100 books like The Famine Ships

By Edward Laxton,

Here are 100 books that The Famine Ships fans have personally recommended if you like The Famine Ships. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-the Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-Century England

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

Curious about the century that produced works as varied as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Bleak House? This is the book for you! Because it is organized by topics—money and social precedence to begin and the workhouse and death to end—it is easy to dip in and out of. It has added greatly to my understanding of 19th-century fiction. The invaluable glossary at the end lists terms that are strange to us in the 21st century and gives clear brief definitions. Now I know that loo was not an English euphemism for a toilet and that a ha-ha was not a joke! 

By Daniel Pool,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "delightful reader's companion" (The New York Times) to the great nineteenth-century British novels of Austen, Dickens, Trollope, the Brontes, and more, this lively guide clarifies the sometimes bizarre maze of rules and customs that governed life in Victorian England.

For anyone who has ever wondered whether a duke outranked an earl, when to yell "Tally Ho!" at a fox hunt, or how one landed in "debtor's prison," this book serves as an indispensable historical and literary resource. Author Daniel Pool provides countless intriguing details (did you know that the "plums" in Christmas plum pudding were actually raisins?) on the…


Book cover of Hester

Katie Lumsden Author Of The Secrets of Hartwood Hall

From my list on surprisingly feminist Victorian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Victorian literature after reading Jane Eyre when I was thirteen years old. Since then, I’ve worked my way through Victorian book after Victorian book, and my own novel, The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, is a love letter to Victorian fiction. One of my key interests within Victorian literature has always been its exploration of gender and gender roles. There are so many fantastic Victorian proto-feminist novels, and while some are still remembered and read, many more have been largely forgotten. These are just a few of my favourite proto-feminist Victorian novels, all of which are very underrated and very much worth a read!

Katie's book list on surprisingly feminist Victorian

Katie Lumsden Why did Katie love this book?

Hester, which came out in 1883, follows two central figures: Miss Catherine, an older woman who runs a bank – in itself quite a surprise to find in a Victorian novel – and Hester, her young relation, who is bored with her dull, ladylike life and wants something more.

What she really wants is to work, as Catherine does, but Catherine is determined that the bank will pass to a man. The novel focuses on their strained relationship – strained partly because they are so very alike. There’s so much I love about Hester, but I especially enjoy how it undermines and undercuts Victorian tropes about the novel and what is and isn’t a happy ending for a female character. It’s an absolutely fascinating read.

By Margaret Oliphant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Margaret Oliphant is one of the great Victorian novelists and "Hester" is a masterpiece of psychological realism published in 1883. 
In exploring the difficulty of understanding human nature, it is also a compulsive story of financial and sexual risk-taking that inevitably results in a searing climax.

"Hester" tells the story of the ageing but powerful Catherine Vernon, and her conflict with the young and determined Hester, whose growing attachment to Edward, Catherine's favourite, spells disaster for all concerned.

Catherine Vernon, jilted in her youth, has risen to power in a man's world as head of the family bank. She thinks…


Book cover of A Sultry Month: Scenes of London Literary Life in 1846

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

There is something magical about this book. It’s a brilliant piece of research and a touching evocation of a particular summer when, among other things, the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett were secretly planning their elopement, Tennyson was planning a walking tour in Switzerland that included a visit to Charles Dickens, P. T. Barnum was touring with “General Tom Thumb,” and the artist Benjamin Haydon was approaching suicide. I was bowled over by the richness of lives lived packed into just two hundred pages.

By Alethea Hayter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Sultry Month as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wine and dine with Victorian London's literati in a heatwave in one of the first ever group biographies, introduced by Francesca Wade (author of Square Haunting).

Though she loved the heat she could do nothing but lie on the sofa and drink lemonade and read Monte Cristo .

'Never bettered.' Guardian
'Brilliant.' Julian Barnes
'Wholly original.' Craig Brown
'A pathfinder.' Richard Holmes
'Extraordinary.' Penelope Lively

June 1846. As London swelters in a heatwave - sunstroke strikes, meat rots, ice is coveted - a glamorous coterie of writers and artists spend their summer wining, dining and opining.

With the ringletted 'face…


Book cover of The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations

Jonatha Ceely Author Of Mina

From my list on understanding women in 19th century England.

Why am I passionate about this?

Some years ago, I believed that after I had read the “famous” 19th-century novelists Jane Austen at the beginning of the century, the Brontes, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens more or less in the middle, and Henry James, Mark Twain, and Edith Wharton at the end, I had “done” the century and was disappointed that there was no more of worth to entertain me. Wrong, of course. Maria Edgeworth (Anglo-Irish) was a revelation; Catherine Maria Sedgewick (American) opened my eyes to New England; Margaret Oliphant (Scottish) combined the “weird,” spiritual, and a ruthless realism about family dysfunction. So I'm still reading. The 19th-century novels of Great Britain and America are an avocation and a passion.

Jonatha's book list on understanding women in 19th century England

Jonatha Ceely Why did Jonatha love this book?

This novel was a big bestseller in 1856! I read it because I saw a reference to it as having religion as a strong theme and I thought it would be useful research for my book. While it turned out to be of little use for that, I found it fascinating for its picture of family life. I did not anticipate the subplot about the abuse of opium in infant care. Critics claim that the portrait of Ethel, the protagonist, made possible the later depictions of Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. It’s a bit long-winded but a good read. And if you are looking at my list, you probably like long-winded 19th-century novels anyway.

By Charlotte Mary Yonge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Daisy Chain, or Aspirations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos. (2) In books where there are images such as portraits, maps, sketches etc We have endeavoured to keep the quality of these images, so they represent accurately the original artefact. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.


Book cover of Murphy's Law

Carmen Radtke Author Of The Case of the Missing Bride

From my list on mysteries set on ships and trains.

Why am I passionate about this?

After years dedicated to the hard facts of a newspaper reporter’s life, including a sting covering the police beat, Carmen Radtke has changed her focus to fiction. She’s been fascinated by both history and mystery as long as she can remember and stays dedicated to the truth behind the lie, and the joys of in-depth research. As a repeated emigrant, she is enthralled by voyages into the unknown and the courage (or madness) that takes.

Carmen's book list on mysteries set on ships and trains

Carmen Radtke Why did Carmen love this book?

I fell in love with this series and its intrepid heroine Molly Murphy on page one. A young, penniless woman who has to rely on her own wits to make her way to America at the end of the 19th century, and a sea voyage that ends well enough until she becomes a murder suspect as soon as she arrives in Ellis Island - this impeccably researched historical mystery has all the ingredients I could want. It’s a satisfying mystery and a scathing social commentary, the tone of voice is clever and funny, and I didn’t just want to follow Molly on every step of her journey, I wanted to be her. 

By Rhys Bowen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Rhys Bowen, author of the much-loved Constable Evans mysteries, takes on the vibrant world of turn-of-the-century Ellis Island and New York in her newest series. With delightful humour and meticulous research Bowen transports readers to the gritty underworld that swallowed new immigrants who dreamed of a better life, and gives us the unforgettable heroine Molly Murphy, a resourceful Irish woman who lives by her own set of laws...


Book cover of Empire Rising

Fred Van Lente Author Of Never Sleep

From my list on historical mysteries/thrillers set before World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love historical fiction because it’s the next best thing to the invention of time travel. Books can immerse you in a time and a place in a way that comics and movies can only gesture at. For books like Never Sleep I even make sure to cook the foods my characters are eating, to make sure the era is evoked for the readers in all five sense. I love fantasy and science fiction as the next person, but the idea of transporting people to times and places that actually happened, to the best of my skill as a dramatist and researcher, is a challenge I find irresistible as an author. 

Fred's book list on historical mysteries/thrillers set before World War II

Fred Van Lente Why did Fred love this book?

I read this book while working on an alternate reality graphic novel for Marvel Comics, X Men Noir, in which we had the Empire State Building as an active docking spot for airships (as intended).

Turns out the actual Great Depression-era construction of the ESB was even more harrowing and fascinating than in our book, as Kelly makes clear here.

By Thomas Kelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Novel of High-Stakes Romance and Betrayal, Set During the Race to Finish the World's Tallest Building

In Empire Rising, his extraordinary third book, Thomas Kelly tells a story of love and work, of intrigue and jealousy, with the narrative verve that led the Village Voice's reviewer to dub him "Dostoevsky with a hard hat and lead pipe."
As the novel opens, it is 1930-the Depression-and ground has just been broken for the Empire State Building. One of the thousands of men erecting the building high above the city is Michael Briody, an Irish immigrant torn between his desire to…


Book cover of Receiving Erin's Children: Philadelphia, Liverpool, and the Irish Famine Migration, 1845-1855

Frank Parker Author Of A Purgatory of Misery: How Victorian Liberals Turned a Crisis into a Disaster

From my list on helping you understand the Irish potato famine.

Why am I passionate about this?

A friend with Parkinson's Disease requested my help in his attempts to understand the famine and its impact on his ancestors in County Clare. Once I began reading the material he brought me I was impelled to discover more. I had already researched and written about an earlier period in Irish history - the Anglo-Norman invasion - and it seemed that everything that happened on both sides of the Irish Sea in the centuries that followed was instrumental in making the famine such a disaster. Our book is the result.

Frank's book list on helping you understand the Irish potato famine

Frank Parker Why did Frank love this book?

This is a book for members of the Irish diaspora. It tells of the experiences of your ancestors as they fled the conditions prevailing in their homeland.

Often single members of families whose objective was to earn money they could send back to Ireland in order to enable those family members left behind to follow. Too often the welcome they found, after travelling in appalling conditions as human cargo in ships unsuitable for the purpose, was not as warm as they had expected.

A story relevant today as we grapple with the problems created by modern migration from war- and/or famine-ravaged areas of the modern world, often still undertaken in unsuitable boats.

By J. Matthew Gallman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Between 1845 and 1855, 2 million Irish men and women fled their famine-ravaged homeland, many to settle in large British and American cities that were already wrestling with a complex array of urban problems. In this innovative work of comparative urban history, Matthew Gallman looks at how two cities, Philadelphia and Liverpool, met the challenges raised by the influx of immigrants. Gallman examines how citizens and policymakers in Philadelphia and Liverpool dealt with such issues as poverty, disease, poor sanitation, crime, sectarian conflict, and juvenile delinquency. By considering how two cities of comparable population and dimensions responded to similar challenges,…


Book cover of Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O'Hara

Kevin Kenny Author Of Making Sense of the Molly Maguires

From my list on Irish immigration to the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the study of Irish history and culture. The key themes in my work—migration and diaspora—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching.

Kevin's book list on Irish immigration to the United States

Kevin Kenny Why did Kevin love this book?

In Hereafter, Vona Groarke accomplishes what most historians can never hope to do.

Filling in the gaps and silences in the historical record with poetry, prose, and imagery, she recreates the interior world of an Irish domestic servant in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century—her transatlantic migration, her back-and-forth journeys to Ireland, her working conditions and family life, and her hopes, dreams, and frustrations.

A work of great imaginative power and empathy, Hereafter is also a profound meditation on the historian’s craft.

By Vona Groarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lyrical portrait of a young Irish woman reinventing herself at the turn of the twentieth century in America
Ellen O'Hara was a young immigrant from Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century who, with courage and resilience, made a life for herself in New York while financially supporting those at home. Hereafter is her story, told by Vona Groarke, her descendant, in a beautiful blend of poetry, prose, and history.
In July 1882, Ellen O'Hara stepped off a ship from the West of Ireland to begin a new life in New York. What she encountered was a world…


Book cover of Scarlett

Stephen W. Bartlett Author Of The Bridal Prospectus

From my list on romance without sappy character introspection.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like to write more than I like to read, but when I do read, I want to learn about other places and times besides my own. Since my own novels are contemporary fiction, it makes sense that historical fiction is my favorite category to read. Likewise, my interest in romance isn’t from unrequited love, but rather, a desire to explore the difficulties of choosing a life partner in our complicated world. (Even my detective novels contain romance!) But I don’t like sappy introspective thought processes, a variation of teen angst, and most readers of historical romance have this same aversion. So none of my recommendations will be that way. 

Stephen's book list on romance without sappy character introspection

Stephen W. Bartlett Why did Stephen love this book?

It has been many years since I first read this book yet I still remember how successful the author was in recreating the atmosphere presented by the movie, Gone with the Wind. She was so successful that this book is advertised as a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s original work. If you want to know how civilian life was in the South during the American Civil War, you won’t be disappointed with this work. And of course, there is the tumultous relationship between Scarlett and Rhett Butler. 

By Alexandra Ripley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discover the phenomenal #1 bestselling sequel to Gone With the Wind: "true to Scarlett's spirit," this inventive novel beautifully continues Margaret Mitchell's timeless tale (Chicago Tribune).
The most popular and beloved American historical novel ever written, Gone With the Wind is unparalleled in its portrayal of men and women at once larger than life but as real as ourselves. Now Alexandra Ripley brings us back to Tara and reintroduces us to the characters we remember so well: Rhett, Ashley, Mammy, Suellen, Aunt Pittypat, and, of course, Scarlett.
As the classic story, first told over half a century ago, moves forward,…


Book cover of The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland

Kevin Kenny Author Of Making Sense of the Molly Maguires

From my list on Irish immigration to the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am interested in immigration for both personal and professional reasons. A native of Dublin, Ireland, I did my undergraduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, completed my graduate degree in New York City, moved to Austin, Texas for my first academic job and to Boston for my second job, and then returned to New City York to take up my current position at NYU, where I teach US immigration history and run Glucksman Ireland House, an interdisciplinary center devoted to the study of Irish history and culture. The key themes in my work—migration and diaspora—have been as central to my life journey as to my research and teaching.

Kevin's book list on Irish immigration to the United States

Kevin Kenny Why did Kevin love this book?

To understand the history of Irish immigrants in America, you first need to study the country they left.

Breandán Mac Suibhne’s The End of Outrage examines traditions of rural violent protest in nineteenth-century Donegal, the county where many of the Molly Maguires of Pennsylvania originated. Intriguingly, MacSuibhne also uncovers a significant degree of reverse migration and cultural influence from Pennsylvania to Ireland.

His title contains a triple pun: the word “end” refers to the goal of Irish agrarian protest, the termination of that tradition by the famine and mass emigration, and the failure of subsequent generations to acknowledge what happened.

By Breandan Mac Suibhne,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

South-west Donegal, Ireland, June 1856.

From the time that the blight first came on the potatoes in 1845, armed and masked men dubbed Molly Maguires had been raiding the houses of people deemed to be taking advantage of the rural poor. On some occasions, they represented themselves as 'Molly's Sons', sent by their mother, to carry out justice; on others, a man attired as a woman, introducing 'herself' as Molly Maguire, demanding redress for wrongs inflicted on her children. The raiders might stipulate the maximum price at which
provisions were to be sold, warn against the eviction of tenants, or…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Irish Americans, immigrants, and maritime?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Irish Americans, immigrants, and maritime.

Irish Americans Explore 34 books about Irish Americans
Immigrants Explore 159 books about immigrants
Maritime Explore 20 books about maritime