100 books like The Letters of Abelard and Heloise

By Peter Abelard, Héloïse, Betty Radice (translator)

Here are 100 books that The Letters of Abelard and Heloise fans have personally recommended if you like The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. 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 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 Confessions

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?

Saint Augustine's autobiography is, simply, one of the most remarkable and influential books ever written. To start with, it is a terrific tale. Augustine's evolution from a restless, pear-pilfering child, to an ambitious and tempestuous teen, and then a thoughtful and searching adult desperate to find his way (and foil his mother's plans for him) is one almost any reader can relate to. Moreover, in the process of examining his own halting progress toward faith, Augustine more or less invented a new form of "selfhood." For anyone interested in medieval Christianity, Jewish-Christian relations, or European thought, it all starts with Augustine.

By Saint Augustine, Maria Boulding (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This 2nd Edition includes a new annotated bibliography by William Harmless, S.J.

The Confessions of Saint Augustine is considered the all time number one Christian classic. Augustine undertook his greatest piece of writing with the conviction that God wanted him to make this confession. The Confessions are, in fact, an extended poetic, passionate, intimate prayer. Augustine s experience of God speaks to us across time with little need of transpositions. This new translation by Maria Boulding masterfully captures his experience.

Augustine was probably forty-three when he began this endeavor. He had been a baptized Catholic for ten years, a priest…


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 Kingdom Is Always But Coming: A Life of Walter Rauschenbusch

Benjamin M. Friedman Author Of Religion and the Rise of Capitalism

From my list on economics, religion, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an economist, now in my fiftieth year as a professor at Harvard. While much of my work has focused on economic policy – questions like the effects of government budget deficits, guidelines for the conduct of U.S. monetary policy, and what actions to take in response to a banking or more general financial crisis – in recent years I’ve also addressed broader issues surrounding the connections between economics and society. Several years ago, in The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, I examined the implications of our economy’s growth, or stagnation, for the social, political, and ultimately moral character of our society. My most recent book explores the connections between economic thinking and religious thinking.

Benjamin's book list on economics, religion, and society

Benjamin M. Friedman Why did Benjamin love this book?

One of the most significant episodes in the influence of religious thinking on economic thinking in America was the emergence of the Social Gospel, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth. And one of the most powerful advocates of the Social Gospel was the Baptist minister and university theologian Walter Rauschenbusch. Evans’s biography vividly tells the story of the Social Gospel movement as well as Rauschenbusch’s leading role within it. Of the many clergymen about whom I write about in my own book, Rauschenbusch is perhaps the one whose ideas I most admire.

By Christopher H. Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Kingdom Is Always But Coming as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Given the 2005 Award of Merit by Christianity Today, Christopher Evans' The Kingdom is Always but Coming follows the life and career of American theologian Walter Rauschenbusch, the preeminent spokesperson at the center of the social gospel movement. Perceptive, well-informed, and ably written, Evans' biography is a superb introduction to both Rauschenbusch's life and his thought.


Book cover of Thomas Cranmer: A Life

Peter Marshall Author Of Heretics and Believers: A History of the English Reformation

From my list on the English Reformation.

Why am I passionate about this?

Peter Marshall is Professor of History at the University of Warwick, co-editor of the English Historical Review, and the author of nine books and over sixty articles on the religious and cultural history of early modern Europe. His authoritative account of the Reformation in England, Heretics and Believers, was awarded the Wolfson History Prize in 2018. Peter is a native of the Orkney Islands, and currently writing a book on the islanders’ experiences in the Reformation era.

Peter's book list on the English Reformation

Peter Marshall Why did Peter love this book?

The finest historical biographies use the life to illuminate the times, and MacCulloch’s meticulously researched book on the career of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer is also the best single account of the see-saw religious politics of the reign of Henry VIII. Its sympathetic portrayal of a flawed idealist is ultimately very moving as well as consistently enlightening.

By Diarmaid MacCulloch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thomas Cranmer, the architect of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, was the archbishop of Canterbury who guided England through the early Reformation-and Henry VIII through the minefields of divorce. This is the first major biography of him for more than three decades, and the first for a century to exploit rich new manuscript sources in Britain and elsewhere.
Diarmaid MacCulloch, one of the foremost scholars of the English Reformation, traces Cranmer from his east-Midland roots through his twenty-year career as a conventionally conservative Cambridge don. He shows how Cranmer was recruited to the coterie around Henry VIII that was…


Book cover of The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Marissa Moss Author Of Talia's Codebook for Mathletes

From my list on graphic stand outs from the very crowded pack.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm best known for the Amelia's Notebook series which are based on the notebooks I kept as a kid. I started using the notebook format because that's how I thought—sometimes in words, sometimes in pictures. But this was a long time ago, in the 90s when graphic novels weren't a common format. When I submitted Amelia to publishers, they rejected it, saying it wasn't a picture book, it wasn't a novel, so how would librarians know where to shelve it? A small press that didn't know any better took a chance and published Amelia's Notebook. It became a big bestseller, with more than 20 books to follow and started a new trend in kid's books.

Marissa's book list on graphic stand outs from the very crowded pack

Marissa Moss Why did Marissa love this book?

Hendrix tells the incredible story here of how a Lutheran pastor was part of the plot to assassinate Hitler—and almost succeeded.

This is history that's not widely known and the graphic novel format makes it into an accessible adventure story that's actually true. There were many plots to kill Hitler and each failed for different reasons. Yet there were brave people who were willing to keep trying.

Hendricks puts us in Dietrich Bonhoeffer's shoes, while also showing the depth of Nazism's grip on the German public. It took a truly exceptional person to see Hitler for what he was and to decide to act on that understanding.

By John Hendrix,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Faithful Spy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Adolf Hitler's Nazi party is gaining strength and becoming more menacing every day. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor upset by the complacency of the German church toward the suffering around it, forms a breakaway church to speak out against the established political and religious authorities. When the Nazis outlaw the church, he escapes as a fugitive. Struggling to reconcile his faith and the teachings of the Bible with the Nazi Party's evil agenda, Bonhoeffer decides that Hitler must be stopped by any means possible!

In his signature style of interwoven handwritten text and art, John Hendrix tells the true story of…


Book cover of John Knox

Andrew Greig Author Of Rose Nicolson: Memoir of William Fowler of Edinburgh

From my list on the wild side of the Scotland-England borderlands.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in rural Bannockburn in Scotland, two fields from the site of the famous Battle (a rare victory over England) of 1314. From the start, the Past has always been very present to me. I have written 22 books: novels, non-fiction memoir, and poetry. In differing ways they all explore aspects of Scotland and being Scottish – our landscape, geology, history, culture, and psyche. I was brought up in East Fife, near St Andrews, and live in Edinburgh and Orkney; my mother was English, as is my wife, novelist Lesley Glaister. Which is by way of saying I am interested in writing the joys, aches, and complexities of being human, in the universal and the local, in our present and the Past that shapes it.

Andrew's book list on the wild side of the Scotland-England borderlands

Andrew Greig Why did Andrew love this book?

So it is not a novel, but might as well be for its twists, turns, and transformations. Edinburgh in 1572 was a small town of some 3,000 families, so my real-life narrator William Fowler would know and meet one of its most notable citizens, Preacher John Knox of Haddington, along with his young and socially aristocratic second wife (the latter attribute was more a matter of gossip and criticism than the thirty-seven years age gap), and witnessed him being helped up into the pulpit at St Giles to give his congregation a last good talking to. This is the most recent (drawing on a major new cache of letters), and highly readable, life of the man who pushed Scotland towards a Presbyterian Calvinist form of Protestantism – crucially distinct from that evolving in England under the Auld Hag aka Elizabeth I. He is revealed as a much more complex and…

By Jane Dawson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The definitive biography of John Knox, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in sixteenth-century Scotland

"Never before has there been such a thoroughly and sympathetically critical treatment of the 16th-century Scottish reformer's thought and times. . . . A joy to read and a book to value."-Sean Michael Lucas, Gospel Coalition

Based in large part on previously unavailable sources, including the recently discovered papers of John Knox's close friend and colleague Christopher Goodman, this biography challenges the traditionally held stereotype of the founder of the Presbyterian denomination as a strident and misogynist religious reformer whose influence rarely extended beyond Scotland.…


Book cover of The Disappearance

Monica Wesolowska Author Of Holding Silvan: A Brief Life

From my list on maternal grief and universal love.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a member of an unfortunate tribe, the tribe of grieving mothers who write. Upon learning that my newborn son was profoundly brain-damaged, I kept a diary. Writing those pages helped me make sense of his prognosis and figure out how to care for him before he died. Later, my diary helped me write my memoir Holding Silvan: A Brief Life which went on to be named a “Best Book” of the year by both Library Journal and the Boston Globe. Today, I write and work with other writers trying to craft their own stories of loss. Each experience of grief is unique. The five memoirs I’m recommending give voice to a variety of maternal losses — from stillbirth to murder. While each of these memoirs is powerful in its own way, the love in them is universal.

Monica's book list on maternal grief and universal love

Monica Wesolowska Why did Monica love this book?

Upon receiving the news that her two young daughters had been killed by a drunk driver, Genevieve Jurgensen didn’t think she could go on, let alone ever write about her loss. Fortunately for us, she eventually found a way to tell this story. Through letters to a friend, she draws us in, circling the pain of that terrible day, musing about the mysterious ways in which loss can coexist with a happy, ongoing life. With its raw and intimate feel, the book is a profoundly moving testimony to the complicated process of healing.

By Geneviève Jurgensen, Adriana Hunter (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What do you do, how do you live, when both of your daughters are killed on the same afternoon?

On April 30, 1980, Genevieve Jurgensen found herself facing that question when she lost her four- and seven-year-old daughters to a drunk driver. Here she presents her search for an answer.

Book cover of The Ebony Tower

Rosalind Brackenbury Author Of The Lost Love Letters of Henri Fournier

From my list on set in France with themes to match.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by these themes – love, France, mystery, women’s lives, war, and peace. My parents took me to France when I was 12 and I’ve spent years there in between and go back whenever I can. I started reading in French when sent to be an au pair in Switzerland when I was 17. My own novel, The Lost Love Letters Of Henri Fournier was absorbing to write as it contains all of the above. I found an unpublished novel of Fournier’s in a village in rural France a few years ago and decided I had to write about him and his lover, Pauline, who was a famous French actress. 

Rosalind's book list on set in France with themes to match

Rosalind Brackenbury Why did Rosalind love this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

By John Fowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ebony Tower, comprising a novella, three stories, and a translation of a medieval French tale, echoes themes from John Fowles's internationally celebrated novels as it probes the fitful relations between love and hate, pleasure and pain, fantasy and reality.


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