The most recommended books about brothels

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to brothels, and here are their favorite brothel books.
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What type of brothel book?


Simply Sinful

By Kate Pearce,

Book cover of Simply Sinful

Maggie Sims Author Of Sophia's Schooling

From the list on spicy historical romance.

Who am I?

Like many of us over (ahem…we’ll say) 40, I grew up reading historical romance—those were the first full-length romance novels on store shelves. My mum is British and visits there added to my interest in Regency England. Then 50 Shades exploded and people’s spice level tolerance increased. But mainly in contemporary romance, with all the tools and toys. Curious as to how spice in the Regency would look, I went searching. I found a few of these fabulous authors, but not many choices, so I decided to write one. Now there are more authors published in this subgenre, and I’m proud to be one of them.

Maggie's book list on spicy historical romance

Why did Maggie love this book?

Quick notethis series is (IMO) the spiciest of the 5 recommendations I include on my list. And Pearce takes some liberties with historical accuracy. However, her characters are deeply damaged and it takes a powerful loveand storytelling abilityto make them whole and able to fall in love. Those elements are particularly well represented in this tale. I try to avoid recommending book 2 of a series and yes, you really should read book 1 first, but this book does stand alone and I find it the most powerful story of the series.

By Kate Pearce,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A husband and wife find a solution to their troubles in this historical erotic romance by the New York Times bestselling author of Simply Sexual.

At Madame Helene's exclusive House of Pleasure in London, all guests are welcome to explore beyond their inhibitions . . .

Forced to wed at a young age, Abigail Beecham is tired of living in a sexless marriage. She longs to succumb to the delicious pleasures of pure carnal lust that she has only read about. And if her husband can't satisfy her erotic needs, she's ready to find a man who can . .…

Hotel de Dream

By Edmund White,

Book cover of Hotel de Dream: A New York Novel

Finola Austin Author Of Bronte's Mistress

From the list on inspired by the lives of famous writers.

Who am I?

I grew up exploring the worlds of the Brontës, Dickens, Braddon, Hardy, and more. So, for my Master’s in literature from the University of Oxford, it was the 1800-1914 period I focused on. When I started writing fiction, I chose the nineteenth century as my setting and a scandal that rocked the lives of the Bronte siblings as my topic. I hold myself to a high standard of historical accuracy when writing about real people (e.g. I cut moonlight from a scene in Brontë’s Mistress when I realized it would have been a new moon that night!). And I love discovering and sharing other novelists who take the same approach. 

Finola's book list on inspired by the lives of famous writers

Why did Finola love this book?

Stephen Crane is most famous for his 1893 novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, but it is his lost companion novel, about a male sex worker in late nineteenth-century New York, which is the focus of Edmund White’s Hotel de Dream. White moves between a frame story about Crane’s last days with his “wife” Cora and the story of Elliott, the supposed inspiration for the manuscript. I’m a New Yorker by choice so love reading books set in the city and I very much enjoyed this gritty portrayal of love and sex between men in the past. Crane isn’t the only writer who makes an appearance here—there’s a cameo from Henry James too!

By Edmund White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Stephen Crane is writing a new story, and it may be his last. The year is 1900. The famous author of The Red Badge of Courage is travelling to a Black Forest clinic in search of a cure for the tuberculosis that threatens his life. He dictates to his wife, Cora, the story of 'The Painted Boy', inspired by a real-life encounter with a fifteen-year-old newsboy, Elliott, one wintry day in the Bowery. In the story Elliott is both impressionable and elusive. He finds himself the object of the hopeless affections of Theodore, the staid middle-aged banker who sets him…

The Bad Lands

By Oakley Hall,

Book cover of The Bad Lands

Max Byrd Author Of The Sixth Conspirator

From the list on American history that have become forgotten.

Who am I?

Schoolteacher turned writer. With the encouragement of my old college friend, the great Michael Crichton I began writing detective novels—paperback originals at first, then a hardback thriller called Target of Opportunity, which was a detective novel but included a long section of historical background about the Resistance in southern France. From there I moved to biographical fiction: novels about Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant. Then straight historical fiction, often with a Parisian background, because I’ve lived and worked in that marvelous city and can’t get enough of it.

Max's book list on American history that have become forgotten

Why did Max love this book?

Here is the other archetypal plot, the reverse of the first: “A Stranger Comes to Town.” In this case, a protagonist who seems an unlikely but brilliantly persuasive amalgam of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Adams—a bookish Easterner—arrives in the Dakota Territory in 1883 to make a new life for himself after the death of his wife. The new life will feature lynchings, cattle drives, saloons, brothels, and an even harsher wilderness than Diony Hall found in Kentucky. The author’s cinematic Warlock is a western masterpiece. This forgotten title is every bit as good.

By Oakley Hall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It's 1883 in Johnson County, in the old Dakota Territory a rugged, wide-open landscape of rolling, red earth, prairie, and cattle as far as the eye can see. But the land is closing, the "Beef Bonanza" is ending, and the free-range cattlemen are stuck watching a way of life disappear in a blaze of drought and gunfire. An action-packed western from one of the masters of the genre, Oakley Hall's The Bad Lands blends round-ups and rustlers, whorehouses and land grabs, shoot-outs and the threat of hangings in a tale of the war between the cowboys and the cattle barons.…

The Underworld Sewer

By Josie Washburn,

Book cover of The Underworld Sewer: A Prostitute Reflects on Life in the Trade, 1871-1909

Jody Hadlock Author Of The Lives of Diamond Bessie

From the list on 19th century prostitutes.

Who am I?

As a young teenager, I lived in a small Texas town and loved touring the Victorian “gingerbread” homes full of antiques. I had an overwhelming desire to time travel back to the mid-1800s. When I learned of Diamond Bessie’s story, I was immediately intrigued because of the period, and also by the circumstances of her life. Why does a woman enter the world’s oldest profession? I discovered that I absolutely love research and “time traveled” back to that era by devouring everything I could get my hands on about life in the 19th century, especially for a marginalized woman like Bessie. 

Jody's book list on 19th century prostitutes

Why did Jody love this book?

After not being able to find a publisher in the early 1900s, Josie Washburn self-published her memoir. In The Underworld Sewer, Josie not only describes her life as a prostitute and madam, but she also debunks the notion at the time that women became prostitutes to “satisfy their own unnatural lusts.” Josie wanted to educate the public about the true horrors and plight of the unfortunate women who had to resort to prostitution to survive and, ultimately, to motivate the public to effect change. Her memoir is as much a scathing commentary on society’s double standards as it is an account of her life as a demi-mondaine.

By Josie Washburn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For twenty years Josie Washburn lived and worked in houses of prostitution. She spent the last twelve as the madam of a moderately fancy brothel in Lincoln, Nebraska. After retiring in 1907 and moving to Omaha, she turned to "throwing a searchlight on the underworld," including the "cribs" of Nebraska's largest city. The Underworld Sewer, based on her own experience in the profession, blazes with a kind of honesty unavailable to more conventional moral reformers. Originally published in 1909, The Underworld Sewer asks why "the social evil" is universally considered necessary or inevitable. Washburn minces no words in exposing the…

Book cover of City of Lingering Splendour: A Frank Account of Old Peking's Exotic Pleasures

Isham Cook Author Of At the Teahouse Cafe: Essays from the Middle Kingdom

From the list on old Beijing.

Who am I?

Having lived in China for almost three decades, I am naturally interested in the expat writing scene. I am a voracious reader of fiction and nonfiction on China, past and present. One constant in this country is change, and that requires keeping up with the latest publications by writers who have lived here and know it well. As an author of three novels, one short story collection, and three essay collections on China myself, I believe I have something of my own to contribute, although I tend to hew to gritty, offbeat themes to capture a contemporary China unknown to the West.

Isham's book list on old Beijing

Why did Isham love this book?

English expat John Blofeld spent two decades in China (1932–51) before living out the last three of his life in Thailand. A renowned scholar of Buddhism and Taoism, Blofeld (like fellow expat Sinologists Edmund Backhouse and E.T.C. Werner) effectively disappeared into the woodwork, consorting almost exclusively with locals and mastering both vernacular and classical Chinese. In his City of Lingering Splendour, he looks back on his sojourn in the capital in the bustling 1930s-40s. But in contrast to standard accounts of Beijing’s palaces and temples (such as by Bredon and Arlington & Lewisohn above), Blofeld evocatively spotlights the often overlooked secular sites, the bathhouses and restaurants, opium dens, and bordellos, along with his connoisseurship of Chinese tea, thus conferring important archival value on his portrait of the city. This is also the side of Beijing I can relate to – the dark side, the underbelly of the great city –…

By John Blofeld,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his early twenties, John Blofeld spent what he describes as "three exquisitely happy years" in Peking during the era of the last emperor, when the breathtaking greatness of China's ancient traditions was still everywhere evident. Arriving in 1934, he found a city imbued with the atmosphere of the recent imperial past and haunted by the powerful spirit of the late Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi. He entered a world of magnificent palaces and temples of the Forbidden City, of lotus-covered lakes and lush pleasure-gardens, of bustling bazaars and peaceful bathhouses, and of "flower houses" with their beautiful young courtesans versed…

A Lady in Defiance

By Heather Blanton,

Book cover of A Lady in Defiance

Davalynn Spencer Author Of An Improper Proposal

From the list on Western romance rugged heroes and fiery heroines.

Who am I?

As a child, I fell in love with horses. As a teen, I fell in love with a cowboy. That’s how I became the wife and mother of professional rodeo bullfighters and wrote for rodeo magazines. Today I write historical cowboy romances. The Western way of life is down-to-earth, honest, and God-fearing—even in our contemporary world, and I’ve written several of those stories as well. But my favorite challenge takes me back to the 1800s when life was simpler. Not easier, just simpler even though people faced the same emotional challenges we face today. I love writing about their journeys and encouraging readers that there is hope.

Davalynn's book list on Western romance rugged heroes and fiery heroines

Why did Davalynn love this book?

I loved the heroine’s grit! Boy howdy, no one’s going to get anything over on her. The story is both gritty and sweet. Real. Full of truth and hope and opposition. Her setting puts you right in the action and her characterizations leave you feeling like you know these people. This was the first book I read from Blanton, and I have since read a couple more. 

By Heather Blanton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

100,000+ copies! The best-selling saga of sisters finding love in a rowdy, frontier mining town! Charles McIntyre owns everything and everyone in the lawless, godless mining town of Defiance. When three good, Christian sisters show up, stranded and alone, he decides to let them stay. The decision may cost him everything, from his his heart. Naomi Miller, angry with God for widowing her, wants no part of Defiance or the saloon-owning, prostitute-keeping Mr. McIntyre. It would seem, however, that God has gone to elaborate lengths to bring them together. The question is, "Why?" Does God really have a plan…

Melissa and The Vicar

By S.M. LaViolette,

Book cover of Melissa and The Vicar

Cara Hogarth Author Of The Minstrel and Her Knight

From Cara's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Romantic Medieval dreamer Potter History nut

Cara's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Cara love this book?

The ad declared “Debauching, graphic sex scenes,” and the title involved a vicar. Well, I’ve never bought a book on the strength of an advertisement before, but this ad copy intrigued me.

Actually, Melissa and the Vicar turned out to be a very well-written Regency romance with vivid characters and a delightful English village setting, in which a London brothel madam convalescing in the country catches the eye of the angelic village curate.

I loved this tale for its vivid characters, humour, and twisting plot. Oh, and then there was the debauchery—it’s definitely there, it’s pretty steamy, but this romance has so much more to offer beyond sex.

By S.M. LaViolette,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Melissa Griffin is quite literally sick and tired. She's the owner of one of London's most exclusive brothels, but her failing health is telling her she can't continue to keep working at her current pace. A relaxing stay in the country is exactly what she needs. Falling for the small town's gorgeous young vicar--a virgin, no less--was never part of her plan. Their love is scandalous, forbidden...and everything Melissa never knew she wanted. Denying her feelings is unthinkable. Avoiding devastation when her past inevitably drives them apart? Impossible.

Magnus Stanwyck never resented his vow of celibacy...until meeting Melissa. As beautiful…

Tacey Cromwell

By Conrad Richter,

Book cover of Tacey Cromwell

Jan Mackell Collins Author Of Behind Brothel Doors: The Business of Prostitution in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (1860–1940)

From the list on historical prostitution.

Who am I?

Having grown up with an older generation—my great-grandparents, great-great aunts and uncles, and a godmother, all who were born between 1877 and 1900—I learned to appreciate how they lived and what they went through. As a child, I found a hand-written poem about a brothel queen who caused a gunfight between her paramour and a stranger. Then, in college, I met a wonderful old man who told me stories about the former red-light district right in my own neighborhood. Once I learned the often tragic, but also successful stories of these ladies, I decided to be their voice and remind America how important they were to our history.

Jan's book list on historical prostitution

Why did Jan love this book?

Conrad Richter did a stellar job of giving a true sense of place in Socorro, New Mexico and Bisbee, Arizona, at the turn of 1900. Tacey’s fictionalized yet wonderfully realistic story will break your heart and make you fall in love with the fallen women of the west as I did.

By Conrad Richter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the story of a bawdy house madam who becomes a respectable mother and businesswoman.

Book cover of The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon

Trebor Healey Author Of A Horse Named Sorrow

From the list on erotic themes that are imaginative and insightful.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing stories and poems with erotic themes since I first entered the spoken word scene in 1980s San Francisco. As a young queer boy, raised in the highly eroticized Catholic Church, I was actually comfortable talking about and writing about sex and eros as I’d been stigmatized by it, and it got me fascinated with what the big deal was and why writers were afraid to approach it or why they did so in a corny/predictable/idealized and/or often dishonest and clumsy way. Soon I was teaching erotic writing and have been integrating it into my writing in honest, fresh, and enlivening ways—and helping others do soever since.

Trebor's book list on erotic themes that are imaginative and insightful

Why did Trebor love this book?

This book is probably the single most praised underground gay novel of my generation, and deservedly so. It’s so many things—beautiful writing, an old west setting in all its ugliness and adventure and hope, and a highly original narrative voice in the bisexual native orphan, Shed, who is being raised in a bordello. All the characters are well-drawn and as odd as the narrator, and the erotic journey, if I can call it that, is one of the most original, thought-provoking, and beautiful expressions of the possibilities of queer I’ve ever encountered. Spanbauer has helped me to write more skillfully about class and race and sexuality and how they are everywhere and how they can warpand sometimes, oftentimesset people free. 

By Tom Spanbauer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The cult gay classic of the early 1990s, reissued to mark the year of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots

Between nights, earning his keep at Excellent, Idaho's outrageously pink whorehouse, Shed or, Duivichi-un-Dua - lives a life of drinking, talking and smoking opium stardust with his eccentric family. But soon, he will leave this tiny turn-of-the-century town in search of the true meaning of his Shoshone name - and in search of himself.

Along the way Shed will fall in love with the philosophical, green-eyed, half-crazy cowboy Dellwood Barker, a man who talks to the moon, on a…

Dirty Snow

By Georges Simenon, Marc Romano (translator),

Book cover of Dirty Snow

Anthony Carinhas Author Of Sorrow's Garden: A Novel

From the list on the terrors of nihilism.

Who am I?

From the time I was introduced to Depeche Mode, I quickly realized there was an underground scene dissecting the darker realms of human nature. It’s no easy task translating emotion into tangible products like film, books, and music, so if an artist can fixate an audience by getting them to interpret themselves and, the world, more effectively, there’s great value in that. If it hadn’t been for that, I probably wouldn’t have achieved things like being an award-winning author, a paralegal from the University of Texas at Austin, manage workshops via Airbnb Experiences, or receive academic certificates thru Coursera like the Science of Well-Being from Yale and Managing the Company of the Future from London Business School.

Anthony's book list on the terrors of nihilism

Why did Anthony love this book?

Simenon is a master storyteller and father of the noir genre. He quit school as a teenager and never attended a writing program. Dirty Snow is filled with psychological insight and hard facts about life. The main character, Frank Friedmaier, is a brawny young man who lives in his mother’s brothel in France under German occupation. A horrible crime, along with heinous acts, are committed because he cares about nothing and does things without reason. His life is deprived of a father and that void quickly becomes occupied by whores that facilitate a man without optimism. Simenon vividly takes us on a trip into the mind of a creature that can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. This is yet another dark classic about an anti-hero challenged by the notion that he is a man like any other.

By Georges Simenon, Marc Romano (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nineteen-year-old Frank Friedmaier lives in a country under occupation. Most people struggle to get by; Frank takes it easy in his mother's whorehouse, which caters to members of the occupying forces. But Frank is restless. He is a pimp, a thug, a petty thief, and, as Dirty Snowopens, he has just killed his first man. Through the unrelenting darkness and cold of an endless winter, Frank will pursue abjection until at last there is nowhere to go.


Hans Koning has described Dirty Snow as "one of the very few novels to come out of German-occupied France that gets it exactly…

Book cover of The House With the Golden Door

Sharon E. Cathcart Author Of Pompeii Fire

From Sharon's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Historian Linguist Traveler Foodie Disneyphile

Sharon's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Sharon love this book?

Despite being the second book in a series, it stands beautifully on its own. Amara, the main character, is a freedwoman living in Pompeii.

She has seen her freedom bought from the brothel and has been set up in the titular house. However, she also wants her best friend to be free, so she purchases Victoria from the pimp. The twist, however, is that Amara discovers she can run a lucrative business by renting out her slaves and immediately returns on her word to free Victoria.

This book is rich in historical detail. Again, it deals with politics and women’s roles in a completely different milieu. The characters are all complex and believable, given that no one questions the way their lives are dictated by Roman law. 

Van Gogh's Ear

By Bernadette Murphy,

Book cover of Van Gogh's Ear: The True Story

Caroline Cauchi Author Of Mrs Van Gogh

From the list on truly understanding the real Vincent Van Gogh.

Who am I?

As well as being a novelist (ten published books to date), I’m a Senior Lecturer in Prose at Liverpool John Moores University. My current academic fields of interest are the role Johanna van Gogh-Bonger played in Vincent’s rise to fame, the silencing of women involved in creative pursuits, and the consideration of a novelist’s ethical and moral responsibilities when fictionalising a real life. My true passion lies in the creative uncovering of those erased stories, and in adding to the emerging conversation. That’s why I’ve shifted from writing contemporary to historical novels. I’m also known as the international, bestselling author Caroline Smailes (The Drowning of Arthur Braxton).

Caroline's book list on truly understanding the real Vincent Van Gogh

Why did Caroline love this book?

Sadly, when asked about the artist, most people describe Vincent as the man who chopped off his own ear. I hate that they do.

This book though is neither gratuitous nor indulgent. Instead, it offers a detailed, well-researched, and intelligent response to the question - Why did Van Gogh cut off his ear? There has been much speculation about the events that led to Vincent delivering his ear to a maid at a brothel in Arles.

This book is essential reading for any who wishes to open conversations about Vincent’s motivations and the happenings that led to that gruesome act on a specific day in December.

By Bernadette Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Van Gogh's Ear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On a dark night in Provence in December 1888 Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear. It is an act that has come to define him. Yet for more than a century biographers and histo­rians seeking definitive facts about what happened that night have been left with more questions than answers.

In Van Gogh’s Ear Bernadette Murphy sets out to discover exactly what happened that night in Arles. Why would an artist at the height of his powers commit such a brutal act of self-harm? Was it just his lobe, or did Van Gogh really cut off his entire ear?…

Daughters of Night

By Laura Shepherd-Robinson,

Book cover of Daughters of Night

Eric Van Lustbader Author Of The Quantum Solution

From Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Sociologist Futurist Humanist

Eric's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Eric love this book?

There are, at the moment, a glut of authors writing about England in the 1800’s, but none of them can hold a candle to Laura Shepherd-Robinson.

Her prose is so immersive you are almost instantly transported back in time and place. Settle in for a fantastic experience, exploring the squalid and eye-opening underbelly of London’s ladies of the night.

One of this author’s trademarks is creating full-blown characters who you come to know and love within a few pages of their being introduced. Chief among them, and why I love this book above her other two, is her main character, Caroline Corsham, easily one of my favorite characters.

Caro is everything you want in a hero – smart, tough-minded, persistent in running down the perpetrator of the murders that keep the plot of this book racing along mud-splattered roads. I think about Caro all the time and sincerely hope the…

By Laura Shepherd-Robinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The best historical crime novel I will read this year' - The Times

From the pleasure palaces and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson's Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget . . .

'This is right up there with the best of C. J. Sansom and Andrew Taylor' - Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule

London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline 'Caro' Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she…

Flaubert in Egypt

By Gustave Flaubert, Francis Steegmuller (translator),

Book cover of Flaubert in Egypt: A Sensibility on Tour

Rosemary Mahoney Author Of Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

From the list on floating down the Nile.

Who am I?

When author Rosemary Mahoney took a solo trip on the Egyptian Nile in a seven-foot rowboat, she discovered modern Egypt for herself. As a female, she confronted deeply-held beliefs about foreign women while cautiously remaining open to genuine friendships; as a traveler, she had experiences that ranged from the humorous to the hair-raising--including an encounter that began as one of the most frightening of her life and ended as a chastening lesson in cultural misunderstanding.  Whether she's meeting contemporary Egyptians or finding connections to Westerners who traveled the Nile long ago, Mahoney's informed curiosity about Egypt never ceases to captivate the reader.

Rosemary's book list on floating down the Nile

Why did Rosemary love this book?

In November 1849, Gustave Flaubert and his friend Maxime du Camp hired a boat and crew in Alexandria, Egypt and set off on a three-month trip up the Nile. At that time a trip on the Nile was still an extremely unusual and exotic adventure for Europeans. This book comprises Flaubert's letters to his mother and his friends back home in France. Flaubert was a man who deeply disliked his own country, had a longtime love of things oriental, was interested in the baser aspects of humanity, and was capable of writing to in a letter to a friend that women generally confused their cunts (his word) for their brains and thought the moon existed solely to light their boudoirs. 

You'll find here Flaubert's amusing descriptions of Egypt's bazaars, temples, and people, as well as his graphic and honest (possibly even exaggerated) descriptions of his sexual experiences in Egypt's numerous…

By Gustave Flaubert, Francis Steegmuller (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At once a classic of travel literature and a penetrating portrait of a "sensibility on tour," Flaubert in Egypt wonderfully captures the young writer's impressions during his 1849 voyages. Using diaries, letters, travel notes, and the evidence of Flaubert's traveling companion, Maxime Du Camp, Francis Steegmuller reconstructs his journey through the bazaars and brothels of Cairo and down the Nile to the Red Sea.

Book cover of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Merchant Seamen, Pirates and the Anglo-American Maritime World, 1700 1750

Thomas M. Truxes Author Of Defying Empire: Trading with the Enemy in Colonial New York

From the list on 18th century mariners.

Who am I?

Since the publication of my first book in 1988, my emphasis has always been on history as “story.” That is, the stories of men and women in past centuries with whom we share a common humanity but who faced challenges very different from our own. My goal is to bring their stories to as wide an audience as possible. Whether they describe Newfoundland fisherman in the 17th-century North Atlantic, expatriate Irish men and women in 18th-century Bordeaux, or colonial New Yorkers defying British authority on the eve of the American Revolution, the common theme is the impact of trade and the sea on the lives of ordinary people.

Thomas' book list on 18th century mariners

Why did Thomas love this book?

The common seaman and the pirate in the age of sail are romantic historical figures who occupy a special place in the popular culture, but they remain little known to us.  But their lives are not beyond recovery.  Rediker tours the sailor's North Atlantic, following seamen and their ships along the pulsing routes of trade and into rowdy port towns. He recreates life along the waterfront, where seafaring men from around the world crowded into brothels, alehouses, and city jails. And Rediker explores the natural terror that inevitably shaped the existence of those who plied the forbidding oceans of the globe in small, brittle wooden vessels. The mariners in Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea are working men, struggling to overcome the exploitive tendencies of the age in which they lived.

By Marcus Rediker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea focuses upon the seamen's experience in order to illuminate larger historical issues such as the rise of capitalism, the genesis of free wage labor, and the growth of an international working class. These epic themes were intimately bound up with the everyday hopes and fears of the common men who toiled upon the deep.

Woman of Ill Fame

By Erika Mailman,

Book cover of Woman of Ill Fame

Mary Volmer Author Of Reliance, Illinois

From the list on badass 19th century American women.

Who am I?

I don’t write about well-behaved women. I prefer rebels and outcasts, women who, by choice or circumstance, live outside of social norms. 19th-century American history is full of such women—if you know where to look. Hint: not in most public-school textbooks. They’re found, instead, in archives and libraries, in old newspapers and journals, in family letters and autobiographies. The characters in my most recent novel, Reliance, Illinois, were inspired by badass 19th-century women, such as Victoria Woodhull, Mary Livermore, and Olympia Brown. Each of the novels in the list below were inspired by or based on audacious women. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!  

Mary's book list on badass 19th century American women

Why did Mary love this book?

The forthright honesty and the audacity of Nora Simms, narrator of Erika Mailman’s Woman of Ill Fame, is stunning and nearly as compelling as the murder mystery at the center of the novel. Set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush, the novel takes us into the city’s bordellos, which, like the rest of the state, have been infected by a get rich quick at any cost ethos. The cost for many of Nora’s colleagues is high. Women of ill-fame are being killed, one by one, and only Nora is capable and willing to wade through layers of deception to discover the identity of the killer and to save her own life. 

Nora is not your typical damsel in distress and that might be why I love this book so much. She’s not a “good” woman, by society's standards, but she is one of the most surprising…

By Erika Mailman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Looking for a better life, prostitute Nora Simms arrives in Gold Rush San Francisco with a plan for success: to strike it rich by trading on her good looks. But when a string of murders claims several of her fellow women of ill fame, Nora grows uneasy with how closely linked all of the victims are to her. She must distinguish friend from foe in a race to discover the identity of the killer.

"I LOVED Woman of Ill Fame! Nora Simms is hilarious, heartbreaking, tough, perceptive...and one of the most engaging characters I've ever met between the pages of…

Heaven's My Destination

By Thornton Wilder,

Book cover of Heaven's My Destination

Sam Torode Author Of The Dirty Parts of the Bible

From the list on seriously funny novels.

Who am I?

I’m the author of The Dirty Parts of the Bible, which has been a #1 Kindle bestseller in Humorous Literary Fiction on several occasions. In school, I hated the sorts of novels we were assigned. Unable to connect with them, I read Cliff’s Notes instead. Then we were given The Catcher in the Rye. It was a revelation—literature can be relatable, engaging, and funny?! The next novel to grab me this way was The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Like Catcher, it was gritty and often dark, addressing serious concerns—but it did so with humor. These books were my gateway into enjoying fiction—and, ultimately, to writing my own story in the same category of serious-yet-funny.

Sam's book list on seriously funny novels

Why did Sam love this book?

This is a little-known gem by three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thornton Wilder (best known for his play Our Town). Published in the 1935, it’s a contemporaneous account of Depression-era America, following the misadventures of traveling salesman and religious zealot, George Brush. 

Coming off as preachy and self-righteous, George sparks ire and outrage wherever he goes. Yet, he’s a sincere and decent person. At the end of his misadventures, George is humbled and begins to broaden his views, making him a complex, sympathetic character.

Though renowned during his lifetime, Wilder has been largely forgotten in favor of flashier contemporaries. All of his works are worth rediscovering, but Heaven’s My Destination is closest to my heart as it was a major inspiration for my own book.  

By Thornton Wilder,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heaven's My Destination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The law of contract is ripe for feminist analysis. Despite increasing calls for the re-conceptualisation of neo-classical ways of thinking, feminist perspectives on contract tend to be marginalised in mainstream textbooks. This edited collection questions the assumptions made in such works and the ideologies that underpin them, drawing attention to the ways in which the law of contract has facilitated the virtual exclusion of women, the feminine and the private sphere from legal discourse.

Contributors to this volume offer a range of ways of thinking about the subject and cover topics such as the feminine offeree, feminist perspectives on contracts…

Into the Suffering City

By Bill Lefurgy,

Book cover of Into the Suffering City: A Novel of Baltimore

G.P. Gottlieb Author Of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

From the list on fabulous historical mysteries set in American cities.

Who am I?

I read at least 100 books each year, mostly novels, and before I became a published author in 2019, used to send a list of my favorite 30 to hundreds of friends, friends of friends, and family. I began hosting New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, in 2018, and have interviewed over 180 authors so far. It was tough to choose just 5 top books, but in looking over all those interviews, I remembered how much I loved reading these books, all set in the United States long before the 21st century.

G.P.'s book list on fabulous historical mysteries set in American cities

Why did G.P. love this book?

Sarah Kennecott is a brilliant young doctor who cares deeply about justice, but she’s not like other people; she doesn’t like noises and smells, she doesn’t understand chit chat, and she cannot interpret inflection or nuance.

It’s 1909, and the city of Baltimore is filled with gilded mansions and a seedy corrupt, underworld. Sarah struggles to be accepted as a doctor. After getting fired for looking too closely into the killing of a showgirl, she refuses to back down from the investigation and joins forces with a street-smart private detective who can access saloons, brothels, and burlesque theaters where Sarah isn’t allowed.

Together, they unravel a few secrets that could cost them their lives.

Loved a protagonist who is both a doctor and on the autism scale – we don’t see that many differently-abled protagonists in historical fiction, especially not in mysteries. Refreshing!

By Bill Lefurgy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Into the Suffering City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Baltimore Novel of Suspense

Baltimore, 1909. Sarah Kennecott is a brilliant young doctor who cares deeply about justice for murder victims. She also has a habit of displeasing powerful men and getting into trouble. After getting fired for looking too closely into the killing of a showgirl, she refuses to back down from the investigation.

Sarah forms a promising partnership with Jack Harden, a street-smart private detective struggling with terrible memories. They have much in common: Both defiant. Both independent. Both regarded as a bit unusual. Sarah gathers evidence in gilded mansions and fancy ballrooms. Jack follows leads into…

The Flower Boat Girl

By Larry Feign,

Book cover of The Flower Boat Girl

Reni Stankova Author Of Sirma: A historical fiction novel about a woman Haiduk

From the list on extraordinary women from history.

Who am I?

I'm a hybrid author from Bulgaria, and my work mostly focuses on historical fiction and fantasy. History has always been mainly centered around the male point of view. But many female heroes would also like to tell us their stories. My fascination started with the women Haiduks of Bulgaria, which gave birth to my first book Sirma. And the more I researched, the more I realized countless historical female figures worldwide deserve just as much attention. I hope this list is enriching to all readers and helps them see their captivating point of view.

Reni's book list on extraordinary women from history

Why did Reni love this book?

The Flower Boat Girl is a historical novel about the life of Zheng Yi Sao, the most successful pirate in history (and, yes, a woman). Sold as a child to a floating brothel, at 26 she buys her freedom, but then is kidnapped and forced to marry a pirate. From there, she uses her strength and cunning mind to carve her destiny and practically make history. I loved this book, because it gives us an honest portrayal of a pirate's life and how a woman has no place in it, yet one woman makes it against all odds.

By Larry Feign,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Her father traded away her youth.
Sea bandits stole her freedom.
She has one way to get them back:
Become the most powerful pirate in the world.

South China coast, 1801. Sold as a child to a floating brothel, 26-year-old Yang has finally bought her freedom, only to be kidnapped by a brutal pirate gang and forced to marry their leader.

Dragged through stormy seas and lawless bandit havens, Yang must stay scrappy to survive. She embeds herself in the dark business of piracy, carving out her role against the resistance of powerful pirate leaders and Cheung Po Tsai, her…

The Sins of Jack Branson

By David Schulze,

Book cover of The Sins of Jack Branson

Sydney Dell Author Of Take My Hand

From the list on LGBTQ that evoke emotions.

Who am I?

I’ve been a part of the LGBTQ+ community my whole life and have always been passionate about advocating for the people who identify as such. Furthermore, I have always had a fascination with emotional stories and the combination of a lack of many LGBTQ+ books with an abundance of romance and emotional thrillers out there makes it a ripe topic for stories. As a lesbian myself, it is very hard to write stories that don’t have those kinds of couples, so I tend to stick to that genre and I’m absolutely addicted to lesbian books.

Sydney's book list on LGBTQ that evoke emotions

Why did Sydney love this book?

While reading this book, I was impressed by the skillful ability of the author to make me sympathize with the characters and begin rooting for them.

Their masterful execution of character development and the way I wanted to jump into the story to help make it one of the most amazing I have ever read and I would highly recommend it to those who are struggling to find a way to overcome sadness.

By David Schulze,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Schulze's depiction of the Victorian era is atmospheric and intense in conveying the persecution gay people faced." - Kirkus Review

England, 1881. Being gay is both a sin and a crime. Parents disowning their children is considered honourable. Consensual sex risks life in prison. Sodomy scandals ruin careers and reputations. Homosexuals have to choose between safety and happiness.

After an unspeakable incident gets him exiled from his idyllic Irish hometown, twenty-four-year-old Jack Branson rebuilds his life in fog-and-mould London as a house call prostitute for closeted members of the British aristocracy. His dangerous, lucrative profession makes him dependent on the…