100 books like By Light We Knew Our Names

By Anne Valente,

Here are 100 books that By Light We Knew Our Names fans have personally recommended if you like By Light We Knew Our Names. 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 Girl in the Flammable Skirt: Stories

Jacqueline Vogtman Author Of Girl Country: and Other Stories

From my list on magical realism by women writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer who loves all kinds of fiction, but I’m most passionate about magical realism and related genres (like fabulism and speculative fiction). I love when writers skirt several genres, especially when their use of the “strange” holds a funhouse mirror up to our world and allows us to see a deeper truth. My favorite writers craft prose that rivals poetry and delve into their characters’ interior worlds; for me, one of fiction’s greatest magic tricks is the ability to enter another’s world and create empathy. The five authors on this list do all of these things and more, and they serve as some of my greatest inspirations.  

Jacqueline's book list on magical realism by women writers

Jacqueline Vogtman Why did Jacqueline love this book?

This was one of the books (along with Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector) that inspired me to pursue fiction writing rather than poetry.

For the longest time, poetry was my preferred genre, and while I had dabbled in writing fiction, I struggled. It wasn’t until reading The Girl in the Flammable Skirt near the end of my undergrad that I realized fiction doesn’t have to be straight realism—it can be magical, strange, symbolic, weird, fabulist, dreamlike.

Two of Bender’s stories that had the most impact on me were “The Rememberer,” where the narrator’s lover experiences reverse evolution,” and “Drunken Mimi,” a love story between an imp and a mermaid. Maybe not coincidentally, my book also contains a story about a mermaid. 

By Aimee Bender,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Girl in the Flammable Skirt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Girl in the Flammable Skirt Aimee Bender has created a world where nothing is quite as it seems. From a man suffering from reverse evolution to a lonely wife who waits for her husband to return from war; to a small town where one girl has a hand made of fire and another has one made of ice. These stories of men and women whose lives are shaped and sometimes twisted by the power of extraordinary desires take us to a place far beyond the imagination.

Book cover of Her Body and Other Parties: Stories

Kelley Skovron Author Of No Filter

From my list on deliciously dark horror novels that are more sad than scary.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the author of over 15 novels written for kids, teens, and adults across several genres. The thing all my books have in common is that they are sad and they are dark. My most recent novel is my most distilled, compressed delivery of deliciously dark sadness yet! Oddly, I'm rarely sad in real life. My daughter suggested that I write books to get the darkness out of my head and onto the page, which I think is very insightful (she is my kid, after all). I enjoy the beauty in the breakdown, I savor the sublime catharsis of tragedy, and I want to share that perspective with everyone.

Kelley's book list on deliciously dark horror novels that are more sad than scary

Kelley Skovron Why did Kelley love this book?

I found this story collection by Machado to be not only dark and sad, but wickedly funny. How often does our laughter turn to tears, or vice versa? These things are not mutually exclusive, and Machado lives within that uncomfortably liminal space with obvious relish.

I also appreciate it's unabashed feminism. So much of the horror genre is seen through a male lens that leaves me feeling cold and left out. In Machado's writing, I feel not only seen but celebrated, and I will happily live within her ferociously accepting stories of darkness as many times as she offers them.

By Carmen Maria Machado,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Her Body and Other Parties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Brilliantly inventive and blazingly smart' Garth Greenwell

'Impossible, imperfect, unforgettable' Roxane Gay

'A wild thing ... covered in sequins and scales, blazing with the influence of fabulists from Angela Carter to Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi' New York Times

In her provocative debut, Carmen Maria Machado demolishes the borders between magical realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. Startling narratives map the realities of women's lives and the violence visited on their bodies, both in myth and in practice.


Book cover of The Rock Eaters: Stories

Rita Chang-Eppig Author Of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

From my list on if you find genre boundaries kind of silly.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigrant, an Asian American, and a gender-questioning person, I’ve never fit comfortably anywhere. So perhaps it’s no surprise that my writing isn’t easily categorizable either: many have told me that my work is too literary to be considered SF/F and too SF/F to be strictly literary. But what is genre anyway? My favorite books have always been the ones that straddled genres, and every time I read a wonderful book that can’t be easily labeled or marketed, I grow even more sure that the future of literature lies in fluid, boundary-crossing, transgressive texts. Here are some of my favorites—I hope you enjoy them.

Rita's book list on if you find genre boundaries kind of silly

Rita Chang-Eppig Why did Rita love this book?

Short story collections are funny things: some are strong from start to finish, and some… read as if the author wrote all the other stories over the course of a weekend after one of their stories garnered public attention. No, I will not name names.

Peynado’s The Rock Eaters is a glowing example of the former. The collection spans genres: realist, science fiction, magical realist. What all the stories have in common is Peynado’s controlled hand and breadth of imagination, not to mention her keen insights into what it’s like to exist in the real world, a world fraught with gun violence, racism, and xenophobia.

You finish the collection feeling like you’ve traversed worlds and, in the process, learned something new about the world we live in.  

By Brenda Peynado,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A story collection, in the vein of Carmen Maria Machado, Kelly Link, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, spanning worlds and dimensions, using strange and speculative elements to tackle issues ranging from class differences to immigration to first-generation experiences to xenophobia
What does it mean to be other? What does it mean to love in a world determined to keep us apart?
These questions murmur in the heart of each of Brenda Peynado's strange and singular stories. Threaded with magic, transcending time and place, these stories explore what it means to cross borders and break down walls, personally and politically. In one…

Book cover of The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit

Howard Bloom Author Of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History

From my list on on changing the way you think.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been called the Einstein, Newton, Darwin, and Freud of the 21st century by Britain’s Channel 4 TV and the next Stephen Hawking by Gear Magazine. My passion is flying over all the sciences, all of history, and a chunk of the arts and pulling it all together in a new big picture. I’ve called this approach Omnology, the aspiration to omniscience. Sounds crazy, right? But I’ve published scientific papers or lectured at scholarly conferences in twelve different scientific disciplines, from quantum physics and cosmology to evolutionary biology, psychology, information science, and astronautics. And I’ve been published in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and many more.

Howard's book list on on changing the way you think

Howard Bloom Why did Howard love this book?

Melvin Konner is an anthropologist who joined the sociobiology revolution of the 1970s.  Like Barash, his style is sheer pleasure. He ranges from biology and psychology to research on hormones.  And his tales, his evidence, are fascinating beyond belief. They are derived from research on primitive tribes like the !Kung San In southern Africa, whose way of life sheds new light on the things you and I do every day.

By Melvin Konner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

First published 20 years ago to great acclaim, "The Tangled Wing" soon became useful for anyone interested in the biological roots of human behaviour and emotions. Since then however, revolutions have taken place in the biological sciences not only in genetics but molecular biology and neuroscience as well. All of these innovations have been taken into account in this vastly expanded edition. In this synthesis of biology, psychology, anthropology and philosophy, Konner explores the seat of human emotions. He shows what is "natural" and what is merely construct. His discussion and analysis are both sensitive and straightforward, ranging from such…

Book cover of The Humanity of Thucydides

Neville Morley Author Of Thucydides and the Idea of History

From my list on understanding Thucydides.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian and classicist, teaching at the University of Exeter. I am equally interested in classical Greece and Rome, especially their economy and society, and in the ways that classical ideas and examples have been influential in the modern world.

Neville's book list on understanding Thucydides

Neville Morley Why did Neville love this book?

There is an equally strong tradition of reading Thucydides not as a historian, just interested in past events as an end in itself, but as a kind of political theorist who wanted to his work to be useful, as a guide to ‘the human thing’. Sometimes this produces incredibly crude readings of his work, such as the idea that Thucydides was a Realist who preached the power of the strong over the weak (actually those are ideas associated with people in his book), but there have been many powerful interpretations by political theorists who have deep knowledge of the text and relevant scholarship, and who can use this to explore contemporary issues of power, justice, and human motivation. I find Orwin’s account rich and thought-provoking, clearly the product of vast experience and deliberation.

By Clifford Orwin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thucydides has long been celebrated for the unflinching realism of his presentation of political life. And yet, as some scholars have asserted, his work also displays a profound humanity. In the first thorough exploration of the relation between these two traits, Clifford Orwin argues that Thucydides' humanity is not a reflection of the author's temperament but an aspect of his thought, above all of his articulation of the central problem of political life, the tension between right and compulsion. This book provides the most complete treatment to date of Thucydides' handling of the problem of injustice, as well as the…

Book cover of Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us About Life, Love and Relationships

Ed Thompson Author Of A Hidden Force: Unlocking the Potential of Neurodiversity at Work

From my list on challenging perceptions of neurodiversity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young businessperson in London in my early 30s, I was as ignorant of neurodiversity as much of the rest of the world. In the mid-2010s, I got fascinated by the topic thanks to conversations with autistic family members, who encouraged me to bring some of my expertise in corporate diversity programs to the field of “neurodiversity at work”. The topic of neurodiversity chimed with me, too, as I’d suffered a traumatic brain injury in a serious car accident, and there were aspects I could relate to. I founded neurodiversity training company Uptimize to help ensure organizations across the world understand how the importance of embracing and leveraging different types of thinkers.

Ed's book list on challenging perceptions of neurodiversity

Ed Thompson Why did Ed love this book?

Explaining Humans engagingly begins, “It was five years into my life on Earth that I started to think I’d landed in the wrong place. I must have missed the stop.”

Part popular science, part memoir, part clarion call for neuroinclusion, Pang’s book is full of sophisticated and memorable observations about humans, neurodiversity, and Pang’s own neurodivergence.

I particularly enjoyed her comparison of the teamwork between human cells (neutral, effective, politics-free!) with that of typical human collaboration…and how much it made me realize that we can all substantially improve the latter at work to get the best out of each other and fulfill our collective potential.

By Camilla Pang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


How proteins, machine learning and molecular chemistry can teach us about the complexities of human behaviour and the world around us

How do we understand the people around us? How do we recognise people's motivations, their behaviour, or even their facial expressions? And, when do we learn the social cues that dictate human behaviour?

Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of eight, Camilla Pang struggled to understand the world around her and the way people worked. Desperate for a solution, Camilla asked her mother if there was…

Book cover of The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win

Jonathan Grotenstein Author Of Ship It Holla Ballas! How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew

From my list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math.

Why am I passionate about this?

As the kid of tournament bridge and Scrabble players, I’ve been hooked on games my whole life. None more so than poker, which has helped me make a living both at the tables and as a writer. I’m currently working on a TV adaptation of Ship It Holla Ballas!  

Jonathan's book list on high-stakes poker for people who hate math

Jonathan Grotenstein Why did Jonathan love this book?

Yet another magazine writer (this time, The New Yorker) using her advance money to take a shot at poker’s biggest tournament. But Konnikova’s enthusiastic and self-critical approach elevates her memoir into something more transcendent and celebratory than its predecessors. This is a love letter to poker, told with fierce intelligence and emotional honesty. If you want a deeper understanding of the game’s gravitational pull on a certain kind of mind, there’s no better guide.

By Maria Konnikova,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller * A New York Times Notable Book

"The tale of how Konnikova followed a story about poker players and wound up becoming a story herself will have you riveted, first as you learn about her big winnings, and then as she conveys the lessons she learned both about human nature and herself." -The Washington Post

It's true that Maria Konnikova had never actually played poker before and didn't even know the rules when she approached Erik Seidel, Poker Hall of Fame inductee and winner of tens of millions of dollars in earnings, and convinced him…

Book cover of Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions

Michael L. Littman Author Of Code to Joy: Why Everyone Should Learn a Little Programming

From my list on computing and why it’s important and interesting.

Why am I passionate about this?

Saying just the right words in just the right way can cause a box of electronics to behave however you want it to behave… that’s an idea that has captivated me ever since I first played around with a computer at Radio Shack back in 1979. I’m always on the lookout for compelling ways to convey the topic to people who are open-minded, but maybe turned off by things that are overly technical. I teach computer science and study artificial intelligence as a way of expanding what we can get computers to do on our behalf.

Michael's book list on computing and why it’s important and interesting

Michael L. Littman Why did Michael love this book?

I always find myself applying algorithmic thinking in my everyday life—it affects the way I put away dishes, navigate to the store, and organize my to-do lists. And I think others could benefit from that mindset.

So, when I read this book, my reaction was "Yes! That's what I want people to know. I just wish I could have said it that well!" The authors (who I know, but didn't know they wrote a book together), did a fantastic job of selecting algorithms with deep human connections. Really! And they explain them just right, without getting too mathematical but while still hitting the key ideas with clarity and accuracy. Fantastic!

By Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Algorithms to Live By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A fascinating exploration of how computer algorithms can be applied to our everyday lives.

In this dazzlingly interdisciplinary work, acclaimed author Brian Christian and cognitive scientist Tom Griffiths show us how the simple, precise algorithms used by computers can also untangle very human questions. Modern life is constrained by limited space and time, limits that give rise to a particular set of problems. What should we do, or leave undone, in a day or a lifetime? How much messiness should we accept? The authors explain how to have better hunches and when to leave things to chance, how to deal…

Book cover of Power vs. Force

Joe Contrera Author Of Extraordinary Results for Life: Discover Your Path to Be UN-ordinary

From my list on transforming your business and your life!.

Why am I passionate about this?

For nearly 40 years, I have studied and written about blending the business world and the spiritual side of life together. By spiritual, I mean everything to do with our purpose and why we exist. I refer to this as being ALIVE @ WORK ®. We spend countless hours at work doing a j-o-b, when what we want most is knowing that we are making a difference in our lives and the lives of others. The key is taking 100% responsibility for our lives, knowing we have the power to change them in an instant. You will find this thread woven through all of my books and those I recommend.

Joe's book list on transforming your business and your life!

Joe Contrera Why did Joe love this book?

This book was a game-changer in helping to understand how quantum physics interacts with human behavior. It is a dense book with a great amount of research and science. That said, the point of the book is to explain, in an easily understandable way, how the practice of applied kinesiology can help guide us through life’s journey to discover simple truths.

I was introduced to this book back in 2009, and it started me on an incredible journey toward a better understanding of how the world works. It was instrumental in helping me to develop a Leadership Model in my 3rd book.  

By David R. Hawkins,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Power vs. Force as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This classic text explores how we as individuals can move towards our ultimate potential through understanding human behaviour and enhancing our level of consciousness.

Building on the accumulated wisdom of applied kinesiology (diagnostic muscle-testing to determine the causes of allergies and ailments) and behavioural kinesiology (muscle-testing to determine emotional responses to stimuli), David R. Hawkins MD, PhD has taken muscle-testing to the next level, in an effort to determine what makes people and systems strong, healthy, effective and spiritually sound.

Power vs. Force has become a spiritual classic and massively influential across the world. Now, Dr Hawkins reflects on his…

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