The best books on humanism from a life long humanist

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m Chief Executive of Humanists UK and President of Humanists International, organisations acting as representative bodies for non-religious people both in the UK and around the world. I grew up in Nuneaton, home to 19th-century humanist and novelist George Eliot, and spent my childhood reading books about Greek myths and modern imaginary worlds. I now alternate between novels and academic Classics books. I've written a number of books including Secularism: A Very Short Introduction, The Little Book of Humanism, and The Little Book of Humanist Weddings – the last two with Professor Alice Roberts. Humanism is about life, not humanism, so I’ve gone for books that encapsulate the humanist outlook on life.


I wrote...

The Little Book of Humanism: Universal Lessons on Finding Purpose, Meaning and Joy

By Andrew Copson, Alice Roberts,

Book cover of The Little Book of Humanism: Universal Lessons on Finding Purpose, Meaning and Joy

What is my book about?

The Little Book of Humanism shares over two thousand years of humanist wisdom through an uplifting collection of illustrations, stories, quotes, and meditations on how to live an ethical and fulfilling life, grounded in reason and humanity.

With universal insights and beautiful original illustrations, The Little Book of Humanism is a perfect introduction to and a timeless anthology of humanist thought from some of history and today's greatest thinkers, from ancient philosophers like Epicurus and Mencius, through to contemporary humanist sources of inspiration such as Frozen and The Good Place actor Kristen Bell and the novelists Zadie Smith and Margaret Atwood.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Howards End

Andrew Copson Why did I love this book?

I’m recommending this wonderful novel but it really could just as well be any of his novels (or his essays or broadcasts or any of his writing at all!) All his work is suffused with his humanist values (he was an active member of UK humanist organisations as well as all his other activist and intellectual connections) and Howard’s End in particular contains the immortal line “Only Connect!” which is a manifesto not only for connecting with others but also living an integrated life within yourself.

By E.M. Forster,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Howards End as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

"Howards End" is E. M. Forster's classic story of the varying struggles of members of different strata of the English middle class. The story centers around three families; the Wilcoxes, who made their fortune in the American colonies; the Schlegels, three siblings who represent the intellectual bourgeoisie; and the Basts, a young struggling lower middle-class couple. "Howards End", one of Forster's greatest works, is a classic dramatization of the differences in life amongst the English middle class.


Book cover of Middlemarch

Andrew Copson Why did I love this book?

A novelist and essayist of the era before Forster and his true ancestor in terms of values and beliefs, George Eliot’s humanist approach runs through all her work. The richness of characterisation in Middlemarch means you understand every person’s point of view and the empathy and enlargement of sympathies that follows from this develop the moral imagination that humanists so prize. The interconnectedness of human lives is also a theme and the novel’s final lines contain an epitaph that is almost universal for any human life: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

By George Eliot,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Middlemarch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'One of the few English novels written for grown-up people' Virginia Woolf

George Eliot's nuanced and moving novel is a masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his…


Book cover of The Humanist Revolution

Andrew Copson Why did I love this book?

Editor of the New Humanist magazine, Hawton was a leading humanist activist of the mid-twentieth century. But this book is not an activist work. The Humanist Revolution is more of a social and cultural history. It powerfully identifies the basics of a humanist approach to life but then illustrates how the ‘humanist turn’ is a central moment in western and global history. In a sense, there are two humanisms. There is the conscious humanism of the self-identifying humanist but there is also the bigger humanism, which is a set of implicit ideas in the western mind. This book is a good account of the latter.

By Hector Hawton,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought

Andrew Copson Why did I love this book?

Today it has become quite fashionable for people (especially Conservative Christians) to claim that a lot of the ideas that humanists value have their origin in Christianity. There are many reasons why this is largely nonsense, but this old (and slightly academic) book by Baldry outlines one of my favourites, by telling the story of how the concept of universal humanity grew and developed in pre-Christian Hellenic civilisation. This book opens your mind to the long history of ideas and reminds you that there’s nothing new under the sun…

By Baldry,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The idea of the unity of mankind did not come easily to the Greeks. Its eventual emergence has been ascribed to various sources, not least to Alexander the Great. Professor Baldry believes that it cannot be attributed to any single individual, but that the true picture is a long and complicated chain of development to which many contributed. In this book Professor Baldry describes this development from Homer to Cicero when, although the traditional divisions and prejudices still remained string, the idea of unity had become part of the outlook of civilised man. He discusses the contribution of thinkers such…


Book cover of The Conquest of Happiness

Andrew Copson Why did I love this book?

This is a self-help book with serious depth and substance. Although some of it is dated, the timeless reflections that Russell draws from the humanist tradition of which he was a part contain wisdom that can transform your life. He is strongest on the ingredients of happiness and the last chapter, on the happy person, is still a go-to for me to remind myself of what matters most. 

By Bertrand Russell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Conquest of Happiness is Bertrand Russell's recipe for good living. First published in 1930, it pre-dates the current obsession with self-help by decades. Leading the reader step by step through the causes of unhappiness and the personal choices, compromises and sacrifices that (may) lead to the final, affirmative conclusion of 'The Happy Man', this is popular philosophy, or even self-help, as it should be written.


You might also like...

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

Book cover of Return to Hope Creek

Alyssa J. Montgomery Author Of A Spanish Seduction

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian USA Today bestselling romance author who writes contemporary romance and uses the pen name Alyssa James to write medieval romance. I think the makeover trope resonates with me because although I’m no beauty queen now, I was definitely an ugly duckling in my teens. For reasons best known to him, my father insisted on close-cropped hair, and financial circumstances dictated out-of-style hand-me-down clothing. After university, I found my own style, but it wasn’t until I was accepted as an international flight attendant that I believed that I couldn’t be all that ugly if Qantas employed me!

Alyssa's book list on makeover romances

What is my book about?

Return to Hope Creek is a second-chance rural romance set in Australia.

Stella Simpson's career and engagement are over. She returns to the rural community of Hope Creek to heal, unaware her high school and college sweetheart, Mitchell Scott, has also moved back to town to do some healing of his own.

Mitchell, a former NFL quarterback, doesn't need the complication of encountering Stella again so long after the messy end to their relationship, but as each tries to build a new life, they are drawn together and find their chemistry is just as strong as ever.

Will their love be stronger the second time around?

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

What is this book about?

When two old flames come back to their home town, sparks are bound to ignite. A rural romance from USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery.


A horrific car accident ended former world number-one Stella Simpson’s tennis career, and a betrayal ended her relationship with her fiancé/coach. When a family friend offers to sell her half of a property in the rural community where she grew up, it seems like the perfect place to escape, heal and begin the next phase of her life. Until she discovers that the man who broke her heart ten years ago has bought the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in humanism, Ancient Greece, and the Age of Enlightenment?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about humanism, Ancient Greece, and the Age of Enlightenment.

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