A List of Books I Couldn’t Find

Yesterday, I went book shopping. I went to one of my favorite stores, where they are wonderful and helpful and where I almost always find something I haven’t seen that looks like something I want to read. I was looking for a book to give as a gift.

But it’s not a big store, and they only have so much shelf space, and I was–for various rambling reasons (some about the giftee, some about me)–looking for a very specific type of book, one that met a list of requirements I had decided on.

Those requirements were:

1. The book had to at least look like it would be written well.

2. The book had to be nonfiction, preferably Science or History.

3. The book couldn’t be heavy or dark. One of the purposes of the gift was to serve as a distraction/escape from today’s heavy and dark.

4. If the book was a history book, it had to be about a woman or multiple women, and it had to be written by a woman. If it was a science book, it had to at least be written by a woman.

Guess which one was the stumper.

Were there history and science books about women?


Were there history and science books by women?


Were there history and science books about AND by women?

A few. And the ones I found didn’t meet the first three requirements. Was it a sign of the times that I got more and more frustrated at all the books I found about women that were written by men? Absolutely? Was it fair? In some ways yes; in some ways no–I had much less of a problem with finding books about men written by women (although there were a lot fewer, so…you know.) Do I think men should be able to write nonfiction about women and women should be able to write nonfiction about men. Sure. I can instantly give you examples of two excellent books that fall under that umbrella: ‘They say’: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race by James West Davidson and Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.

Still. None of this helped my frustration last night. So I did some browsing, and the giftee is going to Chrysalis: Maria Sibyalla Merian and the Secrets of Metamorphosis by Kim Todd. It’s going on my to-read list as well.

And I came across some other titles that, while I haven’t looked to see if they meet requirements 1 and 3; they do meet requirements 2 and 4. And I decided to post a list of these books, the ones I couldn’t find last night, to make me happy and–possibly–to help someone else on their search.


Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space* by Janna Levin

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History* by Elizabeth Kolbert

Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature by Janine M. Benyus

Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas that Reveal the Cosmos* by Priyamvada Natarajan

A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universesby Zeeya Merali

Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry* by Christie Wilcox

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universeby Lisa Randall

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Lifeby Helen Czerski

Pandemic: Tracking Contagions: from Cholera to Ebola and Beyondby Sonia Shah

The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritanceby Nessa Carey

Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn: A Father, A Daughter, The Meaning of Nothing, and the Beginning of Everything by Amanda Gefter

*I found very few lists that included only women writers of science, so I want to give credit to the one excellent one I did find. These books are all from Swapna Krishna’s Bustle post, “9 Science Books Written by Women To Read When You Need A Break From Fiction.”



Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly  (The bookstore did have this, but I figured it was high odds the giftee would have already read it.)

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman

Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom by Keisha N. Blain

Ada The Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age by Betty A. Toole

The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff

Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London by Lauren Elkin

When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt by Kara Cooney

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

Irish Nationalist Women: 1900-1918 by Senia Paseta

The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reid

Mother is a Verb: An Unconventional History by Sarah Knott

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