10 books like New Worlds for Old

By William Brandon,

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

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The Dawn of Everything

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

I loved the speculative audacity of this alternative story of how human civilizations evolve—a collaboration of an anthropologist and an archeologist. The authors take aim at two foundational myths of the human journey. First, they argue that we should not accept as universal an increasingly sophisticated and hierarchical trajectory from hunter-gatherers to farmers to city-dwellers. They present evidence of civilizations that voluntarily abandoned urban life for a return to agricultural and even hunter-gatherer existence. In a second major contribution the authors weave an intriguing and plausible narrative of the possibility that the articulation of the ideals of the enlightenment was a collaborative effort of indigenous North American and European philosophers and statesmen. At a time of existential crisis, the book offers hope in the diversity of human experience.

The Dawn of Everything

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Europe and the People Without History

By Eric R. Wolf,

Book cover of Europe and the People Without History

This is another important work by an anthropologist challenging the genealogy of the West and its ideas and institutions. It exposes the myth of history as a supposed moral success story: ancient Greece… Rome… Christian Europe… Renaissance… Enlightenment… liberal democracy… the pursuit of happiness, etc. Wolf systematically highlights why this is a flawed and fraught notion, especially for those people who do not fit neatly into the schema.

Europe and the People Without History

By Eric R. Wolf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Europe and the People Without History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Offering insight and equal consideration into the societies of the "civilized" and "uncivilized" world, "Europe and the People Without History" deftly explores the historical trajectory of so-called modern globalization. In this foundational text about the development of the global political economy, Eric R. Wolf challenges the long-held anthropological notion that non-European cultures and people were isolated and static entities before the advent of European colonialism and imperialism. Ironically referred to as "the People Without History" by Wolf, these societies before active colonization possessed perpetually changing, reactionary cultures and were indeed just as intertwined into the processes of the pre-Columbian global…


Art, Politics, and Development

By Philipp H. Lepenies,

Book cover of Art, Politics, and Development: How Linear Perspective Shaped Policies in the Western World

I love the way this book brings together two seemingly unrelated topics, art, and socio-political organization, to offer a new perspective on the development of human societies—linear, of course. The policies and practices of development agencies do not just draw on the latest fads of economics, rather, our thinking about the shape and trajectory of ideal societies has long been influenced by the way we quite literally see and perceive the world.

Art, Politics, and Development

By Philipp H. Lepenies,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his groundbreaking study, Art, Politics and Development, Philipp Lepenies contributes to the ongoing controversy about why the track record of development aid is so dismal. He asserts that development aid policies are grounded in a specific way of literally looking at the world. This "worldview" is the result of a mental conditioning that began with the invention of linear perspective in Renaissance art. It not only triggered the emergence of modern science and brought forth our Western notion of progress, but ultimately, development as well.Art, Politics, and Development examines this process by pulling from a range of disciplines, including…


The German Conception of History

By Georg G. Iggers,

Book cover of The German Conception of History: The National Tradition of Historical Thought from Herder to the Present

It is difficult to settle on just five books; I include Iggers here because this book transcends its primary subject, German historiography. It offers an insight into some of the key thinkers that have helped to shape predominant and pervasive thinking about human progress and socio-political development. Thinkers such as Kant and Herder, Hegel and Schiller. It is important to have a good understanding of the foundations of a train of thought, and Iggers knows his subject matter well and astutely highlights the various strengths and weaknesses. 

The German Conception of History

By Georg G. Iggers,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the first comprehensive critical examination in any language of the German national tradition of historiography. It analyzes the basic theoretical assumptions of the German historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and relates these assumptions to political thought and action.
The German national tradition of historiography had its beginnings in the reaction against the Enlightenment and the French Revolution of 1789. This historiography rejected the rationalistic theory of natural law as universally valid and held that all human values must be understood within the context of the historical flux. But it maintained at the same time the Lutheran…


Pilgrim Voices

By Connie Roop (editor), Peter Roop (editor), Shelley Pritchett (illustrator)

Book cover of Pilgrim Voices: Our First Year in the New World

Pilgrim Voices provides a fascinating first-hand description of pilgrims’ lives told through actual diaries and journals. Reading some of these 400-year-old accounts inspired me to visit the recreated 17th-century village of Plymouth Colony to gain a better sense of the environment as it once was in its wild and untamed state, along with the living conditions, customs, foods, and clothing of some of America’s first European settlers in the early 1600s.

Pilgrim Voices

By Connie Roop (editor), Peter Roop (editor), Shelley Pritchett (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a C. S. Lewis Noteworthy book: A rich history of the pilgrim experience, as recorded in real diaries

Nearly four hundred years after the pilgrims left England in search of a better life, their stories still resonate with Americans today. In this account, the pilgrims’ own writings of their adventures and hardships are brought to life for young readers.
 
This touching account shows the pilgrims’ voyage on the Mayflower, their first meeting with the native people, and the hardships of hunger, illness, and death that they faced during their first…


Sane New World

By Ruby Wax,

Book cover of Sane New World: Taming the Mind

I first came across Ruby Wax when she was a comic on the London comedy club scene in the 1980s. I met her briefly again, some 30 years later signing books next to me at a mindfulness conference. What’s so good about her writing is that it comes with great poignancy and is laced with her acerbic sense of humour. Her comedy was based on seeing through a situation and reframing it so we get a higher and more realistic view on things. In this book, she presents an accessible raison d’etre for taming the so-called ‘monkey mind’.

Sane New World

By Ruby Wax,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mental health and mindfulness bestseller from A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled and How to be Human author Ruby Wax, who shows us why and how our minds can send us mad and how we can rewire our thinking to calm ourselves in a frenetic world.

'Finally - a map for the troubled human mind. And it's funny.' -Caitlin Moran

Ruby Wax - comedian, writer and mental health campaigner - shows us how our minds can jeopardize our sanity.

With her own periods of depression and now a Masters from Oxford in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy to draw from, she…


The Great Explorers

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Book cover of The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America

The Great Explorers: The European Discovery of America is a seminal non-fiction work by a premiere historian detailing those intrepid early explorers who dared uncharted seas for greed and glory. The work really resonates with me because it showcases how difficult it was to navigate the world’s oceans in the days before electricity, reliable navigation aids, modern medicine, refrigeration, and dependable propulsion. Despite these handicaps, audacious seamen dared the unknown and challenged their resolve and endurance to meet their goals. I believe the inherent elements of drama and conflict in these voyages lend grist for the development of action and adventure-filled historical fiction. This book directly inspired me to develop my featured novel in an Age of Exploration setting.             

The Great Explorers

By Samuel Eliot Morison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an abridgement of Samuel Morison's magnum opus, The European Discovery of America, in which he describes the early voyages that led to the discovery of the New World. All the acclaimed Morison touches are here - the meticulous research and authoritative scholarship, along with the personal and compelling narrative style that gives the reader the feeling of having been there. Morison, of course, has been there, and The Great Explorers is enriched with photographs and maps he made while personally retracing the great voyages.


Isekai Kids

By Thomas Shuler, Rachel O'Brien (illustrator),

Book cover of Isekai Kids: Portal To A New World

I would personally recommend Isekai Kids because the characters are an adventurous and entertaining bunch whose antics really speak to children, especially gamers.

Ollie, Jimmy, and Grant activate a magical video game cartridge—and are transported to the land of Otherworld. The characters are realistic in their curiosity and desire to have a fun adventure in a place that is a mix of video game and amusement park with a strong dose of magic. Each of the characters has their own unique personality and approach to solving problems in Otherworld. Ollie is Courageous, Jimmy is Clever, and Grant is Smart as they work their way through the trick, traps, and battles of the Game World. 

Overall, it is a tale of teamwork, and an entertaining story of adventure and exploration.

Isekai Kids

By Thomas Shuler, Rachel O'Brien (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why do we love to play games? Because we are able to explore new worlds, go on adventures, and even come face to face with danger! And since games come with rules, it has to be safe, right?
Olivia Green loves games! She plays them all: Board Games, Table Top RPGs, and of course her favorites: Video Games!
But none of them were "real." That is until she stumbled upon a mysterious game at a garage sale. A game that was far more than any game she had ever played before. This game was magic!
Before she knew it, Olivia…


Undercurrents of Power

By Kevin Dawson,

Book cover of Undercurrents of Power: Aquatic Culture in the African Diaspora

This important and revealing book conveys the untold history of West Africans and their relationship with the ocean, including the underwater realm, from before New World slavery and extending around the Atlantic as enslaved African swimmers and divers carried their skills and the culture associated with them in the African diaspora. Kevin Dawson’s story is not only fascinating but also firmly discredits the false and insidious belief that Blacks are naturally poor swimmers and demonstrates instead the long and proud traditions of West African knowledge and use of the undersea.

Undercurrents of Power

By Kevin Dawson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Long before the rise of New World slavery, West Africans were adept swimmers, divers, canoe makers, and canoeists. They lived along riverbanks, near lakes, or close to the ocean. In those waterways, they became proficient in diverse maritime skills, while incorporating water and aquatics into spiritual understandings of the world. Transported to the Americas, slaves carried with them these West African skills and cultural values. Indeed, according to Kevin Dawson's examination of water culture in the African diaspora, the aquatic abilities of people of African descent often surpassed those of Europeans and their descendants from the age of discovery until…


Laboring Women

By Jennifer L. Morgan,

Book cover of Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery

Jennifer Morgan’s history of childbearing in the Black Atlantic cracked open an entirely new field, exposing how American society has for centuries relied on Black women’s work as mothers. Her attention to the role of reproduction in the perpetuation of racial slavery in the Americas during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries exposed how European imperialism had, from its inception, relied upon pushing Black women into dual roles as labourers in the fields of new world plantations and also as labouring mothers. Morgan’s analysis of European travel literature highlights how white men’s perceptions of Black women’s bodies was shaped by these dual roles, as for example in the recurring trope that depicted African women as able to suckle infants over their shoulder whilst attending to other sorts of labour. 

Laboring Women

By Jennifer L. Morgan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When black women were brought from Africa to the New World as slave laborers, their value was determined by their ability to work as well as their potential to bear children, who by law would become the enslaved property of the mother's master. In Laboring Women: Reproduction and Gender in New World Slavery, Jennifer L. Morgan examines for the first time how African women's labor in both senses became intertwined in the English colonies. Beginning with the ideological foundations of racial slavery in early modern Europe, Laboring Women traverses the Atlantic, exploring the social and cultural lives of women in…


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