Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 with 8 Great Reads by Truly Amazing Women

March 8, 2023: A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, founder, Inkandescent PR + Publishing Co. It’s no secret that promoting truly amazing women is a passion of mine. Couple that with my love of fabulous stories that wake us up, encourage us to dream, and birth the big ideas we can bring to fruition. The result is this month’s cover story: 8 books by 8 female authors I have had the privilege to interview. (See below, in alpha order by the writer’s first name.)

Of course, these women aren’t alone. “From Sally Rooney to Raven Leilani, female novelists have captured the literary zeitgeist, with more buzz, prizes, and bestsellers than men,” writes  in The Guardian.

Perhaps that’s because women make up about 80% of those novel buyers, adds Irish Times reporter Finn McRedmond. “It follows, then, that it is perhaps likely that women like buying books written by women. The increasing democratization of the publishing industry also has something to do with it. Publishing is no longer run from the very top by a small group of men. It is abundantly obvious (and stop me if you’ve heard this one before) that an industry dominated solely by men is more likely to favor the work of men, seeing them preferred over their female counterparts. But that women writers are enjoying such sustained prominence in the fiction market simultaneously that more women are entering the publishing industry is further proof of this.” Click here to read more about the trend.

And do scroll down to check out 8 books you’ll want to add to your reading list! Perhaps their stories will inspire you to write a tome of your own. Cheers to the power of words!

1. Barbara Shapiro’s bestseller, The Art Forger — Author Barbara Shapiro fell in love with Isabella Stewart Gardner in 1983. True, the heiress died in 1924, but when two men dressed as police officers broke into her museum in 1990 and stole 13 pieces of art worth more than $500 million — Shapiro knew she had plenty of juicy details to work with. But wasn’t the topic too vast and complicated? Wouldn’t someone else beat her to the publishing punch? Or, perhaps, the mystery would be solved before she could finish writing a book about the heist.

Shapiro’s doubts kept the idea for her literary thriller tucked in her imagination as she wrote other books, raised two kids, and put her Ph.D. in sociology to work teaching creative writing at Northeastern University. Then one day, 19 years after the heist, when the fate of Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” Vermeer’s “The Concert,” and the other artwork remained unknown, Shapiro had a breakthrough.

“I was ruminating on how difficult life was for anyone in the arts and feeling more than a bit sorry for myself when my missing link appeared in the form of a question: What would any of us be willing to do to secure our ambitions? Unknown artists, famous artists, collectors, brokers, and gallery owners? Me? Isabella Stewart Gardner herself?”

Shapiro expanded her cast of characters and gave each one a temptation their egos couldn’t resist. The result is a 355-page story that includes a Faustian bargain for Claire Roth, a talented young Boston artist who agrees to forge a Degas painting in exchange for a gallery show. When she begins to suspect that the Degas in her studio may be the original stolen during the 1990 robbery, Claire begins an investigation that uncovers secrets about the relationship between Degas and Isabella Gardner. Thievery, romance, danger, and intrigue ensue.

Who could ask for more? Shapiro, perhaps, who at 61 struggles with the mystery of why some authors hit the big time while others take decades to realize their dreams of writing a bestseller.

“It is bizarre, after all of these years, to have it happen now—and it is just blowing me away,” Shapiro tells the “Costco Connection” from her home office in Boston. “I have some friends who made it early in their careers, and then they spend the rest of the time trying to keep up with their first books. I ‘deserve’ this success because I’ve worked hard and written a pretty good book. But I also know many people who have worked just as hard and have written good—if not better—books, and they aren’t getting this gift. I chalk it up to the whims of fate and a big chunk of luck.”

2. Cameron Huddleston shows us the importance of tough love in Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their FinancesAs painful as it can be, it’s essential to start open, productive talks about money with your parents as they age, explains journalist Cameron Huddleston, whose work has appeared in Forbes, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, the Chicago Tribune, and MSN.

“As your parents’ age, you may find that you want or need to broach the often-difficult subject of finances,” Cameron knows. “In Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk, I share ways to approach this issue, along with a wealth of financial and legal information that will help you help your parents into and through their golden years. Sometimes parents are reluctant to address money matters with their adult children, and topics such as long-term care, retirement savings (or lack thereof), and end-of-life planning can be particularly touchy.”

In this book: You’ll hear from others in your position who have successfully had “the talk” with their parents, and you’ll read about a variety of conversation strategies that can make talking about finances more comfortable and more productive.

Cameron explains: “It’s well-documented that a decline in financial capabilities is an early sign of cognitive decline. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins recently found that those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias were more likely to miss bill payments six years before a diagnosis. Clearly, you can’t say, “Mom and Dad, I want to monitor your finances to see if you’re missing bill payments, which might mean you have dementia.”

Rather, her book offers conversation starters and strategies to open the lines of communication about your parents’ finances, essential financial and legal information you should gather from your parents to be prepared for the future, and insights from others’ stories of successfully talking money with aging parents. “Perhaps most importantly, you’ll gain the courage, hope, and motivation to broach difficult subjects such as care facilities and end-of-life plans,” Cameron hopes.

3. New York Times Bestselling author Caroline Leavitt has penned more than a dozen novels, including the bestseller, Pictures of You — I met Caroline more than a decade ago when I was hired to write about her by Costco’s magazine, The Connection. She had just stepped into book publishing stardom, but her down-to-earth personality shone through. In the last decade, she’s found even more fame and has now penned 13 books, and remains as lovely and real.

“In my books, I delve into difficult situations and work them out. It’s where I put all the things I’m afraid of and obsess about. This makes me a much happier person in my regular life. I’m obsessed with what pulls people together and what tugs them apart, particularly families. I love to try to figure out how people are their best, or their worst, in difficult situations.”

4. Ellen Harper knows there’s Always a Song — I’m always amazed at who I have the privilege to meet, and how. Back in 2018, I was having lunch with my friend Sam Barry when he told me he was working on a book with Ellen Harper — a singer, songwriter, owner of the Folk Music Center in Claremont, CA, and mom to Grammy-winning musician Ben Harper. Little did I know then that I’d be attending Claremont Graduate University the following summer and meeting regularly with my new friend Ellen!

When their book was released in 2021, it wasn’t hard to imagine that Always a Songwould inspire millions. In it, Ellen shares vivid memories of growing up in Los Angeles in the 1960s among famous and small-town musicians while raising Ben and his brothers as a single parent. All the while, she was helping to run the family business that was frequented by Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, The New Lost City Ramblers, Doc Watson, and more.

Ellen shares: “Growing up, an endless stream of musicians and artists came from across the country to my family’s music store. Bess Lomax Hawes, Joan Baez, Sonny Terry, and Brownie McGee are all the singers, organizers, guitar and banjo pickers and players, songwriters, painters, dancers, and husbands, wives, and children—we were all in it together. And we believed singing could change the world.”

Music lovers and history buffs will enjoy this rare invitation into a world of stories and songs that inspired folk music today.

5. Fiona Simon is Gambling on Granola —  A former journalist, travel writer, editor, and communications director of the Boulder, CO, Chamber of Commerce, Fiona Simon says she was lured by the adventures of entrepreneurship when she launched her own organic granola company.

“It led to success, despite having no business background and simultaneously juggling the demands of being a single mom.” So, truly amazing Fiona decided to turn her experience into a book documenting personal and professional challenges, hardships, and triumphs.

The result: Gambling on Granola: Unexpected Gifts on the Path of Entrepreneurship.

In it, Simon shares an uplifting, inspiring but also raw, and honest tale. This is a business memoir and a love story―the love for her daughter, a journey in uncharted waters of the products and company she created, and the continued challenge to follow her dream.

“You’ll see my growth and healing over 15 years as mistakes, weaknesses, and naiveté, evolve into resilience, resolve, and inspiration. It started as all new businesses do―with an idea. But my world quickly became more complex as I established my company, developed new product lines, forged personal relationships in a competitive environment, grew the business, and held onto my deepest values―all while raising my daughter, Natalie.”

6. Jodi Picoult and Jenifer Finney Boylan give us Mad Honey: A Novel

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take to become ourselves.

7. Lily’s Promise give us hope — It was Yom Kippur, 1944, when Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoner Lily Ebert promised herself: I will survive. She swore to tell the world her story for everyone who couldn’t. Today, this remarkable 98-year-old is the co-author of the powerful memoir, Lily’s Promise, which she wrote with her 18-old great-grandson, Dov. Since the book’s publication in September, the duo has become a TikTok sensation with nearly 2 million followers.

Lily admits that it took decades before she found the courage to tell the tale of her happy childhood in Hungary, the death of her mother and two youngest siblings on their arrival at Auschwitz, and her determination to keep her two other sisters safe. “I always wanted to pay tribute to my family and the millions of others who have nobody to remember them,” explains Lily, who built a new life for herself in Israel, then in London after the war. “But I didn’t want to speak of the horrors for years because I didn’t want to upset my children, who I deeply loved.”

In the 1980s, she knew the time had come to speak out. She took her story to students, politicians, and workplaces. When the coronavirus pandemic rocked the world, Dov convinced Lily it was now time to take her message to a global audience. “I know there would come a time when I can’t do this anymore, and Dov proved he could help carry on my legacy,” says Lily, whose portrait is one of several Holocaust survivors recently unveiled at Buckingham Palace.

Soon-to-be high school graduate Dov explains: “I cannot recall a time where I was not aware that my great-grandmother was a survivor — not only of Auschwitz but of Nazi enforced slave labor and the Death March. Her experience is a part of me and all of Lily’s many descendants. So as soon as lockdown rules eased, I was struck by a newfound determination to absorb and preserve her testimony while I still had the chance.”

Dov knew social media was the ideal medium to share her important story. “Our message of hope is: Never, ever give up. Be tolerant of each other and remember nobody is better or worse than you; we are only different. Appreciate that.” Dov insists that being young in spirit is the secret to Lily’s longevity. “My friends would come round to play football, and Lily would come into the circle and kick the ball back to us. Her superpower is to be a force for good. As we enter the next generation of Holocaust education, social media will be a powerful platform for education and change.”

But there was one caveat from Lily, says Dov. “After I showed her what TikTok was all about, she said: “I’ll make videos with you — but I’m not dancing.”

Lily lives near her large and loving family, including 35 great-grandchildren. She is a founding member of the Holocaust Survivors Centre and was recently awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Holocaust education.

8. Piper Huguley takes us back to the Kennedy era of the 60s in By Her Own Design — As the author of a series of historical fiction novels that teach us about some amazing black women that history has not focused on, Professor Piper Huguley is changing the way her readers think.

“My goal is to make new inroads in the publication of historical romance by featuring African American Christian characters,” shares Piper, whose first books are part of the Home to Milford College series, including Amazon bestsellers The Lawyer’s Luck, The Preacher’s Promise, The Mayor’s Mission, and The Representative’s Revolt. Piper’s next series, Migrations of the Heart, follows the loves and lives of African American sisters during America’s most significant internal migration in the first part of the twentieth century.

Her current book, By Her Own Design, introduces us to Ann Lowe, the fashion designer to the social register. Among other prestigious accomplishments, she designed the world-famous wedding gown for Jackie Kennedy.

Piper explains what inspired her to write this book: “While I always followed the Kennedys, it wasn’t until my editor tweeted about wanting a biographical historical fiction book as a submission that I read about her. I could see that her life story had clear biopic potential. It also helped that my paternal family came from the same area of Alabama that she did, so, having visited that area, I felt as if I had a jump start on understanding her background and who she was as a young Black girl growing up in that area. The author of her self-published biography felt that a Black author was necessary to write her life as historical fiction, and I agreed. The door was open.”