100 books like The Book on the Bookshelf

By Henry Petroski,

Here are 100 books that The Book on the Bookshelf fans have personally recommended if you like The Book on the Bookshelf. 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 Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World

David Horspool Author Of Richard III: A Ruler and his Reputation

From my list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been fascinated by medieval history ever since I played hide and seek around Welsh castles as a boy. At university – a medieval invention, of course – I was able to sit at the feet of some of the finest historians of the Middle Ages, experts like Maurice Keen and Patrick Wormald. As a writer, I have tackled medieval subjects like Alfred the Great and Richard III, as well as the history of English rebellion. I have come to realise that the Middle Ages could be cruel and violent, just like our own time, but that they were also a time of extraordinary achievements that form the foundations of the world we live in.

David's book list on to show you why medieval isn’t an insult

David Horspool Why did David love this book?

One of the great thrills of researching medieval history is getting the chance to handle original documents up close, as I have had the good fortune to do a few times. Christophe de Hamel is a palaeographer, a manuscripts expert who has travelled the world to examine some of the most precious handwritten works that still survive. As his title hints, De Hamel treats these artefacts as personalities, and his no-nonsense decipherment of priceless treasures is like listening in on a wise and witty conversation.

By Christopher De Hamel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An extraordinary and beautifully illustrated exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts, from one of the world's leading experts.

Winner of The Wolfson History Prize and The Duff Cooper Prize.

A San Francisco Chronicle Holiday Book Gift Guide Pick!

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts is a captivating examination of twelve illuminated manuscripts from the medieval period. Noted authority Christopher de Hamel invites the reader into intimate conversations with these texts to explore what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and about the modern world, too.

In so doing, de Hamel introduces us to kings,…


Book cover of The World of Aldus Manutius: Business and Scholarship in Renaissance Venice

Ross King Author Of The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts That Illuminated the Renaissance

From my list on books about books.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ross King is the author of numerous books about Italian and French art and architecture, including Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, and Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. As a full-time writer, he spends much of his time in libraries, archives, and the among piles of books on his overcrowded shelves.

Ross' book list on books about books

Ross King Why did Ross love this book?

More than forty years after its first publication, this biographical study is still one the best things ever written on Manutius—arguably the most important printer in history after Gutenberg. Lowry shows how this obscure teacher of Greek moved to Venice in 1490 and became not only a printer and designer of genius but also a shrewd businessman whose publications put the wisdom of the Greeks and Romans into the hands of everyday readers. As Lowry explains, the concerns of Manutius ring an all-too-modern tone: how to disseminate information without “the debasement and dilution of learning” and “the spread only of confusion, obscenity, and heresy.”

By Martin Lowry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hardcover, green cloth, 1st U.S. Edition, a clean bright copy in dust jacket that has minor dust soil, light wear and is now protected in a clear Brodart cover. Contents clean and unmarked, 350pp, includes bibliography, index, b/w illustrations, notes at the end of each chapter. Publisher's statements: "The relationship between Renaissance scholarship and printing is the subject of this fascinating biographical study. The book centers on the life and work of Aldus Manutius (1450-1515), printer and man of letters--his background, his business practices, and his impact on the intellectual life of the times. Martin Lowry discusses the structure of…


Book cover of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

Benjamin Hoffmann Author Of The Paradoxes of Posterity

From my list on why people write books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Bordeaux, a city that became prominent during the eighteenth century. My hometown inspired my love of eighteenth-century French studies, which led me to the Sorbonne, then to Yale University where I earned a PhD. Today, I am an Associate Professor at The Ohio State University. I am the author of eight novels and monographs published in France and the US, including American Pandemonium, Posthumous America, and Sentinel Island. My work explores numerous genres to question a number of recurring themes: exile and the representation of otherness; nostalgia and the experience of bereavement; the social impact of new technologies; America’s history and its troubled present.

Benjamin's book list on why people write books

Benjamin Hoffmann Why did Benjamin love this book?

While The Swerve is not exactly a book about posterity, it nonetheless provides a wonderful case study of a text that remained on the verge of destruction for centuries, before going on to play a tremendously influential role in shaping our modern world. This book is none other than On The Nature of Things by Lucretius –one of the foundational texts of Western culture, whose impact was postponed to the fifteenth century, as it would not have seen the light of day without its serendipitous rediscovery in a German monastery by Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459). This gripping work offers a fascinating example of the delayed reception of a prominent cultural object, a proof of its extraordinary resilience, and, at the same time, an illustration of the role played by chance and accidents on the transmission of texts to posterity. 

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the winter of 1417, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties plucked a very old manuscript off a dusty shelf in a remote monastery, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. He was Poggio Bracciolini, the greatest book hunter of the Renaissance. His discovery, Lucretius' ancient poem On the Nature of Things, had been almost entirely lost to history for more than a thousand years.

It was a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functions without the aid of gods, that religious fear is damaging to…


Book cover of The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books: Christopher Columbus, His Son, and the Quest to Build the World's Greatest Library

Andrew Pettegree Author Of The Library: A Fragile History

From my list on the history of communication.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started academic life as a historian of the Protestant Reformation, and gradually shifted to the history of communication, in the process creating a major online resource documenting publications from all over the world in the first two centuries of printing, the Universal Short Title Catalogue. After several works on books, news, and information culture I teamed up with another St Andrews colleague, Arthur der Weduwen, to enjoy the pleasures of co-authorship: this book, a history of libraries and book collecting, is our fourth collaboration.

Andrew's book list on the history of communication

Andrew Pettegree Why did Andrew love this book?

What do you do if your father has just discovered whole new continents? In the case of Hernando, son of Christopher Columbus, the answer was to conquer a new world of his own: the new universe of printed books. In this beautifully written and accessible study, Edward Wilson-Lee explores Hernando’s quixotic yet determined attempt to emulate the library of ancient Alexandria by creating a universal library of print. It does not end well.

By Edward Wilson-Lee,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This impeccably researched and “adventure-packed” (The Washington Post) account of the obsessive quest by Christopher Columbus’s son to create the greatest library in the world is “the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters” (NPR) and offers a vivid picture of Europe on the verge of becoming modern.

At the peak of the Age of Exploration, Hernando Colón sailed with his father Christopher Columbus on his final voyage to the New World, a journey that ended in disaster, bloody mutiny, and shipwreck. After Columbus’s death in 1506, eighteen-year-old Hernando sought to continue—and surpass—his father’s campaign to explore the boundaries of the known world…


Book cover of The Name of the Rose

Amelia Vergara Author Of Firefax

From my list on fiction full of intrigue, danger, and high adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a physician assistant and paramedic with ten brothers and sisters, an all-consuming love of the outdoors and adventure, and a fascination with history, particularly early US history. I love reading and writing the kind of books that I would like to read. My debut novel, Firefax, was written in large part as an escape from the horrors of serving in the hospital as a physician assistant during the delta wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope it provides my readers with an escape from their own struggles as well. 

Amelia's book list on fiction full of intrigue, danger, and high adventure

Amelia Vergara Why did Amelia love this book?

A dark, twisted story of intrigue within the walls of an abbey in the fourteenth century.

Every character has some dark past that they are hiding, and everyone is part of the ever-deepening mystery, riddles piling upon riddles, as bodies pile upon bodies. The further into the abbey’s maze of secrets you become entangled, the more you’ll love it. The characters are deep and complicated, the world in which they live is richly imagined, and the final denouement will leave you breathless.

A book whose mysteries and philosophical dialogues will stay with you long after you close the final page. 

By Umberto Eco,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked The Name of the Rose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read the enthralling medieval murder mystery.

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective.

William collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, The Name of the Rose is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.

'Whether…


Book cover of The Lost Library of the King of Portugal

Arthur der Weduwen Author Of The Library: A Fragile History

From my list on the history of the library.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian at the University of St Andrews, and an expert in the history of books, media, and communication. My working life has revolved around libraries: I stacked shelves at my local university library while I was an undergraduate, and have since worked as a researcher in some hundred reading rooms in twenty countries (and I am therefore the proud owner of many library cards, expired and current). I am also an avid book collector, and have a growing collection of seventeenth and eighteenth-century books, mostly printed in my native Netherlands. Writing a history of libraries was an enjoyable tribute to those fine institutions, historic and present.

Arthur's book list on the history of the library

Arthur der Weduwen Why did Arthur love this book?

This is the most recently published book on my list of recommendations, and also the most beautiful. Books on libraries are often lavish, but few offer as striking and sad a history as this. This is the first in-depth examination of one of the greatest lost libraries in the world, that of King John V of Portugal (1689-1750). John was a true bibliophile, and arguably the greatest librarian-king. Although he rarely travelled, he amassed one of the most magnificent court libraries in Enlightenment Europe. This book tells its story, which also dips into a broader history of elite collecting, and of the devastating earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755 and wiped the library off the face of the earth. Knowing the haunting fate of the library makes this a mesmerizing read.

By Angela Delaforce,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lost Library of the King of Portugal as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The destruction on the morning of All Saints Day 1755 of the heart of the city of Lisbon by an earthquake, tidal wave and the urban fires that followed was a tragedy that divides the 18th century in Portugal. One casualty on that fatal morning was the Royal Library, one of the most magnificent libraries in Europe at the time. The Lost Library of the King of Portugal tells the story of the lost library – its creation, collection and significance.

This 18th-century library was founded by the Bragança monarch Dom João V shortly after he came to the throne…


Book cover of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger

Arthur der Weduwen Author Of The Library: A Fragile History

From my list on the history of the library.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian at the University of St Andrews, and an expert in the history of books, media, and communication. My working life has revolved around libraries: I stacked shelves at my local university library while I was an undergraduate, and have since worked as a researcher in some hundred reading rooms in twenty countries (and I am therefore the proud owner of many library cards, expired and current). I am also an avid book collector, and have a growing collection of seventeenth and eighteenth-century books, mostly printed in my native Netherlands. Writing a history of libraries was an enjoyable tribute to those fine institutions, historic and present.

Arthur's book list on the history of the library

Arthur der Weduwen Why did Arthur love this book?

What does true bibliomania look like? Read no further than Stephen Grant’s Collecting Shakespeare, the story of the couple who created the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. Henry Folger was a wealthy oil baron, but with the devoted help of his wife, poured all his money into buying up copies of Shakespeare editions, especially the famous First Folio of 1623 (he ultimately ended up with 82). The couple erected an enormous library building opposite the Library of Congress (flattening several blocks of housing in the process) to become the permanent home to the largest collection of books by and on Shakespeare in the world. Although Henry died before the library opened, this is a rare story of success in a long history of eccentric library curation that generally ends with the dispersal of the collection. 

By Stephen H. Grant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H. Grant recounts the American success story of Henry and Emily Folger of Brooklyn, a couple who were devoted to each other, in love with Shakespeare, and bitten by the collecting bug. Shortly after marrying in 1885, the Folgers started buying, cataloging, and storing all manner of items about Shakespeare and his era. Emily earned a master's degree in Shakespeare studies. The frugal couple worked passionately as a tight-knit team during the Gilded Age, financing their hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil Company of New York, where he was a trusted…


Book cover of Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper

Arthur der Weduwen Author Of The Library: A Fragile History

From my list on the history of the library.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian at the University of St Andrews, and an expert in the history of books, media, and communication. My working life has revolved around libraries: I stacked shelves at my local university library while I was an undergraduate, and have since worked as a researcher in some hundred reading rooms in twenty countries (and I am therefore the proud owner of many library cards, expired and current). I am also an avid book collector, and have a growing collection of seventeenth and eighteenth-century books, mostly printed in my native Netherlands. Writing a history of libraries was an enjoyable tribute to those fine institutions, historic and present.

Arthur's book list on the history of the library

Arthur der Weduwen Why did Arthur love this book?

How do we decide what is kept? Every librarian will spend some part of their lives ‘weeding’ items from their collections: a necessary and important task. In this book, Nicholson Baker chronicles, with increasing agitation, what happens when de-accessioning gets out of control, and little foresight is given to weeding. Written from the perspective of a journalist uncovering a major hushed-up conspiracy, Double Fold demonstrates how (mostly American) libraries destroyed much of their historic newspaper stock during the twentieth century, throwing them out in favor of a new and fancy (but now largely obsolete) technology, the microfilm. The book made major waves, and is one of the finest clarion calls for the careful preservation of rare items, such as newspapers, which are often poorly catalogued and stored, but are priceless historical and cultural artefacts.

By Nicholson Baker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ostensible purpose of a library is to preserve the printed word. But for fifty years our country’s libraries–including the Library of Congress–have been doing just the opposite, destroying hundreds of thousands of historic newspapers and replacing them with microfilm copies that are difficult to read, lack all the color and quality of the original paper and illustrations, and deteriorate with age.

With meticulous detective work and Baker’s well-known explanatory power, Double Fold reveals a secret history of microfilm lobbyists, former CIA agents, and warehouses where priceless archives are destroyed with a machine called a guillotine. Baker argues passionately for…


Book cover of Stolen Sharpie Revolution: A DIY Zine Resource

Zilla Novikov and Rachel A. Rosen Author Of The Sad Bastard Cookbook: Food You Can Make So You Don't Die

From my list on how you can DIY through troubled times.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have backgrounds in writing, activism, and being messed up, so making The Sad Bastard Cookbook together made sense. Our inspiration was partly realizing that most of the recipes purporting to be “good for mental health” require a laundry list of unusual ingredients and a drawer full of spoons, and partly meeting someone who didn't know about cooking eggs in instant ramen. So we crowdsourced recipes from our community, added our naturally witty, radically progressive commentary, and roped in Marten Norr as illustrator. The ebook's free—we know that dealing with poverty, overwork, mental health issues, physical disability, and exhaustion is hard enough without scraping up money for your emotional-support cookbook.

Zilla's book list on how you can DIY through troubled times

Zilla Novikov and Rachel A. Rosen Why did Zilla love this book?

I (Rachel) first encountered this tiny book at a 2002 anarchist ‘zine fair as a twentysomething punk and has been recommending it to everyone I meet ever since.

While the age of social media has given us new tools for communicating our ideas about politics, culture, and identity with friends and strangers alike, what if the power goes down, or your platform is taken over by an unhinged billionaire and collapses?

There’s nothing more DIY, cheap, or practical than a ‘zine for getting your voice heard, and Wrekk’s book tells you how to make one. It’s also updated regularly, so even as technology and distribution channels change, over two decades after its initial publication, it remains as relevant as ever.

By Alex Wrekk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since 2002, Stolen Sharpie Revolution: a DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture has been the go-to guide for all things zine related. This little red book is stuffed with information about zines. Things you may know, stuff you don't know and even stuff you didn't know you didn't know! Stolen Sharpie Revolution contains a cornucopia of information about zines and zine culture for everyone from the zine newbie to the experienced zinester to the academic researcher.


Book cover of The Anarchist's Tool Chest

Jeff Miller Author Of The Foundations of Better Woodworking: How to Use Your Body, Tools and Materials to Do Your Best Work

From my list on improving your woodworking.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jeff Miller is one of the country’s leading furniture designer/craftsmen. He is also a dedicated teacher and a prolific writer, with over 40 articles and 4 books (with a fifth in preparation). Jeff has exhibited furniture in shows from coast to coast, and has a piece in the permanent collection of the Chicago History Museum. Jeff’s work is heavily influenced by his former career as a professional musician, and he strives to make each of his pieces feel musical in some way. Jeff is a runner and – despite the hindrance of living in the flat mid-west – an avid skier. A substantial chunk of his time is taken up by dialysis treatments, but he tries not to let that slow him down too much.

Jeff's book list on improving your woodworking

Jeff Miller Why did Jeff love this book?

Chris has a very personal and very persuasive approach to woodworking. In this book, he uses the discussion of a tool chest and its contents to explain his take on the basic tools needed to work with wood by hand, as well as his philosophy of working wood this way. The book is funny, compelling, and an essential read for anyone interested in hand tools and working with them.

By Christopher Schwarz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Anarchist's Tool Chest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When I am too exhausted, ill or busy to work in my shop, I will shuffle down the stairs to my 15' x 25' workshop and simply stand there for a few minutes with my hands on my tools. To be sure, I thought I was a touch nuts because of this personality quirk. But after reading the oral histories and diaries of craftsmen from the last 300 years, I found it's actually a common trait among artisans. I am drawn, married or perhaps addicted to the things that allow me to coax wood into new shapes. At the same…


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