10 books like Isaiah Berlin

By John Gray,

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

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Russian Thinkers

By Isaiah Berlin,

Book cover of Russian Thinkers

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.


Russian Thinkers

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.'


The Proper Study of Mankind

By Isaiah Berlin,

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

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’.

The Proper Study of Mankind

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…


Isaiah Berlin

By Michael Ignatieff,

Book cover of Isaiah Berlin: A Life

Ignatieff’s intensely readable authorised biography of Berlin is based on a decade of recorded conversations with his subject about all aspects of his life, as well as on a study of the massive archive of letters and other papers that Berlin left at his death. As a result it has many of the characteristics of the autobiography that Berlin never wrote, but one filtered through Ignatieff’s shrewd critical intelligence, deployed in the service of the liberal humanist outlook that he shares with his subject.

Isaiah Berlin

By Michael Ignatieff,

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 refused to write an autobiography, but he agreed to talk about himself - and so for ten years, he allowed Michael Ignatieff to interview him. Isaiah Berlin (1909-97) was one of the greatest and most humane of modern philosophers; historian of the Russian intellgentisia biographer of Marx, pioneering scholar of the Romantic movement and defender of the liberal idea of freedom. His own life was caught up in the most powerful currents of the century. The son of a Riga timber merchant, he witnessed the Russian Revolution, was plunged into suburban school life and the ferment of 1930s…


Reordering the World

By Duncan Bell,

Book cover of Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire

Duncan Bell’s collection of essays, Reordering the World, analyzes Victorian (and Victorian-adjacent) liberal imaginaries of empire and world politics. Of specific interest for Bell is the central place settler colonialism had in the constitution of liberal intellectual traditions, and the complex relationship between liberalism as an ideology and liberalism as part-and-parcel of the British empire. Of particular note in this collection are the essays in part I, which I have found to be indispensable in my own grappling with the contours of liberalism as a political and intellectual tradition.

Reordering the World

By Duncan Bell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A leading scholar of British political thought explores the relationship between liberalism and empire

Reordering the World is a penetrating account of the complexity and contradictions found in liberal visions of empire. Focusing mainly on nineteenth-century Britain-at the time the largest empire in history and a key incubator of liberal political thought-Duncan Bell sheds new light on some of the most important themes in modern imperial ideology.

The book ranges widely across Victorian intellectual life and beyond. The opening essays explore the nature of liberalism, varieties of imperial ideology, the uses and abuses of ancient history, the imaginative functions of…


Empires Without Imperialism

By Jeanne Morefield,

Book cover of Empires Without Imperialism: Anglo-American Decline and the Politics of Deflection

Over the past decade, there has been an enormous amount written about the “decline of global liberalism,” and particularly the so-called US-led liberal international order. Jeanne Morefield’s book Empires without Imperialism examines the nostalgia of liberal orders in comparing nineteenth and early-twentieth-century Britain and contemporary Anglo-American debates about liberalism and world politics. Morefield takes us through arguments from a diverse cast of characters including classicists like Alfred Zimmern and Donald Kagan, historians like Niall Ferguson, and political actors like Jan Smuts and Michael Ignatieff in order to understand how liberals draw on history as part of their political projects.

Empires Without Imperialism

By Jeanne Morefield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empires Without Imperialism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The end of the Cold War ushered in a moment of nearly pure American dominance on the world stage, yet that era now seems ages ago. Since 9/11 many informed commentators have focused on the relative decline of American power in the global system. While some have welcomed this as a salutary development, outspoken proponents of American power-particularly neoconservatives-have lamented this turn of events. As Jeanne Morefield argues in Empires Without
Imperialism, the defenders of a liberal international order steered by the US have both invoked nostalgia for a golden liberal past and succumbed to amnesia, forgetting the decidedly illiberal…


Birds Britannica

By Mark Cocker, Richard Mabey,

Book cover of Birds Britannica

This is a glorious bird-by-bird book, filled with photographs and lots of information and first-hand accounts, including folklore and history, with copious endnotes and references. It was first published in 2005 and reissued in 2020. The book is divided into different bird families, starting with the Diver family, the Grebe family, and the Albatross family, so it can be read systematically or by dipping in and out. Birds Britannica perhaps deserves the name ‘coffee-table book’ – being so heavy, it is almost impossible to read unless seated (with a coffee) at a table. 

Birds Britannica

By Mark Cocker, Richard Mabey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The British love their birds, which are inextricably entwined with every aspect of their island life. British customs, more than 1,000 years of English literature, the very fabric of society, even the landscape itself, have all been enhanced by the presence of birds. Highly acclaimed on first publication, this superb book pays tribute to the remarkable relationship forged between a nation and its most treasured national heritage.

Birds Britannica is a unique publication of immense importance. Neither an identification guide nor a behavioural study (although both these subjects enter its field), it concentrates on our social history and on the…


Mr. Churchill's Secretary

By Susan Elia MacNeal,

Book cover of Mr. Churchill's Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery

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.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary

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…


The Journalist in British Fiction and Film

By Sarah Lonsdale,

Book cover of The Journalist in British Fiction and Film: Guarding the Guardians from 1900 to the Present

If fictional journalists are your thing, then this book will almost certainly introduce you to some you’ve never heard of as well as those you (really should) have. Lonsdale insightfully identifies and dissects themes that crop up time after time in creative writing about journalists, from swashbuckling rogues to unethical scumbags. In the process, she has plenty to say about the craft of journalism itself and its enduring value to society. There is humour too, as when she quotes the immortal line of Stella Gibbons (author of Cold Comfort Farm): "The life of the journalist is poor, nasty, brutish and short. So is his style." Lovely.

The Journalist in British Fiction and Film

By Sarah Lonsdale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Journalist in British Fiction and Film as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did Edwardian novelists portray journalists as swashbuckling, truth-seeking super-heroes whereas post-WW2 depictions present the journalist as alienated outsider? Why are contemporary fictional journalists often deranged, murderous or intensely vulnerable? As newspaper journalism faces the double crisis of a lack of trust post-Leveson, and a lack of influence in the fragmented internet age, how do cultural producers view journalists and their role in society today?

In The Journalist in British Fiction and Film Sarah Lonsdale traces the ways in which journalists and newspapers have been depicted in fiction, theatre and film from the dawn of the mass popular press to…


Entertaining Mr. Pepys

By Deborah Swift,

Book cover of Entertaining Mr. Pepys

Entertaining Mr. Pepys explores the world of British theater during a time when women were finally allowed on stage as actresses. I loved it because of how the author explored her main character’s fascination with acting, which reminded me very much of how Grace in my own book is captivated by the stage and willing to go to any lengths to become an actress. I have read several of Swift’s novels and credit them with inspiring me to write my own novels based on women in the arts.

Entertaining Mr. Pepys

By Deborah Swift,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Perfect for fans of Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, Anne O'Brien and Elizabeth Chadwick, Deborah Swift brings a unique period in history to vivid, fascinating life in her acclaimed Pepys trilogy.

'A remarkably beguiling read. It transported me to the glitter and filth of seventeenth century London' Martine Bailey, author of The Almanack

'The fusion of historical facts and fiction is so flawless that it is hard to know where reality ends and fiction begins' Readers' Favorite

London, 1666. Elizabeth 'Bird' Carpenter has a wonderful singing voice, and music is her chief passion. When her father persuades her to marry horse-dealer…


Wolf of Wessex

By Matthew Harffy,

Book cover of Wolf of Wessex

Mathew Harffy has a lot going for him in the historical fiction world. His fight scenes are not overly technical and are easy to follow. They have just the right amount of blood and gore to make you believe the characters are really in danger but are not simply gratuitous violence. What I really love about this book is his voice when he writes descriptions of the forest and the people who live in it. I grew up in the woods of a small town in Canada, and I know how the forest can be a peaceful, tranquil setting one moment and then suddenly transform into a place of shadows and dread. Judging by the cover of this book, I think Harffy knows this as well.

Wolf of Wessex

By Matthew Harffy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Harffy's Dunston is a fantastic creation - old, creaking and misanthropic. The forest is beautifully evoked. A treat of a book' The Times.

AD 838. Deep in the forests of Wessex, Dunston's solitary existence is shattered when he stumbles on a mutilated corpse.

Accused of the murder, Dunston must clear his name and keep the dead man's daughter alive in the face of savage pursuers desperate to prevent a terrible secret from being revealed.

Rushing headlong through Wessex, Dunston will need to use all the skills of survival garnered from a lifetime in the wilderness. And if he has any…


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