100 books like Metaphors We Live By

By George Lakoff, Mark Johnson,

Here are 100 books that Metaphors We Live By fans have personally recommended if you like Metaphors We Live By. 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 Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed

Marco te Brömmelstroet Author Of Movement: how to take back our streets and transform our lives

From my list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act).

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor in Urban Mobility Futures and, as such, am fascinated by how we think about our mobility present and past and how this limits us in imagining different futures. The problems in our mobility system are so urgent and overwhelming that I like to actively search for alternative ways of seeing and acting and teach others to do the same. Personally, I love to experience the incredible freedom of mind that I find in doing this. Also, see the Shepherd list of recommendations by my co-author, Thalia Verkade.

Marco's book list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act)

Marco te Brömmelstroet Why did Marco love this book?

Why have so many schemes to improve the human condition not worked or even backfired? In this brilliant work, I learned how we need to simplify the world if we want to govern it.

In any domain for which we aim to develop policies, we are forced to define relevant indicators and create a carbon copy of reality full of arbitrary choices. I loved how Scott makes this visible with examples from forests to cities. And how these choices lead to a variety of unexpected consequences that often render interventions ineffective.

The book makes you see that the problem is not that the chosen simplifications are wrong, but that ANY simplification is wrong. The only meaningful forward is a return to embracing the full complexity of the world around us.

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Seeing Like a State as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"One of the most profound and illuminating studies of this century to have been published in recent decades."-John Gray, New York Times Book Review

"A powerful, and in many insightful, explanation as to why grandiose programs of social reform, not to mention revolution, so often end in tragedy. . . . An important critique of visionary state planning."-Robert Heilbroner, Lingua Franca

Hailed as "a magisterial critique of top-down social planning" by the New York Times, this essential work analyzes disasters from Russia to Tanzania to uncover why states so often fail-sometimes catastrophically-in grand efforts to engineer their society or their…


Book cover of Thinking in Systems

Thalia Verkade Author Of Movement: how to take back our streets and transform our lives

From my list on letting you perceive the world differently.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing my first book, I found out how dependent my thinking about the world beyond my doorstep was on language made up by engineers (“Please don’t block the driveway”). Engineering language defined how I saw the street. It was a shock to realize how severely this had limited my thinking about public space but also a liberation to become aware of this: now I could perceive streets in completely new and different ways. The books I recommend all have made me perceive the world differently. I hope they do the same for you. Also, see the recommendations by my co-author, Marco te Brömmelstroet.

Thalia's book list on letting you perceive the world differently

Thalia Verkade Why did Thalia love this book?

This book helped me stop thinking about singular problems and solutions and taught me to think in terms of relationships. 

I read it at a time when I believed the electric car to be a solution to oil dependence and the greenhouse effect. Electric cars do not directly produce CO2 and are more energy efficient. What I missed was the fact that cars are much more than oil-burning CO2-emitters. They limit our street life and kill more than a million people in traffic each year.

By solving one problem without looking at the big picture, we enlarge other problems and create new ones. Will cobalt wars follow after the oil wars? Reading this book felt like walking around with a flashlight in my head and then a construction lamp switching on.

By Donella Meadows,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Thinking in Systems as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The classic book on systems thinking, with more than half a million copies sold worldwide!

This is a fabulous book. This book opened my mind and reshaped the way I think about investing. Forbes

Perfect for fans of Kate Raworth, Rutger Bregman and Daniel Kahneman!

The co-author of the international best-selling book Limits to Growth, Donella Meadows is widely regarded as a pioneer in the environmental movement and one of the world's foremost systems analysts . Her posthumously published Thinking in Systems, is a concise and crucial book offering insight for problem solving on scales ranging from the personal to…


Book cover of Exhalation

Robin Reames Author Of The Ancient Art of Thinking For Yourself: The Power of Rhetoric in Polarized Times

From my list on transforming how you think about language.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of language to propel everything we think—from our values and beliefs, to political views, to what we take for absolute truth. Once I learned there’s a whole field devoted to studying language called “rhetoric”—the field in which I’m now an expert—there was no turning back. Rhetoric has been around for more than 2,000 years, and since its inception, it has taught people to step back from language and appraise it with a more critical eye to identify how it works, why it’s persuasive, and what makes people prone to believe it. By studying rhetoric, we become less easily swayed and more comfortable with disagreement. 

Robin's book list on transforming how you think about language

Robin Reames Why did Robin love this book?

I love Ted Chiang’s short stories. Chiang’s background is in computer science, and he’s drawn to questions concerning the relationship between language, technology, cognition, and the physical universe. 

His stories are fascinating thought experiments: They depict how a change in the medium or format of language transforms meaning and opens new possibilities for what language can be and do, what humans can think and know, and what it means to be a thinking, speaking human against the backdrop of a vast, infinitely complex universe. His stories are often backed by years of detailed research.

When I read Chiang, I find myself entangled in a strong emotional bond with his characters even as I ruminate on larger questions about what it means to be a language-using human. 

By Ted Chiang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Lean, relentless, and incandescent.' Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys

This much-anticipated second collection of stories is signature Ted Chiang, full of revelatory ideas and deeply sympathetic characters. In 'The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate,' a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and the temptation of second chances. In the epistolary 'Exhalation,' an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications not just for his own people, but for all of reality. And in 'The Lifecycle of Software Objects,' a woman cares for…


Book cover of The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry

Paul Thagard Author Of Balance: How It Works and What It Means

From my list on metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in metaphor and analogy as a graduate student in philosophy of science in the 1970s. Important scientific ideas such as natural selection and the wave theories of sound and light were built from metaphors and made to work by analogical thinking. In the 1980s, I started building computational models of analogy. So when I got interested in balance because of a case of vertigo in 2016, I naturally noticed the abundance of balance metaphors operating in science and everyday life. Once the pandemic hit, I was struck by the prevalence of the powerful metaphor of making public health decisions while balancing lives and livelihoods. 

Paul's book list on metaphor

Paul Thagard Why did Paul love this book?

In the 1980s and 1990s, Keith Holyoak and I collaborated on a series of articles and books about analogy, which is the underpinning of complex metaphors. His new book is a delightfully insightful discussion of metaphors in poetry, drawing not only on his deep knowledge of cognitive psychology but also on his experience as a highly published poet. Through analysis of great poems by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and many others, he illuminates how metaphors contribute to beautiful poems and to creativity in general.  

By Keith J. Holyoak,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An examination of metaphor in poetry as a microcosm of the human imagination—a way to understand the mechanisms of creativity.

In The Spider's Thread, Keith Holyoak looks at metaphor as a microcosm of the creative imagination. Holyoak, a psychologist and poet, draws on the perspectives of thinkers from the humanities—poets, philosophers, and critics—and from the sciences—psychologists, neuroscientists, linguists, and computer scientists. He begins each chapter with a poem—by poets including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Theodore Roethke, Du Fu, William Butler Yeats, and Pablo Neruda—and then widens the discussion to broader notions of metaphor…


Book cover of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Marco te Brömmelstroet Author Of Movement: how to take back our streets and transform our lives

From my list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act).

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor in Urban Mobility Futures and, as such, am fascinated by how we think about our mobility present and past and how this limits us in imagining different futures. The problems in our mobility system are so urgent and overwhelming that I like to actively search for alternative ways of seeing and acting and teach others to do the same. Personally, I love to experience the incredible freedom of mind that I find in doing this. Also, see the Shepherd list of recommendations by my co-author, Thalia Verkade.

Marco's book list on how your language shapes the way you think (and act)

Marco te Brömmelstroet Why did Marco love this book?

For me, this book offered a perfect link between understanding the fundamental thinking in the field of economics and the necessity of changing that. Western society and lifestyles are all based on the notions of economic growth, extraction of resources, and externalizing the costs to other places and generations. And we are so used to this underlying worldview that we tend to take all of this for granted.

I think that the big crises we are facing are rooted here. By revealing this, we can see the fence that is limiting our thinking. With the alternative logic of the Doughnut Economy, we suddenly have the potential to break through it. I love that it shows that we can all work towards a world in which everybody can thrive!

By Kate Raworth,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Doughnut Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Financial Times "Best Book of 2017: Economics"

800-CEO-Read "Best Business Book of 2017: Current Events & Public Affairs"

Economics is the mother tongue of public policy. It dominates our decision-making for the future, guides multi-billion-dollar investments, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times.

Pity then, or more like disaster, that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike.

That's why it is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth,…


Book cover of Metaphor and Thought

Clare Williams Author Of An Economic Sociology of Law Reimagined: Beyond Embeddedness

From my list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by (and in love with) language for as long as I can remember; how and why it works, and how slight alterations in phrasing and framing can produce vastly different results in practice. I love looking out for metaphors and phrases that function as tools, directing how we understand and engage with the world. While my research applies these insights to both law and economics, the key takeaways are widely applicable and relevant to all areas of life. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have.

Clare's book list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us

Clare Williams Why did Clare love this book?

This is a recommendation for those who want to go into a bit more depth with metaphor. The book is an edited collection of chapters written by experts who explore how metaphor constructs our reality, looking at metaphor as forms of language, and metaphor as forms of mental representation. Admittedly, there’s a little more jargon in this one, but the chapters are an excellent starting point for reflecting on the applications and implications of the way we talk and why it matters.

By Andrew Ortony (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Metaphor and Thought, first published in 1979, reflects the surge of interest in and research into the nature and function of metaphor in language and thought. In this revised and expanded second edition, the editor has invited the contributors to update their original essays to reflect any changes in their thinking. Reorganised to accommodate the shifts in central theoretical issues, the volume also includes six new chapters that present important and influential fresh ideas about metaphor that have appeared in such fields as the philosophy of language and the philosophy of science, linguistics, cognitive and clinical psychology, education and artificial…


Book cover of Metaphor Wars: Conceptual Metaphors in Human Life

Paul Thagard Author Of Balance: How It Works and What It Means

From my list on metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in metaphor and analogy as a graduate student in philosophy of science in the 1970s. Important scientific ideas such as natural selection and the wave theories of sound and light were built from metaphors and made to work by analogical thinking. In the 1980s, I started building computational models of analogy. So when I got interested in balance because of a case of vertigo in 2016, I naturally noticed the abundance of balance metaphors operating in science and everyday life. Once the pandemic hit, I was struck by the prevalence of the powerful metaphor of making public health decisions while balancing lives and livelihoods. 

Paul's book list on metaphor

Paul Thagard Why did Paul love this book?

Raymond Gibbs is a leading psycholinguist with deep familiarity with theories of conceptual metaphor and their critics. Drawing on evidence from cognitive linguistics and other fields, this book provides a valuable account of the contributions of metaphor to language, thought, action, and culture. Metaphors operate in multimodal experience s well as language. 

By Raymond W. Gibbs, Jr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The study of metaphor is now firmly established as a central topic within cognitive science and the humanities. We marvel at the creative dexterity of gifted speakers and writers for their special talents in both thinking about certain ideas in new ways, and communicating these thoughts in vivid, poetic forms. Yet metaphors may not only be special communicative devices, but a fundamental part of everyday cognition in the form of 'conceptual metaphors'. An enormous body of empirical evidence from cognitive linguistics and related disciplines has emerged detailing how conceptual metaphors underlie significant aspects of language, thought, cultural and expressive action.…


Book cover of The Linguistics Wars: Chomsky, Lakoff, and the Battle over Deep Structure

Paul Thagard Author Of Balance: How It Works and What It Means

From my list on metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became interested in metaphor and analogy as a graduate student in philosophy of science in the 1970s. Important scientific ideas such as natural selection and the wave theories of sound and light were built from metaphors and made to work by analogical thinking. In the 1980s, I started building computational models of analogy. So when I got interested in balance because of a case of vertigo in 2016, I naturally noticed the abundance of balance metaphors operating in science and everyday life. Once the pandemic hit, I was struck by the prevalence of the powerful metaphor of making public health decisions while balancing lives and livelihoods. 

Paul's book list on metaphor

Paul Thagard Why did Paul love this book?

Randy Harris is a colleague of mine at the University of Waterloo, and his book is a marvelous history and analysis of the decades-long intellectual battle between Noam Chomsky and George Lakoff. It provides the context and background for how Lakoff’s theory of metaphor was part of the development of alternatives to Chomsky-style linguistics, along with some trenchant criticisms of the very idea of conceptual metaphor. 

By Randy Allen Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An updated and expanded history of the field of linguistics from the 1950s to the current day

The Linguistics Wars tells the tumultuous history of language and cognition studies from the rise of Noam Chomsky's Transformational Grammar to the current day. Focusing on the rupture that split the field between Chomsky's structuralist vision and George Lakoff's meaning-driven theories, Randy Allen Harris portrays the extraordinary personalities that were central to the dispute and its aftermath, alongside the data, technical developments, and social currents that fueled the
unfolding and expanding schism. This new edition, updated to cover the more than twenty-five years…


Book cover of Don't Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Clare Williams Author Of An Economic Sociology of Law Reimagined: Beyond Embeddedness

From my list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by (and in love with) language for as long as I can remember; how and why it works, and how slight alterations in phrasing and framing can produce vastly different results in practice. I love looking out for metaphors and phrases that function as tools, directing how we understand and engage with the world. While my research applies these insights to both law and economics, the key takeaways are widely applicable and relevant to all areas of life. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have.

Clare's book list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us

Clare Williams Why did Clare love this book?

Have you noticed shifts in the vocabularies and grammars that we use over the last few decades? Why are we now talking about “tax relief” rather than “reduced investment in public goods and services”, for example? Who decided that this should be the standard phrase, and what do these shifts in our language mean for the way we understand and respond to political arguments?

George Lakoff is a master storyteller, but this book is grounded in decades of scholarship and research into how language frames our experiences and shapes our responses to the world. This book will change the way you consume current affairs and politics, and is an excellent introduction to how our language has been captured by certain political interests. It also sets out a manifesto for those interested in fighting back.

By George Lakoff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Think of an Elephant! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Donit Think of an Elephant! is the definitive handbook for understanding what happened in the 2004 US election and communicating effectively about key issues facing America today. Author George Lakoff has become a key advisor to the Democratic party, helping them develop their message and frame the political debate.
In this book Lakoff explains how conservatives think, and how to counter their arguments. His years of research and work with environmental and political leaders have been distilled into this essential guide, which shows progressives how to think in terms of values instead of programmes, and why people vote for their…


Book cover of Don't Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language

Clare Williams Author Of An Economic Sociology of Law Reimagined: Beyond Embeddedness

From my list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by (and in love with) language for as long as I can remember; how and why it works, and how slight alterations in phrasing and framing can produce vastly different results in practice. I love looking out for metaphors and phrases that function as tools, directing how we understand and engage with the world. While my research applies these insights to both law and economics, the key takeaways are widely applicable and relevant to all areas of life. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have.

Clare's book list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us

Clare Williams Why did Clare love this book?

Shariatmadari writes beautifully, and this book will make you think differently about how we use language and how that language uses and shapes us, both as individual actors and as a society. Our language – those everyday vocabularies and grammars that we deploy without a second thought – is neither original nor value-free; instead, “to speak is ‘to swim in an inherited stream of images and words’”, crafted by generations before us. For small talk, this may not matter so much. But for the bigger, weightier things in life, for the things that really matter, the way we talk can have real consequences on what we are able to understand, and how we are able to respond.

By David Shariatmadari,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Believe a Word as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Think you know language? Think again.

There are languages that change when your mother-in-law is present. The language you speak could make you more prone to accidents. Swear words are produced in a special part of your brain.

Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But despite these advances, much of what people believe about language is based on folklore, instinct, or hearsay. We imagine a word's origin is it's "true" meaning, that foreign languages…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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