100 books like The Confessions

By Saint Augustine, Maria Boulding (translator),

Here are 100 books that The Confessions fans have personally recommended if you like The Confessions. 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 Augustine of Hippo: A Biography

Sara Lipton Author Of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography

From my list on medieval religious history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a Jewish but completely secular family, with no religious traditions or affiliations. Perhaps because religion was so exotic, I have always found it fascinating. In college, I gravitated toward topics in medieval religion, which crystallized the strangeness of an era both earthy and intensely devout. I wanted to understand why an Anglo-Saxon monk sitting in a cold monastery in northern England cared so much about biblical history. Or how Saint Bernard could so relentlessly hound a fellow monk over a scholarly treatise, yet also work energetically to protect Jews from violence. I can't say I'll ever fully comprehend the force of religion, but I love trying.

Sara's book list on medieval religious history

Sara Lipton Why did Sara love this book?

Augustine's Confessions is an extraordinary book, but it is not always an easy one! Readers looking for help in understanding its brilliant author can do no better than to turn to Peter Brown's biography, first published in 1967. It is a beautifully written, lucid, and illuminating study of Augustine's life and thought, the best possible guide to both the man and his world. In an Epilogue added for the forty-fifth-anniversary edition, Brown discusses what he and other scholars have learned in the decades since he first wrote the book, and how his ideas about Augustine have changed, demonstrating the curiosity and openness that are the hallmarks of a great scholar.

By Peter Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This classic biography was first published forty-five years ago and has since established itself as the standard account of Saint Augustine's life and teaching.


Book cover of The Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Sara Lipton Author Of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography

From my list on medieval religious history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a Jewish but completely secular family, with no religious traditions or affiliations. Perhaps because religion was so exotic, I have always found it fascinating. In college, I gravitated toward topics in medieval religion, which crystallized the strangeness of an era both earthy and intensely devout. I wanted to understand why an Anglo-Saxon monk sitting in a cold monastery in northern England cared so much about biblical history. Or how Saint Bernard could so relentlessly hound a fellow monk over a scholarly treatise, yet also work energetically to protect Jews from violence. I can't say I'll ever fully comprehend the force of religion, but I love trying.

Sara's book list on medieval religious history

Sara Lipton Why did Sara love this book?

The letters collected in this slim paperback collectively tell one of the most dramatic and moving stories of the entire Middle Ages. Letter 1, directed toward a (perhaps fictional) friend, is a spiritual autobiography, consciously modelled on Augustine's Confessions, in which the great philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard recounts his doomed love affair with his brilliant seventeen-year-old pupil Heloise.  This affair resulted in Abelard's violent castration at the instigation of her outraged uncle.  In Letter 1, written years later, Abelard explains how his suffering gradually led him towards God. Eight more letters, exchanged between Abelard and Heloise years after their parting, are less dramatic but almost more poignant, as Heloise, now a nun, seeks solace and connection from her former lover, who offers spiritual advice but cannot give her the intimacy she craves.

By Peter Abelard, Héloïse, Betty Radice (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The story of Abelard and Heloise remains one of the world's most celebrated and tragic love affairs. Through their letters, we follow the path of their romance from its reckless and ecstatic beginnings when Heloise became Abelard's pupil, through the suffering of public scandal and enforced secret marriage, to their eventual separation.


Book cover of Holy Feast and Holy Fast

Peter Adamson Author Of Medieval Philosophy: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Volume 4

From my list on a fresh approach to medieval philosophy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a professor of philosophy in Munich who has been working on various aspects of medieval philosophy for nearly three decades. My own research is on philosophy in the Islamic world but I've always been fascinated by philosophy in medieval Christian Europe. What I find most interesting is the way medieval philosophy constantly overturns our expectations: we imagine that this was a deeply conservative and highly controlled society where it was almost impossible to explore new ideas. Yet, it was an incredibly diverse and innovative time in the history of human thought. Thanks to my History of Philosophy podcast project I had the chance to delve deeply into medieval philosophy in Latin Christendom.

Peter's book list on a fresh approach to medieval philosophy

Peter Adamson Why did Peter love this book?

This choice might surprise you: it’s a famous book in medieval studies circles but not the sort of thing a historian of philosophy would usually pick up. But its exploration of the role of the body in writings by female medieval authors is foundational for understanding what is sometimes called “affective mysticism.” That topic expands our sense of what medieval philosophy could be. Other scholars whose work is worth checking out on this topic include Amy Hollywood and Christina Van Dyke.

By Caroline Walker Bynum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the period between 1200 and 1500 in western Europe, a number of religious women gained widespread veneration and even canonization as saints for their extraordinary devotion to the Christian eucharist, supernatural multiplications of food and drink, and miracles of bodily manipulation, including stigmata and inedia (living without eating). The occurrence of such phenomena sheds much light on the nature of medieval society and medieval religion. It also forms a chapter in the history of women. Previous scholars have occasionally noted the various phenomena in isolation from each other and have sometimes applied modern medical or psychological theories to them.…


Book cover of The Crusades and the Christian World of the East: Rough Tolerance

Sara Lipton Author Of Dark Mirror: The Medieval Origins of Anti-Jewish Iconography

From my list on medieval religious history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was raised in a Jewish but completely secular family, with no religious traditions or affiliations. Perhaps because religion was so exotic, I have always found it fascinating. In college, I gravitated toward topics in medieval religion, which crystallized the strangeness of an era both earthy and intensely devout. I wanted to understand why an Anglo-Saxon monk sitting in a cold monastery in northern England cared so much about biblical history. Or how Saint Bernard could so relentlessly hound a fellow monk over a scholarly treatise, yet also work energetically to protect Jews from violence. I can't say I'll ever fully comprehend the force of religion, but I love trying.

Sara's book list on medieval religious history

Sara Lipton Why did Sara love this book?

There has been an explosion of interest in the Crusades since 9/11, with many medieval historians working hard to push back against over-simplified and often inaccurate depictions of Christian holy war and Christian-Muslim relations. This impressively researched book adds a fascinating new dimension to the story of the Crusades, examining relations between newly arrived European Catholics and the many and varied indigenous Levantine Christian communities in the decades following the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. MacEvitt rejects the dominant narrative, which held that the Frankish conquerors, imbued with the rigid prejudices of an intolerant European Christendom, had little interaction with or understanding of the local populations. Instead, he paints a portrait of a surprisingly practical and flexible Crusader regime, characterized by extensive Frankish-local social, religious, and legal interactions. MacEvitt's nuanced model, which he dubs "rough tolerance," avoids both idealization and demonization, and offers a fruitful way to approach relations…

By Christopher MacEvitt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Crusades and the Christian World of the East as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the wake of Jerusalem's fall in 1099, the crusading armies of western Christians known as the Franks found themselves governing not only Muslims and Jews but also local Christians, whose culture and traditions were a world apart from their own. The crusader-occupied swaths of Syria and Palestine were home to many separate Christian communities: Greek and Syrian Orthodox, Armenians, and other sects with sharp doctrinal differences. How did these disparate groups live together under Frankish rule?
In The Crusades and the Christian World of the East, Christopher MacEvitt marshals an impressive array of literary, legal, artistic, and archeological evidence…


Book cover of The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism: 1200-1350

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Author Of An Introduction to Medieval Theology

From my list on medieval theology and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of Medieval Theology at Durham University, UK, and have published on both medieval theology (especially Thomas Aquinas) and spirituality (especially Jan van Ruusbroec, an author from 14th century Brabant). When I was in my early twenties, I had no interest in Christianity, but I gradually realized that the societal and moral problems of modernity could only be properly addressed by examining a genuinely alternative tradition, namely pre-modern thinkers (if only because postmodern critics of modernity remain all too often beholden to the assumptions of modernity, even in their opposition to them). This explains why I was drawn to medieval theology (and spirituality). 


Rik's book list on medieval theology and spirituality

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Why did Rik love this book?

This is Volume 3 of a major series covering Western spirituality from the era of the Church Fathers to the seventeenth century. Every volume contains a wealth of insights into medieval spirituality (and theology). This series is a monument of scholarship: nothing like this has ever been tempted by any scholar in the English-speaking world—and achieved with so much flair and expertise.

One would buy these books just for the bibliographies alone, even in an age of search engines. This volume covers Franciscan spirituality, women mystics, and beguines, including Hadewijch, Mechthild, and Marguerite Porete. Like the other volumes, it is lucid, informative, and comprehensive. Warmly recommended.  

By Bernard McGinn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The year 1200 marked a dynamic turning point in the history of Christian mysticism. New forms of religious life provided the impetus for a new mysticism whose influence continues today. This book documents the spirited dialogue between men and women that made possible the richness of mysticism in the 13th and 14th centuries.


Book cover of The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Author Of An Introduction to Medieval Theology

From my list on medieval theology and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of Medieval Theology at Durham University, UK, and have published on both medieval theology (especially Thomas Aquinas) and spirituality (especially Jan van Ruusbroec, an author from 14th century Brabant). When I was in my early twenties, I had no interest in Christianity, but I gradually realized that the societal and moral problems of modernity could only be properly addressed by examining a genuinely alternative tradition, namely pre-modern thinkers (if only because postmodern critics of modernity remain all too often beholden to the assumptions of modernity, even in their opposition to them). This explains why I was drawn to medieval theology (and spirituality). 


Rik's book list on medieval theology and spirituality

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Why did Rik love this book?

This is a genuine classic. Denys Turner almost single-handedly made us re-evaluate the nature of ‘mysticism’ and spirituality. More in particular, he distances himself from typically modern interpretations of mysticism in terms of an immediate experience of God: given the traditional emphasis upon the unknowability of God, Turner argues that mysticism is not about an experience of God, but it offers ‘categories of experience’: the mystic, transformed by faith, hope, and love, relates to the world, others, and self in a radically different way.

Eckhart’s notion of detachment, involving a letting go or renunciation of the possessiveness that characterizes our ordinary dealings with the world, is a prime example. This may not be an easy read for people new to the field, but it deserves a close reading.

By Denys Turner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For the medieval mystical tradition, the Christian soul meets God in a 'cloud of unknowing', a divine darkness of ignorance. This meeting with God is beyond all knowing and beyond all experiencing. Mysticisms of the modern period, on the contrary, place 'mystical experience' at the centre, and contemporary readers are inclined to misunderstand the medieval tradition in 'experientialist' terms. Denys Turner argues that the distinctiveness and contemporary relevance of medieval mysticism lies precisely in its rejection of 'mystical experience', and locates the mystical firmly within the grasp of the ordinary and the everyday. The argument covers some central authorities in…


Book cover of History of Theology Volume II: The Middle Ages

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Author Of An Introduction to Medieval Theology

From my list on medieval theology and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of Medieval Theology at Durham University, UK, and have published on both medieval theology (especially Thomas Aquinas) and spirituality (especially Jan van Ruusbroec, an author from 14th century Brabant). When I was in my early twenties, I had no interest in Christianity, but I gradually realized that the societal and moral problems of modernity could only be properly addressed by examining a genuinely alternative tradition, namely pre-modern thinkers (if only because postmodern critics of modernity remain all too often beholden to the assumptions of modernity, even in their opposition to them). This explains why I was drawn to medieval theology (and spirituality). 


Rik's book list on medieval theology and spirituality

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Why did Rik love this book?

At over 500 pages, this is a solid survey of medieval theology, covering the entire period: from the late Patristic (Boethius, Gregory the Great, but not Augustine) and Carolingian era, the eleventh and twelfth centuries, scholasticism, to the late fourteenth century.

An excellent and highly scholarly work–but perhaps more a book you would consult and dip in rather than a book you would read from cover to cover. Even so, it is highly recommended. 

By Matthew J. O Connell (translator), Giulio D Onofrio (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked History of Theology Volume II as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2009 Catholic Press Association Award Winner!

At last, a thorough, balanced, and readable history of medieval theology for nonspecialist readers! This is that book we so often ask for and so seldom get: written by a scholar for everyone to read. Giulio D 'Onofrio, a historian of philosophy and theology, uses his deep and broad-ranging knowledge of the thought of the scholars (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) of the Middle Ages to describe in a thoroughly readable style the development of ideas from the beginnings of what can rightly be called Western culture to the Renaissance and the eve of the…


Book cover of Summa Theologiae Prima Pars, 1-49

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Author Of An Introduction to Medieval Theology

From my list on medieval theology and spirituality.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of Medieval Theology at Durham University, UK, and have published on both medieval theology (especially Thomas Aquinas) and spirituality (especially Jan van Ruusbroec, an author from 14th century Brabant). When I was in my early twenties, I had no interest in Christianity, but I gradually realized that the societal and moral problems of modernity could only be properly addressed by examining a genuinely alternative tradition, namely pre-modern thinkers (if only because postmodern critics of modernity remain all too often beholden to the assumptions of modernity, even in their opposition to them). This explains why I was drawn to medieval theology (and spirituality). 


Rik's book list on medieval theology and spirituality

Rik Van Nieuwenhove Why did Rik love this book?

This is the first primary text of my recommendations. It has accompanied me ever since I became interested in medieval theology (almost forty years ago). It is an astonishing achievement in terms of its scope (covering almost every important theological and philosophical theme) and depth. (Few thinkers excel at being analytical and synthetic–Thomas does).

In the first part, Thomas covers the Christian understanding of God as Trinity and creation; in the third part, he deals with Christ and salvation, as well as the sacraments (unfinished as he passed away). In between these parts, he deals with ethics, including the cardinal and theological virtues. Thomas draws on Biblical, philosophical, and Patristic sources to develop his theology. There is nothing like it in the Latin West. 

By Thomas Aquinas, Laurence Shapcote (translator), The Aquinas Institute (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Summa Theologiae Prima Pars, 1-49 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most important work of the towering intellectual of the Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologiae remains one of the great seminal works of philosophy and theology, while extending to subjects as diverse as law and government, sacraments and liturgy, and psychology and ethics. Aquinas begins his famous Summa Theologiae by getting right to the heart of what every person longs to see: the face of God. With Latin and English side-by-side, this edition is perfect for students, teachers, pastors, or anyone wanting to have a deeper understanding of God.


Book cover of Take and Read: Spiritual Reading An Annotated List

Leslie Bustard Author Of Wild Things and Castles in the Sky: A Guide to Choosing the Best Books for Children

From my list on there's no such thing as too many books.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always loved reading to myself and others. I've been an English teacher for years. I love sharing good books and have the reputation of being a good resource, especially for moms with children. I’m happy to share everything from memoirs and history books to classics and children’s picture books. Walking through a library or a bookstore is a favorite activity, so finding not only new books but excellent books about books is always a treat. I love to understand what makes a book work well as a story, thus books that delve into the richness of a story through personal narrative or literary criticism have been favorites to keep on my shelves. 

Leslie's book list on there's no such thing as too many books

Leslie Bustard Why did Leslie love this book?

The words and life of Eugene Peterson have been important to my own spiritual formation, so finding a book that shares the books he read that formed him was a must. He recommends classic books, a wide variety of theologians and Bible scholars, poetry, and contemporary and mystery novels. Eugene Peterson had a large and generous heart and a deep-thinking mind, and finding out that I had read many of his favorites already was an encouragement. And looking for more of his recommendations has proved useful. 

By Eugene H. Peterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Spiritual reading has fallen on bad times. Today, reading is largely a consumer activity, done for information that may fuel ambitions or careers -- and the faster the better. Take and Read represents Eugene H. Peterson's attempt to rekindle the activity of spiritual reading, reading that considers any book that comes to hand in a spiritual way, tuned to the Spirit, alert to intimations of God.

Take and Read provides an annotated list of the books that have stood the test of time and that, for Peterson, are spiritually formative in the Christian life. The books on this list range…


Book cover of Ghost Squad

Karah Sutton Author Of A Wolf for a Spell

From my list on witches as heroes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel like a bunch of different personalities all wrapped up in a trenchcoat. Which one is the dominant me? Maybe funny and cheerful, maybe quiet and reclusive, maybe ambitious or adventurous – or maybe I’m all of these things? I think I’m drawn to witches because they're so surprising: a witch might be helpful, or she might try to eat you. It’s that unpredictability and mystery which intimidates people, so a witch is considered scary – until she’s not – and when I open a book about a witch, I never know what to expect!

Karah's book list on witches as heroes

Karah Sutton Why did Karah love this book?

I was easily spooked as a kid, often crying when things got too scary. This book features all the ingredients of a scary book – ghosts, witches, graveyards – but you always feel safe, comfortable knowing things will turn out alright and our young hero Lucely will successfully save her home. It's funny and fast-paced and adventurous. Plus it has a chonky cat named Chunk, which I can't resist.

By Claribel A. Ortega,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ghost Squad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

A New York Times bestseller!

Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy adventure!

For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late.

With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters,…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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