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Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon--and the Journey of a Generation Paperback – April 14, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The epic story of three generational icons, this triple biography from author and Glamour senior editor Weller (Dancing at Ciro’s) examines the careers of singer-songwriters Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, whose success reflected, enervated and shaped the feminist movement that grew up with them. After short sketches of their early years, Weller begins in earnest with the 1960s, switching off among the women as their public lives begin. A time of extremes, the 60s found folk music and feminist cultures just beginning to define themselves, while the buttoned-down mainstream was still treating unwed pregnant women, in Mitchell’s terms, like you murdered somebody (thus the big, traditional wedding thrown for King, pregnant by songwriting partner Gerry Goffin, in 1959). Pioneering success in the music business led inevitably to similar roles in women’s movement, but Weller doesn’t overlook the content of their songs and the effect they have on a generation of women facing a lot more choice, but with no one to guide them. Taking readers in-depth through the late 80s, Weller brings the story up to date with a short but satisfying roundup. A must-read for any fan of these artists, this bio will prove an absorbing, eye-opening tour of rock (and American) history for anyone who’s appreciated a female musician in the past thirty years. B&w photos. (Apr.)


"Captivating. A strong amalgam of nostalgia, feminist history, astute insight, beautiful music and irresistible gossip. Weller's grand ambition winds up fulfilled." -- Janet Maslin, The New York Times

"Let's get one thing clear right from the start -- this is a fabulous book...Girls like Us unfolds with drama and panoramic detail. Written with a keen journalistic and, more importantly, female eye, [it] works as a healthy, long overdue counterweight to the endlessly repeated, male-sided version of rock 'n roll. Before these women broke the cultural sod during the rock 'n roll years, there were no girls like us. Now there are millions." -- Caitlin Moran, London Sunday Times

"Even at 500-plus pages, the book goes down as easy as a Grisham yarn on a vacation flight... The only flaw to Girls Like Us is that it comes to an end. Few people lead lives as action-packed and spiritually opulent as Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon did during such intensely interesting times. And few writers are able to impart so much freight with such vigor. The towering triumvirate got what it deserves." -- The Toronto Sun

"A page-turner of the first order....a must read." -- The Boston Globe

"As an avid music reader, sometime reviewer, and teen of the '60s myself, I was sure I knew just about everything there was to know about Carole, Joni, and Carly.... But Girls Like Us, an ambitious collective biography by six-time author and magazine journalist Sheila Weller, showed me exactly how much I didn't know. This absorbing, well-reported book chronicles a time when women in all walks of life were exercising new-found freedom. And as icons of that era, nobody did it better." -- Christian Science Monitor

"Both scholarly and dishy. A superb journalist, Weller has managed to uncover a trove of unreported facts on her subjects." -- People **** (Pick of the Week)

"When we were little, and someone said, `I love chocolate pudding," there was always some nutball who'd ask, "Do you want to marry it?' Well, I love Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us so much that I would marry it. This lush, beautifully-researched and lyrically written biography of the three women whose music was emblematic of the generation who pioneered the way for me and so many others is literate, bold, charming and ... cuddly....[E]very page brought a fresh surprise. Weller raised the bar for this book above even a classy celebrity bio... This book probably gave me more pure enjoyment than any but a handful I've read in years. If you're passionate about music -- and about passion -- you'll have to hand it to Sheila Weller for a bravura composition of her own." --Jacquelyn Mitchard the bestselling author of Still Summer, Cage of Stars, and the first Oprah Book Club selection, The Deep End of the Ocean, on

"Incisive, painstakingly researched...Any woman who grew up during the late 1960s and '70s will fall head over heels for Sheila Weller's Girls Like Us." -- Ladies Home Journal

"A sharp-eyed vision of the worlds which nourished these ambitious, determined and singular artists...Weller digs deep into [Joni Mitchell's] complex psychology and provides as close to an understanding of this difficult figure as anyone is likely to ever offer. An unfailingly entertaining read...a riveting story." -- Mojo

"Juicy... I doubt I'll listen to Mitchell's songs again without considering the child she gave up for adoption... and her subsequent bouts with depression or hear the oft-married King's music without thinking of her tumultuous relationships. As for Simon, Weller captures fully both the richness and glamour of her romantic life and the profound sensitivity that made her especially vulnerable to ex-husband James Taylor's drug abuse and the cavalier charm of Warren Beatty." - USA Today

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Reprint edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743491483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743491488
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (361 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Sheila Weller is a best-selling author and award-winning magazine journalist specializing in women's lives, social issues, cultural history, and feminist investigative.

Her latest book, "The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour - and the Triumph of Women in TV News," is a lively and detailed story of three very particular lives and a testament to the extraordinary character of women everywhere.

Her sixth book was the critically acclaimed "Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon -- And The Journey of a Generation." On the New York Times Bestseller list for 8 weeks, it has sold over 170,000 copies, is featured in numerous Women's Studies programs at major universities, and was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2008 by Library Journal, The Christian Science Monitor,, and Tina Brown's DailyBeast.

Her previous books, including the New York Times bestseller "Raging Heart," have included well-regarded, news-breaking nonfiction accounts of high profile crimes against women and their social and legal implications.

She is a writer for Vanity Fair, a Senior Contributing Editor for Glamour, a former Contributing Editor for New York, a reviewer for The New York Times, and has written and writes for numerous other magazines.

She has won nine major magazine awards, including six Newswomen's Club of New York Front Page Awards and two Exceptional Merit in Media Awards from The National Women's Political Caucus, and she was one of three winners, for her body of work, for Magazine Feature Writing on a Variety of Subjects in the 2005 National Headliners Award.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

292 of 301 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
525 pages about Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon --- and this is my candidate for "beach book of 2008" for smart boomer women?

I'm not kidding. It's that good. And that addictive.

Just read the opening section about 14-year-old Carole Klein, sitting with her friend Camille Cacciatore as they leaf through the Brooklyn phone book in search of a name. Kick...Kiel...Klip. How about King? Yeah, King. And then it was off to Camille's house, where the choice was spaghetti-and-meatballs or peppers-and-onions.

Anyone can use clips and rumor to write about the famous. Sheila Weller puts you in the room. Her methods are exhaustive journalism --- she's written six books, she's won prizes, she's the real deal --- and empathy. So the path from nowhere to immortality for King, Mitchell and Simon is an epic tale, and Weller's scope is vast --- to track "the journey of a generation." Only on the surface is this a book about music, and who makes it, and how, and why. The bigger subject, the better subject, is how women found their way in their professional and personal lives, 1960-now. So, for Weller, these stories are about "a course of self-discovery, change, and unhappy confrontation with the limits of change."


Consider this: In 1960, H.W. Janson's "History of Art" --- the standard textbook --- cited 2,300 artists.

How many were female?

Not one.

That's the culture these women were entering. Women as decorative armpieces. As silent helpers. Sexual objects. And uncomplaining victims.

Each of these women fought that culture. Not because she wanted to --- simply out of biography and necessity. Joan Anderson gets polio as a kid, and her creativity is pushed inward.
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133 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on April 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Everything in GIRLS LIKE US will be amazingly familiar to those of us born in the bay boom, and yet Sheila Weller, a talented if erratic prose stylist, brings us to emotional places that will be new to all but those most intimate with the trio of songwriters whose lives, she declares, form a "journey of a generation." I don't know if I'd go that far, but I'm not a woman, and Weller's argument is that King, Simon, and Mitchell pushes back the barriers for women specifically, "one song at a time."

The cryptic one remains Carole King, whom Weller just can't illuminate in any meaningful way. Her life was amazing--up to a point, then it stopped being of any interest at all, which is a shame. We hear again and again how she wrote all those Brill Building masterpieces before she was 21, and broke down under the strain of a troubled marriage to a high-stakes husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin, coming out the other end with an LP. Tapestry, that everyone loved. Then what happened? Bad men galore, attracted to her wealth. She once estimated that every time she divorced a man, it cost her a million dollars. Weller gives us all the facts ad nauseam but we always wonder, why did King do this to herself?

Carly Simon, on the other hand, who cooperated with Weller extensively or so it seems, comes off as nearly normal. Of the upper, upper middle class, Simon was to the manor born and the icy, plangent chords of her first song, "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be," gave notice that the old New Yorker fiction writers of the 40s and 50s hadn't died, they had just rolled over and told Carly Simon the news.
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82 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
My immediate thought when I read this comprehensive three-fold biography was Allison Anders' evocative but episodic 1996 Grace of My Heart, a fictionalized biopic of Carole King's career in the 1960's. Similar to the approach taken with the movie, author Sheila Weller covers more than the music of the times but also the constraining era in which they all came of age. When King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon were growing up (they were born within four years of each other), women were either placed in traditional homemaker roles or relegated to a cultural abyss if they dared to pursue artistic professions. In an often dishy but nonetheless enlightening book, Weller does an admirable job surveying the times when these three singer-songwriters first emerged and crossed paths on their way to popular mainstream success.

Their backgrounds could not be more different. King was a middle-class Brooklyn native who grew up listening to classical music and Broadway show tunes, while Mitchell was a dyed-in-the-wool bohemian poet who moved from the Canadian prairies to Greenwich Village and later Laurel Canyon. Born in privilege to a family ensconced in publishing (Simon & Schuster), Simon was a rich girl who went the folk singer route with her older sister Lucy. Even though each persevered against the going mindset and managed professional success on a measured level (and in King's case, quite a portfolio of Brill Building hits co-written with first husband Gerry Goffin), each ultimately created a work that provided a turning point in their careers. King had 1971's mega-selling
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