From H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, books about time travel have long captured the imagination. And if you especially love to read about time-traveling women, you’re in luck! Featuring a mix of romance, mystery, and historical fiction, these books are about strong and smart women who break the barrier of time. Check out these great reads, complete with their official publishers’ descriptions, below.
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson
Part fairy tale, part mystery, part coming-of-age novel, this novel tells the story of Isobel Fairfax, a girl growing up in Lythe, a typical 1960s British suburb. But Lythe was once the heart of an Elizabethan feudal estate and home to a young English tutor named William Shakespeare, and as Isobel investigates the strange history of her family, her neighbors, and her village, she occasionally gets caught in Shakespearean time warps. Meanwhile, she gets closer to the shocking truths about her missing mother, her war-hero father, and the hidden lives of her close friends and classmates. A stunning feat of imagination and storytelling from Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet is rich with the disappointments and possibilities every family shares.
Why you’ll love it: Atkinson is a masterful storyteller. Her books are rife with suspense and mystery, and Human Croquet is no exception. Plus, it takes place in two of England’s most literary time periods: the Elizabethan era of Shakespeare and the 1960s.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity’s history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the 14th century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the 21st century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.
But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin — barely of age herself — finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history’s darkest hours.
Five years in the writing by one of science fiction’s most honored authors, Doomsday Book is a storytelling triumph. Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering, and the indomitable will of the human spirit.
Why you’ll love it: Kivrin is more than just an adventurer — she’s a scientist and a hero, too. That’s right, a female lead with brawn and brains!
Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Hailed as a classic of speculative fiction, Marge Piercy’s landmark novel is a transformative vision of two futures — and what it takes to will one or the other into reality. Harrowing and prescient, Woman on the Edge of Time speaks to a new generation on whom these choices weigh more heavily than ever before.
Connie Ramos is a Mexican American woman living on the streets of New York. Once ambitious and proud, she has lost her child, her husband, her dignity — and now they want to take her sanity. After being unjustly committed to a mental institution, Connie is contacted by an envoy from the year 2137, who shows her a time of sexual and racial equality, environmental purity, and unprecedented self-actualization. But Connie also bears witness to another potential outcome: a society of grotesque exploitation in which the barrier between person and commodity has finally been eroded. One will become our world. And Connie herself may strike the decisive blow.
Why you’ll love it: The feminist concerns raised here are as relevant today as when the book was first published. Connie Ramos is also one of the strongest female protagonists in speculative fiction.
Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her 26th birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Why you’ll love it: Part adventure story and part social commentary, this beautifully written book follows a black woman thrown back in time to the Civil War era. It’s not just thrilling — it will challenge you intellectually.
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach — an “outlander” — in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord… 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives.
Why you’ll love it: Outlander features one of the best love stories in recent years, and its historical detail is spot on.
The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley
Eva Ward returns to the only place she truly belongs, the old house on the coast of Cornwall, England, seeking happiness in memories of childhood summers.
There she finds mysterious voices and hidden pathways that sweep her not only into the past, but also into the arms of a man who is not of her time.
But Eva must confront her own ghosts, as well as those of long ago. As she begins to question her place in the present, she comes to realize that she too must decide where she really belongs.
Why you’ll love it: If you love Daphne du Maurier, then you’ve got to pick up The Rose Garden. Romantic and mysterious, it’s an exciting, modern take on a classic genre.
Love Beyond Time by Bethany Claire
It began nearly 400 years ago. The Conall clan and all their people were murdered in a surprise attack, their beloved castle and all evidence of who destroyed them burned to the ground with their bodies. In the centuries following, archaeologists searched through the ruins looking for any evidence of what or who had caused the untimely demise of such a powerful Scottish clan. All efforts were fruitless, until a spell put in place by an ancient Conall ancestor finally began to work its magic…
Texas kindergarten teacher, Brielle Montgomery, finds comfort in the mundane routines of her life, but when her archaeologist mother asks her to accompany her on a dig in Scotland, she decides to step out of her comfort zone. Once in Scotland, they discover a secret spell room below the castle ruins, and Bri finds herself transported back in time and suddenly married to the castle’s ill-fated Laird. Now, she must work to change the fate of his people, all while trying to find a way to return to her home and century. But with each passing day, Bri finds herself falling more deeply in love with her new husband. If she can find a spell to bring her home, will she use it? And if she stays, will it ultimately mean her own death as well?
Why you’ll love it: Fans of Outlander will enjoy Love Beyond Time. It’s filled with Highlander sexiness, and it’s rich in historical detail.
Veil of Time by Claire R. McDougall
The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?
Why you’ll love it: Another great read for fans of Outlander and historical romance. Maggie’s struggle to decide whether to stay in the past with her new love or return to the present will keep you riveted until the end.
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
After the death of her beloved twin brother and the abandonment of her long-time lover, Greta Wells undergoes electroshock therapy. Over the course of the treatment, Greta finds herself repeatedly sent to 1918, 1941, and back to the present. Whisked from the gas-lit streets and horse-drawn carriages of the West Village to a martini-fueled lunch at the Oak Room, in these other worlds, Greta finds her brother alive and well — though fearfully masking his true personality. And her former lover is now her devoted husband… but will he be unfaithful to her in this life as well? Greta Wells is fascinated by her alter egos: In 1941, she is a devoted mother; in 1918, she is a bohemian adulteress.
In this spellbinding novel by Andrew Sean Greer, each reality has its own losses, its own rewards; each extracts a different price. Which life will she choose as she wrestles with the unpredictability of love and the consequences of even her most carefully considered choices?
Why you’ll love it: Greer’s twist on the time-travel novel involves multiple plots that connect in unpredictable ways. If you like to be kept guessing until the very end, this book is perfect for you.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Fans of Douglas Adams and P. G. Wodehouse will love visiting Jasper Fforde’s Great Britain, circa 1985, when time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. It’s a bibliophile’s dream. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection. But when someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature and plucks Jane Eyre from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday is faced with the challenge of her career. Fforde’s ingenious fantasy — enhanced by a website that re-creates the world of the novel — unites intrigue with English literature in a delightfully witty mix. Thursday’s zany investigations continue with six more bestselling Thursday Next novels, including One of Our Thursdays is Missing and The Woman Who Died A Lot.
Why you’ll love it: If you like time-period comedies as much as time travel, you’ll love The Eyre Affair. It’s also the first in a series, so there’s a lot more of Special Operative Thursday Next to enjoy.
The Mirror by Marlys Millhiser
The night before her wedding, Shay Garrett has no idea that a glimpse into her grandmother’s antique Chinese mirror will completely transform her seemingly ordinary life. But after a bizarre blackout, she wakes up to find herself in the same house — in the year 1900. Even stranger, she realizes she is now living in the body of her grandmother, Brandy McCabe, as a young woman. Meanwhile, Brandy, having looked into the same mirror, awakens in Shay’s body in the present day to discover herself pregnant. Did Shay die and get reincarnated as young Brandy, who is about to get married herself? The answer is far more complex and bizarre than either woman can imagine.
Shay’s mother, Rachael, weaves back and forth between the two time periods in this riveting story of three headstrong women grappling with identity, love, and family drama. From courageous, compassionate Shay, who suddenly finds herself fighting against the confines of a society decades away from women’s liberation, to Brandy, struggling to adapt to a more modern world, Millhiser’s strong characters are up to the task presented by this imaginative yet humorous adventure.
This extraordinary novel is both a fascination tale of time-travel suspense and a journey to the heart of the bond shared by three generations of women. It is a tribute to survival, and to the triumph of the female spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Why you’ll love it: The Mirror is a female-centric take on the classic body swap. But because the protagonists are related, it’s also a lovely story about the strength of family ties across generations. If you like your time-travel novels to have a heart, this one’s for you.
A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered, and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates.
While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary, but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place — Aldrich Castle — but in a different time: 1815, to be exact.
Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her 21st-century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.
Why you’ll love it: If you’re a fan of both time-travel novels and books starring female investigators, then A Murder in Time is perfect for you. It’s a genre mash-up that’ll keep your heart pounding.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me sit down for a moment, and then I’ll be on my way. Speaking of ways, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”
A tesseract (in case the reader doesn’t know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L’Engle’s unusual book. A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, is the story of the adventures in space and time of Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keefe (athlete, student, and one of the most popular boys in high school). They are in search of Meg’s father, a scientist who disappeared while engaged in secret work for the government on the tesseract problem.
Why you’ll love it: Meg isn’t yet a full-grown woman, but she has all the strength and determination of one. A true classic, this is a quick page-turner worth revisiting as an adult.
Which of these books do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!
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