The most recommended books about Women in the military

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to Women in the military, and here are their favorite Women in the military books.
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Women in the Military

By Jeanne Holm,

Book cover of Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution

Eileen A. Bjorkman Author Of The Fly Girls Revolt: The Story of the Women Who Kicked Open the Door to Fly in Combat

From the list on hidden histories of women in the military.

Who am I?

I work in aviation, so it was natural to write about it when I started as a freelance writer. But I quickly realized that writing about aviation people is much more interesting than writing about airplanes. Because of my military background I found myself writing veterans’ stories. I’ve uncovered many stories that have never been told or have been forgotten over the years. And because I was in the Air Force in the 1980s and 1990s, I knew the events in my new book had never been told. During my research, I found more books with hidden histories and rediscovered some I read decades ago. This list is my favorites.

Eileen's book list on hidden histories of women in the military

Why did Eileen love this book?

The definitive book about women in the U.S. military, beginning with the American Revolution and ending in the early 1990s.

Written by a retired 2-star general who lived much of the history and originally published in the 1980s (which is when I first read it), Holm updated the book in 1993 after the Persian Gulf War.

As an academic text, the pace can be a bit tedious at times, but readers will enjoy Holm’s wit and anecdotes that illustrate the history of the women who gradually overcame discrimination to become full members of the military team. My primary “go-to” source for information as I researched my most recent book!

By Jeanne Holm,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This revised edition of Maj. Gen. Jeanne Holm's classic work on the history and role of women in the U.S. armed forces brings the reader up to date by covering the role of American military women in all post-Vietnam military operations - including the recent Persian Gulf war. Just as important is her discussion of the changing role of women in the military during the 1980s and the current debate over combat exclusion law and policies.

Sheepfarmer's Daughter

By Elizabeth Moon,

Book cover of Sheepfarmer's Daughter

Nathan W. Toronto Author Of Rise of Ahrik

From the list on military science fiction and fantasy by veterans.

Who am I?

I care about military SFF because it has the potential to contribute to a just and prosperous society by building bridges of understanding between military professionals and civilians. I've never served in the military, but I taught operations and strategy to US Army officers for six years, after which I went to Abu Dhabi as one of the founding faculty members of the UAE National Defense College. I wrote a book, How Militaries Learn, which is one of the few academic books on civil-military relations to use large-n statistical analysis. I’ve lived in ten countries and I speak four languages, including Arabic.

Nathan's book list on military science fiction and fantasy by veterans

Why did Nathan love this book?

We need more characters like Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter, the daughter of a sheep farmer who joins a mercenary company to avoid an unwanted marriage. Moon, who served as a Marine in Vietnam, gives us a perfect hero’s tale. Paksenarrion (“Paks” for short) doesn’t set out to garner fame and glory, but she works hard at what she does, and her moral compass is firmly attuned to a sense of justice and truth. Paks captures everything we want in a hero, and Moon’s understanding of infantry, siege, and melee tactics filters through in subtle yet powerful ways, from details like foot soreness on the march to how most sieges end with rebellion within the gates. Sheepfarmer’s Daughter literally has it all. Go read it today. 

By Elizabeth Moon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors 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…

Warrior Queens

By Antonia Fraser,

Book cover of Warrior Queens: The Legends and the Lives of the Women Who Have Led Their Nations to War

Pamela D. Toler Author Of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

From the list on women in war.

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.

Pamela's book list on women in war

Why did Pamela love this book?

In many ways, Antonia Fraser's Warrior Queens spurred my long-term interest in women warriors. Fraser not only introduced me to historical women I had never heard of, but to the idea that women had fought as a normal part of the army in far more epochs and far more civilizations than is normally appreciated. Fraser looks at her warring queens as a group as well as individually, trying to understand the tropes that (mostly male) historians have used both to make them bigger than life and to demean them as women. A fascinating read that has held up well over time.

By Antonia Fraser,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this panoramic work of history, Lady Antonia Fraser looks at women who led armies and empires: Cleopatra, Isabella of Spain, Jinga Mbandi, Margaret Thatcher, and Indira Gandhi, among others.

The Endless Skies

By Shannon Price,

Book cover of The Endless Skies

Kalyn Josephson Author Of The Storm Crow

From the list on YA books with magical animals.

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!

Kalyn's book list on YA books with magical animals

Why did Kalyn love this book?

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.

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…

Women Warriors

By Pamela D. Toler,

Book cover of Women Warriors: An Unexpected History

Shelley Puhak Author Of The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry That Forged the Medieval World

From the list on nonfiction about overlooked historical figures.

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.

Shelley's book list on nonfiction about overlooked historical figures

Why did Shelley love this book?

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.

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…

The Thousand Names

By Django Wexler,

Book cover of The Thousand Names

Reese Hogan Author Of Shrouded Loyalties

From the list on cross-dressing women in wartime.

Who am I?

As a nonbinary trans guy, I grew up obsessed with novels about women disguising themselves as men. I loved everything about the trope, and always felt disappointed when they had to go back to living as women. It is a trope I eagerly embraced when I wrote Shrouded Loyalties, and though I didn’t yet know the term “transgender,” I was already exploring my own gender identity through my reading and writing of this theme. The books I’ve chosen to highlight here are ones that became some of my very favorites, and also feature action-packed wartime settings like the one used in Shrouded Loyalties.

Reese's book list on cross-dressing women in wartime

Why did Reese love this book?

The Thousand Names has one of the most unique protagonists and refreshing settings I’ve seen. Winter Ihernglass is disguised as a male soldier in a world of gunpowder and muskets, and ancient demons that can be released with the right magic. I loved watching Winter advance through the ranks and prove her brilliance time and time again. She continues to disguise herself throughout the series, even as women are allowed into the army and more people become aware of her gender, leading me to believe that the look is less a disguise and more her actually living as she truly wants to: as a transgender man in a world that doesn’t yet have a name for it.

By Django Wexler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set in an alternate nineteenth century, muskets and magic are weapons to be feared in the first "spectacular epic" (Fantasy Book Critic) in Django Wexler's Shadow Campaigns series.

Captain Marcus d'Ivoire, commander of one of the Vordanai empire's colonial garrisons, was serving out his days in a sleepy, remote outpost-until a rebellion left him in charge of a demoralized force clinging to a small fortress at the edge of the desert.

To flee from her past, Winter Ihernglass masqueraded as a man and enlisted as a ranker in the Vordanai Colonials, hoping only to avoid notice. But when chance sees…

The Lonely Soldier

By Helen Benedict,

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

Ryan Leigh Dostie Author Of Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

From the list on women in the United States military.

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.  

Ryan's book list on women in the United States military

Why did Ryan love this book?

Helen Benedict’s book chronicles the lives of several women serving in Iraq. It 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 focus single-mindedly on abuse in the military, there’s no denying that these women’s stories are real, poignant, and deserve to be heard.       

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…

Ninefox Gambit

By Yoon Ha Lee,

Book cover of Ninefox Gambit

Andrew Sweet Author Of Southern Highlands: Obi of Mars

From the list on sci-fi featuring world-changing female badasses.

Who am I?

I’ve always loved science fiction. My father was an Asimov junkie, and our house was packed with science fiction novels and stories from Azimov to Heinlein to Wyndham and Wilhelm. I began writing science fiction in high school, yet only recently published my first 4 novels (one of which won a Bookfest award). I hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science (bioinformatics), and I stay on top of science to inform my writing. It’s through this background that I select novels, seeking out new tropes and ideas in technological advancement. Each of these novels I mention exceeded my expectations and then some. Pick one up today—you won’t be disappointed!

Andrew's book list on sci-fi featuring world-changing female badasses

Why did Andrew love this book?

When I received Ninefox Gambit for Christmas, I have to say that I was blown away. What I loved the most about it wasn’t just that Yoon Ha Lee dropped me in the middle of a war and hit the ground running (from lazer blasts!) The tactician Shuos Jedao leads Cheris into an inner battle that turns out to be even more consequential than the war itself. And when finally the question arises of “who is right” in the conflict, something that the good soldier Cheris has never asked herself before, the answer depends on who’s answering. Cheris, like all of us, must decide for herself whether the secrets of Jedao’s past are true, or whether she’s having her strings pulled.

By Yoon Ha Lee,

Why should I read it?

3 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…

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

Karen Berkey Huntsberger Author Of I'll Be Seeing You: Letters Home from a Navy Girl

From the list on women in uniform in World War II.

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.

Karen's book list on women in uniform in World War II

Why did Karen love this book?

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.

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…

Book cover of Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Laurence W. Marvin Author Of The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1218

From the list on premodern western warfare.

Who am I?

From my earliest memories I’ve always been interested in military history, and as a young man I served in the U.S. Navy on a nuclear submarine. As an ardent bibliophile, my home and office overflows with books. As a professor, for the past 25 years I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a broad survey on western military history, which gives me the opportunity to experiment with many books for my own and the students’ enjoyment. The books on this list are perennial favorites of the traditional-age undergraduates (18-22) I teach, but will appeal to any reader interested in premodern military history. 

Laurence's book list on premodern western warfare

Why did Laurence love this book?

Lynn was one of my graduate advisors decades ago, but he wrote this long after I finished.

A highly respected military historian, Lynn did a remarkably sympathetic and nuanced job of explaining the vital role women played in early modern warfare. No, he doesn’t concentrate on the few who took on male garb and actually fought, but rather the tens of thousands of mostly nameless “camp followers” who provided essential services: food and fodder, as sutlers, and yes, as prostitutes. Quite simply, an early modern army couldn’t function without its extensive “tail.” 

One of the salient characteristics separating premodern and modern armies is how governments eventually, over a long period of time, froze out women from participating in any aspects of warfare by bringing under their aegis all the services (save prostitution) that women had heretofore provided.

By John A. Lynn II,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe examines the important roles of women who campaigned with armies from 1500 to 1815. This included those notable female individuals who assumed male identities to serve in the ranks, but far more numerous and essential were the formidable women who, as women, marched in the train of armies. While some worked as full-time or part-time prostitutes, they more generally performed a variety of necessary gendered tasks, including laundering, sewing, cooking, and nursing. Early modern armies were always accompanied by women and regarded them as essential to the well-being of the troops. Lynn…