The best books for readers drawn equally to history and psychology

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a curious soul, and grateful for it. This innate curiosity and drive to uncover the truth has propelled me as a science journalist and as a woman trying to understand a traumatic childhood. Both our society and the mental health of each one of us depend, I firmly believe, on uncovering and telling the truth. Yeah, that’s dangerous, especially for journalists who in some countries still get killed and imprisoned for doing so. And it’s painful for people like me who dare to look inside. It takes courage. But it’s the only way to a healthy society and a healthy mind.

I wrote...

Let the More Loving One Be Me: My Journey from Trauma to Freedom

By Judy Foreman,

Book cover of Let the More Loving One Be Me: My Journey from Trauma to Freedom

What is my book about?

In this tale, I reveal the terror I felt every night as I lay in bed frozen in dread, listening for my father’s footsteps coming down the hall. I recall his mostly naked body, his stale smell, his silhouette in the bedroom doorway. Worse, in someways, was my mother’s denial. Ultimately, I hope this book is inspirational, showing that with time and therapy, it is possible to heal from serious childhood trauma and build a life of deep fulfillment, rewarding work, and, most wonderfully, love.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Unbroken

Judy Foreman Why did I love this book?

As a journalist, I’m in awe of the meticulous reporting Hillenbrand did in this powerful book and the tremendous courage of the main character, Louis Zamperini.

World War II was such a pivotal time in world history and this story really makes it personal, which I think is the only way to have history make sense. On top of that, I deeply admire Hillenbrand for doing such fabulous work while battling chronic fatigue syndrome. Like her character, she has enormous personal courage and persistence.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…

Book cover of The Nightingale

Judy Foreman Why did I love this book?

Again, I choose a World War II book, this time historical fiction, about courage and persistence and based on the true story of a Belgian woman who fought against the Nazis. I love reading about honor, and bravery and sticking with the truth no matter the danger of doing so. And I love thrillers, which this definitely is. 

By Kristin Hannah,

Why should I read it?

27 authors picked The Nightingale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon to be a major motion picture, The Nightingale is a multi-million copy bestseller across the world. It is a heart-breakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women.

This story is about what it was like to be a woman during World War II when women's stories were all too often forgotten or overlooked . . . Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac are two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals and passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path towards survival, love and freedom in war-torn France.

Kristin Hannah's…

Book cover of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha

Judy Foreman Why did I love this book?

I love this book because it focuses on a different kind of courage from the heroes of World War II. This one is about the courage to explore, and accept, one’s own inner truth, one’s deepest, most closely guarded feelings, no matter how frightening it is to go to one’s own dark places.

Terrifying as it must be to fight physically and to battle real enemies on the battlefield, I believe it can be just as terrifying to look inside and accept emotional pain and the life experiences that cause it.

By Tara Brach,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Radical Acceptance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn’t take much--just hearing of someone else’s accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work--to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully.
—from Radical Acceptance

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,” says Tara Brach at the start of this illuminating book. This suffering…

Book cover of The Physician

Judy Foreman Why did I love this book?

The reporting and research in The Physician is extraordinary, something I, as a reporter, deeply admire.

It is truly a work of great scholarship about a young man in 11th-century England who travels to Persia, where he learns medicine that is far more advanced than that available in Europe. Not only did I learn how advanced Persia was at the time, but the story itself was so gripping I couldn’t put it down.

By Noah Gordon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Physician as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rob Cole, a penniless orphan in 11th-century London, is possessed by a mysterious power - he can sense death. A mere apprentice, he dreams of controlling the forces of life and death, of mastering the knowledge that will earn him the title of physician.

Book cover of The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

Judy Foreman Why did I love this book?

As a longtime science and medical writer for The Boston Globe, I was in awe of Isaacson’s grasp of the complex science and the intricate people stories involved in the thrilling race to develop the gene editing technique, CRISPR. (My first novel was inspired in part by Isaacson’s brilliant book.)

Believe me, it takes an enormous amount of time, smarts, and dedication to probe, as a layperson, the most intricate secrets of science and to explain it all to non-scientists. Isaacson did this spectacularly well.

By Walter Isaacson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The best-selling author of Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs returns.

In 2012, Nobel Prize winning scientist Jennifer Doudna hit upon an invention that will transform the future of the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA.

Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions. It has already been deployed to cure deadly diseases, fight the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, and make inheritable changes in the genes of babies.

But what does that mean for humanity? Should we be hacking our own DNA to make us less susceptible to disease? Should…

You might also like...

Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

Book cover of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

Wendy Lee Hermance Author Of Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Wendy Lee Hermance was heard on National Public Radio (NPR) stations with her Missouri Folklore series in the 1980s. She earned a journalism degree from Stephens College, served as Editor and Features Writer for Midwestern and Southern university and regional publications, then settled into writing real estate contracts. In 2012 she attended University of Sydney, earning a master’s degree by research thesis. Her books include Where I’m Going with this Poem, a memoir in poetry and prose. Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat marks her return to feature writing as collections of narrative non-fiction stories.

Wendy's book list on why Portugal is weird

What is my book about?

Weird Foods of Portugal describes the author's first years trying to make sense of a strange new place and a home there for herself.

Witty, dreamlike, and at times jarring, the book sizzles with social commentary looking back at America and beautiful, finely drawn descriptions of Portugal and its people. Part dark-humor cautionary tale, part travel adventure, ultimately, Hermance's book of narrative non-fiction serves as affirmation for any who wish to make a similar move themselves.

Weird Foods of Portugal: Adventures of an Expat

By Wendy Lee Hermance,

What is this book about?

"Wendy Lee Hermance describes Portugal´s colorful people and places - including taxi drivers and animals - with a poet´s empathy and dark humor. Part travel adventure, part cautionary tale, Weird Foods of Portugal is at it´s heart, affirmation for all who consider making such a move themselves."

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the German occupation of Europe, compassion, and doctors?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the German occupation of Europe, compassion, and doctors.

The German Occupation Of Europe Explore 71 books about the German occupation of Europe
Compassion Explore 28 books about compassion
Doctors Explore 88 books about doctors