100 books like Break It Down

By Lydia Davis,

Here are 100 books that Break It Down fans have personally recommended if you like Break It Down. 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 Madame Bovary

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Author Of The Demon King’s Interpreter

From my list on capturing France's most epic love stories.

Who am I?

I am a French-American writer with a passion for young adult stories and flawed female characters. Born and raised in France in a household without a TV, I spent my entire childhood reading avidly, which in turn led me to study Literature and Film. In fact, most of my life, I have been inspired by novels that offer windows into new worlds that open up possibilities. Some of the novels from the list below feature some of my favorite characters, and provide insights into other worlds and other times. 

Astrid's book list on capturing France's most epic love stories

Astrid Carlen-Helmer Why did Astrid love this book?

Madame Bovary is the story of a woman who endlessly struggles to escape the banalities of her provincial life.

This novel makes you feel like you’re in the head of its main characters: first Charles Bovary, then Emma, his second wife and the novel’s eponymous hero. It is so realistic that upon its release, the author was taken to court for public offense against morality.

Still very modern, Emma’s drama is, to me, the discrepancy between illusions and reality. Her quest for happiness outside of her own condition and her inability to be satisfied with what she has are themes that, I believe, still resonate today.

By Gustave Flaubert, Geoffrey Wall (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Madame Bovary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A masterpiece' Julian Barnes

Flaubert's erotically charged and psychologically acute portrayal of a married woman's affair caused a moral outcry on its publication in 1857. Its heroine, Emma Bovary, is stifled by provincial life as the wife of a doctor. An ardent devourer of sentimental novels, she seeks escape in fantasies of high romance, in voracious spending and, eventually, in adultery. But even her affairs bring her disappointment, and when real life continues to fail to live up to her romantic expectations, the consequences are devastating. It was deemed so lifelike that many women claimed they were the model for…


Book cover of Night Train

Norman Lock Author Of American Follies

From my list on the mind at play.

Who am I?

I have written stage and radio plays, poetry, short story collections, and, beginning in 2013, novels that comprise The American Novels series, published by Bellevue Literary Press. Unlike historical fiction, these works reimagine the American past to account for faults that persist to the present day: the wish to dominate and annex, the will to succeed in every department of life regardless of cost, and the stain of injustice and intolerance. In order to escape the gravity of an authorial self, I address present dangers and follies through the lens of our nineteenth-century literature and in a narrative voice quite different from my own.

Norman's book list on the mind at play

Norman Lock Why did Norman love this book?

Impulse and happenstance set the syllabus of my reading, and so it was that, shortly after reading Lydia Davis’s Madame Bovary, I chanced to see a notice for her rendering into English, from the Dutch, a selection of the very short stories written by the late A. L. Snijders. He wrote plainly, eschewing elegance and complications of form and syntax in favor of simple sentences that laid out, in workmanlike prose, his casual, wry observations of, and on, his fellow Dutchmen, Dutch women, and also Dutch animals, of whom he was fond. Here is no Modernist heroic ambition, no Postmodernist archness, no posturing, or overbearing intellectual or moral superiority. He wrote thousands of his peculiar miniatures, we are told by Davis in her foreword on the writer and on the problems of translation in general.

Those she chose for Night Train rise above anecdote or sketch, despite their Dutch…

By A L Snijders, Lydia Davis (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Gorgeously translated by Lydia Davis, the miniature stories of A. L. Snijders might concern a lost shoe, a visit with a bat, fears of travel, a dream of a man who has lost a glass eye: uniting them is their concision and their vivacity. Lydia Davis in her introduction delves into her fascination with the pleasures and challenges of translating from a language relatively new to her. She also extols Snijders's "straightforward approach to storytelling, his modesty and his thoughtfulness."
Selected from many hundreds in the original Dutch, the stories gathered here-humorous, or bizarre, or comfortingly homely-are something like daybook…


Book cover of A Frozen Woman

Norman Lock Author Of American Follies

From my list on the mind at play.

Who am I?

I have written stage and radio plays, poetry, short story collections, and, beginning in 2013, novels that comprise The American Novels series, published by Bellevue Literary Press. Unlike historical fiction, these works reimagine the American past to account for faults that persist to the present day: the wish to dominate and annex, the will to succeed in every department of life regardless of cost, and the stain of injustice and intolerance. In order to escape the gravity of an authorial self, I address present dangers and follies through the lens of our nineteenth-century literature and in a narrative voice quite different from my own.

Norman's book list on the mind at play

Norman Lock Why did Norman love this book?

Why does an intelligent young woman who is ambitious to occupy a place of her own in the world collaborate with men, in this instance, a husband, in constructing a life that is “perfectly organized unto death?” The story, you say, is a familiar one. What makes Ernaux’s different and painful to read is her narrator’s awareness of her gradual surrender (that of Ernaux herself) to patriarchal expectations, regardless of how strenuously she would deny them, delay their satisfaction, struggle to follow her passion (for teaching and writing), and, in ever-increasing panic, remind herself that even Virginia Woolf baked pies. By what deception does she come to accept that her existence is a purposeful one, knowing that it has been arranged by others?

This abnegation to the reductive role of womb and breast is all the stranger in this book (part novel, part memoir, part sociological study) because only in…

By Annie Ernaux, Linda Coverdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE 2022 NOBEL PRIZE IN LITERATURE

A Frozen Woman charts Ernaux's teenage awakening, and then the parallel progression of her desire to be desirable and her ambition to fulfill herself in her chosen profession - with the inevitable conflict between the two. And then she is thirty years old, a teacher married to an executive, mother of two infant sons. She looks after their nice apartment, raises her children. And yet, like millions of other women, she has felt her enthusiasm and curiosity, her strength and her happiness, slowly ebb under the weight of her daily routine. The…


Book cover of The Malady of Death

Norman Lock Author Of American Follies

From my list on the mind at play.

Who am I?

I have written stage and radio plays, poetry, short story collections, and, beginning in 2013, novels that comprise The American Novels series, published by Bellevue Literary Press. Unlike historical fiction, these works reimagine the American past to account for faults that persist to the present day: the wish to dominate and annex, the will to succeed in every department of life regardless of cost, and the stain of injustice and intolerance. In order to escape the gravity of an authorial self, I address present dangers and follies through the lens of our nineteenth-century literature and in a narrative voice quite different from my own.

Norman's book list on the mind at play

Norman Lock Why did Norman love this book?

I suspect that I was led to take The Malady of Death from my shelf by a subconscious directive. I admit that I am afraid of this book, its relentless probing, afraid I will never understand it however much I struggle. Confounded by it twenty-five years ago, I put it aside until my consciousness could mature. (Ha!) The fault must be mine, since her style, language, and structure are as limpid as Ernaux’s or Davis’s, although Duras’s prose carries a poetical charge deliberately absent in the other two writers. I begin to think that the trouble lies in my sex, that as a man, an Other to women, I can’t possibly know what Duras’s narrator is being made to gradually reveal not with the leer of a striptease artist but with the solemnity of a priestess presiding over ancient feminine mysteries.

Would feminists accuse me of being obtuse and,…

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A man hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea. The woman is no one in particular, a "she," a warm, moist body with a beating heart-the enigma of Other. Skilled in the mechanics of sex, he desires through her to penetrate a different mystery: he wants to learn love. It isn't a matter of will, she tells him. Still, he wants to learn to try . . .This beautifully wrought erotic novel is an extended haiku on the meaning of love, "perhaps a sudden lapse in the logic of the universe," and of its absence,…


Book cover of The Practice and Science of Drawing

Robh Ruppel Author Of Graphic L.A.

From my list on timeless art advice.

Who am I?

In the “meme-ification” of the world, the long-form version of learning and practicing skills is getting lost. True discovery happens after a thorough and deep understanding of the subject. Truth is a multilayered, complex exploration that is hard to sum up in a single sentence. 

Robh's book list on timeless art advice

Robh Ruppel Why did Robh love this book?

The Practice and Science of Drawing is one of the few books worth reading every page of. I thumbed through it for years before finally reading it. The author breaks down drawing into two major categories, that of line and that of mass, and how they are distinct from one another, yet how they are intertwined in their ability to render form. An awareness of both concepts is crucial to a full education of the artist.

By Harold Speed,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Practice and Science of Drawing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Much of the learning to practice as well as to appreciate art is concerned with understanding the basic principles. One of these principles is what Harold Speed calls "dither," the freedom that allows realism and the artistic vision to play against each other. Very important to any artist or work of art, this quality separates the scientifically accurate from the artistically accurate. Speed's approach to this problem is now considered a classic, one of the few books from the early years of this century that has continued to be read and recommended by those in the graphic arts.
In this…


Book cover of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

Jennifer Louden Author Of Why Bother: Discover the Desire for What’s Next

From my list on when you’re creatively stuck.

Who am I?

I’ve been obsessed with the creative process since I was 8 and read Harriet the Spy and realized her writing saved her and after I spied on one of my parent’s cocktail parties and wondered why everybody was so dull (I was so cheeky). Still, it’s the quest that drives me: how do we be fully ourselves in this world and how does creativity help? I explore this question on my podcast Create Out Loud and in my weekly newsletter, and these books have helped me formulate, if not answers, creative and mindful practices that sustain me daily. I hope they inspire you too.

Jennifer's book list on when you’re creatively stuck

Jennifer Louden Why did Jennifer love this book?

I’m a writing mentor and coach, and this book has helped so many of my novelists understand and implement dramatic story structure. If you are trying to write fiction, screenplays, or memoir, and you haven’t read this, prepare to have your mind blown open. I have one word for you: misbelief. Go read the book and you’ll soon understand why it’s a game-changer. Note: Lisa doesn’t mention memoir but when I interviewed her on my podcast, she assured me the concepts work beautifully and have been successfully applied. 

By Lisa Cron,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Following on the heels of Lisa Cron's breakout first book, Wired for Story, this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story.

It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite. 

The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron…


Book cover of The Art of Logic in an Illogical World

Richard Hoshino Author Of The Math Olympian

From my list on mathematics and life.

Who am I?

I have devoted my entire career to mathematics, and have a life filled with meaning and purpose through my roles as an educator, researcher, and consultant. I teach at the Vancouver campus of Northeastern University and am the owner and principal of Hoshino Math Services, a boutique math consulting firm. 

Richard's book list on mathematics and life

Richard Hoshino Why did Richard love this book?

The author explains the importance of abstraction in logic, demonstrating its three main components: paths made of long chains of logic, packages made of a collection of concepts structured into a new compound unit, and pivots to build bridges to previously disconnected places.

Eugenia Cheng does an excellent job of abstracting principles of logic to better understand challenging real-world societal issues such as affirmative action and cancer screening. I found it quite compelling to understand how and why she came to her positions on various issues, through her axiom that "avoiding false negatives is more important than avoiding false positives." I appreciated the expertise by which she weaved numerous hard topics, in both mathematics and social justice, into a coherent and compelling narrative.

By Eugenia Cheng,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Art of Logic in an Illogical World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How both logical and emotional reasoning can help us live better in our post-truth world

In a world where fake news stories change election outcomes, has rationality become futile? In The Art of Logic in an Illogical World, Eugenia Cheng throws a lifeline to readers drowning in the illogic of contemporary life. Cheng is a mathematician, so she knows how to make an airtight argument. But even for her, logic sometimes falls prey to emotion, which is why she still fears flying and eats more cookies than she should. If a mathematician can't be logical, what are we to do?…


Book cover of Earth Logic

Orsola de Castro Author Of Loved Clothes Last: How the Joy of Rewearing and Repairing Your Clothes Can Be a Revolutionary  Act

From my list on for fashion revolutionaries.

Who am I?

I'm an internationally recognised opinion leader in sustainable fashion. My career started as a designer with the pioneering upcycling label From Somewhere, which I launched in 1997. My label’s designer collaborations include collections for Jigsaw, Speedo, and 4 best-selling capsule collections for Topshop. In 2006, I co-founded the British Fashion Council Initiative Estethica at London Fashion Week, which I curated until 2014. In 2013 I co-founded Fashion Revolution, a global campaign with participation in over 90 countries. I'm a regular keynote speaker and mentor, and Associate Visiting Professor at Middlesex University. My first book Loved Clothes Last is published by Penguin Life, Corbaccio Editore in Italy and in France by Edition Marabou.

Orsola's book list on for fashion revolutionaries

Orsola de Castro Why did Orsola love this book?

Exploring an earth-centric view of business for the future, envisioning regenerative systems where fashion can support, rather than deplete our planet’s finite resources, this book challenges the concept of growth and offers real alternatives.

This book feels challenging, but is rooted in common sense, it may seem out there and unrealistic, but being about Earth it actually makes it feel not just possible but eminently doable.

By Kate Fletcher,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Tetralogue: I'm Right, You're Wrong

Gordon Barnes Author Of How Do You Know? A Dialogue

From my list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues.

Who am I?

I am Associate Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Brockport. I have been teaching and writing philosophy for over 20 years. I have published articles in professional journals on a wide range of subjects, from epistemology to philosophy of religion and political philosophy. I think that philosophy, at its best, is a good conversation, in which people give reasons for their views, and listen to others give reasons for theirs. That’s the best way for human beings to think about philosophical questions. That’s why I love philosophical dialogues—they do philosophy in a way that embodies what philosophy is, at its very best.

Gordon's book list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues

Gordon Barnes Why did Gordon love this book?

This book grabs your attention right from the start. Four people are on a train, and one of them believes in witches. That’s crazy, right? (The witches part, not the train part.) But can you prove that he is wrong? One character trusts science, and only science. Another is a relativist, who believes that each person’s opinion is “true for them.” And then there is the annoying young philosopher, who is just as irritating as she is logical. This is a great book about truth, knowledge, fallibility, and tolerance. Timothy Williamson is one of the best philosophers alive today, and yet this book is accessible and engaging for anyone who wants to think about fundamental questions. The characters are compelling, and the writing is witty and fun.

By Timothy Williamson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in.

In a tradition going back to Plato, Timothy Williamson uses a fictional conversation to explore questions about truth and falsity, and knowledge and belief. Is truth always relative to a point of view? Is every opinion fallible? Such ideas have been used to combat dogmatism and intolerance, but are they compatible with taking each…


Book cover of Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide To Fallacious Reading

Peg Tittle Author Of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason

From my list on learning how to think logically and critically.

Who am I?

Of all my university courses, the one that had the greatest impact on me was called "Informal Logic." Accurate, but misleadingly dry and academic. One of the assignments in that course—and the one I remember most, of all my university assignments—was to prepare a "Crapbook": a collection of ten bits of crap—ads, arguments, whatever—that were full of crap (essentially, incorrect reasoning/logical fallacies). I loved it. So when, twenty years later, I was hired by a small university to teach Critical Thinking …  

Peg's book list on learning how to think logically and critically

Peg Tittle Why did Peg love this book?

What can I say? Logic and Mr. Limbaugh is a crapbook (see my introduction) dedicated exclusively to Rush Limbaugh. Although dated (1995), this little book is extremely engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. And applicable to all the other Rush Limbaughs out there, past, present, and future. (Might there be a Logic and Mr. Trump manuscript-in-progress?)

By Ray Perkins Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Logic and Mr. Limbaugh is both an entertaining introduction to the elements of logic and a serious critique of the practical logic of a major conservative propagandist. Professor Perkins takes 50 examples of logical reasoning from Rush's statements, identifies the logical arguments, and points out fallacies.


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