100 books like Permanent Astonishment

By Tomson Highway,

Here are 100 books that Permanent Astonishment fans have personally recommended if you like Permanent Astonishment. 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 Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It

Shaun Chamberlin Author Of Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy

From my list on navigating the unfolding collapse of civilisation.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2005 I realised that society was gradually, inexorably, headed off a cliff. So I quit a job I loved – a great decision! – and followed John Michael Greer's advice to “collapse now and avoid the rush”. Through that I’ve written a film, books, and peer-reviewed articles, co-founded organisations and movements, been arrested for direct action, advised governments, and come to live at a money-free pub! And now lead the ‘Surviving the Future: Conversations for Our Time’ online program, through Vermont’s Sterling College. I haven’t learned to change the course of history, but have discovered the ‘dark optimism’ of meaningful – even joyous – paths through such times, with eyes wide open.

Shaun's book list on navigating the unfolding collapse of civilisation

Shaun Chamberlin Why did Shaun love this book?

This list could only end with the book that changed everything for me, yet which I only discovered, incomplete, on the desk of my suddenly-deceased mentor David Fleming…

Delving, I was absolutely captivated by its insight, humour, and startlingly realistic vision, to the extent of devoting my next couple of years to bringing it through to posthumous publication, alongside the paperback Surviving the Future that I drew out from it.

I’m deeply proud of that book, but the indescribable, multi-award-winning Lean Logic is where the rarest magic lies, with its remarkable structure of interlinked dictionary entries reflecting perfectly the holism at the heart of its radical post-collapse paradigm.

And now there’s LeanLogic.online, the wonderful fan-built website presenting the full contents for free, in a format perfectly suited to that structure. May they reshape your life as they have mine!

By David Fleming, Shaun Chamberlin (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lean Logic is David Fleming's masterpiece, the product of more than thirty years' work and a testament to the creative brilliance of one of Britain's most important intellectuals.

A dictionary unlike any other, it leads readers through Fleming's stimulating exploration of fields as diverse as culture, history, science, art, logic, ethics, myth, economics, and anthropology, being made up of four hundred and four engaging essay-entries covering topics such as Boredom, Community, Debt, Growth, Harmless Lunatics, Land, Lean Thinking, Nanotechnology, Play, Religion, Spirit, Trust, and Utopia.

The threads running through every entry are Fleming's deft and original analysis of how our…


Book cover of The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human-Centered Planet

Sowon Kim Author Of A Gleaming Shard of Glass

From my list on laughing on one page and crying on the next.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a dystopian author who loves using writing to spread awareness about different social issues in society. As an avid reader, I feel like nowadays, the quality of literature has decreased. Authors have been focusing more on how close to trending topics and easy-to-read a book is than on its depth, themes, or any kind of element that is crucial in storytelling. This is why many recently published books have been difficult for me to connect with. As an author myself, I want that to change. Here’s a list of books that are so well written that it’ll feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster—of emotions.

Sowon's book list on laughing on one page and crying on the next

Sowon Kim Why did Sowon love this book?

I’m not lying when I say that this book saved my life. I was going through a particularly difficult moment when I read it, and let’s say that it made me find the beauty in life once again. After reading The Anthropocene Reviewed, my once monochrome world burst with colors. This essay collection points out ideas about things in daily life that an average person would never notice. It makes you smile dumbly at the ceiling and say, “this world is beautiful.”

By John Green,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Goodreads Choice winner for Nonfiction 2021 and instant #1 bestseller! A deeply moving collection of personal essays from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars and Turtles All the Way Down.

“The perfect book for right now.” –People

“The Anthropocene Reviewed is essential to the human conversation.” –Library Journal, starred review

The Anthropocene is the current geologic age, in which humans have profoundly reshaped the planet and its biodiversity. In this remarkable symphony of essays adapted and expanded from his groundbreaking podcast, bestselling author John Green reviews different facets of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale—from…


Book cover of Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire Our World

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman Author Of The Two Moralities: Conservatives, Liberals, and the Roots of Our Political Divide

From my list on the psychology behind our politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

A university professor for 40 years (now emerita), I focused my most recent research on moral psychology. I am also a political junkie, so perhaps it is no surprise that I have combined these two interests. As both a social psychologist and political psychologist, I have conducted numerous studies on the moral underpinnings of our political ideologies. In addition to two books, I have published over 90 papers, many devoted to morality and/or politics, and I was awarded a generous three-year National Science Foundation grant to study the two moralities that are discussed in my book.   

Ronnie's book list on the psychology behind our politics

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman Why did Ronnie love this book?

Michele Gelfand is an outstanding cultural psychologist who has studied societies across the globe.

In this fascinating book she draws on her own cross-cultural research to distinguish between what she labels “tight” and “loose” societies. Although the book does not focus on politics, Gelfand’s distinction between cultures that loosely versus tightly adhere to social norms nevertheless provides important insights into differences between the political left and right within our own society.   

By Michele Gelfand,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rule Makers, Rule Breakers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A groundbreaking analysis of what used to be an impenetrable mystery: how and why do cultures differ? ... Anyone interested in our cultural divides will find tremendous insight in Rule Makers, Rule Breakers' - Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now

Why are clocks in Germany always correct, while those in Brazil are frequently wrong? Why are Singaporeans jailed for selling gum? Why do women in New Zealand have three times the sex of females worldwide? Why was the Daimler-Chrysler merger ill-fated from the start? And why does each generation of Americans give their…


Book cover of Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan

Jilly Traganou Author Of The Tôkaidô Road: Travelling and Representation in EDO and Meiji Japan

From my list on travel in premodern and modern Japan.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an architect from Greece who traveled to Japan in the 1990s as an exchange student. Visiting Japan in the early 1990s was a transformative experience. It led me to a career at the intersection of Japanese studies and spatial inquiry and expanded my architectural professional background. I did my PhD on the Tokaido road and published it as a book in 2004. Since then I have written several other books on subjects that vary from the Olympic Games to social movements. In the last 16 years, I've taught at Parsons School of Design in New York where I am a professor of architecture and urbanism. My current project is researching the role of space and design in prefigurative political movements.

Jilly's book list on travel in premodern and modern Japan

Jilly Traganou Why did Jilly love this book?

I was extremely lucky to conduct my PhD research on Tokaido road in the 1990s. Books by scholars of Japanese Studies like Marily Ivy were extremely influential and opened my eyes to aspects that would not have been visible to me otherwise. 

The Discourses of the Vanishing was one such book that dispelled deeply rooted myths of Japan, especially the belief that Japan is a fully modernized country, that Japanese society is monolithic, and that Japan’s most noteworthy locales are its highly urbanized areas. What brought me to the book was Ivy’s examination of the Exotic Japan campaign of Japan’s railways in the late 1980s. This campaign was woven with powerful notions of furusato (nostalgia for one’s native place), neo-Japonesque exoticism, and other imaginary references of post-bubble Japan meant to appeal to women as new targets of Japan’s consumption campaigns.

Across the book’s six chapters, Ivy also takes us to…

By Marilyn Ivy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Deep anxieties about the potential loss of national identity and continuity disturb many in Japan, despite widespread insistence that it has remained culturally intact. In this conjoining of ethnography, history and cultural criticism, Marilyn Ivy discloses these anxieties, as she tracks what she calls the vanishing: marginalized events, sites and cultural practices suspended at moments of impending disappearance. Ivy shows how a fascination with cultural margins accompanied the emergence of Japan as a modern nation-state. This fascination culminated in the early 20th-century establishment of Japanese folklore studies and its attempts to record the spectral, sometimes violent, narratives of those margins.…


Book cover of The People: No Different Flesh

Sally Ember Author Of This Changes Everything

From my list on speculative fiction authors every sci fi author needs to read.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading sci-fi in 1962 with 1957's Miss Pickerell Goes to Mars and have loved it ever since. I became a sci-fi writer with my first three books in utopian speculative fiction, The Spanner Series. Unfortunately, I stalled out due to a TBI, a cross-country move, and other distractions, but I do plan to continue with the other 7 volumes in my utopian speculative fiction series some day. The writers in my “best of” list are some of my lifelong inspirations, so I hope newer readers can enjoy and learn from their works as much as I have.

Sally's book list on speculative fiction authors every sci fi author needs to read

Sally Ember Why did Sally love this book?

Zenna Henderson's entire The People series is worth reading, including the original short stories. These were all published at a time when very few female sci-fi authors were published. There is also a film that is fairly faithful to the books. Her creativity, her understanding the experience of immigrants and those who are “different,” and her depictions of the ways humans and immigrants are likely to re/act are timeless, offering stellar insights into our modern-day experiences. Sci-fi authors would do well to read all her books to learn how to do world-building, draw parallels between non-human species and humans, and analogize modern dilemmas as speculative fiction plots.

By Zenna Henderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Avon No. S328


Book cover of The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality

Lodewijk Smets Author Of Retooling Development Aid in the 21st Century: The Importance of Budget Support

From my list on economic growth and international development.

Why am I passionate about this?

As Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Lucas put it, "Once you start thinking about economic growth, it's hard to think about anything else." That's why I am eager to share the best books on economic development with you! I am a Senior Economist at the World Bank, the world's premier development institution. Over the years, I have developed a deep interest in what makes countries prosper, have published extensively on the topic in academic journals, and earned a PhD in Economics along the way. As a development practitioner, I have been supporting sustainable growth across the globe, with working experience in the Caribbean, Africa, and the Pacific. 

Lodewijk's book list on economic growth and international development

Lodewijk Smets Why did Lodewijk love this book?

In a captivating journey from the dawn of human existence to the present, Oded Galor offers a fascinating tale of why some nations have developed while others haven't.

The book explains how technology, family size, and adaptation led to a profound change in human history, with the Industrial Revolution as the turning point. The fundamental forces driving the explosion of per capita prosperity (in some nations) can be traced back to sound political institutions, conducive cultural traits, and an 'optimal' ethnic diversity that followed from the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa some 70,000 years ago.

I was struck by how the author brought together a wide variety of research on growth and development in a coherent framework.

By Oded Galor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This breakthrough scientific masterwork - and INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER - reveals the underlying forces that have shaped human history and will secure our future...

'Masterful. Galor answers the ultimate mystery' Lewis Dartnell

The stunning advances that have transformed human experience in recent centuries are no accident of history - they are the result of universal and timeless forces, operating since the dawn of our species. Drawing on a lifetime's scientific investigation, Oded Galor's ground-breaking new vision overturns a host of long-held assumptions to reveal the deeper causes that have shaped the journey of humanity:

Education rather than industrialisation
Family size and…


Book cover of Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count

Paul Thagard Author Of Bots and Beasts: What Makes Machines, Animals, and People Smart?

From my list on intelligence in humans, animals, and machines.

Why am I passionate about this?

I became fascinated by the highest achievements of human intelligence while a graduate student in philosophy working on the discovery and justification of scientific theories. Shortly after I got my PhD, I started working with cognitive psychologists who gave me an appreciation for empirical studies of intelligent thinking. Psychology led me to computational modeling of intelligence and I learned to build my own models. Much later a graduate student got me interested in questions about intelligence in non-human animals. After teaching a course on intelligence in machines, humans, and other animals, I decided to write a book that provides a systematic comparison: Bots and Beasts.  

Paul's book list on intelligence in humans, animals, and machines

Paul Thagard Why did Paul love this book?

Richard Nisbett is one of the most influential social psychologists in the world, and we collaborated on the 1987 book Induction. His book on intelligence gives a good introduction to the psychology of intelligence and an incisive critique of attempts to use dubious research on a genetic basis for intelligence to explain racial inequality.

By Richard E. Nisbett,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Intelligence and How to Get It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who are smarter, Asians or Westerners? Are there genetic explanations for group differences in test scores? From the damning research of The Bell Curve to the more recent controversy surrounding geneticist James Watson's statements, one factor has been consistently left out of the equation: culture. In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, world-class social psychologist Richard E. Nisbett takes on the idea of intelligence as biologically determined and impervious to culture with vast implications for the role of education as it relates to social and economic development. Intelligence and How to Get It asserts that intellect…


Book cover of The Interpretation of Cultures

Robert Darnton Author Of Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment

From my list on anthropology for lovers of history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an emeritus professor from Harvard and have spent decades trying to develop an anthropological mode of understanding history. Far from being “one damned thing after another,” as Henry Ford allegedly put it, history is an attempt to understand the human condition. It brings us into contact with people in the past, showing us how they thought, felt, and acted. For many decades, anthropologists have endeavored to do the same thing, concentrating on people separated from us by space rather than time. By applying anthropological insights to historical research, I think it is possible to make the past come alive to modern readers, while at the same time making it interesting and even amusing.

Robert's book list on anthropology for lovers of history

Robert Darnton Why did Robert love this book?

This collection of essays by one of the greatest anthropologists of the last century inspired a whole generation of historians—for example, Joan Scott and William Sewell, Jr. as well as myself.  The essays also should appeal to the general reader because of their well-wrought style and wit.  Drawing on Max Weber, Geertz treats cultures as symbolic systems and shows how they helped ordinary people make sense of the world.  Far from wandering off into abstractions, he offers fine-grained descriptions of actual events, notably a Balinese cockfight in an essay that has been cited and debated endlessly among social scientists.

By Clifford Geertz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Interpretation of Cultures, the most original anthropologist of his generation moved far beyond the traditional confines of his discipline to develop an important new concept of culture. This groundbreaking book, winner of the 1974 Sorokin Award of the American Sociological Association, helped define for an entire generation of anthropologists what their field is ultimately about.


Book cover of The Claims of Culture: Equality and Diversity in the Global Era

Raphael Cohen-Almagor Author Of Just, Reasonable Multiculturalism: Liberalism, Culture and Coercion

From my list on multiculturalism and the role of culture in our lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm intrigued by boundaries and the relationships between different ideologies, or isms. In 1992, I joined the European Project at The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. This was a fascinating group of people from Israel, Palestine, and Germany who studied the connections between Europe and the Middle East. Then I opened a new field of studies that continues to engage me: multiculturalism. In my books and articles (most recent: The Republic, Secularism and Security: France versus the Burqa and the Niqab), I examine the extent to which democracy may interfere in the cultural affairs of minorities within democracy, how to find a balance between individual rights and group rights, and whether liberalism and multiculturalism are reconcilable. 

Raphael's book list on multiculturalism and the role of culture in our lives

Raphael Cohen-Almagor Why did Raphael love this book?

Drawing on contemporary cultural politics from Western Europe, Canada, and the United States, Benhabib understands cultures as continually creating, re-creating, and renegotiating the imagined boundaries between "us" and "them." She defends the creation and expansion of deliberative discursive multicultural spaces in liberal democracies, arguing that a legal pluralist model can be a good complement to deliberative and discursive democratic multiculturalism. In her insightful study, Benhabib contends that the Rawlsian model of public reason and the deliberative model of democracy share certain fundamental premises. Both view the legitimation of political power in the examination of the justice of institutions to be a public process, open to all citizens. The idea that justice should be in the public eye, open to scrutiny, examination, and reflection is fundamental.

By Seyla Benhabib,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How can liberal democracy best be realized in a world fraught with conflicting new forms of identity politics and intensifying conflicts over culture? This book brings unparalleled clarity to the contemporary debate over this question. Maintaining that cultures are themselves torn by conflicts about their own boundaries, Seyla Benhabib challenges the assumption shared by many theorists and activists that cultures are clearly defined wholes. She argues that much debate - including that of "strong" multiculturalism, which sees cultures as distinct pieces of a mosaic - is dominated by this faulty belief, one with grave consequences for how we think injustices…


Book cover of The World That Trade Created: Society, Culture, and the World Economy, 1400 to the Present

Francine McKenzie Author Of GATT and Global Order in the Postwar Era

From my list on why international trade is all about politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of history at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. I have written about the history of international organizations, international trade, the British Commonwealth, and Canada in the world. Although these topics have taken me in different directions, I have always examined the political currents that run through them. Politics emerge in relation to ideology, policymaking, leadership, norms, values, interests, identity, international relations, and global governance. I have been especially interested in connecting economics and politics. Many scholars write about trade policies, organizations, and negotiations as though they are technical and narrowly economic when they are agents, instruments, and expressions of international politics. 

Francine's book list on why international trade is all about politics

Francine McKenzie Why did Francine love this book?

This book shows how trade has long connected people and societies all over the world, from miners in Potosi, to coffee growers in Yemen, and traders and shippers from Fujian.

Topik and Pomeranz reject a Eurocentric approach to the history of international trade and they put real people back into the story. The engaging vignettes in this collection are not primarily about politics, but they make clear why trade is political and polarizing.

The workings of international trade powerfully affected people’s lives, for better and for worse, and so people reacted strongly to trade, as committed champions and tireless opponents.

By Kenneth Pomeranz, Steven Topik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World That Trade Created as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The World That Trade Created brings to life the history of trade and its actors. In a series of brief, highly readable vignettes, filled with insights and amazing facts about things we tend to take for granted, the authors uncover the deep historical roots of economic globalization.

Covering over seven hundred years of history, this book, now in its fourth edition, takes the reader around the world from the history of the opium trade to pirates, to the building of corporations and migration to the New World. The chapters are grouped thematically, each featuring an introductory essay designed to synthesize…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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