100 books like Mildred Pierce

By James M. Cain,

Here are 100 books that Mildred Pierce fans have personally recommended if you like Mildred Pierce. 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 Gone Girl

Mirinae Lee Author Of 8 Lives of a Century-Old Trickster

From my list on villainous heroines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and grew up in Seoul. My bestselling debut novel has been longlisted for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction and the 2024 Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize and shortlisted for the 2024 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. My book is inspired by my great-aunt, one of the oldest women who had escaped alone from North Korea. It is available from Harper Perennial in the U.S. and Virago in the UK. The novel’s translations continue to meet readers worldwide, including in Italy, Romania, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, and South Korea.

Mirinae's book list on villainous heroines

Mirinae Lee Why did Mirinae love this book?

Many years ago, when I was sharing several chapters of my book with my then-writing group, I faced harsh criticism from some of its members, mainly due to my protagonist, Trickster.

They found her too violent, too cunning, and without remorse. I read in many of Flynn’s interviews that she had also received a lot of criticism for her vicious main character. Certain readers believed the murderous, unrepenting heroine of this book was a shame to womanhood.

In defense of my violent heroine Trickster, I quoted Flynn’s response to her critics: the notion that women are inherently good and nurturing is itself deeply sexist and limiting toward women.        

By Gillian Flynn,

Why should I read it?

28 authors picked Gone Girl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Who are you?
What have we done to each other?

These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on…

Book cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Catherine Simpson Author Of Truestory

From my list on books with autistic characters.

Why am I passionate about this?

The tagline on the cover of my book reads: Family life is not always easy. And never a truer word was spoken. I was inspired to write my book while raising my own daughter, Nina, who was diagnosed with autism at age ten. My book is fiction, but my knowledge of autism is from my lived experience. As Nina got older, she began to join me in doing talks about my bookwhere she was the autism expert, and I was the expert in writing. Together we have done many talks on TV, radio, newspapers, schools and libraries. I hope you enjoy these autistic characters–real and fictional–as much as I do. 

Catherine's book list on books with autistic characters

Catherine Simpson Why did Catherine love this book?

I love the pierced, tattooed punk/goth antiheroine Lisabeth Salander in this book. She is a survivor of abuse and takes pleasure in exposing abusers. I love Lisabeth because she is COOL and autistic–demonstrating that it is very possible to be both. She is a genius computer hacker with a photographic memory who lives to get vengeance on the bad guys.

Author Steig Larsson said he created a character ‘who was what Pippi Longstocking would have been like as an adult.’ As Pippi (the super-strong girl with a monkey who lived alone with a trunk of money) was my heroine as a child, no wonder I loved this heroine. 

By Stieg Larsson,

Why should I read it?

24 authors picked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder - and that the killer is a member of his own tightly-knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet's disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and…

Book cover of Vanity Fair

Cinda Gault Author Of A Small Compass

From my list on going on the road.

Why am I passionate about this?

Historical fiction meets the picaresque in many novels about going on the road. As a fiction writer, my narrative tools are not forged in a vacuum. I stand on the shoulders of centuries of writers who invented the novel form and developed it through its beginnings in romance and all its permutations since. In my new book, I am following innovations in two genres. In historical romance, romance “fell” into history. What was lost in the historical world could be made up in the romance of heroic characters. In the picaresque, characters belonging to the lower echelons of society “go on the road” for all sorts of reasons, mostly to survive.

Cinda's book list on going on the road

Cinda Gault Why did Cinda love this book?

Becky Sharpe is a character impossible to forget.

Through all the twists and turns of this plot, Becky shows herself to be both conniving and resilient in her quest to use those around her for her own gain. While not an attractive rendition of human nature, she forever has a wolf at her door and does what she thinks she must to stay one step ahead.

One gets whiplash from sympathizing with her one minute and being appalled by her lack of scruples the next, but, like all the characters she hoodwinks, we are captivated by her as someone who is never boring. She hops from one doomed circumstance to the next, and we are along for the ride.

By William Makepeace Thackeray,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Vanity Fair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

William Makepeace Thackeray's Vanity Fair depicts the anarchic anti-heroine Beky Sharpe cutting a swathe through the eligible young men of Europe, set against a lucid backdrop of war and international chaos. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by John Carey.

No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her sentimental companion Amelia Sedley, however, longs only for the caddish soldier George. As the two heroines make their way through the tawdry glamour…

Book cover of The Custom of the Country

Eleanor Wilton Author Of Agnes Merriweather

From my list on classics featuring exceptional female protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first read and fell in love with Jane Austen's novels at the age of thirteen, and thus began a lifelong enthusiasm for nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century literature. Though I studied English Literature and Art History at university, I embarked on a professional career working in an entirely unrelated field. I never lost my childhood desire to write fiction. Inspiration came, as it will, unexpectedly. I sat down one day in the grand Reading Room of the New York Public Library, pad and pen in hand, and began to write. I happened to be suffering a spell of insomnia at the time, and before I knew it, I had a draft of my first novel.

Eleanor's book list on classics featuring exceptional female protagonists

Eleanor Wilton Why did Eleanor love this book?

Is Undine Spragg Edith Wharton’s least admiral protagonist? Perhaps. But as well, she is her most beguiling.

With her modest mid-western roots and her hunger for something more, she personifies the American dream, only she incarnates its less noble form. Cunning and beautiful, she uses her every charm exclusively in service to her ambition.

There is something thoroughly modern about her self-belief, her perpetual reinvention. It’s impossible to look away as she ruthlessly forges her own future, defying expectations and conventions time and again. 

They say what goes around comes around; but when it comes to Undine Spragg we are constantly left wondering if the truism can hold.

By Edith Wharton,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Custom of the Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edith Wharton’s classic story of one woman’s quest for wealth and status after the turn of the twentieth century

Beautiful, selfish, and driven, Undine Spragg arrives in New York with all of the ambition and naiveté that her midwestern, nouveau riche upbringing afforded her. As cunning as she is lovely, Undine has but one goal in life: to ascend to the upper echelons of high society. And so with a single-minded tenacity, Undine continues to maneuver through life, finding all the while that true satisfaction remains just beyond her grasp.

Hailed by Elizabeth Hardwick as “Edith Wharton’s finest achievement,” The…

Book cover of The Blue Bistro

Rachel Cullen Author Of Summer on Dune Road

From my list on reads while sipping a piña colada.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been an avid reader since childhood. I read almost all genres, but my favorite type of book has always been the kind that you associate with a beach bag and a lazy day of reading in the sun (and maybe even a beverage nearby with a tiny umbrella). I love books that provide a realistic escape, where I can lose myself in the descriptions of picturesque scenery and flawed but lovable characters. Not surprisingly, these are also the types of books I’ve chosen to write. I want to give readers the same joy of sitting back on a chaise lounge with a piña colada (perhaps metaphorically) and disappearing into the fictional world I’ve created.

Rachel's book list on reads while sipping a piña colada

Rachel Cullen Why did Rachel love this book?

The Blue Bistro is one of Hilderbrand’s earlier books, and like almost all of her work, it is set on the island of Nantucket. I thoroughly enjoy reading all of Hilderbrand’s novels because of the incredible imagery she uses to describe the settings. I feel like I know the beaches, restaurants, hotels, and streets of Nantucket from reading her books almost better than I could from vacationing there. The Blue Bistro is especially compelling because it is set in a unique upscale restaurant and weaves distressing personal drama with mouthwatering menu descriptions. If you like good food and good gossip, you’ll love The Blue Bistro.

By Elin Hilderbrand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elin Hilderbrand, author of the enchanting Summer People and The Beach Club, invites you to experience the perfect getaway with her sparkling novel, The Blue Bistro.

Adrienne Dealey has spent the past six years working for hotels in exotic resort towns. This summer she has decided to make Nantucket home. Left flat broke by her ex-boyfriend, she is desperate to earn some fast money. When the desirable Thatcher Smith, owner of Nantucket's hottest restaurant, is the only one to offer her a job, she wonders if she can get by with no restaurant experience. Thatcher gives Adrienne a crash course…

Book cover of Adam Bede

Lucienne Boyce Author Of The Fatal Coin: A Dan Foster novella

From my list on historical stories about the common people.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical fiction, non-fiction, and biography. My historical fiction is set in the eighteenth century, which is often pictured as a time when people swanned about in fancy clothes, lived on country estates, travelled in gleaming carriages, and dined and danced their nights away in glittering assembly rooms. But most people didn’t live like that at all, although they are the ones who made the clothes, worked on the estates, drove the carriages, cooked the food, and cleaned the rooms. The books on my list focus on history from their point of view. In my own work – fiction and non-fiction – I’m also interested in telling the stories of so-called “ordinary” people.

Lucienne's book list on historical stories about the common people

Lucienne Boyce Why did Lucienne love this book?

I love George Eliot’s work, and this, her first novel, is my favourite. Adam Bede is a carpenter who’s in love with dairymaid Hetty Sorrell, but their lives are turned upside down when the squire seduces her. Eliot confronts issues of class, illegitimacy, gender power imbalance, and the double standard – it is not the squire who suffers the consequences of the affair. Dinah Morris, the cousin who stands by Hetty in her trouble, is a wonderful character. She’s a Methodist preacher at a time when church authorities insisted women shouldn’t minister – the Methodist Conference banned women preachers in 1803, and the Church of England didn’t ordain women until 1994 when 32 women were ordained at Bristol Cathedral – I was there! So Dinah represents a strong working woman who is making a truly radical stand against a powerful institution.

By George Eliot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Our deeds carry their terrible consequences...consequences that are hardly ever confined to ourselves.'

Pretty Hetty Sorrel is loved by the village carpenter Adam Bede, but her head is turned by the attentions of the fickle young squire, Arthur Donnithorne. His dalliance with the dairymaid has unforeseen consequences that affect the lives of many in their small rural community. First published in 1859, Adam Bede carried its readers back sixty years to the lush countryside of Eliot's native Warwickshire, and a time of impending change for England and the wider world. Eliot's powerful
portrayal of the interaction of ordinary people brought…

Book cover of Shoulder Season

Maggie Ginsberg Author Of Still True

From my list on the essence of small town Wisconsin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve only ever lived in small Midwestern towns. I grew up there, raised my kids there, recovered from a divorce there, remarried there. I’ve had the same best friends for 40 years. I’ve paid and bartered for my classmates’ trade services. I’ve argued with them in churches and cafes, rooted for and against their kids at high school basketball and football games all over the state. We’ve celebrated and buried each other’s loved ones. I’ve run hundreds of miles of Wisconsin trail, soaked in her waters, marveled at her sunsets. It’s as home to me as my own body, and I’ll never tire of reading about it. 

Maggie's book list on the essence of small town Wisconsin

Maggie Ginsberg Why did Maggie love this book?

I’ve lived in Wisconsin since 1985, and somehow I had no idea there used to be a thriving Playboy resort in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

After the book came out I learned I even have a family member who worked security there—that’s how little people around here talk about this juicy history. Christina Clancy’s book is set in the 1980s in both Lake Geneva and the smaller community of East Troy, and she does an excellent job of balancing the celebrity and historical elements with the young Wisconsin women themselves and the complex relationship so many of them had with the seedy perception of Playboy. A lot of them were from farms and rural towns, and their families didn’t even know they worked there.

This particular Playboy resort was even known as a family-friendly destination. I loved learning about a world I had no idea existed, set against one I thought…

By Christina Clancy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighbouring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she's ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and…

Book cover of The Floating Opera and The End of the Road

Barry Keith Grant Author Of Voyages of Discovery: The Cinema of Frederick Wiseman

From my list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved cinema since I was 9 years old growing up in New York City and my grandmother took me to see The Ten Commandments at the Paradise Theater, Loew’s magnificent flagship theater in the Bronx. The theater’s famous canopy of twinkling stars on the ceiling was the perfect magical venue, and I was thunderstruck not only by the epic sweep of the movie but also by the opulence of the theater, which mirrored the monumental pyramids that Ramses constructs in the film. Ever since, my passion for movies has been as all-consuming as DeMille’s jello sea was for the infidel Egyptians who doubted the power of special effects and cinematic illusion.

Barry's book list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman

Barry Keith Grant Why did Barry love this book?

John Barth’s first novel, originally published in 1956 and later significantly revised, is a darkly comic philosophical novel whose main character, Todd Andrews, is contemplating suicide.

The novel, along with Barth’s second, The End of the Road, is written in a relatively realistic style, different from the metafictional turn that the author would later take in his subsequent fiction. Nevertheless, these two early books are in some ways consistent with later works like Giles Boat Boy and Lost in the Funhouse, particularly in the passages about metaphor in life and art.

Barth’s musings about metaphors in the real world are relevant to Wiseman’s ability to wrest metaphoric implications from real-world events and objects. Indeed, Wiseman’s films are a veritable floating opera of signifiers.

By John Barth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Floating Opera and The End of the Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Floating Opera and The End Of The Road are John Barth's first two novels.  Their relationship to each other is evident not only in their ribald subject matter but in the eccentric characters and bitterly humorous tone of the narratives. Both concern strange, consuming love triangles and the destructive effect of an overactive intellect on the emotions. Separately they give two very different views of a universal human drama. Together they illustrate the beginnings of an illustrious career.

Book cover of The Master Butchers Singing Club

Karin Melberg Schwier Author Of Small Reckonings

From my list on historical prairie fiction to transport readers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am drawn to stories about “the olden days,” non-fiction, fiction, or first-hand storytelling by homesteaders who came from away to settle on the prairies. Perhaps it is a way to recall my own farm childhood, a way to recall both joyful and unhappy times. When my brother taught me to climb (and get down from) the apple tree. The realization the pet steer who followed me around all summer and occasionally let me ride on his back while he grazed would be met by the mobile butcher truck in the fall. Hardships and simple joys, the life lessons, the banal work done for the family and farm to survive.

Karin's book list on historical prairie fiction to transport readers

Karin Melberg Schwier Why did Karin love this book?

It follows German immigrant Fidelis Waldvogel and his family, and other characters in a small rural town in North Dakota in the years of and in between the First and Second World Wars.

The way the earthy and believable characters confront complex human issues intertwined with family, betrayal, death, are deftly told by a master storyteller. This one sits on my bookshelf for re-reads. I am in awe of Erdrich’s storytelling ability; you know these characters, you can smell the inside of the butcher shop, you feel a boy’s exhilaration as he watches a plane fly overhead.

By Louise Erdrich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Master Butchers Singing Club as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful novel from one of the most celebrated American writers of her generation, and the winner of the National Book Award for Fiction 2012

In the quiet aftermath of WWI, Fidelis Waldvogel leaves behind his quiet German village, and sets out for America with his new wife Eva - the widow of his best friend, killed in action.

Finally settling in North Dakota, Fidelis works hard to build a business, a home for his family - and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. But his adventure into the New World truly begins when he encounters…

Book cover of Half Broken Things

Rebecca Tope Author Of A Cotswold Killing

From my list on unexpected twist to a familiar situation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on farms, and have experienced the undercurrents that exist in small villages, which is why I like crime novels with rural settings. I worked as a couple counsellor for a while, which taught me that no fictional character can quite equal the real quirks and inconsistencies of real people—but I love those books which get close. Charles Dickens probably does it best! In my own novels I try to achieve something approaching this, in characters who break away from stereotypes and behave unpredictably. I like to think I manage to be witty sometimes, tooI really love humour, especially when it’s wordplay or subtly ironic.

Rebecca's book list on unexpected twist to a familiar situation

Rebecca Tope Why did Rebecca love this book?

This book caught my attention because it involves a house-sitter, just as my series does. But Morag’s story could not be more different. It depicts a terrible sequence of events arising from an innocent house-sitting assignment and a growing love for the place, which I as a reader very much shared. The house itself becomes both the setting and the main threat to the well-being of the ‘half-broken’ characters. The story is hauntingly compelling, the characters deeply likeable, and the writing a real delight. This has been one of my great favourites ever since I first read it.

By Morag Joss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A gripping tale of psychological suspense perfect for the readership of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell, Half Broken Things is a novel that peers into the lives of three dangerously lost people…and the ominous haven they find when they find each other.

Jean is a house sitter at the end of a dreary career. Steph is nine months pregnant and on the run. And Michael is a thief. Through a mixture of deceit, good luck, and misfortune, these three damaged loners have come together at a secluded country home called Walden Manor. Now all three have found what they needed…

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