100 books like The Confidence-Man

By Herman Melville,

Here are 100 books that The Confidence-Man fans have personally recommended if you like The Confidence-Man. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Author Of 'I Made Mistakes': Robert McNamara's Vietnam War Policy, 1960-1968

From my list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg.

Why am I passionate about this?

My research permitted amazing conversations with some of McNamara’s former colleagues and their children, including Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg informed the direction of my research and shared my excitement about the sources I was looking for, especially the secret diaries of his former (and beloved) boss, John McNaughton. He is both a window into and a foil to McNamara. On substance, they were in basic agreement on most issues (from Vietnam to nuclear issues), but they chose very different paths to address their moral qualms. I think the questions they asked–including on the moral responsibility of public officials–are as urgent today as they were in the 1960s.

Aurélie's book list on the life and times of Daniel Ellsberg

Aurélie Basha i Novosejt Why did Aurélie love this book?

Ellsberg’s last book focused more clearly on his work on nuclear planning within the Department of Defense, where Secrets had mostly concerned itself with Vietnam.

The book provides a chilling account of how tenuous and fragile a system based on nuclear deterrence remains. Much more than that, the book is a clarion call for all of its readers to be alive to the morality of the very existence of nuclear weapons.

By Daniel Ellsberg,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Doomsday Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Non-Fiction

From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, the first insider expose of the awful dangers of America's hidden, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that is chillingly still extant

At the same time former presidential advisor Daniel Ellsberg famously took the top-secret Pentagon Papers, he also took with him a chilling cache of top-secret documents related to America's nuclear program in the 1960s. Here for the first time he reveals the contents of those now-declassified documents and makes clear their shocking relevance for today.

The Doomsday Machine is Ellsberg's hair-raising…


Book cover of The Ministry for the Future

Nick Fuller Googins Author Of The Great Transition

From my list on ward away your global warming anxiety.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was working installing solar panels in rural Maine when I first had the idea to write a climate crisis novel. I grew up in the woods of New England, and have always loved nature, but I was feeling pretty despondent about global warming. I started to wonder: what would it feel like to be part of a mass mobilization installing solar, wind, and so on, to save the planet? Those were the seeds of the novel. When I’m not writing, I’m a fourth grade teacher. I worry about the planet my students will inherit, and if I’m doing enough to make that world as hopeful as possible.

Nick's book list on ward away your global warming anxiety

Nick Fuller Googins Why did Nick love this book?

I read this novel when I was about three-quarters finished with my novel, and was just blown away by the attention to detail, possibilities, and hope between the pages.

This is another hopeful near-future novel, in which humanity is trying its best to overcome the worst of climate change. Unlike my novel, however, which is told from the perspective of one family, Ministry for the Future is a truly global story, with dozens and dozens of narrators, many unnamed, who give us snapshots everywhere from the Arizona border to Antarctica to Switzerland to India, all coalescing into what becomes a global movement to try to save the planet.

This novel is a little lighter on plot, but fascinating as a menu of hopeful options and possibilities for what could be done if humanity really got its act together. 

By Kim Stanley Robinson,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Ministry for the Future as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S FAVORITE BOOKS OF THE YEAR

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” —Jonathan Lethem
 
"If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future." —Ezra Klein (Vox)

The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite…


Book cover of Parable of the Sower

Joanne McLaughlin Author Of Chasing Ashes

From my list on digging out when life just buries you.

Why am I passionate about this?

That moment when you realize, whew, you’ve survived the catastrophe, but the greater challenge lies ahead? That intrigues me. Maybe that’s because my grandmother was struck by a Vespa in Italy when I was five years old, and we traveled home by ship through a hurricane that rocked much of the East Coast. Stories about “What’s next?” and “How do we push the rubble away?” are my go-to now, as they were during the years I worked as a journalist, first as a reporter, then for much longer as an editor. After my husband’s death in 2011, clearing the rubble yielded the first two installments of my vampire trilogy. 

Joanne's book list on digging out when life just buries you

Joanne McLaughlin Why did Joanne love this book?

I used to be paid to ponder the end of the world as we know it: I was a health editor during the early years of the COVID pandemic; at the same time, I was editing environmental stories.

What I loved most about this book is that the worst has already occurred, and the protagonist, a teenager, chooses her own new way to navigate what’s still to come. I was engaged by the concepts of resilience as a survival skill, reinvention as a necessity, and rebirth as an act of personal and global faith.

I am not a fan of religion as such, but this book made me believe.  

By Octavia E. Butler,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked Parable of the Sower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The extraordinary, prescient NEW YORK TIMES-bestselling novel.

'If there is one thing scarier than a dystopian novel about the future, it's one written in the past that has already begun to come true. This is what makes Parable of the Sower even more impressive than it was when first published' GLORIA STEINEM

'Unnervingly prescient and wise' YAA GYASI

--

We are coming apart. We're a rope, breaking, a single strand at a time.

America is a place of chaos, where violence rules and only the rich and powerful are safe. Lauren Olamina, a young woman with the extraordinary power to…


Book cover of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Colm O'Shea Author Of Claiming de Wayke

From my list on books with a gritty psychedelic worldview.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a poet, short story writer, novelist, essayist, and writing professor at New York University. I also have a fascination with altered states of consciousness, especially with mysticism, psychosis, and psychedelic art. (My book James Joyce’s Mandala examines all three.) My first novel, Claiming De Wayke, delves into those elements too, but with a particular focus on vivid first-person narration, so most of my recommendations involve books that are not only trippy in terms of plot and characterization but are also psychedelically inflected in their use of language itself. I hope you check some of them out.  

Colm's book list on books with a gritty psychedelic worldview

Colm O'Shea Why did Colm love this book?

As a young man, Ken Kesey worked as an orderly in a psychiatric ward and participated in CIA-funded hallucinogen studies conducted in the hospital. Looking out at the patients and nurses, he wondered what separated them.

What emerged from those experiences is the mesmeric narrator of his first book: the giant, Chief, sees the world through a terrifying poetic lens. Observant and cunning, he perceives all the forces of authority and conformity as a single machine he calls “The Combine.”

Kesey’s novel is a fable about the power of the individual to oppose any coercive larger force, even if victory isn’t certain. It’s dark, unflinching, and profoundly on the side of the freaks.    

By Ken Kesey,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's 1962 novel has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Now in a new deluxe edition with a foreword by Chuck Palahniuk and cover by Joe Sacco, here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them…


Book cover of Star Maker

Howard Bruce Franklin Author Of Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War

From my list on urgent menaces to the human species.

Why am I passionate about this?

My twenty books have won top awards for lifetime scholarship in American studies, science fiction, prison literature, the Vietnam war, and marine ecology. My writing is just part of my six decades as an activist for peace and justice, which made me a major target of the FBI’s operation COINTELPRO and led Stanford to fire me from my tenured professorship.  I then taught for 40 years at Rutgers University in Newark as The John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies. 

Howard's book list on urgent menaces to the human species

Howard Bruce Franklin Why did Howard love this book?

No other book has influenced me so deeply. Arthur C. Clarke wrote it is "probably the most powerful work of imagination ever written." As I now reread Star Maker, published in 1937 when I was three years old, I still find passages so profound that they send my mind into orbit. The book takes us through time and space to a future when that entire conscious cosmos yearns to meet its creator. It ends with a prophetic awareness that “the struggle of our age was brewing” and the hope that our species can make it “before the ultimate darkness.”

By Olaf Stapledon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This bold exploration of the cosmos ventures into intelligent star clusters and mingles among alien races for a memorable vision of infinity. Cited as a key influence by science-fiction masters such as Doris Lessing, this classic has left its mark not only in modern literature but also in the fields of social anthropology and philosophy.
Olaf Stapledon's 1937 successor to Last and First Men offers another entrancing speculative history of the future. Its narrator, a contemporary Earthman, joins a community of explorers who travel to the farthest reaches of the universe, seeking traces of intelligence. Along the way, they encounter…


Book cover of Winesburg, Ohio

Barry Keith Grant Author Of Voyages of Discovery: The Cinema of Frederick Wiseman

From my list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved cinema since I was 9 years old growing up in New York City and my grandmother took me to see The Ten Commandments at the Paradise Theater, Loew’s magnificent flagship theater in the Bronx. The theater’s famous canopy of twinkling stars on the ceiling was the perfect magical venue, and I was thunderstruck not only by the epic sweep of the movie but also by the opulence of the theater, which mirrored the monumental pyramids that Ramses constructs in the film. Ever since, my passion for movies has been as all-consuming as DeMille’s jello sea was for the infidel Egyptians who doubted the power of special effects and cinematic illusion.

Barry's book list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman

Barry Keith Grant Why did Barry love this book?

Based on the boyhood memories of author Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio is one of the best portraits of small-town American life in the 19th century.

Centered around the coming-of-age of George Willard, the 22 stories in the book provide numerous character sketches of people in the fictional town of Winesburg. Anderson writes in a plain style that suits the world he describes.

The book pioneers an approach to fictional portraiture also taken up by Wiseman in his later Our-Town cycle of films that focus on individual rural communities—Aspen, Belfast, Maine, In Jackson Heights, and Monrovia, Indiana—and adopt a seemingly similar straightforward style. Like those films, the book features a series of glimpses that together add up more than just the sum of its parts.

By Sherwood Anderson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Anderson profoundly changed the American short story, transforming it from light, popular entertainment into literature of the highest quality. His art belonged as much to an oral as a written tradition, and, as this collection shows, the best of his stories echo the language and the pace of a man talking to his friends. They explore with penetrating compassion the isolation of the individual and capture the emotional undercurrents hidden beneath ordinary events.


Book cover of The Return of Martin Guerre

Stuart Carroll Author Of Enmity and Violence in Early Modern Europe

From my list on getting started with early modern history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of early modern Europe. I have a particular interest in the history of violence and social relations and how and why ordinary people came into conflict with each other and how they made peace, that’s the subject of my most recent book Enmity and Violence in Early Modern Europe, which compares the entanglement of everyday animosities and how these were resolved in Italy, Germany, France and England. I’m also passionate about understanding Europe’s contribution to world history. As editor of The Cambridge World History of Violence, I explored the dark side of this. But my next book, The Invention of Civil Society, will demonstrate Europe’s more positive achievements.

Stuart's book list on getting started with early modern history

Stuart Carroll Why did Stuart love this book?

I love this book because it’s a story about ordinary people. But it’s a true story.

It reads like a fairytale: a peasant, Arnaud du Tilh, is accused of impersonating another man who had abandoned his wife several years before. Arnaud seems to have outwitted the judges until the errant husband returns condemning the impostor to death.

I like this story because it helps to identify with men and women in the past, who in many respects, are just like us. It’s also a piece of great history reconstructed from original trial records. Davis is a great writer.

By Natalie Zemon Davis,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Return of Martin Guerre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The clever peasant Arnaud du Tilh had almost persuaded the learned judges at the Parlement of Toulouse when, on a summer's day in 1560, a man swaggered into the court on a wooden leg, denounced Arnaud, and reestablished his claim to the identity, property, and wife of Martin Guerre. The astonishing case captured the imagination of the continent. Told and retold over the centuries, the story of Martin Guerre became a legend, still remembered in the Pyrenean village where the impostor was executed more than 400 years ago.

Now a noted historian, who served as consultant for a new French…


Book cover of Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier

Linda Collison Author Of Star-Crossed

From my list on 18th and 19th century crossdressers.

Why am I passionate about this?

The custom of Masquerade, of dressing as Other, has long fascinated me. In writing Star-Crossed, I set out to investigate how and why one girl might pass as a boy in an era when gender roles were sharply differentiated. I once crossed an ocean working aboard a wooden, three-masted ship – a 20th-century replica of the Bark Endeavour, circumnavigating in 1999. Sleeping in hammocks and working aloft in the rigging, I discovered this life required teamwork, stamina – and a sturdy, practical costume. Trousers, not petticoats! I have worked as a registered nurse and I earned a degree in History; these experiences combine in Star-Crossed. 

Linda's book list on 18th and 19th century crossdressers

Linda Collison Why did Linda love this book?

It took Americans a very long time to honor the ordinary foot soldiers and seamen of the Revolution. It took even longer to recover the women of the Revolution, historian Alfred F. Young tells us. The author parses through various historical records to present a realistic picture of the female soldier Deborah Sampson. Deborah was not the only woman to volunteer as a soldier – dressed as a man. Her record was exemplary. Sampson became known only after the war was over, and then only to a few people. This biography is among the most thorough of crossdressing fighting women, and it gives a good picture of colonial life at the time of the American Revolution. 

By Alfred F. Young,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Masquerade, Alfred F. Young scrapes through layers of fiction and myth to uncover the story of Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts woman who passed as a man and fought as a soldier for seventeen months toward the end of the American Revolution.

Deborah Sampson was not the only woman to pose as a male and fight in the war, but she was certainly one of the most successful and celebrated. She managed to fight in combat and earn the respect of her officers and peers, and in later years she toured the country lecturing about her experiences and was partially…


Book cover of Joe Gould's Teeth

Timothy J. Shannon Author Of Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain

From my list on con artists and imposters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I teach Early American, Native American, and British history. My books include Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 and Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier. As a historian, I've long been fascinated by stories of imposters, charlatans, and con artists. I like fictional and factual picaresque tales about people set adrift in strange lands and I have a soft spot for unreliable narrators. Historians are a skeptical breed, so slippery characters like those featured in the books listed here represent a welcome challenge: can you trust them as far as you can throw them? 

Timothy's book list on con artists and imposters

Timothy J. Shannon Why did Timothy love this book?

Joe Gould first came to the world’s attention when Joseph Mitchell published two articles about him in the New Yorker in the mid-twentieth century. A self-described bohemian, he was an eccentric denizen of Greenwich Village who claimed to be writing “The Oral History of Our Time,” a massive, revolutionary book that Gould said would be read by generations yet to come. Or, was he really just a heavy drinking raconteur who ingratiated himself among some of the leading artists, poets, and writers of his day? Jill Lepore pushes Gould’s story beyond Mitchell’s original version, finding darker truths behind it.

By Jill Lepore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From New Yorker staff writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore, the dark, spellbinding tale of her restless search for the missing longest book ever written, a century-old manuscript called “The Oral History of Our Time.”

Joe Gould’s Teeth is a Poe-like tale of detection, madness, and invention. Digging through archives all over the country, Lepore unearthed evidence that “The Oral History of Our Time” did in fact once exist. Relying on letters, scraps, and Gould’s own diaries and notebooks—including volumes of his lost manuscript—Lepore argues that Joe Gould’s real secret had to do with sex and the color line, with…


Book cover of The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin

Timothy J. Shannon Author Of Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain

From my list on con artists and imposters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where I teach Early American, Native American, and British history. My books include Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 and Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier. As a historian, I've long been fascinated by stories of imposters, charlatans, and con artists. I like fictional and factual picaresque tales about people set adrift in strange lands and I have a soft spot for unreliable narrators. Historians are a skeptical breed, so slippery characters like those featured in the books listed here represent a welcome challenge: can you trust them as far as you can throw them? 

Timothy's book list on con artists and imposters

Timothy J. Shannon Why did Timothy love this book?

It may seem unfair to group Benjamin Franklin among con artists and impersonators, but he certainly had a talent for self-invention. Most biographies of Franklin take it as a given that he was the “first American,” who set the mold for what we call the American dream. In this highly readable and comparatively brief biography of the great man, Wood breaks from that tradition and tells the story of a provincial striver whose many public personas were motivated by a desire to fit in among aristocratic Europeans. If you think you know what made Franklin tick, this biography will make you think again.

By Gordon S. Wood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I cannot remember ever reading a work of history and biography that is quite so fluent, so perfectly composed and balanced . . ." -The New York Sun

"Exceptionally rich perspective on one of the most accomplished, complex, and unpredictable Americans of his own time or any other." -The Washington Post Book World

From the most respected chronicler of the early days of the Republic-and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes-comes a landmark work that rescues Benjamin Franklin from a mythology that has blinded generations of Americans to the man he really was and makes sense of aspects…


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