100 books like The 19th Wife

By David Ebershoff,

Here are 100 books that The 19th Wife fans have personally recommended if you like The 19th Wife. 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 Scent of Rain

Brenda Stanley Author Of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

From my list on escaping polygamist cults.

Why am I passionate about this?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.

Brenda's book list on escaping polygamist cults

Brenda Stanley Why did Brenda love this book?

This book was so hard for me to put down. I was caught up in the many twists and turns, and wanted to know how this young girl would escape. This story not only looks at the horrors of modern-day polygamist cults but also the challenges of the foster care system. I was swept up and cheering her on as she escaped into the treacherous terrain of the Arizona desert. With Montgomery’s vivid descriptions, I could feel the heat and the struggles these young people faced while trying to escape. This book is beautifully written and had me connected to the characters from the beginning.

By Anne Montgomery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away. 

Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat…


Book cover of Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Brenda Stanley Author Of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

From my list on escaping polygamist cults.

Why am I passionate about this?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.

Brenda's book list on escaping polygamist cults

Brenda Stanley Why did Brenda love this book?

I found Wall’s first-hand account of what life is like inside a polygamist cult to be both revealing and tragic. The book is nonfiction but reads like a novel. I loved how the pages were full of descriptive passages that gave me an insider’s view of what these young girls are taught and must face as child brides. It helped me see that what began decades before is still happening under a cloak of secrecy. I found this book revealing and disturbing, and one I couldn’t put down.

By Elissa Wall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A tale of survival and freedom, Stolen Innocence is the story of one heroic woman who stood up for what was right and reclaimed her life.

In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at the age of fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women.…


Book cover of The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir

Brian Rush McDonald Author Of The Long Surrender: A Memoir about Losing My Religion

From my list on people who left life-defining ideologies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became involved in a rigid religious movement as a teen and prepared for the ministry at a fundamentalist college and seminary. I took this ideology to its logical extreme and became a foreign missionary. I know from the inside how such an ideology takes hold of a person and how difficult it is to escape its grasp, especially when family and career are intertwined. Through my own struggle with depression and anxiety, I scoured books to help understand myself and faith development, eventually earning a Ph.D in counseling, emphasizing developmental theory. I know from personal experience what it means to walk away from a way of thinking that has defined much of your life.

Brian's book list on people who left life-defining ideologies

Brian Rush McDonald Why did Brian love this book?

This is an amazing memoir of a woman who was raised by a fundamentalist Morman family who lived in a polygamist compound in Mexico. She was her father’s thirty-ninth child and the daughter of a union between him and her mother, who was his fifth wife. Her father died when she was only 3 months old, and she spent most of her childhood with her mother, four siblings, and an abusive stepfather. The community was a confusing combination of rigid religious beliefs, sister wives, and poverty. At age 15 she takes three of her siblings and escapes to California to build a new life. I am amazed that a child could have the understanding, foresight, and courage to do what she did. The book is very well written and thoroughly captivating. 

By Ruth Wariner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Sound of Gravel is Ruth Wariner's unforgettable and deeply moving story of growing up in a polygamist Mormon doomsday community. The thirty-ninth of her father's forty-one children, Ruth is raised on a farm in the hills of Mexico, where polygamy is practiced without fear of legal persecution. There, Ruth's family lives in a home without indoor plumbing or electricity and attends a church where preachers teach that God will punish the wicked by destroying the world. In need of government assistance and supplemental income, Ruth and her siblings are carted back and forth between Mexico and the United States,…


Book cover of Keep Sweet

Brenda Stanley Author Of The Treasure of Cedar Creek

From my list on escaping polygamist cults.

Why am I passionate about this?

Living in southern Utah for many years, I saw first-hand the polygamist communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah. It always intrigued me that these people still held on to the beliefs and teachings of the early Mormon leaders regardless of the laws or scorn of those who lived around them. The research I did for The Treasure of Cedar Creek, was about polygamy, but also the history of the area of Idaho where the novel takes place and how it would be as a woman not only trying to escape, but facing the challenges of the terrain and perceptions of the day.

Brenda's book list on escaping polygamist cults

Brenda Stanley Why did Brenda love this book?

I read this book in two days because the story kept pulling me back. It’s a YA novel that is accurate and haunting in its telling of the life of a young girl trapped in a polygamist cult. I loved how realistic this story felt. To explore what happens when this girl is caught going against the teachings of the cult and the horrific ramifications had me wanting to know what would happen next. I found this book so intriguing and came away with an interesting perspective on the issue of modern-day polygamy.

By Michele Dominguez Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it.

But everything changes when Alva is caught giving her long-time crush an innocent first kiss. Beaten, scorned, and now facing a forced marriage to a violent, fifty-year old man, Alva suddenly realizes how much she has to lose--and how…


Book cover of Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith

Alex Beam Author Of American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church

From my list on Mormon history.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2012, a publisher asked me if I wanted to write a book about Joseph Smith's assassination. I leapt at the chance, in part because I was fascinated by Smith and the Latter-day Saints, and in part because I appreciated how many of the important contributions to Mormon history --- including Fawn Brodie’s famous biography of Joseph Smith, or the first honest and comprehensive account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre -- sprang from the pens of women and men with no formal academic training. By contrast, many “scholars” have disgraced themselves with prevaricating or pusillanimous accounts of the religion’s raucous and fascinating 190-year history. So jump in! Never a dull moment with the Latter-day Saints! 

Alex's book list on Mormon history

Alex Beam Why did Alex love this book?

This is an honest book about Joseph Smith’s first, and only “real” wife, Emma, who virulently opposed polygamy and, after Joseph’s death, convinced herself that it never existed. Emma is one of the three titans of Mormon history: she, her husband, and the subject of my next pick.

By Linda King Newell, Valerie Tippetts Avery,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mormon Enigma is the bestselling biography of Emma Hale Smith, wife of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. It was Joseph Smith who announced that an angel of the Lord had commanded him to introduce a 'new order of marriage.' And it was Emma Hale Smith who confronted the practice of polygamy head on.

As the authors note in their introduction, "Early leaders in Utah castigated Emma from their pulpits for opposing Brigham Young and the practice of polygamy, and for lending support to the Reorganization. As these attitudes filtered down through the years, Emma was virtually written out of official…


Book cover of The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch

Catherine Richmond Author Of The Shelter of Each Other

From my list on communes and cults in the 19th century.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Loess Hills of Iowa provide a great place to hike, with leg-stretching hills and diverse species of plants and animals, and a park with the unusual name Preparation Canyon. In 1853 a small band of Mormons built a commune called Preparation. Leader Charles Blancher Thompson kept his printing press busy, publishing over a thousand pages. Few of those pages told about those who lived there. The Shelter of Each Other is the story of the people of Preparation, brought to you by a writer whose imagination fills in blanks and connects the dots.

Catherine's book list on communes and cults in the 19th century

Catherine Richmond Why did Catherine love this book?

The mid-1800s United States was full of scoundrels, get-rich-quick schemes, and religious fervor.

James Strang was born into this milieu, was baptized into the Latter Day Saints by Joseph Smith, and claimed to be the Smith’s successor.

He located brass plates, translated them, and published them in his newspaper. He and his followers moved to an isolated island in Lake Michigan, where he was crowned king. In 1856, he was murdered.

The leader of Preparation, Charles Blancher Thompson, also grew up in this environment and joined the Mormons. Thompson followed Strang for a while. Like Strang, Thompson published revelations in his own newspaper, moved his followers to a remote location, and became postmaster. In 1858, he came close to being murdered.

The King of Confidence provided cultural context for my book.

By Miles Harvey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The "unputdownable" (Dave Eggers, National Book award finalist) story of the most infamous American con man you've never heard of: James Strang, self-proclaimed divine king of earth, heaven, and an island in Lake Michigan, "perfect for fans of The Devil in the White City" (Kirkus)

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Longlisted for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
Finalist for the Midland Authors Annual Literary Award
A Michigan Notable Book
A CrimeReads Best True Crime Book of the Year

"A masterpiece." —Nathaniel Philbrick 

In the summer of 1843, James Strang, a charismatic young lawyer…


Book cover of For Time And Eternity

Catherine Richmond Author Of The Shelter of Each Other

From my list on communes and cults in the 19th century.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Loess Hills of Iowa provide a great place to hike, with leg-stretching hills and diverse species of plants and animals, and a park with the unusual name Preparation Canyon. In 1853 a small band of Mormons built a commune called Preparation. Leader Charles Blancher Thompson kept his printing press busy, publishing over a thousand pages. Few of those pages told about those who lived there. The Shelter of Each Other is the story of the people of Preparation, brought to you by a writer whose imagination fills in blanks and connects the dots.

Catherine's book list on communes and cults in the 19th century

Catherine Richmond Why did Catherine love this book?

For Time and Eternity takes place during the same time period as Preparation.

Her parents forbid any contact with the wagon train camping near their Iowa farm, so when the girl meets a charming young man from the group, she questions their edict. She runs away from home and marries.

Too late, she realizes their theology is not Christian - she's trapped in a cult. The church's requirement that its men commit adultery is only the beginning.

By Allison Pittman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For Time And Eternity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All Camilla Deardon knows of the Mormons camping nearby is the songs she hears floating on the breeze. Then she meets one of them―a young man named Nathan Fox. Never did she imagine he would be so handsome, so charming, especially after Mama and Papa’s warnings to stay away. Though she knows she should obey her parents, Camilla can’t refuse her heart. But even Nathan’s promises cannot prepare her for what she will face in Utah.


Book cover of Burned

Ryan A. Kovacs Author Of Create Destruction: Phase I

From my list on human choice & consequence.

Why am I passionate about this?

I firmly live by the saying, “Where we are in life is a direct reflection of the choices we’ve made, or failed to make.” The theme of choice and consequence has not just been a way of living but the very trope in all my novels. The beauty in showing the process of making a choice, for my characters, in their stories, brings them to life. It forces the reader to step inside that decision tree, to analyze and predict the outcome despite the unknown. We are continuously propelled into the unknown and we make choices based on the notion of understanding what those choices will mean.

Ryan's book list on human choice & consequence

Ryan A. Kovacs Why did Ryan love this book?

Ellen Hopkins is the master of novel-in-verse style writing and the true inspiration for my particular style.

She harnesses the human condition in ever-evolving characters while simultaneously displaying their choices and subsequent consequences. Her stories embody the true philosophical underpinnings that make readers question everything, and for good reason.

With a few of her novels being banned due to their content and free-thinking inspiration, her stories beg to be read and characters empathized. At the core, she is a poet, much like myself, and any poet who loves a good story can identify with her compelling stories and stylistic approach.

By Ellen Hopkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Burned 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?

I do know things really began to spin out of control after my first sex dream.

It all started with a dream. Nothing exceptional, just a typical fantasy about a boy, the kind of dream that most teen girls experience. But Pattyn Von Stratten is not like most teen girls. Raised in a religious -- yet abusive -- family, a simple dream may not be exactly a sin, but it could be the first step toward hell and eternal damnation.

This dream is a first step for Pattyn. But is it to hell or to a better life? For the…


Book cover of Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes

Nicholas Blair Author Of Castro to Christopher: Gay Streets of America 1979-1986

From my list on LGBTQ history through photography and print.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became aware of the struggles of the LGBTQ community as a 22-year-old touring the Dachau concentration camp in Germany, where hundreds of gay men were imprisoned—my mother was a Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz. A month later, in October 1978, after I returned to San Francisco, Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were murdered. As a hippie, San Francisco seemed extremely tolerant, but after the murders, I realized there was a monumental struggle for “unalienable rights” in the LGBTQ community. I started photographing LGBTQ political events and, for six years, documented the “gay liberation movement” as it exploded across the streets of New York and San Francisco.

Nicholas' book list on LGBTQ history through photography and print

Nicholas Blair Why did Nicholas love this book?

I found this to be a phenomenally original and imaginative dive into the tragic period of the AIDS epidemic.

I was gripped by the complex relationship between the different couples, the relationships between the characters, and “queerness” even if they were not. I learned about that dark period in American social history through the entwined lives of a few emotionally charged and engrossing characters.  

By Tony Kushner,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Angels in America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes includes Part One, Millennium Approaches and Part Two, Perestroika

“Glorious. A monumental, subversive, altogether remarkable masterwork…Details of specific catastrophes may have changed since this Reagan-era AIDS epic won the Pulitzer and the Tony, but the real cosmic and human obsessions—power, religion, sex, responsibility, the future of the world—are as perilous, yet as falling-down funny, as ever.” –Linda Winer, Newsday

"A vast, miraculous play... provocative, witty and deeply upsetting... a searching and radical rethinking of American political drama." - Frank Rich, New York Times

"A…


Book cover of Riders of the Purple Sage

Bob Giel Author Of Shawnee

From my list on generating interest in the Western genre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a life-long love of Westerns. I’ve researched the period and the events extensively. One of the first things I look for in any book I read is period accuracy. The books I write are historically accurate, though they are fiction. I’m on a mission, through my writing, to save the Western genre.

Bob's book list on generating interest in the Western genre

Bob Giel Why did Bob love this book?

This was the first Western I read when I was young. It made an impression on me, not only as a Western, but as a classic story of good and evil with sharply drawn characters that make it come alive to the reader. Grey’s writing puts the reader right in the middle of every scene. And it has an ending you don’t see coming, but one that fits perfectly.

By Zane Grey,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Riders of the Purple Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.


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