most recent book, A Matter of Honor, U.S. code-breaking efforts in World War II began with a colossal failure – Pearl Harbor. According to the first official report on the disaster, the attack “had been clearly foreshadowed” in the Japanese diplomatic traffic the U.S had decoded. The story of how the Americans turned that initial failure into success came to fascinate me.

Robbyn's book list on American code-breaking in World War II

Robbyn Swan Why did Robbyn love this book?

Mundy’s unputdownable book tells the story of the women behind some of the most significant code-breaking triumphs of the war. The work of women like Elizabeth Friedman – who got her start unpicking the codes of Prohibition-era liquor smugglers – was one of the war’s best-kept secrets.

By Liza Mundy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An expert on East European politics and economics analyzes and evaluates Western policies toward the new East European democracies as they struggle to build stable political orders and functioning market economies. He argues that the West must give higher priority to assisting the region and reorient its strategies so as to emphasize the political and administrative dimensions of economic reconstruction. He reviews the economic legacy of past Western policies and of Eastern Europe's previous dependency on the Soviet Union, and then examines in detail the changing East-West trade patterns, the prospect for Western investment and technology transfer, the questions of…


Book cover of The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women and Women to Medicine

Heather Clark Author Of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath

From my list on group biographies of women.

Who am I?

Heather Clark is the author of Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath which was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Biography, and a Book of the Year at The Guardian, O the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, The Times (London), Lit Hub, Good Morning America Book Club, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a new group biography about the Boston years of Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, and Maxine Kumin, under contract with Knopf. She is a professor of Contemporary Poetry at the University of Huddersfield in Yorkshire, England.

Heather's book list on group biographies of women

Heather Clark Why did Heather love this book?

Janice P. Nimura digs deep into the diaries and letters of the Blackwell sisters, who were among the very first women in America to be trained as doctors. The book reads like a novel without sacrificing historical accuracy and scholarly rigor. I found myself deeply moved by the sisters’ struggles to be taken seriously as physicians in an entirely male world. Jeered in lecture halls and treated as curiosities off-campus, they maintained a dignified courage and a relentless work ethic. Eventually, they shamed their skeptics and opened the doors for future generations of women doctors. This is a compelling tale told well.

By Janice P. Nimura,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elizabeth Blackwell believed from an early age that she was destined for a mission beyond the scope of "ordinary" womanhood. Though the world at first recoiled at the notion of a woman studying medicine, her intelligence and intensity ultimately won her the acceptance of the male medical establishment. In 1849, she became the first woman in America to receive an M.D. She was soon joined in her iconic achievement by her younger sister, Emily, who was actually the more brilliant physician.

Exploring the sisters' allies, enemies, and enduring partnership, Janice P. Nimura presents a story of trial and triumph. Together,…


Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Jake S. Friedman Author Of The Disney Revolt: The Great Labor War of Animation's Golden Age

From my list on American history that read like you’re binge-watching.

Who am I?

I'm an expert in animation history, having written three books on it, dozens of articles, and appeared on TV documentaries about it. I've also been a college professor for about 13 years, so I know what a story needs to maintain interest. These books have that. They're about different chunks of American history, some political, some artistic, all cultural. But they're also focused on the people who made the history, and showing how they got to where they were, and why they matter. These books let me walk in the shoes of subjects, and whisk me back to their time and place. If a book passes the empathy/time-machine test, it has won me over.

Jake's book list on American history that read like you’re binge-watching

Jake S. Friedman Why did Jake love this book?

I never leaned toward crime stories, but this true telling of America’s first serial killer, while simultaneously recounting one of the grandest expositions in American history, was too good to put down.

I was shocked by how quickly I devoured this book. It’s the closest you can get to time-traveling to 1890s Chicago. It’s the near-impossible feat of building the greatest World’s Fair of all, and also the gruesome story of a killer building a “murder house” and luring single women into it.

This is the book that inspired Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio to almost make it a series on Hulu, just saying.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…


Book cover of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Who am I?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

Kate Moore sucked me into the world of the radium girls, who literally glowed from the radium dust that covered them at work, and that they ultimately ingested, sickening them in horrific ways.

The book made me want to scream in anger at their treatment and cheer for those who were determined to defend them and deliver justice. The story is a huge eye-opener about the importance of industry oversight and occupational health regulations. 

By Kate Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club choice
New York Times bestseller

'Fascinating.' Sunday Times
'Thrilling.' Mail on Sunday

All they wanted was the chance to shine.

Be careful what you wish for...

'The first thing we asked was, "Does this stuff hurt you?" And they said, "No." The company said that it wasn't dangerous, that we didn't need to be afraid.'

As the First World War spread across the world, young American women flocked to work in factories, painting clocks, watches and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and…


Book cover of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

Kevin Davies Author Of Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing

From my list on CRISPR and genome editing.

Who am I?

I’m a British science editor and author of a string of books on the scientific, medical, and social implications of advances in genetics research. I trained as a geneticist but found more personal satisfaction wielding a pen rather than a pipette. I’m especially drawn to science stories that have medical implications for the public and a strong narrative thread. Prior to writing Editing Humanity, I covered the race for the BRCA1 breast cancer gene (Breakthrough), the Human Genome Project (Cracking the Genome), and the rise of personal genomics (The $1,000 Genome). I’m currently writing a biography of sickle cell disease, arguably the most famous genetic mutation in human history.

Kevin's book list on CRISPR and genome editing

Kevin Davies Why did Kevin love this book?

I have seldom read a book with as much zeal as The Code Breaker, written by the famous biographer and historian, Walter Isaacson, whom I’d met on the CRISPR conference circuit.

Isaacson focuses on Doudna’s life and science, but also introduces the reader to a large cast of characters, including Doudna’s former colleague and fellow Nobelist, Emmanuelle Charpentier. He even has a crack at running a CRISPR experiment himself.

The success of this book has likely done more than anything to educate the public on the transformative promise of CRISPR.

By Walter Isaacson,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Code Breaker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The best-selling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns.

In 2012, Nobel Prize winning scientist Jennifer Doudna hit upon an invention that will transform the future of the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA.

Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions. It has already been deployed to cure deadly diseases, fight the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, and make inheritable changes in the genes of babies.

But what does that mean for humanity? Should we be hacking our own DNA to make us less susceptible to disease? Should…


Book cover of The Hidden Life of Trees

Tina Muir Author Of Becoming a Sustainable Runner: A Guide to Running for Life, Community, and Planet

From my list on helping you process emotions around climate.

Who am I?

FernGully was one of my favorite movies as a kid, and it made me really think about the natural world and how humans interact with it. Now, aged 35 with kids of my own (who also love FernGully), I consider myself a climate activist for the work I do in helping everyday people to believe they can be a part of the solution to climate change. As an author, podcast host, and community builder, I've connected with other humans with fascinating passions, perspectives, and values. I want to show my audience that we can all view the world differently, but there is one important thing we need to all believe, that we matter.

Tina's book list on helping you process emotions around climate

Tina Muir Why did Tina love this book?

As humans, we sometimes find ourselves thinking that we are at the top of the intelligence chain, that we have it all figured out and everything else in the world is lesser.

The Hidden Life of Trees made me totally rethink that, and not simply for trees, but the interconnectedness of our world and how everything works together perfectly in harmony…until humans came along and began to hack the system, of course.

This book gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation for trees and made me think about how much we could be learning from our distant relatives, rather than thinking everything else needs to learn from us. 

By Peter Wohlleben, Jane Billinghurst (translator),

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Hidden Life of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"A paradigm-smashing chronicle of joyous entanglement that will make you acknowledge your own entanglement in the ancient and ever-new web of being."--Charles Foster, author of Being a Beast Are trees social beings? In this international bestseller, forester and author Peter Wohlleben convincingly makes the case that, yes, the forest is a social network. He draws on groundbreaking scientific discoveries to describe how trees are like human families: tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, support them as they grow, share nutrients with those who are sick or struggling, and even warn each other of impending dangers. Wohlleben…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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