The best books about childhood sexual abuse

Who picked these books? Meet our 40 experts.

40 authors created a book list connected to childhood sexual abuse, and here are their favorite childhood sexual abuse books.
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The People in the Trees

By Hanya Yanagihara,

Book cover of The People in the Trees

Heather Parry Author Of Orpheus Builds A Girl

From the list on compelling creepy.

Who am I?

I’m a fiction and nonfiction writer originally from Rotherham, South Yorkshire but I now live and work in Glasgow. I have always loved dark books, even when I was a kid; I was firmly on the Goosebumps-Point Horror-Stephen King pipeline, and ended up in dark literary fiction. I love work that challenges the reader, makes them complicit, forces them to keep going despite everything because the writing is just so good. Here are five books I come back to time and time again. 

Heather's book list on compelling creepy

Discover why each book is one of Heather's favorite books.

Why did Heather love this book?

I first picked this up in a bookshop in Bangalore, knowing nothing about it or the (now very famous) author.

I was unprepared for a novel that managed to evoke the lush and intense vibrancy of South Pacific Islands, the depravity of a real-life Nobel Prize winner who was accused of heinous crimes, and the heartbreak of losing someone to dementia – all at the same time.

This is an uncomfortable but unputdownable novel, and one that affected me so deeply I now have a tattoo of it; on my thumb is the symbol carved into wood to signal that the ’people in the trees’ live there, in memory of my beloved grandmother. 

By Hanya Yanagihara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A thrilling anthropological adventure story with a profound and tragic vision of what happens when cultures collide—from the bestselling author of National Book Award–nominated modern classic, A Little Life

“Provokes discussions about science, morality and our obsession with youth.” —Chicago Tribune

It is 1950 when Norton Perina, a young doctor, embarks on an expedition to a remote Micronesian island in search of a rumored lost tribe. There he encounters a strange group of forest dwellers who appear to have attained a form of immortality that preserves the body but not the mind. Perina uncovers their secret and returns with it…


Not That Bad

By Roxane Gay,

Book cover of Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Jennifer L. Pierce Author Of Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action

From the list on women’s rights in the American workplace.

Who am I?

Women’s rights in the workplace have been my passion for thirty years. As a sociologist who does fieldwork and oral histories, I am interested in understanding work through workers’ perspectives. The most important thing I’ve learned is that employers can be notoriously reluctant to enact change and that the most effective route to workplace justice is through collective action. I keep writing because I want more of us to imagine workplaces that value workers by compensating everyone fairly and giving workers greater control over their office’s rhythm and structure. 

Jennifer's book list on women’s rights in the American workplace

Discover why each book is one of Jennifer's favorite books.

Why did Jennifer love this book?

Roxane Gay’s memoir writing is brilliant! So is her collection of personal essays written by women who have experienced sexual harassment and rape.

Gay’s painful introductory piece on learning to understand her own experience of being gang raped at age twelve as “not that bad” illuminates the problem with rape culture. Women learn to blame themselves. 

As the essays by other authors make clear, rape culture is bad and women are often denigrated when they speak out, but they must come together to foment change. Whether the essays focus on workplace harassment or date rape, they all hold key lessons for the importance of women’s sexual autonomy at work.

By Roxane Gay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Not That Bad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Edited and with an introduction by Roxane Gay, the New York Times bestselling and deeply beloved author of Bad Feminist and Hunger, this anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault, and harassment head-on.

Vogue, 10 of the Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2018
Harper's Bazaar, 10 New Books to Add to Your Reading List in 2018
Elle, 21 Books We're Most Excited to Read in 2018
Boston Globe, 25 books we can't wait to read in 2018
Huffington Post, 60 Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2018
Buzzfeed, 33 Most Exciting New Books of 2018

In this valuable and…


A Stone Sat Still

By Brendan Wenzel (illustrator),

Book cover of A Stone Sat Still

Carli Valentine Author Of The Fun Thieves

From the list on that teach how perspective is everything.

Who am I?

I've always believed in the power behind positive thinking, but it’s easy to get caught up in feelings of worry or disappointment. I picked this topic because I feel that perspective is the tool that can help us change a negative attitude into a positive one. We don’t always have control of various things happening in the world around us. However, we do have the power to try to change our perspective and look at things in a more positive way. I believe this skill is essential to find gratitude and happiness in life, and I love how each of these books approach the topic of the importance of perspective in different ways.

Carli's book list on that teach how perspective is everything

Discover why each book is one of Carli's favorite books.

Why did Carli love this book?

I absolutely adore this book by Brendan Wenzel. It’s all about a stone and how various animals see it and describe it in completely different ways. It contains a powerful message about how we all have different perspectives. Many different factors play into our perspectives such as life experiences, our upbringing, our personality, and our attitude. It was a wonderful conversation starter with my children so we could talk about how we can change our attitudes and shape our perspectives to achieve a more happy life. 

By Brendan Wenzel (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The brilliant follow-up to the Caldecott Honor-winning and New York Times bestselling picture book They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel!

A Stone Sat Still tells the story of a seemingly ordinary rock-but to the animals that use it, it is a resting place, a kitchen, a safe haven...even an entire world.

This is a gorgeous exploration of perspective, perception, and the passage of time, with an underlying environmental message that is timely and poignant.

* Filled with stunning illustrations in cut paper, pencil, collage, and paint
* Soothing rhythms invite reading aloud and bedtime snuggles
* Introduces concepts…


Book cover of The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse

Michael Castleman Author Of Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age

From the list on sex and sexuality.

Who am I?

During a career spanning almost 50 years, Michael Castleman has become the world’s most popular sex expert you’ve probably never heard of.  He has answered more sexuality questions than anyone else on the planet.

Michael's book list on sex and sexuality

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

The myth is that childhood sexual abuse is so horrific that survivors are scarred for life and can never enjoy fulfilling lovemaking. Actually, with information and therapy, survivors can enjoy deeply pleasurable and satisfying sex lives. This book points the way. 

By Staci Haines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Survivor's Guide to Sex as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Based on the author's extensive training and experience in working with abuse survivors, The Survivor's Guide to Sex offers an affirming, sex-positive approach to recovery from incest and rape. While most books on the topic broach sexuality only to reassure women that it is alright to say "no" to unwanted sex, this one encourages women to learn how to say "yes" to their own desires and on their own terms.

Points of discussion include problems common to women survivors. Haines teaches survivors to embrace their own sexual choices and preferences, learn about their own sexual response cycles, and heal through…


Edinburgh

By Alexander Chee,

Book cover of Edinburgh

Michael Kiggins Author Of And the Train Kept Moving

From the list on unreliable and morally compromised characters.

Who am I?

Since I was introduced to many authors published by Grove Press, I have been intrigued by transgressive literary fiction, especially stories and novels that feature narrators and protagonists whose unreliability and moral culpability fuel plots to surprising yet inevitable climaxes. Lesser writers of such works use the shocking and revolting as crutches for vapid prose, failing to lead readers to revelations that can be found in the darkest places and in the unlikeliest of people. What better accomplishment can any writer ask for except getting readers, in some way, to identify with characters whom they would avoid in real life?

Michael's book list on unreliable and morally compromised characters

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

Chee’s debut novel is quite simply a masterpiece. His language and imagery are lush and lyrical and arresting.

The beauty of the prose stands in stark contrast to the subject matter of child sexual abuse and the long-lasting trauma of that, pulling you into the primary narrator’s story. Once you finish it, you will want to begin reading all over again.

By Alexander Chee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A poignant work of mature, haunting artistry, Edinburgh heralds the arrival of a remarkable young writer. Fee, a Korean-American child growing up in Maine, is gifted with a beautiful soprano voice and sings in a professional boys' choir. When the choir director acts out his paedophilic urges on the boys in the choir, Fee is unable to save himself, his first love, Peter, or his friends.


Invisible Girl

By Sandra J. Dixon,

Book cover of Invisible Girl

S.M. Stevens Author Of Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

From the list on uplifting stories of sexual abuse and harassment.

Who am I?

I’m a big fan of fiction that fills a need. While recovering from a broken pelvis, I wrote a book for my animal/adventure-loving fifth-grader. A year later, while in treatment for ovarian cancer, I wrote a series for my other daughter and teens/tweens who love musical theater but can’t find books set in that world. When the Harvey Weinstein nightmare erupted, I was horrified at the parallels in how naysayers treat victims of both incest and workplace harassment. I decided the world needed a novel exploring that, and taking readers into the minds of survivors. (Thankfully, I wasn’t recovering from an injury or disease while writing that one!)

S.M.'s book list on uplifting stories of sexual abuse and harassment

Discover why each book is one of S.M.'s favorite books.

Why did S.M. love this book?

The younger the victim, the more egregious the act seems. This true story is a riveting read. Dixon repressed childhood incest memories until, ironically, she became a nurse helping others with similar pasts. The book is an insightful look at how hidden pain manifests itself in our current lives regardless of what walls the mind has erected to protect us. Woven into the memoir is helpful advice for survivors, counselors, lawyers, and others working with abuse victims. I was mesmerized.

By Sandra J. Dixon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This story breaks new frontiers in what we know about repressed memories. It is a riveting account of horrific and humorous events of living in the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. It is based on the author's personal experience and that of hundreds of patients she treated as a mental health professional. She weaves prevention recommendations into the book to help prevent child abuse.


The Part That Burns

By Jeannine Ouellette,

Book cover of The Part That Burns

Jennifer Lang Author Of Places We Left Behind: a memoir-in-miniature

From the list on home and why it isn’t obvious for everyone.

Who am I?

For my first 18 years, I slept in the same room (opposite my parents) in the same house (116 Monticello Avenue) in the same city (Piedmont) in the same state (CA) in the same country (USA), but soon after leaving for college in Evanston, IL, I pined for elsewhere and ended up peripatetic. That peripateticness plagued me, as a woman/wife/mother. While growing our family, my French husband and I moved: Israel to France to California to New York to Israel to New York to Israel. Finally, in my early fifties, I understood home is more about who you are than where you live. 

Jennifer's book list on home and why it isn’t obvious for everyone

Discover why each book is one of Jennifer's favorite books.

Why did Jennifer love this book?

The Part That Burns is not a linear narrative but a memoir in fragments. Each essay or chapter is different, interesting, engaging like scattered pieces of a puzzle that the writer—and reader—are trying to put together.

It's about a childhood wrought with abuse and rejection, about trauma and epigenetics, home and roots. It's about a girl who grows up to become a teenager who becomes a young woman who becomes a wife and a mother and every step of the way, she yearns for what we all yearn for: acceptance and love.

My memoir is as slim and sparse as Ouellette’s and some might consider my chronological story as fragmented because of its tiny chapters and missing connective tissue from one chapter to the next.  

By Jeannine Ouellette,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I love this book and am grateful it is in the world." —Dorothy Allison, New York Times best-selling author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller
"Simply beautiful. Precisely imagined, poetically structured, compelling, and vivid." —Joyce Carol Oates
"A textured remembrance of a traumatic childhood that also offers affecting moments of beauty." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

In her fiercely beautiful memoir, Jeannine Ouellette recollects fragments of her life and arranges them elliptically to witness each piece as torn and whole, as something more than itself. Caught between the dramatic landscapes of Lake Superior and Casper Mountain, between her stepfather’s groping…


Book cover of The Burning Light of Two Stars: A Mother-Daughter Story

Karen C.L. Anderson Author Of You Are Not Your Mother: Releasing Generational Trauma and Shame

From the list on difficult mother/adult daughter relationships.

Who am I?

In the 1980s, my mother “divorced” her mother with a letter in the mail. In 2010 I did the same via email. I thought it was just my dysfunctional family, but come to find out, mother-adult daughter estrangement is not unusual and difficult mother-daughter relationships don’t happen in a vacuum, they happen in the context of patriarchy, white supremacy, internalized misogyny, and other oppressive systems. Through therapy and, later, when I trained to be a life coach, allllll my “mother stuff” came up. The tools and practices I learned and developed were so helpful to me, I couldn’t keep them to myself. 

Karen's book list on difficult mother/adult daughter relationships

Discover why each book is one of Karen's favorite books.

Why did Karen love this book?

Laura Davis hits it out of the park with this epically honest and human memoir.

In it, she tells the story of how, after decades of estrangement due to family abuse and incest, which her mother denied, she decides to care for her elderly mother. I believe any woman will find value, wisdom, and relief in The Burning Light of Two Stars, but it is especially poignant for mothers and adult daughters who have struggled, are estranged, and/or are navigating reconciliation.

It is in revealing and speaking the truth, that healing, even when it's messy and emotional, can take place. 

By Laura Davis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Burning Light of Two Stars as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Caregiving an elderly parent, especially against the backdrop of a difficult shared past, can be a bruising spiritual ordeal. We who must travel this territory don't need any more sentimental narratives about it. What we do need is the healing medicine of truth-telling, and Laura Davis brilliantly and generously gives it to us. I literally could not put this book down."

—Katy Butler, bestselling author of Knocking on Heaven's Door and The Art of Dying Well

This riveting memoir by Laura Davis, the author of The Courage to Heal, examines the endurance of mother-daughter love, how memory protects and betrays…


In the Name of the Children

By Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong,

Book cover of In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators

Dianne DeMille Author Of Path of the Devil: Camino del Diablo

From the list on true crime and corruption.

Who am I?

As an educator and author of many books, I was asked to write a book about the spiritual journey of a DEA agent with two PIs. They were determined to end a notorious Cartel organization operating along the U.S. Southwestern border. For over five years the two Private Investigators (PI) and DEA Agent Larry Hardin prepared the case for prosecution. The case hit one roadblock after another when presented to five different U.S. Attorneys for prosecution. The books listed below will appeal to similar customers and show connections of the criminal underworld and how the judicial system function’s; finding a way to bring them to justice. News junkies, historians, and true crime enthusiasts will enjoy reading these stories told by those who investigated the activities. 

Dianne's book list on true crime and corruption

Discover why each book is one of Dianne's favorite books.

Why did Dianne love this book?

This is an excellent reading about a former FBI agent not giving up on their search to find predators. I truly honor this agent for how he never gave up on the search. From my former experience as a Special Agent with The Drug Enforcement Administration, the writers did a thorough job to focus on how the FBI Agents unselfishly dedicated long investigative hours to target the predators of children. The writers described how the FBI agent’s moral beliefs and his dedication to helping the sexually abused children; perseverance, and creative innovative investigative techniques that enable him to find the predators.

By Jeffrey L. Rinek, Marilee Strong,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked In the Name of the Children as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The voice that narrates In the Name of the Children: An F.B.I. Agent's Relentless Pursuit of the Nation's Worst Predators, which Rinek wrote with the journalist Marilee Strong, sounds warm and humane, qualities missing from much crime writing. Their book is a professional job, filled with illuminating details about the day-to-day operations of the bureau."

—New York Times Book Review 

 

FBI Special Agent Jeff Rinek had a gift for getting child predators to confess. All he had to do was share a piece of his soul . . .

In the Name of the Children gives an unflinching look at…


Treating The Adult Survivor Of Childhood Sexual Abuse

By Jody Messler Davies, Mary Gail Frawley,

Book cover of Treating The Adult Survivor Of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Psychoanalytic Perspective

Helen Epstein Author Of The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

From the list on healing from sexual trauma.

Who am I?

I'm a veteran author, journalist, and journalism professor who has taught over 1000 students. At the age of 50, through a memoir I began writing, I fell down a rabbit hole of memory and began to suspect I had been sexually abused as a child. The man was a close family friend, who liked to call himself my grandfather. He did not speak English. My parents were immigrants and the usual difficulties of retrieving memories from childhood were complicated by the fact that they were all in the Czech language. For years I read everything I could find about childhood sexual abuse and then everything I could read about psychoanalysis.

Helen's book list on healing from sexual trauma

Discover why each book is one of Helen's favorite books.

Why did Helen love this book?

Although this is a book written for practitioners rather than patients of psychotherapy, I found it extremely valuable in understanding what I was doing in therapy, how it worked, what to expect, and how to explain many of my reactions to it.

Dealing with sexual abuse in therapy is a tumultuous experience and has been described as “an intimidating challenge for clinicians.” It’s also an enormous challenge for patients. I liked reading about how the process felt for therapists and could recognize in many of the case studies, my own.

By Jody Messler Davies, Mary Gail Frawley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Treating The Adult Survivor Of Childhood Sexual Abuse as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Entering the tumultuous, dissociated world of the adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse presents an intimidating challenge for clinicians. But as the authors of this innovative book argue, therapists must be willing and able to work within the powerful and rapidly shifting relational paradigms of transference and countertransference commonly found in treatment of these patients. Such dual roles enacted in treatment include the unseeing, uninvolved parent and the unseen, neglected child the sadistic abuser and the helpless, enraged victim the idealized rescuer and the entitled child and the seducer and the seduced.This is the first model for treatment of adult…


When Rabbit Howls

By Truddi Chase,

Book cover of When Rabbit Howls: A First-Person Account of Multiple Personality, Memory, and Recovery

Anna Bozena Bowen Author Of Hattie

From the list on our human struggles and triumphs.

Who am I?

As a nurse, survivor, intuitive, and healer, when ministering to the sick, the injured, the traumatized, and the dying, I saw, sensed, and gained a deeper understanding of who we are as human and spiritual beings. I also witnessed the emotional, physical, spiritual, and psychological scars trauma leaves on survivors. How can we hold onto hope during challenging times? We need to expand our consciousness about the inhumanity that exists in our world. Stop saying, “How can that be? I don’t believe it.” We are on a human and spiritual journey to who we are. Stories are told to heal, to inform, to own our truths, and to offer hope. 

Anna's book list on our human struggles and triumphs

Discover why each book is one of Anna's favorite books.

Why did Anna love this book?

Gaining a deeper connection to and awareness of self—mind, body, heart, and spirit—was significant to my healing journey from childhood sexual abuse. Chase’s deeply moving autobiography is a powerful, profound, and painful story of survival, about how she recovered her memories and coped with childhood sexual, emotional, and physical abuses by splitting off into many personalities, known as DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder). Over my nursing career, I was blessed with opportunities to work with survivors and privileged to hear many women’s stories. In 1990, When Rabbit Howls found its way onto my bookshelf. After many decades, it still holds a significant role in validating the experiences many survivors hold and educating society about the effects of trauma on our minds, bodies, hearts, and spirits.

By Truddi Chase,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A woman diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder reveals her harrowing journey from abuse to recovery in this #1 New York Times bestselling autobiography written by her own multiple personalities.

Successful, happily married Truddi Chase began therapy hoping to find the reasons behind her extreme anxiety, mood swings, and periodic blackouts. What emerged from her sessions was terrifying: Truddi's mind and body were inhabited by the Troops-ninety-two individual voices that emerged to shield her from her traumatizing childhood.

For years the Troops created a world where she could hide from the pain of the ritualized sexual abuse she suffered at the…


Beyond Survival

By Ejeris Dixon, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha,

Book cover of Beyond Survival: Strategies and Stories from the Transformative Justice Movement

Roxanna Asgarian Author Of We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

From the list on how our systems are failing vulnerable children.

Who am I?

I’m an investigative journalist and author, and a decade ago I began digging into the child welfare system—what we call the patchwork web of child protection agencies around the country. The more I learned, the more I realized how this system, which is ostensibly to help children in need, is actually perpetrating deep and lasting harm on generations of children and families. These books have helped me understand how we punish poor people instead of helping them, and how our racist systems harm Black and Indigenous children. They’ve also helped me to sit with the reality of child abuse, and begin to see a different way of preventing harm and healing those who’ve been hurt. 

Roxanna's book list on how our systems are failing vulnerable children

Discover why each book is one of Roxanna's favorite books.

Why did Roxanna love this book?

Two high-profile activists have edited this anthology, which tackles the problem of how to address harm without incarcerating people.

A lot of people get stuck on abolition because they see it as a tearing down of a system, without understanding what new structures we’d need to build in its place. These brilliant thinkers grapple with what a more humane and accountable process would look like.

I particularly recommend the chapter on the transformative justice approach to ending child sexual abuse.

By Ejeris Dixon, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Transformative justice seeks to solve the problem of violence at the grassroots level, without relying on punishment, incarceration, or policing. Community-based approaches to preventing crime and repairing its damage have existed for centuries. However, in the punative atmosphere of contemporary criminal justice systems, they are often marginalized and operate under the radar. Beyond Survival puts these strategies front and center as real alternatives to today’s failed models of confinement and “correction.”

In this collection, a diverse group of authors focuses on concrete and practical forms of redress and accountability, assessing existing practices and marking paths forward. They use a variety…


Marrow

By Tarryn Fisher,

Book cover of Marrow

Leigh M. Hall Author Of Capability

From the list on women overcoming obstacles and female empowerment.

Who am I?

I grew up with a single mother, lots of siblings, and little money. Books were my escape from reality. My love for reading began at an early age, back in the Babysitting Club days. I started writing as a girl but never thought it was something I would show other people. I kept my nose stuck in any book I could get my hands on, my favorites have become psychological thrillers. After spending decades in the medical field, I decided that it was time for me to write again. Once I completed my first novel and sent it out to agents, I quickly learned that I was right where I needed to be. 

Leigh's book list on women overcoming obstacles and female empowerment

Discover why each book is one of Leigh's favorite books.

Why did Leigh love this book?

I am a long-time Fisher fan, and I love all of her books, but this one really spoke to me. So much pain and brutality trapped inside one girl makes you think of many different scenarios, none of which are what happens. Fisher creates amazing stories with fascinating twists and turns, but this one tops the cake. Gripping and graphic to the point that you forget you are reading fiction. I love unhappy and open endings that make you think and question what you just read; this one just might be my favorite. 

By Tarryn Fisher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the Bone there is a house. In the house there is a girl. In the girl there is a darkness. Margo is not like other girls. She lives in a derelict neighborhood called the Bone, in a cursed house, with her cursed mother, who hasn’t spoken to her in over two years. She lives her days feeling invisible. It’s not until she develops a friendship with her wheelchair-bound neighbor, Judah Grant, that things begin to change. When neighborhood girl, seven-year-old Neveah Anthony, goes missing, Judah sets out to help Margo uncover what happened to her. What Margo finds changes…


The Color Purple

By Alice Walker,

Book cover of The Color Purple

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

Discover why each book is one of Sydney's favorite books.

Why did Sydney love this book?

I was absolutely blown away by the sheer intensity of the emotions shown in this book and how the author intricately portrayed each of the characters’ development.

Celie, Nettie, and Shug are works of art that are able to clearly display their feelings through action and thought. Through much of this book, I got very teary-eyed at how much the book moved me and I’m grateful to this author for evoking this from me.

By Alice Walker,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Color Purple as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker's iconic modern classic is now a Penguin Book.

A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug…


When You Know What I Know

By Sonja K. Solter,

Book cover of When You Know What I Know

Cathleen Barnhart Author Of That's What Friends Do

From the list on #MeToo for middle grade readers.

Who am I?

In That’s What Friends Do, the #MeToo experience that Sammie’s mom shares with Sammie is my story. I was thirteen. I never told anyone. Even as I started writing my novel, it didn’t occur to me to share with my husband, or my teenage children, my experience. But one evening, as the #MeToo movement was exploding in the media, I was sitting around a dinner table with several other couples. All of the women had had a #MeToo experience. Most of us were young teens when it happened. Shame and guilt had kept us silent for far too long. My novel – and the others on my list – are working to break through that silence.

Cathleen's book list on #MeToo for middle grade readers

Discover why each book is one of Cathleen's favorite books.

Why did Cathleen love this book?

This lyrical novel-in-verse tells the story of fifth-grader, Tori, whose uncle does something bad to her on the couch in the basement of her house. The story begins immediately after the incident, which is described very obliquely, and beautifully captures Tori’s shock, shame, anger, and profound sense of brokenness. Adults who should listen to her and help her don’t always come through, and Tori’s shame also causes her to pull away from her closest friends. But slowly, with the help of her mom, her little sister, and her teacher, Tori begins to speak up. I thought Sonja Solter beautifully captured Tori’s grief, her retreat to silence and smallness, and her gradual, incremental healing process. I especially loved Tori’s relationship with her little sister and how it evolves.

By Sonja K. Solter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When You Know What I Know as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When you know what I know, you'll wish you didn't.

It's not the kind of thing you can talk about at school, or at the park, or anywhere, with a new friend or an old one, or even with your sister. (She's too little.)

But it's everywhere once you know, once you can't not know. In your face, under your eyelids. If you turn your back on it, there it is anyway.

One day after school, in the basement on the couch, Tori's uncle did something bad. Afterwards, Tori did the right thing, and told her mom. But even if…


The Cement Garden

By Ian McEwan,

Book cover of The Cement Garden

Felicia Carparelli Author Of Killing Mr. Darcy

From the list on thrillers with a Gothic theme.

Who am I?

I am a teacher with degrees in Psychology and Special Education. Human emotion and motivation are favorite reading and research themes of mine. Books that explore why we make the choices we do, whether right or wrong, fascinate me. Therapy and the need for self-awareness are also topics close to my heart. Combining literary classics like Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet, and Pride and Prejudice into my work is a challenge. I also write books for young adults and have started a novel with LGBTQ themes.

Felicia's book list on thrillers with a Gothic theme

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Why did Felicia love this book?

This novel is a story of love gone wrong. Four siblings have secrets and a need to survive. Death, incest, and lack of boundaries define the family after the death of their parents. How much do we learn from our family about right and wrong? Why is their moral compass lost? Or did they ever have one? Fascinating study of family dynamics and the tragic effects that bad parenting can create.

By Ian McEwan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the arid summer heat, four children - Jack, Julie, Sue and Tom - find themselves abruptly orphaned. All the routines of childhood are cast aside as the children adapt to a now parentless world. Alone in the house together, the children's lives twist into something unrecognisable as the outside begins to bear down on them.


The Courage to Heal

By Ellen Bass, Laura Davis,

Book cover of The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse

Helen Epstein Author Of The Long Half-Lives of Love and Trauma

From the list on healing from sexual trauma.

Who am I?

I'm a veteran author, journalist, and journalism professor who has taught over 1000 students. At the age of 50, through a memoir I began writing, I fell down a rabbit hole of memory and began to suspect I had been sexually abused as a child. The man was a close family friend, who liked to call himself my grandfather. He did not speak English. My parents were immigrants and the usual difficulties of retrieving memories from childhood were complicated by the fact that they were all in the Czech language. For years I read everything I could find about childhood sexual abuse and then everything I could read about psychoanalysis.

Helen's book list on healing from sexual trauma

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Why did Helen love this book?

The Courage to Heal was another of the first books I turned to when I began reading about childhood sexual abuse.

I felt confused back then and ambivalent about believing that I had been abused that I didn’t borrow the book from a library or buy it. Instead I went to the local bookstore and read it crouched in an aisle. It’s a great survey of the world of people who were sexually abused as children, with many case studies, background research, and resources for community support. 

By Ellen Bass, Laura Davis,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Courage to Heal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Come to terms with your past while moving powerfully into the future

The Courage to Heal is an inspiring, comprehensive guide that offers hope and a map of the healing journey to every woman who was sexually abused as a child—and to those who care about her. Although the effects of child sexual abuse are long-term and severe, healing is possible.

Weaving together personal experience with professional knowledge, the authors provide clear explanations, practical suggestions, and support throughout the healing process. Readers will feel recognized and encouraged by hundreds of moving first-person stories drawn from interviews and the authors' extensive…


American Daughter

By Stephanie Thornton Plymale, Elissa Wald,

Book cover of American Daughter: A Memoir

Julia Amante Author Of Let Us Begin

From the list on parent/child relationship leading to redemption.

Who am I?

Women’s fiction is about relationships and issues that women deal with daily. I wish I could write thrillers or fantasy—those are so much fun to read, but I’m most fascinated by people and the life-changing choices they make. Being the daughter of immigrants has made me obsessed with two things, one is identity and the second is success. My books touch on the discovery of self and how that leads to success. And if we're honest, our relationships with our parents have a massive effect on who we become and our beliefs. I’ve explored parent/child relationships in all my novels, but most intimately in Let Us Begin which is based on my father’s life.

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Why did Julia love this book?

American Daughter caught my interest because of the title. I was writing a novel based on my father’s search for the American Dream, and we had a contentious relationship. I always felt like the American Daughter of an Argentine dad.

American Daughter, however, didn’t really have anything to do with being American aside from showing the realities or another side of the American Dream, the pain, the struggle, and the brokenness of American families.

I ended up relating to this book much more than I expected. The author’s mother was mentally unstable, selfish, and unable to actually mother. My father, and the character of my novel, was also all three of those things.

I felt a connection with the author because I understood how difficult it must have been for her to ultimately forgive her mother and see her as a damaged human being who did the best she could.…

By Stephanie Thornton Plymale, Elissa Wald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The sharp and surprising true story of a woman who finally sets out to understand her past, and the mother she had one day hoped to forget. Full of unexpected twists and unbelievable revelations, American Daughter is an immersive memoir that will have you on the edge of your seat to the very last page.

For years, Stephanie Plymale, successful CEO and interior designer, kept her past a fiercely guarded secret. Only her husband knew that her childhood was fraught with every imaginable hardship: neglect, hunger, poverty, homelessness, truancy, foster homes, a harrowing lack of medical care, and worse. Stephanie,…


Doubt

By John Patrick Shanley,

Book cover of Doubt: A Parable

Will Dunne Author Of The Dramatic Writer's Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories

From the list on plays with characters who leap off the page.

Who am I?

I’m a playwright who loves not only writing plays but also teaching dramatic writing workshops – mostly through my San Francisco program and Chicago Dramatists where I’m a Resident Playwright. My plays have received many awards and honors, including three selections for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and have been presented in Europe, Russia, and Australia as well as the U.S. Meanwhile my workshops and script consultations have given me the opportunity to work with thousands of writers over the past 35 years. This led me to begin writing books for writers, starting with The Dramatic Writer’s Companion, now in its Second Edition.

Will's book list on plays with characters who leap off the page

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Why did Will love this book?

You don’t have to grow up Catholic to like this play, but It sure doesn’t hurt.

Set in a Catholic elementary school in the Bronx, Doubt introduces us to Sister Aloysius, an uncompromising principal who runs her school as if it were a Marine bootcamp. This regime gets shaken when suspicions of sexual child abuse begin to arise.

What I like most about this play is how four flesh-and-blood characters – a school principal, a history teacher, a priest/gym instructor, and a student’s mother – can bring an entire school and community onstage in an incredibly vital way.

It’s why I think the play is superior to the later film adaptation and also why the play received so many awards, including a Tony for Best Play and a Pulitzer for Drama. 

By John Patrick Shanley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A superb new drama written by John Patrick Shanley. It is an inspired study in moral uncertainty with the compellingly certain structure of an old-fashioned detective drama. Even as Doubt holds your conscious attention as an intelligently measured debate play, it sends off stealth charges that go deeper emotionally. One of the year’s ten best.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“[The] #1 show of the year. How splendid it feels to be trusted with such passionate, exquisite ambiguity unlike anything we have seen from this prolific playwright so far. Blunt yet subtle, manipulative but full of empathy for all sides,…


Book cover of One Nation Under Blackmail Vol. 1

Kees Van der Pijl Author Of States of Emergency: Keeping the Global Population in Check

From the list on the hidden dimensions of political power.

Who am I?

Kees van der Pijl was lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex in the UK. He retired in 2012. At Sussex he was head of department and director of the Centre for Global Political Economy. Besides democracy and anti-war activism he continues to write on transnational classes and policy networks, including the role of “deep politics”.

Kees' book list on the hidden dimensions of political power

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Why did Kees love this book?

Jeffrey Epstein was a financial wizard who also served as an agent for other wealthy patrons.

With his partner Ghislaine Maxwell, daughter of the UK media mogul and Mossad agent Robert Maxwell, Epstein followed in the footsteps of previous organizers of extensive blackmail operations such as Roy Cohn, lawyer for communist-hunting US Senator Joe McCarthy and eventually, political mentor of Donald Trump.

This book provides a comprehensive, well-documented Who's Who of all others involved in the grey zone between great wealth, crime, and intelligence.

By Whitney Webb,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked One Nation Under Blackmail Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One Nation Under Blackmail is a damning indictment of the consequences resulting from the nearly century old relationship between both US and Israeli intelligence and the organized criminal network known as the National Crime Syndicate. This book specifically explores how that nexus between intelligence and organized crime directly developed the sexual blackmail tactics and networks that would later enable the sexual blackmail operation and other crimes of deceased pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Other books on Jeffrey Epstein focus on the depraved nature of his crimes, his wealth, and his most famous/politically-connected friends and acquaintances. This book, in contrast,…