100 books like Empires of the Silk Road

By Christopher I Beckwith,

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

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Book cover of The Scythians: Nomad Warriors of the Steppe

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Barry Cunliffe has time and again proved himself to gracefully weave serious scholarship with compelling reflection. As he does with his other books, he builds conclusions and raises questions based on the most recent archaeological evidence. The Scythians are greatly misunderstood, their legacy shaded by the often-disparaging views of their contemporaries. Barry Cunliffe’s archeological approach helps the Scythians speak through the things they left behind.

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south - the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks - and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the
Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from…


Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield)

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

If one wanted to understand the study of the galaxy, they might start with Galileo. Something similar could be said about starting with the historian Herodotus to understand ancient peoples (and the study of them). Was he serious about his craft? Yes. Was he a product of his time? Yes. Should you take everything he writes as fact? Absolutely not. So why read Herodotus? Because he was the first person (as far as I know) to study the Scythians for the purpose of scholarship. Moreover, his work contains many of the stories that scholars since his time have tried to prove, disprove, or reinterpret. In short, if you want to join a conversation, it can be helpful to know how it began.

By Herodotus, Robin Waterfield (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Histories (Translated by Robin Waterfield) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Herodotus is not only known as the `father of history', as Cicero called him, but also the father of ethnography; as well as charting the historical background to the Persian Wars, his curiosity also prompts frequent digression on the cultures of the peoples he introduces. While much of the information he gives has proved to be astonishingly accurate, he also entertains us with delightful tales of one-eyed men and gold-digging ants. This readable new translation is
supplemented with expansive notes that provide readers the background that they need to appreciate the book in depth.

ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100…


Book cover of The Landmark Arrian: The Campaigns of Alexander

David Austin Beck Author Of The Greek Prince of Afghanistan

From my list on understanding the Scythians.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an author who believes that history contains an endless number of stories of how our past peers dealt with and contributed to the tension, fusion, and reinvention that is human existence. When writing The Greek Prince of Afghanistan, which focuses on the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom of ancient Afghanistan, I included a Scythian character, because I felt the novel’s story, like humanity’s story, is best told through multiple perspectives. The above books helped me greatly in that effort.

David's book list on understanding the Scythians

David Austin Beck Why did David love this book?

Arrian is one of the few primary sources used to illuminate the campaigns of Alexander the Great. It is also one of the few primary sources to focus directly on the Scythians – in this case, the Saka (an eastern group of Scythians). After conquering the Bactrian region, Alexander faced war with the Scythians, as well as local rebellions, which the Scythians played a role in. Arrian’s account is an important source for understanding the Scythians as it speaks directly to the clash of an army built for pitched battle against an army build for more mobile warfare.

By Robert B. Strassler, James Romm,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Arrian’s Campaigns of Alexander, widely considered the most authoritative history of the brilliant leader’s great conquests, is the latest addition to the acclaimed Landmark series.
 
After twelve years of hard-fought campaigns, Alexander the Great controlled a vast empire that was bordered by the Adriatic sea to the west and modern-day India to the east. Arrian, himself a military commander, combines his firsthand experience of battle with material from Ptolemy’s memoirs and other ancient sources to compose a singular portrait of Alexander. This vivid and engaging new translation of Arrian will fascinate readers who are interested in classical studies, the history…


Book cover of Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Fernanda Pirie Author Of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

From my list on making us rethink global history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an anthropologist on a mission to discover how people have used, and abused, law over the past 4,000 years. After a decade in a wig and gown at the London Bar, I headed back to university to pursue a long-standing interest in Tibetan culture. I spent two years living with remote villagers and nomads, freezing over dung fires, herding yaks, and learning about traditional legal practices. Now, based at the University of Oxford, I’ve turned to legal history, comparing ancient Tibetan texts with examples from all over the world. The Rule of Laws brings a long sweep of legal history and its fascinating diversity to a wide audience.

Fernanda's book list on making us rethink global history

Fernanda Pirie Why did Fernanda love this book?

Scott takes us through the evidence of the earliest hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies and asks why anyone ever allowed rulers to amass power and centralize control of resources. The evidence is that farmers flourished for centuries without letting anyone lord it over them. Why, then, does agriculture seem to have led to the rise of the state? Readable and compelling, Scott's latest book makes a really convincing case against the benefits, and inevitability, of the state.

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Economist Best History Book 2017

"History as it should be written."-Barry Cunliffe, Guardian

"Scott hits the nail squarely on the head by exposing the staggering price our ancestors paid for civilization and political order."-Walter Scheidel, Financial Times

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical…


Book cover of Reclamation: A Cultural Policy for Arab-Israeli Partnership

Georgette F. Bennett Ph.D. Author Of Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By: How One Woman Confronted the Greatest Humanitarian Crisis of Our Time

From my list on the shifting dynamics in the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

Conflict resolution and intergroup relations are my passions. Perhaps because I’m a child of the Holocaust. My parents and I arrived in the U.S. as stateless refugees. The Holocaust primed me to explore why religion inspires so much hate. My career as a criminologist got me interested in the link between religion and violence. My refugee roots led me to an International Rescue Committee report on the Syrian crisis. That report hit me hard and felt very personal because it echoed my own family’s suffering in the Holocaust. I saw an opportunity to build bridges between enemies—Israel and Syria, Jews and Muslims—while also saving lives.  

Georgette's book list on the shifting dynamics in the Middle East

Georgette F. Bennett Ph.D. Why did Georgette love this book?

Joseph Braude has spearheaded historic and courageous initiatives to integrate Israel into the Middle East for the benefit of the entire region. One of these is the Arab Council for Regional Integration, which I’ve been proud to personally support. Reclamation traces the shifting alliances and unlikely converging of interests of the Sunni world with Israel. Braude is extraordinarily knowledgeable and seasoned in back-channel diplomacy.  

By Joseph Braude,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern

Annika A. Culver Author Of Glorify the Empire: Japanese Avant-Garde Propaganda in Manchukuo

From my list on Manchukuo (Manchuria).

Why am I passionate about this?

I began formally researching Japanese occupied northeast China in the late nineties in graduate school at Harvard University. Manchuria always fascinated me as a confluence of cultures: even prior to the 19th century, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Russians, Eastern Europeans, Mongols, and indigenous peoples circulated within the region in China's periphery. In the 1930s until 1945, Japanese propaganda portrayed the area as a "utopia" under Confucian principles, but in the mid-1990s, the horrors of the occupation for colonized peoples as well as imperial Japan's biological weapons experimentation during the Asia-Pacific War came to light in Japan and elsewhere as former Japanese settlers as well as researchers began to tell their stories.

Annika's book list on Manchukuo (Manchuria)

Annika A. Culver Why did Annika love this book?

One of the first scholars to write a full-length monograph on Manchukuo, Duara delves into the Chinese and Japanese writers who viewed northeast China under Japanese occupation as a means to envision their own Pan-Asianist ideals. He analyses this in the context of a broader "East Asian modern" in Manchukuo, and utilizes political and literary sources to unearth previous connections with previous iterations and currents of Chinese nationalism tied to the Pan-Asianism of the early twentieth century.

By Prasenjit Duara,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this powerful and provocative book, Prasenjit Duara uses the case of Manchukuo, the Japanese puppet state in northeast China from 1932-1945, to explore how such antinomies as imperialism and nationalism, modernity and tradition, and governmentality and exploitation interacted in the post-World War I period. His study of Manchukuo, which had a population of 40 million and was three times the area of Japan, catalyzes a broader understanding of new global trends that characterized much of the twentieth century. Asking why Manchukuo so desperately sought to appear sovereign, Duara examines the cultural and political resources it mobilized to make claims…


Book cover of Captive Memories: Far East Prisoners of War

Cecil Lowry Author Of Frank Pantridge MC: Japanese Prisoner of War and Inventor of the Portable Defibrillator

From my list on prisoners of war held by the Japanese during WW2.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was taken prisoner by the Japanese at the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February 1942. He spent three and a half years slaving on the Thai Burma railway. During my early years growing up, my father rarely talked about his experiences, and it wasn't until after he died in 1990 that I became interested in what he went through as a prisoner of war. Since then, I've spent my time researching the Japanese prisoner of war experiences and have read countless books on the subject. I myself have published four books and I consider myself one of the leading experts on the Japanese prisoner of war experience.

Cecil's book list on prisoners of war held by the Japanese during WW2

Cecil Lowry Why did Cecil love this book?

This book tells the story of the 130,000 men who were captives of the Japanese during World War Two. Food and equipment were minimal or non-existent, men died daily, many in agony from which there was no relief and yet in the midst of such horrors the human spirit steadfastly refused to be broken. Captives helped each other, intense bonds were formed, and selfless sacrifices made. Freedom for those who made it home after the war ended meant many things, home and family comfort of course, but also an adjustment for the loss of friendships and a difficult road to recovery for some.

The authors talked to many of these men and this is their story.

By Geoff Gill, Meg Parkes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Conditions for Far East Prisoners of War were truly hellish. Appalling diseases were rife, the stench indescribable. Food and equipment were minimal or non existent. Men died daily, many in agony from which there was no relief. And yet, in the midst of such horrors, the human spirit steadfastly refused to be broken. Captives helped each other, intense bonds were formed, selfless sacrifces made. Tools and medical equipment were fashioned from whatever could be found, anything that could make life more bearable. Resilience, resourcefulness, pride and camaraderie; these were the keys to survival. Freedom, for those who made it, meant…


Book cover of The Forgotten Air Force: The Royal Air Force in the War Against Japan 1941-1945

Carl Molesworth Author Of Flying Tiger Ace: The story of Bill Reed, China’s Shining Mark

From my list on the Air War in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII.

Why am I passionate about this?

Carl Molesworth’s interest in China and the Far East dates back to childhood memories of stories told by his mother and grandmother of their experiences living in China during the 1920s. He acquired his interest in aviation from his father. Carl began researching the air war in the China-Burma-India Theater while working as a newspaper editor in the late 1970s and published his first book on the subject, Wing To Wing – Air Combat in China 1943-45, in 1990. Of his 14 subsequent books, nine have covered various aspects of air combat in the CBI.

Carl's book list on the Air War in the China-Burma-India Theater during WWII

Carl Molesworth Why did Carl love this book?

Understanding the full scope of the air war in the CBI requires knowledge of Royal Air Force operations against the Japanese, and Probert’s book delivers. I regret that I am not aware of a similar book covering the CBI story from the point of view of the Japanese Army Air Force. Probert begins his book with the arrival of RAF flying boats at Singapore in 1928 and recounts in detail the events of World War II from the debacle in Burma and Malaya in 1941-42 to the hard-won victory in 1945. Substantial appendices, notes, photographs and maps complete the package.

By Henry Probert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The role of the Royal Air Force in the Far Eastern war has received much less attention from historians than its many activities in the war against Germany and Italy. Indeed, just as the Fourteenth Army was and still is referred to as the Forgotten Army, so can the airmen and airwomen who fought alongside them reasonably consider themselves the Forgotten Air Force. This book, published to mark the 50th anniversary of the defeat of Japan, recalls and explains their achievements, and pays them their rightful tribute. The history covers, among other things, the problems of the 1930s as they…


Book cover of East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies

Ignacio López-Calvo Author Of The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, and Performance

From my list on Asian-Latin American exchanges.

Why am I passionate about this?

Extensive research on cultural production by Latin American authors of Asian ancestry has given me a comprehensive understanding of the development of Transpacific studies. For the last decade, my research has focused, for the most part, on South-South intercultural exchanges and cultural production by and about Latin American authors of Asian descent. I have written five books dealing with these topics: 2008 Imaging the Chinese in Cuban Literature and Culture (2009), The Affinity of the Eye: Writing Nikkei in Peru (2013), Dragons in the Land of the Condor: Writing Tusán in Peru (2014), Japanese Brazilian Saudades: Diasporic Identities and Cultural Production (2019), and The Mexican Transpacific: Nikkei Writing, Visual Arts, Performance (forthcoming).  

Ignacio's book list on Asian-Latin American exchanges

Ignacio López-Calvo Why did Ignacio love this book?

This book uses a transpacific, decolonial, and interdisciplinary approach to study the connections between Latin America and East Asia, concentrating on contemporary commodity extraction and exchanges. The book explores South-South exchanges without Global North metropolitan mediations, thus recentering East Asia-Latin America as an epistemological lens through which to consider these sophisticated networks and produce new knowledge. In my view, the originality of this book resides first in the interdisciplinary connection it makes between the decolonial project and transpacific studies, and secondly, in the two-pronged approach from two unfortunately often disconnected academic perspectives: Latin American and East Asian Studies. 

By Chiara Olivieri (editor), Jordi Serrano-Muñoz (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked East Asia, Latin America, and the Decolonization of Transpacific Studies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this collective work, researchers from different disciplines reflect upon the challenges and opportunities of decolonizing transpacific studies through the lens of a few paradigmatic case-studies that deal with connections between East Asia and Latin America. The present book offers a productive problematization of the idea of the transpacific as a concept and a space that is not restricted to a single definition. We defend that the transpacific can instead promote an understanding of agents and experiences that share many common traits that have been generally overlooked by a hegemonic interpretation of knowledge and the relationship between regions.By fostering an…


Book cover of A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East

Idanna Pucci Author Of The Lady of Sing Sing: An American Countess, an Italian Immigrant, and Their Epic Battle for Justice in New York's Gilded Age

From my list on far-flung places and times.

Why am I passionate about this?

Early in life, I felt the presence of a “guardian angel” who would take my hand and accompany my mind to imagine distant cultures. I grew up in Florence, and in our history, there were so many tales of people coming from afar, and of Florentines traveling across deserts and oceans. And as time passed, I would be drawn to beautifully written true stories which opened windows onto different epochs and dramas of life in both near and far-flung places of the world.

Idanna's book list on far-flung places and times

Idanna Pucci Why did Idanna love this book?

Warned by a Hong-Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for a whole year, the author – a vastly experienced Far East war and revolutions correspondent of the German Der Spiegel – took what he called “the first step into an unknown world.” It turned out to be one of the most extraordinary years he ever spent: he was marked by death and instead he was reborn. Geography expanded under his feet. Magnificently written in the best traditions of travel literature. A full immersion into the invisible world and belief systems that shape Southeast Asian cultures.

By Tiziano Terzani,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Fortune-Teller Told Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Warned by a fortune-teller not to risk flying, the author - a seasoned correspondent - took to travelling by rail, road and sea. Consulting fortune-tellers and shamans wherever he went, he learnt to understand and respect older ways of life and beliefs now threatened by the crasser forms of Western modernity.

William Shawcross in the Literary Review praised Terzani for 'his beautifully written adventure story... a voyage of self-discovery... He sees fortune-tellers, soothsayers, astrologers, chiromancers, seers, shamans, magicians, palmists, frauds, men and women of god (many gods) all over Asia and in Europe too... Almost every page and every story…


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