100 books like 1421

By Gavin Menzies,

Here are 100 books that 1421 fans have personally recommended if you like 1421. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Chinese Clothing

Laura Rahme Author Of The Ming Storytellers

From my list on China’s Ming Dynasty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honours graduate in aerospace engineering and psychology and I have written five historical novels. My debut novel, The Ming Storytellers, is set during China’s Ming dynasty and was well-reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. To pen this 600-page saga, I spent six years researching the Ming dynasty while studying a year of mandarin. I have travelled to Beijing, along the Great Wall, and to China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Being a descendant of the Vietnamese royal family gave me access to rich genealogical sources passed down from my scholarly ancestors. These stories of concubines, eunuchs, and mandarins made the past come alive, complementing my research with plausible drama.

Laura's book list on China’s Ming Dynasty

Laura Rahme Why did Laura love this book?

So you wish to paint your lips red like ancient Chinese women but are worried about confusing your Tang from your Ming. Get your make-up right with this manual. This succinct and wonderfully illustrated book is a treasure for lovers of Chinese fashion history or historical novelists like myself who may not be fluent in mandarin and depend on English publications. Creating vivid descriptions of concubines or Ming court characters is made easy when you can visualise exactly how people dressed or painted their faces during the different periods of China’s long history, including the Ming dynasty. I loved this book as it informed me about hairstyles, make-up, shoes, hats, clothing, and even the different insignias embroidered on eunuch clothing depending on their rank. With attention to variations across ethnicities and insights on historical and social changes, this book is a must-have.  

By Hua Mei,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chinese Clothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chinese clothing has undergone continuous transformations throughout history, providing a reflection of the culture in place at any given time. A wealth of archaeological findings coupled with ancient mythology, poetry and songs enable us to see the development of distinctive Chinese fashions through the ages. This illustrated introductory survey takes the reader through traditional Chinese clothing, ornamentation and ceremonial wear, discusses the importance of silk and the diverse costumes of China's ethnic groups before considering modern trends and China's place in the fashion world today.


Book cover of Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary

Laura Rahme Author Of The Ming Storytellers

From my list on China’s Ming Dynasty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honours graduate in aerospace engineering and psychology and I have written five historical novels. My debut novel, The Ming Storytellers, is set during China’s Ming dynasty and was well-reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. To pen this 600-page saga, I spent six years researching the Ming dynasty while studying a year of mandarin. I have travelled to Beijing, along the Great Wall, and to China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Being a descendant of the Vietnamese royal family gave me access to rich genealogical sources passed down from my scholarly ancestors. These stories of concubines, eunuchs, and mandarins made the past come alive, complementing my research with plausible drama.

Laura's book list on China’s Ming Dynasty

Laura Rahme Why did Laura love this book?

While researching the Ming dynasty and its tea horse trade, I had the joy of traveling to Lijiang in China’s Yunnan province. Lijiang is home to the Naxi (or Nakhi) whose Mu clan rose in prominence during the Ming dynasty. The Naxi people are unique in that they employ the world’s only living pictographic writing system. 

This tiny dictionary is filled with pictographs and their meaning, both in English and in Mandarin. Pictographs are grouped by topics significant to the Naxi culture, such as behaviour, family life, housing, and plants. This book extends one’s view of China, a country which should not be perceived as purely populated by the Han ethnic majority. The common symbols employed in the Naxi language provide valuable insights into the Naxi value system.

By He Pinzheng,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Naxi Dongba Pictograph Dictionary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty

Laura Rahme Author Of The Ming Storytellers

From my list on China’s Ming Dynasty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honours graduate in aerospace engineering and psychology and I have written five historical novels. My debut novel, The Ming Storytellers, is set during China’s Ming dynasty and was well-reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. To pen this 600-page saga, I spent six years researching the Ming dynasty while studying a year of mandarin. I have travelled to Beijing, along the Great Wall, and to China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Being a descendant of the Vietnamese royal family gave me access to rich genealogical sources passed down from my scholarly ancestors. These stories of concubines, eunuchs, and mandarins made the past come alive, complementing my research with plausible drama.

Laura's book list on China’s Ming Dynasty

Laura Rahme Why did Laura love this book?

My favorite Ming dynasty source. It is rich with details on the eunuch institution during the Ming dynasty including its supply chain— the parts of society and of the world where eunuchs were historically drawn. Described here, are the various agencies within the Beijing Forbidden City where Ming dynasty eunuchs worked: Carpentry, Palace Servants, Palace Foods, Royal Clothing, the Nursing Home, and others, including a Toilet Paper agency. Readers not only gain insights on the imperial palace’s operations, but also on the eunuch ranking system, the emperors’ policies concerning eunuchs, and the rise of powerful eunuchs in the Ming secret police (Eastern Depot) and in Ming diplomacy. The latter came to its apogee with Admiral Zheng He, himself a eunuch, leading the Ming fleet during seven world voyages.

By Shih-Shan Henry Tsai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study of Chinese eunuchs illuminates the entire history of the Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644, and provides broad information on various aspects of pre-modern China.


Book cover of When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433

Laura Rahme Author Of The Ming Storytellers

From my list on China’s Ming Dynasty.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an honours graduate in aerospace engineering and psychology and I have written five historical novels. My debut novel, The Ming Storytellers, is set during China’s Ming dynasty and was well-reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. To pen this 600-page saga, I spent six years researching the Ming dynasty while studying a year of mandarin. I have travelled to Beijing, along the Great Wall, and to China’s southwestern province of Yunnan. Being a descendant of the Vietnamese royal family gave me access to rich genealogical sources passed down from my scholarly ancestors. These stories of concubines, eunuchs, and mandarins made the past come alive, complementing my research with plausible drama.

Laura's book list on China’s Ming Dynasty

Laura Rahme Why did Laura love this book?

Another much-loved book about the Ming dynasty’s naval fleet but this time, all seven maritime expeditions led by Admiral Zheng He are dutifully described. It outlines the evolution in ancient Chinese ship construction which saw the development of the formidable Ming ‘treasure fleet’. The reader can explore the Chinese mariners’ lives and occupations at sea, their navigation techniques, Ming China’s world trade and its diplomatic relationships, and the Ming fleet’s fascinating destinations, including Champa (now South Vietnam), Sumatra, Kuli (Kozhikode in India), Mogadishu, Malindi, and Hormuz. Cultural and socio-political details relating to the period are seamlessly weaved into this account which closely follows the life and works of Admiral Zheng He.

By Louise Levathes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When China Ruled the Seas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hundred years before Columbus and his fellow Europeans began making their way to the New World, fleets of giant Chinese junks commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He and filled with the empire's finest porcelains, lacquerware, and silk ventured to the edge of the world's `four corners.' It was a time of exploration and conquest, but it ended in a retrenchment so complete that less than a century later, it was a crime to go to sea in a multimasted ship. In When
China Ruled the Seas, Louise Levathes takes a fascinating and unprecedented look at this dynamic period…


Book cover of The Discovery of Jeanne Baret: A Story of Science, the High Seas, and the First Woman to Circumnavigate the Globe

Sonia Day Author Of The Mexico Lunch Party -- A Sisters of the Soil Novel. With Recipes

From my list on the amazing world of plants.

Why am I passionate about this?

During two decades as a gardening columnist for the Toronto Star, I wrote about hundreds of different plants. I also penned, for various publishers, over half a dozen books with titles ranging from Incredible Edibles: 40 Fun Things to Grow in the City and The Untamed Garden: A Revealing Look at our Love Affair with Plants. And in doing so, I got hooked. Even if you aren’t interested in gardening, the botanical world is chock-a-block with terrific stories. My new novel, for instance, published in 2022, begins with an extraordinary tale about a plant called The Corpse Flower which bloomed for the first time in 70 years at Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Sonia's book list on the amazing world of plants

Sonia Day Why did Sonia love this book?

Another engrossing book that I’ve read several times, by a professor of English at the University of Louisville. Ridley relates the amazing true – but little knownstory of Jeanne Baret, the first woman to sail around the world. She did it disguised as a man in order to accompany her lover, a botanist called Philibert Commerson on a plant collecting expedition back in the 18th century. When they got to Brazil, Baret discovered the vine bougainvillea, which the pair named after the expedition leader, Count de Bougainville (with Commerson, of course, taking all the credit) and she endured incredible hardships keeping her identity secret from the male crew during the arduous voyage. Dried specimens of her finds can still be seen today at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

By Glynis Ridley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year was 1765. Eminent botanist Philibert Commerson had just been appointed to a grand new expedition: the first French circumnavigation of the world. As the ships’ official naturalist, Commerson would seek out resources—medicines, spices, timber, food—that could give the French an edge in the ever-accelerating race for empire.
 
Jeanne Baret, Commerson’s young mistress and collaborator, was desperate not to be left behind. She disguised herself as a teenage boy and signed on as his assistant. The journey made the twenty-six-year-old, known to her shipmates as “Jean” rather than “Jeanne,” the first woman to ever sail around the globe. Yet…


Book cover of A Pirate of Exquisite Mind: The Life of William Dampier: Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer

Patrick Dean Author Of Nature's Messenger: Mark Catesby and His Adventures in a New World

From my list on trailblazing explorers in the Americas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in Mississippi, I have long been fascinated with the natural history of the South and of the Americas in general. And as an outdoorsy guy, a NOLS graudate, mountain-biker, trail-runner, and paddler, I revel in reading accounts of the early days of Western exploration in the woodlands, mountains, and coastal regions of our hemisphere. Finally, as an avid reader and now author, I constantly seek out enthralling and wide-ranging narratives about exploration, outdoor adventure, and the natural world.

Patrick's book list on trailblazing explorers in the Americas

Patrick Dean Why did Patrick love this book?

The real-life inspiration for both Gulliver’s Travels and Robinson Crusoe, William Dampier was a pirate turned legit explorer who circumnavigated the earth three times, and was the first European to reach the Galapagos and to encounter the aboriginal people of Australia.

He makes my list because of his explorations of the Caribbean…and because I really wanted to include him!

By Diana Preston, Michael Preston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seventeenth-century pirate genius William Dampier sailed around the world three times when crossing the Pacific was a major feat, was the first explorer to visit all five continents, and reached Australia eighty years before Captain Cook. His exploits created a sensation in Europe. Swift and Defoe used his experiences in writing Gulliver's Travels and Robinson Crusoe. Darwin incorporated his concept of "sub-species" into the theory of evolution. Dampier's description of breadfruit was the impetus for Captain Bligh's voyage on the Bounty. He was so influential that today he has more than one thousand entries in the Oxford English Dictionary, including…


Book cover of Around the World in Eighty Days

Gary Orleck Author Of Travels With Maurice: An Outrageous Adventure in Europe, 1968

From my list on life and it's changes – the what, where, and why.

Why am I passionate about this?

At 13 years old I told my father that “I will be travelling around the USA as soon as I graduate college." It took 10 days to prepare but prepare and depart I did. I worked my way around the USA for 6 months and on the way home I told my Dad, “Next is Europe.” A year later I traveled with the son of the richest man in the world and the adventures we had driving 19,865 miles through 12 European countries for 10 weeks were both mind-blowing and life-changing. My passion for traveling and life shows throughout my book, and I assure you that you'll enjoy travelling along with me. 

Gary's book list on life and it's changes – the what, where, and why

Gary Orleck Why did Gary love this book?

After you remind yourself that this story is taking place in 1872, you can just sit back and have fun with it as you will come to see that it is a very clever story and true to the time period it is set in.

I advise that you should let your mind wander, and you will very easily fall in love with the well-defined characters and the suspense of the story. Have we not all raced against time in our own lifetime? It is a really fun read, especially if you use your imagination to join in, and that is why I believe that everybody should read this classic story at least once in their lifetime.

By Jules Verne,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Around the World in Eighty Days as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Some novels are considered classics of children literature, read by numerous generations of young readers who made them immortal. That is the case with Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, a true prototype for many later adventure tales. The thrilling race against time of eccentric Phileas Fogg and his manservant Passepartout, having to run around the planet to win a bet, is here presented in a modern and original way, thanks to the splendid drawings by Francesca Rossi, an artist able to capture the vivid atmosphere of the story.


Book cover of How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

Melanie Heuiser Hill Author Of Around the Table That Grandad Built

From my list on sharing food.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a children’s author who loves to eat and bake and cook and gather with others around a table. My writing somehow always has details about people coming together around favorite foods and drinks, enjoying the company of family and friends. Is it any wonder these are the sorts of books I love to read, as well?

Melanie's book list on sharing food

Melanie Heuiser Hill Why did Melanie love this book?

How To Make an Apple Pie and See The World is a whimsical book that starts by asserting that making apple pie is the easiest thing in the world. All you do is get the ingredients at the market then mix, bake, and serve… But what if the market is closed? In that case, adventure ensues! One travels the world to procure the ingredients—Italy, France, Sri Lanka, England, Jamaica, Vermont—and then you mix, bake, and serve.

The last spread of this wonderful picturebook features a round table and a gathering of friends eating apple pie—is there anything better?

By Marjorie Priceman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Bake a delicious apple pie--and take a trip with this culinary global adventure!

An apple pie is easy to make...if the market is open. But if the market is closed, the world becomes your grocery store. This picture book takes readers around the globe to gather ingredients for a delicious apple pie. First hop a steamboat to Italy for the finest semolina wheat. Then hitch a ride to England and hijack a cow for the freshest possible milk. And, oh yes! Don't forget to go apple picking in Vermont! A simple recipe for apple pie is included.


Book cover of The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World

Autumn Carolynn Author Of Traveling in Wonder: A Travel Photographer's Tales of Wanderlust

From my list on books to take with you on the plane before your international travel adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an avid lover of all cultures, especially travel memoirs. I had a goal to travel to 30 countries in 30 years, and I wrote a memoir, Traveling in Wonder. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting both the author and side characters in all of these books, as each brings something extraordinary to the story. I also loved the descriptions in these memoirs, which brought me back to my memories!

Autumn's book list on books to take with you on the plane before your international travel adventure

Autumn Carolynn Why did Autumn love this book?

This book was quite an interesting read!

I really enjoyed how it tackled traveling through different experiences and in a way that was so unique. I haven't read anything like it before! I also enjoyed the strength of the main character and the comical relief it brought!

By Kim Dinan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What Would You Do with a Yellow Envelope?

In this captivating memoir, Kim Dinan takes readers on an extraordinary expedition that all began with a mysterious gift: a simple yellow envelope containing three life-altering rules. Fueling her with curiosity and courage, Kim and her partner set out on a soul-stirring adventure that transcends borders and redefines their sense of purpose.

Join Kim as she navigates through the vibrant landscapes of diverse cultures, encounters inspiring souls, and grapples with the complexities of life's unexpected turns. This compelling narrative weaves heartfelt emotions, stunning imagery, and profound reflections that resonate with every traveler…


Book cover of Dove

Zoltan Istvan Author Of The Transhumanist Wager

From my list on to launch your best artistic self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Zoltan Istvan, often considered one of the world’s most visible transhumanists. I began my career at National Geographic, but then turned towards leading the radical science movement forward that is now called transhumanism. We want to upgrade the human being with radical technology and overcome biological death. But all great movements need journies, and leaders of them need personal journies to be inspired by. These 5 books were the ones that inspired me the most!

Zoltan's book list on to launch your best artistic self

Zoltan Istvan Why did Zoltan love this book?

Dove chronicles the story of a 16-year-old who sets off around the world on a tiny sailboat. For 5 years, while also covered by National Geographic, Robin tells his story of fighting storms, discovering new lands, and finding love. It’s an ultimate coming-of-age manifesto, full of inspiration and guts.

By Robin L. Graham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dove as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

In 1965, 16-year-old Robin Lee Graham began a solo around-the-world voyage from San Pedro, California, in a 24-foot sloop. Five years and 33,000 miles later, he returned to home port with a wife and daughter and enough extraordinary experiences to fill this bestselling book, Dove.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in circumnavigation, explorers, and China?

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