100 books like When She Woke

By Hillary Jordan,

Here are 100 books that When She Woke fans have personally recommended if you like When She Woke. 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 Handmaid's Tale

Ellie Ember Author Of Paper Castles

From my list on dystopian books every twenty-something should read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved dystopian books ever since my mom handed me The Giver when I was in the fourth grade. My high school English teacher ignited this passion further when she suggested I read Fahrenheit 451 during Banned Books Week. I would later pursue this interest in university when I wrote my thesis on the political use of language in dystopian literature. Now, my love for the genre motivates me to write dystopian books of my own. This list includes the most engaging and evocative dystopian books I urge every twenty-something to read–if only so I can talk about them with more people!

Ellie's book list on dystopian books every twenty-something should read

Ellie Ember Why did Ellie love this book?

Reading this book in college was a powerful experience for me, as it highlights how easy it is for fascism to take over with a very personal narrative style that emphasizes the humanity of the main character.

I love that this book is written in first-person point of view from a “handmaid’s” perspective, as it makes the story especially engaging and puts the reader in Offred’s shoes. While the subject matter can be difficult to read at times, I believe that this book is important for every new adult seeking to understand how they can play a role in protecting the rights and dignity of those around them.

By Margaret Atwood,

Why should I read it?

31 authors picked The Handmaid's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

** THE SUNDAY TIMES NO. 1 BESTSELLER **
**A BBC BETWEEN COVERS BIG JUBILEE READ**

Go back to where it all began with the dystopian novel behind the award-winning TV series.

'As relevant today as it was when Atwood wrote it' Guardian

I believe in the resistance as I believe there can be no light without shadow; or rather, no shadow unless there is also light.

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford -…


Book cover of Red Clocks

Rae Giana Rashad Author Of The Blueprint

From my list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to stories of women whose journeys shed light on human nature. These women are often found in cautionary tales within dystopian and historical fiction. Their stories not only remind us of the past but also hint at possibilities—different versions of the future. To capture this truth, I wrote a novel that delicately blends the past with the near future.

Rae's book list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy

Rae Giana Rashad Why did Rae love this book?

I’ll read anything with motherhood as an overarching theme.

Set in a near-future America, this novel explores the lives of women dealing with the consequences of legislation restricting reproductive rights. Multiple narrative threads and alternating perspectives offer a complex and interconnected look at the lives of its characters.

By Leni Zumas,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Red Clocks as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE INAUGURAL ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL FICTION

'Intense, beautifully crafted . . . Her talent is electric. Get ready for a shock' Guardian

FIVE WOMEN. ONE QUESTION: What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivor, a…


Book cover of Night Wherever We Go

Rae Giana Rashad Author Of The Blueprint

From my list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to stories of women whose journeys shed light on human nature. These women are often found in cautionary tales within dystopian and historical fiction. Their stories not only remind us of the past but also hint at possibilities—different versions of the future. To capture this truth, I wrote a novel that delicately blends the past with the near future.

Rae's book list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy

Rae Giana Rashad Why did Rae love this book?

Night Wherever We Go is the visceral story of six enslaved women defying their oppressors on a Texas plantation, determined to protect themselves from forced pregnancies. These women are cunning and resourceful!

Told in a first-person-plural voice, Tracey Rose Peyton's narrative is a powerful portrayal of collective resistance. It sheds light on a dark chapter of American history with unflinching honesty.

By Tracey Rose Peyton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Night Wherever We Go as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A hugely impressive debut' SARAH WATERS

'A powerful and inspired achievement. This one is not to be missed' NATHAN HARRIS

'Extraordinary... I'm not sure I've recovered from the experience of reading it, or ever will, or ever should' ELIZABETH MCCRAKEN

'A haunting, powerful and utterly unforgettable read' RACHEL HENG

An intimate look at the domestic lives of enslaved women, NIGHT WHEREVER WE GO is an evocative meditation on resistance and autonomy, on love and transcendence and the bonds of female friendship in the darkest of circumstances.

On a struggling Texas plantation, six enslaved women slip from their sleeping quarters and…


Book cover of The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

Rae Giana Rashad Author Of The Blueprint

From my list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m drawn to stories of women whose journeys shed light on human nature. These women are often found in cautionary tales within dystopian and historical fiction. Their stories not only remind us of the past but also hint at possibilities—different versions of the future. To capture this truth, I wrote a novel that delicately blends the past with the near future.

Rae's book list on reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy

Rae Giana Rashad Why did Rae love this book?

I read this novel when I was hungry for books with strong female characters.

The main character, the unnamed midwife, didn’t disappoint. Her journey emphasizes the importance of choice and agency when it comes to reproductive decisions. She works to empower women to make choices about their own bodies and reproductive futures, even in a world where such choices are limited.

By Meg Elison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2016 and Philip K. Dick Award Winner

When she fell asleep, the world was doomed. When she awoke, it was dead.

In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth's population-killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant-the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power-and the strong who possess it.

A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even…


Book cover of Facing Eugenics: Reproduction, Sterilization, and the Politics of Choice

C. Elizabeth Koester Author Of In the Public Good: Eugenics and Law in Ontario

From my list on how eugenics came to Canada.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a lapsed lawyer who decided as an empty-nest project to take a few history of medicine courses just for fun. One thing led to another and I found myself with a PhD and a book about eugenics and law to my name. I love the history of medicine. It connects us right back to the cavemen who worried about the same things we worry about today – illness, injury, our bodies, reproduction, death, dying. The history of eugenics is really a part of that history and it is filled with laws – coerced reproductive sterilization, marriage restrictions based on so-called “fitness,” etc. So it's a perfect union of my background and my newfound love. 

C.'s book list on how eugenics came to Canada

C. Elizabeth Koester Why did C. love this book?

This is the most important book to read if you want to understand (a) eugenics generally and (b) how it played out in Alberta, the part of Canada where these ideas got the most traction. Dyck is a great historian, but even better, she does not forget that history is about real people. Her history is detailed and thorough, but it is not dry. She uses all kinds of interesting sources including courtroom evidence and personal records to bring the issues to life. She also moves the story forward by writing about abortion in the 1970s and 1980s and shows us in a very thought-provoking way the connections between eugenic “fitness” and our notions of “disability” today.

By Erika Dyck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Facing Eugenics is a social history of sexual sterilization operations in twentieth-century Canada. Looking at real-life experiences of men and women who, either coercively or voluntarily, participated in the largest legal eugenics program in Canada, it considers the impact of successive legal policies and medical practices on shaping our understanding of contemporary reproductive rights. The book also provides deep insights into the broader implications of medical experimentation, institutionalization, and health care in North America. Erika Dyck uses a range of historical evidence, including medical files, court testimony, and personal records to place mental health and intelligence at the centre of…


Book cover of Still Explosion: A Laura Malloy Mystery

Ames Sheldon Author Of Lemons in the Garden of Love

From my list on reproductive freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

My great-grand aunt Blanche Ames was a co-founder of the Birth Control League of Massachusetts. My grandmother marched in birth control parades with Blanche. My mother stood in the Planned Parenthood booth at the Minnesota State Fair and responded calmly to those who shouted and spit at her. As the lead author and associate editor of the monumental reference work Women’s History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States, which helped to launch the field of women’s history in the 1970s, I learned to love American women’s history, and I’ve always loved writing. Lemons in the Garden of Love is my third award-winning historical novel.

Ames' book list on reproductive freedom

Ames Sheldon Why did Ames love this book?

As a former newspaper reporter, I identified with this book. Newspaper reporter Laura Malloy has walked into the Lakewood Family Planning Clinic in St. Paul to interview the director of the clinic when a bomb goes off in the hallway and the young man very near her dies as Laura is propelled backward through the door. Laura tries to find whoever made the bomb, meeting with the young man’s girlfriend, who was at the clinic to get an abortion, his mother and brother, the head of the “pro-life” group, his wife, and others. I found this murder mystery to be very engaging.

By Mary Logue,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While researching a story on abortion, journalist Laura Malloy becomes caught up in the lives of the people devastated by the recent bombing of the Lakeview Family Planning Clinic.


Book cover of Roe: The History of a National Obsession

Nicholas L. Syrett Author Of The Trials of Madame Restell: Nineteenth-Century America's Most Infamous Female Physician and the Campaign to Make Abortion a Crime

From my list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by how gender and sex, characteristics of our beings that we take to be the most intimate and personal, are just as subject to external forces as anything else in history. I have written about the cultivation of masculinity in college fraternities, the history of young people and the age of consent to marriage, and about a same-sex couple who lived publicly as “father and son” in order to be together. My most recent book is a biography of an abortion provider in nineteenth-century America who became the symbol that doctors and lawyers demonized as they worked to make abortion a crime. I am a professor at the University of Kansas. 

Nicholas' book list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US

Nicholas L. Syrett Why did Nicholas love this book?

Mary Ziegler is arguably the country’s foremost expert on abortion law; I hear her on NPR every time judges and justices weigh in on women’s reproductive freedom.

This is her account not of how Roe v. Wade got decided or what the law did, but instead of how the case has become symbolic of the Supreme Court writ large and the struggles over women’s autonomy in the United States. In essence, this is a history of how we have all come to invest so much in the myth of Roe, even as it was recently overturned.

I find Ziegler to be a lively storyteller, and she brings a variety of perspectives to the book, interrogating Roe’s relationship to racial justice, religious liberty, privacy (of course), and the role of science in public life. 

By Mary Ziegler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The leading U.S. expert on abortion law charts the many meanings associated with Roe v. Wade during its fifty-year history

"Ziegler sets a brisk pace but delivers substantial depth. . . . A must-read for those seeking to understand what comes next."-Publishers Weekly

What explains the insistent pull of Roe v. Wade? Abortion law expert Mary Ziegler argues that the U.S. Supreme Court decision, which decriminalized abortion in 1973 and was overturned in 2022, had a hold on us that was not simply the result of polarized abortion politics. Rather, Roe took on meanings far beyond its original purpose of…


Book cover of A Woman's Life Is a Human Life: My Mother, Our Neighbor, and the Journey from Reproductive Rights to Reproductive Justice

Nicholas L. Syrett Author Of The Trials of Madame Restell: Nineteenth-Century America's Most Infamous Female Physician and the Campaign to Make Abortion a Crime

From my list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by how gender and sex, characteristics of our beings that we take to be the most intimate and personal, are just as subject to external forces as anything else in history. I have written about the cultivation of masculinity in college fraternities, the history of young people and the age of consent to marriage, and about a same-sex couple who lived publicly as “father and son” in order to be together. My most recent book is a biography of an abortion provider in nineteenth-century America who became the symbol that doctors and lawyers demonized as they worked to make abortion a crime. I am a professor at the University of Kansas. 

Nicholas' book list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US

Nicholas L. Syrett Why did Nicholas love this book?

Part biography of the author’s mother and their neighbor and part history of the fight for abortion rights and the anti-sterilization campaign in New York State, the book is also a portrait of two overlapping and divergent movements for reproductive rights and justice from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Kornbluh is especially diligent about showing why certain parts of the struggle for reproductive justice mattered to different constituencies of women and how white middle-class women were often blinded by their own privileges.

This is down-in-the-trenches social activism history at its best. 

By Felicia Kornbluh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Woman's Life Is a Human Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this urgent book from historian Felicia Kornbluh reveals two movement victories in New York that forever changed the politics of reproductive rights nationally

Before there was a “Jane Roe,” the most important champions of reproductive rights were ordinary people working in their local communities. In A Woman’s Life Is a Human Life, historian Felicia Kornbluh delivers the untold story of everyday activists who defined those rights and achieved them, in the years immediately before and after Roe v. Wade made abortion legal under federal law.

A Woman’s Life Is…


Book cover of The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having--Or Being Denied--An Abortion

Nicholas L. Syrett Author Of The Trials of Madame Restell: Nineteenth-Century America's Most Infamous Female Physician and the Campaign to Make Abortion a Crime

From my list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by how gender and sex, characteristics of our beings that we take to be the most intimate and personal, are just as subject to external forces as anything else in history. I have written about the cultivation of masculinity in college fraternities, the history of young people and the age of consent to marriage, and about a same-sex couple who lived publicly as “father and son” in order to be together. My most recent book is a biography of an abortion provider in nineteenth-century America who became the symbol that doctors and lawyers demonized as they worked to make abortion a crime. I am a professor at the University of Kansas. 

Nicholas' book list on revealing the unexpected history of abortion in the US

Nicholas L. Syrett Why did Nicholas love this book?

What happens to women who can’t get the abortions that they want or need? For most of our history, the answers were anecdotal and speculative until Diana Greene Foster and a team of fellow researchers followed one thousand women, some of whom obtained abortions, some of whom could not do so.

The answer is a triumph of social science reporting. By almost every measure, those women who could not access abortion care fared worse ten years later, and many of the years in between, than those women who were able to make their own choices about their bodies and their lives.

What I loved about the book was how transparent Foster was about the research design for the study and how intertwined she showed that abortion is in so many aspects of women’s lives. 

By Diana Greene Foster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“If you read only one book about democracy, The Turnaway Study should be it. Why? Because without the power to make decisions about our own bodies, there is no democracy.” —Gloria Steinem

The “remarkable” (The New Yorker) landmark study of the consequences on women’s lives—emotional, physical, financial, professional, personal, and psychological—of receiving versus being denied an abortion that “should be required reading for every judge, member of Congress, and candidate for office—as well as anyone who hopes to better understand this complex and important issue” (Cecile Richards).

What happens when a woman seeking an abortion is turned away? To answer…


Book cover of Eve: The Disobedient Future of Birth

Sydney Calkin Author Of Abortion Pills Go Global: Reproductive Freedom across Borders

From my list on abortion and reproductive rights.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a feminist academic and activist, I am personally committed to the cause of reproductive freedom. Professionally, I've spent the past seven years carrying out research on abortion pills and their travels around the globe. This research involved more than eighty interviews with activists and doctors across the world, as well as analysis of many different text sources. My work has also taken me into activist spaces across Europe, as a volunteer with the Abortion Support Network. Although I entered the topic of reproductive rights through my interest in abortion, reading widely in the field has led me to pursue research interests in reproductive and biomedical technologies in other areas of sexual and reproductive health. 

Sydney's book list on abortion and reproductive rights

Sydney Calkin Why did Sydney love this book?

Eve tackles the topic of ectogenesis – gestation outside the womb. From literature to bioethics to cutting-edge medical research, the book examines this complex topic in creative ways.

Its chapter on abortion politics is particularly insightful because it considers how technology that allows for gestation in artificial wombs might lead to restrictions in abortion laws.

Horn’s writing blends sociological, legal, and bioethical analysis together with personal reflections on her own experience of pregnancy.

Not only is this one of the best books I’ve read on reproductive politics, but it’s one of the best books on the experience of being pregnant because it beautifully reflects on the complex social meanings of pregnancy and its physical embodiment. Eve is written in a highly accessible style, so readers without prior knowledge of the topic will find the narrative compelling.

By Claire Horn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SELECTED AS A NEW SCIENTIST 'BOOKS TO EXPAND YOUR MIND'

'THOUGHTFUL ... EXAMINES THE BOUNDARIES OF MOTHERHOOD THROUGH AN UNUSUAL LENS: ARTIFICIAL WOMBS. ... A SKILLED WRITER WITH A CAREFUL GRASP OF HER SUBJECT AND ITS FASCINATING HISTORY' Angela Saini, Telegraph

'AN ENGROSSING INSIGHT INTO THE FUTURE OF BIRTH THROUGH THE LENSES OF THE MOST PRESSING WOMEN'S HEALTH ISSUES OF OUR ERA' New Statesman

Throughout human history, every single one of us has been born from a person. So far. But that is about to change.

Scientific research is on the cusp of being able to grow babies outside human…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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