82 books like Unbecoming

By Lesley Wheeler,

Here are 82 books that Unbecoming fans have personally recommended if you like Unbecoming. 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 Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell

Duncan Hubber Author Of Notes from the Citadel: The Philosophy and Psychology of A Song of Ice and Fire

From my list on The best philosophical fantasy novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an academic at the University of Queensland whose research areas include horror films, screen trauma theory, the cinematic representation of urban spaces, and the collision of romanticism and postmodernism in fantasy literature. My first book, POV Horror: The Trauma Aesthetic of the Found Footage Subgenre, was adapted from my PhD thesis. I am an avid member of the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom, and my second book represents over a decade of talking and writing about George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, having grown out of conversations in forums, podcasts, symposiums, and fan conventions, as well as my own background in literary analysis and research.

Duncan's book list on The best philosophical fantasy novels

Duncan Hubber Why did Duncan love this book?

Clarke transports the reader to England during the time of the Napoleonic Wars. There is, however, one small twist: magic once existed in this world and has now returned through two men, drastically changing the course of history and society.

The story is rich in gothic atmosphere and wry humour, and is positively bursting with ideas (there are almost 200 footnotes!). Clarke imbues her protagonists with conflicting approaches to the pursuit of knowledge, with Norrell representing cautious rationality and conservative methodology, while Strange embodies an adventurous spirit and a willingness to embrace the arcane and often the dangerous.

By Susanna Clarke,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Two magicians shall appear in England. The first shall fear me; the second shall long to behold me The year is 1806. England is beleaguered by the long war with Napoleon, and centuries have passed since practical magicians faded into the nation's past. But scholars of this glorious history discover that one remains: the reclusive Mr Norrell whose displays of magic send a thrill through the country. Proceeding to London, he raises a beautiful woman from the dead and summons an army of ghostly ships to terrify the French. Yet the cautious, fussy Norrell is challenged by the emergence of…

Book cover of A Wizard of Earthsea

Stephen B. Heard Author Of Charles Darwin's Barnacle and David Bowie's Spider: How Scientific Names Celebrate Adventurers, Heroes, and Even a Few Scoundrels

From my list on stories about naming and language.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the names of people and things. Why do we use the names we do? What do they mean? Who made them up? Is there power in knowing something’s name? I later discovered that all these questions are very old—the idea that names have power goes back at least to ancient Egypt. When I became a biology professor, I found that my students and colleagues mostly didn’t know or care why animals and plants have the Latin names they do. But those names are fascinating, and there are stories to uncover whenever we tug on a name’s meaning like a loose thread.

Stephen's book list on stories about naming and language

Stephen B. Heard Why did Stephen love this book?

I know, another “children’s book”—but another with plenty to say to me as an adult (and later books in the series are more obviously oriented to older readers). The adventures of the young man Sparrowhawk at a wizarding school dive deeply into the power of names and naming. (Earthsea predates by 30 years that other boy-coming-of-age-at-wizard-school book.)

I love the richly detailed fantasy world, with a society that’s like ours but also not, and the wise but real characters with human failings they struggle to overcome. Along the way, there are lots of interesting ideas about language. I still get lost in the world of Earthsea, as I do in a few other books.

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked A Wizard of Earthsea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

The first book of Earthsea in a beautiful hardback edition. Complete the collection with The Tombs of Atuan, The Furthest Shore and Tehanu

With illustrations from Charles Vess

'[This] trilogy made me look at the world in a new way, imbued everything with a magic that was so much deeper than the magic I'd encountered before then. This was a magic of words, a magic of true speaking' Neil Gaiman

'Drink this magic up. Drown in it. Dream it' David Mitchell

Ged, the greatest sorcerer in all Earthsea, was called Sparrowhawk in his reckless youth.

Hungry for power and knowledge,…

Book cover of The Once and Future Witches

Virginia Watts Author Of Echoes from The Hocker House

From my list on leaving you spellbound.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was an unusual child. My favorite stories were fairytales, no tale was too tall for me. On Christmas Eve, my father always read a story called “Giant Grummer’s Christmas” because it was my favorite. Giant Grummer lived in a huge castle made of limburger cheese. He threatened to reach his long arm down chimneys to steal the presents Santa left but Santa saved the day by giving Giant Grummer presents too. Folklore, legends, and magic are important. We need to believe more in the “make believe.” Everyone should read stories about ghosts and witches and cheese-eating giants, anything fantastical to open their worlds and set their imaginations free.

Virginia's book list on leaving you spellbound

Virginia Watts Why did Virginia love this book?

Alix Harrow writes that “behind every witch is a women wronged.”

Here are three sisters wronged by an abusive father who have hurt and betrayed each other in the past, but the bonds of love and sisterhood and witchcraft are stronger.

This book is for every woman because every woman has felt powerless. Every woman has been marginalized and dismissed but these three sisters prove to all of us that there is great power when women come together as they have throughout history.

I was rooting like crazy for these the sisters to prevail. I was charmed by the spells they cast based on fairy tales, nursery rhymes, lullabies. This is a book rooted in feminist tradition told in the tradition of great folklore. 

By Alix E. Harrow,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Once and Future Witches as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Glorious . . . a tale that will sweep you away' Yangsze Choo, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Tiger

'A gorgeous and thrilling paean to the ferocious power of women' Laini Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of Strange the Dreamer

In 1893, there's no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when…

Book cover of All the Birds in the Sky

Emily Croy Barker Author Of The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

From my list on fantasy about learning magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was ten, I found a book on witchcraft on the shelves of my local bookstore and eagerly set out to learn how to practice magic. I had very little success—one rain spell maybe worked, but to be honest, rain was in the forecast anyway. So instead I became a novelist who likes to write about people who can do magic. I love books that not only sweep you into other worlds but show you how it really feels to live there. I hope these five novels give you a truly magical escape. 

Emily's book list on fantasy about learning magic

Emily Croy Barker Why did Emily love this book?

I picked up this novel on impulse at a bookstore, and from the first page I fell in love with its clever, quirky blend of science fiction and fantasy. Two misfits, childhood friends, grow up to become a witch and a tech geek, respectively. Their slow-burn romance runs into problems as they both have to respond—in very different ways—to a gathering climate crisis. I adore the way Charlie Jane Anders writes about both magic and not-yet-invented technology with equal aplomb (but gives magic the last word). 

By Charlie Jane Anders,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Birds in the Sky as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF BEST NOVEL IN 2016 NEBULA AWARDSFINALIST FOR BEST NOVEL IN THE 2017 HUGO AWARDSPatricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths...When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world-and live up to his reputation-in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself…

Book cover of Someone Else's Shoes

Liz Foster Author Of The Good Woman's Guide to Making Better Choices

From my list on make you laugh and leave you smiling.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved reading and its ability to take you far away to a distant time and place and lift you up. As a kid, I never left the house without a book, and the ones that made me laugh were my go-to's. I believe the ability to make people laugh is a truly special talent, especially while making the text relatable, so the reader’s always asking, wow, what would I do in that situation? My readers often tell me that my writing sounds just like me, which is wonderful because there’s no need to pretend. You will always know what you’ll get with me!

Liz's book list on make you laugh and leave you smiling

Liz Foster Why did Liz love this book?

I found this book wonderfully relatable, imagining myself as either of the two main protagonists who accidentally swapped shoes at the gym and whose lives are changed accordingly. The mix-ups and mess-ups that ensued had me clutching my sides.

I was so invested in both the characters and how their lives would turn out I nearly cried when I finished it. I found this book very clever and believable as well; a tiny bit far-fetched but still realistic.

By Jojo Moyes,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Someone Else's Shoes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A story of mix-ups, mess-ups and making the most of second chances, this is the new novel from international sensation Jojo Moyes, author of Me Before You and The Giver of Stars

'A delightful reverse-Cinderella story of two women who seem polar opposites - until circumstance forces them to experience each other's lives. Nobody writes women the way Jojo Moyes does - recognizably real and complex and funny and flawed' JODI PICOULT

Who are you when you are forced to walk in someone else's shoes?

Meet Sam . . .
She's not got much, but she's grateful for what she…

Book cover of Getting Rid of Matthew

Sarah Edghill Author Of His Other Woman

From my list on domestic dramas making you glad life is normal.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love writing about families and what makes them tick: the minor dramas being played out behind every front door, make for intriguing reading. As a journalist, I have interviewed so many people with fascinating stories to tell, and with my fiction I throw my characters into a tricky situation and see what unfolds. Inevitably, if you pull one playing card from the bottom, the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. When faced with unexpected challenges, my characters often behave badly, make poor decisions and get themselves into the kind of mess that makes you want to read one more chapter before turning out the light at night. 

Sarah's book list on domestic dramas making you glad life is normal

Sarah Edghill Why did Sarah love this book?

Jane Fallon does seriously good messed-up families. I’ve read most of her books, but particularly enjoyed this one – the characters aren’t all likeable by any means, but the set-up is great and you’re desperate to find out how things will be resolved. Helen has been having an affair with a married man, Matthew, for four years when he suddenly turns up on her doorstep, announcing he has left his wife and twin daughters; the timing is unfortunate because Helen has just decided she wants to dump him. Rather than doing the sensible thing and knocking the relationship on the head, Helen goes rogue and ends up befriending Matthew’s wife and getting off with his grown-up son (she’s his age, and initially doesn’t know they’re related). Not surprisingly, chaos ensues.

By Jane Fallon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Breaking up is hard to do. Especially when he's left his wife for you . . .

What to do if Matthew, your secret lover of the past four years, finally decides to leave his wife Sophie and their two daughters and move into your flat, just when you're thinking that you might not want him anymore . . .

PLAN A: Stop shaving your armpits. And your bikini line. Tell him you have a moustache that you wax every six weeks. Stop having sex with him. Pick holes in the way he dresses. Don't brush your teeth. Or your…

Book cover of Younger

Ruth F. Stevens Author Of My Year of Casual Acquaintances

From my list on smart, quirky women facing personal struggles.

Why am I passionate about this?

From the time I was a girl, I’ve loved stories that put a lump in my throat even as I’m laughing. As a fiction writer, that funny-sad tone is the one I go for in my own work. I gravitate toward female protagonists of all ages who break the mold—women who are intelligent and strong but who also have unconventional, quirky personalities. Women who can be hilarious, infuriating, and heartbreaking—sometimes all at once. Because they are complex and unique, these women tend to struggle with life’s challenges more than their contemporaries. That’s what makes their stories so interesting, and why I have chosen the books on this list. 

Ruth's book list on smart, quirky women facing personal struggles

Ruth F. Stevens Why did Ruth love this book?

Can a woman be true to herself and her ideals, even while living a lie?

I felt this was the intriguing question posed by the novel Younger, which inspired the popular TV series from Darren Starr starring Sutton Foster. I loved both the book and the series with its personable main character and charming premise.

Recently single Alice desperately needs a job. But nobody wants to hire a forty-something divorcee who’s been out of the workforce for years. With help from her best friend, youthful-looking Alice poses as a millennial and lands a job at a publishing house, where she thrives. Masquerading as a younger woman is filled with excitement and romance but also with peril, and I enjoyed the unexpected complications Alice encountered during her quest to reinvent herself. 

By Pamela Redmond,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A story of inspiration and transformation for every woman who’s tried to change her life by changing herself—now a hit TV series from the creator of Sex and the City starring Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff.

She wants to start a new life.

Alice is trying to return to her career in publishing after raising her only child. But the workplace is less than welcoming to a forty-something mom whose resume is covered with fifteen years of dust.

If Alice were younger, she knows, she’d get hired in a New York minute. So, if age is just a number, why…

Book cover of I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections

Karola Gajda Author Of Are My Roots Showing?

From my list on laugh out loud comedies with heart and soul.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to make people laugh and cry and I love to read novels like this too, as I find they reflect life’s ups and downs so well. I like to read books that take me by the hand into a character’s world and leave me with more compassion and understanding towards the human race. As well as my novel called Are My Roots Showing?, I have done lots of stand up comedy and have some funny films on my YouTube channel (search Karola Woods) that I hope you can enjoy too. I studied physical theatre, mask and clown at Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris. 

Karola's book list on laugh out loud comedies with heart and soul

Karola Gajda Why did Karola love this book?

This is a chatty and intimate fly-on-the-wall book look at everyday things through the lens of aging and mortality.

Nora Ephron makes the bittersweet mix of chattiness and philosophy seem so easy. The engrossing, snippet-write-ups of her friends, family, and career in New York give you a vivid snapshot into her heart and soul.

By Nora Ephron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Remember Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • Here is the beloved, bestselling author of I Feel Bad About My Neck at her funniest, wisest, and best, taking a hilarious look at the past and bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life—and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

In these pages she takes us from her first job in the mailroom at Newsweek to the six stages of email, from memories of her parents’ whirlwind dinner parties to her own life now full of Senior Moments (or, as she calls them, Google moments), from her greatest career flops to her…

Book cover of Excuse Me While I Disappear: Tales of Midlife Mayhem

Ann Aikens Author Of A Young Woman's Guide to Life: A Cautionary Tale

From my list on funniest memoirs with advice for a happy life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Raised when unsupervised kids roamed freely in the woods, my friends and I became adept at finding fun. My 20s were spent in New York in the 1980's zeitgeist of exploration and excess. A lifelong fan of comedy, I worked at the Comedy Cellar, where I booked and watched countless standup comics. Later, I left NYC’s glamor for Vermont’s nature. Since then, my Vermont newspaper column, "Upper Valley Girl," has amused and astonished (and possibly appalled) readers with humor and candor. Ever adventurous to the point of risk, making awful mistakes, and enduring impossible people, I learned limits the hard way. I advise young people not to do the same. 

Ann's book list on funniest memoirs with advice for a happy life

Ann Aikens Why did Ann love this book?

Notaro is a comedic goddess. I still don’t know what a “tweaker” is (since reading Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death years ago), but she cracks me up hard, early, and often. I wish she was my neighbor. She somehow makes her other characters sound as funny as she, which they may or may not be in real life.

The chapter on becoming magically invisible once you let your hair go grey is worth the price of admission. This book is largely about aging. She mines the comedy. I hope to meet her one day.

By Laurie Notaro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Excuse Me While I Disappear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A laugh-out-loud spin on the realities, perks, opportunities, and inevitable courses of midlife.

Laurie Notaro has proved everyone wrong: she didn't end up in rehab, prison, or cremated at a tender age. She just went gray. At past fifty, every hair's root is a symbol of knowledge (she knows how to use a landline), experience (she rode in a car with no seat belts), and superpowers (a gray-haired lady can get away with anything).

Though navigating midlife is initially upsetting-the cracking noises coming from her new old body, receiving regular junk mail from mortuaries-Laurie accepts it. And then some. With…

Book cover of The Women's Room

Karen Martin Author Of Dancing the Labyrinth

From my list on rediscover women’s power.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 1995 I performed with the Women’s Circus (Australia) at the 4th International Conference and Forum on the Status of Women in Beijing. Our show was called Leaping the Wire and presented thirteen women’s stories from Amnesty International through physical narrative. My story was about a Brazilian woman who had been shot and killed for identifying the police who had rounded up her son and a group of his friends. The Brazilian women expressed their gratitude that I had told their story when they could not. I believe women’s stories are important to be told, to be shared, and I made a commitment to make our stories accessible, first through theatre, and now through my novels.

Karen's book list on rediscover women’s power

Karen Martin Why did Karen love this book?

I read this book over thirty years ago and despite not returning to it, count it as having a significant impact on my work. It is an emotionally charged and powerful book, and I remember being incredibly angry, and sad, and passionate for change. It introduced me to feminism and feminist literature. It shone the light on the need to hear women’s voices in the public realm.

By Marilyn French,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A landmark in feminist literature, THE WOMEN'S ROOM is a biting social commentary of a world gone silently haywire. Written in the 1970s but with profound resonance today, this is a modern allegory that offers piercing insight into the social norms accepted blindly and revered so completely.

'Today's "desperate housewives" eat your heart out! This is the original and still the best, a page-turner that makes you think. Essential reading' Kate Mosse
'They said this book would change lives - and it certainly changed mine' Jenni Murray
'Reading THE WOMEN'S ROOM was an intense and wonderful experience. It is in…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in middle-aged women, witches, and witchcraft?

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