95 books like Against the Grain

By James C. Scott,

Here are 95 books that Against the Grain fans have personally recommended if you like Against the Grain. 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 The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Barry Cunliffe has time and again proved himself to gracefully weave serious scholarship with compelling reflection. As he does with his other books, he builds conclusions and raises questions based on the most recent archaeological evidence. The Scythians are greatly misunderstood, their legacy shaded by the often-disparaging views of their contemporaries. Barry Cunliffe’s archeological approach helps the Scythians speak through the things they left behind.

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south - the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks - and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the
Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from…


Book cover of Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

While only one chapter of Empires of the Silk Road is dedicated to the Scythians, this book is a compelling introduction to Central Eurasian peoples throughout history. Beckwith’s work stabs right at the heart of ancient and modern writings that frame the Scythians and other nomadic peoples within a pejorative “barbarian” framework. More than that, he explores how societies such as the Scythians viewed themselves, which differs greatly from other approaches, which use them only as a foil to more sedentary peoples.

By Christopher I Beckwith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empires of the Silk Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first complete history of Central Eurasia from ancient times to the present day, Empires of the Silk Road represents a fundamental rethinking of the origins, history, and significance of this major world region. Christopher Beckwith describes the rise and fall of the great Central Eurasian empires, including those of the Scythians, Attila the Hun, the Turks and Tibetans, and Genghis Khan and the Mongols. In addition, he explains why the heartland of Central Eurasia led the world economically, scientifically, and artistically for many centuries despite invasions by Persians, Greeks, Arabs, Chinese, and others. In retelling the story of the…


Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield)

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

If one wanted to understand the study of the galaxy, they might start with Galileo. Something similar could be said about starting with the historian Herodotus to understand ancient peoples (and the study of them). Was he serious about his craft? Yes. Was he a product of his time? Yes. Should you take everything he writes as fact? Absolutely not. So why read Herodotus? Because he was the first person (as far as I know) to study the Scythians for the purpose of scholarship. Moreover, his work contains many of the stories that scholars since his time have tried to prove, disprove, or reinterpret. In short, if you want to join a conversation, it can be helpful to know how it began.

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Herodotus is not only known as the `father of history', as Cicero called him, but also the father of ethnography; as well as charting the historical background to the Persian Wars, his curiosity also prompts frequent digression on the cultures of the peoples he introduces. While much of the information he gives has proved to be astonishingly accurate, he also entertains us with delightful tales of one-eyed men and gold-digging ants. This readable new translation is
supplemented with expansive notes that provide readers the background that they need to appreciate the book in depth.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100…


Book cover of The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Who am I?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Arrian is one of the few primary sources used to illuminate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is also one of the few primary sources to focus directly on the Scythians – in this case, the Saka (an eastern group of Scythians). After conquering the Bactrian region, Alexander faced war with the Scythians, as well as local rebellions, which the Scythians played a role in. Arrian’s account is an important source for understanding the Scythians as it speaks directly to the clash of an army built for pitched battle against an army build for more mobile warfare.

By Robert B. Strassler, James Romm,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander, widely considered the most authoritative history of the brilliant leader’s great conquests, is the latest addition to the acclaimed Landmark series.
 
After twelve years of hard-fought campaigns, Alexander the Great controlled a vast empire that was bordered by the Adriatic sea to the west and modern-day India to the east. Arrian, himself a military commander, combines his firsthand experience of battle with material from Ptolemy’s memoirs and other ancient sources to compose a singular portrait of Alexander. This vivid and engaging new translation of Arrian will fascinate readers who are interested in classical studies, the history…


Book cover of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Fernanda Pirie Author Of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

From my list on making us rethink global history.

Who am I?

I'm an anthropologist on a mission to discover how people have used, and abused, law over the past 4,000 years. After a decade in a wig and gown at the London Bar, I headed back to university to pursue a long-standing interest in Tibetan culture. I spent two years living with remote villagers and nomads, freezing over dung fires, herding yaks, and learning about traditional legal practices. Now, based at the University of Oxford, I’ve turned to legal history, comparing ancient Tibetan texts with examples from all over the world. The Rule of Laws brings a long sweep of legal history and its fascinating diversity to a wide audience.

Fernanda's book list on making us rethink global history

Fernanda Pirie Why did Fernanda love this book?

Philosopher and psychiatrist McGilchrist presented a bold thesis about the working of the human mind. It has profound implications for the way we understand human societies. We’ve long known that the two halves of the brain perform different functions but, using approachable case studies and clearly presenting the science, the first half of the book argues that the left, more rational, part of the brain is dangerously dominant. Controlling and grasping, it needs to remain subordinate to the more inclusive, humane, and intuitive functions of the right brain. McGilchrist goes on to trace the consequences for the development of human societies and their problems. The ideas linger, relevant to practically all aspects of our lives.

By Iain McGilchrist,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A pioneering exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history, and culture-"one of the few contemporary works deserving classic status" (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times, London)

"Persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative 'master' the right. Brilliant and disturbing."-Salley Vickers, a Guardian Best Book of the Year

"I know of no better exposition of the current state of functional brain neuroscience."-W. F. Bynum, TLS

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been…


Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

Craig Nelson Author Of V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

From my list on history that will wake you up.

Who am I?

I spent twenty years as a book publishing executive learning how the trade works before launching myself as a full-time author wanting to make the world a better place. My books use state-of-the-art scholarship for history you can read on the beach, and focus on ‘hinge’ moments, great turnings of the world, as well as on forgotten and unsung heroes.

Craig's book list on history that will wake you up

Craig Nelson Why did Craig love this book?

What ideas do you have about what the first peoples were like, and how human society developed?

Maybe you’ve even read the popular authors on this topic such as Diamond, Harari, Pinker, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Prepare to have all of your notions and received opinions upended and turned to dust by David Graeber (a man universally acknowledged as a genius) and the book he worked on for the last ten years of his life, which brings revolutionary ideas to 30,000 years of civilization.

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Book cover of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World

Kenneth W. Harl Author Of Empires of the Steppes: A History of the Nomadic Tribes Who Shaped Civilization

From my list on how the nomadic peoples enriched and shaped civilizations across Eurasia.

Who am I?

I am a Professor Emeritus of Classical and Byzantine History, and I was fascinated by Attila and the Hun and Genghis Khan from early childhood when I decided that I would become a historian. I set out to write the history of the Eurasian nomads from their perspective, and so convey their neglected history to a wider readership.

Kenneth's book list on how the nomadic peoples enriched and shaped civilizations across Eurasia

Kenneth W. Harl Why did Kenneth love this book?

A literate history of the economic and religious history of Europe, the Middle East, and adjacent Eursian steppes from fifth century B.C. down to the opening of the twenty-first century. I found the book a delight to read.

The first ten chapters are complementary to my work Empires of the Steppes. Professor Frankopan, however, continues the story to emergence of the global economy based on oceanic trade. The excellent analysis of colonial rivalries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is a must reading for understanding the geopolitical role of Eurasia today the Belt and Road initiative of China.

By Peter Frankopan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The No. 1 Sunday Times and international bestseller - a major reassessment of world history in light of the economic and political renaissance in the re-emerging east For centuries, fame and fortune was to be found in the west - in the New World of the Americas. Today, it is the east which calls out to those in search of adventure and riches. The region stretching from eastern Europe and sweeping right across Central Asia deep into China and India, is taking centre stage in international politics, commerce and culture - and is shaping the modern world. This region, the…


Book cover of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years

Lisa McClain Author Of Divided Loyalties? Pushing the Boundaries of Gender and Lay Roles in the Catholic Church, 1534-1829

From my list on how we got so confused about women, gender, and Christianity.

Who am I?

I do what I do for completely self-interested reasons. I am a woman, wife, and mother; a history professor specializing in the Catholic Church and gender; and a Christian (Episcopalian). I used to compartmentalize those roles. I was a Christian at church, a secular scholar at work, etc. It was exhausting. I was frustrated by conflicting messages about gender and faith from my family, profession, and religion. I wanted to be true to all aspects of my identity in all situations, but how? History is full of people who’ve questioned and adapted at the intersections of gender and religion. I learn from their journeys and add another piece of the puzzle.

Lisa's book list on how we got so confused about women, gender, and Christianity

Lisa McClain Why did Lisa love this book?

Cooke makes us question what we think we know about gender.

MacCulloch makes us rethink what we think we know about Christianity. There are so many books of Christian history on the market it can be overwhelming. Many have social, theological, or political agendas. Not MacCulloch. A scholar of the first tier, MacCulloch unpacks Christianity, but this is no textbook.

With clarity and readability, MacCulloch rejects traditional Eurocentric narratives to explore Syriac churches, Thomist Christians in India, Orthodoxy, and the oft-forgotten Church of the East. He emphasizes how the strength of Christianity in all its different forms hasn’t been its supposedly unchanging nature but its adaptability—an important lesson to take into discussions of gender, lay roles, and religion.

By Diarmaid MacCulloch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Diarmaid MacCulloch's epic, acclaimed history A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years follows the story of Christianity around the globe, from ancient Palestine to contemporary China.

How did an obscure personality cult come to be the world's biggest religion, with a third of humanity its followers? This book, now the most comprehensive and up to date single volume work in English, describes not only the main facts, ideas and personalities of Christian history, its organization and spirituality, but how it has changed politics, sex, and human society.

Taking in wars, empires, reformers, apostles, sects, churches and crusaders, Diarmaid…


Book cover of Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

Mobo C.F. Gao Author Of Constructing China: Clashing Views of the People's Republic

From my list on understanding modern China.

Who am I?

I currently teach Chinese studies at the Department of Asian Studies of the University of Adelaide. My publications include several books, and over a hundred book chapters/articles. My book Mandarin Chinese: An Introduction is a standard reference for learners of modern Chinese in English-speaking countries. Two of my books Gao Village: A Portrait of Modern Life in Rural China and Gao Village Revisited: Life of the Rural People in Contemporary China are case studies of Gao Village where I came from. Other books include the Battle of China's Past: Mao and the Cultural Revolution and Remembering Socialist China 1949 – 1976 which are reassessments of the Mao era and the Cultural Revolution. 

Mobo's book list on understanding modern China

Mobo C.F. Gao Why did Mobo love this book?

This book, like Mao and After, credits the era of Mao with far more achievements than they are given by the political and intellectual elite in post-Mao China. This book particularly focuses on the collective system or what was called the Commune and exploits the technical innovation and economic developments under the Commune. This is in total contrast to the accepted wisdom that there was economic stagnation in the era of Mao

By Joshua Eisenman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Red China's Green Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

China's dismantling of the Mao-era rural commune system and return to individual household farming under Deng Xiaoping has been seen as a successful turn away from a misguided social experiment and a rejection of the disastrous policies that produced widespread famine. In this revisionist study, Joshua Eisenman marshals previously inaccessible data to overturn this narrative, showing that the commune modernized agriculture, increased productivity, and spurred an agricultural green revolution that laid the foundation for China's future rapid growth.

Red China's Green Revolution tells the story of the commune's origins, evolution, and downfall, demonstrating its role in China's economic ascendance. After…


Book cover of Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization

Lewis H. Ziska Author Of Greenhouse Planet: How Rising CO2 Changes Plants and Life as We Know It

From my list on climate and plants, from forests to farms.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated with plants. Their shapes, their colors, their beauty, even the plants that are known to be harmful to humans (poison ivy, puncture vine) had appeal to me. Plants are, by far, the most prolific, the biggest, the oldest, the most complex of organisms. And yet, as a pre-med student, classes on botany were never recommended. Sad. These books delve into the complexity, the wonder of plants, and how they interact with humans. From the sheer poetic pronouncements of Michael Pollan to the straightforward prose of Richard Manning, here is a chance to see the breadth and depth; our rewards and struggles with the plant kingdom.  

Lewis' book list on climate and plants, from forests to farms

Lewis H. Ziska Why did Lewis love this book?

Against the Grain is a one-of-a-kind book. Unlike many hagiographies of agriculture gives a more realistic interpretation of how agriculture came to be; the costs associated with its adoption, and the hold it has over all humankind. It gives insight into that cost through an economic and environmental lens. After you read this book, you will look at what is at the end of your fork very, very differently.

By Richard Manning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this provocative, wide-ranging book, Against the Grain, Richard Manning offers a dramatically revisionist view of recent human evolution, beginning with the vast increase in brain size that set us apart from our primate relatives and brought an accompanying increase in our need for nourishment. For 290,000 years, we managed to meet that need as hunter-gatherers, a state in which Manning believes we were at our most human: at our smartest, strongest, most sensually alive. But our reliance on food made a secure supply deeply attractive, and eventually we embarked upon the agricultural experiment that has been the history of…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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