100 books like Plough, Sword and Book

By Ernest Gellner,

Here are 100 books that Plough, Sword and Book fans have personally recommended if you like Plough, Sword and Book. 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 The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals

Larry Cahoone Author Of The Emergence of Value: Human Norms in a Natural World

From my list on history and science books that tell us who we are now.

Why am I passionate about this?

A philosophy professor, my central interest has always been something historical: what is going on in this strange modern world we live in? Addressing this required forty years of background work in the natural sciences, history, social sciences, and the variety of contemporary philosophical theories that try to put them all together. In the process, I taught philosophy courses on philosophical topics, social theory, and the sciences, wrote books, and produced video courses, mostly focused on that central interest. The books listed are some of my favorites to read and to teach. They are crucial steps on the journey to understand who we are in this unprecedented modern world.

Larry's book list on history and science books that tell us who we are now

Larry Cahoone Why did Larry love this book?

This is the best single book summarizing contemporary scientific knowledge on what makes humans different from other animals. It strikes a middle path between “romantics” who want to believe dolphins and primates can do everything we can and “killjoys” who try to maintain more traditional notions of human superiority.

But if there is a “gap” between us and other animals, exactly what is it? Suddendorf tracks the question from one field of possible answers to the next, from linguistics to anthropology to archaeology to primatology to cognitive science.

The book reads like a detective story – I couldn’t put it down.

By Thomas Suddendorf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

There exists an undeniable chasm between the capacities of humans and those of animals. Our minds have spawned civilizations and technologies that have changed the face of the Earth, whereas even our closest animal relatives sit unobtrusively in their dwindling habitats. Yet despite longstanding debates, the nature of this apparent gap has remained unclear. What exactly is the difference between our minds and theirs?In The Gap , psychologist Thomas Suddendorf provides a definitive account of the mental qualities that separate humans from other animals, as well as how these differences arose. Drawing on two decades of research on apes, children,…


Book cover of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Larry Cahoone Author Of The Emergence of Value: Human Norms in a Natural World

From my list on history and science books that tell us who we are now.

Why am I passionate about this?

A philosophy professor, my central interest has always been something historical: what is going on in this strange modern world we live in? Addressing this required forty years of background work in the natural sciences, history, social sciences, and the variety of contemporary philosophical theories that try to put them all together. In the process, I taught philosophy courses on philosophical topics, social theory, and the sciences, wrote books, and produced video courses, mostly focused on that central interest. The books listed are some of my favorites to read and to teach. They are crucial steps on the journey to understand who we are in this unprecedented modern world.

Larry's book list on history and science books that tell us who we are now

Larry Cahoone Why did Larry love this book?

Best recent book examining human morality from a scientific, psychological point of view.

Darwinians used to think humans had to be selfish and immoral. Contemporary evolution argues the opposite, that humans evolved moral limits on our selfishness in order to live together. Haidt’s is the best book presenting this new evolutionary psychology.

But it goes further to connect those scientific issues with contemporary politics, explaining why people from “red” and “blue” states cannot understand each other: they each embody a short list of human moral values, but different ones. This is a great book for thinking carefully about human morality and contemporary politics. Students love it, and so do I. 

By Jonathan Haidt,

Why should I read it?

16 authors picked The Righteous Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?

Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and…


Book cover of Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

Eran Pichersky Author Of Plants and Human Conflict

From my list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

After serving in the military for several years, I pursued a scientific career as a plant biologist. It was during my military service in a unit that spent most of our time in the wilderness that I discovered plants, and particularly their smells. One cannot help it–if you step or crawl on a plant, you will smell it. As a military history buff, I also learned that many wars were fought over plants, and so I decided to write a book that combines the two–explaining what these plants do, why they are so important to people, and, therefore, how plants basically drive human behavior, often to violence. 

Eran's book list on how plants have had a dramatic influence on human history

Eran Pichersky Why did Eran love this book?

I’ve always thought that the history of humans should be no different from the history of any other living organisms–what in biology is called “natural history."

Humans are a species of animals, and all physical, chemical, and biological rules apply to them. So I was delighted to finally see a history book that follows the history of humans by applying exactly this scientific approach and thus explaining, in deterministic scientific terms, our own history. 

By Jared Diamond,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked Guns, Germs, and Steel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did Eurasians conquer, displace, or decimate Native Americans, Australians, and Africans, instead of the reverse? In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, a classic of our time, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond dismantles racist theories of human history by revealing the environmental factors actually responsible for its broadest patterns.

The story begins 13,000 years ago, when Stone Age hunter-gatherers constituted the entire human population. Around that time, the developmental paths of human societies on different continents began to diverge greatly. Early domestication of wild plants and animals in the Fertile Crescent, China,…


Book cover of The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness

Larry Cahoone Author Of The Emergence of Value: Human Norms in a Natural World

From my list on history and science books that tell us who we are now.

Why am I passionate about this?

A philosophy professor, my central interest has always been something historical: what is going on in this strange modern world we live in? Addressing this required forty years of background work in the natural sciences, history, social sciences, and the variety of contemporary philosophical theories that try to put them all together. In the process, I taught philosophy courses on philosophical topics, social theory, and the sciences, wrote books, and produced video courses, mostly focused on that central interest. The books listed are some of my favorites to read and to teach. They are crucial steps on the journey to understand who we are in this unprecedented modern world.

Larry's book list on history and science books that tell us who we are now

Larry Cahoone Why did Larry love this book?

I have taught many books on “modernity” or the modern world. This is the one single volume I would pick for students on a deserted island. I love reading it and love teaching it.

Berger applies the most important parts of social theory in a readable way to analyze what it’s like to work, love, and live in a modern versus traditional society. He shows how modernization permanently generates “discontents.” We love it, and we hate it, and most of the critics of modernity can’t help being modern themselves.

There is a chapter on dueling, which students never forget! 

By Peter L. Berger, Brigitte Berger, Hansfried Kellner

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The authors seek to explain the social nature of the processes of modernization and the hegemony of ideas and ways of thinking that constitute the modern outlook.


Book cover of Steps to an Ecology of Mind

Corey Anton Author Of Sources of Significance: Worldly Rejuvenation and Neo-Stoic Heroism

From my list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition.

Why am I passionate about this?

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University, Vice-President of the Institute of General Semantics, Past President of the Media Ecology Association, and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and author. His research spans the fields of media ecology, semiotics, phenomenology, stoicism, death studies, the philosophy of communication, and multidisciplinary communication theory.

Corey's book list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition

Corey Anton Why did Corey love this book?

Gregory Bateson, an intellectual maverick, had an evolutionary rule named after him when he was a teenager, (his father was a famed geneticist), was the formulator, along with Jurgen Ruesch, of the double-bind hypothesis of schizophrenia, and was a pioneer in the field of mammalian communication. Given its wide range of address to issues within evolutionary biology, psychiatry, anthropology, systems theory, cybernetics, and communication theory, this is a classic “must read” collection of short essays. Bateson’s unrelentingly original and provocative analyses provoke thought and defy any easy categorization. At the very least, he shows how mammalian play, as multileveled interaction, paves the way for the evolution of human language, and also, how human interaction, with its multiple logical types and different kinds of learning, occurs at various levels of abstraction.

By Gregory Bateson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steps to an Ecology of Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gregory Bateson was a philosopher, anthropologist, photographer, naturalist, and poet, as well as the husband and collaborator of Margaret Mead. With a new foreword by his daughter Mary Katherine Bateson, this classic anthology of his major work will continue to delight and inform generations of readers.

"This collection amounts to a retrospective exhibition of a working life. . . . Bateson has come to this position during a career that carried him not only into anthropology, for which he was first trained, but into psychiatry, genetics, and communication theory. . . . He . . . examines the nature of…


Book cover of Globes: Spheres Volume II

Frédéric Chaubin Author Of Stone Age: Ancient Castles of Europe

From my list on making a modern book about ancient castles.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than twenty years I was the Editor in Chief of the French magazine Citizen K. I’ve been dedicating myself to more personal projects. I’m keen on connecting words and pictures. Fond about Architecture and History I did after long investigations in the former Soviet Union, a book dedicated to the late Soviet Architecture. CCCP was published in 2011 by Taschen. Through my text and photographs I featured in it a set of extraordinary and ignored buildings. Luckily, this achievement having met with success, it brought me to a new photographic project. With Stone Age, published in 2021, I gathered through 400 pages more than 200 primitive castles selected all around Europe.

Frédéric's book list on making a modern book about ancient castles

Frédéric Chaubin Why did Frédéric love this book?

What does a castle and Noah’s ark have in common? What is a castle, if not an over-dimensioned hull? In Globes, part of his Sphere trilogy, the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk brings architecture to its anthropological origin, the necessity to regain the initial womb’s protection, a shared comfort zone confronting exterior threats. Like the mythical cities in which history always start by a ground delimitation, the castles are erecting their walls and closing their gates to preserve the interior world and its coherence from the exterior chaos. In an analogy to the Middle Age, gated communities reproduce in a regressive way this reality. Only the privileged will be saved.

By Peter Sloterdijk, Wieland Hoban (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The second, and longest, volume in Peter Sloterdijk's celebrated Spheres trilogy, on the world history and philosophy of globalization.

All history is the history of struggles for spheric expansion.
—from Globes

In Globes—the second, and longest, volume in Peter Sloterdijk's celebrated magnum opus Spheres trilogy—the author attempts nothing less than to uncover the philosophical foundations of the political history—the history of humanity—of the last two thousand years. The first, well-received volume of the author's Spheres trilogy, Bubbles, dealt with microspheres: the fact that individuals, from the fetal stage to childhood, are never alone, because they always incorporate the Other into…


Book cover of Ideas to Postpone the End of the World

Anthony Doyle Author Of Hibernaculum

From my list on to read before hibernating.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Irish novelist and poet. Fiction writers are perhaps better described by their fascinations than by any expertise as such. I can’t claim to be an expert in anything, but I am easily fascinated. My educational background is in philosophy, but I’ve always had a tremendous interest in the natural world too, and my writing tends to reflect that. When it comes to fiction, I love books that throw new layers on old surfaces. With nonfiction, I love anything that can explain something. Nonfiction loves to adorn itself with fiction, while fiction tends to cling to nonfiction like flesh on a bone. So my list is mostly bones, and one big sea pearl.        

Anthony's book list on to read before hibernating

Anthony Doyle Why did Anthony love this book?

I’m biased here, because I translated this book from Portuguese, but it’s a slender little thing with a huge personality.

Ailton Krenak is an indigenous leader from Brazil, and this essay is his attempt to show where human civilization has gone wrong and what we might do to save it.

In a mix of sigh, outburst, yawn, and eulogy, Krenak suggests some simple paradigm shifts that could make all the difference, but the basic idea is clear: there’s no point in trying to change what we do without first changing how we see—and that’s maybe a stretch too far for us. 

By Ailton Krenak, Anthony Doyle (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ideas to Postpone the End of the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Ailton Krenak's ideas inspire, washing over you with every truth-telling sentence. Read this book." - Tanya Talaga, bestselling author of Seven Fallen Feathers

Indigenous peoples have faced the end of the world before. Now, humankind is on a collective march towards the abyss. Global pandemics, extreme weather, and massive wildfires define this era many now call the Anthropocene.

From Brazil comes Ailton Krenak, renowned Indigenous activist and leader, who demonstrates that our current environmental crisis is rooted in society's flawed concept of "humanity" - that human beings are superior to other forms of nature and are justified in exploiting it…


Book cover of Janus: A Summing Up

Andrée Ehresmann & Jean-Paul Vanbremeersch Author Of Memory Evolutive Systems: Hierarchy, Emergence, Cognition: Volume 4

From my list on mathematical approaches to complex systems.

Why are we passionate about this?

An accident of professional life led us, Jean-Paul Vanbremeersch and Andrée Ehresmann, to meet in 1979. Jean-Paul was then a young physician who was also interested in problems of emergence and complexity. Andrée was a mathematician working in Analysis and, more recently, in Category Theory with Charles Ehresmann (her late husband). With Charles, she shared the idea that: “a category theory approach could open a wealth of possibilities to the understanding of complex processes of any kind.”This idea appealed to Jean-Paul who suggested that we both try applying it to problems of emergence, complexity, and cognition. It led to our 40 years old development of MES. 

Andrée and Jean-Paul's book list on mathematical approaches to complex systems

Andrée Ehresmann & Jean-Paul Vanbremeersch Why did Andrée and Jean-Paul love this book?

We appreciate this book because it helped us to introduce the concept of a ‘hierarchical category,’ which is necessary to describe our MES. We accomplished this by translating Koestler's concept of a "hierarchy of holons," where a holon embodies a 'hybrid nature' akin to a two-faced Janus.

Technically, a hierarchical category organizes objects into numbered levels (0 to m). An object at level n is dual-faced: 'simple' compared to levels above n, but 'complex' compared to levels < n, this object being the "colimit" (or combination) of linked objects < n. Within a hierarchical category, we compute the 'complexity order' for each object. The category aligns with pure reductionism if it lacks objects with a complexity order greater than 1.

By Arthur Koestler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Excellent Book


Book cover of The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays

Henry Hardy Author Of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure

From my list on Isaiah Berlin.

Why am I passionate about this?

I had the supreme good fortune to know Berlin (1909–97) for nearly twenty-five years, and to work with him as his principal editor for most of that time; I continued this work after his death and it still occupies me now. He was one of the great human beings of the twentieth century, an essayist and letter-writer of genius, and a bewitching bridge between academia and the general civilised life of the mind. His ideas are fertile and illuminating to this day, and the immediately recognisable voice of his prose is the best possible intellectual company.

Henry's book list on Isaiah Berlin

Henry Hardy Why did Henry love this book?

This is the book for readers who wish to sample Berlin’s kaleidoscopic, multidisciplinary work in a single volume across its whole range. It includes his most celebrated essays in philosophy, political theory, the history of ideas, and twentieth-century portraiture. His two most famous pieces, The Hedgehog and the Fox (on Tolstoy’s view of history) and Two Concepts of Liberty (on ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ political freedom), are here, as are his accounts of his formative meetings with the great Russian poets Anna Akhmatova and Boris Pasternak, his impressions of Churchill and Roosevelt, and his pellucid accounts of romanticism and nationalism. The essays are linked by his ruling preoccupation with understanding human nature in all its irreducibly various guises: what he called, following Kant, ‘the crooked timber of humanity’.

By Isaiah Berlin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'He becomes everyman's guide to everything exciting in the history of ideas' New York Review of Books

Isaiah Berlin was one of the leading thinkers of the twentieth century, and one of the finest writers. The Proper Study Of Mankind selects some of his best essays in which his insights both illuminate the past and offer a key to the burning issues of today.

The full (and enormous) range of his work is represented here, from the exposition of his most distinctive doctrine - pluralism - to studies of Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Churchill and Roosevelt. In these pages he encapsulates the…


Book cover of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Somi Arian Author Of Career Fear (and how to beat it): Get the Perspective, Mindset and Skills You Need to Futureproof your Work Life

From my list on preparing you for the digital era.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Somi Arian, a tech philosopher, award-winning filmmaker, author, LinkedIn-Top-Voice, and the founder of InPeak, a Web3 education and professional networking platform. My background in Philosophy of Science and Technology informs my role in society as a 'Transition Architect.' My documentary, The Millennial Disruption, featuring industry leaders, won three international awards. My book, Career Fear (and how to beat it), addresses the future of work and the skills we all need to survive and thrive in the age of Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain. As a speaker, I give talks and workshops internationally on the impact of technology on society, the business landscape, the future of work, Web3, NFTs, the Metaverse, and blockchain technology.

Somi's book list on preparing you for the digital era

Somi Arian Why did Somi love this book?

Homo Deus: A History of Tomorrow is a thought-provoking and insightful book that takes a deep dive into the future of humanity.

Harari's approach to the subject matter is engaging and his arguments are presented with clarity and precision, making it a valuable read for anyone interested in exploring the potential paths of human evolution. The book provides a compelling analysis of how science, technology, and human progress intersect, while also offering ideas and predictions about the future.

The author challenges readers to think about the state of current trends and how we can better shape our future touching on a wide range of topics, from artificial life to overcoming death, and raising important questions about the future of humanity.

I highly recommend this book for its ability to inspire readers to think critically and imaginatively about the future of humanity. Harari's engaging style and accessible language make the book…

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**THE MILLION COPY BESTSELLER**

Sapiens showed us where we came from. In our increasingly uncertain times, Homo Deus shows us where we're going.

'Spellbinding' Guardian

The world-renowned historian and intellectual Yuval Noah Harari envisions a near future in which we face a new set of challenges. Homo Deus explores the projects, dreams and nightmares that will shape the twenty-first century and beyond - from overcoming death to creating artificial life.

It asks the fundamental questions: how can we protect this fragile world from our own destructive power? And what does our future hold?

'Even more readable, even more important, than…


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