100 books like Venus Noire

By Robin Mitchell, Manisha Sinha (editor), Richard S. Newman (editor) , Patrick Rael (editor)

Here are 100 books that Venus Noire fans have personally recommended if you like Venus Noire. 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 Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper

Sarah Horowitz Author Of The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All

From my list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading about women who lived in earlier eras, whether that was through nonfiction or historical fiction. Books gave me access to worlds beyond my own and I loved thinking about what I would do in a particular situation, whether I would have made the same choices as the women I was reading about. I suppose it’s no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in history and teach European history. I love sharing my passion for the past and I hope you love the books I recommended as much as I do!

Sarah's book list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of

Sarah Horowitz Why did Sarah love this book?

Ok, so I’m cheating a little bit here. A lot of people have heard of the women Rubenhold writes about because they’re famous for being Jack the Ripper’s victims.

And for many of the women, what they did was not particularly scandalous, since Rubenhold goes a long way to show that not all of them were streetwalkers. But this book is such a beautiful and heartbreaking read. It’s a meticulous and gripping reconstruction of the lives of women we thought we knew but don’t. She brings nineteenth-century London alive in a way that few authors have – when I read the book, I felt like I was there.

By Hallie Rubenhold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE #1 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NONFICTION 2019
'An angry and important work of historical detection, calling time on the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth. Powerful and shaming' GUARDIAN

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but…


Book cover of My Blue Notebooks: The Intimate Journal of Paris's Most Beautiful and Notorious Courtesan

Sarah Horowitz Author Of The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All

From my list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading about women who lived in earlier eras, whether that was through nonfiction or historical fiction. Books gave me access to worlds beyond my own and I loved thinking about what I would do in a particular situation, whether I would have made the same choices as the women I was reading about. I suppose it’s no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in history and teach European history. I love sharing my passion for the past and I hope you love the books I recommended as much as I do!

Sarah's book list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of

Sarah Horowitz Why did Sarah love this book?

I love reading about women who had messy, complicated lives and Liane de Pougy certainly fits the bill.

Born in 1869, she was a chaos agent like no other. Soon after she got married as a teenager, she left her husband after he shot her when she was in bed with a lover. Then she went to Paris to become an actress and courtesan and became famous for her affairs with both men and women.

She was so captivating and so toxic that she inspired one lover to write multiple novels about her! After she made a fortune from her affairs, she married a prince and then, to top it all off, became a nun in the last years of her life.

Her diary is an intimate portrait of a woman who faced violence, exclusion, disappointment, but always with great bravery and an incredible zest for love, life, and adventure.

By Liane de Pougy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating and provocative glimpse into the life of the legendary early twentieth-century courtesan--a Folies-BergFre dancer who became a princess and died a nun, details her many acquaintances including poet Max Jacob, Colette, and Marcel Proust, and vividly discusses her numerous sexual encounters with both men and women. Original.


Book cover of The Mummy's Foot

Angela Stienne Author Of Mummified: The Stories Behind Egyptian Mummies in Museums

From my list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden.

Why am I passionate about this?

When at 13, I declared that I’d become an Egyptologist, quite a lot of people thought it would pass. Fast forward 10 years, and I was starting a PhD on Egyptian mummies in museums – it did not pass. I journeyed from the Louvre where I was a gallery attendant trying to uncover the story of bodies buried in their garden, to England where I relocated with little English to pursue an Egyptology degree… and then two more! The ethics of human remains in museums is a complex topic: that’s why I like to make it more approachable to the public, from running my project Mummy Stories, to giving talks in pubs! 

Angela's book list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden

Angela Stienne Why did Angela love this book?

This short story involves a Frenchman, an antique store, a mummified foot, and a little too much wine.

We understand mummified bodies better by placing them in context. The other books do that historically, but this one does something very well: it showcases the enduring obsession with Egyptian mummies coming to life, in a rather enthralling fiction story, by a French writer.

I like it especially because Gautier did see the foot in question in the collection of a man called Dominique Vivant Denon, who is central to French museums, and to Egyptology, and brought the foot from Napoleon’s expedition.

I imagine Denon and Gautier having a chat: the fine line between fantasy and reality, ever so paradigmatic of France’s attitude to foreign bodies collecting.

By Theophile Gautier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world's literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.


Book cover of The Archaeology of Race: The Eugenic Ideas of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie

Angela Stienne Author Of Mummified: The Stories Behind Egyptian Mummies in Museums

From my list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden.

Why am I passionate about this?

When at 13, I declared that I’d become an Egyptologist, quite a lot of people thought it would pass. Fast forward 10 years, and I was starting a PhD on Egyptian mummies in museums – it did not pass. I journeyed from the Louvre where I was a gallery attendant trying to uncover the story of bodies buried in their garden, to England where I relocated with little English to pursue an Egyptology degree… and then two more! The ethics of human remains in museums is a complex topic: that’s why I like to make it more approachable to the public, from running my project Mummy Stories, to giving talks in pubs! 

Angela's book list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden

Angela Stienne Why did Angela love this book?

This was the first book to introduce me to the relation between race studies, eugenics, and archaeology.

It was quite a revelation: I was volunteering at the Petrie Museum at the time, and the book uncovers the dodgy relationship between Petrie and Francis Galton.

It was pivotal in transforming the ways I looked at familiar places: it reminded me that places I called home, like the Petrie Museum but also the Louvre, have been very exclusionary to many. It taught me to look differently at places I navigate on a regular basis, to look for the other story.

You’ll then have to listen to the Bricks + Mortals podcast on the history of UCL buildings, and your wanders in Bloomsbury won’t be the same again.

By Debbie Challis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How much was archaeology founded on prejudice? The Archaeology of Race explores the application of racial theory to interpret the past in Britain during the late Victorian and Edwardian period. It investigates how material culture from ancient Egypt and Greece was used to validate the construction of racial hierarchies. Specifically focusing on Francis Galton's ideas around inheritance and race, it explores how the Egyptologist Flinders Petrie applied these in his work in Egypt and in his political beliefs. It examines the professional networks formed by societies, such as the Anthropological Institute, and their widespread use of eugenic ideas in analysing…


Book cover of Morbid Curiosities: Medical Museums in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Angela Stienne Author Of Mummified: The Stories Behind Egyptian Mummies in Museums

From my list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden.

Why am I passionate about this?

When at 13, I declared that I’d become an Egyptologist, quite a lot of people thought it would pass. Fast forward 10 years, and I was starting a PhD on Egyptian mummies in museums – it did not pass. I journeyed from the Louvre where I was a gallery attendant trying to uncover the story of bodies buried in their garden, to England where I relocated with little English to pursue an Egyptology degree… and then two more! The ethics of human remains in museums is a complex topic: that’s why I like to make it more approachable to the public, from running my project Mummy Stories, to giving talks in pubs! 

Angela's book list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden

Angela Stienne Why did Angela love this book?

It took me far too long to explore the history of medicine and the links between Egyptian mummies and medicine. Now, that’s all I talk about, and this book was pivotal in doing just that.

It’s a fascinating dive into the collections of human remains in Britain but is also an observation of the construction of medical knowledge through bodies. It is an academic book, one that I couldn’t put down.

After reading it, I started to explore the history of mummies and medicine and uncovered another story about a mummified foot. While Denon and Gautier were drinking coffee in Paris talking about a mummified foot, someone else did the same over tea in London.

By Samuel J.M.M. Alberti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the first comprehensive study of nineteenth-century medical museums, Morbid Curiosities traces the afterlives of diseased body parts. It asks how they came to be in museums, what happened to them there, and who used them.

This book is concerned with the macabre work of pathologists as they dismembered corpses and preserved them: transforming bodies into material culture. The fragmented body parts followed complex paths - harvested from hospital wards, given to one of many prestigious institutions, or dispersed at auction. Human remains acquired new meanings as they were exchanged and were then reintegrated into museums as physical maps of…


Book cover of The Whole Picture: The colonial story of the art in our museums & why we need to talk about it

Angela Stienne Author Of Mummified: The Stories Behind Egyptian Mummies in Museums

From my list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden.

Why am I passionate about this?

When at 13, I declared that I’d become an Egyptologist, quite a lot of people thought it would pass. Fast forward 10 years, and I was starting a PhD on Egyptian mummies in museums – it did not pass. I journeyed from the Louvre where I was a gallery attendant trying to uncover the story of bodies buried in their garden, to England where I relocated with little English to pursue an Egyptology degree… and then two more! The ethics of human remains in museums is a complex topic: that’s why I like to make it more approachable to the public, from running my project Mummy Stories, to giving talks in pubs! 

Angela's book list on why there’s an Egyptian mummy in your back garden

Angela Stienne Why did Angela love this book?

The Whole Picture is a very recent book, that needs little introduction: that’s always the sign of a great book.

It does something very well: it explains what all those talks about looted art and artefacts and colonialism, and repatriation, are all about, without patronizing anyone, but without letting museums get away with their narratives either.

I remember reading it and thinking that it was about time I picked up my little idea and write my own book: I stand on the shoulders of fierce writers and thinkers and game-changers.

This book will make you ask questions, and it will make you avoid one Parisian museum in particular; and I very much concur this. You’ll have to read the book to find out which one.

By Alice Procter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Probing, jargon-free and written with the pace of a detective story... [Procter] dissects western museum culture with such forensic fury that it might be difficult for the reader ever to view those institutions in the same way again. " Financial Times

'A smart, accessible and brilliantly structured work that encourages readers to go beyond the grand architecture of cultural institutions and see the problematic colonial histories behind them.' - Sumaya Kassim

Should museums be made to give back their marbles? Is it even possible to 'decolonize' our galleries? Must Rhodes fall?

How to deal with the colonial history of art…


Book cover of Death at the Priory: Love, Sex, and Murder in Victorian England

Sarah Horowitz Author Of The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All

From my list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading about women who lived in earlier eras, whether that was through nonfiction or historical fiction. Books gave me access to worlds beyond my own and I loved thinking about what I would do in a particular situation, whether I would have made the same choices as the women I was reading about. I suppose it’s no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in history and teach European history. I love sharing my passion for the past and I hope you love the books I recommended as much as I do!

Sarah's book list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of

Sarah Horowitz Why did Sarah love this book?

I could not put this book down. It’s the riveting tale of Florence Bravo, whose life was one of enormous privilege and horrific violence.

She came from one of the wealthiest families in nineteenth-century Britain, fell in love with a dissolute military officer who abused her, only to have her parents insist that she stay with him. After he died and left her fabulously rich, she married a ne’er-do-well lawyer who was poisoned a few months later.

Ruddick solves the riddle of the murder, all while telling a tragic tale about the very limited options for women in the Victorian era. If you like a mystery, this is a great real-life one!

By James Ruddick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death at the Priory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 1875, the beautiful and vivacious widow Florence Ricardo wedded Charles Bravo, a daring barrister. The marriage seemed a happy one, although society gossips whispered that Bravo had married Florence for her fortune. Yet behind this charming public persona, Charles Bravo was a brutal and vindictive man, who dismissed Florence's steadfast companion Mrs Cox, and who regularly subjected his wife to violent abuse. One night, four months after the wedding, Bravo collapsed. For the next 55 hours, with some of London's most distinguished physicians in attendance, Charles suffered a slow and agonizing death. All the doctors agreed: Charles Bravo had…


Book cover of The Trial of Madame Caillaux

Sarah Horowitz Author Of The Red Widow: The Scandal that Shook Paris and the Woman Behind it All

From my list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved reading about women who lived in earlier eras, whether that was through nonfiction or historical fiction. Books gave me access to worlds beyond my own and I loved thinking about what I would do in a particular situation, whether I would have made the same choices as the women I was reading about. I suppose it’s no surprise that I have a Ph.D. in history and teach European history. I love sharing my passion for the past and I hope you love the books I recommended as much as I do!

Sarah's book list on scandalous women you’ve never heard of

Sarah Horowitz Why did Sarah love this book?

Henriette Caillaux was the wife of a prominent politician who marched into the office of a newspaper editor in 1914 and shot him dead. There’s no question she pulled the trigger, but was she actually guilty of murder?

That’s the central question of this book and Berenson dives deep into the culture and society of the day to answer it. I love this book because it’s such a rich exploration of Henriette Caillaux’s life and of everyone involved in the case, from her husband to the judge.

By Edward Berenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Early in the evening of 16 March 1914, Henriette Caillaux, the wife of a powerful French cabinet minister, paid an unexpected call on her husband's most implacable enemy, "Le Figaro" editor Gaston Calmette. Concealed inside the muff that protected her hands from the wintry cold was a Browning automatic. After murmuring a few words, she fired six shots at point-blank range. Calmette slumped to the floor, fatally wounded; office workers seized Madame Caillaux, smoking gun in hand. Four months later - just two weeks before Europe exploded into war - Caillaux stood accused of murder. So mesmerizing was the trial…


Book cover of Midnight in Europe

Alan Cook Author Of East of the Wall

From my list on fiction and nonfiction about spies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been intrigued by history, fictional and nonfictional. Unfortunately, warfare is a large part of history and spying is an important part of warfare, and is as old as warfare itself. If you want to win the war you need to know as much as possible about what your enemy is planning to do. I am also a puzzle solver, and making and breaking codes play a large part in spying. I have traveled widely and been to most of the places I write about. However, I am a pacifist at heart, and I keep looking for the key to world peace.

Alan's book list on fiction and nonfiction about spies

Alan Cook Why did Alan love this book?

This is a good book to read if you want to know what it felt like to be in France or other European countries in 1938 before the start of World War II when my father was saying how bad Hitler was but people didn’t believe it. Bad things were already happening and much worse things were to come. In some places you couldn't trust anybody because everybody could be a spy. People who lived in France and didn't want to leave had to face the fact that if they didn't they might lose their freedom and their lives. Franco was leading a revolution to take over Spain, and he had help from the Axis powers. This is an excellent spy novel with an accurate historical setting.

By Alan Furst,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Paris, 1938. Democratic forces are locked in struggle as the shadow of war edges over Europe.

Cristian Ferrar, a handsome Spanish lawyer in Paris, is approached to help a clandestine agency supply weapons to beleaguered Republican forces. He agrees, putting his life on the line.

Joining Ferrar in his mission is an unlikely group of allies: idealists and gangsters, arms dealers, aristocrats and spies. From libertine nightclubs in Paris to shady bars by the docks in Gdansk, Furst paints a spell-binding portrait of a continent marching into a nightmare - and the heroes and heroines who fought back.


Book cover of The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

Jerry Windley-Daoust Author Of Imagine You Walked with Jesus: A Guide to Ignatian Contemplative Prayer

From my list on Christian prayer for beginners.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sometimes I wonder how I ended up writing so many books about spirituality and religion. I started out in journalism, after all, driven by an endless curiosity about people and the planet. I wanted to tell all the untold stories! Funny thing, chasing those stories deeper and deeper eventually led me to write about spirituality, and ultimately, prayer. I picked up an MA in pastoral ministry, spent a few years editing high school religion textbooks for Saint Mary’s Press, and then started writing my own books. Most of what I write is aimed at helping beginners learn to pray, which is why I made this list.

Jerry's book list on Christian prayer for beginners

Jerry Windley-Daoust Why did Jerry love this book?

Let’s take things in a different direction with Story of a Soul, the spiritual autobiography of a French nun who died in cloistered obscurity in 1897 at the age of 24. Like a lot of people, I was initially skeptical about what wisdom this sheltered, middle-class young woman would have to offer; at first blush, her piety seemed conventional and old-fashioned. But the more I read, the more she won me over: underneath the sometimes-flowery language I discovered a fierce passion (all those exclamation marks!), a refreshing forthrightness, and cunning wisdom that actually subverts conventional piety with its “littleness.” Story of a Soul isn’t an instruction manual; rather, it’s the very personal, joyful account of one young woman’s “little way” to Jesus—a way so simple, anyone can follow it.

By Thérèse Of Lisieux, Michael Day (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pope Benedict XVI Encourages Reading "Story of a Soul"

The Story of a Soul conveys St Therese of Liseux's "Little Way" of spiritual childhood - her "elevator" to Heaven, as she called it. This method was approved by Pope Pius XI as a way for all to grow in holiness through unfailing confidence and childlike delight in God's merciful love.

Again and again in this book, St. Therese shows us how her "Little Way" of love and trust comes straight from Sacred Scripture.

This book belongs in every Catholic home, for Pope St Pius X stated St. Therese of Liseux…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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