100 books like Isaiah Berlin

By John Gray,

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

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

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Who am I?

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.

Who am I?

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: A Life

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

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Who am I?

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?

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.

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…


Book cover of Berlin Game

Lee Polevoi Author Of The Confessions of Gabriel Ash

From my list on the Cold War told in the first person.

Who am I?

I read Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy for the first time many years ago, while traveling aboard a Canadian National Railway train from Montreal to British Columbia. Something about the contrast between the majestic Canadian Rockies and the dark alleys of John Le Carré’s Berlin brought the Cold War fully to life and set me on the path to writing a novel of my own set during that time. (Living through some of those tense years of superpower stand-offs didn’t hurt.) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is told in third-person, but many Cold War novels written in the first person do a masterful job of evoking that troubled era. 

Lee's book list on the Cold War told in the first person

Lee Polevoi Why did Lee love this book?

For some readers, The Ipcress Files is Len Deighton’s best novel.

I’m in the camp that favors Berlin Game, the first entry in Deighton’s wonderful Cold War trilogy, Game, Set, and Match. 

The narrator, Bernard Samson, is a veteran field agent for British intelligence, during the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, the divided city of Berlin was ground zero for the Cold War, a city where many feared a Third World War might erupt.

Samson tells his story in an acerbic, world-weary voice that’s irresistible to read.

While his exploits throughout Berlin Game are thrilling enough, it’s not until he discovers the truth of his wife Fiona’s terrible betrayal that the novel takes on an almost mythic quality. 

By Len Deighton,

Why should I read it?

1 author 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 Reordering the World: Essays on Liberalism and Empire

Dillon S. Tatum Author Of Liberalism and Transformation: The Global Politics of Violence and Intervention

From my list on liberalism and politics.

Who am I?

Dillon Stone Tatum is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Francis Marion University. His research interests are on the history, development, and politics of liberal internationalism, international political theory, and critical security studies.

Dillon's book list on liberalism and politics

Dillon S. Tatum Why did Dillon love this book?

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.

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…


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

Dillon S. Tatum Author Of Liberalism and Transformation: The Global Politics of Violence and Intervention

From my list on liberalism and politics.

Who am I?

Dillon Stone Tatum is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Francis Marion University. His research interests are on the history, development, and politics of liberal internationalism, international political theory, and critical security studies.

Dillon's book list on liberalism and politics

Dillon S. Tatum Why did Dillon love this book?

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.

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…


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.

Who am I?

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 Birds Britannica

Lesley Adkins Author Of When There Were Birds

From my list on the history of British birds.

Who am I?

Having grown up on the south coast of Hampshire, I love both the countryside and the sea. After studying ancient history, archaeology, and Latin at the University of Bristol, I worked for many years as a field archaeologist and met my husband Roy on an excavation of a Roman villa at Milton Keynes. We have worked together ever since, as archaeologists and as authors of books on archaeology, ancient history, naval history, and social history. Our wide-ranging interests proved invaluable when writing our book When There Were Birds.

Lesley's book list on the history of British birds

Lesley Adkins Why did Lesley love this book?

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. 

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…


Book cover of David Copperfield

Eric Daniel Weiner Author Of The Famously Funny Parrott: Four Tales from the Bird Himself

From my list on children's books that you will want to read to your kids every night.

Who am I?

When we were doing research for Dora the Explorer (I’m one of the show’s three creators), we read picture book versions of the episodes to preschoolers. The researcher would always begin by saying, “I’ve got a story to tell you.” The preschoolers would clap, cheer, and sometimes even hug the kid next to them. Then, my story would begin. At least with group 1, before we made a lot of changes, the children would invariably fall on their backs and beg to be taken back to class. Everyone longs to be told a great story. So, for my list, I picked some of the greatest read-aloud children’s books ever “told.” 

Eric's book list on children's books that you will want to read to your kids every night

Eric Daniel Weiner Why did Eric love this book?

This was Dickens’s personal favorite of all his books. It’s so good it makes me remember parts of my childhood–sensations, thoughts, feelings–I’d long forgotten. My wife and I read it to each other at bedtime, about five pages a night.

It’s pretty sophisticated prose, but I bet a kid as young as five could get into it in the same way they can enjoy someone reading Harry Potter books to them.

There’s something reassuring about how long the book is, too. You’ll want Dickens to keep telling you this story night after night.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Now a major film directed by Armando Iannucci, starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw

'The greatest achievement of the greatest of all novelists' Leo Tolstoy

In David Copperfield - the novel he described as his 'favourite child' - Dickens drew on his own experiences to create one of his most moving and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. It is the story of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of…


Book cover of Half a Soul

Anne Rollins Author Of The Solitary Rose

From my list on Regency romances with a touch of magic.

Who am I?

I grew up an avid reader of children’s and YA fantasy, which is how I discovered the subgenre of Regency fantasy. When I stumbled across Wrede and Stevermer’s work in libraries and used bookstores, I absolutely loved it. As an adult, I enjoyed exploring the Regency romances of older authors like Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney as well as more recent Regency writers. But when I began writing romance myself, I went back to the fantasies that were my first introduction to the Regency era. My Regency novels are primarily romance, with just a pinch of magic, but I hope both romantasy fans and historical romance readers can enjoy them.

Anne's book list on Regency romances with a touch of magic

Anne Rollins Why did Anne love this book?

Atwater’s Regency fairy tales include not just human magicians but also the fae.

In Half a Soul, an elvin lord tries to steal Theadora Etting’s soul, but her quick-thinking cousin helps her preserve half of it. With only half a soul, though, Dora both thinks differently and feels emotions differently than other people. (Author Olivia Atwater has said that Dora’s magical condition parallels real-life neurodivergence, and autistic readers may see themselves in Dora.)

Because of those differences, Dora believes herself to be unlovable, but she is proven gloriously wrong when she encounters Elias Wilder, one of the most powerful sorcerers in Europe. She and Elias work together to stop a magical plague threatening vulnerable children in workhouses. 

By Olivia Atwater,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Half a Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 13, 14, 15, and 16.

What is this book about?

“Whimsical, witty, and brimming over with charm” (India Holton), Olivia Atwater’s delightful debut will transport you to a magical version of Regency England, where the only thing more meddlesome than a fairy is a marriage-minded mother!

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment—an unfortunate condition that leaves her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season—but when Elias Wilder, the strange, handsome,…


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