100 books like How the World Thinks

By Julian Baggini,

Here are 100 books that How the World Thinks fans have personally recommended if you like How the World Thinks. 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 The Myth of Sisyphus

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From my list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

This was the first book from the very first philosophy class I took in college (at Bucknell University in 1981), and it had me from its very first sentence: “There is only one truly important philosophical question, and that is suicide.” You know, the big stuff: Is life worth living? What gives it meaning? How ought we to engage the world and others, especially in the face of the apparently meaningless universe in which we’ve been thrown. Existentialist Camus served in the French resistance against the Nazis in World War II and would win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1957. In these pages, the remarkable man and the remarkable life he lived shows. 

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NOBEL PRIZE WINNER • An internationally acclaimed author delivers one of the most influential works of the twentieth century, showing a way out of despair and reaffirming the value of existence.

Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide—the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Albert Camus brilliantly presents a crucial exposition of existentialist thought.


Book cover of Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia

Ann Göth Author Of Volcanic Adventures in Tonga: Species Conservation on Tin Can Island

From my list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific.

Who am I?

I am an Australian writer with a passion for all books about the South Pacific. Thirty years ago, I embarked on a two-year mission to the Kingdom of Tonga, and soon after, my job as a naturalist on cruise ships took me to many beautiful, fascinating, and often very remote island nations in that region. Nowadays, my jobs as a writer, scientist, high school teacher, and mother leave little room to navigate to that beautiful part of the world, but I continue to read whatever seems even slightly related to the South Pacific Theme. I hope you enjoy the books on this list as much as I have!

Ann's book list on sweeping you to remote islands in the South Pacific

Ann Göth Why did Ann love this book?

Having lived with Polynesian people on remote islands for 17 months, I always wondered where they originally came from and how their fascinating culture evolved.

This book enlightened me as it beautifully describes how the earliest Polynesians reached these far-away islands with amazing seafarer skills but no written tradition or metal tools at hand. I came across this book when it won the 2020 Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award for nonfiction and can only agree that it is very well-researched and written in an easy-to-understand way. 

By Christina Thompson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A blend of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Simon Winchester's Pacific, a thrilling intellectual detective story that looks deep into the past to uncover who first settled the islands of the remote Pacific, where they came from, how they got there, and how we know.

For more than a millennium, Polynesians have occupied the remotest islands in the Pacific Ocean, a vast triangle stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. Until the arrival of European explorers they were the only people to have ever lived there. Both the most closely related and the most widely dispersed…


Book cover of Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Die-Hard Romantic

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From my list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

This book really captures what it’s like to do philosophy in an informed but informal way. Philosophy as Socrates practiced it, and as it often is at its best, is a dialogue among several interlocutors. Different people share their different views on a topic, compare them, scrutinize and criticize them, and hopefully improve them. Phillips started a movement of Socratic cafés where people got together to do just that. The topics recorded here analyze love in its various forms (erotic, familial, friendly, hospitable, spiritual, and philosophical). Love is, in fact, basic to philosophy, which, as the word philosophia implies, is the love of wisdom. Read this in conjunction with Plato’s dialogues about Socrates’ trial and death: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo.

By Christopher Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Christopher Phillips goes to the heart of philosophy and Socratic discourse to discover what we're all looking for: the kind of love that makes life worthwhile. That is, love not defined only as eros, or erotic love, but in all its classical varieties. Love of neighbor, love of country, love of God, love of life, and love of wisdom-each is clarified and invigorated in Phillips's Socratic dialogues with people from all walks of life and from all over the world.


Book cover of The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From my list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

This is the book that really got me into philosophy. My girlfriend gave it to me when I was a teenager. I opened it up began reading, and I never really stopped. Durant’s book gives what I now understand to be a rather conventional account of the origins and history of Western philosophy, but it does it very well. It enthusiastically and eloquently leads readers into the central conceptual concerns, principles, and problems of the central figures of the Western traditions. It’s intellectually substantial, and it doesn’t require advanced degrees. A joy to read, and in a word, for me, life-changing.

By Will Durant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers, from Plato to Dewey.

Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant's insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for anyone who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.


Book cover of The Story of Philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Author Of The Philosopher's Toolkit: A Compendium of Philosophical Concepts and Methods

From my list on starting out in philosophy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who’s taught mostly undergraduates for over thirty years at small liberal arts colleges in the US, and I’ve held research fellowships at the University of Edinburgh and Williams College. I’ve co-authored three “toolkit” books – The Philosopher’s Toolkit, The Ethics Toolkit, and The Critical Thinking Toolkit. My more scholarly work, however, has focused on skepticism, for example in Hume’s Scepticism. I also like to write about pop culture, especially for collections like my Big Lebowski and Philosophy. Fundamentally, though, I’m just a lover of dialectic and an explorer in the world of ideas. Nothing, for me, is more enjoyable.

Peter's book list on starting out in philosophy

Peter S. Fosl Why did Peter love this book?

Magee’s splendid introductory book is my go-to recommendation for those who wish to enter the world of philosophical ideas. Yes, it’s old-school in the sense that it can be annoyingly androcentric and Eurocentric. A supplement like Rebecca Buxton and Lisa Whiting’s remarkable Philosopher Queens or Julian Baggini’s volume below should be read in tandem. Having said that, however, no one else pulls together the history of western philosophy with terse, informative, and fascinating accounts of important figures and schools as well as Magee. Plus, Magee’s text luxuriates amidst the lush, generous, and illuminating visuals that make Dorling Kindersley volumes so voluptuous. 

By Bryan Magee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Explore 2,500 years of Western philosophy, from the ancient Greeks to modern thinkers, with this ultimate guide's stunning and simple approach to some of history's biggest ideas.

This essential guide to philosophy includes thoughts on our modern society, exploring science and democracy, and posing the question: where do we go from here?

Easy-to-understand text is accompanied by works of art and artifacts from history, as the big ideas and important thinkers are introduced through time. Famous quotes are highlighted, and the sidebars discuss other ideas or key works to include extra context around the theories and people.

Celebrate the world's…


Book cover of The Islamic Enlightenment: The Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times

James Hannam Author Of The Globe: How the Earth Became Round

From my list on how non-western cultures think about the world.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who loves to tell unexpected stories about the interactions between science, religion, and philosophy. As a Christian with a physics degree, I knew the relationship between science and religion was much more interesting than an eternal conflict. So I went back to university, gained a PhD that involved reading lots of Latin and wrote God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. Since then, I’ve been exploring how traditional ways of seeing the universe differ from modern science, and how we got from one to the other.

James' book list on how non-western cultures think about the world

James Hannam Why did James love this book?

What happens when two great civilizations change places?

Until the eighteenth century, the Muslim world felt confident and strong, not to mention clearly superior to Christian Europe. Then, when Napoleon invaded Egypt and Persia became a victim of Russian aggression, it was painfully clear that Europe was in the ascendant.

This book is the story of how Islam tried to come to terms with this stunning reversal, by turns embracing and then rejecting Western ideas. Persia and the Ottoman Empire made huge strides towards modernization, adopting women’s rights, scientific knowledge, and a Westernized military. But the fundamental tension between tradition and modernity was never quite resolved.

I particularly enjoyed the stories of people whose lives were consumed by the need to match the technological achievements of the West without wanting to emulate its values. 

By Christopher de Bellaigue,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With majestic prose, Christopher de Bellaigue presents an absorbing account of the political and social reformations that transformed the lands of Islam in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Flying in the face of everything we thought we knew, The Islamic Enlightenment becomes an astonishing and revelatory history that offers a game-changing assessment of the Middle East since the Napoleonic Wars.

Beginning his account in 1798, de Bellaigue demonstrates how Middle Eastern heartlands have long welcomed modern ideals and practices, including the adoption of modern medicine, the emergence of women from seclusion, and the development of democracy. With trenchant political…


Book cover of Classical Indian Philosophy

James Hannam Author Of The Globe: How the Earth Became Round

From my list on how non-western cultures think about the world.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who loves to tell unexpected stories about the interactions between science, religion, and philosophy. As a Christian with a physics degree, I knew the relationship between science and religion was much more interesting than an eternal conflict. So I went back to university, gained a PhD that involved reading lots of Latin and wrote God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. Since then, I’ve been exploring how traditional ways of seeing the universe differ from modern science, and how we got from one to the other.

James' book list on how non-western cultures think about the world

James Hannam Why did James love this book?

Peter Adamson’s fantastic and long-running podcast A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps is also a book series.

My favourite is the introduction to Indian thought, a subject that badly needed an accessible overview. Each chapter is a short taster on a major thinker or aspect of Indian philosophy, laced with Adamson’s trademark drollery. It begins with the ancient Vedas and encompasses Jain and Buddhist thought going up to the sixth century AD.

As someone brought up in the Western philosophical tradition, I found the explanations of Indian ideas thought-provoking and fascinating. 

By Peter Adamson, Jonardon Ganeri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri present a lively introduction to one of the world's richest intellectual traditions: the philosophy of classical India. They begin with the earliest extant literature, the Vedas, and the explanatory works that these inspired, known as Upanisads. They also discuss other famous texts of classical Vedic culture, especially the Mahabharata and its most notable section, the Bhagavad-Gita, alongside
the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. In this opening section, Adamson and Ganeri emphasize the way that philosophy was practiced as a form of life in search of liberation from suffering. Next, the pair move on to the…


Book cover of A History of Judaism

James Hannam Author Of The Globe: How the Earth Became Round

From my list on how non-western cultures think about the world.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who loves to tell unexpected stories about the interactions between science, religion, and philosophy. As a Christian with a physics degree, I knew the relationship between science and religion was much more interesting than an eternal conflict. So I went back to university, gained a PhD that involved reading lots of Latin and wrote God’s Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. Since then, I’ve been exploring how traditional ways of seeing the universe differ from modern science, and how we got from one to the other.

James' book list on how non-western cultures think about the world

James Hannam Why did James love this book?

I found this book a revelation. It reveals an entire theological and philosophical tradition that I was almost completely ignorant of.

I knew a bit about Philo and Maimonides, and of course the Hebrew Bible, but had no idea about the depth of Jewish thinking over the centuries. From the Talmud to modern Reform and Orthodox Judaism, via Saadia Gaon and the Kabbalah, this comprehensive survey is a magnificent achievement.

And it’s made all the more enjoyable by Martin Goodman’s clear prose and amazing erudition.    

By Martin Goodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A sweeping history of Judaism over more than three millennia

Judaism is one of the oldest religions in the world, and it has preserved its distinctive identity despite the extraordinarily diverse forms and beliefs it has embodied over the course of more than three millennia. A History of Judaism provides the first truly comprehensive look in one volume at how this great religion came to be, how it has evolved from one age to the next, and how its various strains, sects, and traditions have related to each other.

In this magisterial and elegantly written book, Martin Goodman takes readers…


Book cover of Ta T’ung Shu: The One-World Philosophy of Kang Yu-Wei

Peter Zarrow Author Of Abolishing Boundaries: Global Utopias in the Formation of Modern Chinese Political Thought, 1880-1940

From my list on utopianism east and west.

Who am I?

When I was a teenager, I thought we could create a perfect world—or if not quite perfect, at least much, much better than the one we are currently destroying. Actually, I still think it’s possible, just a lot harder and a lot more dangerous than I originally thought. I’ve been interested in all the efforts to imagine and create utopias, which sometimes produce hells instead of heavens, ever since. I have evolved (I think it’s progress) from being a high school Maoist to something more mature while watching China’s attempts to improve the lives of its citizens with respect and sympathy.

Peter's book list on utopianism east and west

Peter Zarrow Why did Peter love this book?

This is modern China’s only full-fledged utopia (mostly written about 1900)—explaining how humanity gradually evolves to get rid of the “boundaries” dividing us by nation, class, race, and gender. It may take thousands of years, but history will create a truly democratic and equal society. Children will be raised in public nurseries, couples, including homosexuals, will enter into one-year (renewable) contracts. In thousands of years, the boundaries separating the species and even the gods will dissolve as well.

By Kang Yu-Wei,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ta T’ung Shu as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1958.

This volume translates one of the major works of modern Chinese philosophy and in so doing makes a major contribution to the study of comparative philosophy. The volume contains an extensive introduction structured as follows:

1. Biographical Sketch of K'ang Yu-wei
2. Ta T'ung Shu: The Book
3. A General Discussion of the One-World Philosophy of K'ang Yu-wei


Book cover of Smoke and Mirrors: An Experience of China

Susan K. Harris Author Of Mark Twain, the World, and Me: Following the Equator, Then and Now

From my list on blending memoir, travel, and history.

Who am I?

I’ve always enjoyed books that introduce me to faraway places, cultural narratives, and the writers behind the stories. After retiring from college teaching, I decided to write one myself. I’m a Mark Twain scholar, so I followed Twain’s lecture tour through Australasia, India, and South Africa. One of my goals was to expose my research methods to my readers, and writing in the first person made that easy. What I hadn’t foreseen was how much the process would force me to confront my own past—exposing the radical differences between Mark Twain and Me. 

Susan's book list on blending memoir, travel, and history

Susan K. Harris Why did Susan love this book?

This is a first book, covering Aiyar’s years in China as a political correspondent for the Indian Express and The Hindu. Because she is Indian, Aiyar’s perspective differs from Americans’ viewpoints, which drew me, as I’ve been to both India and China. Aiyar tracks the impact of rapid growth on her informants’ sense of self and place—and then compares China’s growth to India’s. It’s a fast-paced, lively book featuring lots of interaction between Aiyar and her students, their families, and other informantsa thoughtful portrait of a culture shifting from tradition into an unknowable future, written by a journalist constantly aware of the radical differences between Indian and “new Chinese” values and sensibilities.  

By Pallavi Aiyar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


India and China share a 3500-km border and have interacted with each other for over 2000 years. It is remarkable then that their people know so little of each other: what they think, how they live, their language, customs and philosophy.Or even their cuisine. Pallavi Aiyar was very much the average Indian in her knowledge of China when she set out for Beijing in 2002. Over the next five years, she became a fascinated observer of a country undergoing relentless change. This book is an intimate look at a society evolving at double-digit pace. In the process, Pallavi Aiyar breaks…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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