100 books like Collapse

By Jared Diamond,

Here are 100 books that Collapse fans have personally recommended if you like Collapse. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Second World War

Adam Nevill Author Of Lost Girl

From my list on Armageddon and our fascination with it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm continually asked why I write horror. But I wonder why every writer isn't writing horror. Not a day passes without me being aghast at the world and my own species, the present, past and future. Though nor do I stop searching for a sense of awe and wonder in the world either. My Dad read ghost stories to me as a kid and my inner tallow candle was lit. The flame still burns. Horror has always been the fiction I have felt compelled to write in order to process the world, experience, observation, my imaginative life. I've been blessed with a good readership and have entered my third decade as a writer of horrors. In that time two of my novels have been adapted into films and the British Fantasy Society has kindly recognised my work with five awards, one for Best Collection and four for Best Novel. I'm in this for the long haul and aim to be creating horror on both page and screen for some time to come.

Adam's book list on Armageddon and our fascination with it

Adam Nevill Why did Adam love this book?

It's too easy to dismiss the Second World War. To relegate that epochal conflict into realms of ancient history, action films, kitset models, unread Father's day gifts, and black & white footage. But we all live through the consequences of this epic global struggle. This was the last time western civilisation brought itself close to destruction and it was a close call. 60 million lives were lost and no one died easily. The war was also raging just shy of 80 years ago. In the scheme of human history, that's recent.

Beevor's history of the global conflict - and it was global - is a page-turning affair. Vivid, engaging, heartbreaking, shocking. Really fine storytelling and a first class history, encompassing the great conflicts of east and west (China's experience of the war is much overlooked in the west but not in these pages). I found myself engrossed by this monumental…

By Antony Beevor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A magisterial, single-volume history of the greatest conflict the world has ever known by our foremost military historian.

The Second World War began in August 1939 on the edge of Manchuria and ended there exactly six years later with the Soviet invasion of northern China. The war in Europe appeared completely divorced from the war in the Pacific and China, and yet events on opposite sides of the world had profound effects. Using the most up-to-date scholarship and research, Beevor assembles the whole picture in a gripping narrative that extends from the North Atlantic to the South Pacific and from…


Book cover of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered

Ray Cunningham Author Of The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society

From my list on our fatal addiction to economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, I managed research into how the problems of modern industrial society are tackled in different countries. This reflected my own comparative instinct, which arose out of growing up bilingual and at home in two cultures. My journey into politics, sociology, and economics made me increasingly aware of the blindness of our social arrangements to the growing ecological crisis – and of how this blindness is perpetuated by the narrow silos of our political and academic systems. Our only hope now lies with thinkers who can escape those silos and integrate different perspectives into a holistic understanding. We don’t need more specialists, but generalists. Fewer economists, more moral philosophers. 

Ray's book list on our fatal addiction to economic growth

Ray Cunningham Why did Ray love this book?

The book that gave birth to the slogan... This is an iconoclastic look at the capitalist economy from a man who trained as an academic economist and worked for the National Coal Board. Schumacher thought creatively and wrote and spoke in a lively and engaging way and the book is an accessible introduction to a different way of thinking about what the purpose of an economy, or economics, is.

Also, Schumacher was invited to become the first Director of the Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial Society, but felt that he was already too old for the job. Many years later, I became the Foundation’s last Director.

By E.F. Schumacher,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Small Is Beautiful as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This New York Times bestselling “Eco Bible” (Time magazine) teaches us that economic growth must be responsibly balanced with the needs of communities and the environment.

“Embracing what Schumacher stood for--above all the idea of sensible scale--is the task for our time. Small is Beautiful could not be more relevant. It was first published in 1973, but it was written for our time.” — Bill McKibben, from the Foreword

Small Is Beautiful is Oxford-trained economist E. F. Schumacher’s classic call for the end of excessive consumption. Schumacher inspired such movements as “Buy Locally” and “Fair Trade,” while voicing strong opposition…


Book cover of The Denial of Death

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Why am I passionate about this?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

Have you ever read a book that literally changed your life? I have, and that book is The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1974.

Becker’s basic thesis is that the institution of “culture” has evolved not so much to facilitate our physical survival (the orthodox viewpoint), but rather, as an elaborate symbolic framework that psychologically protects us from our species’ unique awareness of our own inevitable mortality, both individually and collectively.

Becker basically blew the top of my head off when I first read him during my PhD work in the mid-Oughts, and he remains a major influence on my teaching and research to this day.

By Ernest Becker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life's work,The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker's brilliant and impassioned answer to the "why" of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie -- man's refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.


Book cover of The War of the Worlds

David E. Gates Author Of The Wretched

From my list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved horror since my early teens, when I first discovered The Rats and Lair and other horror stories by James Herbert. The thing I like about horror, in particular, is that there are no holds barred, no censorship, as to what can be written. I grew up on movies like The Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Jaws, Alien, The Thing, etc., but horror writing takes you deeper and gives a more visceral experience than anything any film can do.

David's book list on horror books that changed my life and could change yours

David E. Gates Why did David love this book?

This book is why I became an author. 

I started reading this book in class at school, when I was around thirteen years of age. The class read the first two chapters, and I was so enamoured with it I couldn't wait to get home and read it. I read it in its entirety that very night. I found the language and description used within it quite breathtaking. I couldn't wait to read the next chapter. It had a lasting effect on me and led me to start writing my own stories down. 

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The War of the Worlds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

But planet Earth was not only being watched - soon it would be invaded by monstrous creatures from Mars who strode about the land in great mechanical tripods, bringing death and destruction with them. What can possibly stop an invading army equipped with heat-rays and poisonous black gas, intent on wiping out the human race? This is one man's story of that incredible invasion, from the time the first Martians land near his home town, to the destruction of London. Is this the end of human life on Earth?


Book cover of The Road

Why am I passionate about this?

 I’ve always loved a good mystery that doesn’t give you all the details upfront. My favourite stories growing up were those where I had little epiphanies along the way until I got to the end, where everything finally fell into place. But perhaps why I’m most drawn to these types of stories is because they parallel learning about your surroundings in the real world. After living in several different countries, I’ve come to learn many situations piece by piece, where some ended in danger, while others were more humorous events that I can now laugh about. 

Jon's book list on dark horror stories that slowly unravel their mysteries piece by piece, letting you figure out along the way

Jon Vassa Why did Jon love this book?

At the time, when I read this book, I’d just become a father. Naturally, the story about a father trying to protect his son in a harsh dystopian world was captivating for me and still is to this day.

I loved the book's gritty realism and felt as if I were walking beside the characters during the entire journey. I also found McCarthy’s writing style unique and something new from the best-selling paperbacks I’d often read before picking up his book.

By Cormac McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked The Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • A searing, post-apocalyptic novel about a father and son's fight to survive, this "tale of survival and the miracle of goodness only adds to McCarthy's stature as a living master. It's gripping, frightening and, ultimately, beautiful" (San Francisco Chronicle).

A father and his son walk alone through burned America. Nothing moves in the ravaged landscape save the ash on the wind. It is cold enough to crack stones, and when the snow falls it is gray. The sky is dark. Their destination is the coast, although they don't know what, if…


Book cover of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming

Caro Feely Author Of Cultivating Change: Regenerating Land and Love in the Age of Climate Crisis

From my list on understanding and acting on climate change.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a chronicler of nature and life in our organic vineyard for nearly two decades. In that time, I have seen the climate crisis accelerate and create increasing weather extremes with devastating consequences for our crops. This led me to dive deep into understanding the climate crisis and how we can solve it. I’ve written four books about the transformation of our organic farm. In my latest, I explore how we are already impacted by climate change and how things like biodiversity can help us address it. If you are unsure of where to start, these books will help you understand why action is necessary and the best way for you to get involved.

Caro's book list on understanding and acting on climate change

Caro Feely Why did Caro love this book?

I opt for this over some other options because of its frightening clarity on the consequences of unabated human-generated greenhouse gas emissions. With business as usual, we are speeding towards a 4-degree Celsius temperature increase by 2100, about one lifetime away. This increase would make large parts of the planet uninhabitable due to rising seas, extreme heat, and more. Already, climate change is taking its toll.

Wallace Wells explores a long list of devastating effects, including heat death, hunger, drowning, unbreathable air, wildfires, disasters that are no longer natural, like outsize tornados and hurricanes, lack of fresh water, dying oceans from acidification, plagues of insects and diseases, economic collapse, climate conflict, and the multiplier effect of these things acting together.

You must antidote this book with books 1 and 2. It is too depressing to read alone. 

By David Wallace-Wells,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**SUNDAY TIMES AND THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**

'An epoch-defining book' Matt Haig
'If you read just one work of non-fiction this year, it should probably be this' David Sexton, Evening Standard

Selected as a Book of the Year 2019 by the Sunday Times, Spectator and New Statesman
A Waterstones Paperback of the Year and shortlisted for the Foyles Book of the Year 2019
Longlisted for the PEN / E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award

It is worse, much worse, than you think.

The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale, perhaps as pernicious as the one that says…


Book cover of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Why am I passionate about this?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

Solomon et al experienced eureka moments similar to my own when they read Ernest Becker as young social psychologists in the 1980s.

Combining their research efforts, they set out to provide “hard” empirical evidence that would support Becker’s cultural thesis. In the process, they developed what eventually became known as “Terror Management Theory” (TMT).

This went on to become one of the biggest influences on social psychology since Leon Festinger’s 1950s work on cognitive dissonance, enjoying perhaps its greatest notoriety in the first few years after 9/11.

The Worm at the Core is an excellent “one-stop shopping” choice as a primer for basic TMT. Once you add Solomon et al’s ideas to your mental toolbox, you will never look at the world the same way again.

By Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, Tom Pyszczynski

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Worm at the Core as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Proof of a ground-breaking psychological theory: that the fear of death is the hidden motive behind almost everything we do.

'A joy ... The Worm at the Core asks how humans can learn to live happily while being intelligently aware of our impending doom, how knowledge of death affects the decisions we make every day, and how we can stop fear and anxiety overwhelming us' Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph

'Provocative, lucid and fascinating' Financial Times

'An important, superbly readable and potentially life-changing book . . . suggests one should confront mortality in order to live an authentic life' Tim Lott,…


Book cover of The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

Ray Cunningham Author Of The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society

From my list on our fatal addiction to economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, I managed research into how the problems of modern industrial society are tackled in different countries. This reflected my own comparative instinct, which arose out of growing up bilingual and at home in two cultures. My journey into politics, sociology, and economics made me increasingly aware of the blindness of our social arrangements to the growing ecological crisis – and of how this blindness is perpetuated by the narrow silos of our political and academic systems. Our only hope now lies with thinkers who can escape those silos and integrate different perspectives into a holistic understanding. We don’t need more specialists, but generalists. Fewer economists, more moral philosophers. 

Ray's book list on our fatal addiction to economic growth

Ray Cunningham Why did Ray love this book?

A vast propaganda effort has been undertaken since the Club of Rome first issued ‘The limits to growth’ report in 1972 to rubbish its predictions and hypotheses. If you actually take the trouble to read the 1972, 1994, and 2004 reports, then you can see through this desperate effort. The authors were fundamentally – in broad terms – correct, and visionary. True, they overestimated how rapidly the planet was likely to succumb to world-scale resource-depletion crises; but they actually underestimated how rapidly we would start to succumb to crises arising from pollution. Their warnings need to be heeded very rapidly, now.

By Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Groundbreaking call to action by Donella Meadows, the bestselling author of Thinking in Systems!

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse the Guardian The updated edition of the groundbreaking classic that kickstarted the movement for environmental and ecological reform!

Perfect for fans of The Uninhabitable Earth and There is No Planet B

It is no unknown fact that at the present rate of climate change, population growth and capitalistic expansion, we are over-exceeding our planet's resources. We're stretched pretty thin and if we continue at the present rate we'll soon be headed towards irreversible consequences as…


Book cover of The Meme Machine

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Why am I passionate about this?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

In his seminal The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins suggested that humans (and all other living organisms) exist to further the evolutionary fitness of the self-replicating information packets (“genes”) carried in our DNA – not the other way around.

In the closing section of his book, Dawkins theorized that a similar dynamic might hold true in cultural evolution, playing out through another type of self-replicating information packet, which he termed “memes”.

Some twenty years later, as the dawn of the Internet Age was giving new relevance to this idea, scholar Susan Blackmore took it up and ran with it, essentially singlehandedly creating the new academic field of “memetics” with the publication of The Meme Machine in 1999.

By Susan Blackmore,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Meme Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humans are extraordinary creatures, with the unique ability among animals to imitate and so copy from one another ideas, habits, skills, behaviours, inventions, songs, and stories. These are all memes, a term first coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976 in his book The Selfish Gene. Memes, like genes, are replicators, and this enthralling book is an investigation of whether this link between genes and memes can lead to important discoveries about the nature of
the inner self. Confronting the deepest questions about our inner selves, with all our emotions, memories, beliefs, and decisions, Susan Blackmore makes a compelling case for…


Book cover of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Mordecai George Sheftall Author Of Blossoms In The Wind: Human Legacies of the Kamikaze

From my list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things.

Why am I passionate about this?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I woke up expecting to spend that day – and the rest of my academic career – leisurely studying the interplay of culture and individual temperament in second language acquisition. As the rest of that terrible day unfolded, however, my research up to that point suddenly seemed very small and almost decadently privileged. Recruiting the rudimentary cultural anthropology toolbox I had already amassed, I took a deep breath and plunged into the rabbit hole of studying the role of culture in human conflict. Twenty-two years later, using my Japan base and relevant language skills, my research has focused on the Japanese experience in World War II.

Mordecai's book list on how culture makes us do self-destructive things

Mordecai George Sheftall Why did Mordecai love this book?

Go to any park or public square in any city in the world and you are likely to see statues of people so venerated because they fought/died in some war. Why do we mythologize war, our species’ most destructive collective behavior?

In this 2002 book, written in the second years of the Global War on Terror, American journalist Chris Hedges gives a chilling explanation that, for me, dovetailed perfectly with my readings of Becker and TMT: “Most of us willingly accept war as long as we can fold it into a belief system that paints the ensuing suffering as necessary for a higher good, for human beings seek not only happiness but also meaning. And tragically war is sometimes the most powerful way in society to achieve meaning.”

By Chris Hedges,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a veteran war correspondent, Chris Hedges has survived ambushes in Central America, imprisonment in Sudan, and a beating by Saudi military police. He has seen children murdered for sport in Gaza and petty thugs elevated into war heroes in the Balkans. Hedges, who is also a former divinity student, has seen war at its worst and knows too well that to those who pass through it, war can be exhilarating and even addictive: It gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living."Drawing on his own experience and on the literature of combat from Homer to Michael Herr, Hedges shows…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in civilization, social history, and environmental policy?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about civilization, social history, and environmental policy.

Civilization Explore 211 books about civilization
Social History Explore 46 books about social history
Environmental Policy Explore 28 books about environmental policy