33 books directly related to rape 📚

All 33 rape books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The Way I Used to Be

By Amber Smith,

Book cover of The Way I Used to Be

Why this book?

I always say that you never know what goes on behind someone else’s closed door. How they appear physically and/or mentally in public doesn’t tell their whole story. It’s like social media. We only share the good parts of our lives. Everyone has secrets and fears and reasons they keep parts of their lives to themselves. The Way I Used to Be is a perfect example of why we should never judge a person without knowing them and why we should take the time to get to know a person, pay attention to changes in personality, and let them know you are a friend. We are all guilty of not taking the time and this book is a reminder to myself that I must be better than that.


The Word for World Is Forest

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of The Word for World Is Forest

Why this book?

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of my favorite writers. The story reminds me a bit of the movie, Avatar, in that a peaceful earth-loving society is being taken over by a group that enslaves them and exploits their resources. I love trees and so the title of this classic attracts me right off. Le Guin explores ideas of how to stand up to oppression and environmental and cultural destruction without losing the most precious parts of ourselves, our communities, and our natural environment. 


Still Beating

By Jennifer Hartmann,

Book cover of Still Beating

Why this book?

This romance caught me off guard. It was a dark romance about a kidnapped man and a woman. The heroine and her sister's fiancé who she disliked. I have to say this book isn’t for everyone as the sensitive subject matter is written about, such as rape and also a suicide attempt. However, because of Hartmann’s amazing way with words, I can’t stop thinking about this book and the characters. Hartmann’s exquisite writing style took me into the basement where the couple was kept. I felt fear and sadness for them. I felt hope. I felt so many things that left me confused at times, but as I was struggling with emotions, I found myself falling in love with these characters. This book was unlike any I have read before. It is a must-read.


Carter Reed

By Tijan,

Book cover of Carter Reed

Why this book?

How great is the feeling of being attracted to a man you know would kill for you? Maybe it’s a horrible thing to feel, it sets off all those questions about your own soul. Or maybe it’s just that you have always lived in this cold world that is liable to destroy you at any moment and instead of giving in, you find a place that feels safe and protected in that world. Only the place is within that bad boy's arms. 


Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

By Jeannie Vanasco,

Book cover of Things We Didn't Talk about When I Was a Girl: A Memoir

Why this book?

The best memoirs, to me, are not only records of past events. They are also the record of a writer grappling with how best to tell the story. Jeannie Vanasco takes this idea to an entirely new level in this brilliant meta-memoir that not only chronicles a sexual assault she experienced in college, but also her present-day investigation into her rapist’s memories of the event, his motives, and his present-day thoughts about what happened. This book challenged me to think in new ways—not only about sexual assault, but also about the ways we remember it and write about it. 


The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

By Joseph Wambaugh,

Book cover of The Blooding: The Dramatic True Story of the First Murder Case Solved by Genetic "Fingerprinting"

Why this book?

The Blooding recounts a gripping true tale of murders in the picturesque English countryside-but aside from its haunting atmosphere, it is a detailed account of the beginning of DNA as a crime-solving technique. We have come a long way since the mid-1980s, and we can get much more information from newer DNA methods, but the detailed explanation of exactly how this worked as a revolutionary method is invaluable. Reading this book puts the reader at the very beginning of a revolution.


Rape: A History From 1860 To The Present

By Joanna Bourke,

Book cover of Rape: A History From 1860 To The Present

Why this book?

This book is one of several by Bourke that are useful for the comparative study of violence, though they are often chilling to read. Bourke has an impressive range as a historian, as well as the tremendous backbone needed to do research on extremely difficult topics.


Rape Myths, the Bible, and #Metoo

By Johanna Stiebert,

Book cover of Rape Myths, the Bible, and #Metoo

Why this book?

The #MeToo movement has helped twenty-first-century society begin to reckon with sexual violence, including the harmful myths that blame victims and shield perpetrators from consequences. Stiebert reads ancient biblical stories about rape in conversation with modern accounts. Similarities include the way society fails to acknowledge the reality of violence or to believe victims, especially victims of powerful men.  


Girls

By Frederick Busch,

Book cover of Girls

Why this book?

Girls is not written by a Nordic author but feels very Nordic Noir… so I am giving it an honourable mention. 

Jack and Fanny’s baby daughter has died, and they are struggling to cope. Jack, a Vietnam Vet, is trying desperately to find ways to bring them back together. A fourteen-year-old girl goes missing, and Jack turns his focus to finding her, as if this could be their redemption.

Girls is the perfect read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Clean prose, irresistible characters so finely drawn. Voices that resonate. Add to this a very suspenseful plot…


Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Book cover of Speak

Why this book?

High school tends to be a difficult time for a lot of people. There are growing pains, hormones, and heightened emotions, all while trying to establish who you are independently and in relation to other people. For some, this time is made even more difficult when the unimaginable happens. Speak explores healing in the aftermath of violence and rebuilding a part of oneself.

CW: Sexual assault


The Book of Essie

By Meghan MacLean Weir,

Book cover of The Book of Essie

Why this book?

I felt an almost voyeuristic pleasure in reading The Book of Essie. Seventeen-year-old Essie Hicks is the daughter of an Evangelical pastor, whose family is the subject of a reality television series, Six for Hicks. Essie, as the youngest, has had her entire life aired for their adoring public. As you can guess, when Essie finds herself pregnant no one is thrilled. Essie’s future is determined by her mother and the TV producers: Essie needs to marry. How Essie takes control of the situation and the secrets that are revealed make for a gripping read.


Complete Submission

By CD Reiss,

Book cover of Complete Submission

Why this book?

It’s impossible to talk about kinky billionaires without mentioning Jonathan Drazen. Featuring an up-and-coming lounge singer and the rich man who wants to have his way with her, Reiss avoids the stereotypical BDSM tropes, delivering a fresh and unique look at a healthy kink relationship. Though the book is coming on its tenth anniversary, it remains legendary for any true dirty billionaire fan.


Rape of the Rose

By Glyn Hughes,

Book cover of Rape of the Rose

Why this book?

The Rape of the Rose is an unforgettable novel that details the horrors of the Industrial Revolution in nineteenth-century Britain. Hughes, also a poet of note, portrays the enslavement of children in those “dark Satanic mills” with disturbing precision, offering his youngest characters shreds of dignity, which life has deprived them of so roundly. He also shows men and women maimed and worked to death by owners intent on extracting every last ounce of their labor. A major figure in the novel is a father who flees a mill and joins the Luddite Revolution. I read this book thirty-five years ago and remember it vividly. It presents the underbelly of the Industrial Revolution—and the ample reasons for the rebellions it triggered. 


Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation

By Estelle B. Freedman,

Book cover of Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation

Why this book?

In my classes on women, sex, and gender, students almost always ask, “why have we never learned this before?” This is particularly true when it comes to the role of sexual violence in our nation’s history. Estelle Freedman’s pathbreaking book Redefining Rape documents how central sexual violence has been to U.S. history and law, and how women—particularly women of color—have fought against rape. Not only has sexual violence played a formative role in our history, a defining feature of U.S. jurisprudence is the racialization of rape—meaning the false idea that only Black men rape and only white women can be raped—when, in fact, as Freedman powerfully demonstrates, sexual violence has long been a tool of white supremacy. 


My Happy Life

By Lydia Millet,

Book cover of My Happy Life

Why this book?

My book club found this book depressing and shook their heads at my choice. I found it a fascinating account of a life that is meaningful for its owner. The protagonist is a woman dying in an abandoned mental hospital after years of abuse and neglect. And yet, she has a psychological condition that makes her infinitely compassionate towards others: she can only perceive goodwill and love. When she tells the story of her “happy life,” she even feels bad for her rapist. You will love or hate this book. But it will make you think.


The Narrative of Rape in Genesis 34: Interpreting Dinah's Silence

By Caroline Blyth,

Book cover of The Narrative of Rape in Genesis 34: Interpreting Dinah's Silence

Why this book?

The twelve sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob had a sister named Dinah who was abducted and raped by the son of a prince (Genesis 34). Dinah speaks no words in the biblical text. Caroline Blyth gives voice to Dinah by examining the words of modern women from around the globe, comparing Dinah’s experience with that of her modern-day sisters. With a poignant, sensitive reading of the Bible and the testimonies of women living today, Blyth exposes and rejects dangerous myths and stereotypes about sexual violence.


The Nowhere Girls

By Amy Reed,

Book cover of The Nowhere Girls

Why this book?

The Nowhere Girls tells the story of a diverse group of girls who come together, and in finding their own strength, raise their collective voice to avenge the rape of a fellow classmate. I love the truly empowering message of this book: That we (as individuals, and society as a whole) have the ability to raise each other up, and demand that survivors’ stories are seen and heard. This book came out in 2017, directly in the midst of the #MeToo movement going viral—and not by accident. This is one of those books that holds a mirror up to society, perfectly reflecting not only the problem, but also offering a model for change and justice.


Learning to Breathe

By Janice Lynn Mather,

Book cover of Learning to Breathe

Why this book?

Learning to Breathe tells such an important side of the #MeToo Movement, with sixteen-year-old Indira (Indy), a Black Bahamian girl who struggles to find her place in the aftermath of an assault that leads to an unwanted pregnancy. Set in the Bahamas, a place so often portrayed in Western culture as idyllic, it depicts a very different gritty and authentic lived reality for the main character. This heart-rending, yet empowering novel is enlightening on so many levels. Not only does it offer the unique and all-too-often overlooked point of view of a young person of color, but it also deals with complex family issues, homelessness, and a young woman’s path to claiming power over her own body and future. 


Femininity

By Susan Brownmiller,

Book cover of Femininity

Why this book?

Another classic, written in 1984 by the author of Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Brownmiller covers a lot: body, hair, clothes, voice, skin, movement, emotion, ambition. She says in her prologue, "I offer this book ... in the hope that the feminine ideal will no longer be used to perpetuate inequality between the sexes, and that exaggeration will not be required to rest secure in biological gender." 


Know My Name: A Memoir

By Chanel Miller,

Book cover of Know My Name: A Memoir

Why this book?

I first heard Chanel Miller interviewed online and was immediately struck by how eloquently she conveyed her traumatic and difficult story. In a world where sexual assault is unfortunately still so commonplace, Miller’s words wield remarkable power, breaking through hackneyed reporting and stale responses, and forcing the reader to reflect afresh on how the global community views and responds to sexual assault. 


The Color of Trauma

By Hollie Smurthwaite,

Book cover of The Color of Trauma

Why this book?

Hollie’s debut novel is a combination of romantic suspense and paranormal with an interesting concept. The female protagonist is a memory surgeon in Chicago. She removes and keeps painful memories from her patients, which weighs on her psyche. Dean, a police officer, asks her to look at the memories of someone in a coma in an attempt to catch a serial killer. As the two become more and more entangled, their search for clues and growing romance, may make Kiera the next victim.

The paranormal aspect is intriguing, and the concept was completely unfamiliar to me. The book is not for the faint of heart because her depictions can be graphic, but if you like urban grit and sexy romance, this may be the book for you.


Love of Seven Dolls

By Paul Gallico,

Book cover of Love of Seven Dolls

Why this book?

This is my indulgence! My all-time favourite and definite pick me up if miserable.

Mouche, a discarded dancer, is about to throw herself Into the Seine.

Walking through the fair she passes a puppet booth, and these seven puppets engage her in conversation. They give her advice and she talks aloud to them as if they are real. Of course the actual voice comes from the puppeteer, an evil man who rapes her whilst at the same time talking to her through the puppets. This Dichotomy of good versus evil existing in just the one person is a lesson in the depths of despair, the depths of deprivation and the power of love. A hauntingly beautiful book.


At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

By Danielle L. McGuire,

Book cover of At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power

Why this book?

Rosa Parks is one of a handful of American women whose names make it into our textbooks and social studies curriculum. However, the textbook version of Parks tends to sanitize her activism and skim the surface of her remarkable life. As one of my students observed, Parks’ powerful story has been reinterpreted “to make white people feel good about themselves,” as if somehow all the problems exposed by the Civil Rights movement were fixed after Parks refused to give up her seat. Danielle McGuire’s At the Dark End of the Street restores the fullness of Parks’ life and work, and places Black women and their fight against sexual violence at the center of the ongoing Civil Rights movement. This book transforms how we understand ourselves as a nation and as people. 


Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible

By Susanne Scholz,

Book cover of Sacred Witness: Rape in the Hebrew Bible

Why this book?

Susanne Scholz says readers should consider biblical accounts of sexual violence to be “sacred witness” to the horrific reality of rape in the biblical world and in our own world. She proposes that we wrestle with the Bible’s words, including passages that depict God as a violent aggressor, and that we should read scriptural accounts in solidarity with victims, past and present.


Annie's Song

By Catherine Anderson,

Book cover of Annie's Song

Why this book?

This was the first romance I ever read that featured a deaf character. I loved how much research the author did on the subject and how much I learned. This book broke my heart as Annie was again and again mistreated and underestimated until Alex realized that the problem was her ears, not her mind. 

I really loved Alex's character. He marries Annie because she was raped by his brother and becomes pregnant. I loved his sense of duty and honor. I loved his attempts at trying to do right by Annie even when they were misinformed. 

My favorite takeaway from this book was that no one should decide for another person what they need and the able community needs to not make assumptions but to listen to what those with disabilities say about their needs.


Denial: A Memoir of Terror

By Jessica Stern,

Book cover of Denial: A Memoir of Terror

Why this book?

In this intensively researched memoir, celebrated war reporter Jessica Stern turns her journalistic eye on herself, peering far into her past to examine a rape to which she was a victim as a teen—an event that caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and dramatically altered the course of her life. She uses her personal story as the anchor from which to more broadly examine how we think about trauma, interviewing veterans and others to explore how PTSD damages personal relationships while also contributing, for instance, to the “fearlessness” that enabled her to work in war zones. In doing so, Stern delivers a well-rounded examination of her condition with insights on why so many, including herself, are apt to deny its presence in their own lives. 


Monstrous Beauty

By Elizabeth Fama,

Book cover of Monstrous Beauty

Why this book?

This book was one of the rare gems that stayed with me long after I turned the final page. Monstrous Beauty is both haunting and vengeful while it weaves together two vastly different timelines. I loved experiencing the thoughts of a killer mermaid as she fell in love with a human. Then, being flung forward over a century, to experience the life of Hester, a modern-day teenager. These two women, so different, yet so similar, are bound to each other by fate. And finding out how was one of the most rewarding and unpredictable endings I’ve ever read. (Warning: there is a scene of rape in this book).


For the Love of Men: From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity

By Liz Plank,

Book cover of For the Love of Men: From Toxic to a More Mindful Masculinity

Why this book?

I always get pissed off when I hear some guy ranting that feminists are anti-male. In fact, I think feminists are the most pro-male humans on the planet: in spite of 8,000 years to prove the contrary, they believe that men can be peaceful and loving, and can be equal and equitable partners with women. Liz Plank is one such woman. Her book shows exactly that.


The Music of What Happens

By Bill Konigsberg,

Book cover of The Music of What Happens

Why this book?

Author Bill Konigsberg has always pulled me in with his entertaining, well-written, and deep stories. In The Music of What Happens, Max and Jordan bond over their effort to save a 1980s-era food truck to help Jordan’s family stay afloat. Jordan’s secret, though, is that his mom’s mental health is spiraling out of control, and he carries the burden of being the only person able to hold everything together—financially and emotionally. I fell hard for Max and Jordan’s chemistry as well as for Jordan’s struggle of helping his mother through her mental health struggles. 


Women Talking

By Miriam Toews,

Book cover of Women Talking

Why this book?

There is subtle genius in the way Miriam Toews pays such close attention to the humanity of her often heartbreaking characters while also being dryly funny. Set in a closed, conservative Mennonite community, the story unfolds as “minutes” taken by a young man as he listens to a group of women from the community who have discovered they were drugged and assaulted while sleeping, by men they know. (Their fathers, sons, husbands, and friends.) The story is based on a real case, and while the details are chillingly horrific, Toews finds a way for the characters to talk about these things that are warm, humorous, and compassionate, as the women become alive for the first time to their own unexamined power. 


Marrow

By Tarryn Fisher,

Book cover of Marrow

Why 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. 


The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

By Amia Srinivasan,

Book cover of The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century

Why this book?

Srinivasan is clearly an amazing teacher, deeply attentive to her students, and extraordinarily honest and open herself. It is evident her honesty is reciprocated. Much of this book is based on reports from the classroom, and as a longtime educator myself, I was awed by her ability to engage in remarkably fruitful discussions about irresolvable questions of desire and consent. Writing with grace and precision, she explores a terrain in which gender, race, class, and sex overlap, with emphasis on how that terrain looks to people new at navigating it.  


The Possessed

By Fyodor Dostoevsky, Constance Garnett (translator),

Book cover of The Possessed

Why this book?

Dostoevsky’s central character is Nicholas Stavrogin, a Russian aristocrat, around Hamlet’s age. He has the aura of the mysterious stranger, arriving from beyond, haunted, solitary, fearless, and living outside all normal social bounds and conventions. He carries direct Christ allusions, stavros meaning ‘cross’ in Greek. Everybody from his own generation is in love with him, male and female. A few years earlier, adoring disciples travelled the world with him. He taught them that if it could be mathematically proved that the truth excludes Christ, he would choose Christ.

But Stavrogin lost his faith, and thereafter plunged into a life of violence and debauchery, seducing a number of women in the town, even, it is rumoured, raping a twelve-year-old girl. Without faith, he is equally without passion. Having lost the one indispensable thing, he kills himself.