100 books like Danube

By Claudio Magris, Patrick Creagh (translator),

Here are 100 books that Danube fans have personally recommended if you like Danube. 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 Daily Life in Late Antiquity

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

This is the only book on the list that relates directly to my main topic of research, but that is a strong recommendation in itself. In truth, there are lots of books about ‘late antiquity’ (or ‘the later Roman Empire’), and many of them are very good indeed. But they also tell a familiar story in familiar ways: they discuss politics, military actions, transforming towns, and (increasingly) plague and climate change. Sessa’s book deals with all of these themes in some way, but flips the whole thing on its head. This book looks at the period from the bottom up, thinking about the lived experiences of women and children, of country-dwellers, and those who inhabited the less glamorous corners of the empire. Reading this made me think again about lots of topics that I thought I knew well. It is also accessibly written and introduces a sometimes complex period very…

By Kristina Sessa,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Daily Life in Late Antiquity is the first comprehensive study of lived experience in the Late Roman Empire, from c.250-600 CE. Each of the six topical chapters highlight historical 'everyday' people, spaces, and objects, whose lives operate as windows into the late ancient economy, social relations, military service, religious systems, cultural habits, and the material environment. However, it is nevertheless grounded in late ancient primary sources - many of which are available in accessible English translations - and the most recent, cutting-edge scholarship by specialists in fields such as archaeology, social history, religious studies, and environmental history. From Manichean rituals…


Book cover of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Abby Smith Rumsey Author Of Memory, Edited: Taking Liberties with History

From my list on when history gets personal.

Who am I?

It was in 1982, while a Fulbright scholar in the USSR researching my doctoral dissertation, that I realized my responsibility as a historian extended far beyond writing history books. I lived among Russians and saw up close how the Kremlin-controlled what citizens knew about their own past. The future was already determined—the end of class struggle. The past was merely a made-up prologue. As a consequence of that year, I focus on the creation, preservation, and accessibility of cultural knowledge. History clues us into where we come from. Like a DNA test, it reveals how our single life is intricately braided with people we will never meet.

Abby's book list on when history gets personal

Abby Smith Rumsey Why did Abby love this book?

A collection of biographical essays, from Louis Armstrong and Jorge Luis Borges to Isoroku Yamamoto and Stefan Zweig.

Written with James’s distinctive wit and verve, each essay distills features specific to an individual and also characteristic of the long twentieth century. James is anti-ideological and so are his heroes—Nadezhda Mandelstam, Albert Camus, Duke Ellington, among others.

They tolerated ambiguity and resisted certainty even in the midst of unimaginable violence and shocking injustices. (He includes many of his “intellectual bêtes noires”—Edward Said, Bertold Brecht, Mao Zedong.) This deeply personal collection constitutes James’s battering ram against the walls erected by willful amnesia, ignorance, and censorship, walls that cut the living off from what the dead want to tell us. 

By Clive James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This international bestseller is an encyclopedic A-Z masterpiece-the perfect introduction to the very core of Western humanism. Clive James rescues, or occasionally destroys, the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.


Book cover of Beards

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

I came across this book unexpectedly in an American bookstore, and have since given it as a gift countless times. In essence, Reynolds provides a survey of human history through facial hair, creating a rambling, eccentric overview and proposing all sorts of improbable theories, many of which are probably right. The bookseller’s note on the back cover of my copy lists it as ‘History (?)’, which seems about right, but it has definitely made me think about history in a different way. I also now have a beard of my own (not connected).

Reynolds also wrote a similarly inspiring book about toilets.  

By Reginald Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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


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Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families

Roland Merullo Author Of Dessert with Buddha

From my list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction.

Who am I?

My twenty novels tend to focus on characters who face great challenges, and I have a particular appreciation for beautiful prose. I don’t read for distraction or entertainment, but to be enlightened, moved, and made more compassionate about different kinds of people in different environments.

Roland's book list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction

Roland Merullo Why did Roland love this book?

This is the story of a highly educated writer living with the poorest of the poor in the U.S. Agee was sent to live with Alabama sharecroppers during the Depression. His assignment was to write about them for a magazine, but he ended up making it into a magnificent memoir (Jimmy Carter’s favorite memoir) that is often paired with Walker Evans’ photos. They lived and worked as a team.

Agee is a well-educated, well-off writer, but manages to describe the lives of the poorest of the poor with great respect, artistic originality, and sincerity, and to give us a full, if painful, understanding of the lives of people who could not afford shoes and were worked to the bone by the landowners.

It’s a deeply spiritual work, artistically original in structure and language, a long, slow, magnificent read that has touched me deeply each time I’ve read it.

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1936, Agee and Evans set out on assignement for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when in 1941 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was first published to enourmous critical acclaim. This unspairing record of place, of the people who shaped the land, and of the rhythm of their lives today stands as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.


Book cover of Between the Woods and the Water

Jonathan Meiburg Author Of A Most Remarkable Creature: The Hidden Life and Epic Journey of the World's Smartest Birds of Prey

From my list on taking you to another world.

Who am I?

If you’re curious about the world, you can find secret doors that open onto sudden vistas. For me, exploring the lives and origins of the caracaras unveiled an astonishing story about life on Earth—and though the books in my list are mostly nonfiction, they all explore real worlds as absorbing as any fantasy. 

Jonathan's book list on taking you to another world

Jonathan Meiburg Why did Jonathan love this book?

This book is the second in a trilogy about a long journey Fermor made—mostly on foot—from Holland to Istanbul in 1934, when he was nineteen years old. Fermor wrote the books from memory many years afterward, so their veracity is open to question, but his imagination and skill aren't: he might resent the comparison, but his books gave me the same thrills as an adult that I remember from my parents reading The Lord of the Rings to me as a child. Though all three are astounding, Between the Woods and the Water is my favorite— it begins as he crosses the Danube into Hungary from the west, follows him across Romania, and ends up in the Balkans, a region that would soon be transformed (and, in part, erased) by World War II. Fermor knows that too, but he doesn't mention it: he lets the places he walks through and…

By Patrick Leigh Fermor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between the Woods and the Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The acclaimed travel writer's youthful journey - as an 18-year-old - across 1930s Europe by foot began in A Time of Gifts, which covered the author's exacting journey from the Lowlands as far as Hungary.

Picking up from the very spot on a bridge across the Danube where his readers last saw him, we travel on with him across the great Hungarian Plain on horseback, and over the Romanian border to Transylvania.

The trip was an exploration of a continent which was already showing signs of the holocaust which was to come. Although frequently praised for his lyrical writing, Fermor's…


Book cover of The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

Ronnie Blair Author Of Eisenhower Babies: Growing Up on Moonshots, Comic Books, and Black-and-White TV

From my list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood.

Who am I?

Growing up in a Kentucky coal-mining community, I enjoyed reading about the lives of other people and how their experiences differed from mine. I read biographies of famous people, such as Paul Revere or Stephen Foster, and an occasional memoir, such as Harlan Ellison writing about infiltrating a juvenile gang or David Gerrold revealing how he came to write for Star Trek. Fiction also took me to places that I had never seen. But something about a coming-of-age tale especially resonated with me and I hope these recommendations will help you make that same connection with how others have navigated the magic and miseries of childhood. 

Ronnie's book list on evoking the magic (and miseries) of childhood

Ronnie Blair Why did Ronnie love this book?

The title might sound like fiction, but the Thunderbolt Kid is simply an imaginary superhero version of himself that Bryson created as a child. Mostly, this trope is used sparingly throughout the book, which is a memoir of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950s. Bryson brings plenty of humor to the work, as well as a wistful nostalgia for the era. He is roughly a decade older than me, but I identified greatly with his descriptions of the time period. Plus, he and I were both fans of The Roy Rogers Show on TV, though Bryson seems a little more put off than I was about how the show couldn’t seem to decide which century the characters were living in.

By Bill Bryson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of our most beloved and bestselling authors, a vivid, nostalgic, and utterly hilarious memoir of growing up in the 1950s.

Born in 1951 in the middle of the United States, Des Moines, Iowa, Bill Bryson is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24 carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generation, Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around the house wearing a jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel round his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings…


Book cover of Faery Tale: One Woman's Search for Enchantment in a Modern World

K.T. Anglehart Author Of The Wise One

From my list on making magic feel just within reach.

Who am I?

Since reading the Harry Potter series (I know, how original! But bear with me), I’d been searching for books that awoke the same feelings of awe, curiosity, and inspiration in me. It’s been my mission—to be on the dramatic side—to find books that make magic feel just within reach of our world, which is why I set out to write my own urban fantasy story, The Wise One. My creation process involved years of extensive research on esoteric topics and Celtic folklore, including visiting most of my story’s locations during my travels across Ireland and Scotland. What I can boldly say after immersing myself in the landscape and culture is this: magic totally does exist. 

K.T.'s book list on making magic feel just within reach

K.T. Anglehart Why did K.T. love this book?

When I was recommended this book, I was in the midst of my own journey of self-discovery, like the author was in writing it. I was just starting to embrace who I wanted to be: someone who could open people’s imaginations to the magic that is already all around us. Faery Tale is the story that prompted me to book that trip to Ireland and Scotland and experience the mysticism of the lands for myself. I’m not a memoir enthusiast normally, but Pike’s (at first) skeptical POV,  detailed research into Celtic folklore, and real-life magical encounters inspired much of my debut novel. 

By Signe Pike,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In search of something to believe in once more, Signe Pike left behind a career in Manhattan to undertake a magical journey - literally. In a sweeping tour of Mexico, England, Ireland, Scotland and beyond, she takes readers to dark glens and abandoned forests, ancient sacred sites and local pubs, seeking people who might still believe in the elusive beings we call faeries. As Pike attempts to connect with the spirit world - and reconnect with her sense of wonder and purpose - she comes to view both herself and the world around her in a profoundly new light.

Captivating,…


Book cover of Three Men in a Float: Across England at 15 mph

Jacqueline Lambert Author Of Year 1 - Fur Babies in France

From my list on funny road trip memoirs.

Who am I?

I'm Jackie, and I quit work in 2016 to hit the road permanently with my husband and four dogs, so road tripping is close to my heart. Initially, we were Adventure Caravanners, who aimed To Boldly Go Where No Van Has Gone Before. Now, we’re at large in a self-converted six-wheel army lorry, with Mongolia in our sights. I have published four books Fur Babies in France, Dog on the Rhine, Dogs ‘n’ Dracula, and Pups on Piste, all within one of my favourite genres; light-hearted travel memoirs. My forthcoming books will chronicle a tour of Poland in a pandemic and our new life as Trucking Idiots.

Jacqueline's book list on funny road trip memoirs

Jacqueline Lambert Why did Jacqueline love this book?

Entry into the Mongol Rally from Europe to Ulan Ude in Russia requires a car with a maximum engine size of 1.0 litre. The premise is that such a farcically inappropriate vehicle will invite adventure and interaction with locals. 

Obviously, a 600-mile odyssey across southern Britain in an elderly electric milk float, with unreliable batteries and a top speed of 15 mph invites all kinds of mishaps.

Comedy writers Dan and Ian tackle alternate chapters. Since Dan authored the bestselling trilogy Crap Towns: a guide to the worst towns in Britain, there is plenty of off-the-wall detail about the places they passed through. Reliant on the kindness of strangers and third man Pras, an electrician with magical powers, this is a gently comic, informative, and quirky alternative to Jerome K. Jerome’s classic.

By Dan Kieran, Ian Vince,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Men in a Float as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After planning the entire trip on the back of a beer mat, buying a 1958 decommissioned milk float on eBay and charging its tired batteries, the team set off from Lowestoft to Land's End. On the way, they discovered that their float needed to charge for eight hours for every two hours it spent on the road. Relying on the milk of human kindness, they were at the mercy of strangers every night, sometimes even using other people's cookers just to keep the show on the road. En route, they were treated to tea and rock cakes by the Vice…


Book cover of Blue Highways

Kayla Anderson Author Of Moon Northern California Road Trip: Drives along the Coast, Redwoods, and Mountains with the Best Stops along the Way

From my list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair.

Who am I?

I was born and raised in Northern California, right on the banks of the Sacramento River. While I didn’t realize it growing up, it was an epicenter for outdoor adventures. Along with skiing, snowboarding, hiking, wakeboarding, and camping, I always read a lot. My dad was worried that I would have no sense of direction because I was always in the back of our van or RV reading a book. That led to writing…and I had my first article published in a wakeboarding magazine when I was 15 years old. Traveling always took a backburner to reading, but now it’s front and center of my writing. 

Kayla's book list on embarking on epic adventures from your armchair

Kayla Anderson Why did Kayla love this book?

This is classic literature in the realm of American travel.

I had no idea that “blue highways” existed, and even though Heat-Moon went cross-country back in the 1970s in his van equipped with his igloo cooler and makeshift bed (not like the $100k fancy campers you find today), the type of people you meet and experiences you have in this amazing country are still relevant today.

In Blue Highways Revisited, I was shocked to read how long it took for this book to get published and the stacks of printed-out drafts he had of it (I think it was like four feet high). If there are any travel writing classes taught as part of a creative writing program, then Blue Highways better be on the list. 

By William Least Heat-Moon,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Blue Highways as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hailed as a masterpiece of American travel writing, Blue Highways is an unforgettable journey along our nation's backroads.
William Least Heat-Moon set out with little more than the need to put home behind him and a sense of curiosity about "those little towns that get on the map -- if they get on at all -- only because some cartographer has a blank space to fill: Remote, Oregon; Simplicity, Virginia; New Freedom, Pennsylvania; New Hope, Tennessee; Why, Arizona; Whynot, Mississippi."
His adventures, his discoveries, and his recollections of the extraordinary people he encountered along the way amount to a revelation…


Book cover of Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia

Simon Henderson Author Of After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia

From my list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia.

Who am I?

British by birth, American by naturalization, Simon Henderson started in journalism as a trainee at the BBC before becoming its correspondent in Pakistan. Joining the Financial Times a year later, he was promptly sent to Iran to cover the 1979 Islamic revolution and went back again for the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. He now analyzes the Gulf states, energy, and the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan as the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Simon's book list on understanding modern Saudi Arabia

Simon Henderson Why did Simon love this book?

Better known these days for his writing on the palace dramas of the British royal family and being the historical adviser to the Netflix series The Crown, Lacey previously wrote the 1981 doorstopper The Kingdom: The History of Saudi Arabia to 1979. That was the year of the seizure by Sunni extremists of the Grand Mosque in Mecca as well as the Iranian (Shia) revolution.

This latest volume, published in 2009, looks at Saudi Arabia and the transition which was already taking place before the current King Salman took the throne and before anybody had heard of MbS.

By Robert Lacey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inside the Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Saudi Arabia is a country defined by paradox: it sits atop some of the richest oil deposits in the world, and yet the country's roiling disaffection produced sixteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. It is a modern state, driven by contemporary technology, and yet its powerful religious establishment would have its customs and practices rolled back to match those of the Prophet Muhammad over a thousand years ago. In a world where events in the Middle East continue to have geopolitical consequences far beyond the region's boundaries, an understanding of this complex nation is essential. With "Inside the Kingdom", British…


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