HER Reading List: Inspiring books mostly by, for or about women

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

by Suzanne Joinson

There isn’t as much cycling in this novel as the title would suggest. There is, however, a well-traveled bicycle, owned by a young woman who has accompanied her sister and another missionary to Kashgar in northwest China’s Sinkiang (now Xinjiang) region in 1923. Intending to write a book about her experience, she keeps personal notes, which become observations on how good intentions can be ill-used and go astray.

In a parallel story, a contemporary woman finds these notes, with help from a Yemeni man who is avoiding deportation. The author switches back and forth between the two accounts until they inevitably intersect. The desert and mountains of the untamed region are both frightening and majestic, lending sobering authenticity to the tale.


by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley is known for her ability to weave the past and present into stories that reveal the personal side of history — in this case, the French and Indian War. Bellewether is the name of a ship whose heroic captain lived on Long Island. In 1759, before he goes to sea, his family was asked to house two captured enemy officers, one French and one French Canadian. This rural colonial home is the real center of the story, and Captain Wilde’s sister, Lydia, is its heart.

More than two centuries later, the secrets hidden in the old home’s domain are revealed to a newly hired curator of the Wilde house, which is being restored as a museum. Romance, scandal, redemption and even a ghost cross the time barrier as the house and its history are rebuilt and rediscovered.

Land of Love and Drowning

by Tiphanie Yanique

The Virgin Islands provide the backdrop for a novel that begins in the early 1900s with the territories’ transfer of ownership from Denmark to the United States.

The central characters are two sisters who evolve along with the fortunes of their homeland as the islands survive World War II, postwar commercialization and violent weather. Just like their sea captain father, who disappeared in a storm, the girls are both loving and disloyal, and family relationships are very complicated. St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix are, like their inhabitants, revealed to be both beautiful and deceptive.

The Dream Lover

by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg’s best-selling novels include “The Pull of the Moon,” “The Last Time I Saw You” and the Oprah Book Club pick, “Open House.” In “The Dream Lover,” Berg builds her story around a real woman, Aurore Dupin, who also became a best-selling author while concealing her identity, and gender, under the pen name George Sand. Refusing to be buried under 19th century morality, Aurore lived and loved in her own unconventional way. She found great success as a writer, but happiness in her personal life was more elusive. Enriching the story are her friendships with luminaries like Frederic Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt and Marie Duvall, and the Parisian culture that sustained them.

The Women in the Castle

by Jessica Shattuck


Set in Germany in the years immediately following the end of World War II, “The Women in the Castle” is not an ordinary survival story. It follows the struggles of three women, widows of German resisters who opposed Hitler and had plotted his assassination.

Marianne von Lingenfels has turned her family’s manor into a refuge for the widows and their children, a place where they can try to overcome the past and embark on new lives that might include forgiveness, and eventually even love, in the aftermath of history’s darkest hours. It is a home where a wealthy aristocrat, a peasant girl from the country and a former Hitler youth camp counselor can learn how to heal in spite of secrets that threaten to upend them. The characters are well-drawn, their stories treated with empathy and their outcomes unpredictable.

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