100 books like Catherine the Great

By Robert K. Massie,

Here are 100 books that Catherine the Great fans have personally recommended if you like Catherine the Great. 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 Unbroken

Steve Pemberton Author Of The Lighthouse Effect: How Ordinary People Can Have an Extraordinary Impact in the World

From my list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m most drawn to stories of overcoming. My own childhood was about exactly that-overcoming a multi-generational inheritance of family separation and orphaned children. When I wrote my first book about that story, A Chance in the World, an unanticipated magic unfolded: I began to receive stories of strangers from all across the world who wrote to tell me their own story of overcoming. Each and every day I hear from someone and the steady stream of those stories of overcoming affirms something I have to come to learn: we all have a story and none of us look like that story.

Steve's book list on demonstrating the power of the human spirit

Steve Pemberton Why did Steve love this book?

If it’s possible to have lived multiple lives in a single lifetime, then Louis Zamperini did it.

I am a big fan of The Greatest Generation and Unbroken is the story of that generation, the deep beliefs they held, and the many sacrifices they made, not for themselves but for the generations that would follow them. You can’t miss the examples of selflessness, perseverance, and faith that jump out at you from the very first chapter.

By Laura Hillenbrand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the author of the bestselling and much-loved Seabiscuit, an unforgettable story of one man's journey into extremity. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant's name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood,…


Book cover of Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt

Vladimir Alexandrov Author Of To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks

From my list on grit transforms people’s lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

After more than thirty years of teaching Russian literature and culture at Yale and Harvard, and publishing numerous academic articles and monographs, I switched to writing historical biographies for a general audience. The catalyst was my discovery of Frederick Bruce Thomas, the remarkable son of former slaves in Mississippi who became a multimillionaire impresario in tsarist Moscow and the “Sultan of Jazz” in Constantinople. This resulted in The Black Russian, a widely praised biography that is now well on track to being made into a TV series. I am always drawn to stories of people whose grit makes them rebel against the limits that life seems to impose and allows them to achieve something transcendent.

Vladimir's book list on grit transforms people’s lives

Vladimir Alexandrov Why did Vladimir love this book?

It’s inspiring to read how a sickly boy became the larger-than-life figure who dominated turn of the century America. Although born into a famous and wealthy family, the young Theodore’s future seemed hopeless because of his repeated bouts with an illness that almost killed him. But through his own will, and with the inspiration and support of his remarkable family, he managed to overcome his ailment and grow into robust and productive manhood. McCullough’s discovery of a rich cache of family letters allowed him to create a fine-grained and moving narrative about how this exceptional man came to be.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The National Book Award–winning biography that tells the story of how young Teddy Roosevelt transformed himself from a sickly boy into the vigorous man who would become a war hero and ultimately president of the United States, told by master historian David McCullough.

Mornings on Horseback is the brilliant biography of the young Theodore Roosevelt. Hailed as “a masterpiece” (John A. Gable, Newsday), it is the winner of the Los Angeles Times 1981 Book Prize for Biography and the National Book Award for Biography. Written by David McCullough, the author of Truman, this is the story of a remarkable little…


Book cover of Jackie Robinson: A Biography

Vladimir Alexandrov Author Of To Break Russia's Chains: Boris Savinkov and His Wars Against the Tsar and the Bolsheviks

From my list on grit transforms people’s lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

After more than thirty years of teaching Russian literature and culture at Yale and Harvard, and publishing numerous academic articles and monographs, I switched to writing historical biographies for a general audience. The catalyst was my discovery of Frederick Bruce Thomas, the remarkable son of former slaves in Mississippi who became a multimillionaire impresario in tsarist Moscow and the “Sultan of Jazz” in Constantinople. This resulted in The Black Russian, a widely praised biography that is now well on track to being made into a TV series. I am always drawn to stories of people whose grit makes them rebel against the limits that life seems to impose and allows them to achieve something transcendent.

Vladimir's book list on grit transforms people’s lives

Vladimir Alexandrov Why did Vladimir love this book?

Because it’s the amazing story of how a supremely gifted and charismatic young Black man overcame his impoverished background and the racism endemic in the United States to break the color barrier in the national sport—baseball, and became an iconic figure in the struggle for civil rights. Rampersad’s unprecedented access to Robinson’s papers allowed him to paint a detailed, intimate, and moving portrait of a courageous and defiant man.

By Arnold Rampersad,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary life of Jackie Robinson is illuminated as never before in this full-scale biography by Arnold Rampersad, who was chosen by Jack's widow, Rachel, to tell her husband's story, and was given unprecedented access to his private papers. We are brought closer than we have ever been to the great ballplayer, a man of courage and quality who became a pivotal figure in the areas of race and civil rights.

Born in the rural South, the son of a sharecropper, Robinson was reared in southern California. We see him blossom there as a student-athlete as he struggled against poverty…


Book cover of The Path to Power

Winston Brady Author Of The Inferno

From my list on contemporary biographies on American leaders.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first biographer, Plutarch, wrote that “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Biographies help kindle this flame by presenting a person who displayed such character and attempted such noble deeds that the reader should follow their example. The biographer narrates the events of a life well-lived and draws out examples for the reader of the virtues and vices, strengths and foibles, of the person whose life is on display. In this way, biographies help us to be better people by showing us either a model to follow or an example to avoid. 

Winston's book list on contemporary biographies on American leaders

Winston Brady Why did Winston love this book?

Robert Caro’s book is nothing less than a masterpiece.

I love it for the unique perspective Caro has for his subject, Johnson, which is rare among biographers. Most biographers love their subjects and want their readers to admire their subjects as well. They gloss over their faults or explain them away so the reader is left with the positive impression the biographer has. Not so with Caro. 

Caro admires Lyndon Johnson as a politician but also loathes him; he respects Lyndon’s radical ability to read and manipulate other individuals and Lyndon’s pure, unadulterated pursuit of power and higher office, but he despised Lyndon for his ability to use people, a “morality often bordering on amorality.” In this way, Caro’s biography helps the reader “be as wise as serpents, yet as innocent of doves,” to quote Matthew 10:16. He explains how Johnson committed deeds that were unjust and unethical and condemns…

By Robert A. Caro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The greatest biography of our era ... Essential reading for those who want to comprehend power and politics' The Times

Robert A. Caro's legendary, multi-award-winning biography of US President Lyndon Johnson is a uniquely riveting and revelatory account of power, political genius and the shaping of twentieth-century America.

This first instalment tells of the rise to national power of a desperately poor young man from the Texas Hill Country, revealing in extraordinary detail the genesis of the almost superhuman drive, energy and ambition that set LBJ apart. It charts his boyhood through the years of the Depression to his debut…


Book cover of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Nazila Fathi Author Of The Lonely War: One Woman's Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran

From my list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with historical novels as a kid after I began reading books by French authors Alexandre Dumas, the father and the son. I was the kind of kid who read for days and even nights to finish a story. Books moved me, inspired me, and gave me the strength and wisdom that I have today. I cannot imagine a world without them. 

Nazila's book list on the feeling of having your identity taken from you

Nazila Fathi Why did Nazila love this book?

The dark place Dai depicts in this book during the Chines Cultural Revolution is very similar to the 1980s when I grew up in Iran after the revolution. Through banned novels, the characters in the book, just like me, found a way to escape the grim realities of their lives and found the strength they needed to dream and grow. Their identities, like mine, were shaped by the oppressive environments they lived in and their efforts to reinvent themselves under those conditions.

By Dai Sijie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

1971: Mao's cultural Revolution is at its peak. Two sons of doctors, sent to 're-education' camps, forced to carry buckets of excrement up and down mountain paths, have only their sense of humour to keep them going. Although the attractive daughter of the local tailor also helps to distract them from the task at hand.

The boys' true re-education starts, however, when they discover a hidden suitcase packed with the great Western novels of the nineteenth century. Their lives are transformed. And not only their lives: after listening to the stories of Balzac, the little seamstress will never be the…


Book cover of Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

Sarah L. Sanderson Author Of The Place We Make: Breaking the Legacy of Legalized Hate

From my list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I chose to study creative nonfiction during my MFA program so I could learn what makes great memoirs work, but I first fell in love with the genre as a teenager, when I picked up Angela’s Ashes off my mom’s bedside table. I’m grateful for the way memoir gives me a window into the lives of people of other races, religions, abilities, experiences, and even other centuries. While my book The Place We Make isn’t only a memoir—it’s a blend of memoir and historical biography—it was my desire to both understand the view through my research subject’s eyes, and analyze how I was seeing the world myself, that drove me to write it.

Sarah's book list on memoirs to see the world through someone else’s eyes

Sarah L. Sanderson Why did Sarah love this book?

Persepolis is the book that made me fall in love with graphic memoirs.

I’ve typically been more of a word person than a picture person, but Satrapi’s stark black-and-white images make such creative use of the space on the page that I was converted. I learned so much about the history of Iranian conflict from this book—through the young girl eyes of its narrator—but my favorite part is the way Satrapi visually depicts her conversations with God.

After I read this book, I started drawing images of my conversations with God into my own prayer journal.  

By Marjane Satrapi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Wise, often funny, sometimes heart-breaking, Persepolis tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's life in Tehran from the ages of six to fourteen, growing up during the Iranian Revolution.

The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran's last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life.

Amidst the tragedy, Marjane's child's eye view adds immediacy and humour, and her story of a childhood at once outrageous and ordinary,…


Book cover of The Life of Elizabeth I

Kevin O'Connell Author Of Bittersweet Tapestry

From my list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Whilst I was born in America, growing up in an old Irish family with a long history and a powerful sense of its past, I learnt a great deal of Irish, British, and European (especially French) history from an early age – proving valuable in both of my careers – one, as an international business lawyer, the other as a full-time writer of historical fiction. As a result of a “very Irish” numinous connection with the Gaelic poet, Eileen O’Connell, I frequently find myself drawn to books about strong, courageous, and memorable women – particularly those who lived in interesting times, such as the tumultuous days of Sixteenth and Eighteenth-Century Europe.  

Kevin's book list on fascinating women of 16th and 18th century Europe

Kevin O'Connell Why did Kevin love this book?

It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to recommend this particular work of Alison Weir. A brilliant historian, she – by means of both traditional, meticulously-researched biographies, as well as in her historical fiction offerings –  chronicles many aspects, and a number of personages of Tudor England in all of its – and their – colourfully untidy turbulence. 

Her account of Elizabeth I’s life is amongst her best. I especially appreciate the skillful way in which Weir continuously “introduces” the reader to Elizabeth, as the compelling figure she is – fascinatingly intricate, brilliant, and annoyingly contradictory. Just when one seems to understand her – Weir drops yet another paradox – as the reader learns that this supposedly staunchly Protestant daughter of Henry VIII maintained most aspects of orthodox Roman Catholic practices – including a crucifix – in her private chapel royal.

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Elizabeth the Queen begins as the young Elizabeth ascends the throne in the wake of her sister Mary's disastrous reign - both a woman and a queen, Elizabeth's story is an extraordinary phenomenon in a patriarchal age.

From Elizabeth's intriguing, long-standing affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to her dealings - sometimes comical, sometimes poignant - with her many suitors, her rivalry with Mary, Queen of Scots, and her bizarre relationship with the Earl of Essex, thirty years her junior, here, in rich, vivid and colourful detail, Alison Weir helps us comes as close as we shall ever get…


Book cover of The Wolf and the Watchman

Karen Engelmann Author Of The Stockholm Octavo

From my list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stockholm was the first city that I traveled to outside of the U.S. Landing there at Midsommar and visiting the Old Town made an indelible impression. I lived and worked in Sweden for almost 10 years, and had little time for history then, but later found Stockholm in the Gustavian age irresistible as the basis for my first novel. It was a period of cultural flowering, of occult fascinations, social change, and great drama. Readers tend to look further south, in France and Great Britain, for their historical fiction, histories, and biographies, but there are great stories further north as well. 

Karen's book list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age

Karen Engelmann Why did Karen love this book?

There are so few novels in English that explore Gustavian Stockholm, and this is a thrilling page-turner set in 1793 that explores the dark side of the capital city one year after the assassination of King Gustav III. Mikel Cardell, a watchman with a brutal past in the army, and Cecil Winge, an investigator who is hovering near death himself, team up to find the perpetrator of a heinous murder. Author Niklas Natt och Dag (translates to Night and Day — an old aristocratic name) has written a story steeped in graphic, gory period detail and authentic atmosphere.  

By Niklas Natt Och Dag,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A remarkable debut novel' Sunday Times

'The best historical thriller I've read in twenty years' A.J. Finn

'A thrilling, unnerving, clever and beautiful story. Reading it is like giving a little gift to oneself' Fredrik Backman

The year is 1793, Stockholm. King Gustav of Sweden has been assassinated, years of foreign wars have emptied the treasuries, and the realm is governed by a self-interested elite, leaving its citizens to suffer. On the streets, malcontent and paranoia abound.

A body is found in the city's swamp by a watchman, Mickel Cardell, and the case is handed over to investigator Cecil Winge,…


Book cover of The Life and Songs of Carl Michael Bellman: Genius of the Swedish Rococo

Karen Engelmann Author Of The Stockholm Octavo

From my list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stockholm was the first city that I traveled to outside of the U.S. Landing there at Midsommar and visiting the Old Town made an indelible impression. I lived and worked in Sweden for almost 10 years, and had little time for history then, but later found Stockholm in the Gustavian age irresistible as the basis for my first novel. It was a period of cultural flowering, of occult fascinations, social change, and great drama. Readers tend to look further south, in France and Great Britain, for their historical fiction, histories, and biographies, but there are great stories further north as well. 

Karen's book list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age

Karen Engelmann Why did Karen love this book?

Musician, poet, drunkard, genius, and scoundrel, Carl Michael Bellman was a fascinating historical figure that I badly wanted as a character in my novel but had to cut. If music can define an era, then Bellman is the voice of the Gustavian age. This wonderful, illustrated non-fiction work brought Bellman and 18th century Stockholm to life for me; I borrowed it from the library for two years while working on the first draft of my own book. (Eventually, I bought my own copy.) Bellman’s songs and spirit remain part of Swedish culture today. 

Book cover of The Fatal Friendship

Karen Engelmann Author Of The Stockholm Octavo

From my list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

Stockholm was the first city that I traveled to outside of the U.S. Landing there at Midsommar and visiting the Old Town made an indelible impression. I lived and worked in Sweden for almost 10 years, and had little time for history then, but later found Stockholm in the Gustavian age irresistible as the basis for my first novel. It was a period of cultural flowering, of occult fascinations, social change, and great drama. Readers tend to look further south, in France and Great Britain, for their historical fiction, histories, and biographies, but there are great stories further north as well. 

Karen's book list on to unlock treasures of Sweden’s Gustavian Age

Karen Engelmann Why did Karen love this book?

I loved learning about the close ties that existed between Sweden and France in the late 18th century and the French Revolution figured in the plot of my novel. This fabulous non-fiction work explores the politics, intrigues, and plotting of the period through the intimate connection between Marie Antoinette, doomed Queen of France, and her purported lover, Axel von Fersena Swedish nobleman. The revolution was reaching a fevered pitch when King Gustav III of Sweden sent von Fersen to assist the French royal family in their escape from Paris — an epic failure told with passion by Mr. Loomis! 

By Stanley Loomis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Binding: HB Condition: Very Good Dustjacket: Good, top right front chipped. Details: About the puzzling friendship between Count Axel Fersen and Marie Antoinetter, Queen of France, and his role in the Royal Family's disastrous flight to Varennes at the outset of the French Revolution. Book Club Edition. From Stanley Loomis, a well-known author whose books have been published in 8 languages. Size: 22cm X 14.5cm Weight: 500 grams "


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