100 books like Isaiah Berlin

By Michael Ignatieff,

Here are 100 books that Isaiah Berlin fans have personally recommended if you like Isaiah Berlin. 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 Russian Thinkers

Henry Hardy Author Of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the supreme good fortune to know Berlin (1909–97) for nearly twenty-five years, and to work with him as his principal editor for most of that time; I continued this work after his death and it still occupies me now. He was one of the great human beings of the twentieth century, an essayist and letter-writer of genius, and a bewitching bridge between academia and the general civilised life of the mind. His ideas are fertile and illuminating to this day, and the immediately recognisable voice of his prose is the best possible intellectual company.

Henry's book list on Isaiah Berlin

Henry Hardy Why did Henry love this book?

As a Russian Jew and Russian-speaker by birth, a witness of the Russian Revolution, a historian of ideas by vocation, and a consummate prose-writer, Berlin was able to extract the pith of the nineteenth-century Russian intelligentsia and present it in English as no one else has before or since. Belinsky, Herzen, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and others come to life in these ten essays and speak to us and our concerns today in Berlin’s ventriloquistic tours de force.

In particular, Herzen’s passionate denunciation of political extremism plays a central role, and provides a moral underpinning for Berlin’s commitment to liberty. The book is a major contribution to the explanation of Russia to the West, and the reader is left in no doubt about the relevance and power of the ideas that Berlin illuminates.


By Isaiah Berlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Few, if any, English-language critics have written as perceptively as Isaiah Berlin about Russian thought and culture. Russian Thinkers is his unique meditation on the impact that Russia's outstanding writers and philosophers had on its culture. In addition to Tolstoy's philosophy of history, which he addresses in his most famous essay, 'The Hedgehog and the Fox,' Berlin considers the social and political circumstances that produced such men as Herzen, Bakunin, Turgenev, Belinsky, and others of the Russian intelligentsia, who made up, as Berlin describes, 'the largest single Russian contribution to social change in the world.'


Book cover of The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays

Henry Hardy Author Of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the supreme good fortune to know Berlin (1909–97) for nearly twenty-five years, and to work with him as his principal editor for most of that time; I continued this work after his death and it still occupies me now. He was one of the great human beings of the twentieth century, an essayist and letter-writer of genius, and a bewitching bridge between academia and the general civilised life of the mind. His ideas are fertile and illuminating to this day, and the immediately recognisable voice of his prose is the best possible intellectual company.

Henry's book list on Isaiah Berlin

Henry Hardy Why did Henry love this book?

This is the book for readers who wish to sample Berlin’s kaleidoscopic, multidisciplinary work in a single volume across its whole range. It includes his most celebrated essays in philosophy, political theory, the history of ideas, and twentieth-century portraiture. His two most famous pieces, The Hedgehog and the Fox (on Tolstoy’s view of history) and Two Concepts of Liberty (on ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ political freedom), are here, as are his accounts of his formative meetings with the great Russian poets Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak, his impressions of Churchill and Roosevelt, and his pellucid accounts of romanticism and nationalism. The essays are linked by his ruling preoccupation with understanding human nature in all its irreducibly various guises: what he called, following Kant, ‘the crooked timber of humanity’.

By Isaiah Berlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'He becomes everyman's guide to everything exciting in the history of ideas' New York Review of Books

Isaiah Berlin was one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century, and one of the finest writers. The Proper Study Of Mankind selects some of his best essays in which his insights both illuminate the past and offer a key to the burning issues of today.

The full (and enormous) range of his work is represented here, from the exposition of his most distinctive doctrine - pluralism - to studies of Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Churchill and Roosevelt. In these pages he encapsulates the…


Book cover of Isaiah Berlin: An Interpretation of His Thought

Henry Hardy Author Of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the supreme good fortune to know Berlin (1909–97) for nearly twenty-five years, and to work with him as his principal editor for most of that time; I continued this work after his death and it still occupies me now. He was one of the great human beings of the twentieth century, an essayist and letter-writer of genius, and a bewitching bridge between academia and the general civilised life of the mind. His ideas are fertile and illuminating to this day, and the immediately recognisable voice of his prose is the best possible intellectual company.

Henry's book list on Isaiah Berlin

Henry Hardy Why did Henry love this book?

John Gray’s encounter with Berlin’s ideas, first published in Berlin’s lifetime, remains one of the most intriguing and challenging explorations of the intellectual territories that he inhabited. Gray is not afraid to disagree with Berlin, but makes clear where he goes beyond him to present his own interpretation of the topics by which they are both preoccupied: freedom, pluralism, history, nationalism, Romanticism, the Enlightenment, and liberalism.

By John Gray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Isaiah Berlin (1909-1997) was the greatest intellectual historian of the twentieth century. But his work also made an original and important contribution to moral and political philosophy and to liberal theory. In 1921, at the age of eleven, Isaiah Berlin arrived in England from Riga, Latvia. By the time he was thirty he was at the heart of British intellectual life. He has remained its commanding presence ever since, and few would dispute that he was one of Britain's greatest thinkers. His reputation extends worldwide--as a great conversationalist, intellectual historian, and man of letters. He has been called the century's…


Book cover of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius

Adrián Gordaliza Vega Author Of The End of Everything: A society in transition

From my list on biographies for the contemporary reader.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a graduate in Philosophy with a Masters degree in Contemporary Culture so this theme is enormously interesting for me. My passion has been shifting from literature to contemporary society and culture in general. I love to find the connexions between the current state of affairs and the past. I honestly think that if we look at the lives and times of the great thinkers we can get hints about the state of contemporary society. Understanding what makes us behave and think the way we do it is my main motivation. 

Adrián's book list on biographies for the contemporary reader

Adrián Gordaliza Vega Why did Adrián love this book?

The figure of Ludwig Wittgenstein has always been quite enigmatic for me.

The enormous contradictions of his life and the intensity of it are difficult to understand in the abstract. Ray Monk's biography contextualizes the life and work of the Austrian philosopher who set out to solve all the problems of philosophy.

Monk's biography stands as a testament to Wittgenstein's enduring influence on our understanding of language, thought, and reality. 

By Ray Monk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ludwig Wittgenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Great philosophical biographies can be counted on one hand. Monk's life of Wittgenstein is such a one." The Christian Science Monitor.


Book cover of Berlin Game

Merle Nygate Author Of The Righteous Spy

From my list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve written and script edited in a lot of different genres, from factual drama to sitcom, children’s TV to fantasy. I’ve always loved spy stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one. Recently, at the University of East Anglia I studied for an MA in Crime Fiction, and that’s where I finally got the chance to study espionage and write a spy novel myself. I hope you enjoy my selection of books if you haven’t already read them. Or even if you have. They’re all so good that I feel like re-reading them right now. 

Merle's book list on spy books that spies read and sometimes wrote themselves

Merle Nygate Why did Merle love this book?

This is the first book in a nine-book series, and once again, these are books I read and read again and always find something new to enjoy.

Set towards the end of the Cold War, the books make me laugh as well as think. In planning the series, Deighton said he wanted to write about Samson’s marriage and how the relationship is impacted by the work. I found this a compelling idea and it’s something I’ve done in my new book. I’m not sure that Len Deighton was a spy himself, but he certainly knew a few.

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Masterly ... dazzlingly intelligent and subtle' Sunday Times

'Deighton's best novel to date - sharp, witty and sour, like Raymond Chandler adapted to British gloom and the multiple betrayals of the spy' Observer

Embattled agent Bernard Samson is used to being passed over for promotion as his younger, more ambitious colleagues - including his own wife Fiona - rise up the ranks of MI6. When a valued agent in East Berlin warns the British of a mole at the heart of the Service, Samson must return to the field and the city he loves to uncover the traitor's identity. This…


Book cover of Mr. Churchill's Secretary

Jennifer Kincheloe Author Of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc

From my list on smart historical mysteries that start a series.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a public health research scientist who writes humorous historical mysteries set in 1900s Los Angeles among the police matrons of the LAPD. Like you, I read. I love smart, well-researched historical fiction with strong female protagonists and a good romantic subplot. Extra points if the book is funny because studies show laughter is good for you. 

Jennifer's book list on smart historical mysteries that start a series

Jennifer Kincheloe Why did Jennifer love this book?

In 1940 London, Maggie Hope, a brilliant mind who graduated top of her class, is recruited by Number 10 Downing Street to be…a typist. Of course. She’s a woman. She’s also a crackerjack code breaker. I think you know where this is going. The character is wonderful, the writing strong, the story tight. A highlight for me was when Maggie –a young, virginal, cerebral type—pulls off a daring motorcycle jump with a man on the back because she has to. I don’t know, I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in there.

By Susan Elia MacNeal,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mr. Churchill's Secretary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BARRY AWARD WINNER • Heralding the arrival of a brilliant new heroine, Mr. Churchill’s Secretary captures the drama of an era of unprecedented challenge—and the greatness that rose to meet it.

“With any luck, the adventures of red-haired super-sleuth Maggie Hope will go on forever. . . . Taut, well-plotted, and suspenseful, this is a wartime mystery to sink your teeth into.” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none…


Book cover of Flying Colours

William Illsey Atkinson Author Of Sun's Strong Immortality

From my list on well-written slam-bang adventures.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had a rotten childhood. Stuck in bed with asthma, I couldn’t do sports; but I could roam space and time with books, especially science fiction. Yet when I tried to re-read my beloved sci-fi titles as an adult, I got a shock. The books with sound science had terrible writing; the well-written books were full of scientific schlock. I realized that if I wanted sci-fi that was both technically astute and rewarding to read, I’d have to write it myself. And so I did.

William's book list on well-written slam-bang adventures

William Illsey Atkinson Why did William love this book?

"I find Hornblower admirable, vastly entertaining," said Winston Churchill in the best short review ever written. Forester takes you back 200 years to an age of wooden ships and iron men. Here you smell the powder, see the mainsails strain, hear the roar of cannon and the clang of steel – and learn more about the Napoleonic Wars than any textbook could convey. The Hornblower books are all electrifying, but to my mind, this is the best.

By C. S. Forester,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The seventh volume in the classic naval adventure series finds Captain Hornblower a prisoner in the French fortress of Rosas, having to surrender his ship, but only after seriously disabling three French ships. C.S.Forester also wrote "The African Queen".


Book cover of Lord Hornblower

Alice McVeigh Author Of Harriet: A Jane Austen Variation

From my list on for readers who like a varied book diet.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been “big-five-published” in contemporary fiction, Indie-published in speculative thrillers and I – only last year – rejected several publishers in favour of self-publishing books Jane Austen herself might have loved. A Jane Austen fanatic from an early age, I know most of the novels by heart, and appear to have succeeded (to some extent) in understanding her style. My Susan – a unique imagining of Austen’s Lady Susan as a young girl – is both award-winning and bestselling and my Harriet – an imaginative “take” on Austen’s Emma, has just been selected as "Editor's Pick - outstanding" on Publishers Weekly.   

Alice's book list on for readers who like a varied book diet

Alice McVeigh Why did Alice love this book?

Hornblower is a fantastic character, and the entire series is worth a read, but C.S. Forester got more accomplished throughout the series. Meticulously researched - and recently wildly popular, thanks to a TV series - the books are still much deeper, more resonant, and better!! Hornblower is in constant turmoil, too sensitive for his own good or for the crises every Admiral probably had to face, he is also so self-conscious that even in love - and he is very passionate - he can't quite let go. Combine that with a number of vivid females and still more interesting fellow officers - all with their own crosses to bear - and the Napoleonic war on the seas and... could not have been written better.

By C. S. Forester,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ninth novel in the Hornblower series by the author of "The African Queen".


Book cover of Failures of State: The Inside Story of Britain's Battle with Coronavirus

Tim Madge Author Of White Mischief: A Cultural History of Cocaine

From my list on wide cultural spectrum for an inquiring mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

Tim Madge is a well-established award-winning published author, historian and former journalist of over 45 years standing. He has written on a wide range of subjects, a cultural history of cocaine being one, resulting in White Mischief. It’s a fascinating story involving a murky mix of politics and race, as well as criminals and Sigmund Freud.

Tim's book list on wide cultural spectrum for an inquiring mind

Tim Madge Why did Tim love this book?

The authors work for the Sunday Times Insight team and the book they have produced is, you might say, a public inquiry of the kind we won’t be getting from any government, now or in the future. We’ve all been living through this nightmare and the concept of journalism being a first rough history of events is more than adequately demonstrated by this excellently researched text.

Unless you’ve been asleep, or visiting another planet during the past 15 months, you’ll be painfully aware of how badly the pandemic has been handled in the UK. Coming on the back of Brexit, the big event that caused the Government to never have its eye on the Coronavirus ball at the critical moments in January and February, 2020, the pandemic was at first ridiculed, then fatally downplayed by Boris Johnson.

Worse, as we all know to our personal and collective cost, was to…

By Jonathan Calvert, George Arbuthnott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER*

A GUARDIAN AND SUNDAY TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

'An astonishing book' James O'Brien

'A gripping, devastating read' Sunday Times

The inside story of the UK's response to the pandemic from the Insight investigations unit at The Sunday Times

Failures of State recounts the extraordinary political decisions taken at the heart of Boris Johnson's government during the global pandemic.

Fully updated and corroborated by hundreds of sources, this is the insider's account of how the government sleepwalked into disaster and tried to cover up its role in the tragedy. Thrillingly told, it exposes one of the…


Book cover of Monty's Men: The British Army and the Liberation of Europe

Jeremy Black Author Of A History of the Second World War in 100 Maps

From my list on WW2 in Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jeremy Black is a prolific lecturer and writer, the author of over 100 books. Many concern aspects of eighteenth-century British, European, and American political, diplomatic and military history but he has also published on the history of the press, cartography, warfare, culture, and on the nature and uses of history itself.

Jeremy's book list on WW2 in Europe

Jeremy Black Why did Jeremy love this book?

Already a published expert on air power, armour, and the Normandy campaign, Buckley went on to produce a well-considered and ably researched evaluation of the British army in 1944-5, one that rescued it from the deeply-flawed criticism by Max Hastings of its relative effectiveness.

By John Buckley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Historian John Buckley offers a radical reappraisal of Great Britain's fighting forces during World War Two, challenging the common belief that the British Army was no match for the forces of Hitler's Germany. Following Britain's military commanders and troops across the battlefields of Europe, from D-Day to VE-Day, from the Normandy beaches to Arnhem and the Rhine, and, ultimately, to the Baltic, Buckley's provocative history demonstrates that the British Army was more than a match for the vaunted Nazi war machine. This fascinating revisionist study of the campaign to liberate Northern Europe in the war's final years features a large…


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