The best books about Women in the military

1 authors have picked their favorite books about Women in the military and why they recommend each book.

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Revolutionary

By Alex Myers,

Book cover of Revolutionary

The American Revolution required the blood, fortune, and commitment of its supporters. Deborah Sampson was a young woman who had no fortune to give, but she had grit, determination, and the strength to fight for her country. Tired of the oppressive societal rules for women, Deborah dresses as a man and uses an assumed name to enlist in the army. Though Deborah Sampson was a real person, the author in this novel explores not just the societal motivations that drove her to assume a man’s identity, but also explores what life could be like for a woman who could cast off the strictures of her assigned gender and write her own rules.

Revolutionary

By Alex Myers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A remarkable novel” (The New York Times) about America’s first female soldier, Deborah Sampson Gannett, who ran away from home in 1782, successfully disguised herself as a man, and fought valiantly in the Revolutionary War.

At a time when rigid societal norms seemed absolute, Deborah Sampson risked everything in search of something better. Revolutionary, Alex Myers’s richly imagined and carefully researched debut novel, tells the story of a fierce-tempered young woman turned celebrated solider and the remarkable courage, hope, fear, and heartbreak that shaped her odyssey during the birth of a nation.

After years of indentured servitude in a sleepy…

Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by American history and have clear memories of celebrating America’s bicentennial as a child. I have twenty-two Revolutionary Patriots in my family history, and I am most proud of my 6x-great grandmother, Anna Asbury Stone, for her bravery and daring during the winter of 1778. I did extensive genealogical research to learn about her, her family, and her circumstances before writing Answering Liberty’s Call: Anna Stone’s Daring Ride to Valley Forge.


I wrote...

Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Stone's Daring Ride to Valley Forge: A Novel

By Tracy Lawson,

Book cover of Answering Liberty's Call: Anna Stone's Daring Ride to Valley Forge: A Novel

What is my book about?

In 1778, war is men's business. That doesn't stop Anna Stone from getting involved in the fight for liberty. When her soldier husband and brothers face starvation at Valley Forge, Anna is not content to pray and worry. She gets on her horse and strikes out alone over two hundred miles of rough roads to bring them life-sustaining supplies.

Eighty miles from her destination, Anna learns of a plot to overthrow General Washington and replace him with a commander who will surrender. With the fate of the American Revolution in her hands, she agrees to carry a message of warning and races to reach Valley Forge before one of the conspirators, who is in hot pursuit, can intercept her. Based on events in the life of the author's 6x great-grandmother.

On Basilisk Station

By David Weber,

Book cover of On Basilisk Station

The first Honor Harrington book, On Basilisk Station, is space opera the way it should be written. Weber’s space navy isn’t ‘pew, pew’ laser bolts, it’s cool and well-thought-out hard sci-fi. Technology leads to tactics; tactics lead to strategy; and strategy wins and loses wars. And then he drops Lieutenant Honor Harrington, fresh out of the academy, down in the middle of it, with her first ship. She’s a great character with the strength, skill, and courage to do her duty, figuring out which rules of war to follow and which ones to break, to win through to victory. And Weber never forgets the personal cost of war, which lends his books that extra impact. The first book in a great series.

On Basilisk Station

By David Weber,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked On Basilisk Station as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Who am I?

Like so many boys, I grew up playing soldiers with my friends. Now I’m a trained historian and running around waving a stick as a pretend rifle yelling rat-a-tat, or sword fighting with fallen branches, just isn’t a good look for me. But I can still appreciate the heroism of soldiers that drew me to play those games in the first place. These books scratch that itch, as well as meeting the standard of truthfulness that the historian in me needs. Believable settings with heroes you can root for and stakes that feel real. That’s what I like to read and that’s what I write.


I wrote...

Prentice Ash

By Matt Barron,

Book cover of Prentice Ash

What is my book about?

Trained as a knight, condemned as a heretic, exiled as a convict, Prentice’s every moment is a struggle just to survive. 

The duke is dead and young Duchess Amelia, now rules the Western Reach alone. When an unknown enemy invades her lands, slaughtering all in their path, her knights are too eager for glory to see the danger. She is forced to turn to Prentice, a convict, skilled at warfare and the only one she can trust despite the dishonour. Thrust into the front lines, Prentice must fight the violence of the enemy and foolishness of his own commanders. In battle he will earn the name Prentice Ash, for no matter how intense the fires of war, even if all burns away, Ash will remain.

The Lonely Soldier

By Helen Benedict,

Book cover of The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq

While I would never recommend Helen Benedict’s military fiction work, because as a veteran I feel her fiction gets so many things wrong about military life, I must concede this non-fiction book, which chronicles the lives of several women serving in Iraq, is searing and appropriately disturbing. These are stories told by the women themselves, which range from harassment, rape, or manipulation from fellow soldiers and command, to the devastating medical issues and battles with the VA afterward. This collection shows that often women’s greatest enemies in wartime are not on the other side of the gate but instead inside the camp with her. While the book does hone single-mindedly on abuse in the military, there’s no denying that these women’s stories are real, poignant, and deserve to be heard.       

The Lonely Soldier

By Helen Benedict,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Lonely Soldier--the inspiration for the documentary The Invisible War--vividly tells the stories of five women who fought in Iraq between 2003 and 2006--and of the challenges they faced while fighting a war painfully alone.

More American women have fought and died in Iraq than in any war since World War Two, yet as soldiers they are still painfully alone. In Iraq, only one in ten troops is a woman, and she often serves in a unit with few other women or none at all. This isolation, along with the military's deep-seated hostility toward women, causes problems that many female…

Who am I?

The relationship between servicewomen and the US military is a complicated one. It’s love, strength, comradery, and also abuse, manipulation, sexual harassment, and soul-crushing institutional betrayal. After leaving the military, I found most books or movies didn’t adequately represent this complex relationship, either ignoring the abuse altogether, or focusing too much on it and erasing the bravery and resilience of women service members. I strive to write books that better represent this conflicting relationship, and I hope this book list helps better reflect women’s experiences in the US military.  


I wrote...

Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

By Ryan Leigh Dostie,

Book cover of Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

What is my book about?

Named by Esquire as one of the Best Nonfiction Books of the Year: a powerful literary memoir of a young soldier driven to prove herself in a man's world.


Ryan never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army. Then the unthinkable happens: she’s raped by a fellow soldier. Struggling with PTSD and commanders who don't trust her, Ryan finds herself fighting through the isolation of trauma amid the challenges of an unexpected war. What follows is a riveting story of one woman's extraordinary journey to prove her worth, physically and mentally, in a world where the odds are stacked against her.

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

By Elizabeth Moon,

Book cover of Sheepfarmer's Daughter

Paksenarrion is a young farm girl in a fantasy world who can’t face the quiet life that seems to be her fate. Tall and strong, she runs away from home to join a mercenary company and train to be a soldier. Then she goes on the campaign and through grit and determination survives and thrives, impressing her commanders to rise to a command of her own. The book’s low magic setting and focus on the reality of military life make for a refreshing change in fantasy. There’s no chosen one, no prophecy, no evil wizard threatening the whole world; just a girl growing into a woman and a warrior through effort and courage. 

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

By Elizabeth Moon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sheepfarmer's Daughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter may be the daughter of a humble sheep farmer in the far north end of the kingdom, but she dreams of so much more. After refusing her father’s orders to do the sensible thing and marry the pig farmer down the road, Paks, runs away to join a band of mercenaries, dreaming of daring deeds and military glory. But life in the army is different than she imagined, and her daydreams at first seem to be turning to nightmares. But Paks refuses to let her dreams die—and does her duty with honor and integrity. Her path is an…

Who am I?

Like so many boys, I grew up playing soldiers with my friends. Now I’m a trained historian and running around waving a stick as a pretend rifle yelling rat-a-tat, or sword fighting with fallen branches, just isn’t a good look for me. But I can still appreciate the heroism of soldiers that drew me to play those games in the first place. These books scratch that itch, as well as meeting the standard of truthfulness that the historian in me needs. Believable settings with heroes you can root for and stakes that feel real. That’s what I like to read and that’s what I write.


I wrote...

Prentice Ash

By Matt Barron,

Book cover of Prentice Ash

What is my book about?

Trained as a knight, condemned as a heretic, exiled as a convict, Prentice’s every moment is a struggle just to survive. 

The duke is dead and young Duchess Amelia, now rules the Western Reach alone. When an unknown enemy invades her lands, slaughtering all in their path, her knights are too eager for glory to see the danger. She is forced to turn to Prentice, a convict, skilled at warfare and the only one she can trust despite the dishonour. Thrust into the front lines, Prentice must fight the violence of the enemy and foolishness of his own commanders. In battle he will earn the name Prentice Ash, for no matter how intense the fires of war, even if all burns away, Ash will remain.

Behind the Rifle

By Shelby Harriel,

Book cover of Behind the Rifle: Women Soldiers in Civil War Mississippi

When Lauren Cook and I published They Fought Like Demons, we knew that our book, although groundbreaking, was only the tip of the iceberg in the story of women soldiers in the Civil War, and we always hoped that another scholar would pick up the torch and move the story forward.  Shelby Harriel has done just that.  Behind the Rifle is a meticulously researched and ably written account of the distaff soldiers who hailed from Mississippi, or found themselves there.  Citing previously unknown sources along with revealing newly-located photographs, Harriel’s contribution to the history of women soldiers is remarkable.

Behind the Rifle

By Shelby Harriel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During the Civil War, Mississippi's strategic location bordering the Mississippi River and the state's system of railroads drew the attention of opposing forces who clashed in major battles for control over these resources. The names of these engagements-Vicksburg, Jackson, Port Gibson, Corinth, Iuka, Tupelo, and Brice's Crossroads-along with the narratives of the men who fought there resonate in Civil War literature. However, Mississippi's chronicle of military involvement in the Civil War is not one of men alone. Surprisingly, there were a number of female soldiers disguised as males who stood shoulder to shoulder with them on the firing lines across…

Who am I?

DeAnne Blanton retired from the National Archives in Washington, DC after 31 years of service as a reference archivist specializing in 18th and 19th century U.S. Army records. She was recognized within the National Archives as well as in the historical and genealogical communities as a leading authority on the American Civil War; 19th century women’s history; and the history of American women in the military.


I wrote...

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

By Lauren Cook, DeAnne Blanton,

Book cover of They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War

What is my book about?

Popular images of women during the American Civil War include self-sacrificing nurses, romantic spies, and brave ladies maintaining hearth and home in the absence of their men. However, as DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook show in their remarkable new study, that conventional picture does not tell the entire story. Hundreds of women assumed male aliases, disguised themselves in men's uniforms, and charged into battle as Union and Confederate soldiers--facing down not only the guns of the adversary but also the gender prejudices of society. They Fought Like Demons is the first book to fully explore and explain these women, their experiences as combatants, and the controversial issues surrounding their military service.

Women Warriors

By Pamela D. Toler,

Book cover of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

In Women Warriors, the footnotes are every bit as informative and bitingly funny as the text itself. Toler travels across many cultures and eras, from ancient times up until the 20th century, to show that, like it or not, “women have always gone to war.” She covers some women you’ve likely heard of before—like Boudica, Hua Mulan, and Joan of Arc—as well as many others you probably haven’t—like Tomyris, Artemisia II, and Lakshmi Bai. These mini-biographies, taken together, provide an eye-opening and unforgettable corrective about women and warfare.

Women Warriors

By Pamela D. Toler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who says women don’t go to war? From Vikings and African queens to cross-dressing military doctors and WWII Russian fighter pilots, these are the stories of women for whom battle was not a metaphor.

The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly—Joan of Arc, not GI Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating and lively world history, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, she also shows why they did it and what happened when they stepped out of their traditional female roles to take on other…

Who am I?

As a child, I was drawn to the silences in family stories and as a young adult, the gaps in official records. Now I’m a former English professor turned full-time writer who is fascinated with who gets written out of history, and why. I love exploring overlooked lives, especially women’s lives—from Stalin’s female relatives to nineteenth-century shopgirls, and most recently, a pair of early medieval queens.


I wrote...

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

By Shelley Puhak,

Book cover of The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

What is my book about?

The remarkable, little-known story of two trailblazing women in the Early Middle Ages who wielded immense power, only to be vilified for daring to rule. Brunhild was a foreign princess, raised to be married off. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet-in sixth-century Merovingian France, where women were excluded from noble succession these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms. Yet after the queens' deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten.

The Dark Queens sets the record straight, resurrecting two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture's stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.

The Amazons

By Adrienne Mayor,

Book cover of The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World

Adrienne Mayor's The Amazons is a breathtaking exploration of women warriors of the ancient world.  Working with myth, ancient historical sources, and modern archeological finds, Mayor draws links between story and history, making a strong argument for the nomadic armed horsewomen of the ancient steppes as a model for the Amazons of myth. She ends the book with a quick look at ancient women warriors across the Eurasian steppes from the Caucasus, through Central Asia, and into China. The Amazons is both scholarly and readable—not as easy to pull off as you might think.

The Amazons

By Adrienne Mayor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Amazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons. But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have…

Who am I?

I've been fascinated by the concept of women warriors ever since I was a nerdy kid who read every biography of famous women I could get my hands—and I've been collecting their stories almost as long. Today I write historical non-fiction that puts women back into the story, whether it's women warriors, civil war nurses, or groundbreaking journalists. The impact of this can be profound. When we re-introduce overlooked populations into history, we get a very different story.


I wrote...

Book cover of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

What is my book about?

In Women Warriors: An Unexpected History, historian Pamela Toler tells the stories of historical women for whom battle was not a metaphor, using both well-known and obscure examples, drawn from the ancient world through the twentieth century and from Asia and Africa as well as from the West. Looking at specific examples of historical women warriors, she considers why they went to war, the ways in which their presence on the ramparts or the battlefield has been erased from history, and the patterns and parallels that emerge when we look at similar stories across historical periods and geographical boundaries.

Women warriors are often assumed to be historical anomalies—Joan of Arc, not G.I. Jane. By comparing the stories of individual women across historical periods and geographical boundaries, Toler uncovers a different story. Women have always fought, not in spite of being women but because they are women.

The Endless Skies

By Shannon Price,

Book cover of The Endless Skies

Winged! Lion! Shifters! What more could you want? Maybe a simmering romance? A warrior society reminiscent of Sparta? A floating kingdom? This book has all that and more. Set against the backdrop of a harrowing race against time, this book is perfect for fans of Sky In The Deep by Adrienne Young and Wonder Woman, with core themes of friendship, family, and loyalty.

This book is all the magic, action, and romance you could want from a YA fantasy.

The Endless Skies

By Shannon Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shannon Price's The Endless Skies is a breakout standalone epic fantasy about shapeshifting warriors perfect for fans of Adrienne Young and Wonder Woman.

High above the sea, floats the pristine city of the Heliana. Home to winged-lion shapeshifters-the Leonodai-and protected from the world of humans by an elite group of warriors, the Heliana has only known peace.

After years of brutal training, seventeen-year-old Rowan is ready to prove her loyalty to the city and her people to become one of the Leonodai warriors. But before Rowan can take the oath, a deadly disease strikes the city's children. Soon the warriors-including…

Who am I?

There’s something truly magical about the bond people between and animals, whether it be in stories with animal companions, or books about mythical creatures who are actually just metaphors for life’s monsters or magic. It’s something I include in all my stories, from the cats that make a hard day a little easier, to the fantastical beasts rooted in a society’s survival. There’s always something new to learn from them, and I hope you enjoy these stories about them as much as I did!


I wrote...

The Storm Crow

By Kalyn Josephson,

Book cover of The Storm Crow

What is my book about?

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life...until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything. That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother's death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

Ninefox Gambit

By Yoon Ha Lee,

Book cover of Ninefox Gambit

Take a deep dive into a universe where calendars and math are key to power. Does it feel surreal and confusing at first? Yes, but that is all part of the new and innovative charm that does away with traditional military sci-fi and reinvents the genre. While the worldbuilding is amazing and mind-boggling, this is a novel driven by its characters. The cast is big and diverse, sporting main characters who are gay, bi and ace, transgender and nonbinary. If you long for a new take on sci-fi, morally ambiguous characters, and kick-ass queers, I recommend this book to you.

Ninefox Gambit

By Yoon Ha Lee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New York Times Best-Selling Author - Nominated for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Series - Winner of the 2016 Locus Award - Nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C. Clarke Awards

When Captain Kel Cheris of the hexarchate is disgraced for her unconventional tactics, Kel Command gives her a chance to redeem herself, by retaking the Fortress of Scattered Needles from the heretics. Cheris's career isn't the only thing at stake: if the fortress falls, the hexarchate itself might be next.

Cheris's best hope is to ally with the undead tactician Shuos Jedao. The good news is that…


Who am I?

Armed with a master’s degree in English studies, a thesis on the merits of speculative fiction, and a chronic illness that showed me what I needed to fight for in life, I write character-driven, diverse, and hopeful science-fiction. I think one of sci-fi’s finest jobs is to open minds and show the world how it could be, for better or worse. My books have protagonists of multiple ethnicities, sexualities, and genders, some of them with physical or mental challenges. Because representation is important. My recommendations for you are sci-fi books with characters whose queerness is commonly accepted and unproblematic within their universes.


I wrote...

We Lost the Sky

By Marie Howalt,

Book cover of We Lost the Sky

What is my book about?

In the distant future when Tuscany is a desolate wasteland, the wanderer Renn struggles to find shelter from a dust storm and accidentally awakens a dormant creature resembling the legendary maddened Moon servants. A teenage survivor of the lost civilization is scavenging long-forgotten technology while keeping an eye on the one remaining great city, Florence. And a Florentine restoration worker is determined to help the impoverished denizens in the city’s slums, though this means going against her own father and the ideology of the ruling class.

As tensions mount in Florence, Renn and an unlikely new traveling companion are drawn toward the city. But it is going to take more than luck to avoid suspicious settlers and survive the perilous journey.

We're in this War, Too

By Judy Barrett Litoff (editor), David C. Smith (editor),

Book cover of We're in this War, Too: World War II Letters from American Women in Uniform

The authors spent ten years researching and acquiring the 30,000 letters that resulted in this collection portraying the wide range of experiences of women in uniform during World War II. I’ve returned to this book often during my research and would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the role women played during the war. These eyewitness accounts of the day-to-day lives of ordinary women stepping up to do extraordinary things are compelling and inspirational.

We're in this War, Too

By Judy Barrett Litoff (editor), David C. Smith (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We're in this War, Too as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Veterans' Day, 1993. The Vietnam memorial, Washington, D.C. Tearful thousands gather for the unveiling of a new monument, a long-overdue tribute to the women who served in Southeast Asia. The event was a powerful reminder of the importance of women in the war--and of its emotional role in their own lives. Yet Vietnam was not the first war in which American women enlisted alongside men. Fifty years ago, an even greater conflict engulfed the lives of tens of thousands of women as they joined the Second World War. Now Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith recapture their experiences in…

Who am I?

I’ve been devoted to reading memoirs since childhood. My favorite memoirs are based on letters written by people who served in World War II. Their letters encapsulate their experiences with an intimacy meant only for their loved ones. I am fascinated with the immediacy of their personal experience, the longing for home, and the courage to carry on that is expressed in these letters. I continue to be astonished and inspired by the lives of “ordinary” people who tell their own extraordinary stories better than anyone else could. I am the author of two non-fiction books based on letters and my current project is a World War II-era historical novel.


I wrote...

I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

By Karen Berkey Huntsberger,

Book cover of I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

What is my book about?

Frustrated with a career she did not like, Lucy Berkey enlisted in the Navy WAVES in 1943. She chronicled her life in letters home for two and a half years. Lucy’s vivid and captivating letters are filled with warmth, humor, and love for family and friends. She details her training, work as a map artist in Washington, DC, travel, and the unique friendships and camaraderie that developed between the women of the WAVES. Lucy’s story of personal and professional transformation, told against the backdrop of World War II, provides insight into what it was like to be a young military woman receiving the same rank and pay as a man for the first time in history.

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