94 books like Sacred Hearts

By Sarah Dunant,

Here are 94 books that Sacred Hearts fans have personally recommended if you like Sacred Hearts. 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 Under the Tuscan Sun

Susan Pohlman Author Of Halfway to Each Other: How a Year in Italy Brought Our Family Home

From my list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by the transformational power of travel ever since my husband and I unexpectedly signed a lease to an apartment on the Italian Riviera instead of divorce papers. The power of that year abroad saved our marriage, united our family of four in a sacred way, and introduced us to the many cultures of Europe. I learned the crucial difference between taking a trip and embarking on a journey. Capturing a travel experience on the page for those who can’t journey to a destination themselves is a joy and a privilege I don’t take lightly. Publishing this memoir allowed me to pivot in my career to a full-time writer and writing coach/editor.

Susan's book list on travel memoir for women on women (and men) who travel

Susan Pohlman Why did Susan love this book?

I remember seeing this book for the first time on my mother’s bedside table.

As a mother of six children (five boys and a girl—me), I strongly suspect she dreamed of escape from time to time. A mother now myself, I understand feelings of overwhelm.

When I read this book back in the late ‘90s I saw a woman brave enough to step into her dreams and create a beautiful and sensuous life. It was bold, and it allowed me to dream of a bigger life. It made me curious if I could ever do such a thing.

Read the story of how she and her husband transformed an old villa as well as their lives!

By Frances Mayes,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Under the Tuscan Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover the New York Times bestseller that inspired the film. The perfect read for anyone seeking an escape to the Italian countryside.

When Frances Mayes - poet, gourmet cook and travel writer - buys an abandoned villa in Tuscany, she has no idea of the scale of the project she is embarking on.

In this enchanting memoir she takes the reader on a journey to restore a crumbling villa and build a new life in the Italian countryside, navigating hilarious cultural misunderstandings, legal frustrations and the challenges of renovating a house that seems determined to remain a ruin.

Filled with…


Book cover of The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

I have always loved visiting the city of Naples – for the great food, the rich history, and the warm locals who remind me of my southern Italian relatives. Ferrante’s novels go deep into the complexities of a female friendship that spans many decades, while also bringing to life a wide range of characters who I grew to love and truly care about, while devouring this extraordinary series.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Neapolitan Novels Boxed Set as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The complete four-volume boxed set of the New York Times–bestselling epic about hardship and female friendship in postwar Naples that has sold over five million copies.

Beginning with My Brilliant Friend, the four Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante follow Elena and Lila, from their rough-edged upbringing in Naples, Italy, not long after WWII, through the many stages of their lives―and along paths that diverge wildly. Sometimes they are separated by jealousy or hostility or physical distance, but the bond between them is unbreakable, for better or for worse.

This volume includes all four novels: My Brilliant Friend; The Story of…


Book cover of Beautiful Ruins

Barbara Josselsohn Author Of Secrets of the Italian Island

From my list on set on an intriguing island or coastline.

Why am I passionate about this?

A native of New York’s Long Island, I’ve always been obsessed with the shoreline. My best early memories are of traveling with my family to the eastern edge of Long Island for our two-week summer vacation. My parents didn’t earn a lot of money, and we didn’t vacation often, so those two weeks in August were heavenly. As an adult, I gravitate to coastlines and islands. I’ve always been a fan of books with a strong sense of place, especially when that place is the shore. And I loved setting my current book on an island in the Mediterranean, delving into the qualities and characteristics that make a coastline so evocative and so appealing. 

Barbara's book list on set on an intriguing island or coastline

Barbara Josselsohn Why did Barbara love this book?

A friend of mine recommended this book before it became well-known—and the moment I saw the cover, I knew I had to own it!

Turquoise-blue water, a jagged Italian coastline, pastel-colored buildings set against a cliff, and oh—that typeface that screams late 1950s/early 1960s! Such enticing visuals! Of course, with such a setup, I might have been expecting too much—but the story didn’t disappoint me.

Its initial chapters are set in a small, down-on-its-luck hotel in a remote Italian village where a young starlet with a compelling secret comes to stay. Spanning time periods and continents, the novel has an epic feel.

But it’s that romantic setting that has stayed with me forever and fueled my ongoing love of the Italian coast! 

By Jess Walter,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Beautiful Ruins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 


Book cover of On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal

Susan Van Allen Author Of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women who love Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am grateful to my maternal grandparents, immigrants from southern Italy, who instilled in me a love for the Bel Paese that has inspired me all my life. I began to travel to Italy 45 years ago, and after writing for television—on the staff of Everybody Loves Raymond—I turned to travel writing. I’ve written 4 books about Italian travel, along with many stories for magazines. I also design and host Golden Weeks in Italy: For Women Only tours, to give female travelers an insider’s experience of this extraordinary country.

Susan's book list on women who love Italy

Susan Van Allen Why did Susan love this book?

This memoir of a Sicilian year beautifully weaves together Simeti’s personal experience in rural Sicily and Palermo with her extensive knowledge of history, mythology, and culinary traditions. Simeti’s honesty truly prepared me for my first trip to Sicily – giving me a full picture of the island’s light and dark sides. 

By Mary Taylor Simeti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a year of Sicilian life, its seasons and its sacred festivals, its gorgeous fruits and demanding family life, its casual assassinations and village feasts, its weather and the neighbours. It chronicles a life divided between an apartment in the city of Palermo with the weekends and summer devoted to sustaining life in an old family farm. What makes this journal truly exceptional is that Mary Simeti is both an outsider, (an American who had studied medieval history and worked as a volunteer on a social welfare programme) and an insider. For this journal was written after twenty years…


Book cover of A Vow of Silence

Elizabeth Bailey Author Of The Gilded Shroud

From my list on mysteries to escape the now and voyage the past.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as a child, I wanted to escape from current times and visit bygone or future eras. History and literature were favourites and I gleaned most of what I know of the past by reading. Then I found Georgette Heyer, prompting a lifetime love affair with all things Georgian and Regency. Agatha Christie got me into mystery. I loved both the puzzle of whodunit and being whirled away into Poirot, Marple, or Cadfael territory. A good mystery and a deep dive into history as well? Heaven! Best of all is the author who draws me so completely into their imaginary world that the real one fades away.

Elizabeth's book list on mysteries to escape the now and voyage the past

Elizabeth Bailey Why did Elizabeth love this book?

Sister Joan is yet another religious sleuth. Set in the early 1990s, I think this series now qualifies as a historical mystery. It is a lighter read than my other choices, but one I absolutely loved and, like Cadfael, I dived in and devoured the lot. Vow of Silence is the first and hooked me straight away. The religious life fascinates me and I enjoyed the way the ceremonial routine of the convent was woven into the mysteries. This detail serves to immerse you in the life of Sister Joan, a down-to-earth heroine who drew my admiration. The mysteries unfold naturally into the setting and don’t seem incongruous. A more gentle read than the others I have chosen, but acutely satisfying.

By Veronica Black,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Vow of Silence as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When one nun dies in a bizarre accident and another disappears, hushed whispers of virgin sacrifice, Mother Goddess worship, suicide, and murder spread among the Sisters at Cornwall House convent and Sister Joan is sent to investigate


Book cover of Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith

Leopoldo Gout Author Of Piñata

From my list on reminding us that the past never dies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an author, visual artist, and film producer. I’m originally from Mexico but studied fine art in London at Central St Martins School of art with a scholarship. I’ve had a wild career of writing, packaging, developing, and publishing books for more than a decade. You can see some of my visual art in galleries, museums, and my Instagram @leopoldoleopoldo or in my most recent illustrated novel Monarca. My forthcoming novel, Piñata, is a supernatural possession story driven by the real horrors of colonialism in my native Mexico. I wrote it as an outlet for a simultaneous love and rage at the world, history, my country, and current events.

Leopoldo's book list on reminding us that the past never dies

Leopoldo Gout Why did Leopoldo love this book?

It’s an all-too-common crime of a history written by societies victors that brilliant women like Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz are doomed after living a life enriching this world’s literature and thought.

It was rage at this kind of historical injustice which inspired my writing of my book

Sor Juana’s great poem "First Dream" also inspired me not only in my first novel, but in many of the visual art I did in my 20’s. We even called my daughter Inés, partially in homage to her.

Octavio Paz’s masterpiece that won him the Nobel Prize of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz is an incredible time travelling journey. It’s so wonderful that sometimes you think you are reading a memoir and go deep inside her poetry, science, love life, and dreams.

It is biography, history, literary criticism, and an expose against the Vatican’s minions who were colonizing…

By Octavio Paz, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mexico's leading poet, essayist, and cultural critic writes of a Mexican poet of another time and another world, the world of seventeenth-century New Spain. His subject is Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the most striking figure in all of Spanish-American colonial literature and one of the great poets of her age.

Her life reads like a novel. A spirited and precocious girl, one of six illegitimate children, is sent to live with relatives in the capital city. She becomes known for her beauty, wit, and amazing erudition, and is taken into the court as the Vicereine's protegee. For five…


Colonial Habits

By Kathryn Burns,

Book cover of Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru

Karen Graubart Author Of With Our Labor and Sweat: Indigenous Women and the Formation of Colonial Society in Peru, 1550-1700

From my list on gender in colonial Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian of gender in colonial Latin America. I'm always looking for surprises in these stories: men's and women's lives in the past were not narrower than ours, and I love to find their strategies for dealing with a system that was often stacked against them. I enjoy learning that my expectations were wrong, and thinking about the past as a living world. As a researcher who is always stumbling on unusual documents that I have to confront with fresh eyes, I really love a book that challenges me to think about how we can even know about the past, especially in terms of race and gender.

Karen's book list on gender in colonial Latin America

Karen Graubart Why did Karen love this book?

I've always wondered why Latin American colonial cities had so many convents, surely there were not enough nuns to populate them in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?

Kathryn Burns not only clears up this mystery but shows us that convents were more or less the banks of their era, taking in funds in the form of nuns' entrance fees and gifts and bequests and then investing and lending them out (at interest) to local notables, often relatives of the women inside.

Convents were not simply homes for religious women, but were places where young women were formed, Spaniards, Indigenous, and Black, for the sake of the new colonial society. I would not have thought I would find the history of convents a page-turner, but I loved the scandals, the race relations, and the unexpected economic history.

Colonial Habits

By Kathryn Burns,

What is this book about?

In Colonial Habits Kathryn Burns transforms our view of nuns as marginal recluses, making them central actors on the colonial stage. Beginning with the 1558 founding of South America's first convent, Burns shows that nuns in Cuzco played a vital part in subjugating Incas, creating a creole elite, and reproducing an Andean colonial order in which economic and spiritual interests were inextricably fused.
Based on unprecedented archival research, Colonial Habits demonstrates how nuns became leading guarantors of their city's social order by making loans, managing property, containing "unruly" women, and raising girls. Coining the phrase "spiritual economy" to analyze the…


Book cover of Red Sister

Martin Rodoreda Author Of Salvage

From my list on action-packed, post-apocalyptic fictions with a female protagonist.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been heavily immersed in the fantasy and sci-fi world since the age of nine, across fiction novels, role-playing games, tabletop miniature gaming, and movies. My first love was fantasy, and that’s one of the reasons why the post-apocalyptic genre particularly appeals to me when it comes to sci-fi. It plays in that dark, gritty place between futuristic, sci-fi, technology, and dark-age style fantasy. In addition, I’ve always felt socially conscious and value writing that highlights themes that are relevant today. This is another place that the post-apocalyptic genre slides comfortably into. And, of course, there’s the zombies. Another fantasy element that works beautifully in post-apocalyptic, sci-fi settings.

Martin's book list on action-packed, post-apocalyptic fictions with a female protagonist

Martin Rodoreda Why did Martin love this book?

I loved this book for its combination of fantasy and sci-fi, the gritty and grim world Lawrence has created, and the high-energy and higher-stakes action sequences that fill the book.

I loved that it was unexpected. Lawrence's post-apocalyptic world concept was unique and fresh, compellingly combining the technology of a dying world with supernatural themes. I certainly did not expect the convent setting and nun-in-training protagonist in a sci-fi storyline, and yet that’s what I got in his main character, Nona Grey.

I love the tension and suspense created in the frequent action sequences Nona finds herself in, which left me wanting more and more. This leads to the last thing I really loved about this book: that it continued across two more books: Grey Sister and Holy Sister.

By Mark Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Red Sister as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's not until you're broken that you find your sharpest edge.

"I was born for killing - the gods made me to ruin."

At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices' skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don't truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought…


Book cover of Small Things Like These

David W. Berner Author Of The Islander

From my list on the essence of the Irishman’s melancholic emotions.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dugan was my grandmother’s maiden name. Her family was from County Wexford, Ireland near Rosslare on the island’s east coast. In recent years I have extensively studied my Irish heritage and have discovered much about my family, and about the DNA running through my own Irish blood. The inquiry has revealed much about my love of storytelling, good conversation, and generally about the way I move through the world. As a writer of several books of personal narrative and fiction, I have tried to write books that capture a certain emotion, and now through my own ancestral discoveries, I understand how those emotions and familial ties are so tightly linked. 

David's book list on the essence of the Irishman’s melancholic emotions

David W. Berner Why did David love this book?

This stunning short novel captures everything about the deep ties that both religion and family have on the Irish experience.

As a boy, I remember my grandmother’s deep religious devotion and how it fueled her way of life. The story touches on this, including an affection for the land, love of community, and the power in doing the right thing. Its moodiness reflects both the story’s unspoken depth and its sublime tenderness.

In Small Things Like These, the protagonist struggles with what he should or should not do after hearing rumors about the local convent and the young girls who live there.

Keegan is a master at delivering the below-the-surface emotions that drive men and women through life’s difficult decisions.

By Claire Keegan,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked Small Things Like These as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize

"A hypnotic and electrifying Irish tale that transcends country, transcends time." —Lily King, New York Times bestselling author of Writers & Lovers

Small Things Like These is award-winning author Claire Keegan's landmark new novel, a tale of one man's courage and a remarkable portrait of love and family

It is 1985 in a small Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal merchant and family man faces into his busiest season. Early one morning, while delivering an order to the local convent, Bill makes a discovery which forces him…


Book cover of The Passion of Mary-Margaret

Rhonda Ortiz Author Of In Pieces

From my list on historical romances for armchair Theologians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer married to a theologian. My husband and I often discuss Augustine and Aquinas, Austen and Tolstoy, Christie and Sayers, and trends in popular fiction—when we’re not discussing Frog and Toad, Elephant and Piggie, baby diapers, and what to make for dinner. Love stories have long been my favorite stories, and I’ve always enjoyed historical settings. My award-winning novel In Pieces, a 1793 Boston-set historical romance with elements of family drama, society drama, and political suspense, combines all these interests. I even managed to sneak in a diaper-changing scene.

Rhonda's book list on historical romances for armchair Theologians

Rhonda Ortiz Why did Rhonda love this book?

I rarely experience “book hangover” after finishing a novel. The Passion of Mary-Margaret was a notable exception. The story centers on a religious sister (nun) and mystic, Mary-Margaret Fischer, who, before taking final vows, gives up religious life in order to marry her troubled childhood friend. The Passion of Mary-Margaret delves unflinchingly into difficult themes—abuse, prostitution, racism and bigotry, absentee parents, and self-sacrifice—with an eye toward grace. After finishing the book, I thought, “Yes. This is what love looks like.” It was so good, I couldn’t pick up another novel for weeks.

By Lisa Samson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Passion of Mary-Margaret as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mary-Margaret yearned to dedicate her life to the Lord. Jesus had another idea.

When Mary-Margaret Fischer met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son, she was studying at a convent school on a small island off Chesapeake Bay. Destined for a life as a religious sister, she nevertheless felt a pull toward Jude--gorgeous, rebellious, promiscuous Jude. But Jude, driven by demons no one really understood, disappeared into Baltimore's seamy red-light district. Mary-Margaret moved on with her life, preparing to serve God with her sisters as a teacher and artist.

Then Jude comes home--but now he's bitter, dissolute, and diseased. And Mary-Margaret…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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