100 books like Furta Sacra

By Patrick J. Geary,

Here are 100 books that Furta Sacra fans have personally recommended if you like Furta Sacra. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam

John Tolan Author Of Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today

From my list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is.

Who am I?

In the 1980s, I was living in Spain, teaching high school. On weekends and vacations, I traveled throughout the country, fascinated with the remnants of its flourishing medieval civilization, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mingled. When I later became a historian, I focused on the rich history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. I also wanted to understand conflict and prejudice, particularly the historical roots of antisemitism and islamophobia in Europe. I have increasingly realized that classical religious texts need to be reread and contextualized and that we need to rethink our ideas about religion and religious conflict.

John's book list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is

John Tolan Why did John love this book?

While Boyarin challenges what we thought we knew about Judaism and Christianity, Fred Donner does the same for the history of the origins of Islam. Most of what we know, or think we know, about Muhammad comes from the hadiths (traditions), sayings, and deeds of the prophet that were transmitted orally and put down in writing two centuries after the prophet’s death. Leaving aside hadith and the traditional biographies of the prophet, Donner looks at what we can say about Muhammad and his first followers based on the Quran alone. While the terms “Islam” and “Muslim” are present in the Quran, Islam is not a "religion" apart from other monotheisms.

On the contrary, Muhammad had no intention of founding a new "religion," but saw himself as the successor to earlier prophets, from Adam to Jesus and the apostles, who all preached the same message: condemnation of idolatry, declaration of unity…

By Fred M. Donner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The origins of Islam have been the subject of increasing controversy in recent years. The traditional view, which presents Islam as a self-consciously distinct religion tied to the life and revelations of the prophet Muhammad in western Arabia, has since the 1970s been challenged by historians engaged in critical study of the Muslim sources.

In Muhammad and the Believers, the eminent historian Fred Donner offers a lucid and original vision of how Islam first evolved. He argues that the origins of Islam lie in what we may call the "Believers' movement" begun by the prophet Muhammad-a movement of religious reform…


Book cover of Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity

John Tolan Author Of Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today

From my list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is.

Who am I?

In the 1980s, I was living in Spain, teaching high school. On weekends and vacations, I traveled throughout the country, fascinated with the remnants of its flourishing medieval civilization, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mingled. When I later became a historian, I focused on the rich history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. I also wanted to understand conflict and prejudice, particularly the historical roots of antisemitism and islamophobia in Europe. I have increasingly realized that classical religious texts need to be reread and contextualized and that we need to rethink our ideas about religion and religious conflict.

John's book list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is

John Tolan Why did John love this book?

How did Christianity grow out of Judaism and emerge as a separate religion? We all know, of course, that Jesus was Jewish, as were the Apostles. And it is well-known that it is Apostle Paul who first started preaching the faith of Christ to non-Jews. Yet we tend to think that by the end of the first century CE, Judaism and Christianity are two distinct and separate religions. Daniel Boyarin’s fascinating book challenges that idea. Throughout the first centuries of our era, some Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah, others did not. Some Christians continued to frequent the synagogue and celebrate Jewish holidays, others did not. Only gradually, over the course of five or six centuries, did religious authorities (rabbis, bishops, theologians) construct and impose borders between the two “religions,” Judaism and Christianity.

By Daniel Boyarin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The historical separation between Judaism and Christianity is often figured as a clearly defined break of a single entity into two separate religions. Following this model, there would have been one religion known as Judaism before the birth of Christ, which then took on a hybrid identity. Even before its subsequent division, certain beliefs and practices of this composite would have been identifiable as Christian or Jewish.In Border Lines, however, Daniel Boyarin makes a striking case for a very different way of thinking about the historical development that is the partition of Judaeo-Christianity.
There were no characteristics or features that…


Book cover of Jesus Through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture

John Tolan Author Of Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today

From my list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is.

Who am I?

In the 1980s, I was living in Spain, teaching high school. On weekends and vacations, I traveled throughout the country, fascinated with the remnants of its flourishing medieval civilization, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mingled. When I later became a historian, I focused on the rich history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. I also wanted to understand conflict and prejudice, particularly the historical roots of antisemitism and islamophobia in Europe. I have increasingly realized that classical religious texts need to be reread and contextualized and that we need to rethink our ideas about religion and religious conflict.

John's book list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is

John Tolan Why did John love this book?

If Donner shows that Muslims don’t necessarily know who Muhammad was or agree about him, Pelikan shows that the same is true for Christians and Jesus. He looks at various ways in which Christians over twenty centuries have conceived of Jesus: a sage Jewish rabbi? An apocalyptic preacher, warning of the imminent end of the world? King of the universe, destined to preside over the final judgment, model for worldly judges and kings? The paradigmatic monk and mystic? An egalitarian preacher of social justice? He has been all of these things to different Christians over the ages, and Pelikan shows how different people in very different circumstances have reinterpreted Jesus the better to fit their own ideas of what Christianity should be.

By Jaroslav Pelikan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A rich and expansive description of Jesus' impact on the general history of culture. . . . Believers and skeptics alike will find it a sweeping visual and conceptual panorama."-John Koenig, front page, New York Times Book Review

Called "a book of uncommon brilliance" by Commonweal, Jesus Through the Centuries is an original and compelling study of the impact of Jesus on cultural, political, social, and economic history. Noted historian and theologian Jaroslav Pelikan reveals how the image of Jesus created by each successive epoch-from rabbi in the first century to liberator in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries-is a key…


Book cover of Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims

John Tolan Author Of Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today

From my list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is.

Who am I?

In the 1980s, I was living in Spain, teaching high school. On weekends and vacations, I traveled throughout the country, fascinated with the remnants of its flourishing medieval civilization, where Jews, Christians, and Muslims mingled. When I later became a historian, I focused on the rich history of Jewish-Christian-Muslim contact in Spain and throughout the Mediterranean. I also wanted to understand conflict and prejudice, particularly the historical roots of antisemitism and islamophobia in Europe. I have increasingly realized that classical religious texts need to be reread and contextualized and that we need to rethink our ideas about religion and religious conflict.

John's book list on making you realize you don’t know what religion is

John Tolan Why did John love this book?

In this book, Robert Gregg focuses on the narratives around a number of key figures in the sacred history of the Judaism, Christianity and Islam. They are “shared stories” because these various writers agreed on most (but not all) of the biographical details of these figures. Indeed, the “rival tellings” often reflect intimate knowledge of each other: the Jewish stories about Mary and Jesus are implicit responses to (and refutations of) Christian beliefs, and the Mary of the Qur’an is a rebuke to both Christian and Jewish versions. Retelling and reinterpreting these stories is a key activity in the construction and delineation of communities of the faithful, whether defined broadly (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) or in their narrower components (ascetic movements within each of the three traditions, rival Christian churches, Sunnism vs Shiism, etc.). If telling stories can be a way to build bridges, it is also, as Gregg shows, a…

By Robert C. Gregg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shared Stories, Rival Tellings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

While existing scholarship informs us about early contact between Christians, Muslims, and Jews, the nature of that interaction, and how it developed over time, is still often misunderstood. Robert Gregg emphasizes that there was both mutual curiosity, since all three religions had ancestral traditions and a commanding God in common, and also wary competitiveness, as each group was compelled to sharpen its identity against the other two. Faced with the overlap of
many scriptural stories, they were eager to defend the claim that they alone were God's preferred people.

In Shared Stories, Rival Tellings, Gregg performs a comparative investigation of…


Book cover of Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

Robert Bartlett Author Of Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe

From my list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole.

Who am I?

I have had an interest in the Middle Ages as long as I can remember. In boyhood, this took the form of model knights, trips to castles, and a huge body of writing about an imaginary medieval country called Rulasia. Later it was disciplined by the study of the real medieval world, in particular by finding an ideal subject for my doctoral dissertation in Gerald of Wales, a prolific and cantankerous twelfth-century cleric, whose writings on Ireland and Wales, on saints and miracles, and on the Angevin kings (Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and John), were the ultimate inspiration for my own books on medieval colonialism, the cult of the saints and medieval dynasties.

Robert's book list on a look at medieval Europe as a whole

Robert Bartlett Why did Robert love this book?

Susan Reynolds was renowned for speaking her mind, never rudely but always forthrightly. If she considered that a generally accepted view or term was wrong or misleading or ill-defined, she said so. In a later work of hers, Fiefs and Vassals, she questioned the very value of the term “feudalism” when analyzing the Middle Ages. In Kingdoms and Communities, a rather less polemical work, she argued for the importance of self-organizing lay communities (parishes, guilds, even “the community of the realm”) as contrasted with the traditional focus on kings and the Church. Susan was in the line of a long tradition of female medievalists at Oxford and Cambridge, going back even before female students were allowed to take degrees. Eileen Power (1889-1940), author of Medieval People (1924, still in print) would be a precursor.

By Susan Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study is an exploration of the collective values and activities of lay society in Western Europe between the tenth century and the thirteenth. Arguing that medieval attitudes and behaviour have too readily been defined in terms of hierarchical structures of government, clerical thought, or narrow notion of kinship, the author instead places new emphasis on the horizontal bonds of collective association which permeated society in medieval England, France and
Burgundy, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.
By refocusing on the social and political values that characterized lay collective activity, this book offers a stimulating new approach to the history of…


Book cover of Medieval Women

ffiona Perigrinor Author Of Reluctant Pilgrim: The Book of Margery Kempe's Maidservant

From my list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe.

Who am I?

I’d already published a scholarly book about the household of a medieval widow, who was just a decade older than Margery Kempe and lived sixty miles away, so the time, place, and mindset seemed very familiar. As a Jungian Psychoanalyst I’m interested in how individuals find the central meaning in their lives. Clearly for Margery it was the search for God, although she doesn’t appear to have been a kindly soul. When I read that she twice quarreled with her maidservant, I realised the maidservant could tell her own tale. And so she did, and sometimes it seemed she was dictating it to me! Characters really do speak for themselves... 

ffiona's book list on why you wouldn’t want to travel with Margery Kempe

ffiona Perigrinor Why did ffiona love this book?

Eileen Power was a pioneer in Women’s History and this was the first book I read when I went back to university. It’s an inspiring collection of essays on medieval ideas of women, working women in town and country, education, and nunneries. If you’re planning to write a book about women in the Middle Ages, start your research here.

Power refers to many diverse contemporary texts such as The Goodman of Paris and works by Chaucer and Christine de Pisan, which enabled me (or, which will enable you) to portray authentic detail in my own book. The essay on nunneries, which I drew on for my novel, is a summary of her seminal work on medieval English nunneries. There are also forty-two well-chosen illustrations that complement the text.

By Eileen Power,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Throughout her career as a medieval historian, Eileen Power was engaged on a book about women in the Middle Ages. She did not live to write the book but some of the material she collected found its way into her popular lectures on medieval women. These lectures were brought together and edited by M. M. Postan. They reveal the world in which women lived, were educated, worked and worshipped. Power gives a vivid account of the worlds of the lady, the peasant, the townswoman and the nun. The result is a historical yet intimate picture of a period gone by…


Book cover of Other Middle Ages: Witnesses at the Margins of Medieval Society

Eleanor Janega Author Of The Once and Future Sex: Going Medieval on Women's Roles in Society

From my list on illuminating the Middle Ages.

Who am I?

I’m a medieval historian who specialises in social history, and more particularly on sexuality, propaganda, and apocalypticism. I fell in love with the period from my very first class during my BA, but even back then, I was struck by just how little we as a society pay attention to some thousand years of history. Even worse, we often tell lazy myths about the Middle Ages as a time of filth and ignorance that makes us feel good about ourselves. Since not everyone can get a Ph.D. like I did, I have dedicated my career to bringing the period to light. I hope this book list does just that.

Eleanor's book list on illuminating the Middle Ages

Eleanor Janega Why did Eleanor love this book?

This deep dive into the people that medieval Europe sidelined is absolutely indispensable for understanding society as a whole.

I get frustrated because when people think about the medieval period, they assume that it was a time when everyone just quietly played along with whatever the Church said, and everyone was a straight white Christian keeping quiet. This book goes and finds the people that the medieval period wanted hidden and brings them to light.

I also like that it helps us to consider that we still partake in the same othering behaviours now. It’s full of fascinating primary sources, and I find it totally absorbing.

By Michael Goodich (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Seldom heard from in modern times, those on the margins of Medieval Europe have much to tell us about the society that defined them. More than just a fascinating cast of characters, the visionaries and sexual dissidents, the suicidal and psychologically unbalanced, the lepers and converts of Medieval times reveal the fears of a people for whom life was made both meaningful and terrifying by the sacred.
After centuries of historical silence, these and other disenfranchised members of the medieval public have been given voice by Michael Goodich in a unique collection of texts from the mid-eleventh through the fourteenth…


Book cover of The Making of Europe: Conquest, Colonization, and Cultural Change, 950-1350

Aleksander Pluskowski Author Of The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade: Holy War and Colonisation

From my list on the cultural impact of the crusades.

Who am I?

I was born in London, but growing up in a Polish family ensured that I was well aware of the history of the Teutonic Order. As a post-doctoral researcher in Cambridge, I was fortunate enough to gain access to archaeological material from the magnificent castle at Malbork in north Poland, the Order’s medieval headquarters. That moment really spurred my interest in the Northern Crusades, after which I spent a decade working across the eastern Baltic. I’ve also had the opportunity to excavate medieval frontier sites at both ends of the Mediterranean. As an archaeologist, I always found the lived experiences of these societies far more interesting than the traditional military histories written about them.

Aleksander's book list on the cultural impact of the crusades

Aleksander Pluskowski Why did Aleksander love this book?

This captivating book, with its broad vision, puts the crusades in context in a way that no other has done. Bartlett’s magisterial overview of the expansion of Latin Christendom remains the most engaging work on how conquest, migration, and religion transformed and laid the foundations for the Europe we know today. Erudite, scholarly, and packed with detail, but also accessible and enjoyable, his thematic approach pulls together examples from diverse regions to make a compelling (and at times controversial) case for how a shared European culture was created as the bounds of Christendom were pushed in all directions. It’s an essential introduction to medieval Europe’s frontier societies–several of which were shaped by crusading.

By Robert Bartlett,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From our twentieth-century perspective, we tend to think of the Europe of the past as a colonizer, a series of empires that conquered lands beyond their borders and forced European cultural values on other peoples. This provocative book shows that Europe in the Middle Ages was as much a product of a process of conquest and colonization as it was later a colonizer.


Book cover of Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300

David Bates Author Of William the Conqueror

From my list on exploring important aspects of Medieval History.

Who am I?

I became fascinated by the history of the period from 900 to 1250 as an undergraduate at the University of Exeter where I was supervised for a doctorate by Professor Frank Barlow. The subject of my thesis was Odo, bishop of Bayeux (1049/50-1097), a biography that introduced me to a multitude of subjects. That time stimulated a fascination with France and with the place of English history, British history, and the history of the Normans in a European context, as well as an interest in biography and individual lives.

David's book list on exploring important aspects of Medieval History

David Bates Why did David love this book?

A marvellous book that explores the experience for men and women of being married during the Christian Middle Ages. It presents us with an analysis of individual lives and is a social history, a gender history, an emotional history, a sexual history, and much else besides. Among the many subjects treated are female agency within marriage, the extent to which it was possible to choose a married partner, and the history and personal experience of married clergy when such marriages were forbidden. 

By Elisabeth Van Houts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Married Life in the Middle Ages, 900-1300 contains an analysis of the experience of married life by men and women in Christian medieval Europe, c. 900-1300. The study focusses on the social and emotional life of the married couple rather than on the institutional history of marriage, breaking it into three parts: Getting Married - the process of getting married and wedding celebrations; Married Life - the married life of lay couples and clergy,
their sexuality, and any remarriage; and Alternative Living - which explores concubinage and polygyny, as well as the single life in contrast to monogamous sexual unions.…


Book cover of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

James Calbraith Author Of The Saxon Spears: An Epic of the Dark Age

From my list on Barbarian Europe.

Who am I?

In my novels, I aim to present a different vision of early Post-Roman Britain than the one usually imagined in fiction – especially in the future Kingdom of Kent, where my books are set. To show these connections, and to present the greater background for the events in the novels, I first needed to gain knowledge of what Europe itself looked like in this period: a Gaul divided between Gothic, Frankish, and Roman administration, a complex interplay of Romans and Barbarians, a world in transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The story gleaned from the pages of these books proved as fascinating and intriguing as any I’ve ever read.

James' book list on Barbarian Europe

James Calbraith Why did James love this book?

You can’t overstate the impact of religion on this tumultuous period. The transition from paganism to Christianity not only coincided with, but greatly impacted everything that happened in early medieval Europe. Catherine Nixey’s controversial book focuses on that transition and shows it in full, gory detail – the violence it spurned, and the destruction it caused to the ancient culture that preceded the onset of Christianity. A necessary read for understanding the full picture of the 4th and 5th centuries in Europe.

By Catherine Nixey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Darkening Age, Catherine Nixey tells the little-known - and deeply shocking - story of how a militant religion deliberately tried to extinguish the teachings of the Classical world, ushering in unquestioning adherence to the 'one true faith'.

The Roman Empire had been generous in embracing and absorbing new creeds. But with the coming of Christianity, everything changed. This new faith, despite preaching peace, was violent, ruthless and intolerant. And once it became the religion of empire, its zealous adherents set about the destruction of the old gods. Their altars were upturned, their temples demolished and their statues hacked…


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Interested in the Middle Ages, Europe, and social history?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, Europe, and social history.

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