The most recommended books about sexual assault

Who picked these books? Meet our 19 experts.

19 authors created a book list connected to sexual assault, and here are their favorite sexual assault books.
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What type of sexual assault book?


Book cover of They Never Learn

Elle Mitchell Author Of Another Elizabeth

From my list on dark fiction serial killer.

Who am I?

My interest in serial killers began when I was a teen watching horror movies with my mom. I learned all I could about them—even became a horror special-effects makeup artist. Eventually, I had to quit due to my connective tissue disorder (Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome). It put me on a path of writing. I love digging into the darker side of humanity—murder or mental illness. The story of a serial killer who could challenge the reader to see disability in a new light came to me, and I had to write her story, if not just so I could dive into the psyche of another serial killer.

Elle's book list on dark fiction serial killer

Elle Mitchell Why did Elle love this book?

Scarlett Clark is a bi serial killer who kills bad men. Carly Schiller is a queer student who just escaped an abusive father. Their storylines are equally gripping, with moments of unexpected intensity in both lust and fear. Layne Fargo creates a world so grounded in reality that, as a woman, it was painful to read at times—micro-aggressions, normalized inappropriate touching. Fargo doesn’t exaggerate it, she just exposes it as part of the narrative. Better yet, she gives a glimmer of equalization in the form of Scarlett who focuses her urge to kill in a direction that’s easy to root for, to want to read. It was wanting a serial killer to go on with her work that made this book and Scarlett a standout.

By Layne Fargo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked They Never Learn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the “raw, ingenious, and utterly fearless” (Wendy Walker, USA TODAY bestselling author) Temper comes a dynamic psychological thriller about two women who give bad men exactly what they deserve.

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies…

Book cover of Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides

Dorothy Suskind Author Of Workplace Bullying: Finding Your Way to Big Tent Belonging

From my list on why work sometimes sucks and what to do about it.

Who am I?

The truth is, I’ve never fit in. I'm always asking questions like: Why do we do it that way? And, what if we tried this instead? These types of questions, however, though intriguing to me and other creatives, make the keepers of the status quo really nervous. As a professor and narrative inquiry researcher, I study the stories of people who've been silenced—extracting the characters, plot, and setting these narratives have in common. For workplace abuse survivors, a salient theme is they think big! To support this mission, I'm on the Executive Board and serve as the Education Director for the National Workplace Bullying Coalition and am a regular contributor to Psychology Today. 

Dorothy's book list on why work sometimes sucks and what to do about it

Dorothy Suskind Why did Dorothy love this book?

As a narrative inquiry researcher, I study stories of people who have experienced a shared phenomenon, such as workplace bullying, sexual assault, or a natural disaster. Almost without exception, the initial plotlines are ones of devastation.

Over the years, I have attempted to come to a deeper understanding of where the hurt resides. Cohen answers that question, documenting for the reader how our desire to be a contributing member of a community is at the center of our striving, and how the surest way to wound another is by pushing them outside the inner circle. The cruelest of all acts is to revoke someone’s belonging to their community, and more tragically, themselves.

In Cohen’s masterful book, he shares stories and details the research on why our need to belong is an essential ingredient of being human and offers the reader fruitful ways to form more meaningful connections. 

By Geoffrey L. Cohen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Stanford University psychology professor Geoffrey L. Cohen has used science to show that when people don't have a sense of belonging, negative consequences often follow: diminished performance at school and work, poorer health, increased levels of hostility and more divisive politics. This book offers concrete steps that we can all take to foster belonging.

Cohen is known for major studies revealing practical actions ("wise interventions") that creatively reduce conflict in all areas of life. Something as simple as affirming your core values before a test can markedly increase your score. Helping others in even small matters can improve health and…

Book cover of The Fix

Marie Jaskulka Author Of The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy

From my list on YA about overcoming abuse and assault.

Who am I?

I fell in love with reading in fourth grade but felt like real girls weren't reflected in young adult books. The characters had friend problems and boy problems, but books about really big problems like sexual assault were rare because most people thought subjects like addiction and abuse weren't appropriate for young readers. It's one of those weird dichotomies: we know kids deal with big problems, but we're afraid to broach the subject. I used books to help me understand stuff I didn't feel comfortable talking about so I appreciate books that show people how to claw themselves out of a bad place and be their own hero.

Marie's book list on YA about overcoming abuse and assault

Marie Jaskulka Why did Marie love this book?

The Fix is tough to read at moments, but so, so necessary. The Me Too movement showed us that just about every female has been subject to assault on some level. Childhood sexual assault is so common that many survivors don't disclose because they don't want to seem weak. Telling someone is the best thing survivors can do for themselves, and The Fix shows that sometimes you can't whisper the truth. Sometimes you have to shout it. 

By Natasha Sinel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fix as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

One conversation is all it takes to break a world wide open.

Seventeen-year-old Macy Lyons has been through something no one should ever have to experience. And she's dealt with it entirely alone.

On the outside, she's got it pretty good. Her family's well-off, she's dating the cute boy next door, she has plenty of friends, and although she long ago wrote her mother off as a superficial gym rat, she's thankful to have allies in her loving, laid-back dad and her younger brother.

But a conversation with a boy at a party one night shakes Macy out of the…

Book cover of Those Who Knew

Peter Gadol Author Of The Stranger Game

From my list on invented places that haunt us into thinking about the world.

Who am I?

As much as I enjoy traveling to real places in fiction, I find that authors who ask me to inhabit a world of their own making make me think more deeply, and these are also the novels I dream about when I’m not actually reading them, the pages I cannot wait to return to when I can pick up the book again. By exiting the world we inhabit, and occupying a world very much like our own, I end up reflecting more thoughtfully about the contemporary moment, and in a way, feel more connected. I tried to create such a world in The Stranger Game, and this is something I hope to do again in a future novel.

Peter's book list on invented places that haunt us into thinking about the world

Peter Gadol Why did Peter love this book?

Doubling as both a political thriller and political satire, and set on an unnamed, maybe South American island, Idra Novey’s novel about a corrupt senator stars powerful women who are determined to uncover a past sexual assault and possible murder, ultimately speaking truth to power.

By Idra Novey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR by * NPR * Esquire * O, The Oprah Magazine * Real Simple * BBC * PopSugar * Bustle * Kirkus Reviews * Lit Hub

"A gripping, astute, and deeply humane political thriller." -The Boston Globe

"Mesmerizing [and] uncannily prescient."-Los Angeles Times

A taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him down, from the award-winning author of Ways to Disappear.

On an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a U.S.-supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful…

Book cover of Shout

Amber Smith Author Of The Way I Used to Be

From my list on me-too movement.

Who am I?

I began writing The Way I Used to Be back in 2010. For me, it started simply as a place to work through my own private thoughts and feelings about sexual violence. I was writing as a survivor myself, but also as someone who has known, loved, and cared for so many others who have experienced violence and abuse. By the time I finished, I realized my novel had evolved into something much bigger: a story I hoped could contribute something meaningful to the larger dialogue. These powerful books on this list are all a part of that dialogue, each based in a richly diverse, yet shared reality. Readers will learn, grow, heal, and find hope in these pages.

Amber's book list on me-too movement

Amber Smith Why did Amber love this book?

For decades, Laurie Halse Anderson’s work has been a guiding light for so many young people in her honest portrayals of life’s hardest challenges, including sexual assault. Her 2019 book Shout, a memoir written in verse, is a deeply personal reflection on her own experience with sexual assault and its impact on her life. She first tackled this topic twenty years earlier in her groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speaka book that profoundly affected me as a young person. Born out of outrage over the lack of change that has happened in regard to how society treats survivors (and perpetrators) of sexual violence in the twenty years since Speak was published, Shout is a beautifully fierce and moving call to action for today.

By Laurie Halse Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shout as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Award-winning Speak author Laurie Halse Anderson's New York Times bestselling poetic memoir and call to action, which garnered eight starred reviews!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a critically acclaimed poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to…

Book cover of Needlework

Elena Carter Author Of Follow the Hummingbird

From my list on with a perfect escape into a different reality.

Who am I?

I have a crazy theory. I believe that the worlds and characters created by writers are much more than just a product of someone’s imagination. We all possess unlimited creative power (something that most of us take for granted). So what if I told you that all the characters, worlds, realities, and dimensions, ever created in writing or other forms of art, came to life somewhere in this endless Universe? That’s what I write about. Fascinating worlds and realms that exist out there. Lucky travelers that were granted a chance to visit those worlds. It’s what I’m most drawn to as a reader. Because it makes me one of those lucky travelers.

Elena's book list on with a perfect escape into a different reality

Elena Carter Why did Elena love this book?

The world-building in this masterfully written story is truly exceptional. And you’ll fall in love with the characters too.

Needlework is full of action, adventure, unexpected twists and turns, and lots of music. I absolutely loved the song texts interwoven in the story. 

The author created an outstanding atmosphere that you will happily lose yourself in. As the heroes join the music festival that takes them on a journey throughout the realm, which is about to be torn apart by a war in which they will be forced to pick sides, the readers learn all about their conflicted past and can’t help but genuinely empathize with them.

By Bekah Berge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four musicians vie for a coveted spot on the main stage at the prestigious Olive Branch Music and Arts Festival.

For as long as she can remember, Melly has only been good at one thing: making music. From the instant she got her fingers on a flute and tambourine, music had transformed her life and become a way for her to express the hidden desires of her heart. And like every artist in the realm, joining the illustrious Olive Branch Music and Arts Festival was her ultimate dream.

When Hakim encounters Melly singing in a grubby tavern, his world stops…

Book cover of Justice in Magic

M.K. Ahearn Author Of Promised Shadows

From my list on fantasy with a touch of romance.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated with fantasy novels for as long as I can remember. Growing up I was an avid reader, always getting lost within these new worlds. My favorite stories were always those that had a little romance to them. I have always been such a hopeless romantic. Something about discovering new fantasy worlds and the magic within, excited me. After a while I decided to follow my dreams, and write a fantasy book of my own, that incorporated all of the romance aspects I love in other books. I really hope you love the books on this list as much as I do! 

M.K.'s book list on fantasy with a touch of romance

M.K. Ahearn Why did M.K. love this book?

This book is an amazing fantasy novel with romance aspects written into the plot. It dives into a world that exists beyond our own, where those with magic exist. In this book the main character, Adelynn, discovers she has had magic all her life and is fated to attend a school for those like her. The book does a wonderful job showing the darker sides of main characters. The romance in the book will draw you right in. 

By Ky Venn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

All she wants is to be normal.

What if she wasn’t born to be?

It’s senior year and all Adelynn wants is to feel normal after her assault. One day, she uncovers the secret of who she truly is. She is presented with two choices: living a normal life, or attending Linden Academy, a school for the magically gifted in an unknown realm.

Normalcy is hard to obtain at Linden when she is surrounded by royalty and advanced gifted students, and she has not shown any of her own gifts yet. But Adelynn won’t let anyone doubt her, and she…

Book cover of True Story

Chris Pavone Author Of Two Nights in Lisbon

From my list on suspense that is actually about something bigger.

Who am I?

I love crime fiction—mysteries, thrillers, espionage, you name it, plots and puzzles that excite and confound and ultimately gratify. I also love the non-genre called literary fiction, sharply observed and beautifully written books that move me, and leave me with a slightly better understanding of humanity. And I think the sweetest spot of all is the intersection of the two, with sparkling prose, fully realized characters, and interesting settings combined with an insistent, credible plot that makes it a matter of urgency to turn the page, presenting the exquisite dilemma of wanting to race through the excitement but also the opposite urge to slow down and enjoy it all.

Chris' book list on suspense that is actually about something bigger

Chris Pavone Why did Chris love this book?

A rumor about teenage sexual assault has long-term repercussions on a handful of characters in this superb novel that toggles among different genres—thriller, mystery, women’s fiction, coming-of-age literary, even screenplays—with voices in first, second, and third person, a fascinating way of looking at a single event from every angle. The characters are astoundingly well-drawn, in particular the spot-on portraits of teenaged boys, which are a master class on how to write credible, realistic, and true characters that are well beyond the novelist’s own experience. Even the title itself is a clever subversion.

By Kate Reed Petty,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A gripping, ripped-from-headlines tale." -People

"Spellbinding." -Megan Abbott, The New York Times Book Review

Tracing the fifteen-year fallout of a toxic high school rumor, a riveting, astonishingly original debut novel about the power of stories-and who gets to tell them

2015. A gifted and reclusive ghostwriter, Alice Lovett makes a living helping other people tell their stories. But she is haunted by the one story she can't tell: the story of, as she puts it, "the things that happened while I was asleep."

1999. Nick Brothers and his lacrosse teammates return for their senior year at their wealthy Maryland high…

Book cover of Fast Track

Patricia Skalka Author Of Death Stalks Door County

From my list on protagonists who are haunted by the past.

Who am I?

I grew up reading mysteries and quickly realized that, for me, the best stories were those that peered into the very heart and soul of the protagonist. I also favored books with deep roots; I wanted the present-day crime to be linked to the past. Through work and personal experience, I also understood the heavy toll of loss and grief and found myself drawn to writing a mystery series that related both in a way that was honest and real. When readers tell me that my protagonist’s pain is their pain, that his story is their story, I am both humbled and honored.   

Patricia's book list on protagonists who are haunted by the past

Patricia Skalka Why did Patricia love this book?

Lark Chadwick is my kind of protagonist – gutsy, smart, and burdened with a past that won’t let go.

When the aunt who raised her dies, Chadwick refuses to believe that suicide was the cause. Digging into the circumstances surrounding one death she discovers the truth about the deaths of her parents who were killed in an accident that only she survived.

A fledgling journalist, Chadwick talks herself into a job with the local paper, a first step in the many adventures that follow her in an exciting series that takes her all the way to the White House. Author John DeDakis, a former veteran CNN journalist, infuses the award-winning series with real-life drama and authenticity.

By John DeDakis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Orphaned as an infant, sexually assaulted as a naïve college student, strong-willed, impulsive Lark Chadwick is vexed and trying to figure out what to do with her mixed-up life. When she discovers the body of the aunt who raised her, Lark goes on a search for answers.

She is stunned to learn from a 25-year-old newspaper clipping that she’s the “miracle baby” who survived a suspicious car accident that killed her parents at a rural railroad crossing in southern Wisconsin. Lark convinces Lionel Stone, the crusty Pulitzer-Prize winning editor, to let her do a follow-up investigation of the crash. Two…

Book cover of When I Was a Girl

Stuart Larner Author Of Hope: Stories from a Women's Refuge

From my list on realistic and helpful about domestic abuse.

Who am I?

I am a writer who has written an assortment of over a hundred and seventy different articles, poems, and books. I worked for thirty five years as a psychologist and my late wife, Rosie Larner, was a social worker and lecturer. We have both dealt with cases of domestic abuse and have recognised the extent of the problem worldwide and the misery that it causes. We offer these tales under the pen-name of Rosy Stewart to show the diversity of the problems and to bring hope to the sufferers with the hope of resolution of each case to reach a wider audience.

Stuart's book list on realistic and helpful about domestic abuse

Stuart Larner Why did Stuart love this book?

This is told in the voice of a young girl living in a household of domestic violence in the 1960s in UK.

She is regarded as presenting difficulties for her parents right from the beginning with her difficult birth. It is written in short scenes and excerpts from her childhood. She adores her mother, but she is sexually assaulted by one of her mother’s boyfriends. The writing of this is realistic as seen by an innocent four-year-old girl.

When the mother marries another boyfriend the family dynamics change from being kind at first to much stricter. It is clear that the little girl will develop psychological problems in later life.

By Ros Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Cursed by her grandmother and trapped in domestic violence in 1960s Britain, Evelyn must find a way to protect her five young daughters. Aware that her firstborn, Kim, is doomed to repeat her own disastrous life choices, Evelyn places her in the care of one of her admirers to protect her from her fate.

Meanwhile, her daughter Bess carries a deep-rooted sense of shame and guilt that her birth nearly killed her beloved mother. Subjected to sexual abuse, she tries to make sense of her feelings and her place within the secretive family she grows up in, desperately seeking love…