100 books like Metahistory

By Hayden V. White,

Here are 100 books that Metahistory fans have personally recommended if you like Metahistory. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of What Is History?

Theodor Pelekanidis Author Of How to Write About the Holocaust: The Postmodern Theory of History in Praxis

From my list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and author, passionate about how the past influences current ideas and perceptions. While reading for my Ph.D. in Historical Theory, I started to realise that it is not the past that influences us, but we that actually create it. The books in the list came up at different points in my life and research and made me think and rethink the concept of historical knowledge, how we acquire it, how we narrate it, and what we retain from it.

Theodor's book list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history

Theodor Pelekanidis Why did Theodor love this book?

This book is a classic, and I wish I had read it even earlier than I did. 

One of the most prominent historians of the 20th century, E.H. Carr, delves into the intricacies of exploring the past. He articulates the significance of interpreting personal memories, discusses how historical ideas are constructed, and examines the impact of a historian's personality on the history they write. These complicated ideas are given in a calm tone and a simple way.

A total must-read for people interested in history!

By Edward Hallet Carr,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What Is History? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Not only our most distinguished historian but also one of the most valuable contributors to historical theory' Spectator

In answering the question, 'what is history?', E. H. Carr's acclaimed and influential bestseller shows that the facts of history are simply those which the historian selects for scrutiny. His fluent and hugely wide-ranging account of the nature of history and the role of the historian argues that all history is to some degree subjective, written by individuals who are above all people of their own time.

'Lively and controversial, full of wit and humour, E. H. Carr's What Is History? played…


Book cover of The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times

Theodor Pelekanidis Author Of How to Write About the Holocaust: The Postmodern Theory of History in Praxis

From my list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and author, passionate about how the past influences current ideas and perceptions. While reading for my Ph.D. in Historical Theory, I started to realise that it is not the past that influences us, but we that actually create it. The books in the list came up at different points in my life and research and made me think and rethink the concept of historical knowledge, how we acquire it, how we narrate it, and what we retain from it.

Theodor's book list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history

Theodor Pelekanidis Why did Theodor love this book?

This book is a treasury of significant but unknown historical information. Even if you are well-read on the Cold War, the global perspective which the book gives will change what you think you know.

Structuring his argument chronologically and thematically, O. Westad makes the most comprehensive case for the Cold War’s impact on the Global South. I learned more about the modern history of Africa and East Asia and their subsequent decolonization and state-building than in any other book.

I also appreciated how the author does not take an ideological stance for the USA or the USSR but allows the readers to explore the political argumentation that arose in decisive historical moments.

By Odd Arne Westad,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Global Cold War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Cold War shaped the world we live in today - its politics, economics, and military affairs. This book shows how the globalization of the Cold War during the last century created the foundations for most of the key conflicts we see today, including the War on Terror. It focuses on how the Third World policies of the two twentieth-century superpowers - the United States and the Soviet Union - gave rise to resentments and resistance that in the end helped topple one superpower and still seriously challenge the other. Ranging from China to Indonesia, Iran, Ethiopia, Angola, Cuba, and…


Book cover of At the Limits of History: Essays on Theory and Practice

Theodor Pelekanidis Author Of How to Write About the Holocaust: The Postmodern Theory of History in Praxis

From my list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and author, passionate about how the past influences current ideas and perceptions. While reading for my Ph.D. in Historical Theory, I started to realise that it is not the past that influences us, but we that actually create it. The books in the list came up at different points in my life and research and made me think and rethink the concept of historical knowledge, how we acquire it, how we narrate it, and what we retain from it.

Theodor's book list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history

Theodor Pelekanidis Why did Theodor love this book?

When I first read this book as a history student, it just blew my mind.

Keith Jenkins is an expert at criticizing the roots of historiography in the clearest but also most hilarious way. I learned so much about understanding historical texts and was excited by Jenkin’s urge to move historical thinking beyond narratives of good and evil.

Main lesson learned: Don’t take things too seriously, especially if they already happened!

By Keith Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Why bother with history? Keith Jenkins has an answer. He helps us re-think the "end of history", as signalled by postmodernity. Readers may disagree with him, but he never fails to provoke debate about the future of the past."

Joanna Bourke, Professor of History, Birkbeck College

Keith Jenkins' work on historical theory is renowned; this collection presents the essential elements of his work over the last fifteen years.

Here we see Jenkins address the difficult and complex question of defining the limits of history. The collection draws together the key pieces of his work in one handy volume, encompassing the…


Book cover of The Kindly Ones

Theodor Pelekanidis Author Of How to Write About the Holocaust: The Postmodern Theory of History in Praxis

From my list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian and author, passionate about how the past influences current ideas and perceptions. While reading for my Ph.D. in Historical Theory, I started to realise that it is not the past that influences us, but we that actually create it. The books in the list came up at different points in my life and research and made me think and rethink the concept of historical knowledge, how we acquire it, how we narrate it, and what we retain from it.

Theodor's book list on Books to make you reconsider what you know about history

Theodor Pelekanidis Why did Theodor love this book?

You don’t often come across a history of the Holocaust given from the perpetrator’s perspective. Both a masterful historical novel and a marvellous piece of literary historiography, it's a hard book to put down. 

Following SS Officer Max Aue through all the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the book provokes you to think in contradictory terms about the events narrated. 

A journey through the inevitability and impossibility of empathy, this book reflects on what is considered good and evil and how we can judge what happened in the past.

By Jonathan Littell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Simply astounding. . . . The Kindly Ones is unmistakably the work of a profoundly gifted writer.” — Time

A literary prize-winner that has been an explosive bestseller all over the world, Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones has been called “a brilliant Holocaust novel. . . a world-class masterpiece of astonishing brutality, originality, and force,” (Michael Korda, The Daily Beast). Destined to join the pantheon of classic epics of war such as Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, The Kindly Ones offers a profound and gripping experience of the horrors of World War II and the…


Book cover of In Defense of History

Yulia Ustinova Author Of Divine Mania: Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

From my list on how historians work.

Why am I passionate about this?

Doing historical research and thinking about history is an essential part of my personality. During my life, many things changed: the language I speak most of the time, the country where I live, people closest to me, my views, tastes, and habits. Ancient history and its research remain my vocation, job, and place of safety from early youth till nowadays. I am grateful to all people, long dead and living, whose insights on the study of the human past have taught me not only how to do research, but first and foremost how to live.

Yulia's book list on how historians work

Yulia Ustinova Why did Yulia love this book?

This book is a reflection on the nature of historical research and the perils of history in the postmodern age. An influential current in the study of history has abandoned the aspiration of getting close to the truth and accepts ideologically motivated accounts of the past as equally valuable narratives. The repercussions of the controversy on ‘post-truth’ reach far beyond the limits of the academic world and are ubiquitous in contemporary Western society. Richard J. Evans knows that from his own experience, having served as an expert witness in Irwing v Penguin Books and Lipstadt libel case, relating to Holocaust denial. The book offers a lucid analysis of the conflicting trends in the theory and practice of historical research. It links between the study of the past and the possibility of attaining certainty on present-day issues.

By Richard J. Evans,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

E. H. Carr's What Is History?, a classic introduction to the field, may now give way to a worthy successor. In his compact, intriguing survey, Richard J. Evans shows us how historians manage to extract meaning from the recalcitrant past. To materials that are frustratingly meager, or overwhelmingly profuse, they bring an array of tools that range from agreed-upon rules of documentation and powerful computer models to the skilled investigator's sudden insight, all employed with the aim of reconstructing a verifiable, usable past. Evans defends this commitment to historical knowledge from the attacks of postmodernist critics who see all judgments…


Book cover of This America: The Case for the Nation

Patricia Ventura Author Of White Power and American Neoliberal Culture

From my list on today’s fascism and resisting it.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been trying to understand people’s politics since I was a kid and wondered why my dad, who had been a boy in Sicily under Mussolini, spoke so fondly of “il Duce”—even though Dad was an otherwise independent thinker who believed in people’s inherent dignity, not to mention a man who was an immigrant and an outsider and thus exactly the kind of person fascists hate. I think this background partially explains why I focus my writing on interpreting the significance and appeal of widespread and, in some cases, morally indefensible and contradictory cultural-political ideologies such as neoliberalism and racism.

Patricia's book list on today’s fascism and resisting it

Patricia Ventura Why did Patricia love this book?

Fascism always holds out a promise of belonging to the tribe, the race, and, most importantly, the nation. Lepore’s very short and beautifully readable history of the US explicitly rejects the right-wing and fascist assumption that the nation and nationalism are theirs.

This America retells US history from the perspective that the country has not lived up to its promises of equality, but the first step to making that happen is acknowledging its painful history. The book contextualizes the invocations of some of its greatest critics, such as DuBois, Douglass, and Baldwin, in their clear-eyed pronouncements of the United States’ failures of justice and democracy.

Lepore’s hope rests on the belief that a pluralistic, truly democratic United States is possible if Americans own the nation’s failures to live up to its stated standards and commit to the painful work of holding ourselves and the structures of civic life accountable to…

By Jill Lepore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

At a time of much despair over the future of liberal democracy, Jill Lepore makes a stirring case for the nation in This America, a follow-up to her much-celebrated history of the United States, These Truths.

With dangerous forms of nationalism on the rise, Lepore, a Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer, repudiates nationalism here by explaining its long history-and the history of the idea of the nation itself-while calling for a "new Americanism": a generous patriotism that requires an honest reckoning with America's past.

Lepore begins her argument with a primer on the origins of nations, explaining how…


Book cover of The History of Experience: A Study in Experiential Turns and Cultural Dynamics from the Paleolithic to the Present Day

Brian Thomas Swimme Author Of Cosmogenesis: An Unveiling of the Expanding Universe

From my list on science books on the universe with a spiritual inclination.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I learned science's story of the universe–that it began as a primordial plasma that transformed itself into stars, galaxies and a living planet that then transmogrified into plants and animals and consciousness–when I learned the details of how the universe began as small as an acorn and then magically transformed that acorn of elementary particles into two trillion galaxies, I was beset with one, piercing, lifelong question: WHY ISN'T EVERYONE WAKING UP EACH MORNING STUNNED OUT OF THEIR MINDS? My entire professional life has been an effort to draw others into this amazement, into life as an ongoing celebration.

Brian's book list on science books on the universe with a spiritual inclination

Brian Thomas Swimme Why did Brian love this book?

In his book, Wolfgang Leidhold examines the entire journey of humanity and discovers something truly amazing: even though the human brain has not changed in structure during the 300,000 years of the existence of Homo sapiens, a series of mental powers have been evoked through our conscious participation. He shows us how humans became involved in building human mentality, going through eight such transitions, including the evocation of self-reflexive consciousness, inner transcendence, and the reproductive imagination.

The great gift of this book is the conviction it awakens that the development of human consciousness is not over and that those of us alive today can become involved in what he calls "the next turn in human experience." 

By Wolfgang Leidhold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a wide arc from the Paleolithic to the present day, this book explores the changing structure of human experience and its impact on the dynamics of cultures, civilizations, and political ideas.

The main thesis is a paradigm shift: the structure of human experience is not a universal constant but changes over time. Looking at the entire range of human history, there are a total of nine transformations, beginning with conscious perception and imagination in the Paleolithic and ending, for the time being, in modern times with the discovery of the unconscious. In between, this book explores six more transformations…


Book cover of After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History

Noël Carroll Author Of Philosophy of Art: A Contemporary Introduction

From my list on philosophy that surveys the arts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of philosophy, specializing in the philosophy of art at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. When I was a practicing critic, notably of cinema, I backed into philosophy insofar as being a practitioner forced me to ask abstract questions about what I was doing. I have written over fifteen books as well as five documentaries. I am also a former Guggenheim fellow. 

Noël's book list on philosophy that surveys the arts

Noël Carroll Why did Noël love this book?

This book is an amazing combination of the philosophy of art, the philosophy of art history, and art criticism. The late Arthur Danto was not only a distinguished philosopher but also an award-winning art critic. In this book, Danto tracks the decline and fall of Modernism (which he describes as “the end of art”) and the advent of our present artistic moment which can be critically characterized as an era of post-historical pluralism. Danto, following GFW Hegel, proposes a partial definition of the artwork as an embodied meaning – thereby addressing the challenge to say what art is -- as it was posed by Clive Bell.

By Arthur C Danto,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Originally delivered as the prestigious Mellon Lectures on the Fine Arts in 1995, After the End of Art remains a classic of art criticism and philosophy, and continues to generate heated debate for contending that art ended in the 1960s. Arthur Danto, one of the best-known art critics of his time, presents radical insights into art's irrevocable deviation from its previous course and the decline of traditional aesthetics. He demonstrates the necessity for a new type of criticism in the face of contemporary art's wide-open possibilities. This Princeton Classics edition includes a new foreword by philosopher Lydia Goehr.


Book cover of Through the Looking-Glass

Peter Cave Author Of Humanism: A Beginner's Guide

From my list on grappling with what it is to be human.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who knows why, but I have always been enticed by absurdities, paradoxes, incongruities — I use them in my talks, articles, and books — of everyday lives, our humanity, and mysteries of our ‘going on.’ Reflections on being human can be triggered by humour such as Cambridge’s Beyond the Fringe and New York’s sitcom Seinfeld — within which I wallow — as well as by lengthy philosophical works and novels. My work draws on bafflements: for example, shampoo instructions “Lather, rinse, repeat” (making shampoo-ing infinite?); Barmaid to Peter Cook, “Bitter?”, reply being “Just tired”— and Samuel Beckett’s “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Yes, I go on.

Peter's book list on grappling with what it is to be human

Peter Cave Why did Peter love this book?

Many of us, when young, read Looking-Glass with Carroll’s first work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but it was as an adult, eager to reflect philosophically, that I began to appreciate deep puzzles within our language and consciousness – and these are more prominent in Looking-Glass.  

I taught philosophy for many years  oops, not true, I don’t think philosophy can be taught. Rather, I encourage people to step back and think philosophically by confronting paradoxes, using their imagination, and looking beyond appearances. I often recommend Looking-Glass to achieve a sense of bewilderment and the delicious desire to dig into and question everyday assumptions of living.

By Lewis Caroll,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Looking-Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice, who is bored, falls asleep in a chair and dream that it happens on the other side of the mirror of the show. The mirror of the world is both the English countryside, a chessboard, and the upside down world, where you have to run very fast to stay put. Alice came across chess pieces (queen, knight) and characters of children's culture of the Victorian era. One finds in this novel the mix of poetry, humor and nonsense that makes the charm of Lewis Carroll. It is better to know the basic rules of chess to appreciate the subtleties…


Book cover of About Philosophy

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Author Of Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between

From my list on a taste of philosophy.

Why are we passionate about this?

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein have been thinking deep thoughts and writing jokes for decades, and now they are here to help us understand philosophy through jokes, and jokes through philosophy. They like philosophy and they like jokes, not necessarily in that order. Best of all, they like combining them. 

Thomas' book list on a taste of philosophy

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Why did Thomas love this book?

It’s one of the best and most accessible introductions to philosophy, now in its tenth edition. It’s also by our favorite college teacher.

By Robert Wolff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four Decades of Student-Friendly Philosophy



About Philosophy is an introductory text that covers all the major fields of philosophy in an easy-to-read language, interspersed with short selections from the major philosophers. It has been a best-selling leader in the field for more than forty years and it is written by an internationally recognized author of more than twenty books.


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