100 books like Idle Women

By Susan Woolfitt,

Here are 100 books that Idle Women fans have personally recommended if you like Idle Women. 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 The Fair Sex - Women and the Great Western Railway

Annie Murray Author Of Meet Me Under the Clock

From my list on hidden corners of life during World War Two.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing novels for many years now about the social history of Birmingham and the West Midlands and often find myself writing about World War Two. It’s the history of most families in this country. But I also grew up—unusually for my generationwith parents who were active adults in the war, my father in the army in North Africa and Italy, my mother in a factory that had gone over to munitions in Coventry. So the war felt very present as they talked about it a lot. Only later I grew to understand what it means to people and explored the history for myself.

Annie's book list on hidden corners of life during World War Two

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

When I wrote my book, which includes a lot about the railways wartime, I struggled to find any books which described women’s experience. When it comes to railways, nerdy descriptions of wheel configurations abound! Enter this book. Rose Matheson describes the fascinating and often troubled history of women when it comes to railway work and its opposition by male employers and unions. A good number of women were employed by the railways in World War Two, but never allowed to drive engines or stoke the fires. The work they were permitted to do is described here with plenty of photographs—as well as the ongoing history after the war when women continued the struggle to be taken seriously as railway workers.  

By Rosa Matheson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fair Sex - Women and the Great Western Railway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Great Western Railway struggled with what was called 'the women question' for many years. It had heartily agreed with The Railway Sheet and Official Gazette that 'the first aim of women's existence is marriage, that accomplished, the next is ordering her home'. Yet women were the cheapest form of labour, apart from young girls, presenting the company with a dilemma and the GWR finally succumbed to allowing women to work after heavy external pressures. Using over 100 pictures, Swindon author Rosa Matheson traces the development of this problematic relationship, from its beginnings in the 1870s when women were employed…


Book cover of Bengal Journey

Annie Murray Author Of Meet Me Under the Clock

From my list on hidden corners of life during World War Two.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing novels for many years now about the social history of Birmingham and the West Midlands and often find myself writing about World War Two. It’s the history of most families in this country. But I also grew up—unusually for my generationwith parents who were active adults in the war, my father in the army in North Africa and Italy, my mother in a factory that had gone over to munitions in Coventry. So the war felt very present as they talked about it a lot. Only later I grew to understand what it means to people and explored the history for myself.

Annie's book list on hidden corners of life during World War Two

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

Rumer Godden is a favourite novelist of mine, but this is non-fiction. Godden was born in India and only left after Independence. Towards the end of World War Two, she made a long journey to document the work done by women volunteers in the Bengal region of India during the war, travelling huge distances, crossing many rivers, to remote places. The book, with photographs, includes the work of both European and Indian volunteers in a huge number of organizations, ranging from the Red Cross, hospital trains, and dispatch riders to the ARP and mobile canteens. Best of all are the descriptions Godden gives us in this wonderful book as she turns her novelist's eye on all these people and places of work and brings them all to life.

By Rumer Godden,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Joyce's War 1939-1945

Annie Murray Author Of Meet Me Under the Clock

From my list on hidden corners of life during World War Two.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing novels for many years now about the social history of Birmingham and the West Midlands and often find myself writing about World War Two. It’s the history of most families in this country. But I also grew up—unusually for my generationwith parents who were active adults in the war, my father in the army in North Africa and Italy, my mother in a factory that had gone over to munitions in Coventry. So the war felt very present as they talked about it a lot. Only later I grew to understand what it means to people and explored the history for myself.

Annie's book list on hidden corners of life during World War Two

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

Personal stories are usually the best way of getting the flavour of a time. Joyce Storey, who would describe herself as an ordinary working-class woman, married in 1939. Her story tells of the everyday struggles of a young mother of two daughters with a husband absent in the RAF. She spent some of the war living with him when he was posted to Grimsbyvery foreign to her as she came from Bristoland with all the everyday battles of in-laws, air raids, and struggling for every penny. She’s a lively writer, conjuring up pictures of her new neighbours in Grimsby, the birth of her babies, and early motherhood ‘Yuk!’which she did grow into. You get very fond of Joyce and her challenges.

By Joyce Storey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Joyce's War 1939-1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Our Joyce's war, 1939-1945, with the destiny everyone else wanted to carve out for her. With an army husband rarely on leave, Joyce, very quickly the mother of two, fights her own battles with air-raids, in-laws and factory work - always searching for the dream house and a life to call her own. The author also wrote "Our Joyce".


Book cover of Requiem For a Wren

Annie Murray Author Of Meet Me Under the Clock

From my list on hidden corners of life during World War Two.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing novels for many years now about the social history of Birmingham and the West Midlands and often find myself writing about World War Two. It’s the history of most families in this country. But I also grew up—unusually for my generationwith parents who were active adults in the war, my father in the army in North Africa and Italy, my mother in a factory that had gone over to munitions in Coventry. So the war felt very present as they talked about it a lot. Only later I grew to understand what it means to people and explored the history for myself.

Annie's book list on hidden corners of life during World War Two

Annie Murray Why did Annie love this book?

I read this story in my teens and as a result, spent years wanting to join the navy. (That did wear off!) Having read it again recently, it seems a much darker story than I had remembered. But the mystery at its heart won’t let you go. Nevil Shute was a great storyteller and like many writers of his generation had many experiences to draw on. The story is quite slow-moving, but poignantheartbreaking in fact. Gradually, he unfolds the mystery of Jessie Proctor, an Englishwoman working for a family in Australia. It begins with Jessie’s suicide and we uncover the events that have haunted this young, ex-servicewoman’s life. As Shute says, "a war can go on killing people for a long time after it’s all over."  

By Nevil Shute,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Requiem For a Wren as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mysterious death of a young woman on an Australian farm reveals a bittersweet story of doomed wartime romance amidst a family crisis.

Alan Duncan returns to his family home in Australia after the war and several years of study in England. But his homecoming is marred by the mysterious suicide of his parents' quiet and reliable parlour-maid. A search through her belongings in search of clues leads to heartbreaking revelations about the woman's identity, the death of Alan's brother Bill and, above all, the disappearance of his brother's fiancee, Janet.


Book cover of War at the End of the World: Douglas MacArthur and the Forgotten Fight For New Guinea, 1942-1945

Robert N. Wiedenmann Author Of The Silken Thread: Five Insects and Their Impacts on Human History

From my list on the history we never learned.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not a historian. I am a retired entomologist with a love for history. My first real experience with history was as a child, reading about Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic adventure on the Endurance—a story I must have re-read 50 times. I have come to recognize that much of the history I learned growing up was either incomplete or was just plain wrong. I am drawn to the arcane aspects of historical events, or that illustrate history from a different angle—which is shown in my list of books. The Silken Thread tells about the history that occurred because of, or was impacted by, just five insects.

Robert's book list on the history we never learned

Robert N. Wiedenmann Why did Robert love this book?

I thought I knew a thing or two about the history of World War II. Somehow, the battle for New Guinea escaped me, despite the role played by the American General, Douglas MacArthur. Significant as a turning point in the war and enabling MacArthur's return to the Philippines, the fight in New Guinea deserves mention in the same breath as the stepping-stone battles of the Pacific islands. The fighting was brutal and the conditions for both Japanese and Allied troops were horrid—trails ascending rugged mountains, supply-chain difficulties, diseases that diminished the abilities of troops to fight. I have been to New Guinea twice. Duffy captured the ruggedness of the land and his telling of the stories made me feel the place, the people, and their challenges.

By James P. Duffy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked War at the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A harrowing account of an epic, yet nearly forgotten, battle of World War II—General Douglas MacArthur's four-year assault on the Pacific War's most hostile battleground: the mountainous, jungle-cloaked island of New Guinea.

“A meaty, engrossing narrative history… This will likely stand as the definitive account of the New Guinea campaign.”—The Christian Science Monitor 

One American soldier called it “a green hell on earth.” Monsoon-soaked wilderness, debilitating heat, impassable mountains, torrential rivers, and disease-infested swamps—New Guinea was a battleground far more deadly than the most fanatical of enemy troops. Japanese forces numbering some 600,000 men began landing in January 1942, determined…


Book cover of The Notebook, the Proof, the Third Lie: Three Novels

Em Strang Author Of Quinn

From my list on short reads that dare to offer something deep.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a poet and creative mentor, and it’s the intensity of poetic language – its expansiveness and limitations – that shows up in my fiction and in the novels I love. Quinn is an exploration of male violence, incarceration, and radical forgiveness. I’ve spent a decade working with long-term prisoners in Scotland, trying to understand and come to terms with notions of justice and responsibility: does guilt begin and end with the perpetrator of a violent act or are we all in some way culpable? How can literary form dig into this question aslant? Can the unsettled mind be a space for innovative thinking?

Em's book list on short reads that dare to offer something deep

Em Strang Why did Em love this book?

Kristóf (1935-2011) was a Hungarian writer who fled to Switzerland during the war and wrote in French.

The Notebook (the first in the trilogy) is currently number one on my list of all-time favourites. It has all the elements of storytelling that I love: deep, psychological insight into the human heart; adroit use of archetypes, which give the book a timeless, folkloric feel; concision (no waffling) and a poetic, pared-back language that creates a sense of startling immediacy.

Kristóf writes about World War II through the eyes of two young brothers in a Nazi-occupied country (unnamed), and she shocks us awake not through sensationalised violence but through matter-of-fact narration.

It reads like a cross-between dramatic monologue and biblical parable – she stretches the novel form and opens up new possibilities for writing. 

Book cover of From Here to Eternity

Sam Foster Author Of Non-Semper Fidelis

From my list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices.

Why am I passionate about this?

I heard a Jordan Peterson interview in which he boiled down my entire life’s struggle in a single phrase.  The interviewer was pushing Jordon on the subject of male toxicity. Jordon said something like, “If a man is entirely unwilling to fight under any circumstance, he is merely a weakling. Ask in martial arts trainer and they will tell you they teach two things – the ability to fight and self-control. A man who knows how and also knows how to control himself is a man.”

Sam's book list on showing that a man is the sum of his choices

Sam Foster Why did Sam love this book?

James Jones's brilliant debut novel must have had a great effect on me because I admit, in many ways, my book covers the same ground – how does a man maintain honor and dignity when constrained to live his life by the choices of other, and much more powerful men? I suppose the difference between our two themes is that the question in my book is about those same choices but wrapped in the question of race. Jones’s characters, while in the military, were dealing with personal issues. My Corporal Buck is dealing with an issue about which all of America is on fire.

From Here to Eternity is 70 years old. I read it in 1969, an eternity ago and it has lasted with me from there to here.  When I was in the Marine Corps I knew everything that was happening to me. But I didn’t know what…

By James Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked From Here to Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I'll never understand the fucking Army.'

Prew won't conform. He could have been the best boxer and the best bugler in his division, but he chooses the life of a straight soldier in Hawaii under the fierce tutelage of Sergeant Milt Warden. When he refuses to box for his company for mysterious reasons, he is given 'The Treatment', a relentless campaign of physical and mental abuse. Meanwhile, Warden wages his own campaign against authority by seducing the Captain's wife Karen - just because he can. Both men are bound to the Army, even though it may destroy them.

Published here…


Book cover of The Collected Stories of Heinrich Boll

L. Annette Binder Author Of The Vanishing Sky

From my list on German complicity and resistance in WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Germany and came to the US as a small child. My parents spoke only German at home but rarely talked with me about their years in Germany. Years after my father had died, I came across a photograph of him wearing a Hitler Youth uniform. What I learned about his childhood and his family inspired much of my novel The Vanishing Sky. Though my novel is finished, I continue to read about the German experience of WW2 because it resonates for me personally and because the lessons it teaches us are still relevant today.

L. Annette's book list on German complicity and resistance in WW2

L. Annette Binder Why did L. Annette love this book?

In this devastating collection, Böll explores the emotional aftershocks of war. German soldiers grapple with the desire to flee, to understand what they’ve lost in the fighting, and to make even fleeting connections with each other and the civilians they meet in the bombed out cities and towns. In “Stranger, Bear Word to the Spartans We…” a wounded soldier only gradually comes to realize the extent of his injuries. The weight of the war works its way through all the stories in one way or another, even when the narrators don’t expressly refer to combat or the regime.

By Heinrich Boll, Leila Vennewitz (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Collected Stories of Heinrich Boll as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive short story collection by the Nobel Laureate and master of the form

These diverse, psychologically rich, and morally profound stories explore the consequences of war on individuals and on an entire culture. The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll provides readers with the only comprehensive collection by this master of the short-story form.

Includes all the stories from Böll’s The Mad Dog, Eighteen Short Stories, The Casualty, and The Stories of Heinrich Böll. A Nobel Laureate, Böll was considered a master 20th century literature, and The Collected Stories of Heinrich Böll contains some of his finest work.


Book cover of They Were Expendable

Marvin J. Wolf Author Of M-9

From my list on to safely satisfy your lust for action and mystery.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was 13 years a soldier and saw combat in Vietnam. There I met some of the finest men this country has ever produced and became hooked on the exploits of brave men. I have written many books about men—and women—in peril, and strive always for accurate accounts.

Marvin's book list on to safely satisfy your lust for action and mystery

Marvin J. Wolf Why did Marvin love this book?

The author recreated as a novel the adventures of a handful of Navy officers whose tiny Patrol Torpedo Boats more than held their own against the full might of the Japanese Navy during the fall of the Philippines. Told in the first person by three of the principal characters, we meet Douglas MacArthur, seasick and soaking wet, as he flees Manila in an overloaded PT Boat, and eventually reaches a smaller island from which he is flown to safety in Australia. And we see and are in awe, of these young naval officers. In 1951, when I was ten and perched on my father's shoulders, I saw MacArthur from just a few feet away as he passed during a Chicago parade. I became fascinated with the man and his legend, and here he is presented as a very human creature.

By W. L. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Were Expendable as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A national bestseller when it was originally published in 1942 and the subject of a 1945 John Ford film featuring John Wayne, this book offers a thrilling account of the role of the U.S. Navy's Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three during the disastrous Philippine campaign early in World War II. The author uses an unusual, but thorough, spellbinding format to tell the story: an interview with four heroic young participants. Ranked "with the great tales of war" by the Saturday Review of Literature, it is a deeply moving book that describes the four officers' extraordinary exploits from the first appearance…


Book cover of Code Name Hélène

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

From my list on intrepid women spies of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I was searching for a subject for my next novel, my editor at Doubleday asked me if I’d ever heard of Toto Koopman. A biography of her had recently been translated from French. It was a slight book, covering her whole life, from her beginnings in Java to her adventures as a spy for the Allies and the Italian Resistance. I was hooked and spent five years, on and off, researching and writing the story of her World War II experiences. She was an extraordinary person—poised, beautiful, and intrepid. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did.

Maryka's book list on intrepid women spies of World War II

Maryka Biaggio Why did Maryka love this book?

Ariel Lawhon is one of my favorite authors. I will read anything she writes, and this novel is one of her best. Not many people have heard of Nancy Wake, but she was an Australian expatriate living in Paris during the years preceding World War II. I, for one, am glad she’s finally getting her due, for her story is one of those “I can hardly believe this really happened” tales. Nancy Wake started out as a reporter, but when Germany invaded France she joined the Resistance and smuggled people and documents across the border. The Nazis nicknamed her “The White Mouse” and put a bounty on her head, forcing her to flee France. Any ordinary person would have called it a day. But not Nancy Wake. She returned to France as Hélène under the aegis of England’s Special Operations Executives. Her cleverness and courage are guaranteed to thrill…

By Ariel Lawhon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Code Name Hélène as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the thrilling real-life story of a socialite spy and astonishing woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands and went on to become one of the most decorated women in WWII—from the New York Times bestselling author of I Was Anastasia

"This fully animated portrait of Nancy Wake...will fascinate readers of World War II history and thrill fans of fierce, brash, independent women, alike." —Lisa Wingate, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Before We Were Yours

Told in interweaving timelines organized around the four code names Nancy used during the war, Code Name Hélène is a…


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