100 books like The Secrets We Kept

By Lara Prescott,

Here are 100 books that The Secrets We Kept fans have personally recommended if you like The Secrets We Kept. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Nightingale

Mel Laytner Author Of What They Didn't Burn: Uncovering My Father's Holocaust Secrets

From my list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a foreign correspondent seven time zones from home when my father died of a sudden heart attack. My grief mixed with guilt for never having sat down with him to unravel his vague vignettes about life and loss in the Holocaust. I wondered, how did he survive when so many perished? How much depended on resilience, smarts, or dumb luck? As reporters do, I started digging. I uncovered a Nazi paper trial that tracked his life from home, through ghettos, slave labor, concentration camps, death marches, and more. The tattered documents revealed a man very different from the quiet, quintessential Type-B Dad I knew…or thought I knew. 

Mel's book list on resilience and surviving the horrors of World War II

Mel Laytner Why did Mel love this book?

This novel left me feeling both teary-eyed and ennobled. Superficially, it is about two French sisters living through the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. At its root, however, Hannah deconstructs the essence of survival.

I loved how her characters frame the book’s cosmic questions: What would you do to survive? What compromises would you make? Is it better to fight back aggressively or resist passively? The sisters are of different temperaments and personalities. Each answers these questions differently, painfully. I found myself haunted by these themes long after I put The Nightingale back on the shelf. You will, too.

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…


Book cover of Memoirs of a Geisha

Michael Grothaus Author Of Beautiful Shining People

From my list on reads set in Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and my new novel, Beautiful Shining People, is a direct result of two profound experiences I had there. The first was when I was hiking through the hills of Kyoto late one night and turned around to see a glowing creature–some have said they think I saw a kami. The second experience happened when I was in Hiroshima at the Peace Park. I immediately started crying, seeing all the schoolchildren learning about the horrible atrocity committed against their ancestors. I have no idea why it affected me so much, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Michael's book list on reads set in Japan

Michael Grothaus Why did Michael love this book?

Memoirs of a Geisha is the only book I’ve actually dreamed about while reading – that’s how much it gripped me.

Not only are the characters richly drawn, the cultural details and world of pre-war Japan are so immersive you’ll feel like you are walking the streets of the Kyoto of almost a century ago. This book also fascinates me because it is the only one Arthur Golden ever wrote.

I don’t know why he never wrote again, but how could he top it? It’s the perfect novel.

By Arthur Golden,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Memoirs of a Geisha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'An epic tale and a brutal evocation of a disappearing world' The Times

A young peasant girl is sold as servant and apprentice to a renowned geisha house. Many years later she tells her story from a hotel in New York, opening a window into an extraordinary half-hidden world of eroticism and enchantment, exploitation and degradation and summoning up a quarter of a century of Japan's dramatic history.

'Intimate and brutal, written in cool, lucid prose it is a novel whose psychological empathy and historical truths are outstanding' Mail on Sunday


Book cover of The Underground Railroad

Ciera Horton McElroy Author Of Atomic Family

From my list on historical fiction featuring strong women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I may be only 27, but I’ve spent years researching the Cold War. Mostly because it’s very personal to me…my grandfather was a scientist at a top-secret hydrogen bomb plant in the 1960s. I began researching to understand his work and how it affected my family. I didn’t expect to become so consumed by the sixties. The more I learned about the nuclear arms race and the protests that were led, largely, by women, the more I felt convinced that there was a story here. I’m passionate about the often untold stories of resistance—resilience—endurance. Especially women’s stories. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do! 

Ciera's book list on historical fiction featuring strong women

Ciera Horton McElroy Why did Ciera love this book?

I am including The Underground Railroad as it’s both historical fiction and magical realism—a beautiful surrealist imagining of Civil War history. This inventive novel follows Cora, who is enslaved on a plantation in Georgia. When Cora hears of the underground railroad, she plots her escape—but in this book, the railroad is more than a secret network. It is a real, physical, underground train. Cora must fight for her life and her freedom on a harrowing journey north, evading the slave hunter Ridgeway as he seeks to track her down. Cora’s strength and independence make her a character that will stick with you.

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Underground Railroad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR TV SERIES BY BARRY JENKINS (COMING MAY 2021)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017
WINNER OF THE ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD 2017
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2017
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 2016

'Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime' Guardian

'Luminous, furious, wildly inventive' Observer

'Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year' Stylist

'Dazzling' New York Review of Books

Praised by Barack Obama and an Oprah Book Club Pick, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award 2016 and the…


Book cover of In West Mills

Ciera Horton McElroy Author Of Atomic Family

From my list on historical fiction featuring strong women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I may be only 27, but I’ve spent years researching the Cold War. Mostly because it’s very personal to me…my grandfather was a scientist at a top-secret hydrogen bomb plant in the 1960s. I began researching to understand his work and how it affected my family. I didn’t expect to become so consumed by the sixties. The more I learned about the nuclear arms race and the protests that were led, largely, by women, the more I felt convinced that there was a story here. I’m passionate about the often untold stories of resistance—resilience—endurance. Especially women’s stories. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do! 

Ciera's book list on historical fiction featuring strong women

Ciera Horton McElroy Why did Ciera love this book?

When I started a book club in 2019, this was one of the first books we read! In West Mills is set in rural North Carolina and follows Azalea “Knot” who refuses to let her town dictate how she’s going to live. She has a mind of her own. She has spunk. But her life of wild choices is leading to some difficult consequences: ostracization from her family, living as an outcast in her own community. What I loved about this book was how lived-in it felt—all of the characters are flawed, and their dialogue and domestic scenes are so fully realized and believable. I highly recommend this book for fans of historical fiction and family dramas!

By De'shawn Charles Winslow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A bighearted novel about family, migration, and the unbearable difficulties of love. Here's a cast of characters you won't soon forget." -Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

"Winslow's impressive debut novel introduces readers to both a flawed, fascinating character in fiction and a wonderful new voice in literature." -Real Simple, Best Books of 2019

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Winner of the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Named a Most Anticipated Novel by
TIME MAGAZINE * USA TODAY * ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY * NYLON * SOUTHERN LIVING * THE LOS ANGELES TIMES * ESSENCE…


Book cover of Doctor Zhivago

Reiner Prochaska Author Of Captives

From my list on characters who preserve their humanity in war.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in postwar Germany, I have always been fascinated by how people survive wars emotionally and retain their humanity. In my extensive research for Captives, I came across an account of a German soldier in North Africa, whose tank had been hit and was engulfed in flames. A human torch, he jumped from the tank, expecting to be killed by British soldiers who were nearby. Instead, they rolled his body in the sand to extinguish the flames and called a medic, saving his life. This act of humanity moved me and inspired me to make the preservation of one’s humanity in war the central theme in my novel.

Reiner's book list on characters who preserve their humanity in war

Reiner Prochaska Why did Reiner love this book?

Yuri Zhivago, a physician and a poet—strives to adhere to his ideals of integrity throughout his tragic life—though not always successfully. His medical skills allow him to heal others, and his poetry lets him explore truth in the volatile world of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Civil War. 

Although he is in love with Lara, a married woman with whom he has a passionate affair, his sense of duty and honor allow him to remain devoted to his wife, Tonya.

His belief that humans should be true to themselves and maintain independent thoughts ultimately makes him a target for the Bolsheviks. 

As a writer who believes in the importance of truth—and as a flawed human being who makes mistakes and regrets them—I relate to Yuri.

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Doctor Zhivago as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in Italy in 1957 amid international controversy, Doctor Zhivago is the story of the life and loves of a poet/physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Taking his family from Moscow to what he hopes will be shelter in the Ural Mountains, Zhivago finds himself instead embroiled in the battle between the Whites and the Reds. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago's love for the tender and beautiful Lara, the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times. Pevear and Volokhonsky masterfully restore the spirit of Pasternak's original—his style, rhythms,…


Book cover of Divide Me by Zero

Alina Adams Author Of My Mother's Secret: A Novel of the Jewish Autonomous Region

From my list on Soviet historical fiction which skips the cliches.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Odessa, USSR, a Southern Ukrainian city that many more people know now than when my family and I immigrated in 1977. Growing up in the US, everything I read about Soviet immigrants was either cliched, stereotyped, or plain wrong. A 1985 short film, Molly’s Pilgrim, about a (presumably Jewish) Soviet immigrant girl showed her wearing a native peasant costume and a scarf on her head which, for some reason, Americans insisted on calling a “babushka.” “Babushka” means “grandmother” in Russian. Why would you wear one of those on your head? I was desperate for more realistic portrayals. So I wrote my own. And the five books I picked definitely offer them.

Alina's book list on Soviet historical fiction which skips the cliches

Alina Adams Why did Alina love this book?

Math reigned supreme in the USSR. I was never particularly good at it. I had to immigrate to the United States to marry an American nuclear engineer turned math and physics teacher. In Divide Me By Zero the heroine’s widowed mother describes love in mathematical terms. The passage reminded me of my husband. I forced him to listen to me read it out loud to him. “Wow,” he said. "That’s hot." Read this book for the heart-wrenching story—and the hot math.

By Lara Vapnyar,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Divide Me by Zero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Editor’s Choice


As a young girl, Katya Geller learned from her mother that math was the answer to everything. Now, approaching forty, she finds this wisdom tested: she has lost the love of her life, she is in the middle of a divorce, and has just found out that her mother is dying. Nothing is adding up.


With humor, intelligence, and unfailing honesty, Katya traces back her life’s journey: her childhood in Soviet Russia, her parents’ great love, the death of her father, her mother’s career as a renowned mathematician, and their immigration to the United…


Book cover of The Chemist

Robert Patrick Lewis Author Of The Pact

From my list on special operations soldiers fighting evil enemies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a former Green Beret and combat veteran of OIF (Iraq), OEF (Afghanistan), and OEF-TS (North Africa). These experiences have given me insights into things that most people never get to see or even hear about, as well as first-hand knowledge of the men who make up the Special Operations community and what drives them. After leaving Special Forces I have written three published Special Operations-focused books, both fiction and non-fiction, which has led to a life of studying everything there is to know about Special Operations, the intelligence behind wars, and the history of both.

Robert's book list on special operations soldiers fighting evil enemies

Robert Patrick Lewis Why did Robert love this book?

Easily one of the top 5 best books that I’ve ever read, The Chemist is an excellent novel that chronicles a female chemist used by intelligence agencies to devise brutal torture methods in her run from and eventually fight against her former employers. The heroine of this novel teams up with a former Special Operator and clandestine agent in her quest for retribution, as they join forces to fight back against those who tried to get them to kill each other so that they could bury the truth of their own misdeeds.

If you’re a fan of action-packed, spycraft-filled, and retribution-seeking hero tales, The Chemist is an excellent example of all of the above.

By Stephenie Meyer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this gripping page-turner, an ex-agent on the run from her former employers must take one more case to clear her name and save her life.

She used to work for the U.S. government, but very few people ever knew that. An expert in her field, she was one of the darkest secrets of an agency so clandestine it doesn't even have a name. And when they decided she was a liability, they came for her without warning.

Now she rarely stays in the same place or uses the same name for long. They've killed the only other person she…


Book cover of An Extraordinary Union

Rayna Flye Author Of Secrets, Lies, and Sneaky Spies

From my list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I always wanted to be a spy, but as I scare easily and can’t keep a secret, it was never going to happen. My respect and fascination with the intelligence community has never abated however, and I will never pass up an opportunity to engage with spy-related content. From going to spy museums across the globe to attending lectures to watching the latest entertaining (and totally unrealistic) spy flick, I love it all. I channel that love into writing humorous spy novels that feature fun, fearless females and ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios.  

Rayna's book list on female codebreakers, agents, and spies

Rayna Flye Why did Rayna love this book?

As both a writer and a reader, I fell in love with this book (well, as a writer, I was also wildly jealous of how easy Cole makes it look, but that’s another story) because she takes a fraught subject—interracial romance during the Civil War—and managed to create a spy romance that I simply could not put down until I turned the last page.

Often with spy novels, there’s an emphasis on heroism, but what I appreciated about this book was how the emphasis was on Elle doing heroic things all in the pursuit of wanting to live a quiet, boring life with the man she loves (Malcolm).

It's a great series, and I’m hoping Cole goes back to tell the story of Malcolm’s sister.

By Alyssa Cole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Entertainment Weekly TOP 10 ROMANCE BOOKS OF THE YEAR
A Bookpage TOP PICK
A Kirkus BEST BOOKS OF 2017
A Vulture TOP 10 ROMANCE BOOKS OF 2017
A Publishers Weekly BEST BOOKS OF 2017
A Booklist TOP 10 ROMANCE FICTION 2017

“Richly detailed setting, heart-stopping plot, and unforgettable characters.”
—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

The first of award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s highly-acclaimed Loyal League series! As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of…


Book cover of G.

Tobsha Learner Author Of Quiver

From my list on for when familiarity sets in.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first book was Quiver, a collection of erotic short stories. I wrote it to immortalize the hedonism of Sydney in the 1990s, wanting to show a nonjudgmental, joyful side. The fact that it touched a lot of people compelled me to write two more collections Tremble and Yearn – each exploring different themes: Tremble is an erotic re-imagining of various root myths, whilst Yearn has more historical and fantastical elements. I interweave all the characters in the stories throughout the whole collections. Humor is also important to me when it comes to the ironies and emotions around sex, the other aspect is gender power play and all the sublime reversals that can encapsulate. 

Tobsha's book list on for when familiarity sets in

Tobsha Learner Why did Tobsha love this book?

John Berger was a fantastic cultural observer and art critic, this book is erotic both in its observation of culture and context but also of human fallibility, and psychic and psychological transportation of love itself. It had a big influence on me as an art student and for the brief years when I was a sculptor. What I love about it is its empathy for both the female and male inner erotic life, although it is set in England and Europe at the end of the 19th century, Berger’s razor-sharp, succinct blending of the internal and external world is both moving and sensual. 

By John Berger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this luminous novel about a modern Don Juan, John Berger relates the story of G., a young man forging an energetic sexual career in Europe during the early years of the last century as Europe teeters on the brink of war.

With profound compassion, Berger explores the hearts and minds of both men and women, and what happens during sex, to reveal the conditions of the libertine's success: his essential loneliness, the quiet cumulation in each of his sexual experiences of all of those that precede it, the tenderness that infuses even the briefest of his encounters, and the…


Book cover of Bellewether

Dana Chamblee Carpenter Author Of Bohemian Gospel

From my list on historical fiction with touches of love and magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

Even as an overachieving student, I struggled with true/false tests, always writing short essays explaining why the answer wasn’t quite clear cut. Some teachers loved my need to blur the lines. Others not so much. But this aversion to boundaries—the idea that something (or someone) must be this or that—it’s part of my blood. I read everything in the library, nonfiction, fiction, all genres. I like books that cross from real to fantasy, history to fiction. I love characters who refuse to be told who and what they can (or can’t) be. I want love to break boundaries, too. That’s what this list is all about.

Dana's book list on historical fiction with touches of love and magic

Dana Chamblee Carpenter Why did Dana love this book?

I love a good story told well—where the plot has me eager to flip the page, but the writing is so gorgeous I want to linger. Bellewether entwines the story of present-day Charley with Lydia, a woman living in the midst of war between the British and French American colonies in 1759. It’s a story of ghosts, figurative and real, of love, forbidden and lost, and it’s about discovering the truths that matter the most. 

By Susanna Kearsley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I've loved every one of Susanna's books! She has bedrock research and a butterfly's delicate touch with characters-a sure recipe for historical fiction that sucks you in and won't let go!"-DIANA GABALDON, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Outlander
From New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley-A magical novel that blends history, forbidden romance and the paranormal
Secrets aren't such easy things to keep: It's late summer in 1759, war is raging, and families are torn apart by divided loyalties and deadly secrets. In this complex and dangerous time, a young French-Canadian lieutenant is captured and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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