100 books like Summer for the Gods

By Edward J. Larson,

Here are 100 books that Summer for the Gods fans have personally recommended if you like Summer for the Gods. 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 Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate

Claudia Keenan Author Of Waking Dreamers, Unexpected American Lives: 1880-1980

From my list on on American culture that will surprise you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Claudia Keenan is a historian of education whose interest in American culture was awakened during her doctoral studies, when she researched the lives of mid-twentieth-century educators. Growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., she developed a strong affinity with place and time among the beautiful old homes and avenues lined with elms, set against a backdrop of racial strife and ethnic politics. She continues to reconstruct and interpret American lives on her blog, and has recently finished a book about Henry Collins Brown, founder of the Museum of the City of New York. Claudia received a BA from the University of Chicago and a PhD from New York University.

Claudia's book list on on American culture that will surprise you

Claudia Keenan Why did Claudia love this book?

This unlikely thriller of a book explores a seemingly bland subject: the network of interstate highways built by the Federal Government after World War II. In fact, these highways transformed American culture, not only spelling the demise of many country roads and small towns but replacing the friendly hitchhiker with the terrifying “killer on the road.” Further, the highways led to the creation of rest stops and shadowy neighborhoods that came to harbor predators, while the interstates aided the criminals’ flight. Killer on the Road keeps you on the edge of your seat, unfolding into horror, mystery, and victimization.

By Ginger Strand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Starting in the 1950s, Americans eagerly built the planet's largest public work: the 42,795-mile National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Before the concrete was dry on the new roads, however, a specter began haunting them-the highway killer. He went by many names: the "Hitcher," the "Freeway Killer," the "Killer on the Road," the "I-5 Strangler," and the "Beltway Sniper." Some of these criminals were imagined, but many were real. The nation's murder rate shot up as its expressways were built. America became more violent and more mobile at the same time.

Killer on the Road tells the entwined stories…


Book cover of The Devil and Sonny Liston

Claudia Keenan Author Of Waking Dreamers, Unexpected American Lives: 1880-1980

From my list on on American culture that will surprise you.

Why am I passionate about this?

Claudia Keenan is a historian of education whose interest in American culture was awakened during her doctoral studies, when she researched the lives of mid-twentieth-century educators. Growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., she developed a strong affinity with place and time among the beautiful old homes and avenues lined with elms, set against a backdrop of racial strife and ethnic politics. She continues to reconstruct and interpret American lives on her blog, and has recently finished a book about Henry Collins Brown, founder of the Museum of the City of New York. Claudia received a BA from the University of Chicago and a PhD from New York University.

Claudia's book list on on American culture that will surprise you

Claudia Keenan Why did Claudia love this book?

“A ghost story, a haunting unto itself”—thus, music journalist Nick Tosches opens his tough tale of the boxer Sonny Liston, two-time heavyweight champion of the world. Born in 1932 into a family of tenant farmers that lived on the border of Arkansas and Mississippi, Liston grew up with violence, reinforced by an early stint in prison. Deftly, Tosches conjures the grim, ruthless culture of professional boxing during the 1950s and 60s. Most poignantly, he shows that Liston never possessed his own life—not in the fields from which he fled as a youth and not as a winner in the ring. He was always owned by white men who operated a fundamentally racist business. For readers interested in Black cultural history, this is a timely book. 

By Nick Tosches,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A biography of the controversial fighter follows Liston from the mean streets, where he was a petty criminal, to the heavyweight championship and his life as a pawn of organized crime. By the author of Power on Earth. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.


Book cover of A Pickpocket's Tale: The Underworld of Nineteenth-Century New York

John Oller Author Of Rogues' Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York

From my list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d written modern true crime before—a book that helped solve a 40-year-old cold case—and wanted to try my hand at historical true crime. I live in Manhattan, home to the greatest crime stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so I was able to see the actual locations where the grisliest murders, the biggest bank heists, and the crookedest con games took place. What really drew me in, though, were the many colorful, unforgettable characters, both good and bad, cops and robbers, who walked the bustling streets of Old New York during the fascinating era known as the Gilded Age. 

John's book list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age

John Oller Why did John love this book?

If you read one biography/memoir of a Gilded Age criminal, make it this one. It tells the story (often in his own words) of the celebrated pickpocket George Appo, an odd little half-Chinese, half-Irish, one-eyed fellow who could make $800 in a few days when most working men made less than that in a year. Appo would rivet New Yorkers when he testified about his second career as a “green goods” con man, working to swindle gullible out-of-towners who came to buy purported counterfeit money at a discount, only to discover that there was nothing but sawdust inside the packages they carried away. Appo refused to name names, though, as he was a self-described “good fellow.”  

By Timothy J. Gilfoyle,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Pickpocket's Tale as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In George Appo's world, child pickpockets swarmed the crowded streets, addicts drifted in furtive opium dens, and expert swindlers worked the lucrative green-goods game. On a good night Appo made as much as a skilled laborer made in a year. Bad nights left him with more than a dozen scars and over a decade in prisons from the Tombs and Sing Sing to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he reunited with another inmate, his father. The child of Irish and Chinese immigrants, Appo grew up in the notorious Five Points and Chinatown neighborhoods. He rose as…


Book cover of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States

Ian MacAllen Author Of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American

From my list on when you’re hungering for history.

Why am I passionate about this?

My wife and I were at a red sauce joint in the West Village of Manhattan drinking a bit of wine when we posed the question: who invented all this? We knew Italian American food didn’t look all that much like the food we ate in Italy. Later, at home, I started Googling for answers. None were satisfactory. I read a few books before finding myself at the New York Public library sleuthing through JSTOR. After examining my notes, I said to myself, “oh, I guess I’m writing a book.”

Ian's book list on when you’re hungering for history

Ian MacAllen Why did Ian love this book?

Chinese American food has a rich history, and Andrew Coe explores the arrival of the cuisine in America, how it adapts, and how it is popularized across the country. The book focuses on restaurant culture and recipes, and Coe explains the origins of many dishes like chop suey and how and when the dishes grew into mainstream success, part of a broader American cuisine. The way Coe discusses Chinese American food is similar to how I write about Italian American food in my book. 

By Andrew Coe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 1784, passengers on the ship Empress of China became the first Americans to land in China, and the first to eat Chinese food. Today, the United States is home to more Chinese restaurants than any other ethnic cuisine. In this authoritative new history, author Andrew Coe traces the fascinating story of America's centuries-long encounter with Chinese food. CHOP SUEY tells how we went from believing that Chinese meals contained dogs and rats to making
regular pilgrimages to the neighborhood chop suey parlor. From China, the book follows the story to the American West, where both Chinese and their food…


Book cover of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science

Nicholas Spencer Author Of Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

From my list on science and religion through the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on science and religion for 15 years now. While there are a number of books on Darwinism and religion (too many to count), the number on Darwin himself and his own (loss of) religion is far smaller. So, I wrote a short "spiritual biography" of the great man. Reading through the Darwin archives, it emerged that there was so much more to the story than “man finds evolution but loses God,” and the more I read around this topic and spoke to the leading academic scholars on the subject, the more I realized that that was the case for science and religion overall.

Nicholas' book list on science and religion through the ages

Nicholas Spencer Why did Nicholas love this book?

The popular view is that “mediaeval science” is a contradiction in terms, but this is… well, nonsense, really. The mediaeval world did not have “scientists” (the term was only invented in the 1830s), but it did have “natural philosophers” who studied the world about them with great care and interest.

True, they worked within a totally different framework from later scientists, and that made the kind of leaps forward that were made in the 17th century impossible. But nevertheless, they thought logically, examined carefully, reasoned well, and even sometimes experimented successfully.

James Hannam’s book is a great introduction to a world that seems very alien to us but is closer than we might think.

By James Hannam,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked God's Philosophers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a powerful and a thrilling narrative history revealing the roots of modern science in the medieval world. The adjective 'medieval' has become a synonym for brutality and uncivilized behavior. Yet without the work of medieval scholars there could have been no Galileo, no Newton and no Scientific Revolution. In "God's Philosophers", James Hannam debunks many of the myths about the Middle Ages, showing that medieval people did not think the earth is flat, nor did Columbus 'prove' that it is a sphere; the Inquisition burnt nobody for their science nor was Copernicus afraid of persecution; no Pope tried…


Book cover of Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion

Nicholas Spencer Author Of Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

From my list on science and religion through the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on science and religion for 15 years now. While there are a number of books on Darwinism and religion (too many to count), the number on Darwin himself and his own (loss of) religion is far smaller. So, I wrote a short "spiritual biography" of the great man. Reading through the Darwin archives, it emerged that there was so much more to the story than “man finds evolution but loses God,” and the more I read around this topic and spoke to the leading academic scholars on the subject, the more I realized that that was the case for science and religion overall.

Nicholas' book list on science and religion through the ages

Nicholas Spencer Why did Nicholas love this book?

The academic world began to dismantle the idea that there had always been a conflict between science and history about 50 years ago, but this book was one of the first to try and tell that story more widely.

It isn’t all one-sided. The authors dismantle some other popular "harmony" myths too (e.g., that Einstein believed in a personal God or that Quantum Physics proves free will), but for the most part, the myths they take apart–that mediaeval world thought the world was flat, or that the Church denounced anaesthesia on biblical grounds–are the ones that have lodged the idea of warfare in our cultural mind without justification.

Book cover of The Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man

Nicholas Spencer Author Of Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

From my list on science and religion through the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on science and religion for 15 years now. While there are a number of books on Darwinism and religion (too many to count), the number on Darwin himself and his own (loss of) religion is far smaller. So, I wrote a short "spiritual biography" of the great man. Reading through the Darwin archives, it emerged that there was so much more to the story than “man finds evolution but loses God,” and the more I read around this topic and spoke to the leading academic scholars on the subject, the more I realized that that was the case for science and religion overall.

Nicholas' book list on science and religion through the ages

Nicholas Spencer Why did Nicholas love this book?

In the last decades of the 20th century, there emerged an increasingly acrimonious argument over what Darwinism meant, especially for humans. This wasn’t simply between creationists and Intelligent Design advocates on one side and Darwinians on the other. The Darwinists disagreed among themselves, something with as much fury as they disagreed with the other side.

Andrew Brown is a journalist who, unusually, has genuine expertise in both science and religion. More importantly, he is a cracking writer, and The Darwin Wars is not only intelligent and profound but also clever and witty.

By Andrew Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an account of neo-Darwinist theories, including the influential Selfish Gene theory - and the misunderstandings they provoke. Divided between "Dawkinsians" and "Gouldians", these theories are explained and evaluated, showing the profound impact they have had on beliefs and culture.


Book cover of Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe

Nicholas Spencer Author Of Magisteria: The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

From my list on science and religion through the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been working on science and religion for 15 years now. While there are a number of books on Darwinism and religion (too many to count), the number on Darwin himself and his own (loss of) religion is far smaller. So, I wrote a short "spiritual biography" of the great man. Reading through the Darwin archives, it emerged that there was so much more to the story than “man finds evolution but loses God,” and the more I read around this topic and spoke to the leading academic scholars on the subject, the more I realized that that was the case for science and religion overall.

Nicholas' book list on science and religion through the ages

Nicholas Spencer Why did Nicholas love this book?

Simon Conway Morris is a Cambridge academic, and his book is published by Cambridge University Press–but don’t let that put non-academic readers off. This is one of the few books I think you can genuinely call important.

It takes on the now wearyingly familiar idea that evolution is pure random chance, with no direction, no purpose, no goal, and dismantles it–with page after page of detailed information.

This is absolutely no ill-informed, anti-evolutionary rant but the work of a great scholar with complete mastery of his subject. While it does not engage with religion directly, the implications for religion (and indeed for so many other vital human beliefs and activities) are left hanging in the air.

By Simon Conway Morris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The assassin's bullet misses, the Archduke's carriage moves forward, and a catastrophic war is avoided. So too with the history of life. Re-run the tape of life, as Stephen J. Gould claimed, and the outcome must be entirely different: an alien world, without humans and maybe not even intelligence. The history of life is littered with accidents: any twist or turn may lead to a completely different world. Now this view is being challenged. Simon Conway Morris explores the evidence demonstrating life's almost eerie ability to navigate to a single solution, repeatedly. Eyes, brains, tools, even culture: all are very…


Book cover of How to Save a Constitutional Democracy

Natasha Lindstaedt Author Of Democratic Decay and Authoritarian Resurgence

From my list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a political science professor who has always been interested in authoritarian regimes, how they function, and how they control their citizens. In particular, I find it fascinating why citizens may genuinely adore and respect the (sometimes outrageous) autocrats that lead them, even though they rule with an iron fist. Additionally, the rise of authoritarianism in democracies also caught my attention. Terms like “slow-moving coups” and “insurrections” are being used when referring to democracies now. In some ways, this is shocking to me—but it’s motivated me to better understand how this happenedand the ways in which autocracies and democracies seem to be mimicking each other.

Natasha's book list on why the world is becoming more authoritarian

Natasha Lindstaedt Why did Natasha love this book?

Legal scholars have offered a lot of insights into how democracies fall apart, but one of the more interesting books from constitutional scholars is How to Save a Constitutional Democracy. Using a case study of the US to illustrate, this book demonstrates how important constitutional design is in preventing democratic backsliding, as the book explains how would-be autocrats can take advantage of constitutions to flex their own power. And though the US constitution has often been heralded as a model document for new democracies to follow, somewhat surprisingly, it’s not ideal for maintaining a democracy; it actually suffers from two sins of being overly rigid on the one hand, and too vague in shaping the parameters of executive power on the other. This book is both a guide and a cautionary tale.

By Tom Ginsburg, Aziz Z Huq,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Save a Constitutional Democracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Democracies are in danger. Around the world, a rising wave of populist leaders threatens to erode the core structures of democratic self-rule. In the United States, the tenure of Donald Trump has seemed decisive turning point for many. What kind of president intimidates jurors, calls the news media the "enemy of the American people," and seeks foreign assistance investigating domestic political rivals? Whatever one thinks of President Trump, many think the Constitution will safeguard us from lasting damage. But is that assumption justified? How to Save a Constitutional Democracy mounts an urgent argument that we can no longer afford to…


Book cover of Allow Me to Retort: A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

Ernest Owens Author Of The Case for Cancel Culture: How This Democratic Tool Works to Liberate Us All

From my list on modern-day Black social consciousness.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Philadelphia-based journalist and new author. I’m the Editor at Large for Philadelphia Magazine and President of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. As an openly Black gay journalist, I’ve headlined for speaking frankly about intersectional issues in society regarding race, LGBTQIA, and pop culture. Such experiences have awakened my consciousness as an underrepresented voice in the media and have pushed me to explore societal topics. My new book The Case for Cancel Culture, published by St. Martin's Press, is my way of staking my claim in the global conversation on this buzzworthy topic. 

Ernest's book list on modern-day Black social consciousness

Ernest Owens Why did Ernest love this book?

This is a book that educates and radicalizes you all at once.

Mystal is more than just a bold political commentator, but a man on a mission to make you reconsider everything you thought you knew about America’s most consequential text in a book that holds back no punches.

I will never again see the Constitution as a historical text that guides my life, but now as a document that is currently being weaponized by politicians to infringe upon it.

This book is a loud alarm to all those who have been casually watching the current political mudslinging and not thinking the fire would hit their doorstep.

It’s here, and it’s time to do something about it.  

By Elie Mystal,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Allow Me to Retort as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Instant New York Times Bestseller

MSNBC legal commentator Elie Mystal thinks that Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time. Now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book.

"After reading Allow Me to Retort, I want Elie Mystal to explain everything I don't understand-quantum astrophysics, the infield fly rule, why people think Bob Dylan is a good singer . . ." -Michael Harriot, The Root

Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument about what rights we have, what rights Republicans are trying to take away, and how…


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