45 books like Awakenings

By Oliver Sacks,

Here are 45 books that Awakenings fans have personally recommended if you like Awakenings. 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 Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History

Susan M. Sterett Author Of Litigating the Pandemic: Disaster Cascades in Court

From my list on governing disasters in a changing climate.

Who am I?

I have long been drawn to everyday experiences in courts. Since Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, I’ve been writing and teaching about courts, social welfare, and disasters in a changing climate. Following the disasters requires noticing the routine cases filed, not only the notable constitutional claims the United States Supreme Court hears. That can be hard to do, because all the cases filed are not listed in any one place. In the pandemic, my interest in the more ordinary met the databases that people assembled, gathering as best possible the many cases filed about the pandemic.

Susan's book list on governing disasters in a changing climate

Susan M. Sterett Why did Susan love this book?

The 1918 flu killed millions, including 675,000 in the United States. It rapidly killed young people. The president of the United States never spoke of it.

The United States was at war, and officials claimed speaking of the flu would undermine the war effort. Not speaking of the flu fit well with widespread suppression of speech, which officials also justified by pointing to the war. Civil rights and liberties claims linked to that pandemic as it did in COVID-19.

Mr. Barry’s sprawling story includes many actors. Mr. Barry argues that managing a pandemic requires trust. In the COVID-19 pandemic, trust could still be hard to come by, even as medical care, labor, insurance, schooling, and the place of courts had changed over the intervening one hundred years. 

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Great Influenza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the height of WWI, history's most lethal influenza virus erupted in an army camp in Kansas, moved east with American troops, then exploded, killing as many as 100 million people worldwide. It killed more people in twenty-four months than AIDS killed in twenty-four years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century. But this was not the Middle Ages, and 1918 marked the first collision of science and epidemic disease. Magisterial in its breadth of perspective and depth of research and now revised to reflect the growing danger of the avian flu, "The Great Influenza"…


Book cover of The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Who am I?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

Kate Moore sucked me into the world of the radium girls, who literally glowed from the radium dust that covered them at work, and that they ultimately ingested, sickening them in horrific ways.

The book made me want to scream in anger at their treatment and cheer for those who were determined to defend them and deliver justice. The story is a huge eye-opener about the importance of industry oversight and occupational health regulations. 

By Kate Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf book club choice
New York Times bestseller

'Fascinating.' Sunday Times
'Thrilling.' Mail on Sunday

All they wanted was the chance to shine.

Be careful what you wish for...

'The first thing we asked was, "Does this stuff hurt you?" And they said, "No." The company said that it wasn't dangerous, that we didn't need to be afraid.'

As the First World War spread across the world, young American women flocked to work in factories, painting clocks, watches and military dials with a special luminous substance made from radium. It was a fun job, lucrative and…


Book cover of The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic—And How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World

Hannah Wunsch Author Of The Autumn Ghost: How the Battle Against a Polio Epidemic Revolutionized Modern Medical Care

From my list on medical history that reads like fiction.

Who am I?

As a critical care doctor, I love pausing when taking care of patients in a modern ICU to reflect on how far we’ve come in the care we can provide. I want to be entertained while learning about the past, and so I seek out books on medical history that find the wonder and the beauty (and the bizarre and chilling) and make it come alive. I get excited when medical history can be shared in a way that isn’t dry, or academic. These books all do that for me and capture some part of that crazy journey through time. 

Hannah's book list on medical history that reads like fiction

Hannah Wunsch Why did Hannah love this book?

The Ghost Map is the fantastic story of an important Cholera epidemic in London in 1854.

The book swept me along with its narrative, plunging straight into the fetid world of Victorian London. Johnson weaves together the stories of the people affected, and the desperate hunt by Dr. John Snow to understand the cause of the disease. He also provides fascinating descriptions of the dangers to life in a time before sewers, and the evolution of such systems that ultimately transformed city life.

I definitely look at toilets, pipes, and sewer grates differently after reading this book.

By Steven Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A National Bestseller, a New York Times Notable Book, and an Entertainment Weekly Best Book of the Year

It's the summer of 1854, and London is just emerging as one of the first modern cities in the world. But lacking the infrastructure-garbage removal, clean water, sewers-necessary to support its rapidly expanding population, the city has become the perfect breeding ground for a terrifying disease no one knows how to cure. As the cholera outbreak takes hold, a physician and a local curate are spurred to action-and ultimately solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time.

In a triumph of…


Book cover of Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History

Vanessa Lee Author Of High Rise

From my list on celebrating the bravery of everyday heroes.

Who am I?

I am an Australian writer living in Europe. Returning to my hometown on the East Coast of Australia post-COVID, I confronted relentless rain and king tides threatening the beach promenade cafes. Witnessing the potential demise of these familiar spots sparked the idea for my novel. Opening with a dystopian scene of future tourists exploring submerged coastal cafes with snorkels, my work delves into the realm of "cli-fi" (climate fiction). Against the backdrop of imminent climate danger, my characters, a lovable yet obstinate Australian ensemble, navigate a world profoundly altered by the impacts of climate change. I hope what I have written is an exaggeration. I fear it may not be.

Vanessa's book list on celebrating the bravery of everyday heroes

Vanessa Lee Why did Vanessa love this book?

Climate change may well be increasing the frequency and intensity of violent storms and hurricanes, but they are certainly nothing new.

This is a vividly written account of what has been dubbed one of the worst natural disasters to have ever hit the United States, the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, in 1900. The narrative is constructed using the letters and reports from Isaac Cline, a meteorologist working at the US Weather Bureau at the time.

The storm described in this book occurred 124 years ago, yet readers will find eerie precursors to the issues we hear being discussed globally today: despair at our seeming hubris and disturbing unpreparedness in the face of increasingly volatile and unpredictable natural events.

By Erik Larson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Isaac's Storm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the bestselling author of The Devil in the White City, here is the true story of the deadliest hurricane in history.

National Bestseller

September 8, 1900, began innocently in the seaside town of Galveston, Texas. Even Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau failed to grasp the true meaning of the strange deep-sea swells and peculiar winds that greeted the city that morning. Mere hours later, Galveston found itself submerged in a monster hurricane that completely destroyed the town and killed over six thousand people in what remains the greatest natural disaster in American history--and Isaac Cline…


Book cover of Young Men and Fire

Matthew O. Jackson Author Of The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviors

From my list on fiction driven by rich historical context.

Who am I?

As a lover of both fiction and nonfiction, I find that the ultimate pleasure in reading is when the author combines the two without short-changing either. These are books that provide accurate and deep historical background, but also tell stories shaped by that context. These are also books that have intricate, unusual, and effective narrative structures.   

Matthew's book list on fiction driven by rich historical context

Matthew O. Jackson Why did Matthew love this book?

This book concerns a group of young firefighters known as smokejumpers and the catastrophic Mann Gulch Forest Fire in Montana in 1949. 

Maclean was from the community and worked in the US Forest Service before he became a professor and eventually an author who spent years researching the event. You learn about the physics of forest fires, the invention of the first "escape fire," how multiple and cascading errors can lead to a disastrous outcome, and about the lives and heroics of a group of firefighters.

Interestingly, it is all seen through the journey of a man trying to understand a captivating event from his past. This book falls pretty squarely in the non-fiction category, but has multiple stories interwoven with the facts. It helps that Maclean was not only an author of many nonfiction articles, but also the author of the highly successful novel (and movie) A River Runs…

By Norman MacLean,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Young Men and Fire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Norman Maclean sent the manuscript of A River Runs through It to New York publishers, he received a slew of rejections. One editor, so the story goes, replied, "It has trees in it." Forty years later, the title novella is widely recognized as one of the great American tales of the twentieth century, and Maclean as one of the most beloved writers of our time. Maclean's later triumph, Young Men and Fire, has over the decades also established itself as a classic of the American West. And with this twenty-fifth-anniversary edition, a fresh audience will be introduced to Maclean's…


Book cover of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America

Karl F. Seidman Author Of Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding After Katrina

From my list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans.

Who am I?

After hurricane Katrina, I was shocked by the scale of displacement and devastation, and the failed government response. I decided to use my planning classes at MIT to assist with rebuilding efforts. Over the next ten years, my students and I worked with several dozen organizations across New Orleans and provided ongoing assistance to three neighborhoods. Through this work and my relationships with many New Orleanians, I learned so much about the city and came to appreciate how special New Orleans, its way of life and people are.   

Karl's book list on understanding and appreciating New Orleans

Karl F. Seidman Why did Karl love this book?

There is no New Orleans without the Mississippi River.  

Rising Tide tells the story of government and engineers’ flawed efforts to control this mighty river, and how they contributed to the disastrous 1927 flood that left over one million people homeless and destroyed scores of towns. 

It provides a rich picture of the enduring social and racial divides in early twentieth-century New Orleans.

Moreover, it reveals how the city’s wealthy white leaders chose to flood neighboring communities to protect the city while undermining efforts to compensate the victims—creating a precedent for injustice and corruption, and ensuring a long-standing distrust of the city’s levees and flood control system.    

By John M. Barry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, winner of the Southern Book Critics Circle Award and the Lillian Smith Award.

An American epic of science, politics, race, honor, high society, and the Mississippi River, Rising Tide tells the riveting and nearly forgotten story of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The river inundated the homes of almost one million people, helped elect Huey Long governor and made Herbert Hoover president, drove hundreds of thousands of African Americans north, and transformed American society and politics forever.

The flood brought with it a human storm: white and black collided, honor…


Book cover of Seabiscuit: An American Legend

Avalyn Hunter Author Of Dream Derby: The Myth and Legend of Black Gold

From my list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing.

Who am I?

An old photograph shows a little blonde girl trying to climb a fence separating her from a pasture full of broodmares near Louisville, Kentucky. That was me, and I have never lost my fascination with these creatures of beauty, courage, and magic. Combine that with an equal passion for books, research, and writing, and you have the path leading to four books and hundreds of magazine articles on Thoroughbred horses over the last twenty years, with a fifth book due out next spring. The five books I’ve recommended are just a few of those that have provided touchstones and inspiration for my journey as a writer.

Avalyn's book list on thoroughbred horses and horse racing

Avalyn Hunter Why did Avalyn love this book?

When I first picked up Seabiscuit, I was dubious; I had already read too many stories of champion racehorses that were either dry histories or overblown hero-worship.

A hundred pages later (where did the time go?) I was completely engrossed and headed for an all-night read. In Hillenbrand’s hands, carefully researched history became the foundation for a sweeping story of a great horse, the incredible cast of people who gave him what he needed to become a legend, and the world of horses, horse racing, and American life in the 1930s.

If I ever write anything half as good, I will be well content.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of the runaway phenomenon Unbroken comes a universal underdog story about the horse who came out of nowhere to become a legend.

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to…


Book cover of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness

Trisha Cull Author Of The Death of Small Creatures

From my list on revealing the truth about mental illness.

Who am I?

In addition to my lived experience as someone who has struggled with mental health and addiction since adolescence, I'm passionate about social justice issues related to mental illness and substance use. In June 2021, I completed a post-graduate program in Mental Health & Addictions. Throughout my studies I was able to gain a deeper understanding of how my own struggles developed and what they have come to mean to me from both a personal and clinical perspective. Now, I endeavor to pursue future writing projects in various genres that illuminate mental health issues as a relevant and timely topic of interest. I also hope to work with disenfranchised populations while pursuing my creative writing.   

Trisha's book list on revealing the truth about mental illness

Trisha Cull Why did Trisha love this book?

I read Darkness Visible in the midst of my worst depressive episode around 2008. I remember relating completely to his vivid descriptions of highly abstract psychological sensations, impending doom, for example, in which one feels askew to her or his surroundings, like death is imminent but you don’t know from where or how. Styron describes depression as being not unlike physical pain, and that moment in which you simply and utterly succumb to a kind of unprecedented existential suffering, if you will. It is a moment of agony, tender, fierce and absolute. Without a hint of self-indulgence, his rendering of depression is immaculate, a reckoning of the self, a crucible.

By William Styron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a story of depression a condition that reduced William Styron from a person enjoying life and success as an acclaimed writer, to a man engulfed and menaced by mental anguish. With profound insight and remarkable candor, Styron tracks the progress of his madness, from the smothering misery and exhaustion, to the agony of composing his own suicide note and his eventual, hard-won recovery. Illuminating an illness that affects millions but which remains widely misunderstood, this book is about the darkness of depression, but it is also ultimately about survival and redemption.


Book cover of The Doors of Perception

Michael Teichberg Author Of ManuScrita: Poems on Life, Love, & the Nature of Reality

From my list on When looking for a soulful deep dive.

Who am I?

Growing up Jewish, third-generation in Latin America has given me a strong identity and a unique lens living as a double-minority. My entire life, I’ve been fascinated by life’s deep questions, the arts, and metaphysics. When no college major was clicking, I decided to pursue a B.A. in philosophy and comparative religion to better get to know my own faith and search for a universal truth across all world religions and cultures. It was in my college poetry class, where I first started writing as an outlet for my thoughts and many of the poems in my book were written then and reworked over the next two decades.

Michael's book list on When looking for a soulful deep dive

Michael Teichberg Why did Michael love this book?

The Doors of Perception is the seminal work of Aldous Huxley for anyone wanting to experience first-hand altered states of consciousness without having to personally ingest hallucinogens. Huxley published it in 1954 and in it he reflects on perceptions of reality, the nature of existence, and the mind's capacity for understanding. It helped popularize psychedelic exploration.

At a time when many around me were experimenting with psychedelics in college, I did not participate, and this book helped supplement my philosophy and comparative religion studies due to Huxley’s extremely well-written account on the subjective nature of reality and the human quest for deeper meaning.

By Aldous Huxley,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Doors of Perception as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover this profound account of Huxley's famous experimentation with mescalin that has influenced writers and artists for decades.

'Concise, evocative, wise and, above all, humane, The Doors of Perception is a masterpiece' Sunday Times

In 1953, in the presence of an investigator, Aldous Huxley took four-tenths of a gram of mescalin, sat down and waited to see what would happen. When he opened his eyes everything, from the flowers in a vase to the creases in his trousers, was transformed. Huxley described his experience with breathtaking immediacy in The Doors of Perception.

In its sequel Heaven and Hell, he goes…


Book cover of We Are Our Brains: A Neurobiography of the Brain, from the Womb to Alzheimer's

David J. Nutt Author Of Nutt Uncut

From my list on the brain and mind.

Who am I?

I have been a doctor, psychiatrist, and brain researcher for nearly 50 years. I have treated thousands of patients, written over a thousand scientific articles, and given a similar number of lectures to medical and neuroscience students and to the general public. I have held many leadership positions in this field for academic groups both in UK and Europe and in 2009 I set up the charity Drug Science, to tell the truth about drugs and addiction.

David's book list on the brain and mind

David J. Nutt Why did David love this book?

A book written after decades of research by a leading neuroscientist to share his love of the brain with the general public. An ideal starter book for those of you who want to get a sense of all the different parts of the complex organ that comprise the human brain. In a series of chapters on the many different parts, regions structures, and brain processes this book provides a succinct yet comprehensive overview of the brain. It explains what the different parts do to make your brain work and how they work together they make us do what we do and makes sense of what we are.

By D.F. Swaab, Jane Hedley-Prole (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Our Brains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everything we think, do and refrain from doing is determined by our brain. From religion to sexuality, it shapes our potential, our desires and our characters. Taking us through every stage in our lives, from the womb to falling in love to old age, Dick Swaab shows that we don't just have brains: we are our brains.

'A blockbuster about the brain ... provocative, fascinating, remarkable' Clive Cookson, Financial Times

'A giant in the field' Zoe Williams, Guardian

'Engrossing, intriguing and enlightening' Robin Ince

'Enchantingly written' The Times Higher Education

'Wide-ranging, fun and informative ... as an ice-breaker at parties,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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