Favorite Books in Literature and Rare Books

Now that summer break has arrived, many of us are looking for book recommendations.  If you’re stumped, check out some of the favorite books of famous women that you can find in Literature and Rare Books.  

Amongst the most influential books in Literature and Rare Books’ collections is Mary Wollstonecrafts’ Vindication of the Rights of WomenVindication of the Rights of Women was an essential work for many suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Millicent Garrett Fawcett.  Garret Fawcett even wrote the foreword to the centenary edition of Vindication of the Rights of Women.  Other writers such as George Eliot and Virginia Woolf have praised Wollstonecraft and her work. 

Another work that influenced Susan B. Anthony was Elizabeth Barret Browning’s epic poem Aurora LeighAurora Leigh describes a woman writer and her attempts to find love and fulfillment in her work.  Reading Aurora Leigh inspired some of Anthony’s thinking regarding how women balance marriage and independence.

If you’re looking for a whole series of books to read you can browse The Rose and Joseph Pagnani Collection of Girls’ Series Books’ collection of Nancy Drew Mystery Stories books.  You can also check out our online exhibit on Nancy Drew and other Girls’ Series Books.  The Nancy Drew series was a childhood favorite of several notable women such as Gayle King, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor, who loved reading books where a smart young heroine was at the center of the adventures.

Contact us to learn more about these works or other items in Literature and Rare Books!


Caroline Ackiewicz, Candidate for Master of Library & Information Science, University of Maryland.

It’s a Clue! Girls Series Books in Special Collections

You may know about teen sleuth Nancy Drew, but have you head of Beverley Gray, Sue Barton, Cherry Ames, Judy Bolton, Penny Parker, or Vicki Barr?

Special Collections and University Archives is home to many wonderful book collections dating from the 16th century to the present day. One of our favorite, and perhaps most fun, is the Rose and Joseph Pagnani Collection Girls Series collection, available in Hornbake Library.

These books were targeted to young readers in the 1930s and beyond. They featured independent, fearless, and clever women who solved mysteries and foiled crimes in their everyday lives. The heroines in these novels were often young students or career women. Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton were a teen detectives, Cherry Ames was a nurse, Vicki Barr was a flight attendant, Penny Parker was a newspaper reporter, and Beverly Gray was a college student. And since many of these series spanned several years/decades, it is fascinating to see how these literary women evolved over time, growing older (sometimes) and adapting to cultural changes. 

For images from our Girls Series Books, check out the gallery below or visit our Flickr album. Stop by the Maryland Room in Hornbake Library to explore our collections.