The best books that show the destructive power of blind obedience to religion

Who am I?

"Write what you know" is worn-out advice you'll find on many a website, but I prefer to write what I want to know. Researching for background information is a far cry from studying the history of dates, places, and politics. For instance, you won't read in a history book that forks weren't used at the table in the Renaissance. That people didn't have zippers or right/left shoes, but they did have buttons. Noblemen wore high-heeled shoes. Women poisoned themselves with makeup of white lead (ceruse). Even with diaries, autobiographies, and social history books, trivial information of daily life is hard to find. 


I wrote...

Béjart's Caravan

By Bonnie Stanard,

Book cover of Béjart's Caravan

What is my book about?

For history buffs and lovers of the theater. Traveling medieval actors take part in burlesque shows on and off stage in French villages. The locals regard them as ne’er-do-wells, if not shiftless swindlers, and at times the actors live up to their reputation. Molière's body makes an appearance when Argon digs it up to get a relic to cure his voice. Argon's problem pales compared to that of his parents (major stockholders of the company) who underestimate a poisonous elixir and tangle with deceptive nobles. 

"Written by an author who understands the time and place, this is a delightful book filled with memorable and often rather over-the-top characters... the author excels in describing the vibrant settings and the complexity of her characters." - Wishing Shelf

The books I picked & why

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A Fine Balance

By Rohinton Mistry,

Book cover of A Fine Balance

Why this book?

A Fine Balance, written by Egyptian author Rohinton Mistry puts you inside the household of a Muslim family at the turn of the 20th Century. Although the protagonist is respected if not admired in his community, within the family, he is a tyrant who destroys their lives. Is it his fault when he's just an ordinary man living what his religion and culture expect of him? 

A Fine Balance

By Rohinton Mistry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Fine Balance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As the characters move from distrust to friendship…

Kristin Lavransdatter

By Sigrid Undsett,

Book cover of Kristin Lavransdatter

Why this book?

When I discovered Kristin Lavransdatter was 1000 pages, I never expected to fininsh it (I'm a slow reader). However, about 50 pages into it, I was hooked and was at a loss when I read the final chapter. Religion is pervasive but delivered indirectly. The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages was an absolute authority with an iron grip on the main character Kristin. Undset was not judgmental in the book, but I was in reading it. 

Kristin Lavransdatter

By Sigrid Undsett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kristin Lavransdatter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'[Sigrid Undset] should be the next Elena Ferrante' -Slate

The Nobel Prize-winning masterpiece by Norway's literary master

Kristin Lavransdatter is the epic story of one woman's life in fourteenth-century Norway, from childhood to death. Sensitive and rebellious Kristin is sent to a convent as a girl, where she meets the charming but irresponsible Erlend. Defying her parents' wishes to pursue her own desires, she marries and raises seven sons. However, her husband's political ambitions threaten catastrophe for the family, and the couple become increasingly estranged as the world around them tumbles into uncertainty.

With its captivating heroine and emotional potency,…


The Henna Artist

By Alka Joshi,

Book cover of The Henna Artist

Why this book?

The Henna Artist feels so real, and I'm not Indian, never lived in India in 1955. The main character Lakshmi is a survivor who prevails in a culture committed to religious beliefs that make a woman nothing better than a piece of furniture. Lakshmi uses her talent to become independent and dreams of owning a home. The fly in the ointment is her younger sister, who by her youth and ignorance, spoils everything for Lakshmi. But remember, Lakshmi is a survivor. 

The Henna Artist

By Alka Joshi,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Henna Artist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For fans of Balli Kaur Jaswal's Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows and Thrity Umrigar's The Space Between Us, Alka Josh's The Henna Artist by is lushly-rendered, emotional book club fiction set in post-Raj 1950s Jaipur about a young woman struggling to shape her own destiny in a world pivoting between the traditional and the modern.

After fleeing an arranged marriage as a fifteen year old to an abusive older man, Lakshmi Shastri steals away alone from her rural village to Jaipur. Here, against odds, she carves out a living for herself as a henna artist, and friend and confidante to…


World Without End

By Ken Follett,

Book cover of World Without End

Why this book?

Ken Follett is a master at creating tension. As soon as a character devises a way to make their dream come true, smash! Somebody steps in the way and ruins their hopes. Most often that somebody is a Catholic priest. Oh, how the priest willl annoy you in this novel! However, the good guys manage to prevail.

World Without End

By Ken Follett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked World Without End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the day after Halloween, in the year 1327, four children slip away from the cathedral city of Kingsbridge. They are a thief, a bully, a boy genius and a girl who wants to be a doctor. In the forest they see two men killed. As adults, their lives will be braided together by ambition, love, greed and revenge. They will see prosperity and famine, plague and war. One boy will travel the world but come home in the end; the other will be a powerful, corrupt nobleman. One girl will defy the might of the medieval church; the other…

A Case of Witchcraft: The Trial of Urbain Grandier

By Robert Rapley,

Book cover of A Case of Witchcraft: The Trial of Urbain Grandier

Why this book?

This nonfiction about a French priest who was burned at the stake in 1634 reads like fiction. Although I knew the story and how it ends, Rapley’s writing is suspensful and dramatic. The author keeps close to Grandier, whose character flaws contribute to his death. Grandier’s enemies are given their separate situations and in some cases are treated with generosity. Though the writing is not emotional, I was dismayed and hardly able to believe this actually happened. 

A Case of Witchcraft: The Trial of Urbain Grandier

By Robert Rapley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Case of Witchcraft as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a Catholic priest, Grandier was an influential figure in the Loudun community and local government. A brilliant speaker, he was popular with his parishioners. But he had enemies, including Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII, who was trying to wrest political autonomy from local governors and centralize power in Paris. Grandier's support of the governor of Loudun meant that he was seen as an enemy of the crown. In addition, the debonair priest's romantic intrigues brought him into conflict with some of the town's most influential power brokers. When a nearby convent of Ursuline nuns began experiencing strange visions and…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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