Lessons on Chemistry is a huge hit, holding court on bestseller lists and becoming a book club favorite. (We’ve even got a book club guide for Lessons in Chemistry.) So, if you’ve also read and loved the book and are itching for more, we’ve got you covered. What follows are ten books like Lessons in Chemistry ranging across different genres, time-frames and perspectives.
Each of our suggestions touches on some Lessons in Chemistry theme like: feminism, recovering from great loss, steely eyed grit and women in science. We’ve even got a comp for you if you loved the dog Six-Thirty (and who doesn’t).
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10 Books Like Lessons in Chemistry
Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple
This story is told in epistolary form, including letters, emails and other documents collected by Bernadette’s daughter Bee.
At first, Bernadette seems the very opposite of Elizabeth Zott. Bernadette’s kind of a slow motion disaster – the school fundraiser goes awry, her house is melting, and she never wanted this Seattle life. And then she up and disappears. Conversely, Elizabeth is staying put and stubbornly holding it together.
Where the books do align is that each character is seeking out the life that they want, regardless of what society is telling them they should be doing. And Where’d You Go Bernadette has a very similar, witty and whip-smart tone that provides an interesting ballast to the darker themes.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Gabrielle Zevin
This book has a more modern setting, but the book is similar to Lessons in Chemistry on a couple of key points.
Two childhood friends, Sam and Sadie reconnect while at university in Boston. They are both into gaming and soon find that together, they have genius for developing unique games. They team up with their friend Marx to bring their games to market.
But the book is only partly about that. It’s also a coming of age story with themes of grief, loss, the creative process and the distinctions between familial love, romantic love, and the deep love that friends can develop over time.
Sadie and Elizabeth Zott share similar struggles as women in a traditionally male-dominated field. And despite the modern setting, there’s plenty of sexism for Sadie to deal with.
Read this one for book club and use our Tomorrow and Tomorrow discussion guide.
Florence Gordon, Brian Morton
Bring Elizabeth’s uncompromising feminism forward a few decades and you have Florence Gordon. She’s a cranky, brilliant 75-year-old feminist icon. Much to her irritation, when she finally sits down to write her memoir, family messes intrude. As do some unwanted physical ailments. But, like Elizabeth, she’s determined to carry on– on her own terms.
Of particular interest is Florence’s relationship with her granddaughter Emily. The multi-gen take on feminism was a really interesting thread throughout the storyline.
The Women’s Room, Marilyn French
This book is like Lessons in Chemistry for its hard look at the sexism and gender roles of the day.
Lessons in Chemistry is set squarely during the second wave of feminism, which was during the ’60’s and 70’s. The Women’s Room is not only set in that period, it was originally published in 1977. And the book is a very stark reminder of just how bad patriarchal social norms were at that time. Think of it as a primer on early feminism.
The book starts in the ’50’s and it follows Mira as she struggles to define herself as someone other than a wife and mother, as she seeks strong female friendship, and as she and her friends deal with objectification, rape/sexual harassment and other related issues.
The Feminist Utopia Project, Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff (Editors)
If Garmus’ take on sexism of the 50’s and 60’s feels like a bit of historical artifact, then this may be a great next read for you. In it, 50 wildly diverse contributors offer up their visions for an ideal feminist world. They visualize rethinking work-life, body positivity, a post-rape new world, empowered teenage girls and other things that we should have today…but don’t.
Each author choses their own particular manner of expression, so you’ll get essays, poetry, futuristic musings, and fictionalized ideas. You won’t agree with all of the contributors. Hell, you may not agree with any of them. But reading each vision provides a doorway into creating your own.
The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer
This book is about feminism in our modern world. It focuses primarily on Greer, who’s driven but somewhat rudderless. She meets and becomes very drawn to Faith Frank, who is a much older feminist icon. Greer seeks both mentorship and a job from Faith. You also get some parallel storylines from Greer’s boyfriend and her lesbian friend.
The book offers a lot of food for thought related to individualism vs sisterhood, the intersection between the political and the personal, and intergenerational dynamics between older and younger feminists.
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao, Martha Batalha
(Eric M.B. Becker, translator)
In addition to the eye-popping book cover, Euridice Gusmao is similar to Lessons in Chemistry in a few key ways.
Set in Brazil, family pressure forces Euridice to set aside some of her dreams and marry a professional husband. But as his success grows, she feels increasingly restless. She’s passionate about cooking and sewing and wants to do something with those skills, but her traditional husband keeps crushing her ideas.
After she reunites with her long lost sister, Euridice begins to see a turnaround, and she comes closer to finding her true self.
The books keys in on similar Chemistry themes like women being expected to stay in the shadow of their husbands, stifling societal expectations, and recovering from great losses– all delivered with some magical realism and a dash of humor.
Half Life: A Novel, Jillian Cantor
This fictional biography does an interesting take on Marie Curie. The first thread hews closely to Curie’s actual life, including her broken engagement to Kazimierz Zorawski, her move to Paris, her studies at the Sorbonne, and of course, her discovery of radium.
The second thread asks the “what if”. What if the engagement had not been broken? What if she had stayed in Poland, becoming a traditional wife to her mathematician husband?
In both versions, she has a brilliant mind and the book explores how that could have played out in the two different scenarios.
Half Life is a good pick if you liked Lessons in Chemistry‘s elements of scientific brilliance and the striving for intellectual excellence.
The Woman with the Cure, Lynn Cullen
This is also a fictionalized biography, this time featuring Dorothy Horstmann. Set in the 40’s and 50’s, Dorothy is a doctor and quite often the only woman in the room. She and her colleagues are tasked with trying to develop a vaccine for polio, which was quite devastating at the time. The men in her profession were racing to beat one another to to the vaccine discovery, while Dorothy just wanted to get it right.
The offers a very empathetic portrait of Dorothy, and a dark look at how women (then and now) can be overshadowed by overly ambitious men.
Hounded (Iron Druid Series #1), Kevin Hearne
What the heck does a story about a hunky Druid hiding out in Tempe with his magical sword — while also trying not to get killed by witches, elves and angry gods — have to do with Lessons in Chemistry?
It’s all about the dog.
If you loved the point of view of Elizabeth’s dog, Six-Thirty, then you should switch genres and hang out with the Druid’s dog, Oberon. Because of a magical mind meld, you get inside of Oberon’s head to find out how the humans and gods confuse him, and how he can’t decide which he loves more; a good steak or that poodle across the street.
Read More Books!
- If you like doing readalikes, we’ve also got a list of books like The Rose Code.
- Lessons in Chemistry was recommended by the Good Morning America book club. If you like their pics, we have more guides from GMA, like The Maid, The Lions of Fifth Avenue and The Vanishing Half.
- Take a look at Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books— they all feature primarily female protagonists.
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