100 books like Between Two Cultures

By Carlo M. Cipolla, Christopher Woodall (translator),

Here are 100 books that Between Two Cultures fans have personally recommended if you like Between Two Cultures. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Tale of the Heike

Thomas D. Conlan Author Of Weapons & Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior 1200-1877 AD

From my list on medieval European history to Japanese literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with history in general, and the history of Japan, since I was in junior high when I read a book on the samurai. After attending summer school at Harvard in 1985, I resolved to devote myself to the study of Japan. Since then, I have studied at Michigan, Stanford, and Kyoto before teaching Japanese history at first Bowdoin College and now, Princeton University. Although I primarily research Japanese history, I find scholarship pertaining to medieval and early modern Europe to be fascinating as well. 

Thomas' book list on medieval European history to Japanese literature

Thomas D. Conlan Why did Thomas love this book?

A masterpiece. Royall Tyler translates this tale, which had been recited orally by blind monks in the fourteenth century, into beautiful English; the rhythms of the language, its beauty, tragedy, and poetry become accessible to an English-speaking audience for the first time. One of the greatest accomplishments in translation and a must-read for all interested in medieval Japanese warfare and epic war tales.

By Royall Tyler (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Tale of the Heike as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Tale of the Heike is Japan's great martial epic: a masterpiece of world literature and the progenitor of all samurai stories. This major and groundbreaking new Penguin translation is by Royall Tyler, acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji.

First assembled from scattered oral poems in the early fourteenth century, The Tale of the Heike is Japan's Iliad - a grand-scale depiction of the wars between the Heike and Genji clans. Legendary for its magnificent and vivid set battle scenes, it is also a work filled with intimate human dramas and emotions, contemplating Buddhist themes of suffering and separation,…


Book cover of The Apple of His Eye: Converts from Islam in the Reign of Louis IX

Thomas D. Conlan Author Of Weapons & Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior 1200-1877 AD

From my list on medieval European history to Japanese literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with history in general, and the history of Japan, since I was in junior high when I read a book on the samurai. After attending summer school at Harvard in 1985, I resolved to devote myself to the study of Japan. Since then, I have studied at Michigan, Stanford, and Kyoto before teaching Japanese history at first Bowdoin College and now, Princeton University. Although I primarily research Japanese history, I find scholarship pertaining to medieval and early modern Europe to be fascinating as well. 

Thomas' book list on medieval European history to Japanese literature

Thomas D. Conlan Why did Thomas love this book?

In his unsurpassed, informative, and intrinsically interesting study, Jordan reveals how France’s Louis IX settled over a thousand Muslims in France after his first Crusade during the thirteenth century. Jordan writes beautifully and through his careful research, engaging style, and polished prose, a forgotten world that few had imagined to even exist comes vividly alive.  

By William Chester Jordan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The thirteenth century brought new urgency to Catholic efforts to convert non-Christians, and no Catholic ruler was more dedicated to this undertaking than King Louis IX of France. His military expeditions against Islam are well documented, but there was also a peaceful side to his encounter with the Muslim world, one that has received little attention until now. This splendid book shines new light on the king's program to induce Muslims-the "apple of his eye"-to voluntarily convert to Christianity and resettle in France. It recovers a forgotten but important episode in the history of the Crusades while providing a rare…


Book cover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Matthew Hooton Author Of Typhoon Kingdom

From my list on silenced histories of Korea, Japan, and China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I lived and worked in South Korea for four years, where I first became fascinated with the country’s history, from shamans on Jeju island to the twentieth-century politics of Seoul. I’m the author of two novels and dozens of short stories and essays published in venues around the world, many of which feature some element of Korean history. I’m originally from Canada and now teach creative writing at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Matthew's book list on silenced histories of Korea, Japan, and China

Matthew Hooton Why did Matthew love this book?

This is a novel that I suspected I was falling into as much as reading—that is, I felt utterly and, at times, uncomfortably immersed in Murakami’s story universe.

I love the blending of contemporary realism in the novel (our protagonist’s day-to-day life) with the historical and the way the Japanese military’s atrocities in Manchuria in the 30s haunt the recognizably contemporary world so that even a man sitting at the bottom of a well contemplating existence and history feels like an acceptable and dreamlike weirdness.

I’m completely taken with such a strange and affecting representation of lesser-known histories and the ghosts such events leave us with.

By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INCLUDES A READING GUIDE

Toru Okada's cat has disappeared and this has unsettled his wife, who is herself growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada's vague and blameless life, spent cooking, reading, listening to jazz and opera and drinking beer at the kitchen table, are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided (however obscurely) by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.


Book cover of Stealing the Mystic Lamb

Lauren Fogle Boyd Author Of The Altarpiece

From my list on art and culture during World War II.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in this topic began because of a trip to a museum in 2008. I noticed that a painting had been removed from view and a small piece of paper was hanging on the wall where the painting had been. The paper explained that this piece was involved in a court case revolving around whether or not it had been stolen from its Jewish owner by the Nazis during World War II. Nazi cultural appropriation, looting, suppression, and destruction turned out to be one of the most fascinating stories of the entire war. The research for my historical novel took several years, but it allowed me to write a book based on the facts.

Lauren's book list on art and culture during World War II

Lauren Fogle Boyd Why did Lauren love this book?

Noah Charney is an art historian and has written several interesting books that I have read. Even though this book, Stealing the Mystic Lamb, came out too late for my novel, the “altarpiece” of my book is in fact the “Mystic Lamb” otherwise known as the Ghent Altarpiece. My quasi-obsession with this monumental piece of art is matched by Charney and he describes how often it has been stolen and nearly destroyed. No other piece of art has had a history quite like this one. 

By Noah Charney,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Stealing the Mystic Lamb as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jan van Eyck's Ghent Altarpiece is on any art historian's list of the ten most important paintings ever made. It is also the most frequently stolen artwork of all time. Since its completion in 1432, this twelve-panel oil painting has been looted in three different wars, burned, dismembered, forged, smuggled, censored, hidden, attacked by iconoclasts, hunted by the Nazis and Napoleon, used as a diplomatic tool, ransomed, rescued by Austrian double-agents, and stolen a total of thirteen times. In this fast-paced, real-life thriller, art historian Noah Charney unravels the fascinating stories of each of these thefts. Charney also explores psychological…


Book cover of The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society

David Abulafia Author Of The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans

From my list on global history before the modern era.

Why am I passionate about this?

We live in an increasingly connected world. But human beings have always made connections with one another across space, and the space I find especially exciting is water - whether the narrow space of seas such as the Mediterranean and the Baltic, or the broader and wilder spaces of the great oceans. These are spaces that link distant countries and continents, across which people have brought objects, ideas and religions as well as themselves - a history of migrants, merchants, mercenaries, missionaries, and many others that can be recovered from shipwrecks, travellers' tales, cargo manifests, and many other sources, a history, ultimately, of the origins of our globalized world.

David's book list on global history before the modern era

David Abulafia Why did David love this book?

A marvelously coherent and stimulating introduction to the turbulent politics and social and economic life of Japan between revolutionary changes in 1185 and the early sixteenth century, with much to say about cultural life as well. Souyri is as interested in the lives of peasants and traders as in that of shoguns and samurai.

By Pierre François Souyri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the late twelfth century, Japanese people called the transitional period in which they were living the "age of warriors." Feudal clans fought civil wars, and warriors from the Kanto Plain rose up to restore the military regime of their shogun, Yoritomo. The whole of this intermediary period came to represent a gap between two stable societies: the ancient period, dominated by the imperial court in Heian (today's Kyoto), and the modern period, dominated by the Tokugawa bakufu based in Edo (today's Tokyo). In this remarkable portrait of a complex period in the evolution of Japan, Pierre F. Souyri uses…


Book cover of Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction

Madina Papadopoulos Author Of The Step-Spinsters

From my list on transporting you to medieval life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Madina Papadopoulos is a New Orleans-born, New York-based freelance writer and author. She is currently working on the sequel to The Step-Spinsters, the first in the Unspun Fairytale series, which retells classic princess stories set in the late Middle Ages. She studied French and Italian at Tulane University and received her MFA in screenwriting at UCLA. After teaching foreign languages at the university level, as well as in childhood and elementary school programs, she developed and illustrated foreign language coloring workbooks for preschoolers. As a freelance writer, she focuses on food, drinks, and entertainment.

Madina's book list on transporting you to medieval life

Madina Papadopoulos Why did Madina love this book?

Dani​​èle Cybulskie, AKA “the 5 Minute Medievalist,” is a Medieval Influencer with books, a podcast, and blogs, all offering the world quickly digestible knowledge of this millennium in history. In her book, Life in Medieval Europe, Fact and Fiction, she takes us through a fun game of True or False. The grouping of the Middle Ages spans a confusingly long time, from around the late 400s to the late 1400s. Various traditions can be fit into those thousand years, one would think that by sheer probability most of our Medieval stereotypes would fit into one of those centuries. Interestingly enough, a good amount of what films set in Medieval Times is hilariously incorrect. Pick it up and start your guessing.

By Danièle Cybulskie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Life in Medieval Europe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Have you ever found yourself watching a show or reading a novel and wondering what life was really like in the Middle Ages? What did people actually eat? Were they really filthy? And did they ever get to marry for love?

In Medieval Europe in Fact and Fiction, you'll find fast and fun answers to all your secret questions, from eating and drinking to sex and love. Find out whether people bathed, what they did when they got sick, and what actually happened to people accused of crimes. Learn about medieval table manners, tournaments, and toothpaste, and find out if…


Book cover of Medieval Women

ffiona Perigrinor Author Of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

From my list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d already published a scholarly book about the household of a medieval widow, who was just a decade older than Margery Kempe and lived sixty miles away, so the time, place, and mindset seemed very familiar. As a Jungian Psychoanalyst I’m interested in how individuals find the central meaning in their lives. Clearly for Margery it was the search for God, although she doesn’t appear to have been a kindly soul. When I read that she twice quarreled with her maidservant, I realised the maidservant could tell her own tale. And so she did, and sometimes it seemed she was dictating it to me! Characters really do speak for themselves... 

ffiona's book list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe

ffiona Perigrinor Why did ffiona love this book?

Eileen Power was a pioneer in Women’s History and this was the first book I read when I went back to university. It’s an inspiring collection of essays on medieval ideas of women, working women in town and country, education, and nunneries. If you’re planning to write a book about women in the Middle Ages, start your research here.

Power refers to many diverse contemporary texts such as The Goodman of Paris and works by Chaucer and Christine de Pisan, which enabled me (or, which will enable you) to portray authentic detail in my own book. The essay on nunneries, which I drew on for my novel, is a summary of her seminal work on medieval English nunneries. There are also forty-two well-chosen illustrations that complement the text.

By Eileen Power,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Throughout her career as a medieval historian, Eileen Power was engaged on a book about women in the Middle Ages. She did not live to write the book but some of the material she collected found its way into her popular lectures on medieval women. These lectures were brought together and edited by M. M. Postan. They reveal the world in which women lived, were educated, worked and worshipped. Power gives a vivid account of the worlds of the lady, the peasant, the townswoman and the nun. The result is a historical yet intimate picture of a period gone by…


Book cover of The Case for Women in Medieval Culture

Albrecht Classen Author Of Tracing the Trails in the Medieval World: Epistemological Explorations, Orientation, and Mapping in Medieval Literature

From my list on the labyrinth of life through a medieval lens.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a medievalist with a focus on German and European literature. Already with my Ph.D. diss. in 1987, I endeavored to explore interdisciplinary, interlingual connections (German-Italian), and much of my subsequent work (119 scholarly books so far) has continued with this focus. I have developed a large profile of studies on cultural, literary, social, religious, and economic aspects of the pre-modern era. In the last two decades or so, I have researched many concepts pertaining to the history of mentality, emotions, everyday-life conditions, and now also on transcultural and global aspects before 1800. Numerous books and articles have dealt with gender issues, communication, and historical and social conditions as expressed in literature. 

Albrecht's book list on the labyrinth of life through a medieval lens

Albrecht Classen Why did Albrecht love this book?

Contrary to our common assumptions, women in the Middle Ages were not simply muted or repressed. Much depended on the social, economic, religious, and cultural circumstances. Blamires brings to light a wealth of documents that confirm the much more complex conditions for women in the pre-modern age, many of whom received considerable respect if not admiration.

By Alcuin Blamires,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Case for Women in Medieval Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Misogyny is of course not the whole story of medieval discourse on women: medieval culture also envisaged a case for women. But hitherto studies of profeminine attitudes in that periods culture have tended to concentrate on courtly literature or on female visionary writings or on attempts to transcend misogyny by major authors such as Christine de Pizan and Chaucer. This book sets out to demonstrate something different: that there existed from early in the Middle
Ages a corpus of substantial traditions in defence of women, on which the more familiar authors drew, and that this corpus itself consolidated strands of…


Book cover of Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works

Tania Bayard Author Of In The Presence of Evil

From my list on a remarkable medieval woman, Christine de Pizan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an art historian and a horticulturist, specializing in the art, architecture, and gardens of the Middle Ages, and I’ve published a number of books on these subjects. But I’ve always loved mystery stories, and I dreamed of writing one of my own. When I discovered Christine de Pizan, an extraordinary personage who defied all the stereotypes about medieval women, I decided to write a series of mystery novels featuring her as the sleuth.

Tania's book list on a remarkable medieval woman, Christine de Pizan

Tania Bayard Why did Tania love this book?

This is the book to which I turn for all the details of Christine’s life. Willard shows that Christine, who lived from 1364-1430, was an immensely courageous woman who, against all odds in an age that disparaged the female sex, succeeded in making her living as a writer and gained so much respect among the nobility that she was able to comment with impunity on the major political events of her time.

By Charity Cannon Willard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Readers will learn a great deal about Paris during the most tumultuous days of the Hundred Years' War, about the culture of Renaissance France, and most of all about this unusual and heroic woman."―Virginia Quarterly

A biography of France's first woman of letters, who lived from 1364-1429. Among her works is the classic defense of women, The Book of the City of Ladies.

Book cover of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages

John Tolan Author Of Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today

From my list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is.

Why am I passionate about this?

In the 1980s, I was living in Spain, teaching high school. On weekends and vacations, I traveled throughout the country, fascinated with the remnants of its flourishing medieval civilization, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mingled. When I later became a historian, I focused on the rich history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. I also wanted to understand conflict and prejudice, particularly the historical roots of antisemitism and islamophobia in Europe. I have increasingly realized that classical religious texts need to be reread and contextualized and that we need to rethink our ideas about religion and religious conflict.

John's book list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is

John Tolan Why did John love this book?

In the US, when we think about Christianity, we tend not to think much about saints and when we do, they are at best a sort of role model for piety, an antiquated cast of characters in the history of religion. But to early Christians, saints were powerful patrons. The earliest saints were the martyrs put to death by the pagan Roman state: thrown to the lions, massacred by gladiators, executed at the orders of Roman officials. These saints’ bodies and tombs became objects of veneration, purported to produce miracles. In the middle ages, as Christianity became the dominant force in Europe, everyone wanted to benefit from the proximity to these holy men and women. But if you lived in Northern Europe, you didn’t have access to the hundreds of saintly bodies buried in Spain, Italy, or Provence. What to do? Buy them or steal them! In this fascinating book,…

By Patrick J. Geary,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

To obtain sacred relics, medieval monks plundered tombs, avaricious merchants raided churches, and relic-mongers scoured the Roman catacombs. In a revised edition of Furta Sacra, Patrick Geary considers the social and cultural context for these acts, asking how the relics were perceived and why the thefts met with the approval of medieval Christians.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Middle Ages, Japan, and Europe?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, Japan, and Europe.

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