10 books like Habits of the Heart

By Robert N. Bellah,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Habits of the Heart. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The End of the Myth

By Greg Grandin,

Book cover of The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Greg Grandin is a historian's historian, a brilliant researcher, a captivating writer. It's honestly hard to pick which of his books to feature here. But since The End of the Myth won the Pultizer Prize, I'll choose it as my favorite. What I loved about this book is that it gives me a new perspective about the history of my own country—about which, frankly, I do not know that much—and the region I have reported on for most of my life, Latin America. He makes connections and does so in a compelling fashion.

The book focuses on the United States and the border, but it sheds much light on how the myth of manifest destiny has shaped the way we think of ourselves and our relationship with our southern neighbors.

The End of the Myth

By Greg Grandin,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The End of the Myth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump’s border wall.

Ever since this nation’s inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States’ belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history…


Making Democracy Work

By Robert D. Putnam, Robert Leonardi, Raffaella Y. Nanetti

Book cover of Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy

Putnam and his Italian colleagues studied the performance of Italy’s regional governments over a 20-year period. They asked why some democratic governments succeeded while others failed. They thought differences in success would correlate with a region’s economic vitality. Instead, they found that a strong civic community was a better indicator of success. When citizens sought information from reliable news sources, they tended to interact with one another on political matters.  Informed interaction encouraged trust in political dialogue and encouraged engagement in public affairs. 

Equally, when citizens had access to networks of secondary associations, where they interacted with strangers, they were more likely to have a greater sense of solidarity with, and trust and tolerance for their fellow citizens. When these conditions were absent and social relations were more vertical (relying on a leader) than horizontal (relying on community members), democracy didn’t work. Making Democracy Work shows how vernacular rhetoric that…

Making Democracy Work

By Robert D. Putnam, Robert Leonardi, Raffaella Y. Nanetti

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why do some democratic governments succeed and others fail? In a book that has received attention from policymakers and civic activists in America and around the world, Robert Putnam and his collaborators offer empirical evidence for the importance of "civic community" in developing successful institutions. Their focus is on a unique experiment begun in 1970 when Italy created new governments for each of its regions. After spending two decades analyzing the efficacy of these governments in such fields as agriculture, housing, and health services, they reveal patterns of associationism, trust, and cooperation that facilitate good governance and economic prosperity.


Domination and the Arts of Resistance

By James C. Scott,

Book cover of Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts

You can count on citizens who are out of power to struggle to regain it. The more those on top use their position to keep those on the bottom under their thumb, their domination will inspire inventive ways to resist. Scott’s study of the ways the powerless confront the powerful is a mind-opening exploration of the richness and strength of vernacular rhetoric.  From everyday actions that are overtly compliant while simultaneously subterranean expressions of resistance to hush harbors where a vernacular of identity and solidarity is openly shared, the powerless craft the rich rhetoric of opposition. Their arts of resistance fuse vernacular discourse and politics through displays of defiance. By extension, Domination and the Arts of Resistance offers a primer for reading how ordinary citizens communicate shared sentiments often missed by leaders and pollsters. 

Domination and the Arts of Resistance

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A splendid study, surely one of the most important that has appeared on the whole matter of power and resistance."-Natalie Zemon Davis

Confrontations between the powerless and powerful are laden with deception-the powerless feign deference and the powerful subtly assert their mastery. Peasants, serfs, untouchables, slaves, laborers, and prisoners are not free to speak their minds in the presence of power. These subordinate groups instead create a secret discourse that represents a critique of power spoken behind the backs of the dominant. At the same time, the powerful also develop a private dialogue about practices and goals of their rule…


Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

By Karen Tracy,

Book cover of Challenges of Ordinary Democracy: A Case Study in Deliberation and Dissent

Perhaps the most widespread engagement by ordinary citizens in political relations is with the education of their children. School boards are increasingly regarded as a site of passionate political contest over what our children will learn, especially when it comes to learning history and its consequences for their understanding of their community and nation. Challenges of Ordinary Democracy reports on three years in the life of a local school board. The voices of administrators, teachers, parents, and the press are examined when dissent takes center stage in the school board’s deliberations. Given that ordinary citizens will disagree, often vehemently, Tracy asks us to consider the parameters of reasonable hostility and why reasonable hostility is important for the voices of ordinary citizens to matter in deciding issues that affect their lives.  

Challenges of Ordinary Democracy

By Karen Tracy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Is there any place in America where passionate debate plays a more vital role in democratic discourse than local school board meetings? Karen Tracy conducted a thirty-five-month study of the board meetings of the Boulder Valley School District between 1996 and 1999 to analyze just how democracy operates in practice. In Challenges of Ordinary Democracy, she reveals the major role that emotion plays in real-life debate and discerns value in what might easily be seen as negative forms of discourse-voicing platitudes, making contradictory assertions, arguing over a document's wording, speaking angrily, attacking a person's character. By illuminating this one arena…


The Fountainhead

By Ayn Rand,

Book cover of The Fountainhead

Did I lose you? Why am I recommending this one? It doesn’t seem to fit with my other recommendations. And yes, I know, this book is a problematic one given much of its subject matter. And I’m not advocating extreme individualism at the expense of the collective. But when this one came across my radar, my young film student self was strongly attracted to the concept of individuality. I was newly arrived to Los Angeles from Kentucky and still trying to figure out my own identity. So, to discover a book about a guy who’s brilliant but underappreciated who goes against the masses and does his own thing? Yes, please! This book made me realize that when you read something is as important as what you read.

The Fountainhead

By Ayn Rand,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Fountainhead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


The Upswing

By Robert D. Putnam,

Book cover of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It

Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett provide an analysis of the past 125 years of American history that makes a significant contribution to the growing movement to reform American Society. They carefully analyze trends in American life in a way that delineates the tangle of problems we are currently experiencing while at the same time offering hope that we can overcome them. The essence of their analysis is that across a wide variety of societal indicators, the past century and a quarter has involved an upswing in prosocial or communitarian norms and practices, beginning in the progressive era of the early twentieth century. That was followed by a reversal toward less communitarian and more individualistic and self-centered norms and practices.

The Upswing

By Robert D. Putnam,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The most important book in social science for many years' Paul Collier, TLS Books of the Year

The Upswing is Robert D. Putnam's brilliant analysis of economic, social, cultural and political trends from the Gilded Age to the present, showing how America went from an individualistic 'I' society to a more communitarian 'We' society and then back again, and how we can all learn from that experience.

In the late nineteenth century, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarised and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However, as the twentieth century dawned, America became - slowly, unevenly, but…


A Girl's Story

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Book cover of A Girl's Story

In A Girl’s Story Annie Ernaux – the author of many memoirs about her parents, her lower-class background, and her sexual life – revisits the summer when she was 18 and a summer camp counselor. For the first time away from home, she was so eager for love that she ended up pursuing a man who dumped and humiliated her. Ernaux has a unique way to find lost time again. She scrutinizes the past with such a precise scalpel that it allows us to identify with the lost young girl and to share her confusion and shame. 

A Girl's Story

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Girl's Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'I too wanted to forget that girl. Really forget her, that is, stop yearning to write about her. Stop thinking that I have to write about this girl and her desire and madness, her idiocy and pride, her hunger and her blood that ceased to flow. I have never managed to do so.' In A Girl's Story, her latest book, Annie Ernaux revisits the summer of 1958, spent working as a holiday camp instructor in Normandy, and recounts the first night she spent with a man. When he moves on, she realizes she has submitted her will to his and…


The Machinery of Freedom

By David Friedman,

Book cover of The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

A key insight of economics is the power of markets to organize human affairs. The Machinery of Freedom takes that insight to the limit. How might society work if even governmental functions were organized using markets? Friedman’s answer will surprise and challenge you. And whether you come away convinced or not, you will come away with a better understanding of markets.

The Machinery of Freedom

By David Friedman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book argues for a society organized by voluntary cooperation under institutions of private property and exchange with little, ultimately no, government. It describes how the most fundamental functions of government might be replaced by private institutions, with services such as protecting individual rights and settling disputes provided by private firms in a competitive market. It goes on to use the tools of economic analysis to attempt to show how such institutions could be expected to work, what sort of legal rules they would generate, and under what circumstances they would or would not be stable. The approach is consequentialist.…


People of Paradox

By Michael Kammen,

Book cover of People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization

For starters an absolutely brilliant book title: beautifully capturing the complexities of American culture, at once compelled by soaring social aspirations while tending to act out of pure individualism often with disdain for social impact. The narrative abounds in identifying seemingly contradictory national impulses – imported vs. Indigenous traditions, socialism vs. libertarianism, utopian vs. prosaic undertakings, the welcoming of and resisting of others – with the author arguing that through the interaction of such opposite impulses over time the particular genius of American society evolved. Kammen delights in reminding Americans of our “unstable pluralism,” and supports William James’ conclusion that “Americanism” continues to be a “volatile mixture of hopeful good and curable bad.”  Overall impressive scholarship and a delightful read.   

People of Paradox

By Michael Kammen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the beginning, what has given our culture its distinctive texture, pattern, and thrust, according to Michael Kammen, is the dynamic interaction of the imported and the indigenous. He shows how, during the years of colonization, some ideas and institutions were transferred virtually intact from Britain, while, simultaneously, others were being transformed in the New World. As he unravels the tangled origins of our culture, he makes us see that unresolved contradictions in the American experience have created our national style. Puritanical and hedonistic, idealistic and materialistic, peace-loving and war-mongering: these opposing strands go back to the genesis of our…


Age of Ambition

By Evan Osnos,

Book cover of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

I first heard about this book when it won the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction. After reading it, it became clear to me this was one of the best books written about China. Evan Osnos, a staff writer at the New Yorker, has delivered a coup de force that unravels the social dynamics of Chinese society. In recent memory, no serious book has attempted to do the same. You will learn about the clash of individualism vs. plutocracy in present-day China and how that manifests on the street. You will also understand the economic ailments that afflict modern China. It is beautifully written.

Age of Ambition

By Evan Osnos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction finalist
Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in nonfiction.

As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval.

Age of Ambition provides a vibrant, colorful, and revelatory inner history of China during a moment of profound transformation.

From abroad, we often see China as a caricature: a nation of pragmatic plutocrats and ruthlessly dedicated students destined to rule the global economy-or an addled Goliath, riddled with corruption and on the edge of stagnation. What we don't see…


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