100 books like Empathy

By Susan Lanzoni,

Here are 100 books that Empathy fans have personally recommended if you like Empathy. 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 How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain

Lynne Malcolm Author Of All In The Mind: Fascinating, inspiring and transformative stories from the forefront of brain science

From my list on psychology of the human experience.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a science journalist and broadcaster with a degree in Psychology and a deep passion and fascination for people, their behavior, and the workings of the human mind.  For nine years, I produced and presented the popular Australian ABC radio program and podcast, All in the Mind, in which I explored a range of topics, including neuroscience, psychiatry, psychology, cognitive science, mental health, and human behavior. I’ve received numerous media awards and contributed to media award judging panels. All in the Mind - fascinating, inspiring, and transformative stories from the forefront of brain science is my first book. I continue to write and communicate about the topics I am inspired by. 

Lynne's book list on psychology of the human experience

Lynne Malcolm Why did Lynne love this book?

I love this book because it explores a new way of understanding human emotions. When you laugh, cry, or scowl with anger, you often assume that the emotions you're feeling are the same as everyone else’s. Lisa Feldman Barrett explains that this is not necessarily the case, according to the new science of emotion.

She clearly describes the research, including her own, that shows that emotions are not hard-wired at birth but are constructed by our brains and our bodies as we go through life. It means that we can be the architects of our emotional lives, and the implications for society are profound. Reading this book has excited me and given me a great deal of hope and optimism about how we can have more agency over our emotional lives. 

By Lisa Feldman Barrett,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked How Emotions Are Made as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Preeminent psychologist Lisa Barrett lays out how the brain constructs emotions in a way that could revolutionize psychology, health care, the legal system, and our understanding of the human mind.
“Fascinating . . . A thought-provoking journey into emotion science.”—The Wall Street Journal
“A singular book, remarkable for the freshness of its ideas and the boldness and clarity with which they are presented.”—Scientific American
“A brilliant and original book on the science of emotion, by the deepest thinker about this topic since Darwin.”—Daniel Gilbert, best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness
The science of emotion is in the midst of a…


Book cover of The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions

Rob Boddice Author Of The History of Emotions

From my list on what your emotions are and where they come from.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of emotions, science, and medicine, with more than a decade of experience in meddling in other scientific affairs, especially in the worlds of psychology and neuroscience. I’m fascinated by human emotions in part, at least, because I feel we’re living in a crude emotional age. I’ve worked in five different countries since gaining my PhD in 2005. In that time I’ve written or edited 14 books of historical non-fiction, as well as dozens of articles and reviews. You can freely read my work in Aeon or History Today. I live between Canada (my adopted country) and Finland, where I frequently lament the loss of my European citizenship.

Rob's book list on what your emotions are and where they come from

Rob Boddice Why did Rob love this book?

This was my entry point to emotion research, as it is for many others. Reddy’s work is of seismic importance to me and for most of the people I know. It is largely responsible for making the field in which I now work, or at least for making other people take it seriously.

Up until this book came out, there was nothing that could compare in terms of its theoretical sophistication and its careful application. I go back to this book again and again, for support, clarity, and direction. It is, probably, the most thumbed thing I own.

By William M. Reddy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions, William M. Reddy offers a theory of emotions which both critiques and expands upon recent research in the fields of anthropology and psychology. Exploring the links between emotion and cognition, between culture and emotional expression, Reddy applies this theory of emotions to the processes of history. He demonstrates how emotions change over time, how emotions have a very important impact on the course of events, and how different social orders either facilitate or constrain emotional life. In an investigation of Revolutionary France, where sentimentalism in literature and philosophy…


Book cover of The Ascent of Affect: Genealogy and Critique

Rob Boddice Author Of The History of Emotions

From my list on what your emotions are and where they come from.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of emotions, science, and medicine, with more than a decade of experience in meddling in other scientific affairs, especially in the worlds of psychology and neuroscience. I’m fascinated by human emotions in part, at least, because I feel we’re living in a crude emotional age. I’ve worked in five different countries since gaining my PhD in 2005. In that time I’ve written or edited 14 books of historical non-fiction, as well as dozens of articles and reviews. You can freely read my work in Aeon or History Today. I live between Canada (my adopted country) and Finland, where I frequently lament the loss of my European citizenship.

Rob's book list on what your emotions are and where they come from

Rob Boddice Why did Rob love this book?

I like a scholarly bin fire as much as the next person. Leys’ book assembles all the dross of twentieth-century psychological essentialism, douses it in gallons of scholarly scorn, and lights a match.

I think it is massively important that the personalities and authorities that give scientific ideas their power and traction are exposed and critiqued, as a means of moving the needle on emotion knowledge production. This is a scholarly book, no question, but I love it for its unrelenting demolition job.

By Ruth Leys,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In recent years, the emotions have become a major, vibrant topic of research not merely in the biological and psychological sciences but throughout a wide swath of the humanities and social sciences as well. Yet, surprisingly, there is still no consensus on their basic nature or workings. Ruth Leys's brilliant, much anticipated history, therefore, is a story of controversy and disagreement. The Ascent of Affect focuses on the post-World War II period, when interest in the emotions as an object of study began to revive. Leys analyzes the ongoing debate over how to understand the emotions, paying particular attention to…


Book cover of Pity Transformed

Rob Boddice Author Of The History of Emotions

From my list on what your emotions are and where they come from.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of emotions, science, and medicine, with more than a decade of experience in meddling in other scientific affairs, especially in the worlds of psychology and neuroscience. I’m fascinated by human emotions in part, at least, because I feel we’re living in a crude emotional age. I’ve worked in five different countries since gaining my PhD in 2005. In that time I’ve written or edited 14 books of historical non-fiction, as well as dozens of articles and reviews. You can freely read my work in Aeon or History Today. I live between Canada (my adopted country) and Finland, where I frequently lament the loss of my European citizenship.

Rob's book list on what your emotions are and where they come from

Rob Boddice Why did Rob love this book?

This book unlocked secrets for me. I was searching for a way of making sense of my own historical work on sympathy in the nineteenth century when I turned to Konstan’s masterpiece on pity in the ancient world, in all its varieties and political forms.

The book could not have been further in time from my own focus, but Konstan’s methods, combined with his narrative sharpness, showed me the way. I read this book, and suddenly, I knew what to do.

By David Konstan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Pity Transformed" is an examination of how pity was imagined and expressed in classical antiquity. It pays particular attention to the ways in which the pity of the Greeks and Romans differed from modern ideas. Among the topics investigated in this study are the appeal to pity in courts of law and the connection between pity and desert; the relation between pity and love or intimacy; self-pity; the role of pity in war and its relation to human rights and human dignity; divine pity from paganism to Christianity; and why pity was considered an emotion. This book will lead readers…


Book cover of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People

Melody Wilding Author Of Trust Yourself: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work

From my list on to thrive as a highly sensitive person.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a human behavior professor, award-winning executive coach, and trained therapist, I’ve spent the last decade helping thousands of high-achieving, highly sensitive professionals discover ways to enjoy their success without self-doubt, stress, and emotional overwhelm. I’m a highly sensitive person myself, so I intimately understand what it’s like to navigate the world as a deep thinker and feeler. Trust Yourself is the actionable guide I wish I had had as a big-feeling, driven person trying to find my way in my career and figure out how to believe in myself in the process.

Melody's book list on to thrive as a highly sensitive person

Melody Wilding Why did Melody love this book?

Highly sensitive people (HSPs) have more active mirror neurons, which means they can more acutely sense other people’s emotions. I have found that my empathy can be a tremendous gift, but without the right tools, feeling others’ energy can be draining. I enjoyed that Dr. Orloff’s presented a comprehensive toolkit, particularly for navigating relationships at home and work. This book isn’t a one-time read. It’s the type of book you reference and revisit over time. 

By Judith Orloff,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Empath's Survival Guide as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What is the difference between having empathy and being an empath? "Having empathy means our heart goes out to another person in joy or pain," says Judith Orloff, MD. "But for empaths it goes much further. We actually feel others' emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our own bodies, without the usual defenses that most people have." With The Empath's Survival Guide, Dr. Orloff offers a practical tool set to help sensitive people develop healthy coping mechanisms in our high-stimulus world-while fully embracing the empath's gifts of intuition, compassion, creativity, and spiritual connection.

This practical, empowering, and loving book was…


Book cover of Outside Is the Ocean

Rachel Swearingen Author Of How to Walk on Water and Other Stories

From my list on debut story collections to read cover to cover.

Why am I passionate about this?

From childhood on, I’ve been drawn to storytellers, especially those who use their imagination to captivate and question. My favorite stories twist and turn, and throw light on the every day to reveal what is inexplicable, weird, wondrous, and often heartrending. My taste runs wide, and I could list dozens of favorite collections. Having released my own debut book of stories during the pandemic, I learned firsthand how difficult it can be to find readers for story collections, especially when those collections are published by smaller presses. For that reason, I’ve chosen five recent debuts from masterful authors I hope more readers will discover. 

Rachel's book list on debut story collections to read cover to cover

Rachel Swearingen Why did Rachel love this book?

Outside Is the Ocean reads like a novel, with stories interlinked and main characters growing more faceted as you read. The book centers on Heike, who left her native Germany after the war to settle in America, and her son Stewart, who both loves her and yearns for freedom from the drama she creates. Lansburgh presents a fascinating portrait of Heike at various junctures in her life, with a small cast of characters orbiting around her. Be prepared to be drawn into Heike’s chaotic world as you read, and to oscillate back and forth between shock and empathy. This is a book about family and enduring bonds between mother and son. That it is so beautifully crafted only adds to the delight. 

By Matthew Lansburgh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II, crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike's struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike hopes will give her the affection and companionship she craves. As Galina grows up, Heike's grasp on reality frays, and she writes a series of letters to the son she thinks has abandoned her forever. It…


Book cover of The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898

Brian McAllister Linn Author Of Elvis's Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield

From my list on the peacetime US Army.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of modern (post-1898) American military history who has been fortunate enough to be at a university that supports my research. I have always been fascinated by the “black holes” in military history, the topics that are not glamorous like the big wars, charismatic generals, or Washington-level civil-military relations. This has led me to study such obscure topics as the conquest and pacification of the Philippines, the forty-year plans for Pacific defense prior to World War II, and how military officers have envisioned future war. The peacetime US Army is a terrific “black hole” because so many people, civilians, and military, assume that they already know that history.

Brian's book list on the peacetime US Army

Brian McAllister Linn Why did Brian love this book?

Coffman’s twin volumes are a, if not the, foundational texts on the social history of the peacetime US Army. Drawing on a host of sources, the books brought to light, in many cases for the first time, the experiences of officers, enlisted men, and their families from the Regular Army’s founding to the outbreak of World War II. Without apparent effort, the late Mac Coffman combined the history of a military organization with the stories of hundreds of individuals who were its components, and he did it with empathy, warmth, humor, and masterly tale-telling.

By Edward M. Coffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most important works of military history published in the last decade, The Old Army is the only comprehensive study of the people who made up the "garrison world" in the peacetime intervals between the War for Independence and the Spanish-American War. Drawing on diaries, letters, and other primary documents, Edward M. Coffman vividly recreates the harsh, often lonely life of men, collected mostly from the streets of Northern cities, for whom
enlistment was "a leap in the dark...a choice of evils." He pays special attention to the roles of women and children, as well as black Americans,…


Book cover of The Day War Came

Tim Warnes Author Of Dangerous!

From my list on for teaching kids empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer, illustrator, and champion of children’s books, with approximately 90 titles published over the last 25 years. I use this experience to guide parents to quality picture books via my blog, Stories Worth Sharing, which aims to help parents nurture and connect with their kids through stories. I can trace this passion back to my childhood. Snuggled in my father’s arms, we’d explore fantastic places together – like One Hundred Acre Wood, Busy Town, and Zuckerman’s barn. Picture books are foundational in developing young minds. These selected titles put your child in someone else’s shoes and teach them to empathise with others.

Tim's book list on for teaching kids empathy

Tim Warnes Why did Tim love this book?

Sadly, this powerful story feels more relevant than ever. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, it confronts the reality of war head-on, putting the reader in the shoes of a little girl whose everyday routine is shattered. Because of the subject matter, this may be unsuitable for very young or sensitive kids – but it proves that picture books can be a potent way of speaking to older kids, too.

The unsophisticated language and naive illustrations provide children easy access to important discussions surrounding conflict and misplaced children. Poignant, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting, this story reminds us of the reality of war and that our children provide hope for a peaceful future.

By Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Day War Came as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

A powerful and necessary picture book - the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey - all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious...

When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a…


Book cover of Charlie's Promise

Victoria Williamson Author Of Hag Storm

From my list on Scottish historical fiction for middle graders.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the heart of Scotland addicted to visiting museums and exploring local stories and legends. Now as an adult I’m either to be found with my nose in a history book or out on an archaeological dig. I love to weave the lives of Scottish heroes such as Roberts Burns into books filled with fantasy and adventure for children, and to write spine-chilling tales for adults where supernatural creatures from Scottish myths lurk between the pages. I recently co-created a series of educational writing videos for school children to help them explore the history of their local area, and hopefully inspire the historical authors of the future!

Victoria's book list on Scottish historical fiction for middle graders

Victoria Williamson Why did Victoria love this book?

Would you break the rules or break your promise? On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy called Josef hiding in the woods near his home. Josef can’t speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform. Charlie promises to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city. It’s a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship, and Charlie’s promise, to the limit

This is a beautiful story full of heart and empathy, and a welcome reminder of the kindness of strangers and the innocence of childhood.

By Annemarie Allan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Charlie's Promise as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Would you break the rules or break your promise? On the outskirts of Edinburgh, just before the outbreak of WW2, Charlie finds a starving German boy called Josef hiding in the woods near his home. Josef can't speak English and is desperately afraid, especially of anyone in uniform.
Charlie promises to help Josef find his Jewish relatives in the city. It's a journey that will force them to face their fears, testing their new-found friendship, and Charlie's promise, to the limit.


Book cover of Baker Cat

Tim Warnes Author Of Dangerous!

From my list on for teaching kids empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer, illustrator, and champion of children’s books, with approximately 90 titles published over the last 25 years. I use this experience to guide parents to quality picture books via my blog, Stories Worth Sharing, which aims to help parents nurture and connect with their kids through stories. I can trace this passion back to my childhood. Snuggled in my father’s arms, we’d explore fantastic places together – like One Hundred Acre Wood, Busy Town, and Zuckerman’s barn. Picture books are foundational in developing young minds. These selected titles put your child in someone else’s shoes and teach them to empathise with others.

Tim's book list on for teaching kids empathy

Tim Warnes Why did Tim love this book?

Baker Cat is like a feline Cinderella, tasked to do all the hard work at the bakery. His responsibilities are endless. And at the end of the day, he’s still expected to rid the bakery of mice. Simmonds’ characterisation is faultless, with a timeless feel that reminds me of Beatrix Potter’s work.

Baker Cat is a funny and dramatic story told through a mix of speech balloons, comic panels, and traditional narrative sections. I have precious memories of sharing it with my own boys when they were young – we loved those tiny mice and Baker Cat’s delicious-looking pastries! Definitely one to read over and again.

By Posy Simmonds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

All day long the baker's cat toils in the bakery and all night he is expected to catch the mice that run riot in the storeroom. If he doesn't catch any mice, the beastly baker tells him, he won't get any food. Too exhausted to chase after the cheeky rodents, the baker's cat becomes thin and sad and weepy, until the mice take pity on him and together they concoct a clever plan . . .

"Posy Simmonds delights as ever with a subversive story rich in humour and glorious in its bakery details." Guardian

"Anything by Posy Simmonds is…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in empathy, aesthetics, and presidential biography?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about empathy, aesthetics, and presidential biography.

Empathy Explore 147 books about empathy
Aesthetics Explore 61 books about aesthetics
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography