Two women on a picnic blanket, one reading, on a fall day

5 Books about Strong Women, by Women

On June 24, 2022, Roe v. Wade—the legislation that allowed women’s access to abortion as a right in healthcare—was overturned. Since then, communities of women—with and without uteruses—have been scrambling for ways to support one another during these bleak times. For some, especially for those who feel the impact of the overturn in our personal lives, a good story with a strong woman protagonist to ignite the fire within and remind us of the strength that we possess is just what we need. Strength comes in many forms and this book list explores many of them.

For this list, I am presenting to you five books about women, by women, so that as we explore these forms of strength, we too are supporting fellow women.

    1. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This beautiful creative nonfiction book is written by writer and scientist Robin Wall Kimmerer who is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. In this breathtaking book, Kimmerer’s ethereal prose braids stories of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the science that surrounds us in our everyday lives, and the never ending offerings that plants have within their medicinal properties. A delicious treat.

    2. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

This autobiography takes us back to the 1970s when political activist and Black Panther Assata Shakur—godmother of Tupac Shakur—finds herself in custody after a tantalizing battle with the FBI and local police. She was incarcerated for four years before flimsy evidence led to her conviction. Assata’s story is unlike anyone else’s and her personal account of the Black Liberation movement of the 1970s will teach you the strength of Black womanhood and motherhood and the reason to fight for police abolition.

    3. Heartbroke by Chelsea Bieker

Bieker is Portland State’s very own MFA graduate who debuted with her book Godshot last year. While her debut had a very strong female protagonist, I’m recommending her short story collection, Heartbroke, in this article. Why? Because this story collection hosts a variety of strong women who come in all shapes and sizes. From a houseless mother in a shelter to teen girls in an online game that plays on their fate, and even a sex phone operator who chases around a cowboy in the pursuit of a better life, this is an enthralling collection.

    4. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

In The Poet X, Dominican American poet and author Elizabeth Acevedo introduces Xiomara Batista into the world—and I must say, my life has been better ever since. In this novel written entirely in profound poetic prose, Xiomara finds refuge in her own poetry while navigating through a tough teenagehood where the church is law and her Mami’s word is God. Xiomara encompasses all the strength I strive for in life.

    5. The Dragons, the Giants, the Women: A Memoir by Wayétu Moore

Last but not least, Moore’s creative memoir The Dragons, the Giants, the Women shares the gripping details of when the First Liberian Civil War broke out and how she and her family escaped. This book leads up to the life she has built for herself here in the United States and shares intimate details of the strife that she overcame in between. If you are ever second-guessing the power to behold in a woman who faces crisis, this book will convince you that Moore, and women like her, can achieve anything that is possible in a show of true resilience.

Multi-toned old style page pieces overlapping each other. Sign that says "Amplify Your Voice" in the middle

Amplifying Black Authors and Voices

Reading and supporting Black authors and voices will expand your personal library and diversify the books you’re reading. Many readers will make book-related goals at the start of a new year with the intention of reading more diversely, but can fall short of fulfilling that goal. In order to keep these self-assigned goals, readers need to consume the content, but they may not know where to start. There are a lot of Black authors who may not be popping up in online searches or while scrolling through social media.

Readers have the power to maintain a high level of diversity within the books they consume. Being on social media platforms, such as TikTok and Instagram, offers unlimited access to Black authors and voices who promote books that have representation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) characters and storylines. Black authors will self-promote and market their upcoming releases on social media. BIPOC book content creators and/or reviewers will provide their detailed thoughts, opinions, and ratings of books. By following, liking, commenting, and sharing the profiles and posts of these Black authors and content creators, readers can remain informed about upcoming projects and books they might have not otherwise known about. Interacting with and actively seeking out Black authors and book content creators assists your chosen platform’s algorithm in adapting to what you want to see.

The publishing industry is dominated by white people which makes it harder for Black authors to have their manuscripts be traditionally published. Many BIPOC authors will go through the process of independently or self-publishing. Once their book is published, the number of sales may sway a traditional publishing company into offering an author a publishing contract because they have proven to be successful. Those offers may take a long time and the author may not want to sign on with a traditional publisher. It’s important to make space in the book and publishing world for Black authors to share their ideas and lived experiences through their writing.

Don’t know where to go from here? Do you need help getting started? Below are a few book recommendations across varying genres to aid in diversifying reading.

Romance Recommendations (18+): Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan, The New Haven series by J. L. Seegars, Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Science Fiction/Fantasy Recommendations: Legendborn and Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn, Skin of the Sea and Soul of the Deep by Natasha Bowen, Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James, and The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin.

New Adult Recommendations: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

You can find these recommendations and many others through Ooligan Press’s Bookshop link.

stone road leading to medieval castle in mist

Books to Get You Hyped for THE KEEPERS OF ARIS!

It’s been well established by now that diversity is extremely important in reading and publishing. Having diverse voices represented in all aspects of the industry is necessary to reflect the world we live in. One genre that has historically lacked diversity but has recently been improving is YA fantasy. As we at Ooligan prepare to publish our own YA fantasy novel, The Keepers of Aris, here’s a list of Black YA fantasy novels that I recommend in no particular order.

  • A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
    • The first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore, this book follows a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee who find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.
  • Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
    • This Jamaican-inspired fantasy debut about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy has the twisted cat-and-mouse of Killing Eve with the richly imagined fantasy world of FurybornandAn Ember in the Ashes.
  • Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
    • This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them.
  • Legacy of Orïsha series by Tomi Adeyemi
    • Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic before a ruthless king ordered all maji killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Now Zélie fights to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy while struggling to control her powers—and her growing feelings for an enemy.
  • Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen
    • Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.
  • Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
    • In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the ancient creature menacing their home—and discover much more than they bargained for.
  • The Legendborn Cycle series by Tracy Deonn
    • After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
  • The Return of the Earth Mother series by Reni K. Amayo
    • A gruesome war results in the old gods’ departure from Earth. The only remnants of their existence lie in two girls. Twins, separated at birth. Goddesses who grow up believing that they are human. Daughters Of Nri explores their epic journey of self-discovery as they embark on a path back to one another.
  • The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
    • Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity—and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

And don’t forget to check out The Keepers of Aris by Autumn Green this May 9, 2023!

person seated, looking through a phone

New Ways To Find New Books

How do you find books for your TBR (To Be Read) pile? Whether you are looking for your own next read, making a library run, or buying a gift for someone, chances are that you have a favorite source. It might be a trusted local bookseller. Maybe you have a “go-to” reviewer whose taste in books anticipates yours. Or perhaps you are one of those brave souls who enjoy strolling through a shop and literally judging a book by its cover! We’ve all done that, which is why we spend so much time and love on our Ooligan book covers. Maybe you are one of the lucky folks who has a friend with opposite taste in reading, and your book list stays fresh that way.

There’s no wrong way to select reading material. However, speaking from personal experience, using the same method to choose books can get us into a little bit of a reading rut at times. Especially if an author is prolific and writes in a popular genre, it’s all too easy to get into a groove with the familiar when we reach for a book. So we have a few suggestions for using technology to expand your reading list. Say it with me . . . “There’s an app for that!”


This is the grandmama of social reading apps. It’s great for keeping lists of what you’ve read, and the reviews are peer-written and genuine. Goodreads has millions of users and a huge catalog of books. However, it has been around since 2006, and it’s increasingly being surpassed by other, newer recommendation algorithms. But if you want to get recommendations from family and friends, or to join groups that are focused on specific topics or genres, you can probably find them on Goodreads. (Some consumers choose not to use Goodreads because it is owned by Amazon; in that case, StoryGraph is a similar app that is a little more modern.)


Are you a reader who likes to align their books, TV, movies, and music? The Likewise app covers far more than books. You can follow friends or celebrities, browse quirky curated lists, get reading recommendations based on your viewing and listening preferences, and even ask the community to solve reading conundrums for you.


This is an Ooligan favorite! LibraryThing lets you scan your books to build a library, and then explore recommendations, groups, community projects and games, and many other ways to find and play with books. Forgot the name of a book you read once? There’s a group just waiting to help you figure that out! You can check out other people’s libraries, and even flip the recommendation algorithm to get lists of books that are wildly different from what’s on your shelf. LibraryThing isn’t a sleek user interface, but it is stuffed full of information, and it’s a great place to go explore.


This is the new app on the block, partially funded by Ingram Content Group (which will also provide purchasing and shipping services for the site’s online bookshop). “Tertulia” means a literary or artistic salon, and this book recommendation service aspires to recreate the informal “book talk” often heard in Spanish cafes and bars. Tertulia differs from some other sites through its combination of algorithms plus editorial curation; it pulls information from thousands of sources online to figure out what books are being talked about, but also uses the opinions and recommendations of vetted experts to curate lists. This app is a good choice if you are looking for academic and artistic conversation about books, rather than a simple five-star rating system.

This is just a small sample of the many book recommendation apps that are available today. There are many ways to find books for your reading pile. While recommendations from friends and booksellers will never go out of style, technology can help you out too. If you are looking for ways to shake up your reading, consider exploring these or others. And please comment below and let us know: What is your favorite book recommendation app?

animated haunted house and moon

Three Titles to Haunt Your Bookshelf This Halloween

As someone who used to work in a bookstore and handled literally hundreds of books every day, I consider myself pretty open to trying just about any genre that caught my attention. In fact, some of the best books I have ever read were ones I picked up on a complete and utter whim. For years, however, I’d avoided one genre in particular: horror. As Halloween approached this year, I decided it was time to face my fears and see what was out there.

Once I started poking around, I realized that the genre has a lot to offer and now is a particularly exciting time to be getting into horror as the genre is becoming more inclusive and welcoming to groups it previously mocked or relegated to victimhood. Whether you’re just starting out in this genre or you’re a die-hard fan who’s been devouring Stephen King under the full moon since childhood, I’ve got three recommendations that will scare your socks off.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

This novel has the power to send shivers down your spine in the middle of a crowded store in broad daylight. I would know; I literally could not put it down even to go to the grocery store. The repeating refrain, “I’m thinking of ending things,” loops through the head of the main character as she embarks on a road trip to meet her boyfriend’s parents. Haunted by menacing phone calls and increasingly doubting her own reality, she becomes less and less sure that she’ll ever return.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado brings horror to an entirely new level in this collection of nine eerie short stories that will haunt you long after you’ve put the book down. It’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark for grown-ups. Machado combines the most unsettling elements of old campfire ghost stories with sharp wit, dark humor, and a centering of queer and feminist narratives in this absolute masterpiece collection.

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth

I’ve saved the best for last. Weaving a haunting tale of forbidden love and threatening curses through two storylines over a hundred years apart, Emily M. Danforth creates an atmospheric and eerie drama that centers queer characters and relationships.

In the 1902 storyline, Clara and Flo, students at an all-girls boarding school called Brookhants, have been found stung to death by yellow jackets in a thicket just off-campus. Another girl’s death, a memoir by Mary Maclane, and a string of unexplained “happenings” will eventually lead to the school’s closure.

In the 2019 storyline, a film crew endeavors to capture the full story of Brookhants in a horror film/mockumentary. When the crew—consisting of celebrity Harper Harper, child star Audrey Wells, and writer of the novel The Happenings of Brookhants upon which the film is loosely based Merritt Emmons—travels to the abandoned school, they have no idea what they will awaken within Brookhants and within themselves.

I hope you find yourself happily haunted by these novels. Happy Halloween!

old fashioned movie projector surrounded by mist

Four Scary Movies Based on Even Scarier Books

It’s that time of year again to carve pumpkins, hand out candy, and scare ourselves silly with tidings of the spooky season. I for one seek out as many scary movies as I can to embrace the Halloween spirit, but sometimes, there is nothing scarier than the source material. From demonic possession—the inspiration for the slasher genre—supernatural curses, and unseen monsters, there is something for every taste in horror with these frightening books. So when the silver screen just doesn’t cut it anymore, here are four books that are even more terrifying than the horror movies they inspired.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. Widely regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made, the story of The Exorcist was first introduced to audiences by William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel. The story, inspired by the possession of a young boy in Cottage City, Maryland, details the story of eleven-year-old Regan MacNeil as two priests attempt to exorcise the demon possessing her. Published in 1971, the book has terrified readers for fifty years and inspired a film and television franchise that has spanned decades. Now, readers have the opportunity to delve not only into the original 1971 publication, but also the revised fortieth anniversary edition that still evokes the same level of terror as when it was first published, with slightly less pea soup.

Ring by Koji Suzuki. Kazuyuki Asakawa, a journalist struggling to find his next big break, stumbles across the biggest story of his life when chasing the story of his niece’s mysterious death. Following in her footsteps from her final week, Asakawa’s discoveries lead to more questions than answers; his niece and three of her friends passed away simultaneously, exactly one week after watching a mysterious, unmarked videotape. Asakawa tracks down the tape to watch it for himself, and he is brought face-to-face with a warning that promises the same fate as his niece and her friends. Unsettled and determined to find the truth, Asakawa uncovers the story of Sadako Yamamura and her vengeful, supernatural curse that haunts those who watch the tape. Koji Suzuki’s 1991 novel offers a terrifying look into Sadako’s tragic life and the resulting curse that has since inspired several film adaptations worldwide in addition to a six-book series.

Psycho by Robert Bloch. When Robert Bloch’s seventh novel was released in 1959, it quickly began flying off the shelves, but not for the reason you might think. The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, intent on keeping the twist in his adaptation of the book a secret, bought up as many copies as he could. While this resulted in one of the most shocking reveals in cinematic history, it also meant that readers were not exposed to the equally suspenseful and shocking novel. Experience the novel that inspired one of Hitchcock’s greatest films as Bloch unfolds the tale of the Bates Motel and its unsettling manager, Norman.

The Mist by Stephen King. It wouldn’t be a list of scary books without including an entry by Stephen King. The original 1980 novella details the terror unleashed on a small Maine town when a fog bank filled with monsters traps residents in the local grocery store. As tensions rise, King weaves in terrifying images of unfathomable beasts that threaten to break into the glass-walled store. The 2002 movie adaptation offers one major change to King’s writing: the ending. While I won’t spoil either piece here, the movie received a rare stamp of approval from the original author and drastically changes the outlook offered in the source material. This is a quick read that sacrifices none of the terror portrayed in the other longer books on this list.

Happy reading this Halloween season!

pink and yellow balloons with smiley faces on them

Feel-Good Reads to Boost Your Mood

There’s nothing like a good book to get you out of a funk. When life gets heavy, sometimes you just need to escape from life for a while, and a book is a great way to do just that.

Here’s a list of some new releases that are sure to leave you feeling a little happier. Hopefully these books will make you laugh, give you just a little bit of hope, and allow you to forget your troubles (even if it’s only for a few hours).

  • 30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani

    Can you fix your life simply by choosing to love yourself? Thirty-year-old Nina decides to test the theory. She is at the lowest point in her life and has nothing left to lose. What’s the worst that could happen? She goes on a journey to find thirty things she loves about herself by her next birthday. This hilarious novel will have you thinking about starting your own self-love journey.

  • Deconstructed by Liz Talley

    When Cricket Crosby finds out about her husband’s affair, she decides to do whatever it takes to learn the truth and get revenge. Her assistant Ruby, whose goal is to become a fashion designer, decides to help Cricket with her investigation. This novel explores an unlikely friendship on a journey that will have you crying from laughter.

  • Lease on Love by Falon Ballard

    This debut novel follows down-on-her-luck Sadie Green. In a particularly low moment, Sadie attempts to find a one-night stand to dull the pain, but mixes her dating app with a roommate-finding app. This leads her to Jack Thomas’ door. She unexpectedly finds herself in love with his home and accepts his offer to stay in his spare bedroom. Of course, this is only the beginning of Sadie and Jack’s story.

  • Yinka, Where Is Your Husband? by Lizzie Damilola Blackburn

    Yinka is a smart, successful, and independent Nigerian woman. She has everything in her life figured out except when it comes to the love department—something her family never lets her forget. When her cousin gets engaged, Yinka decides it’s the perfect opportunity to find the man of her dreams to take as her date to the wedding. She knows she will succeed this time. As she begins her highly organized plan to find a man, bigger questions about identity, culture, and meaning start looming.

  • Must Love Books by Shauna Robinson

    Nora Hughes is living the path to her dreams as an editorial assistant at Parsons Press—or so she thought. After five years of being overworked and underpaid, she discovers her pay is being cut, making it impossible for her to even pay rent. She decides to take her future into her own hands by taking another position at a rival press to supplement her income and poach some of Parsons’ authors. Things quickly get complicated, making Nora question where exactly her loyalties lie.

  • The One True Me and You: A Novel by Remi K. England

    Two Events. One Weekend. Kaylee Beaumont is excited to meet all of her internet friends in person at GreatCon, as well as use this opportunity to explore her queer identity. Teagan Miller has her eyes set on the $25,000 prize of the Miss Cosmic Teen USA Pageant so that she can go off to college and be her true self, but she’d much rather be at GreatCon. When they cross paths on the first night, their connection is undeniable, but there is way too much to risk their secrets getting out, right?

Happy Reading!

forest full of green leaves

Asian American Authors of the Pacific Northwest

Exclusionary policies and widespread discrimination have historically made the Pacific Northwest unwelcoming for immigrants of every generation, often creating spaces where Asian Americans are unwelcome and unsupported. Recently, an uptick of hate and xenophobic violence has called attention to charities such as Stop AAPI Hate and #HATEISAVIRUS, which work to end systemic violence and protect Asian communities in America. A list of charities to support, including the ones above, can be found here. In the meantime, you can help uplift Asian American voices by supporting the works of Asian American authors who create and contribute to the richness, diversity, and culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Nicole ChungAll You Can Ever Know

Born in Seattle and raised in Oregon, Nicole Chung writes on adoption, identity, and her experiences growing up in a predominantly white town as an adoptee from Korea. According to Time magazine, “Nicole Chung delved into her own cross-cultural adoption to unpack our collective strengths and weaknesses when it comes to responding to our differences . . . opening readers’ eyes to the complexities of cross-cultural adoption, Chung makes a resounding case for empathy.”

Michelle ZaunerCrying in H Mart

Not only an acclaimed writer but also a musical performer under the moniker Japanese Breakfast, Michelle Zauner’s debut novel, Crying in H Mart, is a memoir about grief and connection through the lens of food and culture. The Seattle Times called the novel a “warm and wholehearted work of literature, an honest and detailed account of grief over time, studded with moments of hope, humor, beauty, and clear-eyed observation.”

Jamie FordThe Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Author of Songs of Willow Frost and Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford delivers a “tender and satisfying” story of the parts of Seattle history that “we would rather not face,” according to Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. The New York Times best seller, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, follows Henry Lee, the Chinese American narrator, as he navigates his past through the streets of Seattle. Ford himself grew up in Ashland as well as Seattle.

Linda TamuraNisei Soldiers Break Their Silence

Raised in Hood River, Oregon, Japanese American author Linda Tamura’s sophomore novel, Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence, explores the history of Japanese American soldiers in World War II who returned to Hood River after the war and were imprisoned in camps despite being American citizens. Tamura, author of Hood River Issai: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley, is a professor at Willamette University and works to “[celebrate] the history of Japanese Americans and inclusion in Oregon,” according to her website.

E. J. KohA Lesser Love

Poet, translator, and winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award for her memoir, The Magical Language of Others, E. J. Koh lives in Seattle and was raised in and around diasporic Korean communities, according to LSU Press. The poetry collection A Lesser Love touches on romantic, platonic, and familial love, as well as the parent-child relationship.

Ruth OzekiA Tale for the Time Being

Described by the author as a “particularly Pacific Northwest kind of book,” A Tale for the Time Being follows teenagers Nao in Tokyo and Ruth in British Columbia as they piece together mysteries of the past, unraveling family history and the conflicts of Japanese culture. Ozeki, the author of All Over Creation and My Year of Meats, is a Japanese American filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priest. According to The New York Times, A Tale for the Time Being is a “delightful yet sometimes harrowing novel . . . many many of the elements of Nao’s story—schoolgirl bullying, unemployed suicidal ‘salarymen,’ kamikaze pilots—are among a Western reader’s most familiar images of Japan, but in Nao’s telling, refracted through Ruth’s musings, they become fresh and immediate, occasionally searingly painful,” with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calling it “beautifully written” and “intensely readable.”

Shawn WongHomebase

Homebase, a coming-of-age story set in California during the 1950s, follows Chinese American teenager Rainsford Chan as he comes to terms with the truth of the Chinese American experience after the death of his parents. Shawn Wong, a Chinese American author and professor at the University of Washington, also wrote American Knees and has co-edited several anthologies.