65 books like What Never Happened

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Here are 65 books that What Never Happened fans have personally recommended if you like What Never Happened. 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 Island of the Blue Dolphins

Pat Lowery Collins Author Of Daughter of Winter

From my list on protagonist identity other than that of the writer.

Why am I passionate about this?

The books I've recommended are all skillfully told by someone who is not of the race or sexual orientation of the protagonist. Though I believe in the importance of people telling their own stories, I also think there should be room for writers to write from viewpoints other than their own. The past is where many of my characters live, but I still have to deal with the quandry of authenticity. Daughter of Winter is placed in Essex, MA, in 1949, at the height of the shipbuilding industry and features a mixed-race child and a Wapanoag grandmother. To make certain of my characterizations, I hired a chief of that tribe to read the finished manuscript.

Pat's book list on protagonist identity other than that of the writer

Pat Lowery Collins Why did Pat love this book?

This winner of the Newbury Medal is another book that gave me the courage to write a book that includes my own invented tribe. The author, Scott O'Dell, also spent his early years in Southern Calif. as did I and much of the described island flora and fauna is reminiscent of Santa Catalina Island. After hunting for otters Karina's tribe misses the first boat that was to take them back to the mainland. When she misses the second one because of an act of bravery, she is fated to survive many years alone which she does with unimaginable courage and tenacity.

By Scott O’Dell,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Island of the Blue Dolphins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Twelve-year-old Karana escapes death at the hands of treacherous hunters, only to find herself totally alone on a harsh desolate island. How she survives in the face of all sorts of dangers makes gripping and inspiring reading.

Based on a true story.

Book cover of Puppet Boy

Kevin Klehr Author Of Winter Masquerade

From my list on gay themed not about romance.

Why am I passionate about this?

I usually write queer fiction with an urban fantasy or magic realism bent, although I’ve dabbled in dystopian novels and a couple of romance novellas. I have an interest in bringing to light modern queer works that aren’t rooted in erotica or romance because I know firsthand the misconceptions that are placed on writers of gay fiction. And too often I’ve had to find tactful ways to explain what I write when people assume I’m limited by genre.

Kevin's book list on gay themed not about romance

Kevin Klehr Why did Kevin love this book?

This is deliciously dark. It’s a tale about Eric, a twisted teenager who has tied up a home invader and is keeping him downstairs while his mother has left him alone. She’s busy trying to seek fame overseas. Eric keeps his teachers and his classmates unsettled while paying his daily expenses by entertaining older clients in Sydney’s richer suburbs. There is nothing charming about this story, yet its cast of disturbing eccentric characters makes this a real page turner.

By Christian Baines,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A school in turmoil over its senior play, a sly career as a teenage gigolo, an unpredictable girlfriend with damage of her own, and a dangerous housebreaker tied up downstairs. Any of these would make a great plot for budding filmmaker Eric's first movie. Unfortunately, they're his real life. When Julien, a handsome wannabe actor, transfers to Eric's class, he's a distraction, a rival, and one complication too many. Yet Eric can't stop thinking about him. Helped by Eric's girlfriend, Mary, they embark on a project that dangerously crosses the line between filmmaking and reality. As the boys become close,…

Book cover of Death by Unknown Event

Luke Jerod Kummer Author Of Takers Mad

From my list on crime stories you can only listen to as audiobooks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Crime is intrinsically interesting. From an early age, we’re taught behavioral norms. Hearing of transgressions, we ask, “How’d this happen?... Is it true?... What’s the deeper meaning?” Audiobooks also have a unique ability to engage us. With my reporting background plus a historical novel under my belt, I began researching the real-life case behind Takers Mad, aiming to bring it to life with the intimacy, suspense, and power of an audio drama. Then I was gobsmacked to find fresh evidence in this Gilded Age murder. Now, with Khristine Hvam’s ultra-talented narration, I hope our work entertains and also leads listeners to ponder vital questions—just like the best crime audiobooks.

Luke's book list on crime stories you can only listen to as audiobooks

Luke Jerod Kummer Why did Luke love this book?

Unspooled as an episodic series, Danielle Elliot traces the true story of one woman’s long-running nightmare in Vancouver. Police received hundreds of complaints about a stalker and then repeatedly arrived at shocking scenes. But authorities began to doubt the victim’s claims—until she was found dead. I’ve long admired the hard-boiled writing of Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar, and I don’t think it is only the Canadian setting that makes Death by Unknown Event remind me of their work, but rather the psychological intrigue. Except the twisting plot of these 12 episodes is no work of fiction—sometimes life just can be that strange.

By Danielle Elliot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death by Unknown Event as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For seven years, Vancouver nurse Cindy James reported more than 100 separate incidents of harassment, ranging from threatening phone calls to home invasions to ritualistic assaults, including strangulations and stabbings. Canada’s Royal Mounted Police spent over a million dollars investigating her claims and found zero evidence of foul play, leading them to suspect she was making it all up. Then, in 1989, Cindy was found dead, bound and naked, half a mile from where her car was parked in a shopping mall. What happened to Cindy James remains one of the most bizarre and perplexing true crime stories in recent…

Book cover of The Comanche Empire

Mark Dizon Author Of Reciprocal Mobilities: Indigeneity and Imperialism in an Eighteenth-Century Philippine Borderland

From my list on borderland mobility.

Why am I passionate about this?

The past fascinates me because it is strange and different to the world we live in today. That is why I prefer looking at earlier centuries than contemporary times because the distant past requires an extra effort on our part to unlock how people back then made sense of their world. When I read an old chronicle on how Indigenous people spent days traveling to meet acquaintances and even strangers, it piqued my interest. Did they really need to meet face-to-face? What did traveling mean to them? The books on the list below are attempts by historians to understand the travelers of the past.

Mark's book list on borderland mobility

Mark Dizon Why did Mark love this book?

The Comanche Empire turns imperial history on its head. I like how Hämäläinen puts the spotlight on Comanche Indians instead of European colonizers. Indigenous people were powerful empire builders too.

I love how the book is also a story of horses, bison and how Indigenous people harnessed the resources of their environment. Horse riding and bison hunting, as much as Indigenous adaptability, were the foundation of the Comanche Empire.

By Pekka Hamalainen,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Comanche Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, at the high tide of imperial struggles in North America, an indigenous empire rose to dominate the fiercely contested lands of the American Southwest, the southern Great Plains, and northern Mexico. This powerful empire, built by the Comanche Indians, eclipsed its various European rivals in military prowess, political prestige, economic power, commercial reach, and cultural influence. Yet, until now, the Comanche empire has gone unrecognized in historical accounts.This compelling and original book uncovers the lost story of the Comanches. It is a story that challenges the idea of indigenous peoples as victims of…

Book cover of Built for Speed: A Year in the Life of Pronghorn

John Vucetich Author Of Restoring the Balance: What Wolves Tell Us about Our Relationship with Nature

From my list on wild animals and the people who observe them.

Why am I passionate about this?

I study wolves. For the past three decades, much of that interest has focused on understanding the ecology of wolves who inhabit a wilderness island in Lake Superior, North America. I also work to improve the relationship between humans and wolves–knowing very well that wolves are a symbol to so many of all that we love and fear about nature. As a distinguished professor at Michigan Technological University, I teach classes in population ecology and environmental ethics. What ties my interests together is the desire to gain insights from the commingling of science and ethics. 

John's book list on wild animals and the people who observe them

John Vucetich Why did John love this book?

I love this book for the same reason that I love all the books on this list. That is, I learned as much about pronghorn antelope as I did about the scientist-author who studies these curiously fast creatures of the open grasslands.

Byers brings the reader on one field trip after the next, showing how he’s studied pronghorn and what it’s like to be there–there in the big sky country and there in Byers’ mind as he assembles his observations into a fascinating account of why pronghorn are so fast.

What I love most is Byers’ sharing–by word and deed–of why he cares so much about these creatures and the places they call home. 

By John A. Byers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

North America's fastest mammal, the pronghorn can accelerate explosively from a standing start to a top speed of 60 miles per hour-but it can also cruise at 45 miles per hour for many miles. What accounts for the speed of this extraordinary animal, a denizen of the American outback, and what can be observed of this creature's way of life? And what is it like to be a field biologist dedicating twenty years to studying this species? In Built for Speed, John A. Byers answers these questions as he draws an intimate portrait of the most charismatic resident of the…

Book cover of The Squatter and the Don

Carrie Gibson Author Of El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America

From my list on Hispanic writers everyone should know.

Why am I passionate about this?

Carrie Gibson is a London-based writer who grew up in the US and spends as much time as she can in Latin America and the Caribbean. She started out as a journalist, working at UK newspapers, including the Guardian and the Observer, before diving into a PhD and historical research on European colonialism and its legacy in the Americas. She is the author of two books and continues to contribute to media outlets in the UK and US.

Carrie's book list on Hispanic writers everyone should know

Carrie Gibson Why did Carrie love this book?

María Amparo Ruiz de Burton lived through one of the most tumultuous periods of history in California. She was born in Baja California to an elite family but moved to Mexican Alta California, as it was then known, during the Mexican-American War, marrying US army captain Henry Burton and becoming a US citizen. Ruiz de Burton watched California’s transformation under US rule, and this 1885 novel uses fiction to lay bare the very real problem of land dispossession of the Mexican Californians (known as Californios) and the arrival of ‘squatters’ from the eastern US who were claiming contested property. Ruiz de Burton is considered to be one of the earliest Mexican-American female authors to write in English, and this work illustrates how Alta California’s transition to statehood upended the lives of many people who had lived there under Spanish and Mexican rule.

By Maria Amparo Ruiz De Burton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Squatter and the Don, originally published in San Francisco in 1885, is the first fictional narrative written and published in English from the perspective of the conquered Mexican population that, despite being granted the full rights of citizenship under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848, was, by 1860, a subordinated and marginalized national minority.

Book cover of The Gold in These Hills

Sarah Hanks Author Of Mercy Will Follow Me

From my list on to give you all the feels.

Why am I passionate about this?

The biggest compliment a reader can give me is to tell me my book made them cry. Yes, I love a great tear-jerker. I love writing them, and I love reading them. When we feel more deeply, we can live more fully. Books that evoke emotion can help us tune into our authentic selves and confront falsehoods that have held us back from full victory in our lives. Plus, reading is cheaper than therapy! I seek to bring hope, healing, and freedom through fiction. You have to feel to heal, so bring on all the feels.  

Sarah's book list on to give you all the feels

Sarah Hanks Why did Sarah love this book?

This was a hard pick because I could easily have chosen any of Joanne Bischof’s other books.

She writes with such excellence and depth of feeling that you bond with the characters and go through their trials alongside them. I chose The Gold in These Hills over her other equally loved books because I read it with tears streaming down my face. The theme of restoration after loss and betrayal resonated with me. Deep despair gives way to soul-stretching hope.

Beautiful, quotable prose stuck with me long after I finished. If you want a novel about second chances that speaks deeply to the heart, give this one a try.  

By Joanne Bischof,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When mail-order bride Juniper's husband vanishes, she writes to him-but fears she's waiting for a ghost in a ghost town. A century later, Johnny Sutherland discovers her letters while restoring her abandoned farmhouse. Can her loving words from the distant past change his present?

1902: Upon arriving in Kenworthy, California, mail-order bride Juniper Cohen is met by the pounding of the gold mine, an untamable landscape, and her greatest surprise of all: the kind and charming man who awaits her. But when the mine proves empty of profit, and when Juniper's husband, John, vanishes, Juniper is left to fend for…

Book cover of The Time of the Dark

Steven J. Morris Author Of The Guardian of the Palace

From my list on transport select people from Earth to other realms.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fantasy takes me to a place where I can get out of my own skin, explore new worlds, and live adventures. The stories that pulled folks from our world (for those of you as loosely tethered as I am, I refer to Earth) provided more connection to the idea that I could be in those fantasy worlds and involved in those stories. That’s the bonus level of escapism! I didn’t realize just how many of my favorite stories fell into that category until I wrote this. Those books were definitely instrumental in my writing, though I didn’t follow any of those specific formulas. I’ll have to write another grouping for the other major category of books that influenced my writing.

Steven's book list on transport select people from Earth to other realms

Steven J. Morris Why did Steven love this book?

This is the first book of the three-book Darwath Series. A powerful wizard, in an attempt to save his world, winds up pulling a couple of people over from Earth. The relationships and the struggles, along with the wry humor, make this book great. All of Hambly’s fantasy books that I’ve read have worlds where magic does not come easy, and I always appreciate the price that magic users have to pay. This series of hers has a frighteningly good tale—that ending!

By Barbara Hambly,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Time of the Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gil, a graduate student, discovers that her nightmares of people fleeing in panic from a hideous evil are not dreams and that she is standing in the doorway to another world

Book cover of Over Easy

Laura Catherine Brown Author Of Made by Mary

From my list on smart, sarcastic, funny-sad-angry women.

Why am I passionate about this?

My favorite books are funny/sad. In my own writing, I aspire for balance between satire and sympathy, going to dark places and shining a light of hilarity on them. I’m compelled by the psychological complexities of desire, particularly in female characters—flawed, average women, struggling for empowerment. For me, desire is inextricably bound with loss. I’m inspired by loss both superficial and profound, from misplaced keys to dying fathers. Many voices clamor in my head, vying for my attention. I’m interested in ambitious misfits, enraged neurotics, pagans, shamans, healers, dealers, grifters, and spiritual seekers who are forced to adapt, construct, reinvent and contort themselves as reality shifts around them.

Laura's book list on smart, sarcastic, funny-sad-angry women

Laura Catherine Brown Why did Laura love this book?

Over Easy is the first part of Madge’s story, followed by The Customer is Always Wrong. They can be read separately as each stands on its own, but are best absorbed one after the other. These books are visually inventive and full of unforgettable characters who leap off the page and lodge in your imagination. The story follows Madge, an open-hearted artist who finds refuge and adventure in the wise-cracking, fast-talking, drug-taking world of the Imperial Café where she gets a job as a waitress after being denied financial aid to cover her last year in art school. Full of wit and pathos, Mimi Pond captures the perfect balance of hilarious and heartbreaking, all with fantastic drawings. She makes it look easy!

By Mimi Pond,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Over Easy is a brilliant portrayal of a familiar coming-of-age story. After being denied financial aid to cover her last year of art school, Margaret finds salvation from the straight-laced world of college and the earnestness of both hippies and punks in the wisecracking, fast-talking, drug-taking group she encounters at the Imperial Cafe, where she makes the transformation from Margaret to Madge. At first she mimics these new and exotic grown-up friends, trying on the guise of adulthood with some awkward but funny stumbles. Gradually she realizes that the adults she looks up to are a mess of contradictions, misplaced…

Book cover of Plants And Landscapes For Summer-dry Climates Of The San Francisco Bay Region

Pam Peirce Author Of Golden Gate Gardening,  The Complete Guide to Year-Round Food Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area & Coastal California

From my list on California Mediterranean Gardening.

Why am I passionate about this?

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you know that its climate is unique in the U.S. and that there are many microclimates within the region. It’s all mediterranean, as you can tell by its dry summers and mild, wet winters. But near the coast, summer fog carpets the land for weeks and winter is rarely frosty, while inland summers are hot, winter frosts are frequent. I live here and use my academic and first-hand experience with plants to help regional gardeners create year-round beauty and harvests in all of our wonderful, often perplexing microclimates.

Pam's book list on California Mediterranean Gardening

Pam Peirce Why did Pam love this book?

An introductory chapter describes our greater Bay Area climate and its microclimates. The plants listed are ones that will thrive in the region with a minimum of summer water. The glory of the book is in the photographs by Saxon Holt, which include close shots for identification and wider shots that will inspire you to combine plants handsomely in your garden. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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