The best books about violence against women

Many authors have picked their favorite books about violence against women and why they recommend each book.

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In the Dream House

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Book cover of In the Dream House: A Memoir

This raw and heartbreaking memoir is told in prose that is sometimes stark, sometimes lush, and always riveting. It is a story of domestic abuse that especially highlights the way an abuser can affect so much more than your physical health. The dream house Machado speaks of is a haunted house in and of itself, a metaphorical place that the abuser has infiltrated, its unwelcome and ever-present guest. This is not an easy read, but it has stayed with me long after I finished its last page. 


Who am I?

Mental health has always been at the forefront of my writing because it has always been at the forefront of my life. My own experience with mental health is something I talk about openly and often, doing whatever I can to contribute to ending its stigma. My own mind has been haunted just as the minds of the characters in these novels are haunted, and that is why I have always been drawn to these stories. Just as I have felt less alone in reading these novels, it is my hope that someone out there will feel equally less alone, equally seen, and equally safe within the pages of my own novels.


I wrote...

Horrid

By Katrina Leno,

Book cover of Horrid

What is my book about?

Following her father's sudden death, Jane and her mom, Ruth, move from California to the dreary, dilapidated old house in Maine where Ruth grew up. All they want is a fresh start, but North Manor seems to hide secrets behind each of its locked doors…As the cold New England autumn arrives, Jane tries to find solace in old books and memories of her dad. But then she discovers that the "storage room" Ruth has kept locked is actually a little girl's bedroom, left untouched for years and not quite as empty of inhabitants as it appears . . .

Are all the creepy things happening at North Manor due to grief? Mental illness? Or something more . . . horrid?

Never Let You Go

By Chevy Stevens,

Book cover of Never Let You Go

Chevy Stevens is one of my favorite go-to authors and Never Let You Go, the story of a woman and her child who escape an abusive relationship and eleven years later the threat returns, is a book that has lingered with me for years. In the very first chapter Stevens manages to capture such intense fear and helplessness in Lindsey and her daughter Sophie as well as a sense of determination and a will to survive. But Lindsey can’t do it alone. At her side is Angus – a lug of a German shepherd mix, whom Lindsey found at the local animal shelter. Angus doesn’t make an appearance until about halfway in the novel, but what an appearance he makes. He instantly becomes a beloved family member, providing a sense of comfort and security to Lindsey and Sophie. As Lindsey’s ruthless ex-husband draws ever closer, Lindsey, Sophie, and Angus…


Who am I?

Some of my fondest memories have been of curling up with the family dog and reading a good book. This started as a child with our golden retriever OJ, and continues today with Lolo, our sweet but spoiled German shorthaired pointer. Dogs are such wonderful companions, always up for anything: hiking, exploring, car rides, sitting on the couch, and lounging. It’s no surprise, then, that not only do I love reading books featuring dogs I’ve also included a canine sidekick in each of the nine thrillers that I’ve written. I hope you enjoy this dogged list of mysteries and thrillers as much as I have. 


I wrote...

Not a Sound

By Heather Gudenkauf,

Book cover of Not a Sound

What is my book about?

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she loses everything that matters—her job, her husband, and her stepdaughter. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice? 

The Son of the House

By Cheluchi Onyemelukwe-Onuobia,

Book cover of The Son of the House

The Son of the House is modern, original, page-turning, powerful, and beautifully written. I was curious about the seeming contradiction between Onyemelukwe-Onuobia’s title, and the novel’s subject, two women who have been kidnapped in Enugu, Nigeria. Of course, I soon learn there is no contradiction. The lives of both Nwabulu and Julie are impacted by the value once placed upon the son of the house. The novel makes clear that these traditions are changing fast, even as the characters grapple with the reverberations. The novel introduces us to fascinating women who I have thought about long after I finished reading it. 


Who am I?

I grew up in Uganda and Kenya, and when I moved to the United States, I felt separated from myself. Learning how to be American was exhausting and so I disappeared into books. I’m now more settled, but I still travel through fiction. These days, I am reading fiction by African women. You should be, too! There is so much stunning literature out there. These five books are just the beginning, but they are novels I can’t stop thinking about.


I wrote...

Wait for God to Notice

By Sari Fordham,

Book cover of Wait for God to Notice

What is my book about?

Wait for God to Notice is a memoir about growing up in Uganda. It is also a memoir about mothers and daughters and about how children both know and don’t know their parents. As teens, Fordham and her sister, Sonja, consider their mother overly cautious. After their mother dies of cancer, the author begins to wonder who her mother really was. As she recalls her childhood in Uganda―the way her mother killed snakes, sweet-talked soldiers, and sold goods on the black market―Fordham understands that the legacy her mother left her daughters is one of courage and capability.

The Violence

By Delilah S. Dawson,

Book cover of The Violence

This book delivers truly striking insight into the nature of fear, the cost of survival, and cycles of violence. Dawson’s writing shines here, grounded and visceral, and deeply honest. Between the propulsive and tense plot, the exquisitely rendered characters, and the unflinching examination of the world we live in, this one kept me up late and woke me up early.


Who am I?

I love books that keep me up at night. I'm constantly trying to get into a good, healthy bedtime routine—but I am also constantly sabotaging that effort by finding books that I simply can’t put down. The feeling of being drawn so deep into a story that the hours slip away is easily one of my favorite feelings in the world. I also love books that make me wake up in the middle of the night, books that slide into my brain and plant new ideas there. As an author, I am always striving to write those books. I can think of no higher compliment than “I stayed up all night reading it.”


I wrote...

Just Like Home

By Sarah Gailey,

Book cover of Just Like Home

What is my book about?

“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories—she's come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there, beneath the house he'd built for his family.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be? Vera must face the secrets of the notorious Crowder House and find out just how deep the rot goes.

Milk and Honey

By Rupi Kaur,

Book cover of Milk and Honey

I recommend this book because it places emphasis on women knowing their self-worth. This book also speaks about loving deeply and not having that love given back in return. I could identify with being in relationships that have made me feel unloved and unworthy. I could also identify with having that eye-opening moment when you come to the realization that you are this beautiful, gifted, wonderful human being worthy of having a person in your life who recognizes and truly appreciates you for all that you embody. The takeaway from this book I gained is to never love anyone more than you love yourself.


Who am I?

I'm the author of Penelope’s Purple Passions. I've been in love with writing poetry since I was a little girl. I would go under the bunk bed at night with my flashlight and write all these poems about love, not that I knew anything about love, but what I did know was how writing poetry made me feel. I believe love is truly the most valuable gift we can give to another soul in our lifetime. I want my poetry to empower people and be that beacon of light in people’s lives.  Poetry is the avenue where I can spread love and hope globally to anyone who picks up my books.


I wrote...

Penelope's Purple Passions

By Penelope Chaisson,

Book cover of Penelope's Purple Passions

What is my book about?

Penelope’s Purple Passions is a story of the butterfly who innocently falls in love only to find out that love can be complicated, and that it changes and evolves just as she does. She is about to embark upon a life-changing journey—one of self-discovery, transformation, and evolution. Once the butterfly accepts that everything is about growth and evolution, she views her journey differently. It’s as though someone has given her a new lens to see through, and now her vision is clear for her expectations of life, love, and self-worth. Then, there’s the ultimate realization that without the hardships and growing pains, she would not have been able to transform into the beautiful butterfly that she sees when she looks in the mirror.

Behind Closed Doors

By B.A. Paris,

Book cover of Behind Closed Doors

Holy crap, this book. It’s one of those you gulp down in one sitting, then go back and read for a second time to find all the clues you missed. Jack and Grace are the perfect couple. They have charm, elegance, wealth…except her friends wonder why she never seems to answer the phone or be able to meet for coffee even though she doesn’t work, or why she never takes anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. And those metal shutters on all the downstairs windows, what are they for? Creepy and intense and dazzlingly devious, this is one live-wire of a novel.


Who am I?

Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels of domestic suspense, including her forthcoming My Darling Husband and The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller. Her books have been published in more than a dozen languages and have been optioned for film and television. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.


I wrote...

My Darling Husband

By Kimberly Belle,

Book cover of My Darling Husband

What is my book about?

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple, with two adorable kids, a spacious home, and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef, and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

And Now She's Gone

By Rachel Howzell Hall,

Book cover of And Now She's Gone

Los Angeles investigator Grayson Sykes is hired to track down a missing woman who may have disappeared for excellent reasons. As she digs into the secrets and betrayals surrounding her quarry, Gray uncovers unexpected commonalities with the missing woman. I enjoyed the intricate dance between two damaged and complex women, a dance that kept me shifting my loyalties and sympathies as the mystery deepened.


Who am I?

I’m a nerd by temperament (raised by a psychologist and a librarian, what else could I be?) and by profession (decades working as a U.S. diplomat and an academic administrator honed my people-watching faculties to a fine edge). So, of course, I’ve always been drawn to my opposite: that cynical loner whose pursuit of justice requires hard fists and a bent moral compass. Private eye mysteries are my perfect place. In them, I can exercise my passion for intellectual puzzles and my love for thrilling action. I enjoy the combination of social commentary and sheer entertainment I find when I dive into reading (or writing) a private eye mystery.


I wrote...

Murder Take Two

By Delia C. Pitts,

Book cover of Murder Take Two

What is my book about?

When cynical private eye SJ Rook is hired to guard the set of a hot new television show filming on the streets of Harlem, he expects his toughest challenge to be corralling star-struck fans. But the detective’s brush with Hollywood glamour quickly turns dark. On the last night of filming, murder writes a grim finale to the production.

With his client dead, Rook’s pursuit of the truth begins. Hampered by remorse, he battles a secretive killer whose motives are hidden in plain sight. The tragic past of an alluring actress and Rook’s own unspoken desires complicate his hunt. Distracted by stardust, the detective’s struggle to sort fact from fiction takes on deadly urgency when the killer makes Rook the last target.

The Henna Artist

By Alka Joshi,

Book cover of The Henna Artist

The Henna Artist feels so real, and I'm not Indian, never lived in India in 1955. The main character Lakshmi is a survivor who prevails in a culture committed to religious beliefs that make a woman nothing better than a piece of furniture. Lakshmi uses her talent to become independent and dreams of owning a home. The fly in the ointment is her younger sister, who by her youth and ignorance, spoils everything for Lakshmi. But remember, Lakshmi is a survivor. 


Who am I?

"Write what you know" is worn-out advice you'll find on many a website, but I prefer to write what I want to know. Researching for background information is a far cry from studying the history of dates, places, and politics. For instance, you won't read in a history book that forks weren't used at the table in the Renaissance. That people didn't have zippers or right/left shoes, but they did have buttons. Noblemen wore high-heeled shoes. Women poisoned themselves with makeup of white lead (ceruse). Even with diaries, autobiographies, and social history books, trivial information of daily life is hard to find. 


I wrote...

Béjart's Caravan

By Bonnie Stanard,

Book cover of Béjart's Caravan

What is my book about?

For history buffs and lovers of the theater. Traveling medieval actors take part in burlesque shows on and off stage in French villages. The locals regard them as ne’er-do-wells, if not shiftless swindlers, and at times the actors live up to their reputation. Molière's body makes an appearance when Argon digs it up to get a relic to cure his voice. Argon's problem pales compared to that of his parents (major stockholders of the company) who underestimate a poisonous elixir and tangle with deceptive nobles. 

"Written by an author who understands the time and place, this is a delightful book filled with memorable and often rather over-the-top characters... the author excels in describing the vibrant settings and the complexity of her characters." - Wishing Shelf

Grown

By Tiffany D. Jackson,

Book cover of Grown

This is a bit of a cheat as I never questioned if the narrator of Grown is a psychopath–a murderer perhaps, and a wildly sympathetic one if so—but her “love interest” and abuser could qualify. As you watch a mega-famous musician entrap a teenaged, aspiring singer, it truly gets under your skin how closely his grooming mirrors common romance tropes. And once he’s killed, the plot ignites into an escalating series of twists that pushes the “unreliable narrator” device to its most mind-bending. Did Enchanted kill her abuser? Are we sort of glad? Mercifully, Grown leaves no loose ends, it wraps up everything in a truly satisfying package.


Who am I?

Since my mom pressed an Agatha Christie into my hands at age eight, I’ve been fascinated by mystery novels; when I got older that bled into true crime, and from there psychological non-fiction about psychopathy. What evolutionary purpose do psychopaths serve, is this a label we can confidently assign people or is the spectrum of human behavior a gray horizon we’re still approaching? These are questions I’m always happy to spend an hour or six debating, and this interest in psychopaths was definitely heightened by learning I’m closely related to one. 


I wrote...

Teen Killers Club

By Lily Sparks,

Book cover of Teen Killers Club

What is my book about?

Teen Killers Club follows a sensitive outcast who was framed for her best friend’s murder, then recruited into an assassin training program at an abandoned summer camp with a group of heartless teen killers. She must fit in or die trying.


Teen Killers Club is one of YALSA’s top ten “quick picks for reluctant readers” and a nominee for the International Thriller Writers Award, and begins the Teen Killers Series; its sequel Teen Killers in Love is out August 9th, 2022.

Run, Rose, Run

By James Patterson, Dolly Parton,

Book cover of Run, Rose, Run

Dolly Parton and James Patterson partnered to write this suspenseful story about a runaway girl who arrives in Nashville with dreams of making it big, but who is shadowed by the constant fear of being found by her abuser. After begging for stage time at bars, she is discovered by a retired celebrity who pulls her into the spotlight—which in turn draws the attention of the man who wants to kill her.

I have a special fondness for Dolly Parton because she endorsed my novel, which is also about a teenage girl getting mixed up with a guy who, like Dolly’s character, has murderous intent. In a beautiful handwritten note, Dolly Parton declared, “I’m proud my song "Joshua" inspired the character Beard.”


Who am I?

I am a novelist who loves stories that express deep emotions and life-changing experiences, suspenseful stories that explore how humankind responds to tragedy, to heartache, and to joy, so that is what I write. My stories don’t come from me; they come through me. I often listen to scene-setting music full blast over and over again as scenes form in my head and the words pour onto the page. I don’t write my stories in order. I usually know the beginning and end, but I write whatever scene I “see” and then arrange them in the right order when I’m done. 


I wrote...

Turning in Circles

By Michelle Buckman,

Book cover of Turning in Circles

What is my book about?

Savannah and Charleston, two sisters living in a small Southern town, have always been close. They've shared everything with one another...until Dillon, the bad boy in school who sets his sights on Charleston. As Charleston is drawn down his dark, destructive path, Savannah panics, knowing her sister is destined for disaster.

She turns to her lifelong best friend, Ellerbe, for help, but their relationship has shifted. The connection they've shared is taking a turn toward something more, something deeper, and Savannah isn't sure she's ready for a romance while trying to save her sister. As Savannah's foundation begins to crumble, every decision becomes an unchangeable step toward an outcome that could have tragic repercussions for Charleston.

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