Feminist Fiction Books to Curl Up With for the Holidays

One of the things that makes me the happiest is to have a brand new book—so, in the spirit of the season, I wanted to share my favorite new reads written by some of my favorite authors (and a few of my friends).

Talking with an author about her characters is magical—and so was meeting Rachel Kadish when she came to Los Angeles to speak about her book, The Weight of Ink, before we saw the Ruth Bader Ginsburg exhibit at Skirball Cultural Center. This book is historical fiction with a side of philosophy set in London, and it explores choices for women in different time periods. What impacts your choices? Do you have candles to read by? Do you have access to books, mentorship and education? What will it take to bring your passions to life? You’ll think about all that and more as you read this novel.

I have absolutely loved each and every book by Lisa Genova, who is a neuroscientist and incredible author. I wrote about her book, Every Note Played, for Ms. in “The Virtual Search for IRL Empathy.” This book is a story of family drama with a side of medical science.

Danielle Wood (aka Minnie Darke) and I met on a cruise ship nearly 25 years ago when I was working for Princess Cruises. Her latest book, Star-Crossed, is about childhood sweethearts: Justine, a Sagittarius and serious skeptic, and Nick, an Aquarius and true believer. It’s about astrology, with a side of Shakespeare—Justine takes a turn at writing horoscopes, and the ripple effects impact everyone’s choices. I enjoyed it so much.

What will you do with today, tomorrow and the rest of your life? Do you want what you have or are you ready to hope for more? Have you ever thought: “I want more than this?” If so, Diane Barnes’ book More Than may really speak to you! The main character has twins who are about to leave for college, and she has to face her soon to be empty nest and the candy wrappers and ice cream cartons that taunt her.

It was an honor to meet author Nicole Dennis Benn when she was interviewed by Carmen Rios, the Managing Digital Editor of Ms., at their Book Club in Los Angeles. The characters in Patsy are gritty with real issues. If you want to read a book where you take on another person’s perspective that is not often covered in books, step into Patsy‘s world in Jamaica.

Do you make resolutions for New Year’s Eve? Before you do, go out and grab Rachel Friedman’s new book, And Then We Grew Up: On Creativity, Potential, and the Imperfect Art of Adulthood, on December 31! Friedman came to Los Angeles in 2011 to speak at a We Said Go Travel event about her travel book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure, and, in a way, this new book continues the conversation—she seeks out her childhood friends from arts camp who wanted to be artists, dancers and musicians, and asks how their childhood dreams turned into adult lives with partners, jobs and realized hopes.

“What’s the right way to go about… our lives?” she asked in The Guide. “Should you do what you love, what’s outrageous and unpredictable, and worry about the future later? Or plug away at a steady job first and go off and have your fun when you retire?” I recommend both of her books—and seeking the answer to those questions—as you begin a new decade!

I was mesmerized as one day in a reproductive health services clinic evolved in Jodi Picoult’s powerful book, A Spark of Light. I had to examine my judgements as more information appeared about the intersecting lives of participants in this drama. I could not put it down.

Christina Dalcher’s Vox also surprised me. I found the book challenging to read, as I felt I could see women’s rights to speak slipping away. What would you say with your words if you were only allowed a certain number per day? What would you tell your loved ones?

All of the books on this list so far are written by women, many of whom I know personally, but I must add a book that I read during my divorce when I was depressed and unsure of my next steps. I have quoted it to myself and recommended it to many others going through trauma and transition. Supersurvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success helped me find hope. When I read, “forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different,” it really started me on a path to healing. I was focused on the past, but you cannot find your future only watching the rear-view mirror.

As authors, Feldman and Kravetz wrote, “Rather than dwelling on the past, she found herself asking the hopeful and forward-looking question: ‘What now?’” As we enter 2020, we should all dream up big answers.


Lisa Niver is the author of Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty and an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She has articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site We Said Go Travel. For her print, podcast, digital and broadcast segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist 22 times. Niver is also the host of the award-nominated podcast Make Your Own Map.