77 books like A Civil Action

By Jonathan Harr,

Here are 77 books that A Civil Action fans have personally recommended if you like A Civil Action. 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 Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

The world continues to consider nuclear power, despite the devastation to the nuclear industry caused by the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Nuclear power can play a part in fighting climate change, but we need to be aware of the risks as well as the rewards. Beyond that, it is a well-researched and dramatic story about the trauma that ensues when human communities are beset by environmental disasters.

By Adam Higginbotham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Midnight in Chernobyl as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A New York Times Best Book of the Year
A Time Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year
2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Winner

From journalist Adam Higginbotham, the New York Times bestselling “account that reads almost like the script for a movie” (The Wall Street Journal)—a powerful investigation into Chernobyl and how propaganda, secrecy, and myth have obscured the true story of one of the history’s worst nuclear disasters.

Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering one of the…


Book cover of The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

Jason Kersten Author Of The Last Counterfeiter: The Story of Fake Money, Real Art, and Forging the Impossible $100 Bill

From my list on crime books that explode into larger worlds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a window-seat person. If I’m on a trip, I want to see much more than the device propelling me forward. In crime books, the vehicle is always the crime, but I want that felonious little engine to also propel me through realms where I become more explorer than passenger, where I’ve entered marvelous and unexpected worlds that become characters in themselves. It almost doesn’t matter what that world is, whether it’s 19th-century Chicago architecture, bitcoin cartels or octopus linguistics. As long as it’s well-researched and rendered with depth, precision, and passion, your ticket to a crime gets you at least two books, or even genres, for one!

Jason's book list on crime books that explode into larger worlds

Jason Kersten Why did Jason love this book?

Erik Larson is known for his masterful ability to combine meticulous research with rich prose to breathe life into history. This book, with intersecting narratives of a serial killer and a brilliant architect set at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, painted such a living picture for me that I still felt stuck to the canvas even when I wasn’t reading.

I learned about astonishing true events and characters I barely knew existed. The contrast between the great inventors on the grand stage of the fair and the killer haunting its shadow was superbly done.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

20 authors picked The Devil in the White City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Chicago World Fair was the greatest fair in American history. This is the story of the men and women whose lives it irrevocably changed and of two men in particular- an architect and a serial killer. The architect is Daniel Burnham, a man of great integrity and depth. It was his vision of the fair that attracted the best minds and talents of the day. The killer is Henry H. Holmes. Intelligent as well as handsome and charming, Holmes opened a boarding house which he advertised as 'The World's Fair Hotel' Here in the neighbourhood where he was once…


Book cover of The Big Short

Claire A. Hill Author Of Better Bankers, Better Banks: Promoting Good Business through Contractual Commitment

From my list on bankers, especially bankers behaving badly.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested—a vast understatement to anyone who knows me—in what makes people tick. I’ve focused on analyzing business actors – bankers, lawyers, investors, executives, shareholders, and others. What do they want? Some combination of money, power, or prestige? How does loving to win fit in? How about hating to lose? When is enough (money/power/prestige) enough? What do they think is ok to do to get what they want? What do they think is not ok? Amazingly, as a law professor, I can pursue that interest as part of my job, and – I think and hope – do so in a way that might help lawmakers, regulators, and policymakers do better.

Claire's book list on bankers, especially bankers behaving badly

Claire A. Hill Why did Claire love this book?

As everyone knows at this point, anything Michael Lewis writes will be enormous fun to read, while being about something really important—something he’ll make you care about even if you didn’t when you started the book.

In this case, the subject is people who bet on the direction of mortgages (and thus, house prices), and how those who bet on a huge plunge were right. This book has an amazing cast of characters, all richly drawn: some are smart, some are not so smart; some are excellent schmoozers, some can barely tolerate human interaction; some care a lot about money, some care more about being right, especially if everyone else is wrong.

Each book I've recommended cries out to be made into a movie. This one actually was.

By Michael Lewis,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Big Short as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The real story of the crash began in bizarre feeder markets where the sun doesn't shine and the SEC doesn't dare, or bother, to tread: the bond and real estate derivative markets where geeks invent impenetrable securities to profit from the misery of lower- and middle-class Americans who can't pay their debts. The smart people who understood what was or might be happening were paralyzed by hope and fear; in any case, they weren't talking.

Michael Lewis creates a fresh, character-driven narrative brimming with indignation and dark humor, a fitting sequel to his #1 bestseller Liar's Poker. Out of a…


Book cover of Laying Waste: The Poisoning of America by Toxic Chemicals

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

Brown lays out some of the major crises that fueled modern environmentalism and in so doing helps the reader to understand the passions that drove the movement. I remember when Lois Gibbs, a leader of the Love Canal residents, came to Centralia to give a pep talk to residents there about fighting government inaction.

By Michael Harold Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Recounts the dumping of toxic chemical wastes in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls which led to an epidemic of grave medical problems and the permanent evacuation of nearby residents and documents other chemical-waste tragedies erupting throughout America


Book cover of Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter's Story

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

While this is not a comprehensive history of the TMI accident and its aftermath—none exists––you can happily read this book and understand the seriousness of what happened. It is not encumbered with anti-nuclear ideology, like some of the books written immediately after the accident were. It has many photos, a glossary of nuclear terms, and an index. 

By Wilborn Hampton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It was 5 a.m. at the nuclear power plant on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River. Suddenly an alarm shrieked. Something was going wrong inside the plant. Within minutes human error and technical failure triggered the worst nuclear power accident in the United States and within hours, the eyes of the world were on Three Mile Island. Wilborn Hampton transports the readers to this pivotal moment in American history, telling the hour-by-hour story of covering the nuclear accident as a U.P.I. (United Press International) reporter. His fascinating account will compel readers to consider one of the most…


Book cover of We Almost Lost Detroit

David DeKok Author Of Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy of the Centralia Mine Fire

From my list on environmental catastrophes.

Why am I passionate about this?

David DeKok became interested in environmental disasters in his native Michigan in 1974, when PBB, a fire-retardant chemical, was accidentally mixed with animal feed, entered the food chain, and then most people in the state, probably including himself. As a journalist in Pennsylvania, he wrote extensively about the Centralia mine fire and the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and is the author of four books. He tends to write about small towns and small-town people in crisis.

David's book list on environmental catastrophes

David DeKok Why did David love this book?

We Almost Lost Detroit was published in the mid-1970s  at a time of growing concern over nuclear power in America that would reach a boiling point with the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. There was no love lost between the two sides. Utility executives were believed to be liars trying to save their investment in a costly, difficult technology. Nuclear critics were portrayed by the industry as deluded tree-huggers. It was a real debate with real consequences, and this book shows why. The cover of the Ballantine paperback edition shows the terrified face of a man inside a radiation protective suit.

By John G. Fuller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Almost Lost Detroit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A valuable contribution to the debate over nuclear power, this book documents the Fermi accident that so frightened the AEC and nuclear industry that they did not want the details and significance leaked to the public. At the time of the publication of this book, many critics of nuclear power were demanding to know all the pertinent information regarding the safety of nuclear reactors.


Book cover of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Benjamin Breen Author Of Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science

From my list on the history of drugs.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a historian of science and medicine, I’m fascinated by the many ways that drugs—from tea to opiates, Prozac to psychedelics—have shaped our world. After all, there are few adults on the planet today who don’t regularly consume substances that have been classified as a drug at one time or another (I’m looking at you, coffee and tea!). The books I’ve selected here have deeply influenced my own thinking on the history of drugs over the past decade, from my first book, The Age of Intoxication, to my new book on the history of psychedelic science.

Benjamin's book list on the history of drugs

Benjamin Breen Why did Benjamin love this book?

In this tour-de-force work of investigative journalism, New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe traces the sordid history of the Sackler dynasty, the billionaire family behind Purdue Pharmaceuticals and its blockbuster narcotic painkiller OxyContin.

With both narrative verve and moral urgency—a combination that isn’t always easy to pull off—this book exposes one of the many points of origin for America’s devastating opioid epidemic. Keefe’s work has reinforced my conviction that drug historians have an important role to play in shaping public understanding and policy debates around these substances in the present. I found this book to be a page-turner and one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read in years.  

By Patrick Radden Keefe,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Empire of Pain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of Say Nothing.

"A real-life version of the HBO series Succession with a lethal sting in its tail…a masterful work of narrative reportage.” – Laura Miller, Slate

The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom…


Book cover of The Monkey Wrench Gang

Sean Prentiss Author Of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave

From my list on reads by or about to Edward Abbey.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been passionate about Edward Abbey since I read Desert Solitaire in 1994. By 2010, I decided to write a biography on Abbey, Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, which allowed me to research and explore Abbey. I interviewed his great friends, including Jack Loeffler, Doug Peacock, Ken Sleight, and David Petersen. I visited Abbey’s special collections library and read his master’s thesis on anarchism and an unpublished novel. I visited his first home in Pennsylvania and many of his Desert Southwest homes. Along the way, I found the spirit of Abbey and the American Southwest. Finding Abbey won the National Outdoor Book Award.

Sean's book list on reads by or about to Edward Abbey

Sean Prentiss Why did Sean love this book?

If Desert Solitaire is an American classic, The Monkey Wrench Gang is the blockbuster that everyone knows and loves for its humor, and sex, all wrapped up in an environmental action thriller.

While this book might not be quite as literary as Desert Solitaire, it changed environmentalism in America. This book blended anarchism and environmentalism. It also helped inspire the environmental organization, Earth First. And it created the term “to monkey wrench.

Read the book because it changed American environmentalism. Love it for its action and thrills in the Desert Southwest. I know I did.

And while I always wanted to be like the brash main character, George Washington Hayduke, in all truth I was and am more like Seldom Seen.

By Edward Abbey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Revolutionary ... An extravagant, finely written tale of ecological sabotage' The New York Times

Audacious, controversial and hilarious, The Monkey Wrench Gang is Edward Abbey's masterpiece - a big, boisterous and unforgettable novel about freedom and commitment that ignited the flames of environmental activism.

Throughout the vast American West, nature is being vicitimized by a Big Government / Big Business conspiracy of bridges, dams and concrete. But a motley gang of individuals has decided that enough is enough. A burnt-out veteran, a mad doctor and a polygamist join forces in a noble cause: to dismantle the machinery of progress through…


Book cover of Prodigal Summer

D.J. Green Author Of No More Empty Spaces

From my list on fiction books where science plays a main character.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an avid reader of fiction and kind of a nerd, too, so I love books with science in them. I’m a scientist myself, now retired from a career in environmental and engineering geology. I am fascinated by the Earth and the geologic processes that shape it, from the seemingly mundane (like erosion) to the remarkable (like earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic eruptions). As a writer, I try to translate that wonder for non-scientist readers, all wrapped up in a compelling story. Each book on this list sure does that, weaving science into the fabric of a gripping narrative. I hope you’ll love them as much as I do.

D.J.'s book list on fiction books where science plays a main character

D.J. Green Why did D.J. love this book?

This is my favorite of Kingsolver’s books. I fell in love with so many of the characters, even some of the crustier sort. I also fell in love with the Appalachian mountains and valleys where they worked, studied, and sometimes struggled.

This is a poignant book about families and landscapes, and how we must find our own place in each.

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Prodigal Summer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It is summer in the Appalachian mountains and love, desire and attraction are in the air. Nature, too, it seems, is not immune. From her outpost in an isolated mountain cabin, Deanna Wolfe, a reclusive wildlife biologist, watches a den of coyotes that have recently migrated into the region. She is caught off guard by a young hunter who invades her most private spaces and interrupts her self-assured, solitary life. On a farm several miles down the mountain, Lusa Maluf Landowski, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife, finds herself marooned in a strange place where she must declare or…


Book cover of Dress Coded

Aimee Hoben Author Of The Third Way

From my list on activism to inspire and mobilize.

Why am I passionate about this?

I began as an activist in high school, knocking on doors to enlist support for clean water and air, and more recently, for my favorite candidates for local, state, and federal office. Some of my most meaningful work was as a lawyer and volunteer on land conservation deals for an agricultural land trust. Fiction has an amazing power to recharge us and to shift our perspectives to imagine the world differently. My favorite books are always ones that teach me something interesting. My recent activism has been motivated by my frustration with our political process, including the 2010 Supreme Court case of Citizens United declaring corporations to be “persons” under the law.

Aimee's book list on activism to inspire and mobilize

Aimee Hoben Why did Aimee love this book?

For the budding middle-grade activist on your list, this book is my 11-year-old daughter’s favorite, and I loved it too. The eighth-grade main character, Molly, starts a podcast to protest unfair dress code enforcement in her school, and her small rebellion starts a revolution. A great introduction for kids to activism, with a deft treatment of body differences, girl power, and friendships. 

By Carrie Firestone,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Dress Coded as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.

Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn't, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.

Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.

Because it's impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.

Because girls' bodies are not a distraction.

Because school is hard enough.

And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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