100 books like Ethical Excellence

By Heidi M. Giebel,

Here are 100 books that Ethical Excellence fans have personally recommended if you like Ethical Excellence. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Wrong of Rudeness: Learning Modern Civility from Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

In this deeply personal book, philosopher Amy Olberding shows how ancient Confucians can help us to grasp the centrality of manners and civility to good lives today. The book has important lessons for anyone who has ever struggled to be politeor wondered whether it's worth the bother. It’s also frequently hilarious. 

By Amy Olberding,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a time of fractious politics, being rude can feel wickedly gratifying, while being polite can feel simple-minded or willfully naive. Do manners and civility even matter now? Is it worthwhile to make the effort to be polite? When rudeness has become routine and commonplace, why bother? When so much of public and social life with others is painful and bitterly acrimonious, why should anyone be polite?

As Amy Olberding argues, civility and ordinary politeness are linked both to big values, such as respect and consideration, and to the fundamentally social nature of human beings. Being polite is not just…


Book cover of Understanding the Analects of Confucius: A New Translation of Lunyu with Annotations

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Peimin Ni’s translation of the foundational Confucian text, the Analects of Confucius, is not for those who want to zoom through the book looking for catchy phrases. Ni presents the text as a living document, embedded in two thousand years of conversation over its meaning. He strives to mirror ambiguities in the original in his translation, and his comments do a lovely job of opening the text up for the reflective reader. 

By Peimin Ni,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature presented by the Modern Language Association

The Analects of Confucius is arguably the single most influential work of China's cultural heritage. In this new English translation, Peimin Ni accomplishes the rare feat of simultaneously providing a faithful translation of the text, offering his own reading based on gongfu (practice) perspective, and presenting major alternative readings to help the reader understand how diverse interpretations and controversies arise. In addition to the inclusion of the original Chinese text, Ni adds a comprehensive introduction, a…


Book cover of Learning to Be a Sage: Selections from the Conversations of Master Chu, Arranged Topically

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Zhu Xi (also written Chu Hsi; 1130-1200 C.E.) was among the very greatest Confucians both as theorist and as teacher. I love how contemporary his concerns seem; when he worries about students who are "just hurrying through the texts, reading for their literal meaning and taking little pleasure in them," he might as well be talking about most of us today. In Gardner’s fluid translation, Zhu’s millennium-old ideas about how and why to learn—ultimately aimed at becoming a “sage”—turn out to be remarkably relevant. 

By Chu Hsi, Daniel K. Gardner (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Learning to Be a Sage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Students and teachers of Chinese history and philosophy will not want to miss Daniel Gardner's accessible translation of the teachings of Chu Hsi (1130-1200)--a luminary of the Confucian tradition who dominated Chinese intellectual life for centuries. Homing in on a primary concern of our own time, Gardner focuses on Chu Hsi's passionate interest in education and its importance to individual development. For hundreds of years, every literate person in China was familiar with Chu Hsi's teachings. They informed the curricula of private academies and public schools and became the basis of the state's prestigious civil service examinations. Nor was Chu's…


Book cover of Confucianism in China: An Introduction

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From my list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Why am I passionate about this?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Stephen C. Angle Why did Stephen love this book?

Most books on the history of Confucianism are dry and concentrated on the earliest period, during and soon after Confucius lived. I’m not saying Confucius himself wasn’t important, but the greatness of Tony Swain’s book is that it manages to be both fascinating and engaging, even occasionally snarky, while also bringing the story of Confucianism all the way up to the twenty-first century. If you want to think about Confucianism as something important today, it helps to understand the evolving ways the tradition has been lived throughout the centuries. 

By Tony Swain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This accessible history of Confucianism, or the 'Way of the Ru', emphasizes the religious dimensions of the tradition. It clearly explains the tradition's unique and subtle philosophical ideals as well as the 'arts of the Ru' whereby seemingly simple acts such as reading, sitting quietly, good manners, and attending to family and state responsibilities, became ways of ultimate transformation.

This book explains the origins of the Ru and documents their impact in imperial China, before providing extensive coverage of the modern era. Confucianism in China: An Introduction shows how the long history of the Ru is vital to comprehending China…


Book cover of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Shannah Kennedy and Colleen Callander Author Of Elevate: Unlock Your Extraordinary Potential

From my list on that will change your life.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are thrilled to present this carefully curated book list. As passionate advocates for leadership, self-mastery, and health and well-being, we have handpicked these titles to inspire and empower individuals on their journey toward personal and professional growth. Each book within this collection resonates with principles that we believe are pivotal for fostering resilience, achieving self-mastery, and maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Whether you're seeking leadership insights, self-help guidance, or ways to enhance your overall well-being, these books offer a diverse range of perspectives and actionable strategies. We hope this collection becomes a valuable resource for you on your path to personal excellence. – Colleen Callander & Shannah Kennedy. 

Shannah's book list on that will change your life

Shannah Kennedy and Colleen Callander Why did Shannah love this book?

I loved this book. It was a thought-provoking guide to navigating life's challenges and complexities. I especially loved the way Jordan Peterson drew on psychology, philosophy, and personal anecdotes to impart practical principles for finding meaning and purpose.

Each rule serves as a roadmap for self-improvement, urging you to confront challenges, take responsibility, and strive for a meaningful existence. Jordan Peterson's insights are both profound and accessible, providing me with a framework for personal growth in a world often marked by chaos.

Whether exploring the nature of truth or the importance of standing tall, this book is a compelling and enriching read.

By Jordan B. Peterson,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked 12 Rules for Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Penguin presents the CD edition of 12 Rules for Life written and read by Jordan B. Peterson

Jordan Peterson's work as a clinical psychologist has reshaped the modern understanding of personality, and now he has become one of the world's most popular public thinkers, with his lectures on topics ranging from the Bible to romantic relationships drawing tens of millions of viewers. In an era of polarizing politics, echo chambers and trigger warnings, his startling message about the value of personal responsibility and the dangers of ideology has resonated around the world.

In this book, he combines ancient wisdom with…


Book cover of The Way of the Superior Man: A Spiritual Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Women, Work, and Sexual Desire

Daniel Mangena Author Of Stepping Beyond Intention

From my list on to break through your blocks.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having brought myself back from the brink more than once, finally building a lasting, abundant life for myself; I know what it takes and I know how easy it is to lose your way. I am extremely passionate about helping others avoid the pitfalls, break through the self-imposed barriers and find their own version of abundance. It’s not just about money, though that’s certainly a component for a lot of people. It’s about bringing awareness to what your dream life actually looks like, getting precise about it, and then clearing you a path that leads inexorably towards it. I have walked that path myself and now, I want to help you do the same. 

Daniel's book list on to break through your blocks

Daniel Mangena Why did Daniel love this book?

What I love about The Way of the Superior Man is that it frames the traditional, ancient ways of looking at masculine energy in a way that those of us in the modern, 21st-century western world can relate to. 

This is not a book about being a man, or in any way exclusively for men. It’s about how we relate to the masculine energy that is inside of all of us. This is an important component of what I teach in Stepping Beyond Intention as well because it shows us how we relate to others and the world around us. 

It’s about getting you to see the interplay and polarity of energies that exist within you. Armed with that awareness, you’ll be able to better direct yourself at achieving your goals. 

By David Deida,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Though much has changed in society since the first publication of The Way of the Superior Man, men of all ages still "tussle with the challenges of women, work, and sexual desire." Including an all-new preface by author David Deida, this 20th-anniversary edition of the classic guide to male spirituality offers the next generation the opportunity to cultivate trust in the moment and put forth the best versions of themselves in an ever-changing world.

In The Way of the Superior Man, Deida explores the most important issues in men's lives-from career and family to women and intimacy to love and…


Book cover of Making Sense of It All: PASCAL and the Meaning of Life

John G. Stackhouse Jr. Author Of Can I Believe? Christianity for the Hesitant

From my list on why smart people believe in Christianity.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since my ninth grade English teacher provoked me with religious questions I not only couldn’t answer, but had never even considered, I’ve been interrogating my Christian faith. Now, several decades later, with a PhD from the University of Chicago and a handful of books published by the Oxford University Press, I’m in a better position to answer those questions, and to recognize the good answers of others. I don’t think we ever get perfect answers to the Big Questions, but we can get answers adequate for trusting God, and that’s enough.

John's book list on why smart people believe in Christianity

John G. Stackhouse Jr. Why did John love this book?

You’ll have to work to find a copy of this book, but it will be worth your while. Morris is a brilliant philosopher (PhD from Yale, formerly on the faculty at Notre Dame) who has a flair for public speaking and accessible writing. (He wrote the Philosophy for Dummies book also.) In this volume, he champions the French scientific and philosophical genius Blaise Pascal to show the relevance of Pascal’s thought to our time and to our most pressing concerns.

By Thomas V. Morris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Making Sense of It All as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instructive and entertaining book that addresses basic life questions. Relating numerous personal anecdotes, incorporating, intriguing material from the films of Woody Allen and the journals of Leo Tolstoy, and using the writings of the seventeenth-century genius Blaise Pascal as a central guide, Morris explores the nature of faith, reason, and the meaning of life. His lucid reflections provide fresh, fertile insights and perspectives for any thoughtful person journeying through life.


Book cover of How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question

Travis Rieder Author Of Catastrophe Ethics: How to Choose Well in a World of Tough Choices

From my list on philosophy books for everyone.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a philosopher and bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, where I teach students and conduct scholarship mainly for my colleagues and policymakers. But my popular writing is driven by the belief that many of the things I find interesting to think and write about are interesting not because I’m an academic—but because I’m a human, and so it’s likely that other humans would find them interesting too. So, while I enjoy dissecting esoteric scholarship as much as the next professor, my passion is exploring important ideas in a format that everyone can enjoy. This has been the goal of my first two books and will hopefully be the goal of many more.

Travis' book list on philosophy books for everyone

Travis Rieder Why did Travis love this book?

Michael Schur is not a philosopher—he’s a comedian and the creator of the hit TV show The Good Place. Thus, since I am a professional philosopher, perhaps I’m supposed to be snide about the fact that Schur wrote a philosophy book. But I’m not. I really love the book, and I’ve recommended it to many friends who want a light and airy introduction to philosophy.

It’s funny and irreverent and does an impressive amount of really good philosophy. I laughed out loud while reading it, and even though I teach a lot of the fairly introductory material that Schur covers, I learned a lot just due to the breadth of what he discusses in this wide-ranging book. I came away thinking that perhaps more comedians should do philosophy!

By Michael Schur,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Be Perfect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

* From the writer and executive producer of the award-winning Netflix series The Good Place that made moral philosophy fun: a foolproof guide to making the correct moral decision in every situation you ever encounter, anywhere on earth, forever *

'An absolute breeze to read; funny and enlightening and revealing' - Guardian

'Enormously enjoyable, useful and readable' - The Times

How can we live a more ethical life?

This question has plagued people for thousands of years, but it's never been tougher to answer than it is now, thanks to challenges great and small that…


Book cover of A Field Guide to a Happy Life: 53 Brief Lessons for Living

Matthew Van Natta Author Of The Beginner's Guide to Stoicism: Tools for Emotional Resilience and Positivity

From my list on practicing Stoicism.

Why am I passionate about this?

Matthew J. Van Natta is an author and podcaster who has been guiding people to Stoicism for over a decade. His focus is on the daily application of Stoic philosophy within the modern world. He writes fiction, drinks coffee, beer, and whiskey, and contemplates the human condition. His writings have been featured on SpiritualNaturalistSociety.org and Modern Stoicism.

Matthew's book list on practicing Stoicism

Matthew Van Natta Why did Matthew love this book?

A Field Guide to a Happy Life is an outstanding example of what a modern Stoic book can and should be. Pigliucci has taken the famous Handbook (Enchiridion) of the Roman Stoic teacher, Epictetus, and reworked it to reflect a more modern approach to the philosophy. As such, this field guide is a portable, practical guide to applying Stoic wisdom in your day to day life.

What I most appreciate about A Field Guide to a Happy Life is that the author’s update of the philosophy is clearly described in a later section of the book. This allows the reader to compare and contrast the ancient with the modern. What does it mean to adopt and adapt a two thousand year old philosophy? This unique book is both a practical philosophical guide, and a jumping off point to deeper study.

By Massimo Pigliucci,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Field Guide to a Happy Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Bursting with practical wisdom and engaging stories ... a Stoicism 2.0 for twenty-first century happiness' Skye Cleary

'A bold, contemporary updating of Stoicism for the present day' John Sellars, author of Lessons in Stoicism

Learn how to survive life's hardships and enjoy its pleasures with the modern stoic mindset.

In this enlightening book, philosopher Massimo Pigliucci offers a thoughtful and modern reinterpretation of Epictetus's 53 lessons for living a good life. Drawing on the ancient wisdom of the Stoics, this is a comforting guide that will help you reclaim the power of your emotional response and let go of the…


Book cover of This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Sharon Lebell Author Of The Art of Living

From my list on making the most meaningful life.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a child I have been obsessed with the questions “how do we each live the best possible life and what does that mean?” I had the good fortune of having a family friend who was a philosophy professor from India. When I was in middle school, he shared books with me from his vast philosophical library which became the springboard for my eventual career as a writer and speaker about philosophy, ethics, spirituality, feminism, and religion. My greatest delight is talking with others who are sincerely trying to point their lives in a noble and sincere direction and are sharing their gifts to elevate the quality of life for all.

Sharon's book list on making the most meaningful life

Sharon Lebell Why did Sharon love this book?

Reading This is Water is a heartbreaking but beautiful experience, because the author, a philosophical and literary giant, took his own life. Wallace gave us so much in his too-short life. And, he had so much more to give. Nevertheless, this tender little book will fill you with compassion for yourself and for humanity in general. It is not a manual for living, but for seeing the world around you more clearly so that you can let more beauty and goodwill into your mind and heart while spreading the same to others. This is a little treasure.

By David Foster Wallace,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace's electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend. Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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