100 books like Lincoln in the Bardo

By George Saunders,

Here are 100 books that Lincoln in the Bardo fans have personally recommended if you like Lincoln in the Bardo. 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 Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D. H. Lawrence

Emma Darwin Author Of This is Not a Book About Charles Darwin: a writer’s journey through my family

From my list on failing to write a book.

Why am I passionate about this?

Alongside writing, I’ve been running workshops, teaching and mentoring writers for nearly twenty years, helping people get unstuck and keep going. So I spend most of my working life thinking about creativity and writing—then suddenly I, too, couldn’t write the book I needed to write. Every book in this list is about not-writing for different reasons, in different circumstances, but between them they tell us so much about how we write, why we write, how we get writing to happen—and what’s happening when we can’t. These very different stories resonate with each other, and I hope some of them resonate with you.

Emma's book list on failing to write a book

Emma Darwin Why did Emma love this book?

First, because it’s incredibly funny. Geoff Dyer set out—he says—to write a sober, serious study of D. H. Lawrence, but life, travel arrangements, random people and his own inertia kept getting in the way. The story of his odyssey doesn’t just evoke all the things about writing that we’ve always suspected (that it’s hard; that it’s easy; that we often wonder why on earth we do it; that we never question that we want to do it). It also, by stealth, evokes and explains an amazing amount about Lawrence, and why he’s a writer that so many people love—or hate—so passionately. 

By Geoff Dyer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Out of Sheer Rage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Recounts the author's experiences visiting the places D.H. Lawrence lived while actively not working on a book about Lawrence and not writing his own novel.


Book cover of The Invention of Wings

T.K. Thorne Author Of Noah's Wife

From my list on history’s remarkable women.

Why am I passionate about this?

T.K. Thorne became a police officer during the first decade of women policing in Birmingham, Alabama, retiring as a captain. Her background as a woman in a macho man’s world helped inform the writing of award-winning historical novels about completely unknown women in two of the world’s oldest and most famous stories—the tale of Noah’s flood and the burning of Sodom (Noah’s Wife and Angels at the Gate). An experienced speaker, T.K. shares the fascinating background research into the culture of those early civilizations, as well as the scientific discoveries behind the flood in the Mideast and first-hand information gained from her personal trips to the area.

T.K.'s book list on history’s remarkable women

T.K. Thorne Why did T.K. love this book?

This masterpiece is a story of the Grimké sisters, Sarah and Angelina—path-breakers in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements—interwoven with the story of Hetty, a young slave girl given to Sarah on her 11th birthday.

Hetty and Sarah find their way through the prejudice and barriers of a patriarchal society that views them as less than. Both learn to soar.

This book affected me deeply as a writer. Kidd is simply a master of words. But the story itself stripped away my naivety about what our society would look like had these women not taken on the patriarchal system. It is jolting to realize that the fight for women’s rights is not over, but ongoing.

We owe such a debt to those who struggled through the painful and sometimes deadly slings and arrows of culture to stand up for what was right. And we are not done.

By Sue Monk Kidd,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Invention of Wings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the celebrated author of The Secret Life of Bees and the forthcoming novel The Book of Longings, a novel about two unforgettable American women.

Writing at the height of her narrative and imaginative gifts, Sue Monk Kidd presents a masterpiece of hope, daring, the quest for freedom, and the desire to have a voice in the world.

Hetty "Handful" Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke's daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something…


Book cover of Living with Awareness: A Guide to the Satipatthana Sutta

Maitreyabandhu Author Of Thicker than Blood (Friendship on the Buddhist Path)

From my list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maitreyabandhu started attending classes at the London Buddhist Centre (LBC) in 1986. He was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1990 and given the name Maitreyabandhu. Since then he has lived and worked at the LBC, teaching Buddhism and meditation, and leading retreats. He has written three books on Buddhism, Thicker than Blood: Friendship on the Buddhist Path, Life with Full Attention: A Practical Course in Mindfulness, and The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Guide in Enlightenment. Maitreyabandhu is also a prize-winning poet having written three poetry collections with Bloodaxe Books. Maitreyabandhu founded PoetryEast in 2010 where he interviews well-known artists and writers, including Antony Gormley, Wendy Cope, and Colm Tóibín. He is the co-founder, with Dr. Paramabandhu Groves, of Breathing Space, the LBC’s health and wellbeing project.

Maitreyabandhu's book list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy

Maitreyabandhu Why did Maitreyabandhu love this book?

There’s a lot of writing out there about mindfulness and meditation, but this book is really the place to start. Sangharakshita writes with a depth of clarity that manages to be inspiring, philosophical, and practical all at the same time. I can find books on mindfulness worthy and dull. This book is neither. My copy is covered with highlighter pen!

By Sangharakshita,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A discussion of the issues raised in the Satipatthana Sutta, the foundational Buddhist discourse on meditation and the importance of mindfulness and awareness in daily life. We can learn to live more fully by living every moment to the full.


Book cover of Change Your Mind: A practical guide to Buddhist meditation

Maitreyabandhu Author Of Thicker than Blood (Friendship on the Buddhist Path)

From my list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maitreyabandhu started attending classes at the London Buddhist Centre (LBC) in 1986. He was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1990 and given the name Maitreyabandhu. Since then he has lived and worked at the LBC, teaching Buddhism and meditation, and leading retreats. He has written three books on Buddhism, Thicker than Blood: Friendship on the Buddhist Path, Life with Full Attention: A Practical Course in Mindfulness, and The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Guide in Enlightenment. Maitreyabandhu is also a prize-winning poet having written three poetry collections with Bloodaxe Books. Maitreyabandhu founded PoetryEast in 2010 where he interviews well-known artists and writers, including Antony Gormley, Wendy Cope, and Colm Tóibín. He is the co-founder, with Dr. Paramabandhu Groves, of Breathing Space, the LBC’s health and wellbeing project.

Maitreyabandhu's book list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy

Maitreyabandhu Why did Maitreyabandhu love this book?

More and more people are drawn to meditation but it’s easy to be confounded by all those books and online teachings. This book is a great way to start. A simple guide to Buddhist meditation – to what it means, and how to do it – it’s practical, clear, helpful, and short.

By Paramananda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Provides traditional practices for the readers to learn how to exchange stress and anxiety for calm and clarity of mind, and transform anger and fear into kindness and self confidence. The author guides on meditation with anecdotes and tips, from his experience of teaching meditation of more than 15 years.


Book cover of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

James Blachowicz Author Of The Bilateral Mind as the Mirror of Nature: A Metaphilosophy

From my list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always had equally balanced interests in the arts/humanities and the natural sciences. I like to think that I inherited much of this from my analytical “algebraic” mother, who was a nurse and tended to our family finances, and my holistic “geometrical” father, who was a carpenter. It’s probably no accident that my double major in college was in physics and philosophy...and, down the line, that I should develop a focused interest in human brain laterality, where the division between analysis and holism is so prominent.

James' book list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds

James Blachowicz Why did James love this book?

This is an expansive treatment of the intellectual and cultural ramifications of the bilateral mind from ancient times to the present. The dominance of the analytic left hemisphere (the “emissary”), McGilchrist fears, threatens to usurp its experience-grounded “master” – to the detriment of human culture.

While The Master and His Emissary and The Origin of Consciousness cover similar topics, it is interesting and important to note that there are areas where their perspectives complement each other and those where they differ, such as their accounts of schizophrenia. I still find myself vacillating between the two. I sometimes wonder whether my indecision may itself be the result of my own hemispheric split.


By Iain McGilchrist,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Master and His Emissary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A pioneering exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history, and culture-"one of the few contemporary works deserving classic status" (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times, London)

"Persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative 'master' the right. Brilliant and disturbing."-Salley Vickers, a Guardian Best Book of the Year

"I know of no better exposition of the current state of functional brain neuroscience."-W. F. Bynum, TLS

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been…


Book cover of The Essential Sangharakshita: A Half-Century of Writings from the Founder of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order

Maitreyabandhu Author Of Thicker than Blood (Friendship on the Buddhist Path)

From my list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maitreyabandhu started attending classes at the London Buddhist Centre (LBC) in 1986. He was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1990 and given the name Maitreyabandhu. Since then he has lived and worked at the LBC, teaching Buddhism and meditation, and leading retreats. He has written three books on Buddhism, Thicker than Blood: Friendship on the Buddhist Path, Life with Full Attention: A Practical Course in Mindfulness, and The Journey and the Guide: A Practical Guide in Enlightenment. Maitreyabandhu is also a prize-winning poet having written three poetry collections with Bloodaxe Books. Maitreyabandhu founded PoetryEast in 2010 where he interviews well-known artists and writers, including Antony Gormley, Wendy Cope, and Colm Tóibín. He is the co-founder, with Dr. Paramabandhu Groves, of Breathing Space, the LBC’s health and wellbeing project.

Maitreyabandhu's book list on Buddhism, meditation, and philosophy

Maitreyabandhu Why did Maitreyabandhu love this book?

Buddhism is still misunderstood in the modern world. It can seem all fuzzy ‘being-in-the-moment’ meditation or a rather cold, analytical non-self philosophy. Sangharakshita is the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order and my own teacher (I knew him personally). This book collects together some of his essential teaching and thought, illuminating ancient Buddhism wisdom for a modern world.

By Urgyen Sangharakshita, Emily Stout,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Profoundly knowledgeable and articulate, and equally at home with science, philosophy, myth, art, and poetry, Urgyen Sangharakshita uses every inner avenue to communicate the timeless Dharma to the Western mind. Engaging both the intellect and the heart countless times in a single chapter, the author draws remarkably apt examples from sources as diverse as Orwell, Aeschylus, and Jane Austen. This distilled volume is a primer to the breadth and depth of Buddhist thought and practice.


Book cover of The King Must Die

Mark Knowles Author Of Argo

From my list on realistic historical fiction set in ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt.

Why am I passionate about this?

We all read (or write) fiction for a bit of escapism, don’t we? To come face-to-face with the good, the bad, and the ugly of bygone days… The ancient Mediterranean is the place I would most love to visit in a time machine (albeit fully armed and in a hazmat suit), and these writers are – for me – the best at transporting readers there from the comfort of a sofa. I’ve tried plenty of historical fiction set in other times and places - much of it very good, but the smell of olive groves, the chirruping of cicadas, and the Aegean sun always call me back!

Mark's book list on realistic historical fiction set in ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt

Mark Knowles Why did Mark love this book?

Some authors have an innate faculty for bringing the dim and distant past into such razor-sharp clarity that it’s hard not to believe that they were once present at the time. That’s how it is with Mary Renault (real name Eileen Mary Challans): any number of her books could have made this list.

What I particularly love about this duology (the sequel The Bull From the Sea isn’t quite as strong) is that Renault retold the ancient tale of Theseus and the Minotaur as historical fiction. Though she followed the main beats of the well-known story, she boldly stripped it of gods, monsters, and magic, and the narrative doesn’t suffer at all from it. If anything, it makes it even more compelling because it feels like she has stumbled upon a possible origin to the myth.

By Mary Renault,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The King Must Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Theseus is the grandson of the King of Troizen, but his paternity is shrouded in mystery - can he really be the son of the god Poseidon? When he discovers his father's sword beneath a rock, his mother must reveal his true identity: Theseus is the son of Aegeus, King of Athens, and is his only heir. So begins Theseus's perilous journey to his father's palace to claim his birth right, escaping bandits and ritual king sacrifice in Eleusis, to slaying the Minotaur in Crete. Renault reimagines the Theseus myth, creating an original, exciting story.


Book cover of Middle Passage

Emily Mitchell Author Of The Last Summer of the World

From my list on reminding you how strange the past really was.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in history. I grew up in London, where there's a lot of it. But what made me want to write fiction about the past was experiences of imaginative affinity for certain other times and places. My first book is set during World War One. I've always felt connected to the change in sensibility that many people went through then, from an optimistic, moralistic, Victorian outlook, in which, to quote Paul Fussell from The Great War and Modern Memory, people “believed in Progress and Art and in no way doubted the benignity even of technology” to an understanding that human beings and our societies contained deeper, more persistent shadows. 

Emily's book list on reminding you how strange the past really was

Emily Mitchell Why did Emily love this book?

The question of how to portray a historical atrocity like slavery in a work of fiction is obviously monumental. Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Colson Whitehead, and John Keene have approached this with consummate brilliance by writing the experience and subjectivity of enslaved and formerly-enslaved people. Johnson, however, focuses on the perpetrators: the men who engage in and profit from the capture and trafficking of other human beings. As in Mantel’s novel, the choice of the protagonist is key. Rutherford Calhoun is a ne’er-do-well free Black man from New Orleans who runs away on a ship to escape debts and engagement to a woman whose love he hasn’t done much to deserve. It turns out this ship is bound for Africa to collect a cargo of people, members of the Allmuseri tribe, an ethnicity Johnson invented for his fiction. But along with the people, they are also collecting something much more…

By Charles Johnson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

Winner of the National Book Award 1990

The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.

Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days loitering around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and Isadora Bailey, a prim and frugal woman who seeks to marry him and curb his mischievous instincts. When the heat from these respective pursuers becomes too much to bear, he cons his way on to the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, to his horror he discovers that he…


Book cover of Beloved

Donna Hemans Author Of The House of Plain Truth

From my list on haunting: how the past lingers with us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in a culture that both fears and embraces spirits or outrightly rejects the idea that spirits live on beyond death. I grew up on stories of rolling calves and duppies that caused havoc among the living. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by what haunts us—whether it be our familial spirits that float among the living and continue to play a role in our lives, our memories, or our past actions. I’ve written three books that play with this idea of past actions lingering long into the characters’ lives and returning in unexpected ways.  

Donna's book list on haunting: how the past lingers with us

Donna Hemans Why did Donna love this book?

This book is a longtime favorite of mine. Toni Morrison was a master at blending the personal story and the political, and in this book, she blends the true story of a mother who kills her child to prevent slave catchers from returning the baby to life as a slave.

Morrison’s fictional Sethe is haunted by the ghost of the baby she killed and the memories of her difficult life as a slave. This is one of the novels I return to time after time, both for the beauty of the writing and the portrayal of a mother’s love, guilt, and the lingering impact of slavery.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

33 authors picked Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Toni Morrison was a giant of her times and ours... Beloved is a heart-breaking testimony to the ongoing ravages of slavery, and should be read by all' Margaret Atwood, New York Times

Discover this beautiful gift edition of Toni Morrison's prize-winning contemporary classic Beloved

It is the mid-1800s and as slavery looks to be coming to an end, Sethe is haunted by the violent trauma it wrought on her former enslaved life at Sweet Home, Kentucky. Her dead baby daughter, whose tombstone bears the single word, Beloved, returns as a spectre to punish her mother, but also to elicit her…


Book cover of Sing, Unburied, Sing

Lucy Blue Author Of The Devil Makes Three

From my list on hauntings.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a goth chick from the American South, I’m obsessed with stories of old evil from the past finding its way into the present. I even live in a haunted house, a disintegrating Craftsman built in 1901. Our ghosts are very cozy, two cat-loving maiden ladies who were co-presidents of the local temperance society. We’ve given up on keeping liquor in our liquor cabinet; bottles cracking and leaking, glassware broken for no reason. And we’ve gotten so used to seeing and hearing their famous cat, Tom, we barely react anymore—a huge orange tabby tomcat who runs past our feet and jumps on the foot of our bed. 

Lucy's book list on hauntings

Lucy Blue Why did Lucy love this book?

Reading this book made me stop writing my own Southern gothic ghost book in the middle, rethink it completely, and start over again from scratch, and I wasn’t even mad about it. It’s just that good. It’s about thirteen-year-old Jojo and his family—his much-loved and very much dying grandmother, his strong, silent, and protective grandfather, his wild child mother, Leonie, his baby sister, Kayla, who looks to Jojo to keep her safe, and his white father, Michael, who just got out of jail. Everybody has secrets, and everybody sees ghosts. This literary novel won the National Book Award, but I promise you, horror readers, it will scare you silly and break your heart. 

By Jesmyn Ward,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Sing, Unburied, Sing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018 WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2017 ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2017 SELECTED AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW STATESMAN, THE FINANCIAL TIMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, TIME AND THE BBC Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction Finalist for the Kirkus Prize Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award 'This wrenching new novel by Jesmyn Ward digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare. A must' Margaret Atwood 'A powerfully…


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