100 books like The House of Mirth

By Edith Wharton,

Here are 100 books that The House of Mirth fans have personally recommended if you like The House of Mirth. 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 Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Kate Andersen Brower Author Of Elizabeth Taylor: The Grit & Glamour of an Icon

From my list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I covered the White House as a young reporter I was always more interested in understanding what was happening in the upstairs residence than in what briefings we were getting from the president’s advisers in the Roosevelt Room. I was raised with the understanding that in the end everyone is equal and that no one, no matter how powerful they are, gets out of the human experience. I think that’s what makes me interested in iconic women, from Elizabeth Taylor to Betty Ford. There’s nothing I like better than reading their letters and trying to understand what made them tick, and how they navigated their complicated and very public lives.

Kate's book list on rule-breaking, risk-taking, bad a$# women

Kate Andersen Brower Why did Kate love this book?

My friend Denise Kiernan shines a light on the thousands of women who worked on the Manhattan Project.

If you’ve seen Oppenheimer and you’re interested in the story behind the development of the atomic bomb, then this book will help you understand the hidden figures behind its creation. What I love the most about Denise’s writing is the way that she brings the mysterious origins of Oak Ridge, a Tennessee town created to house the people working on the bomb, to life. 

At a time when the stakes couldn’t have been higher, women were at the center of the story.

By Denise Kiernan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Girls of Atomic City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestseller, now available in paperback—an incredible true story of the top-secret World War II town of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the young women brought there unknowingly to help build the atomic bomb.

“The best kind of nonfiction: marvelously reported, fluidly written, and a remarkable story...As meticulous and brilliant as it is compulsively readable.” —Karen Abbott, author of Sin in the Second City

At the height of World War II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, and consumed more electricity than New York City, yet it was shrouded in such secrecy that it did not…


Book cover of The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America

Thijs ten Raa Author Of Microeconomics: Equilibrium and Efficiency

From my list on microeconomics on how markets are interconnected.

Why am I passionate about this?

Microeconomics is a turnoff to most readers. Not without reason. Many books in this field are dull rewrites of other books and opaque.  In particular, it is not clear how the behavior of individual consumers and producers adds to the performance—good or bad—of an economy. The books listed here helped me to sharpen my own mind and to make my writing lucid.

Thijs' book list on microeconomics on how markets are interconnected

Thijs ten Raa Why did Thijs love this book?

This fascinating and very detailed history of early Manhattan shows how the Dutch with their policy based on individual liberty and free trade impacted not only New York City but even the shaping of America. 

I sensed this when I was an inhabitant of New York, but now I understand why.

By Russell Shorto,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Island at the Center of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a riveting, groundbreaking narrative, Russell Shorto tells the story of New Netherland, the Dutch colony which pre-dated the Pilgrims and established ideals of tolerance and individual rights that shaped American history. 

"Astonishing . . . A book that will permanently alter the way we regard our collective past." --The New York Times

When the British wrested New Amsterdam from the Dutch in 1664, the truth about its thriving, polyglot society began to disappear into myths about an island purchased for 24 dollars and a cartoonish peg-legged governor. But the story of the Dutch colony of New Netherland was merely…


Book cover of Beloved

Donna Hemans Author Of The House of Plain Truth

From my list on haunting: how the past lingers with us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a culture that both fears and embraces spirits or outrightly rejects the idea that spirits live on beyond death. I grew up on stories of rolling calves and duppies that caused havoc among the living. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by what haunts us—whether it be our familial spirits that float among the living and continue to play a role in our lives, our memories, or our past actions. I’ve written three books that play with this idea of past actions lingering long into the characters’ lives and returning in unexpected ways.  

Donna's book list on haunting: how the past lingers with us

Donna Hemans Why did Donna love this book?

This book is a longtime favorite of mine. Toni Morrison was a master at blending the personal story and the political, and in this book, she blends the true story of a mother who kills her child to prevent slave catchers from returning the baby to life as a slave.

Morrison’s fictional Sethe is haunted by the ghost of the baby she killed and the memories of her difficult life as a slave. This is one of the novels I return to time after time, both for the beauty of the writing and the portrayal of a mother’s love, guilt, and the lingering impact of slavery.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours... Beloved is a heart-breaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all' Margaret Atwood, New York Times

Discover this beautiful gift edition of Toni Morrison's prize-winning contemporary classic Beloved

It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her…


Book cover of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

Jan Eliasberg Author Of Hannah's War

From my list on exploring the world from a female point of view.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised to believe that I could do everything a man could do, just as Ginger Rodgers did, “backwards and in high heels.” My discovery that social expectations and boundaries for women were vastly different than those for men came as an enormous shock, and struck me as deeply, tragically unfair. I take strength from women in history, as well as from fictional female characters, who passionately pursue roles in a man’s world that are considered transgressive or forbidden. As a glass-ceiling-shattering female film and television director I take inspiration from women who have the gritty determination to live on their own terms. And then tell it as they lived it.

Jan's book list on exploring the world from a female point of view

Jan Eliasberg Why did Jan love this book?

This list wouldn’t be complete without a first-person memoir, a woman’s lived experience in a woman’s voice. And what better memoir to choose than Winterson's searingly honest account of how she reclaimed her childhood through the power of language.

In writing that is naked and brave, Winterson reveals a childhood that was ghastly, even Dickensian, but that was the crucible for Winterson’s incendiary talent.

By Jeanette Winterson,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking, heart-breaking - and often very funny - true story behind Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.

In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.

This book is that story's the silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness,…


Book cover of Atonement

James B. Gilbert Author Of The Legacy

From my list on understanding and misunderstanding each other.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have had two careers and two lives. Beginning as a historian of American culture, I have become a writer of fiction. That I have turned to fiction now is because I have so many of my own stories to explore and relate. And what I love most about writing novels and the short pieces I compose is the possibility to create living characters who sometimes surprise me with what they believe and do, but always, I know, emerge from the very deepest corners of my imagination and the issues that I feel compelled to examine and resolve.

James' book list on understanding and misunderstanding each other

James B. Gilbert Why did James love this book?

This amazing book reveals how a single mistaken perception, influenced by jealousy, envy, and the snobbery of social class, can wreak havoc on so many innocent lives.

McEwen writes with great delicacy and passion in constructing a story in which it becomes almost impossible to atone for a terrible accusation that cannot be rescinded. 

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries, and committed a…


Book cover of The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Todd Swanstrom Author Of The Changing American Neighborhood: The Meaning of Place in the Twenty-First Century

From my list on why neighborhoods still matter.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, in a neighborhood that was stable, safe, and stimulating. After my freshman year in college, I signed up for an “urban experience” in Detroit. It turned out to be the summer of the Detroit riots. I woke up to U.S. Army vehicles rumbling into the park across from my apartment. Over the next month, I witnessed the looting and burning of whole neighborhoods. I remember thinking:  what a waste! Why are we throwing away neighborhoods like Kleenex? I have been trying to answer that question ever since.   

Todd's book list on why neighborhoods still matter

Todd Swanstrom Why did Todd love this book?

The book that propelled the fight against modernist city planning–think urban renewal or interstate highways–is still a thrill to read 62 years after its publication.

Generating most of her insights by walking the city streets and living in Greenwich Village, Jacobs shows how dense neighborhoods with diverse land uses generate valuable "weak ties" while avoiding the suffocating conformity of small towns.

Jacobs did not just talk the talk; she walked the walk–getting arrested for protesting Robert Moses’ plan to slice a highway through lower Manhattan. Embraced by both libertarians and progressive new urbanists, Jacobs still generates controversy, but you can feel her love for urban neighborhoods on every page.  

By Jane Jacobs,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Death and Life of Great American Cities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic text, Jane Jacobs set out to produce an attack on current city planning and rebuilding and to introduce new principles by which these should be governed. The result is one of the most stimulating books on cities ever written.

Throughout the post-war period, planners temperamentally unsympathetic to cities have been let loose on our urban environment. Inspired by the ideals of the Garden City or Le Corbusier's Radiant City, they have dreamt up ambitious projects based on self-contained neighbourhoods, super-blocks, rigid 'scientific' plans and endless acres of grass. Yet they seldom stop to look at what actually…


Book cover of The Jungle

David Amadio Author Of Rug Man

From my list on working life.

Why am I passionate about this?

The blue-collar everyman lives on the periphery, coming and going with little fanfare. But what does he think and feel? How does he view the world? I became interested in these questions while working for my father’s rug business. I started as a part-timer in the early 90s, straddling the line between academe and the homes of the rich. He employed me for the next twenty years, supplementing my income as I found my way as a university professor. The books listed led me to a deeper appreciation of my father’s vocation, but only in writing Rug Man did I come to understand the true meaning of work. 

David's book list on working life

David Amadio Why did David love this book?

Jurgis Rudkus, the protagonist of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle, is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to Chicago at the turn of the 20th century to work in the city’s notorious meat-packing industry.

Described as a “very steady man” who “does not easily lose his temper,” Jurgis reminds me of my father, Jerry. Like Jurgis, my father’s solution to most of life’s problems is to just work harder, regardless of the personal consequences.

In the novel, Jurgis injures himself on the job and Sinclair captures not only his physical agony but the more formidable dread of not being able to provide for his family, the working-man’s greatest fear.

Often panned for over-politicizing Jurgis’s plight, The Jungle elevates an anonymous member of the laboring class and presents him as a symbol of virtue, valor, and hope.

By Upton Sinclair,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Jungle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First serialized in a newspaper in 1905, The Jungle is a classic of American literature that led to the creation of food-safety standards.

While investigating the meatpacking industry in Chicago, author and novelist Upton Sinclair discovered the brutal conditions that immigrant families faced. While his original intention was to bring this to the attention of the American public, his book was instead hailed for bringing food safety to the forefront of people's consciousness.

With its inspired plot and vivid descriptions, Upton Sinclair's classic tale of immigrant woe is now available as an elegantly designed clothbound edition with an elastic closure…


Book cover of Invisible Man

Chris Harding Thornton Author Of Little Underworld

From my list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest.

Why am I passionate about this?

One of my favorite writers, Ralph Ellison, said art could "transform dismal sociological facts" through "tragi-comic transcendence." For me, finding humor in the horrific is a means of survival. It's a way of embracing life's tragedy and finding beauty. My two novels, Pickard County Atlas and Little Underworld, try to do that.

Chris' book list on hilarious books that rip your heart from your chest

Chris Harding Thornton Why did Chris love this book?

I’m pretty certain Invisible Man is The Great American Novel. Some lines make me laugh aloud: “I would remain and become a well-disciplined optimist and help them to go merrily to hell.” But the moments that really sing for me are those that ring with humor, horror, tragedy, and beauty all at once.

Near the end, during a moment when the nameless narrator hides and listens to some men telling a story, he aches with the urge to laugh while realizing what’s been said isn’t only funny: “It was funny and dangerous and sad.” The book reminds me that all of those things can be held in my head at once. 

By Ralph Ellison,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked Invisible Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. 

He describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," before retreating amid violence and confusion.

Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for…


Book cover of Orlando: A Biography

Donna M. Lucey Author Of Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas

From my list on women who broke the rules—or new ground.

Why am I passionate about this?

A New York Times bestselling author, I love excavating the lives of eccentric, strong-willed women. There’s the thrill of the chase—holding handwritten letters and diaries and uncovering, bit by bit, the story of each woman—and the adventure of encountering the unexpected: Wandering through a rattlesnake-infested Montana cabin (Photographing Montana 1894-1928: The Life and Work of Evelyn Cameron); being woken by a ghost while staying at a decaying Astor mansion in the Hudson Valley (Archie and Amélie: Love and Madness in the Gilded Age); climbing 200 stone steps to reach the Royal Archives in Windsor Castle, while the recently-departed Queen Elizabeth was in the courtyard below (Victoria’s Island, in process). Such fun.

Donna's book list on women who broke the rules—or new ground

Donna M. Lucey Why did Donna love this book?

Because even its subtitle is subversive. Written as a valentine to Woolf’s lesbian lover, the book is anything but a biography. It is a gender-bending, time-traveling work of fiction that stretches from Elizabethan England to modern times—with the central character never aging, but changing sex. The book explores the fluidity of gender while poking fun at the pageantry and conventions of aristocratic English life, as well as taking to task the English tradition of male primogeniture. Fans of the book must also watch director Sally Potter’s brilliant film adaptation, Orlando, that stars a young, transcendent Tilda Swinton. 

By Virginia Woolf,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Orlando 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?

HarperCollins is proud to present its new range of best-loved, essential classics.

'The flower bloomed and faded. The sun rose and sank. The lover loved and went. And what the poets said in rhyme, the young translated into practice.'

Written for her lover Vita Sackville-West, 'Orlando' is Woolf's playfully subversive take on a biography, here tracing the fantastical life of Orlando. As the novel spans centuries and continents, gender and identity, we follow Orlando's adventures in love - from being a lord in the Elizabethan court to a lady in 1920s London.

First published in 1928, this tale of unrivalled…


Book cover of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Richard Vetere Author Of She's Not There

From my list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century.

Why am I passionate about this?

Richard Vetere’s teleplay adaptation of his published stage play The Marriage Fool, starring Walter Matthau, Carol Burnet, and John Stamos, now streaming on Amazon. He co-wrote the movie The Third Miracle, which is a screenplay adaptation of his own novel. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Agnieszka Holand, and stars Ed Harris and Anne Heche released by Sony Picture Classics. His screenplay Caravaggio, an adaptation of his own published stage play, won the Golden Palm Award for Best Screenplay at the Beverly Hills International Film Festival in 2021. In 2005, the Frank Melville Library at Stony Brook University created the Richard Vetere Collection, an archive of his work.  

Richard's book list on classic coming-of-age set within the last century

Richard Vetere Why did Richard love this book?

Published in 1943, this was certainly my favorite coming-of-age novel which I read in high school. I grew up in a neighborhood in Queens with trees and parks while to me, Brooklyn was a world of concrete.

Francie intrigued me with how she survived her drunk father, her single-minded mother, and the harshness of poverty. My working-class world was a lot less dangerous and drastic than Francie’s so she intrigued me as she never wavered or lost her belief that everything would work out. The novel is the epitome of the coming-of-age book since it is truly about growing up and looking back on childhood memories no matter how unforgiving they are.

You are only young once and the novel tells us to relish those memories since there is always something good in them even if they are buried. The movie directed by Kazan is a good watch showing the…

By Betty Smith,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

A special 75th anniversary edition of the beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for growing up in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn, New York demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior―such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce―no one, least of all Francie, could…


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Interested in New York City, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Gilded Age?

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