The best homemaker books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about homemaker and why they recommend each book.

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Mrs. Caliban

By Rachel Ingalls,

Book cover of Mrs. Caliban

And speaking of whacky, we come now to this 40-year-old story of a lonely suburban housewife, Dorothy, who undertakes a romance with a sea monster named Larry, an escapee from a research institute who shows up in her kitchen one day. That sounds like the plot of a weird B-movie, but in fact the novella is a work of feminist literature while also being a heartbreaking story of two characters who find themselves unable to escape their pasts but manage to achieve a species of healing. The writing is straightforward but conceals a great deal, an important lesson for me when I first read this.

Mrs. Caliban

By Rachel Ingalls,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the quiet suburbs, while Dorothy is doing chores and waiting for her husband to come home from work, not in the least anticipating romance, she hears a strange radio announcement about a monster who has just escaped from the Institute for Oceanographic Research... Reviewers have compared Rachel Ingalls's Mrs. Caliban to King Kong, Edgar Allan Poe's stories, the films of David Lynch, Beauty and the Beast, The Wizard of Oz, E.T., Richard Yates's domestic realism, B-horror movies, and the fairy tales of Angela Carter-how such a short novel could contain all of these disparate elements is a testament to…


Who am I?

I’ve always been attracted to the overlooked, the obscure, the forbidden. Maybe it’s as simple as the fact I grew up in a time when it seemed natural to rebel against norms. Or maybe it’s that I inherited an oddball gene from some ancient ancestor. Anyway, it led me to interesting adventures—hanging out with a crew of gun runners in eastern Turkey—and interesting career choices—strike organizer, private detective, etc. It also shaped my reading and my writing. I read everything, but I’m particularly drawn to the quirkyGrendel, the fiction of Christine Rivera Garza for instance. And in my writing too: Lynerkim, the protagonist of my novella, is undoubtedly an odd duck.


I wrote...

Lynerkim's Dance and Other Stories

By R.H. Emmers,

Book cover of Lynerkim's Dance and Other Stories

What is my book about?

Lynerkim is an assassin; when, that is, he’s not tending to his many quirky interests—skin diseases, theosophy, boy bands, and so on. Against his better judgment, he accepts a new assignment, only to have events take a strange turn when he finds that he has become the real target. Meanwhile, as he tries to unravel the fiery death of his father, he is suddenly plagued by visions of a giant comet obliterating life on earth. The novella, Lynerkim’s Dance, also includes a collection of stories that touch on matters as diverse as spontaneous human combustion, dentists mysteriously disappearing from a town that appears on no maps, a former drug dealer searching for her long-lost home and missing dog, a murderer setting in motion The Plan.

Forever, Erma

By Erma Bombeck,

Book cover of Forever, Erma

Erma was a genius at tapping family emotions while making you laugh. A timeless treasure. I keep Forever, Erma near me so I can pick it up and read a few of her essays. She always makes me smile. She nails family life with humor and grace. She makes me laugh and cry. Though written many years ago, her stories are still timely.

Forever, Erma

By Erma Bombeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of newspaper columns by the late humorist, including her first and last, deal with children, marriage, food, and holiday entertaining, and are accompanied by a chapter of tributes from her friends.


Who am I?

Laughing through the storm, really? It sounds so romantic. Creativity beckons like a muse, I enjoy writing, painting, and daydreaming. But honestly, I imagine creativity more than actually completing the idea. Having a day job and writing novels is a bit Sisyphean. I can see the dream fulfilled at the end, but may get smushed on the way up. I’m so grateful I’ve been published but it adds another layer of worry. How do I get my book out there? What if nobody likes it? A writer puts their soul into the pages and we pray that a reader loves the story and characters as much as the writer does. 


I wrote...

Dance Like You Mean It

By Jeanne Skartsiaris,

Book cover of Dance Like You Mean It

What is my book about?

Working mothers juggling life but never giving up hope on realizing their dreams.

This book is extra special to me since I wrote it! It hits the heart of women who are overcommitted taking care of everyone else and losing themselves. Cassie, who always wanted to be a writer, pens a bodice ripper novel. When the book becomes a breakout bestseller she realizes she can't let anyone—especially her family—know she wrote it. So she goes to book signings incognito. The romance novel is also embedded in the main story, both characters parallel each other.

Book cover of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

I am a Southern woman, and I have been a part of many a book club full of Southern women. So Hendrix’s book and his spot-on but not stereotypical descriptions of the archetypes of women in these groups is what drew me in, but then, when he brings in vampires – I adore a great vampire book – I was hooked and determined to read through and find out exactly what was going on. Who is to blame? And how do we support – or not support – one another through things we don’t understand? Powerful themes in a captivating read. 

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

By Grady Hendrix,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"This funny and fresh take on a classic tale manages to comment on gender roles, racial disparities, and white privilege all while creeping me all the way out. So good."-Zakiya Dalila Harris, author of The Other Black Girl

Now in paperback, Steel Magnolias meets Dracula in this New York Times best-selling horror novel about a women's book club that must do battle with a mysterious newcomer to their small Southern town.

Bonus features:
* Reading group guide for book clubs
* Hand-drawn map of Mt. Pleasant
* Annotated true-crime reading list by Grady Hendrix
* And more!

Patricia Campbell's life…


Who am I?

I’m a book lover from in utero. My mom was an avid and very fast reader, and I grew up finding respite, insight, and understanding in the pages of books. When I went to college, I studied English, and then got a Masters in literature before going on to learn more about writing the books I loved in an MFA program. This formal education just built on what I already knew – books are my first love, my guide through life, and often, the things that save me from the darkest moments of this world.


I wrote...

Publishable By Death

By Acf Bookens,

Book cover of Publishable By Death

What is my book about?

When Harvey Beckett finds a dead body in her backroom on the morning of her bookstore’s grand opening, she just wants the whole situation to go away. But as the mystery unfolds, Harvey finds herself unable to stay out of the investigation, even when it’s potentially deadly. 

Politics of the Pantry

By Emily E. LB. Twarog,

Book cover of Politics of the Pantry: Housewives, Food, and Consumer Protest in Twentieth-Century America

Women – and housewives – have long done most of a household’s shopping, making them the arbiters of family consumer habits. But as Twarog details in this fascinating book, many working-class American women have used their status as housewives to engage in protest and build power. Politics of the Pantry focuses particularly on battles over the cost of food – especially meat – in the 20th century. Women-led meat boycotts occurred in 1935, 1966, 1969, and 1973, for example. This slim volume is readable, engaging, and highlights the important role that women have played in consumer politics.

Politics of the Pantry

By Emily E. LB. Twarog,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The history of women's involvement in politics has focused most heavily on electoral politics, but throughout the twentieth century a far wider range of women has engaged in political activity when they found it increasingly challenging to feed their families and balance their household ledgers. The Politics of the Pantry examines the rise and fall of the American housewife as a political constituency group. It examines how working- and middle-class housewives'
relationship with the state evolved over the course of the century. Shifting the focus away from the workplace as a site of protest, it looks to the homefront as…


Who am I?

I’m a Colorado-raised and California-based historian, professor, and writer. I recently published my first book, Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism, which explores the history of one of the longest-running consumer boycotts in American history – the boycott of Coors beer. In telling this particular history, I became fascinated with the boycott as a tool of protest and activism. The boycott is an iconic and regular feature of American politics and history, but it is often dismissed as ineffective or passive. The books on this list (as well as many others) have helped to convince me that the boycott and consumer activism can be powerful forms of solidarity-building and protest.


I wrote...

Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism

By Allyson Brantley,

Book cover of Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism

What is my book about?

In the late twentieth century, nothing united union members, progressive students, Black and Chicano activists, Native Americans, feminists, and members of the LGBTQ+ community quite as well as Coors beer. They came together not in praise of the ice-cold beverage but rather to fight a common enemy: the Colorado-based Coors Brewing Company. Wielding the boycott as their weapon of choice, activists targeted Coors for allegations of anti-unionism, discrimination, and conservative political ties. Over decades of organizing and coalition-building from the 1950s to the 1990s, anti-Coors activists molded the boycott into a powerful means of political protest.

I draw from a broad archive as well as oral history interviews with long-time boycotters to offer a compelling, grassroots view of anti-corporate organizing and the unlikely coalitions that formed in opposition to Coors. The story highlights the vibrancy of activism in the final decades of the twentieth century and the enduring legacy of that organizing for communities, consumer activists, and corporations today.

More Work for Mother

By Ruth Schwartz Cowan,

Book cover of More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave

It is hardly news that housework is gendered. But in this classic study Cowan, by taking housewifery seriously as work and kitchen utensils and appliances seriously as technologies, opens up the whole panorama of production and consumption in a domestic setting. The influx of new appliances, and in a more convenient form old materials (such as powdered soap) in the early decades of the 20th century worked to, in a sense, “industrialize” the home. Unlike factory workers, however, housewives were unpaid, isolated, and unspecialized. Their managerial role shrank (hired help disappeared from most homes)  and rather than being drained of meaning, like the work of factory hands, theirs became burdened with portentous implications of love, devotion, and creativity. Finally, as housework became “easy,” standards rose. At one time changing the bed might have amounted to putting the bottom sheet in the wash and the top sheet on the bottom,…

More Work for Mother

By Ruth Schwartz Cowan,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked More Work for Mother as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this classic work of women's history (winner of the 1984 Dexter Prize from the Society for the History of Technology), Ruth Schwartz Cowan shows how and why modern women devote as much time to housework as did their colonial sisters. In lively and provocative prose, Cowan explains how the modern conveniences,washing machines, white flour, vacuums, commercial cotton,seemed at first to offer working-class women middle-class standards of comfort. Over time, however, it became clear that these gadgets and gizmos mainly replaced work previously conducted by men, children, and servants. Instead of living lives of leisure, middle-class women found themselves struggling…


Who am I?

I've been teaching and writing in the field of the history of technology for over six decades, and it's not too much to say that the field and my professional career grew up together. The Society for the History of Technology began in 1958, and its journal, Technology and Culture, first appeared the following year. I've watched, and helped encourage, a broadening of the subject from a rather internal concentration on machines and engineering to a widening interest in technology as a social activity with cultural and political, as well as economic, outcomes. In my classes I always assigned not only original documents and scholarly monographs but also memoirs, literature, and films.


I wrote...

The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

By Carroll Pursell,

Book cover of The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

What is my book about?

My book is a history of technology in America, from the medieval axe through to the internet. It is a social history because the emphasis is on the social role of technology—the way in which it interacts with other aspects of American life—rather than on the internal logic of mechanisms themselves. My purpose is to suggest that technology is a part of our general history, therefore I trace it through the transplanting of a medieval technology from Europe to a new setting, then replacing it with an industrial technology also borrowed from Europe, reforming all this again through the agency of science, and finally having to live with what the social critic Lewis Mumford called the “Pentagon of Power.”

Book cover of The Obituary Writer

I love how, as with my novel, the writer weaves together the stories of two women who lived in entirely different eras. I also appreciate how she brought real-world people and events, like JFK and the 1906 earthquake, into her fictional world. But what I found most evocative about The Obituary Writer were the author’s portrayal of the institution of marriage and how her “older” protagonist—the one dating further back in history—dedicated her life to helping others deal with grief and loss. This altruistic passion was similar to one that my historical protagonist discovered on her journey of personal growth.

The Obituary Writer

By Ann Hood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will…


Who am I?

Landscape is always important in my writing, and Yellowstone, which I’ve visited numerous times, is such a special place, rich with geodiversity and teeming with danger, that it kind of demanded to be a setting for my novel. I’ve also always been kind of obsessed with bears, and Yellowstone is grizzly country. But I didn’t want to write the stereotypical “man against nature” book. I’m too much of a feminist for that. 


I wrote...

Bear Medicine

By G. Elizabeth Kretchmer,

Book cover of Bear Medicine

What is my book about?

When Brooke sets off on a trail in Yellowstone National Park to train for an upcoming marathon, she’s viciously attacked by a grizzly bear. One hundred forty years earlier, Anne accompanies her husband on a camping trip in the nation’s first national park and awakens one morning to find he’s been captured and hauled off by Nez Perce warriors. Both women, whose narratives ultimately converge, face a savage natural landscape and a complicated, male-dominated world. 

But both are bad ass. Alternating between contemporary and historical times, Bear Medicine is lush historical women’s fiction that revolves around survival, authenticity, and sacred friendship.

Wifey

By Judy Blume,

Book cover of Wifey

I first came across this book when babysitting at a neighbor’s house as a young teen. I was a giant Judy Blume fangirl and I was confused. I thought I’d read all of her novels. When I picked this one up, I managed to find a “dirty part” quite quickly while flipping through it and I stole the book to show that passage to all my friends. Scandalous! When I was out of college, I actually read the whole book and found it a poignant, but still funny, look at dreams deferred, marriage, motherhood, and sex.

Wifey

By Judy Blume,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With more than four million copies sold, Wifey is Judy Blume's hilarious, moving tale of a woman who trades in her conventional wifely duties for her wildest fantasies-and learns a lot about life along the way.

Sandy Pressman is a nice suburban wife whose boredom is getting the best of her. She could be making friends at the club, like her husband keeps encouraging her to do. Or working on her golf game. Or getting her hair done.

But for some reason, these things don't interest her as much as the naked man on the motorcycle...


Who am I?

In my first career as an actress, I often got cast as the “comic relief” in more serious films and plays. I cut my acting chops on improv comedy before getting my BFA in drama from NYU and performing in everything from Shakespeare to Seinfeld. I wrote and performed in stage shows at Disneyland and Disney World and screamed myself hoarse in B-horror films. As an author, I like to write about serious topics but I just can’t help being funny. I received my MFA from Antioch University and have had over 30 short stories and essays published. While I read voraciously (and genre-indiscriminately), my favorite books are often “darkly comedic” or “funny yet poignant.”


I wrote...

Amish Guys Don't Call

By Debby Dodds,

Book cover of Amish Guys Don't Call

What is my book about?

What’s more awkward than finding out you’re dating a vampire or a werewolf? Finding out you’re dating an Amish guy. That’s the dilemma facing Samantha Stonesong. After the acrimonious divorce of her parents, Sam thinks everything is finally going her way when she befriends Madison, who helps her get accepted into a clique of popular girls in her class: Hillary and the Sherpas. When Sam starts dating Zach, he seems too good to be true. But she begins to suspect he might be a player because he’s suspiciously guarded. However, the truth is that Zach was raised Amish. When Sam’s new friends find out she’s “dating Amish” and cyberbully her, Sam falls back into old self-destructive habits.

Kirkus Reviews calls the novel “funny and engrossing.”

My Year of Meats

By Ruth Ozeki,

Book cover of My Year of Meats

While I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, it was only after I’d digested it (pun intended) that I really came to appreciate its value. I think one of the real measures of an artwork is how much it sits with you in the months and years after the initial read/watch/listen, and this is one I think about often. The story follows a documentarian attempting to serve the corporate hierarchy and produce an asinine show about American wives and the meat-filled dinners they serve their husbands, but the novel gradually unfolds as a complex critique of misogyny, corporate control, Japanese and American culture, and the brutal nature of the modern livestock industry. 

My Year of Meats

By Ruth Ozeki,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*PRE-ORDER RUTH OZEKI'S NEW NOVEL, THE BOOK OF FORM AND EMPTINESS, TODAY*

In a single eye-opening year, two women, worlds apart, experience parallel awakenings.

In New York, Jane Takagi-Little has landed a job producing Japanese docu-soap My American Wife! But as she researches the consumption of meat in the American home, she begins to realize that her ruthless search for a story is deeply compromising her morals.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, housewife Akiko Ueno diligently prepares the recipes from Jane's programme. Struggling to please her husband, she increasingly doubts her commitment to the life she has fallen into.

As Jane and…


Who am I?

We live in a bizarre era of Elon Musk stans who seem certain that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded not only with ‘fuck you’ money, but ‘fuck everyone’ money. I think any writer worth their salt should at some point tackle the issues of their age in their writing. In our era racism, sexism, climate change, and a range of other social justice issues are all exacerbated through the improper distribution of wealth. You could give a man a fish, and he might eat for a day. Or you could eviscerate the rich, share their wealth, and throw the whole world a parade! 


I wrote...

Killing Adonis

By J.M. Donellan,

Book cover of Killing Adonis

What is my book about?

Light duties. Large pay. No questions asked—or answered. After seeing a curious flyer, Freya takes a job caring for Elijah, the comatose son of the eccentric Vincetti family. She soon discovers that the Vincetti’s labyrinthine mansion hides a wealth of secrets, their corporate rivals have a nasty habit of being extravagantly executed, and Elijah is not the saint they portray him to be.

As well, Marilyn Monroe keeps showing up, unaware she’s very much deceased. And there’s something very strange about the story that Elijah’s brother Jack is writing… It has been said that comedies always end with weddings, tragedies with funerals. This story ends with both a bride and a body count.

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