100 books like Undersong

By Kathleen Winter,

Here are 100 books that Undersong fans have personally recommended if you like Undersong. 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 Leaving Earth

Pamela Mulloy Author Of As Little As Nothing

From my list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.

Pamela's book list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender

Pamela Mulloy Why did Pamela love this book?

This is the first novel I read of Helen Humphreys and ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of her work, which often focuses on an overlooked period of history. Written with a strong poetic voice, her writing has a deeply humane undercurrent and frequently contains strong female characters. This one especially came to mind, as it features two women aviators in the 1930s striving to break an endurance record by flying around Toronto for 25 days. Humphreys has a special talent for focusing on the details that draw us into the story, while also establishing characters and relationships that make us care deeply about what they are doing. Smart, complex women doing daring things—what’s not to like!

By Helen Humphreys,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Leaving Earth was Helen Humphreys's debut, and it brought the beauty of her poetry into the story of two women's love of flight and dream to excel, even if it took all their courage and strength and even their lives. Novice flyer Willa joins Grace, heroine of the skies, in what becomes an intimate journey of friendship. Yet the clouds that gather above are echoed by lurking dangers below for Maddy, a young fan of Grace's, and her Jewish mother and uncle. Anti-Semitism is spreading. Maddy's mother, a true fortune-teller, is beat up by thugs, and the swirl of events…


Book cover of Dear Evelyn

Pamela Mulloy Author Of As Little As Nothing

From my list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.

Pamela's book list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender

Pamela Mulloy Why did Pamela love this book?

The characters in this novel-in-stories are so vivid, you almost flinch at the intimacy and truth of which they speak. There is the sense of a curtain being drawn back to reveal this poignant account of a 70-year marriage that begins during World War Two. Here we have Harry, with the heart of a poet, who is a contrast to Evelyn, tough, and at times acerbic. Though it is Harry that most readers will probably warm to, Evelyn, with her difficult background—an alcoholic father and enabling mother—has had challenges that make her hold herself to a higher standard and therefore makes for a complex character. Inevitably her headstrong nature may be judged more harshly than if these were traits assigned to a man. The writing is lyrical with a precision that marks Kathy Page’s work. Whatever you think about the characters, you will doubtless be affected by their lives as…

By Kathy Page,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A portrait of a turbulent and beautiful seventy-year-long marriage forged during the onset of World War II.

Born in the 1920s on a working-class London street, Harry Miles wins a scholarship and grows into adulthood as a sensitive man, torn between his love for poetry and the immediate demands of the world around him. When he marries the magnetic and demanding Evelyn amongst the outbreak of war, his capacity to love is increasingly tested-up to and beyond when she abandons him on the cusp of death.

An unconventional love story, harrowing and deeply tender, Dear Evelyn studies two people who…


Book cover of Down by the River

Pamela Mulloy Author Of As Little As Nothing

From my list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.

Pamela's book list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender

Pamela Mulloy Why did Pamela love this book?

This is a devastating story but O’Brien is a master wordsmith and I was dazzled by the writing while being distressed by the events, that of a young teen in Ireland who gets pregnant in abominable circumstances, then tries to find a way out of it. The church looms large in the novel, and the helplessness this young girl feels is palpable. That she keeps fighting against the forces against her despite the gaslighting is a testament to her strength. Even her one chance to escape is foiled in the most frustrating manner. I’ve been reading about the history of reproductive rights for my own novel, and the stories are never easy. The expected thing to do would be to acquiesce and accept the circumstances, but she chose otherwise.  A beautifully written and necessary book.

By Edna O'Brien,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down by the River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Down by the River is a newly reissued novel from Edna O’Brien, the author of Girl—“one of the most celebrated writers in the English language” (NPR’s Weekend Edition).

Set in the author’s native Ireland, a powerful and passionate novel about a young girl who becomes pregnant by her father—a situation made worse when it becomes fodder for the gossip mill of church, state, and the town square.


Book cover of Girl Runner

Pamela Mulloy Author Of As Little As Nothing

From my list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated with the lives of women around the period of World War Two when I discovered the female aviators of the Air Transport Auxiliary based in England. It wasn’t until I researched the history of reproductive rights after attending the Women’s March in 2017 in Toronto, Canada that I realized the period of the 1930s was a particularly progressive time for women, a time of early feminism. As a novelist I am drawn to the social history and the impact of wars. My first novel explored PTSD, and in this one I’m exploring the lives of women who fought against the gender norms at the time.

Pamela's book list on women in history challenging the limitations of gender

Pamela Mulloy Why did Pamela love this book?

This novel of Aganetha, a 104-year-old woman who looks back on her years as a runner in the 1928 Olympics is as much a story about aging and the examination of one’s life, as it is about the glory days of her feat. I loved the idea of this woman at such an advanced age reflecting on her past, on what she has seen and experienced, and all the details of the events are beautifully rendered. This is an intimate yet propulsive novel that takes us through issues of gender equality, abortion, and all the obstacles that Aganetha would have faced as a female athlete.  

By Carrie Snyder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'original and moving... with the quirky charm of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry' Daily Mail
'a joy to read' Independent on Sunday
Girl Runner, Carrie Snyder's debut novel, is the story of Aganetha Smart, a former Olympic athlete who was famous in the 1920s, but now, at age 104, lives in a nursing home, alone and forgotten by history. For Aganetha, a competitive and ambitious woman, her life remains present and unfinished in her mind.
When her quiet life is disturbed by the unexpected arrival of two young strangers, Aganetha begins to reflect on her childhood in rural Ontario…


Book cover of Jane Austen: A Family Record

Roy Adkins Author Of Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago

From my list on Jane Austen.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was brought up in Maidenhead in Berkshire, a town on the River Thames to the west of London. After studying archaeology at University College, Cardiff, I worked for many years as a field archaeologist. I met my wife, Lesley, on an excavation at Milton Keynes, and we have worked together ever since, both in archaeology and as authors of archaeology and history books. It was only after studying the Napoleonic period, which was when Jane Austen lived and wrote, that I understood the context of her novels and came to a much deeper appreciation of them.

Roy's book list on Jane Austen

Roy Adkins Why did Roy love this book?

Although we have some of Jane Austen’s letters and other writing, besides her novels, many more letters have been lost, and relatively little is known about her life. In 1913, nearly a century after her death, William and Richard Austen-Leigh (descendants of her brother James) published what was then known in a book called Life and Letters of Jane Austen. Much more material has been accumulated since, and in 1989 the work was extensively enlarged and revised by Deirdre Le Faye. It is essential reading for those who want to find out about Jane Austen’s life.

By Deirdre Le Faye,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is the outcome of years of research in Austen archives, and stems from the original family biography by W. and R. A. Austen-Leigh, Jane Austen: her Life and Letters. Jane Austen, A Family Record was first published in 1989, and this edition incorporates information that has come to light since then, and provides new illustrations and updated family trees. Le Faye gives a detailed account of Austen's life and literary career. She has collected together documented facts as well as the traditions concerning the novelist, and places her within the context of a widespread, affectionate and talented family…


Book cover of The Prelude

Mark Rennella Author Of The One-Idea Rule: An Efficient Way to Improve Your Writing at School and Work

From my list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mark Rennella has given students and professionals helpful advice about writing throughout his career, most recently as a writing coach for MBA candidates at Harvard Business School. Mark earned a PhD in American history from Brandeis University and has taught literature and American history at Harvard University, the University of Miami, and the University of Tours (France). Mark's books, articles, business case studies, and collaborative writing endeavors have garnered him critical praise from historians, academicians, and business leaders alike. His concept of the “one-idea rule” was included among HBR.org’s ten favorite management tips for 2022 and was featured more recently in Forbes. He currently works as an editor for Harvard Business Publishing.

Mark's book list on helping you find and assert your voice in writing

Mark Rennella Why did Mark love this book?

This long poem depicts the “prelude” – the influences from childhood – of William Wordsworth’s life as a poet. In other words, this literary biography explores the source of this poet’s unique voice. This poem was another exciting discovery made during my years as a graduate student.

There are many written works that explore the influence of a writer’s early life on the development of their unique poetic vision. A more recent example is a favorite of mine, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Living to Tell the Tale.

But, for me, Wordsworth stands out because of the incredible sustained poetic voice, vision, and rhythm of this piece, which he worked on and revised over his lifetime. I think the Two-Part Prelude of 1799 is better than the longer version of 1850. The Prelude of 1799 is long enough to take the reader to a new world, but short enough so the magic…

By William Wordsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"The Prelude" is William Wordsworth's epic reflection on his lifetime journey as an artist and is widely considered to be one of his most significant works. First published in 1850 after the poet's death, Wordsworth began working on the blank verse poem in 1798 and continued modifying and expanding it for the rest of his life. Two earlier versions of the poem have been found and published, showing the evolution of this monumental work. A first version, called the "1799 Prelude", is the poem in its earliest and shortest stage. A second version, the "1805 Prelude", is much longer and…


Book cover of William Wordsworth: Selected Poems

Steve Griffin Author Of The Things We Thought Were Beautiful

From my list on nature poems to make you think and feel.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing poems since an inspirational period of study in Stirling in my twenties, when I did a lot of hill walking in the Scottish Highlands. For me, poetry that doesn’t move you, that doesn’t make you feel, is just words on a page. I love poems that make you shiver as they incongruously bear the full load of life’s mystery. I like all kinds of poetry but have a special place reserved for nature poems, poems that find the heart and soul in the landscape, rivers, and wildlife.

Steve's book list on nature poems to make you think and feel

Steve Griffin Why did Steve love this book?

I cherish this book and always take it on holiday with me. "Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey" is probably the best romantic nature poem ever written. The image of how the senses are responsive to, and creative of, the inner life of nature is sublime ("of eye, and ear, - both what they half create, And what perceive”). This poem encapsulates for me the whole nebulous but immeasurably important job of writing poetry, as well as shining a light on what it means to be a human being.

By William Wordsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the major poets of Romanticism, Wordsworth epitomized the spirit of his age with his celebration of the natural world and the spontanous expression of feeling. This volume contains a rich selection from the most creative phase of his life, including extracts from his masterpiece, The Prelude, and the best-loved of his shorter poems such as 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge', 'Tintern Abbey', 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud', 'Lucy Gray', and 'Michael'.
Together these poems demonstrate not only Wordsworth's astonishing range and power, but the sustained and coherent vision that informed his work.


Book cover of Five Midnights

Yawatta Hosby Author Of Urban Legends

From my list on being terrorized by things that go bump in the night.

Why am I passionate about this?

Hola, I’m Yawatta Hosby, and I have an open mind about monsters, ghosts, and urban legends. I believe they’re real, especially the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. Earth is too big to only have humans. I have a passion for the topic being terrorized by things that go bump in the night. My book, Urban Legends, plays into that theme. October, the spooky season, is my favorite. Halloween is my favorite holiday. Every year, I watch a horror movie every day for 31 days straight. I also love reading horror books and researching urban legends. I’d like to think I’m an expert in horror, but it could all be in my head haha.

Yawatta's book list on being terrorized by things that go bump in the night

Yawatta Hosby Why did Yawatta love this book?

I was surprised at the beginning because I thought Vico would be a main character, but he ended up being the monster’s victim in the first few pages. A very chilling scene. The author was great at describing Puerto Rico to the point I could picture the setting vividly without ever visiting Puerto Rico in real life. All the scenes were interesting and moved the plot forward. I really liked how the teenagers teamed up to try and solve the mystery of the monster. They each had a past they regretted. My favorite line in the book, "You’ve been watching too many movies. Things just aren’t that interesting in real life.”

By Ann Dávila Cardinal,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ann Dávila Cardinal's Five Midnights is a “wickedly thrilling” (William Alexander) and “flat-out unputdownable” (Paul Tremblay) novel based on the el Cuco myth set against the backdrop of modern day Puerto Rico.

2019 Digital Book World Award Winner for best Suspense/Horror Book

Five friends cursed. Five deadly fates. Five nights of retribución.

If Lupe Dávila and Javier Utierre can survive each other’s company, together they can solve a series of grisly murders sweeping though Puerto Rico. But the clues lead them out of the real world and into the realm of myths and legends. And if they want to catch…


Book cover of Dinner with Joseph Johnson: Books and Friendship in a Revolutionary Age

Emma Macleod Author Of A War of Ideas: British Attitudes to the Wars Against Revolutionary France, 1792-1802

From my list on British political debate in the age of revolutions.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by what people make of political events at home and abroad. The rapid expansion of public opinion in later eighteenth-century Britain, in tandem with the explosion of the press—newspapers, books, sermons, plays, poetry, novels, magazines, and cartoons—makes it a wonderful period to explore. People in the past were no less complex and sophisticated than we are; they simply lived in different circumstances, opportunities, and constraints, with different assumptions and priorities. My British Visions of America, 1775–1820 (2013) also deals with the British trying to understand foreign affairs, while The Wodrow-Kenrick Correspondence, 1750–1810, eds Fitzpatrick, Macleod and Page is full of events at home and abroad.

Emma's book list on British political debate in the age of revolutions

Emma Macleod Why did Emma love this book?

This is a fantastic recent book that offers a walk-off-the-page sense of its large cast of characters—Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Thomas Paine, William Cowper, William Blake, Benjamin Franklin, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and many others.

They were all regular guests at the dinner table of the London publisher, and bookseller Joseph Johnson, where he sat back and listened to his talented collection of authors talk about the issues of the day.

It’s both a great way into the world of publishing and selling books and a wonderful introduction to lots of famous writers of the period from a fresh new angle.

By Daisy Hay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dinner with Joseph Johnson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating portrait of a radical age through the writers associated with a London publisher and bookseller-from William Wordsworth and Mary Wollstonecraft to Benjamin Franklin

Once a week, in late eighteenth-century London, writers of contrasting politics and personalities gathered around a dining table. The veal and boiled vegetables may have been unappetising but the company was convivial and the conversation brilliant and unpredictable. The host was Joseph Johnson, publisher and bookseller: a man at the heart of literary life. In this book, Daisy Hay paints a remarkable portrait of a revolutionary age through the connected stories of the men and…


Book cover of North Country: An anthology of landscape and nature

Irfan Shah Author Of Where Lay My Homeward Path: Selected Short Stories by Edward Thomas

From my list on nature-writing with humans at the center.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer and researcher from North Yorkshire, England. Although I’ve written extensively on pre-cinema history (for example, I co-wrote the BAFTA long-listed documentary, The First Film) I have also researched little-known stories connected with the natural world, particularly the beautiful Yorkshire Moors, where I live. My upcoming travelogue The Witches’ Way will combine nature-writing with original historical research, and will be published by Open Space Books in the Autumn. I have long been an admirer of the poetry of Edward Thomas – bringing his long-forgotten fiction to a new audience has been a real passion project of mine.

Irfan's book list on nature-writing with humans at the center

Irfan Shah Why did Irfan love this book?

This is similar to Wild Isles – a vast celebration of nature incorporating fiction, non-fiction, and poetry – but this time with its focus on the beautiful wild North of Britain.

It’s exciting to see so many different aspects of the area brought out and the inclusion of lesser-known contemporary writers such as Katie Hale, Loren Cafferty, and Graham Mort alongside greats such as William Wordsworth and Charlotte Brontë. 

So often neglected, so often stereotyped, the North is viewed here by those that know it, through clear eyes but with understandable adoration. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of the moors, the dark green and grey wilds inhabited by curlew, kite, and hare.

This is the place where the Brontës created their epic romances and where contemporary writers sought solace during lockdown. The land continues to be a source of inspiration and it is gratifying to see it celebrated in this…

By Karen Lloyd (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Curlews give their liquid, burbling call, a call of pure happiness, the music of the fells." Ella Pontefract, 1936, Wensleydale

The North of England abounds with beauty, from unspoiled beaches in Northumberland to the dramatic Lakeland Fells, for so long celebrated by writers and artists. Wide estuaries, winding rivers, sheer cliffs, rushing waterfalls, ancient woodland, limestone pavements, and miles of hedgerows and drystone walls sustainably built and rebuilt over centuries - all form part of its rich heritage.

But these are, too, contested and depleted landscapes. Today the curlew's call is isolated, and many other species are in decline. Industry,…


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