[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to welcome author Rachel Mans McKenny to the site today. Love STEM heroines? She has you covered! Take it away, Rachel!]
When I set out to write a book about an entomologist, I knew I’d get a little push back. Bugs? In a novel for my book club? Trust me, by the end of the book, you’ll be a little more in favor of insects than you were at the beginning.
My debut follows a grumpy entomology PhD who prefers bugs to people—at least until she’s forced to rebuild her broken relationships. After her twin has an aneurysm, she’s forced to confront the people who’ve hurt her and whom she has hurt, including her twin’s fiancée, her estranged mother, and her ex-boyfriend, who runs the butterfly conservatory in town.
Novels featuring female scientists are extremely popular book club picks, especially in historical fiction. Who doesn’t know a friend who had loved and recommended Where the Crawdads Sing or The Other Einstein? What follows is a list of fiction and nonfiction you may not have picked up yet which includes fabulous ladies from Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane believes in algorithms, but is less sure about dating. Hoang’s novel follows Stella in a reverse Pretty Woman type situation, where the data Stella needs is about kissing, foreplay, and sex. If you haven’t read this book yet, check it out. (And it’s a fabulous audiobook, but very NSFW, so make sure you’ve got headphones!)
In the Quick by Kate Hope Day (out March 2, 2021)
June has always wanted to be an astronaut, but after a spacecraft goes missing, a spacecraft powered by her late-uncle’s fuel cells, she becomes obsessed with saving it. In a novel with clear callbacks to Jane Eyre, In the Quick follows June from training school to space, in a book equally wrapped up with human relationships as with space exploration.
Beneath the Rising by Premee Mohamed
A genius inventor scientist and her well-meaning and very normal best friend have to face off against a powerful evil that threatens to take down the world as we know it. If your book club is looking for something in the science fiction category, I strongly recommend Mohamed’s debut 2020 release—whose follow up is coming soon.
Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley by Emily Chang
In the world of nonfiction, this book examines the misogyny at the heart of Silicon Valley’s bro-culture through analysis of case studies, news articles, and lots of interviews. Chang takes a wide view on some of the most recent scandals to broil tech culture and examines their roots. A really insightful read!
The Wanderers by Meg Howrey
How many astronaut books is too many? Asking for a friend. This 2017 novel follows the training and preparation for a mission to Mars, but ultimately is about the astronauts and their relationships, both on earth and within the crew. It’s a moody, beautifully written book with lots of questions, few answers, and lots of fodder for discussion
This nonfiction book by biologist Marlene Zuk digs into the weird world of bug sex, which you never knew you wanted to know about before. Extremely approachable writing, plus a plethora of bug facts on everything from bees to fleas makes this a fun book to talk about with others.
Slay by Brittney Morris
Seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is known as an honors student and one of the few black kids at her high school, but she’s not known as the game developer for a worldwide online roleplaying game. When a teen is killed in real life in a way tied to the game, Kiera’s creation is infiltrated by trolls. Kiera has to save her world, and herself, with her knowledge. This YA novel is unputdownable.
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Perhaps the quintessential memoir from a woman in STEM, Lab Girl tracks Jahren’s experiences from childhood through post-grad work to demonstrate how she came to love the environment, and how we can, in turn, love the environment, too. Full of wonderful real-life characters and intriguing facts, you’ll find out as much about Hope as the plants she studies.