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Article  •  20 June 2024


Books to read if you loved Lessons in Chemistry

What to read after Lessons in Chemistry.

Lessons in Chemistry’s Elizabeth Zott might have been disliked by her peers in the chem lab, but she became adored on TV as the host of Supper at Six, a show in which she showed the women of the 1960s that there’s more to cooking dinner than just feeding your family – it’s science. Following Elizabeth through her mistreatment by colleagues, the loss of her partner, the birth of her daughter, and her show that captivated, enraged, and united a nation – Lessons in Chemistry gave us the most unforgettable protagonist.

If you’re wondering what to read next, check out these eight  novels about women in STEM, women who left it, and women who made real history.

Lessons in Chemistry Bonnie Garmus

If you haven’t yet read Lessons in Chemistry, start here!  Meet Elizabeth Zott: ‘a gifted research chemist, absurdly self-assured and immune to social convention’ (The Washington Post) in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show.

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The Personal Librarian Marie Benedict, Victoria Christopher Murray

Based on the real-life Belle da Costa Greene, a Black woman who was forced to pass as white for her job as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian inside of New York City’s Pierpont Morgan Library. There, she curates a collection of books, manuscripts and art in all their rarity. While her name becomes known all through society for her impeccable taste, we find that Belle is not only hiding her race but also her real name – and who her father is. In flashbacks, we learn about Belle’s past, her parents and the reason why she must protect her family’s identity –  and if she can ever come out of hiding.

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The Female Persuasion Meg Wolitzer

When Greer Kadetsky goes to college, she meets a figure much like Elizabeth Zott – Faith Frank, a feminist icon who will one day become Greer’s mentor. After Greer’s plans to attend Yale with her boyfriend, Cory, crumble because her financial aid doesn’t come through, Greer’s longing for purpose and passion for activism is ignited when Faith Frank speaks at her last-choice college. Following the journeys of Greer as she works under Faith, her friend Zoe as she becomes a queer activist, and the trials and tribulations of Greer’s off-and-on boyfriend Cory, the three of them face grief and betrayal, and search for an answer to what it means to do true good in the world.

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The Woman with the Cure Lynn Cullen

Based on the true story of Dorothy Horstmann – an epidemiologist who pioneered the research for a polio cure and vaccine – comes an account of the events surrounding Dorothy’s research and the sexism she faced in the lab. As Elizabeth Zott recognises, women have always been in science, though their names and contributions aren’t always known. When a colleague releases a destructive vaccine that isn’t ready, it’s Dorothy’s research that may save the day. Tracking Dorothy from her efforts to get into med school to her time as the first woman professor at Yale University – once you read this story, her name will be one you’ll never forget.

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Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow Gabrielle Zevin

As pre-teens, Sadie Green and Sam Masur meet under the worst circumstances – Sadie is visiting her sister at the hospital where she is undergoing cancer treatments, and Sam’s recovering from a broken foot brought on by an accident that has just killed his mother. Bonded by their pain and deep love for video games, the two become fast friends, only to be torn apart just as quickly. But years later when Sam and Sadie reunite, what first drew them together is what will launch them into success – video games. But as Elizabeth Zott knows, success will come with certain sacrifices.

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Romantic Comedy Curtis Sittenfeld

Elizabeth Zott charmed women everywhere during her live television show Supper at Six, just as Sally Milz does as a sketch writer for the live Saturday night comedy show The Night Owls. Even more like Elizabeth, Sally is certain she’ll never find love – especially not in her line of work. Or at least until she meets Noah Brewster – pop star, playboy and the newest guest star on Sally’s show. Despite their chemistry, it isn’t until two years later when Sally considers leaving her show that Noah sends an email to revisit the past, and – hopefully – point them towards a future together. While this is real life, it doesn’t mean that Sally can’t have a rom-com ending of her very own.

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Mimi Lee Gets a Clue Jennifer J. Chow

If what you liked most about Lessons in Chemistry was the beloved and genius dog Six-Thirty, named for the time he was brought home – his owners are scientists after all – then you’ll like Marshmallow, the cat of pet groomer Mimi Lee. Unlike Six-Thirty, who might know the dictionary but still can’t speak, Marshmallow can – so much so that he tells Mimi that the local dog breeder, Russ Nolan, is abusing chihuahuas. But when Russ is found dead the day after Mimi publicly confronts him, she becomes the number one suspect. Lucky for her, she has a lawyer for a neighbour with puppy love written all over him.

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Transcendent Kingdom Yaa Gyasi

In a novel that also deals with both grief and science comes PhD neuroscience candidate Gifty. Motivated by her brother’s fatal opioid addiction, Gifty’s research is geared towards finding a cure for it. In timelines that run between past and present, we see Gifty’s brother go from a star basketball player to the victim of a basketball injury that led to his prescribed use of opioids – only to die from those very same pills. It was this experience that turned Gifty away from religion and towards science. But once these memories resurface after years of shutting them out, Gifty finds that she needs both – faith to heal herself and her mother, and science to heal those who are suffering like her brother.


Article originally posted on penguinrandomhouse.com, written by Maria Couto, amended for Australian readers.

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