100 books like Holding Up the Universe

By Jennifer Niven,

Here are 100 books that Holding Up the Universe fans have personally recommended if you like Holding Up the Universe. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things

Kris Dinnison Author Of You And Me And Him

From my list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. I was taller, bigger, and clumsier than the other kids. I listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, and read the wrong books. I wasn’t cool. And when I became a high school teacher, I saw many kids, especially young women, who I could see felt the same. When Young Adult literature came into its own, I really loved all the wonderful ways YA stories were telling the stories of the kids who didn’t fit in, and it made me want to read them, and eventually write one of my own.

Kris' book list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines

Kris Dinnison Why did Kris love this book?

This book was one of the first I read that featured a main character who looked like me. I love the humor, honesty, and insight of Virginia, which is perfectly captured in the diary format of the writing. And the book takes a hard but hopeful look at the ideas of perfection and expectations and all the ways we are flawed, but also worthy of love.

By Carolyn Mackler,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Fifteen-year-old Virginia feels like a fat, awkward outsider in her perfect family, especially next to her golden-boy big brother Byron. She's got a lot to deal with - her weight, her best friend moving away, the mean girls at school - not to mention a boy who seems to like her! To survive, she decides to follow the 'Fat Girl Code of Conduct' to make herself acceptable, unnoticed ... invisible.

It seems to be working until something unthinkable happens and, before her eyes, Virginia's flawless family begins to fall apart. As her world spins out of orbit, Virginia realises that…


Book cover of The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Kayla Cagan Author Of Piper Perish

From my list on on art, creativity and chasing your dreams.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love reading about artists and creators because I’ve been around them most of my life and they are the people I feel I understand the best – though I’m always surprised by the new crafts, facets, and ideas I learn! I grew up in and around my mother’s ceramic shop, my best friends in high school were artists and I was their dorky theater friend, and the two YA books I wrote centered on issues that face young creators. The passion of creative people and artistic friends has always driven me to do my best and not give up on my dreams. 

Kayla's book list on on art, creativity and chasing your dreams

Kayla Cagan Why did Kayla love this book?

Spalding’s book is such a fun read! It focuses on white blog writer and fashionista, Abby, who also happens to be plus-sized and wins the opportunity of a lifetime at her favorite local boutique. It’s there that she meets fellow intern and photographer Jordi Perez, a Latinx teen who makes that Los Angeles summer so much more romantic, creative, and sweeter. Add in Abby’s surprising bro-bestie Jax for some hamburger adventures and be prepared to swoon (and get hungry!) all around. It’s a great story of love and art, art and love, and how two creative spirits learn to intertwine their gifts and their goals.

By Amy Spalding,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles) 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?

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people's lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby's been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she's thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she's competing against the girl she's kissing to win the coveted paid job at the…


Book cover of Dumplin'

Kris Dinnison Author Of You And Me And Him

From my list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. I was taller, bigger, and clumsier than the other kids. I listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, and read the wrong books. I wasn’t cool. And when I became a high school teacher, I saw many kids, especially young women, who I could see felt the same. When Young Adult literature came into its own, I really loved all the wonderful ways YA stories were telling the stories of the kids who didn’t fit in, and it made me want to read them, and eventually write one of my own.

Kris' book list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines

Kris Dinnison Why did Kris love this book?

Dumplin’ charmed me from the first sentence. The beauty pageant culture, which seems at times both earnest and absurd, is the perfect setting for a book starring a sassy, smart, daring heroine who won’t be sidelined because of a little thing like size. I adore the band of misfits Dumplin’ gathers around her, the amazing drag queens, the homage to Dolly Parton, and the triumphant, realistic, hopeful ending. 

By Julie Murphy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 New York Times Bestseller For fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and Sarah Dessen comes this powerful novel with a fearless heroine-self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson-from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine, Dumplin' is guaranteed to steal your heart. Dubbed "Dumplin'" by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her…


Book cover of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Kris Dinnison Author Of You And Me And Him

From my list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always felt like a bit of a misfit. I was taller, bigger, and clumsier than the other kids. I listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong clothes, and read the wrong books. I wasn’t cool. And when I became a high school teacher, I saw many kids, especially young women, who I could see felt the same. When Young Adult literature came into its own, I really loved all the wonderful ways YA stories were telling the stories of the kids who didn’t fit in, and it made me want to read them, and eventually write one of my own.

Kris' book list on YA with fabulous plus-size heroines

Kris Dinnison Why did Kris love this book?

I was teaching high school when this novel came out over twenty years ago, and it immediately struck a chord with me, and with my students. This story of a lifelong friendship and the pain that comes with growing up has so many great characters. But Carmen has always been my favorite. The relationship with her father, her emergence into the (literal) spotlight, and her willingness to speak her mind to her loved ones, make her, for me, the true heroine of this novel. One of my favorite moments is her surprise and wonder when the pants actually fit her, not just her skinny friends. The idea that she had access to all the things they did, regardless of her size, is a beautiful metaphor for living. 

By Ann Brashares,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

Carmen, Tibby, Lena and Bridget have been best friends all their lives. They live in the same small American town and usually spend every moment of their long summer holidays together. The year they turn 16 is the first time they have separate plans for the summer but the girls are determined to keep in touch. Tibby buys a pair of jeans in a second-hand shop and the girls discover that the trousers magically fit each of them perfectly, despite their different figures and heights. They hit upon a wonderful plan of sharing the jeans throughout the vacation - sending…


Book cover of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

Cathy Tsang-Feign Author Of Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad: What Every Expat Needs to Know

From my list on to equip yourself for living abroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a psychologist, I've worked with countless emigrants and international expatriates. People relocate to various parts of the world for different reasons. However, each person’s life struggles, cultural background, experiences, and knowledge help make the world more colorful and richer in so many ways. I encourage people to open themselves to see the world and be receptive and tolerant to those who are different from them. It teaches us to be humbler and more respectful, and to enrich our life in general. My choices are about preparing your mind and your heart for life in another culture. Sometimes a well-crafted novel can offer insights that other media can’t express.

Cathy's book list on to equip yourself for living abroad

Cathy Tsang-Feign Why did Cathy love this book?

I recommend this book to all people as a basic self-care exercise.

As a psychologist, I always support and empower clients to understand their own mind, body, and spirit as one of the important pathways toward overcoming psychological issues. The author, a leading neurologist, focuses on brain plasticity: the almost miraculous ability of our brains to adapt and change even after significant injury, by citing case studies with explanations that even lay readers can understand.

Our mind and body are interconnected, so learning more about the role of our brain is a good place to start. This book will open your horizons to how powerful and flexible your brain is and how much we can do as a gatekeeper to maintain a healthy being.

The book is easy to read as well as packed with knowledge that can change your way of living. 

By Norman Doidge,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Brain That Changes Itself as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An astonishing new science called neuroplasticity is overthrowing the centuries-old notion that the human brain is immutable. Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Norman Doidge, M.D., traveled the country to meet both the brilliant scientists championing neuroplasticity and the people whose lives they've transformed-people whose mental limitations or brain damage were seen as unalterable. We see a woman born with half a brain that rewired itself to work as a whole, blind people who learn to see, learning disorders cured, IQs raised, aging brains rejuvenated, stroke patients learning to speak, children with cerebral palsy learning to move with more grace, depression and anxiety…


Book cover of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love

Ian Kerner Author Of She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman

From my list on stimulating your sexual brain.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up I never thought I would become a sex therapist. But I suffered terribly from sexual dysfunction as a young adult and I had no one to talk to. I felt alone and isolated, and disconnected from a vital part of being alive. I wrote about my personal experiences in She Comes First and how I eventually found my way out of the fog of sexual anxiety and despair. But that meant going against the grain of how I thought sex was supposed to go. Today I’m dedicated to having those real conversations with real people and helping people give their “sexual selves” a voice so they can connect with others.

Ian's book list on stimulating your sexual brain

Ian Kerner Why did Ian love this book?

Attraction. Chemistry. Infatuation. Whatever the word, falling in love is a roller-coaster of emotions and Helen explains why.

As a neuroscientist she has scanned the brains of thousands of people in a state of being in love and expertly describes the dynamics of love. Too often we say that love and attraction fade with time, but by understanding what drives these processes we can better nurture them for the long term.

By Helen Fisher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A groundbreaking exploration of our most complex and mysterious emotion

Elation, mood swings, sleeplessness, and obsession—these are the tell-tale signs of someone in the throes of romantic passion. In this revealing new book, renowned anthropologist Helen Fisher explains why this experience—which cuts across time, geography, and gender—is a force as powerful as the need for food or sleep.

Why We Love begins by presenting the results of a scientific study in which Fisher scanned the brains of people who had just fallen madly in love. She proves, at last, what researchers had only suspected: when you fall in love, primordial…


Book cover of Why Love Matters: How affection shapes a baby's brain

Alice O'Keeffe Author Of On The Up

From my list on books for frazzled parents–and their children.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began writing my book when my older son was two, and my youngest was less than six months. And if that sounds like a bad idea to you–it was! But despite the madness of trying to write a novel in 5-minute parcels of time, for me, it was a necessary way to reclaim some of my individuality at a time when I often felt I was losing it. I’m so glad I have my book to remind me of the very particular challenges of new parenthood. These are some books I found that helped me do just that.

Alice's book list on books for frazzled parents–and their children

Alice O'Keeffe Why did Alice love this book?

When dealing with difficult behaviour, it can help to understand how your kids’ early experiences may have influenced their emotional landscape.

Sue Gerhardt's book draws on recent developments in neuroscience and developmental psychology to explain how babies’ brains are formed. She shows us that our early, fumbling parental mistakes can have consequences that play out over a lifetime.

As a working parent, I found it a sobering read–Gerhardt pulls no punches about the potentially damaging impact of putting your one-year-old in nursery, for example. But ultimately, the book is so persuasive that it feels worth facing up to these tough questions. She also constructs a compelling case about the long-term social impact of a government’s failure to support parents.

By Sue Gerhardt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why Love Matters explains why loving relationships are essential to brain development in the early years, and how these early interactions can have lasting consequences for future emotional and physical health. This second edition follows on from the success of the first, updating the scientific research, covering recent findings in genetics and the mind/body connection, and including a new chapter highlighting our growing understanding of the part also played by pregnancy in shaping a baby's future emotional and physical well-being.

The author focuses in particular on the wide-ranging effects of early stress on a baby or toddler's developing nervous system.…


Book cover of The Impossible Us

Clare Swatman Author Of A Love to Last a Lifetime

From my list on love stories that don’t follow the same old path.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the moment I started reading those ‘create your own story’ books as a child, I’ve loved a story with a different ending, or at least the possibility of a different ending because I like to be taken by surprise. Having spent years as a magazine journalist interviewing people about their lives, I knew I wanted to write stories about people, because people are fascinating and surprising. My fascination with people and time travel also probably explains why my debut novel, Before You Go, had both of those elements in them – and when I find a book that bends convention a little – or a lot – I’ll shout about it from the rooftops!

Clare's book list on love stories that don’t follow the same old path

Clare Swatman Why did Clare love this book?

I read this book last year and adored it from the moment it began.

I knew straight away it was going to be something special when I realised there was something unusual about Nick and Bee’s relationship – and oh my!

Without giving too much away (trust me, it will spoil it!), it allows you to instantly suspend your disbelief and be swept up into the love story that you know, in your brain, can’t possibly exist, but which your heart desperately wants you to believe. 

I read it in a day because I simply couldn’t put it down, and recommend it to everyone I see – and no book can come more recommended than that!

Book cover of Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.

Neil Baldwin Author Of Man Ray: American Artist

From my list on massive modern and contemporary novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a biographer going on five decades now -- from William Carlos Williams to Man Ray to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford to Martha Graham. I am above all else a student of the human condition as well as a devotee of narrative at its most burnished - the kind of narrative that imposes its voice upon me at the end of a long day of quotidian interaction when all I want to do is get into bed and “pick up where I left off”. Biography is, indeed, storytelling - but it is restrained, or perhaps I should say tamed, by factual fidelity, a point of pride with me as a conscientious practitioner of the craft. 

Neil's book list on massive modern and contemporary novels

Neil Baldwin Why did Neil love this book?

A powerful parent dies and each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways -- and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all. This is an “everything” book. It took over my life. It overwhelmed my brain and mind. The utterly believable characters so generously intermingled and interwoven, familial and dynamic in their pushing and pulling, loving and hating - ignited by a precipitating event so abrupt yet simple, with consequences that spin out of control. Reading this tale, you feel as if you are drowning in a fever dream - Joyce Carol Oates once again as she has since Them (1969), offering innumerable reasons for wonderment.

By Joyce Carol Oates,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bonds of family are tested in the wake of a profound tragedy, providing a look at the darker side of our society by one of our most enduringly popular and important writers


Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all.

Stark and penetrating, Joyce Carol Oates's latest novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual…


Book cover of Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain

Rick Shenkman Author Of Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics

From my list on why voters often behave irrationally.

Why am I passionate about this?

Rick Shenkman is a New York Times bestselling author, historian, and journalist who, after reading and writing history books for 40 years, decided to spend the past decade discovering what social scientists have to say. To his great joy, he learned that since he had last studied their work in college they had come to a vast new understanding of human political behavior. He now uses their insights into political psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, and genetics to help explain our fucked up politics.

Rick's book list on why voters often behave irrationally

Rick Shenkman Why did Rick love this book?

As a young researcher Michael S. Gazzaniga studied people afflicted with epilepsy. A recent discovery was that they fare better when the corpus callosum – the nerve fiber bundle that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain – is cut, disconnecting the organ's two halves. Amazing insights can be gleaned from these split-brain patients, Gazzaniga demonstrated, as he explains in this book. His most famous experiment involved patient P.S. 

Gazzaniga used a machine to flash the image of a chicken claw to P.S.'s right eye (which was processed by his left hemisphere, where the speech center is located) and the image of a hut surrounded by snow to the other eye (which was processed by his right hemisphere). Then came the surprise, as Gazzaniga showed P.S. some pictures of a chicken and a shovel and asked him to match them with the images he'd seen. (This time he…

By Michael S. Gazzaniga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The prevailing orthodoxy in brain science is that since physical laws govern our physical brains, physical laws therefore govern our behaviour and even our conscious selves. Free will is meaningless, goes the mantra; we live in a 'determined' world.

Not so, argues the renowned neuroscientist Michael S. Gazzaniga as he explains how the mind, 'constrains' the brain just as cars are constrained by the traffic they create. Writing with what Steven Pinker has called 'his trademark wit and lack of pretension,' Gazzaniga ranges across neuroscience, psychology and ethics to show how incorrect it is to blame our brains for our…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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