100 books like The Better Angels of Our Nature

By Steven Pinker,

Here are 100 books that The Better Angels of Our Nature fans have personally recommended if you like The Better Angels of Our Nature. 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 Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

J. Lawrence Graham Author Of Charlotte's War

From my list on understanding the roots of war and peace.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent the 1970s as an officer in the U.S. Navy UDT/SEAL Teams, giving me insight into the military aspects of peacebuilding. I have spent the last forty years researching and teaching international marketing and negotiations at USC and UC Irvine, after receiving a Berkeley PhD. I was also the director of the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding for ten years. I have published four books on international negotiations and all my ten books in print are on the topic of peace in families, neighborhoods, commerce, and international relations.

J.'s book list on understanding the roots of war and peace

J. Lawrence Graham Why did J. love this book?

Korda’s book provides a rich historical account of Lawrence of Arabia.

It explains how the Ottoman Empire was dissected by the British and French after World War I. Because the Europeans ignored cultural boundaries and simply drew straight lines on a map, the region has been a fiery mess since then. Lawrence was a hero for the British, but he advised against the specifics of the peace treaty signed at Versailles.

Korda’s book exemplifies the idea that peace can be achieved through cultural understanding and openness. Had the Europeans utilized a peacebuilding approach the area wouldn’t have been dragged into disarray and generations of conflict. 

By Michael Korda,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'This magnificent, monumental portrait at a stroke makes all others redundant, and re-establishes Lawrence as one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century' Sunday Times

Michael Korda' s Hero is an epic biography of the mysterious Englishman whose daring exploits made him an object of intense fascination, known the world over as Lawrence of Arabia.


An Oxford Scholar and archaeologist, one of five illegitimate sons of a British aristocrat who ran away with his daughters' governess, T.E. Lawrence was sent to Cairo as an intelligence officer in 1916, vanished into the desert in 1917, and re-emerged as one…


Book cover of The Winds Of War

J. Lawrence Graham Author Of Charlotte's War

From my list on understanding the roots of war and peace.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent the 1970s as an officer in the U.S. Navy UDT/SEAL Teams, giving me insight into the military aspects of peacebuilding. I have spent the last forty years researching and teaching international marketing and negotiations at USC and UC Irvine, after receiving a Berkeley PhD. I was also the director of the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding for ten years. I have published four books on international negotiations and all my ten books in print are on the topic of peace in families, neighborhoods, commerce, and international relations.

J.'s book list on understanding the roots of war and peace

J. Lawrence Graham Why did J. love this book?

The Winds of War is a powerful and intimate story about WWII.

It follows one fictional family through the buildup to the most devastating war in human history. The cultural and political details are most impressive. The writing itself is captivating. I have used it as a model for my own book.

Wouk’s work demonstrates the impact of war on families and establishes the importance of advocating for peaceful resolutions to global disputes.

By Herman Wouk,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Winds Of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with THE WINDS OF WAR and continues in WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers.

Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - the drama, the romance, the heroism and the tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very centre of the maelstrom.

"First-rate storytelling." - New York Times

"Compelling . . . A panoramic, engrossing story." - Atlantic…


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 1776

J. Lawrence Graham Author Of Charlotte's War

From my list on understanding the roots of war and peace.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent the 1970s as an officer in the U.S. Navy UDT/SEAL Teams, giving me insight into the military aspects of peacebuilding. I have spent the last forty years researching and teaching international marketing and negotiations at USC and UC Irvine, after receiving a Berkeley PhD. I was also the director of the UC Irvine Center for Citizen Peacebuilding for ten years. I have published four books on international negotiations and all my ten books in print are on the topic of peace in families, neighborhoods, commerce, and international relations.

J.'s book list on understanding the roots of war and peace

J. Lawrence Graham Why did J. love this book?

McCullough documents the great victory of the American Revolutionary War.

Somehow George Washington’s rag-tag army was able to defeat the greatest military power the world had ever seen, the British Army and Navy. It’s our great lesson for the world that coercion does not work. The tyrant King George III failed to defeat freedom in America.

My book examines how these lessons were not applied to the Vietnam War. The key takeaway from a peacebuilding stance is to use the Revolutionary War as an example of the failures of force. Had the British engaged in more effective peacebuilding techniques and negotiated a mutually beneficial relationship with America rather than try to subjugate through force, the war could have been avoided.

By David McCullough,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked 1776 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

America's most acclaimed historian presents the intricate story of the year of the birth of the United States of America. 1776 tells two gripping stories: how a group of squabbling, disparate colonies became the United States, and how the British Empire tried to stop them. A story with a cast of amazing characters from George III to George Washington, to soldiers and their families, this exhilarating book is one of the great pieces of historical narrative.


Book cover of Honeybee Democracy

Susanne Foitzik Author Of Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors

From my list on the evolution of insect and human societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scientist studying the evolution of insect communities for years. I am fascinated by their high degree of cooperation and how these animals make collective decisions. But I also observe social parasitic ants that raid other colonies and make their workers work for them. This tension between altruistic cooperation on the one hand and violence and war, on the other hand, is common to human and insect societies, even if they evolved in completely different ways. I hope that when you read the books I recommend here, you will be as fascinated as I am by these parallel universes and perhaps next time you will see an ant with different eyes. 

Susanne's book list on the evolution of insect and human societies

Susanne Foitzik Why did Susanne love this book?

Social insects live in close communities, often of several thousand individuals. We often imagine the animals as small robots that perform their tasks as if automated. But this is far from the case. Honeybees are models for the study of learning and can also make complex decisions based on previous experience. However, it becomes particularly difficult when all the animals of a hive have to agree. And bees of a swarm have this difficult task ahead of them when they are looking for real estate. They inspect the nesting opportunities in the surroundings and advertise them in the swarm.

But how do these social insects make their collective decisions? About this question goes the book, written by an expert in the field, in an exciting and easy-to-understand manner. It turns out that the animals actually listen to many opinions and vote. Who wants to know more about honeybee democracy, read…

By Thomas D. Seeley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Honeybees make decisions collectively - and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate, and consensus building. In fact, as world-renowned animal behaviorist Thomas Seeley reveals, these incredible insects have much to teach us when it comes to collective wisdom and effective decision making. A remarkable and richly illustrated account of scientific discovery, "Honeybee Democracy" brings together, for the first time, decades of Seeley's pioneering research to tell the amazing story of house hunting and democratic debate among the honeybees.…


Book cover of Ants: Workers of the World

Susanne Foitzik Author Of Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors

From my list on the evolution of insect and human societies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scientist studying the evolution of insect communities for years. I am fascinated by their high degree of cooperation and how these animals make collective decisions. But I also observe social parasitic ants that raid other colonies and make their workers work for them. This tension between altruistic cooperation on the one hand and violence and war, on the other hand, is common to human and insect societies, even if they evolved in completely different ways. I hope that when you read the books I recommend here, you will be as fascinated as I am by these parallel universes and perhaps next time you will see an ant with different eyes. 

Susanne's book list on the evolution of insect and human societies

Susanne Foitzik Why did Susanne love this book?

I'm an ant researcher, so perhaps it's not surprising that I'm recommending an ant book. But this book is less about the short essays, which do a great job of describing the biology of these social animals, and more about the photos. Most people overlook ants because they are so tiny, but when you enlarge them, as in this book, they show their real beauty. When I received my copy, I was amazed and I have seen many ants up close. But the sheer variety of morphological structures, faces, and yes, even colors. Not all ants are black or red, there are even ants that shimmer in all the colors of the rainbow.

We notice mostly ant workers, but in this book also the males are represented, and they often look out-worldly, so not at all like we imagine ants. A book that shows the aesthetics of these social animals…

By Eleanor Spicer Rice, Eduard Florin Niga (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Nature's most successful insects captured in remarkable macrophotography

In Ants, photographer Eduard Florin Niga brings us incredibly close to the most numerous animals on Earth, whose ability to organize colonies, communicate among themselves, and solve complex problems has made them an object of endless fascination. Among the more than 30 species photographed by Niga are leafcutters that grow fungus for food, trap-jaw ants with fearsome mandibles, bullet ants with potent stingers, warriors, drivers, gliders, harvesters, and the pavement ants that are always underfoot. Among his most memorable images are portraits-including queens, workers, soldiers, and rarely seen males-that bring the reader…


Book cover of The Social Instinct: How Cooperation Shaped the World

Dimitris Xygalatas Author Of Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living

From my list on the things that make us human.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an anthropologist and cognitive scientist who studies some of the things that make us human—but not the obvious ones. I am mostly interested in those things that may appear puzzling or pointless, but fill our lives with meaning and purpose. Growing up in Greece, I read National Geographic Magazine and reveled in the documentaries of Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, and Jacques Cousteau, which sparked in me a passion for exploration through the combined lenses of personal experience and scientific scrutiny. In my own research, I have spent two decades studying ritual by conducting several years of ethnographic research and bringing scientific measurements into real-life settings.

Dimitris' book list on the things that make us human

Dimitris Xygalatas Why did Dimitris love this book?

Why do we cooperate? To a highly cooperative species like ourselves, it might seem obvious that we do, but from a rational perspective, individuals benefit more from pursuing their own narrow interests. To answer this question, this book takes a step back, or rather a few million steps, evolutionarily speaking. From the level of the cell to that of complex societies, it examines cooperation as a driving force in nature, allowing us to see ourselves as part of a much bigger story.

By Nichola Raihani,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why cooperate? This may be the most important scientific question we have ever, and will ever, face.

The science of cooperation tells us not only how we got here, but also where we might end up. Cooperation explains how strands of DNA gave rise to modern-day nation states. It defines our extraordinary ecological success as well as many of the most surprising features of what make us human: not only why we live in families, why we have grandmothers and why women experience the menopause, but also why we become paranoid and jealous, and why we cheat.

Nichola Raihani also…


Book cover of Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement

Ches Thurber Author Of Between Mao and Gandhi: The Social Roots of Civil Resistance

From my list on nonviolent protest in global politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a researcher and teacher who studies global security. I first thought this meant the study of various forms of violence: wars, terrorism, genocides. And, I still study all of that. But the events of the Arab Spring in particular led me to see the importance of nonviolent protest movements as an important form of global conflict. These movements, often called “civil resistance,”  have proved surprisingly capable of toppling dictators and bringing about democratization. But the news is not all good: they also frequently spark mass repression, civil wars, and even wars between countries. Understanding contemporary global conflict requires understanding how nonviolent movements work.

Ches' book list on nonviolent protest in global politics

Ches Thurber Why did Ches love this book?

Few conflicts have received more global attention than the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis. Media commenters frequently ask “Why has there been no Palestinian Gandhi?" Wendy Pearlman shows why this is the wrong question.

Despite difficult structural conditions, and in the face of heavy repression, she shows that there has been widespread use of nonviolent methods by Palestinians. When campaigns have turned violent, she shows that it is often the result of fragmentation within the movement that makes it difficult to ensure discipline and creates incentives to embrace more extreme tactics.

She provides a valuable lesson on the need to pay less attention to high-profile leaders and more attention to the organizations that underpin movements.

By Wendy Pearlman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do some national movements use violent protest and others nonviolent protest? Wendy Pearlman shows that much of the answer lies inside movements themselves. Nonviolent protest requires coordination and restraint, which only a cohesive movement can provide. When, by contrast, a movement is fragmented, factional competition generates new incentives for violence and authority structures are too weak to constrain escalation. Pearlman reveals these patterns across one hundred years in the Palestinian national movement, with comparisons to South Africa and Northern Ireland. To those who ask why there is no Palestinian Gandhi, Pearlman demonstrates that nonviolence is not simply a matter…


Book cover of The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice

Hannibal B. Johnson Author Of Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples With Its Historical Racial Trauma

From my list on the Black experience in Oklahoma.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Black Experience is my experience. Through living that experience, and with the benefit of education, my passion for storytelling—for sharing oft-neglected Black history from a Black perspective—evolved. Professionally, I am a Harvard-educated attorney who writes, lectures, teaches, and coaches in the general area of the Black experience and in the broader realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion. My ten books focus on aspects of the Black experience in America. I have received many honors and accolades for my professional and community work, including induction into both the Tulsa Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Hannibal's book list on the Black experience in Oklahoma

Hannibal B. Johnson Why did Hannibal love this book?

The Ground Breaking takes a look at the work Tulsa is doing to repair damage from the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre—to make reparation. Specifically, the book examines Tulsa's commitment to investigating longstanding accounts of mass graves containing Black bodies hastily buried in the wake of the massacre. Collective trauma from historical events must be addressed. Answering the answerable questions that linger from the past is part of the healing process. 

By Scott Ellsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2021 National Book Award Longlist

2022 Carnegie Medal Nonfiction Longlist

One of The New York Times' “11 New Books We Recommend This Week” | One of Oprah Daily's “20 of the Best Books to Pick Up This May” | One of The Oklahoman's“15 Books to Help You Learn About the Tulsa Race Massacre as the 100-Year Anniversary Approaches” |A The Week book of the week

As seen in documentaries on the History Channel, CNN, and Lebron James’s SpringHill Productions

And then they were gone.

More than one thousand homes and businesses. Restaurants and movie theaters, churches and doctors’ offices, a…


Book cover of The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre: A Photographic History

Hannibal B. Johnson Author Of Black Wall Street 100: An American City Grapples With Its Historical Racial Trauma

From my list on the Black experience in Oklahoma.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Black Experience is my experience. Through living that experience, and with the benefit of education, my passion for storytelling—for sharing oft-neglected Black history from a Black perspective—evolved. Professionally, I am a Harvard-educated attorney who writes, lectures, teaches, and coaches in the general area of the Black experience and in the broader realm of diversity, equity, and inclusion. My ten books focus on aspects of the Black experience in America. I have received many honors and accolades for my professional and community work, including induction into both the Tulsa Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

Hannibal's book list on the Black experience in Oklahoma

Hannibal B. Johnson Why did Hannibal love this book?

This photographic history of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre recounts a compelling event with an equally compelling pictorial narrative. Dr. Hill, who leads the African and African American studies program at the University of Oklahoma, shares this curated look at a catastrophic moment in time with a view toward acknowledging our full history and shaping our collective vision for an inclusive future.

By Karlos K. Hill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the evening of May 31, 1921, and in the early morning hours of June 1, several thousand white citizens and authorities violently attacked the African American Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the course of some twelve hours of mob violence, white Tulsans reduced one of the nation's most prosperous black communities to rubble and killed an estimated 300 people, mostly African Americans. This richly illustrated volume, featuring more than 175 photographs, along with oral testimonies, shines a new spotlight on the race massacre from the vantage point of its victims and survivors.

Historian and Black Studies professor Karlos…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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