27 books like Frederick the Great

By Nancy Mitford,

Here are 27 books that Frederick the Great fans have personally recommended if you like Frederick the Great. 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 Northern Crusades

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

When we say the word Crusades, most of us think of Jerusalem, and the many Christian efforts to wrest control of what was called the Holy Land from Islamic control -- six separate expeditions from 1095-1291. The foundation of Prussia is found in the lesser-known, but equally sanguinary campaigns of conquest undertaken by a religious order of Germanic origin, the Teutonic Knights. Their aim was to wrest lands along the Baltic Sea, east of the Oder, Vistula, and Nieman Rivers, from non-Christian Slavic tribes, a process that surged back and forth for over four centuries, until the Order was secularized in 1525 by its last grandmaster, a Hohenzollern. Christiansen's impressive, chronological narrative gives a comprehensive overview, and has the additional quality of being very well written. The Teutonic Order is the foundation story of Prussia, along with the emergence of the Hohenzollern dynasty.

By Eric Christiansen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 'Northern Crusades', inspired by the Pope's call for a Holy War, are less celebrated than those in the Middle East, but they were also more successful: vast new territories became and remain Christian, such as Finland, Estonia and Prussia. Newly revised in the light of the recent developments in Baltic and Northern medieval research, this authoritative overview provides a balanced and compelling account of a tumultuous era.


Book cover of Napoleon Bonaparte

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

This relatively recent biography of Napoleon, well researched and written, has Prussia all over it (tangentially), mostly because of the French emperor’s insatiably aggressive appetite, which involved all his neighbors diplomatically, socially, militarily, and economically. Everything Napoleon did had ramifications everywhere else, and it took a united Europe to thwart him. Prussia, along with Great Britain, was in the forefront of this effort. Marshal Blücher's Prussian forces, in fact, provided the last-minute, decisive intervention that led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1814, a pivotal moment in European and Prussia history

By Alan Schom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A definitive biography of Bonaparte from his birth in Corsica to his death in exile on St Helena, this book examines all aspects of Bonaparte's spectacular rise to power and his dizzying fall. It offers close examination of battlefield victories, personal torments, military genius, Bonaparte's titanic ego and his relationships with the French government, Talleyrand, Wellington and Josephine. It is a consummate biography of a complex man.


Book cover of Wilhelm II (2 vols)

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

Wilhelm II, the last Hohenzollern kaiser of Germany, and the last King of Prussia, bears perhaps more than any other single individual the onus of causing World War I, the most industrial and catastrophic conflict ever seen on earth to that point. His flamboyant personality, erratic thought processes, and often uncontrollable outbursts of temper, disjointed the European political arena on a sometimes weekly basis, causing instability, confusion, and uncertainty in the minds of diplomats throughout Europe. His abdication of the throne in 1918 proved the end of the Hohenzollern dynasty, with East Prussia detached geographically from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor, a sore point almost as annoying to contemporary Germans as the Versailles Treaty, and a flashpoint that would ignite again in 1939. Cecil's very well-written and enlightening biography will not be replicated anytime soon.

By Lamar Cecil,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wilhelm II (2 vols) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Wilhelm II (1859-1941), King of Prussia and German Emperor from 1888 to 1918, reigned during a period of unprecedented economic, cultural, and intellectual achievement in Germany. This volume completes Lamar Cecil's prize-winning scholarly biography of the Kaiser, one of modern history's most powerful--and most misunderstood--rulers.
As Cecil shows, Wilhelm's private life reflects a deeply troubled and very superficial man. But the book's larger focus is on Wilhelm as a head of state. Cecil traces the events of the years leading up to World War I, a period that offers ample evidence of the Kaiser's inept conduct of foreign affairs, especially…


Book cover of Before The Storm: Memories of My Youth in Old Prussia

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

Marion Dönhoff was born into privilege, 1909, at Schloss Friedrichstein, one of the largest semi-feudal estates in East Prussia, and her memoir lovingly recreates her childhood there amongst a family of cultured and benevolent Junkers. The values they espoused were contrary to everything Nazism represented, but that did not prevent the deaths of nearly all her adult male relatives in either combat or purges after the failed assassination plot against Hitler in 1944. In 1945 she, along with thousands of other refugees, fled west during harsh winter weather, as the Red Army ruthlessly advanced for Berlin and victory. Dönhoff, on a horse from the Friedrichstein stables, rode alone over 800 miles to safety. From 1946 until her death in 2002, she was associated (as both editor and publisher) with the prestigious, Hamburg-based weekly newspaper, Die Zeit. Her memoir is exceptional.

By Marion, Countess Dönhoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A German newspaperwoman recounts her girlhood in a noble family in East Prussia and her escape from the Russians


Book cover of Frederick the Great: King of Prussia

Katja Hoyer Author Of Blood and Iron: The Rise and Fall of the German Empire; 1871-1918

From my list on German history that aren't about the Nazis.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in East Germany and experienced the disappearance of that country and the huge changes that followed as a child. My history teachers reflected this fracture in the narratives they constructed, switching between those they had grown up with and the new version they had been told to teach after 1990. It struck me how little resemblance the neat division of German history into chapters and timelines bears to people’s actual lives which often span one or even several of Germany’s radical fault lines. My fascination with my country’s fractured memory has never left me since. 

Katja's book list on German history that aren't about the Nazis

Katja Hoyer Why did Katja love this book?

Growing up in rural Brandenburg, just outside of Berlin, the towering figure of Frederick the Great accompanied my childhood. One of my earliest memories is running down the endless steps of the vineyard terraces at his summer palace of Sanssouci, excited by the splendour of the landscaped gardens below. On these family outings, my father would tell me tales about how ‘Old Fritz’ introduced the potato in Germany and how he won many wars by whipping the Prussian army into shape. But Frederick was also a complicated and troubled man. A patron of the arts and fascinated by the ideals of the Enlightenment, he could also be ruthless in pursuing his ambition to make Prussia a European power. Blanning’s excellent biography captures Frederick in all his complexity. 

By Tim Blanning,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Highly readable and deeply researched' - Andrew Roberts

'Masterful ... brilliantly brings to life one of the most complex characters of modern European history' - Sunday Telegraph

'It is sure to be the standard English-language account for many years. It instructs; it entertains; and it surprises' - Philip Mansel, The Spectator

Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, dominated the eighteenth century in the same way that Napoleon dominated the start of the nineteenth. He was a force of nature, a ruthless, brilliant, charismatic military commander, a monarch of exceptional energy and talent, a gifted composer, performer, poet and philosopher, and…


Book cover of Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment

Dan Moller Author Of The Way of Bach: Three Years with the Man, the Music, and the Piano

From my list on Bach, music, and the piano.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland interested in politics, ethics, and art. Philosophers are often unpopular loners who are passionate about their ideas, and so are musicians like Bach. When I teach Socrates and the trial that led to his death I can’t help but think of Bach, who was rejected from job after job in favor of mediocrities, and whose music was considered offensive by parishioners and obsolete by musicians by the end of his life. These figures endear themselves to me not just because of the ideas themselves, but because they had to fight so hard for what they believed in.

Dan's book list on Bach, music, and the piano

Dan Moller Why did Dan love this book?

Most people think of Bach as a church composer, but the broader political context was that of Frederick the Great and the Enlightenment.

Bach was rationalizing music as much as he was putting it to liturgical use. The great cycles of the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Art of the Fugue are science as well as art. This book explores that idea by focusing on a bizarre encounter between Frederick and Bach, when he was invited to play for the king, in what may have been an early attempt at trolling.

By James Gaines,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Evening in the Palace of Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In one corner, a godless young warrior, Voltaire's heralded 'philosopher-king', the It Boy of the Enlightenment. In the other, a devout if bad-tempered old composer of 'outdated' music, a scorned genius in his last years. The sparks from their brief conflict illuminate a turbulent age.

Behind the pomp and flash, Prussia's Frederick the Great was a tormented man, son of an abusive king who forced him to watch as his best friend (probably his lover) was beheaded. In what may have been one of history's crueler practical jokes, Frederick challenged "old Bach" to a musical duel, asking him to improvise…


Book cover of Light in Germany: Scenes from an Unknown Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Author Of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

From my list on the Enlightenment.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2021 I retired as Schwarz-Taylor Professor of German at Oxford. For many years I had been interested not only in German literature but in European literature and culture more broadly, particularly in the eighteenth century. Oxford is a centre of Enlightenment research, being the site of the Voltaire Foundation, where a team of scholars has just finished editing the complete works of Voltaire. When in 2013 I was asked to write a book on the Enlightenment, I realized that I had ideal resources to hand – though I also benefited from a year’s leave spent at Göttingen, the best place in Germany to study the eighteenth century. 

Ritchie's book list on the Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Why did Ritchie love this book?

For centuries German historians underplayed the Enlightenment, treating it as an unwelcome foreign import. Writing with the zeal almost of a missionary, Reed shows that Germany participated fully in the Enlightenment, and that the great luminaries of the German classical age, Goethe and Schiller, continued its endeavours in individual and sometimes idiosyncratic ways. He also offers a unique introduction to the philosophy of Kant, showing how it developed in the specific milieu of Prussia under the Enlightened despot Frederick the Great, and drawing attention also to his pioneering work as a theoretical scientist: Kant was the first person to suggest that the nebulae visible beyond the Milky Way might be separate galaxies.

By T.J. Reed,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Germany's political and cultural past, from ancient times through World War II, has dimmed the legacy of its Enlightenment, which these days is far outshone by those of France and Scotland. In this book, T. J. Reed clears the dust away from eighteenth-century Germany, bringing the likes of Kant, Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and Gotthold Lessing into a coherent and focused beam that shines within European intellectual history and reasserts the important role of Germany's Enlightenment. Reed looks closely at the arguments, achievements, conflicts, and controversies of these major thinkers and how their development of a lucid and active liberal thinking…


Book cover of The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Ben Le Fort Author Of The Investor's Mindset: Analyze Markets. Invest Strategically. Minimize Risk. Maximize Returns.

From my list on helping you invest your money and grow your wealth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been rather fixated with money and finances since I was a kid beating my friend's parents at Monopoly. I majored in economics and had a few rough years financially graduating into the depths of the great recession in 2010. In 2013 I completed my Master’s in finance and economics, took a day job in economic research, and have been moonlighting as a finance writer for the past five years.  

Ben's book list on helping you invest your money and grow your wealth

Ben Le Fort Why did Ben love this book?

You might be thinking, what is a philosophy book doing on a list of books to make me a better investor?

Here’s a bit of a secret about investing; learning the technical details about how to build a portfolio is the easy part. The hard part is staying cool during market crashes, bear markets, and recessions. The easiest way to lose money as an investor is to panic sell at the worst possible time.

The philosophy of stoicism is defined by focusing our attention on only the things we can control and making peace with the things we can’t. That is also the definition of a great long-term investor. You can’t control the markets but you can control how you react. 

By Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beloved classic daily devotional of Stoic meditations—the only authorized print edition in the US and complete with a ribbon marker—with more than two million copies sold!

Why have history's greatest minds—from George Washington to Frederick the Great to Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with today's top performers from Super Bowl-winning football coaches to CEOs and celebrities—embraced the wisdom of the ancient Stoics? Because they realize that the most valuable wisdom is timeless and that philosophy is for living a better life, not a classroom exercise.

The Daily Stoic offers 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from…


Book cover of Effi Briest

David Blackbourn Author Of Germany in the World: A Global History, 1500-2000

From my list on German history for people who love to read novels.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in England, live in America, and write history books about Germany. I’ve published eight books in all (and co-edited two others), and I’m proud that two of them won prizes. I review books, too, in publications like the Guardian and the London Review of Books. History is how I make my living, but it is also a calling and a passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have always enjoyed reading literature and find I am reading even more avidly since the pandemic. There are so many German novels I love it was hard to choose just five. I hope you enjoy my choices.

David's book list on German history for people who love to read novels

David Blackbourn Why did David love this book?

I first read this book more than fifty years ago, before I began to teach and write about German history for a living. I knew the great nineteenth-century novels of adultery, like Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, but didn’t think there was a German counterpart worth mentioning in the same breath. But there is, and this is it!

I love the psychological insight Fontane brings to portraying his characters, especially the youthful and headstrong title character, Effi, and the sharply etched social relations and stifling moral codes of the time.

Another incidental pleasure of the book, for me, is the way it moves back and forth between the countryside and the city, the old and the new. All this, and a ghost story sub-plot.

By Theodor Fontane, Mike Mitchell (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I loathe what I did, but what I loathe even more is your virtue.'

Seventeen-year-old Effi Briest is steered by her parents into marriage with an ambitious bureaucrat, twenty years her senior. He takes her from her home to a remote provincial town on the Baltic coast of Prussia where she is isolated, bored, and prey to superstitious fears. She drifts into a half-hearted affair with a manipulative, womanizing officer, which ends when her husband is transferred to Berlin. Years later, events are triggered that will have profound consequences for Effi and her family.

Effi Briest (1895) is recognized as…


Book cover of The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade: Holy War and Colonisation

William L. Urban Author Of Teutonic Knights: A Military History

From my list on medieval Baltic history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became enthusiastic about the history of the Baltics when my dissertation advisor persuaded me to use my language training in German and Russian to test the American Frontier Theory in the Baltic region. None of the various theories were applicable, but I earned a Ph.D. anyway. Later I taught in Italy, Yugoslavia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic. I've written a number of books and won a Fulbright Hays grant, the Dr. Arthur Puksow Foundation prize, the Vitols Prize, and others. I retired in 2017 after fifty-one years of university and college teaching, but I would still be teaching if my hearing had not deteriorated to the point that I could not make out what shy students were saying. 

William's book list on medieval Baltic history

William L. Urban Why did William love this book?

The Germans and Poles moved into a land inhabited by flourishing native tribes that have previously been understood only through the observations of German and Polish chroniclers.

Pluskowski shows that the native peoples had a sophisticated local economy that was hardly changed by the German conquerors. That is, wherever the Teutonic Order and its associated bishops and abbots brought in German or Dutch colonists, the farming practices reflected those of the immigrants’ homelands; however, the three-field system required farmers to work together, while the original inhabitants preferred to retain individual farms worked on the two-field system. The three-field system produced more food, but the Native Prussians valued their freedom more.

This is a very detailed study, with abundant information on what people ate, how they lived, and how they were buried.

By Aleksander Pluskowski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade explores the archaeology and material culture of the crusade against the Prussian tribes in the 13th century, and the subsequent society created by the Teutonic Order which lasted into the 16th century. It provides the first synthesis of the material culture of a unique crusading society created in the south-eastern Baltic region over the course of the 13th century. It encompasses the full range of archaeological data, from standing buildings through to artefacts and ecofacts, integrated with written and artistic sources. The work is sub-divided into broadly chronological themes, beginning with a historical outline,…


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