100 books like Humanity at Sea

By Itamar Mann,

Here are 100 books that Humanity at Sea fans have personally recommended if you like Humanity at Sea. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Tears of Salt: A Doctor's Story of the Refugee Crisis

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This moving narrative describes the life of a doctor working on the Italian island of Lampedusa, who learns firsthand about hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism and hoping to make a new life in Europe. Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who runs the lone medical clinic on the island, took care of these refugees for more than 25 years, before being the subject of a remarkable film, which is both fictional and real, called Fire At Sea. That film, and this book, shed light on the remarkable life and work of Dr. Bartolo and, moreover, tells the stories of refugees, alive and dead, whose worlds collided with a complex geopolitical system that creates hardship, and then seeks ways of helping those affected.

By Pietro Bartolo, Lidia Tilotta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Situated more than one hundred miles off Italy's southern coast, the rocky island of Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism and hoping to make a new life in Europe. Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who runs the lone medical clinic on the island, has been caring for many of them-both the living and the dead-for a quarter century. Tears of Salt is Dr. Bartolo's moving account of his life and work set against one of the signal crises of…


Book cover of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This book assesses the value of liberal education, and the importance of (re) reading the so-called ‘classics,’ rather than resorting to short snippets of articles, YouTube videos, or chapters which make short and pointed arguments about specific issues. The great classics have changed Roosevelt Montás’s life in ways that are to me familiar, since I’ve enjoyed watching the fruits of liberal education as they transformed his life of my own students over the years.

By Roosevelt Montás,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life-and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds

What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montas tells…


Book cover of The Lives of Literature: Reading, Teaching, Knowing

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

Weinstein takes the age-old question – what is literature? – and transforms it into why we (would want to) read literature. For him, literature changes us, allows us to be someone else, and provides us insight into the world we inhabit, and many more worlds we haven’t. He reads a broad array of works, from Sophocles to James Joyce and Toni Morrison, and thinks about such issues as identification, empathy, and sympathy with those we come to ‘know’ through our reading.

By Arnold Weinstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mixing passion and humor, a personal work of literary criticism that demonstrates how the greatest books illuminate our lives

Why do we read literature? For Arnold Weinstein, the answer is clear: literature allows us to become someone else. Literature changes us by giving us intimate access to an astonishing variety of other lives, experiences, and places across the ages. Reflecting on a lifetime of reading, teaching, and writing, The Lives of Literature explores, with passion, humor, and whirring intellect, a professor's life, the thrills and traps of teaching, and, most of all, the power of literature to lead us to…


Book cover of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman Author Of Girls with Bright Futures

From my list on college admissions mania.

Why are we passionate about this?

When each of our older boys were in the midst of the college admissions process, our husbands suffered life-threatening health crises. It was such a bizarre coincidence that we both experienced intense brushes with mortality during this time of high anxiety. The juxtaposition between health and college admissions gave us a unique perspective and led us to explore the impacts of college admissions anxiety on families, friendships, students, and school communities. We had entirely plotted Girls With Bright Futures and were nearly through the first draft when the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal broke in March 2019. We felt like the headlines had been ripped from our manuscript!

Tracy's book list on college admissions mania

Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman Why did Tracy love this book?

When we set out on our writing journey to understand the impacts of college admissions anxiety on families, friendships, students, and school communities, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, by William Deresiewicz, was one of the most insightful books we read. Deresiewicz does an outstanding job of tracing the history of the college admissions industrial complex, including the fascinating story behind the US News & World Report rankings, as well as the impact of airline deregulation and the break-up of Ma Bell on college admissions. If you’re trying to make sense of college admissions mania, this book is a great starting point.

By William Deresiewicz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a professor at Yale, William Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation's brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively and how to find a sense of purpose. Now he argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.

Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counsellors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw first-hand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the…


Book cover of Doro: Refugee, hero, champion, survivor

Jasmin O'Hara Author Of Asylum Speakers: Stories of Migration From the Humans Behind the Headlines

From my list on migration and displacement from first-hand perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been working to amplify voices of refugees and asylum seekers since 2015, when a 12-year-old boy named Mez joined my family as the first of four foster brothers I now have from Eritrea, Sudan, Libya and Afghanistan. Their stories led me to the Calais Jungle in an attempt to challenge the negative media portrayal of those experiencing displacement. I’ve since worked in refugee camps across the world from France to Bangladesh, sharing food, stories, laughter, and tears, asking questions and learning from those I meet. My book is a compilation of the stories that have impacted me most (Mez being the first), and a testament to those who shared them with me. 

Jasmin's book list on migration and displacement from first-hand perspectives

Jasmin O'Hara Why did Jasmin love this book?

My friend and hero search-and-rescue worker Brendan met Doro during a rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea. He promised to help Doro share his story with the world, and together they wrote this book.

Brendan’s writing really touches me as someone who has had a similar experience and journey into working in refugee response, and this, along with Doro’s incredible story, makes for a very profound book.

By Brendan Woodhouse, Doro Goumaneh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'This is Doro and he is beautiful.'

So begins the extraordinary story of Doro Goumaneh, who faced an unimaginable series of adversities on his journey from persecution in The Gambia to refuge in France.

Doro was once a relatively prosperous fisherman, but in 2014, when the country's fishing rights were stolen and secret police began arresting Gambian fishermen, Doro left home, fleeing for his life. From Senegal to Libya to Algeria and back to Libya, Doro fell victim to the horrific cycle of abuse targeted at refugees. He endured shipwrecks, torture and being left for dead in a mass grave.…


Book cover of The Day War Came

Tim Warnes Author Of Dangerous!

From my list on for teaching kids empathy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer, illustrator, and champion of children’s books, with approximately 90 titles published over the last 25 years. I use this experience to guide parents to quality picture books via my blog, Stories Worth Sharing, which aims to help parents nurture and connect with their kids through stories. I can trace this passion back to my childhood. Snuggled in my father’s arms, we’d explore fantastic places together – like One Hundred Acre Wood, Busy Town, and Zuckerman’s barn. Picture books are foundational in developing young minds. These selected titles put your child in someone else’s shoes and teach them to empathise with others.

Tim's book list on for teaching kids empathy

Tim Warnes Why did Tim love this book?

Sadly, this powerful story feels more relevant than ever. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, it confronts the reality of war head-on, putting the reader in the shoes of a little girl whose everyday routine is shattered. Because of the subject matter, this may be unsuitable for very young or sensitive kids – but it proves that picture books can be a potent way of speaking to older kids, too.

The unsophisticated language and naive illustrations provide children easy access to important discussions surrounding conflict and misplaced children. Poignant, thought-provoking, and ultimately uplifting, this story reminds us of the reality of war and that our children provide hope for a peaceful future.

By Nicola Davies, Rebecca Cobb (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Day War Came as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

A powerful and necessary picture book - the journey of a child forced to become a refugee when war destroys everything she has ever known.

Imagine if, on an ordinary day, war came. Imagine it turned your town to rubble. Imagine going on a long and difficult journey - all alone. Imagine finding no welcome at the end of it. Then imagine a child who gives you something small but very, very precious...

When the government refused to allow 3000 child refugees to enter this country in 2016, Nicola Davies was so angry she wrote a poem. It started a…


Book cover of Refuge

Helen Benedict Author Of The Good Deed

From my list on honest novels about being a refugee.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a novelist and journalist who has been writing about war and refugees for nearly two decades. In 2018, I went to the Greek island of Samos, which held one of the most inhumane refugee camps in Europe, to talk to people there about their lives and hopes. Out of this, I wrote several articles and later two books, including The Good Deed. My hope is to counteract the demonization of refugees, so rife in the world today, by bringing out all that we humans have in common, such as our need for shelter, food, family, safety, and love. 

Helen's book list on honest novels about being a refugee

Helen Benedict Why did Helen love this book?

Nayari's novel is also about Iranian refugees, but this story is set in Amsterdam, where an Iranian professional is struggling with her marriage, her identity, and her relationship with her father, who is still in Iran. While living in Europe, she learns of the dire straits faced by refugees from all over the Middle East and Africa, which makes for powerful and moving reading.

The writing is so intelligent and honest that this is one of my favorite novels of today.

By Dina Nayeri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Rich and colorful… [Refuge] has the kind of immediacy commonly associated with memoir, which lends it heft, intimacy, atmosphere.” –New York Times

The moving lifetime relationship between a father and a daughter, seen through the prism of global immigration and the contemporary refugee experience.

An Iranian girl escapes to America as a child, but her father stays behind. Over twenty years, as she transforms from confused immigrant to overachieving Westerner to sophisticated European transplant, daughter and father know each other only from their visits: four crucial visits over two decades, each in a different international city. The longer they are…


Book cover of The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Cathy Tsang-Feign Author Of Keep Your Life, Family and Career Intact While Living Abroad: What Every Expat Needs to Know

From my list on to equip yourself for living abroad.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a psychologist, I've worked with countless emigrants and international expatriates. People relocate to various parts of the world for different reasons. However, each person’s life struggles, cultural background, experiences, and knowledge help make the world more colorful and richer in so many ways. I encourage people to open themselves to see the world and be receptive and tolerant to those who are different from them. It teaches us to be humbler and more respectful, and to enrich our life in general. My choices are about preparing your mind and your heart for life in another culture. Sometimes a well-crafted novel can offer insights that other media can’t express.

Cathy's book list on to equip yourself for living abroad

Cathy Tsang-Feign Why did Cathy love this book?

This book, the story of a Syrian refugee beekeeper, speaks volumes about what I believe in: the resiliency of human beings and the power of the mind.

The beekeeper’s journey reminds me of why I love working with people as a psychologist after 30+ years. I witnessed many times that hopes and dreams can carry people through the most difficult, dire situations. The title of the book also attracted me.

Being an amateur beekeeper, I have some understanding of beekeeper mentality. One has to be observant, patient, and persistent in order to befriend bees. This includes a willingness to learn, follow instinct, and trust what life can bring. These characteristics are reflected in the protagonist of this book.

His emotional journey is about surrendering to the unknown, working with what is in front of him, and trusting what the universe will bring him in the end. Warmth, kindness, and torments…

By Christy Lefteri,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Beekeeper of Aleppo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for Audiobook of the Year - The British Book Awards 2020

A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB CHOICE 2019

Narrated by Art Malik, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.

In the midst of war, he found love
In the midst of darkness, he found courage
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life,…


Book cover of Snow Hunters

Don Lee Author Of The Partition

From my list on by now-established Korean American authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

A Korean American author myself, I published my first book in 2001, and in the ensuing years I’ve been heartened by the number of Korean Americans who have made a splash with their debut novels, as these five writers did. All five have ventured outside of what I’ve called the ethnic literature box, going far beyond the traditional stories expected from Asian Americans. They established a trend that is happily growing. 

Don's book list on by now-established Korean American authors

Don Lee Why did Don love this book?

This stunning, superlative novel soars in its lyricism. In just 194 pages, we get a lifetime. Yohan leaves the Korean peninsula after the war and becomes an apprentice to a Japanese tailor in Brazil. This story is quiet, without a lot of fireworks, but it’s nonetheless haunting and just gorgeous. 

By Paul Yoon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

OPRAH.COM BOOK OF THE WEEK
DAILY BEAST HOT READ
NEW YORKER BOOK TO WATCH OUT FOR

"At once as delicate and durable as the filament a spider weaves...the finest of fables...a small but radiant star in the current literary firmament." -Dallas Morning News

"[A] quotidian-surreal craft-master." -New York Magazine
Yoon's highly anticipated debut novel SNOW HUNTERS promises to be even more beloved than the collection of stories that introduced him to the literary world.  Snow Hunters traces the extraordinary journey of Yohan, who defects from his country at the end of the Korean War, leaving his friends and family behind…


Book cover of The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis

Nell Gabiam Author Of The Politics of Suffering: Syria's Palestinian Refugee Camps

From my list on refugees in or from the Middle East.

Why am I passionate about this?

I developed an interest in the Middle East after taking a class on the Peoples and Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa as an undergraduate student. I later lived and worked in Kuwait for two years and traveled extensively across the Middle East, including to Syria, a country whose hospitality, history, and cultural richness left an indelible impression on me. During subsequent travel to Syria, I became acquainted with the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus. This camp, which physically blended into its surroundings while retaining its Palestinian-ness, ignited my desire to better understand Palestinian refugee identity and the political claims at the heart of this identity. 

Nell's book list on refugees in or from the Middle East

Nell Gabiam Why did Nell love this book?

Kingsley’s The New Odyssey is a journalistic account of what became known during the 2015-2016 period as “Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” It brings a human face to the million or so refugees— a significant number of whom were from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq— who sought asylum in Europe by way of various irregular Mediterranean routes. By embedding himself with the refugees at the center of his book, Kingsley gives an intimate portrait of the reasons Europe became a destination for these refugees and of the violence and hardships they are subjected to at the hands of an unwelcoming Europe. The New Odyssey also provides an in-depth and nuanced portrait of the smugglers who, while by no means idealized in the book, are an easy scapegoat in European attempts to deflect responsibility for the suffering and death of migrants taking the irregular Mediterranean routes. Kingsley’s narrative balances a broad overview of the…

By Patrick Kingsley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On the day of his son's fourteenth birthday, Hashem al-Souki lay somewhere in the Mediterranean, crammed in a wooden dinghy. His family was relatively safe-at least for the time being-in Egypt, where they had only just settled after fleeing their war-torn Damascus home three years prior. Traversing these unforgiving waters and the treacherous terrain that would follow was worth the slim chance of securing a safe home for his children in Sweden. If he failed, at least he would fail alone.

Hashem's story is tragically common, as desperate victims continue to embark on deadly journeys in search of freedom. Tracking…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in refugees, law, and the Mediterranean?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about refugees, law, and the Mediterranean.

Refugees Explore 140 books about refugees
Law Explore 163 books about law
The Mediterranean Explore 62 books about the Mediterranean