100 books like The Lives of Literature

By Arnold Weinstein,

Here are 100 books that The Lives of Literature fans have personally recommended if you like The Lives of Literature. 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 Humanity at Sea: Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This book addresses the well-known issue of refugees who are attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to gain refugee status in Europe, but it does so by adding historical detail that helps us to understand the legal issues pertaining to their flight. Mann links these overloaded vessels filled with desperate peoples to the actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese 'boatpeople', Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia, and Syrian refugees currently crossing the Mediterranean, and then legal responses by states and international organizations to these movements. Along the way, he also helps us to understand the value of reading works by twentieth-century thinkers such as Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas, and other legal materials to form a rich account of an issue of increasing global concern.

By Itamar Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This interdisciplinary study engages law, history, and political theory in a first attempt to crystallize the lessons the global 'refugee crisis' can teach us about the nature of international law. It connects the dots between the actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese 'boatpeople', Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia, and Syrian refugees currently crossing the Mediterranean, and then legal responses by states and international organizations to these movements. Through its account of maritime migration, the book proposes a theory of human rights modelled around an encounter between individuals in…


Book cover of Tears of Salt: A Doctor's Story of the Refugee Crisis

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This moving narrative describes the life of a doctor working on the Italian island of Lampedusa, who learns firsthand about hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism and hoping to make a new life in Europe. Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who runs the lone medical clinic on the island, took care of these refugees for more than 25 years, before being the subject of a remarkable film, which is both fictional and real, called Fire At Sea. That film, and this book, shed light on the remarkable life and work of Dr. Bartolo and, moreover, tells the stories of refugees, alive and dead, whose worlds collided with a complex geopolitical system that creates hardship, and then seeks ways of helping those affected.

By Pietro Bartolo, Lidia Tilotta,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Situated more than one hundred miles off Italy's southern coast, the rocky island of Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism and hoping to make a new life in Europe. Dr. Pietro Bartolo, who runs the lone medical clinic on the island, has been caring for many of them-both the living and the dead-for a quarter century. Tears of Salt is Dr. Bartolo's moving account of his life and work set against one of the signal crises of…


Book cover of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This book assesses the value of liberal education, and the importance of (re) reading the so-called ‘classics,’ rather than resorting to short snippets of articles, YouTube videos, or chapters which make short and pointed arguments about specific issues. The great classics have changed Roosevelt Montás’s life in ways that are to me familiar, since I’ve enjoyed watching the fruits of liberal education as they transformed his life of my own students over the years.

By Roosevelt Montás,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Dominican-born academic tells the story of how the Great Books transformed his life-and why they have the power to speak to people of all backgrounds

What is the value of a liberal education? Traditionally characterized by a rigorous engagement with the classics of Western thought and literature, this approach to education is all but extinct in American universities, replaced by flexible distribution requirements and ever-narrower academic specialization. Many academics attack the very idea of a Western canon as chauvinistic, while the general public increasingly doubts the value of the humanities. In Rescuing Socrates, Dominican-born American academic Roosevelt Montas tells…


Book cover of Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman Author Of Girls with Bright Futures

From my list on college admissions mania.

Why are we passionate about this?

When each of our older boys were in the midst of the college admissions process, our husbands suffered life-threatening health crises. It was such a bizarre coincidence that we both experienced intense brushes with mortality during this time of high anxiety. The juxtaposition between health and college admissions gave us a unique perspective and led us to explore the impacts of college admissions anxiety on families, friendships, students, and school communities. We had entirely plotted Girls With Bright Futures and were nearly through the first draft when the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal broke in March 2019. We felt like the headlines had been ripped from our manuscript!

Tracy's book list on college admissions mania

Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman Why did Tracy love this book?

When we set out on our writing journey to understand the impacts of college admissions anxiety on families, friendships, students, and school communities, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, by William Deresiewicz, was one of the most insightful books we read. Deresiewicz does an outstanding job of tracing the history of the college admissions industrial complex, including the fascinating story behind the US News & World Report rankings, as well as the impact of airline deregulation and the break-up of Ma Bell on college admissions. If you’re trying to make sense of college admissions mania, this book is a great starting point.

By William Deresiewicz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As a professor at Yale, William Deresiewicz saw something that troubled him deeply. His students, some of the nation's brightest minds, were adrift when it came to the big questions: how to think critically and creatively and how to find a sense of purpose. Now he argues that elite colleges are turning out conformists without a compass.

Excellent Sheep takes a sharp look at the high-pressure conveyor belt that begins with parents and counsellors who demand perfect grades and culminates in the skewed applications Deresiewicz saw first-hand as a member of Yale's admissions committee. As schools shift focus from the…


Book cover of Proofs and Refutations

William Byers Author Of How Mathematicians Think: Using Ambiguity, Contradiction, and Paradox to Create Mathematics

From my list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a mathematician but an unusual one because I am interested in how mathematics is created and how it is learned. From an early age, I loved mathematics because of the beauty of its concepts and the precision of its organization and reasoning. When I started to do research I realized that things were not so simple. To create something new you had to suspend or go beyond your rational mind for a while. I realized that the learning and creating of math have non-logical features. This was my eureka moment. It turned the conventional wisdom (about what math is and how it is done) on its head.

William's book list on thinking, creativity, and mathematics

William Byers Why did William love this book?

Lots of people have a priori ideas about what mathematics is all about but Lakatos had the brilliant idea of looking at what actually happened. His book is all about one famous theorem: “for all regular polyhedra, V – E + F =2, where V is the number of vertices, E is the number of edges, and F is the number of faces.  Think of a cube where V=8, E = 12, F = 6.  

We tend to think that mathematics proceeds from a well-defined hypothesis to conclusion. But that is only the finishing step. Along the way the definitions keep changing as do the hypotheses and even the conclusion. Everything is moving! This is what makes doing mathematics so exciting!

By Imre Lakatos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Imre Lakatos's Proofs and Refutations is an enduring classic, which has never lost its relevance. Taking the form of a dialogue between a teacher and some students, the book considers various solutions to mathematical problems and, in the process, raises important questions about the nature of mathematical discovery and methodology. Lakatos shows that mathematics grows through a process of improvement by attempts at proofs and critiques of these attempts, and his work continues to inspire mathematicians and philosophers aspiring to develop a philosophy of mathematics that accounts for both the static and the dynamic complexity of mathematical practice. With a…


Book cover of Modal Homotopy Type Theory: The Prospect of a New Logic for Philosophy

Rocco Gangle Author Of Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy

From my list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined.

Why am I passionate about this?

Philosophy’s core questions have always obsessed me: What is real? What makes life worth living? Can knowledge be made secure? In graduate school at the University of Virginia I was drawn to mathematically formalized approaches to such questions, especially those of C. S. Peirce and Alain Badiou. More recently, alongside colleagues at Endicott College’s Center for Diagrammatic and Computational Philosophy and GCAS College Dublin I have explored applications of diagrammatic logic, category theory, game theory, and homotopy type theory to such problems as abductive inference and artificial intelligence. Philosophers committed to the perennial questions have much to gain today from studying the new methods and results of contemporary mathematics.

Rocco's book list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined

Rocco Gangle Why did Rocco love this book?

The Univalent Foundations program in foundations of mathematics launched by Voevodsky and others in the past decade and a half has contributed to a promising new paradigm unifying computation, mathematics, logic, and proof theory.

Understanding the core elements of this research program, Homotopy Type Theory, is essential for contemporary philosophers who want to engage directly with current developments in mathematics and computer science.

Corfield is a well-established name in philosophy of mathematics, and this book is the best introduction to Homotopy Type Theory for philosophers.

Working within themes and problematics that will be familiar to philosophers with a basic background in logic, Corfield covers the elementary constructions of homotopy types from a logical point of view and provides plenty of provocative suggestions for how these formal tools might reinvigorate philosophical research today.

By David Corfield,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Modal Homotopy Type Theory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The old logic put thought in fetters, while the new logic gives it wings."

For the past century, philosophers working in the tradition of Bertrand Russell - who promised to revolutionise philosophy by introducing the 'new logic' of Frege and Peano - have employed predicate logic as their formal language of choice. In this book, Dr David Corfield presents a comparable revolution with a newly emerging logic - modal homotopy type theory.

Homotopy type theory has recently been developed as a new foundational language for mathematics, with a strong philosophical pedigree. Modal Homotopy Type Theory: The Prospect of a New…


Book cover of The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

Elizabeth E. Botchis Author Of Awakening the Holographic Human: Nature's Path to Healing and Higher Consciousness

From my list on healing ourselves and our planet.

Why am I passionate about this?

Lilli Botchis, PhD, is a psycho-spiritual counselor, educator, and vibrational medicine developer with four decades of experience in advanced body/soul wellness and the development of higher consciousness. Her expertise includes botanicals, gems, color, flower essences, bio-energy therapies, and holographic soul readings. Lilli is an alchemist, mystic, and translator of Nature’s language as it speaks to our soul. A brilliant researcher in the field of consciousness, she understands the interconnectedness of Nature and the human being and is known as an extraordinary emissary of the natural world. Lilli has been inducted into the Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Knights Hospitaller. Many seek her out for her visionary insights and compassionate wisdom.

Elizabeth's book list on healing ourselves and our planet

Elizabeth E. Botchis Why did Elizabeth love this book?

According to Michael Schneider, "The universe may be a mystery, but it's no secret." This book is a comprehensive yet simple visual guide to understanding the hidden meaning in the mathematical composition of all physical form. It is fun and fascinating to discover the sacred geometry visible throughout nature, in flowers, crystals, plants, shells, and the human body. You don't have to be a mathematician to see the beauty and symmetry of these patterns in every expression of God's creation, once revealed.

By Michael S. Schneider,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discover how mathematical sequences abound in our natural world in this definitive exploration of the geography of the cosmos

You need not be a philosopher or a botanist, and certainly not a mathematician, to enjoy the bounty of the world around us. But is there some sort of order, a pattern, to the things that we see in the sky, on the ground, at the beach? In A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schneider, an education writer and computer consultant, combines science, philosophy, art, and common sense to reaffirm what the ancients observed: that a consistent language of…


Book cover of Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics

Rocco Gangle Author Of Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy

From my list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined.

Why am I passionate about this?

Philosophy’s core questions have always obsessed me: What is real? What makes life worth living? Can knowledge be made secure? In graduate school at the University of Virginia I was drawn to mathematically formalized approaches to such questions, especially those of C. S. Peirce and Alain Badiou. More recently, alongside colleagues at Endicott College’s Center for Diagrammatic and Computational Philosophy and GCAS College Dublin I have explored applications of diagrammatic logic, category theory, game theory, and homotopy type theory to such problems as abductive inference and artificial intelligence. Philosophers committed to the perennial questions have much to gain today from studying the new methods and results of contemporary mathematics.

Rocco's book list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined

Rocco Gangle Why did Rocco love this book?

Zalamea’s book is the perfect introduction and survey if you want to understand how developments in contemporary mathematics are relevant to current philosophy.

Zalamea’s own approach follows closely in the steps of Peirce, Lautman, and Grothendieck, merging pragmatism, dialectics, and sheaf theory, but he also engages the work of dozens of other key mathematicians and philosophers coming from different points of view, sometimes cursorily, always tantalizingly.

No philosopher can read this book without a quickened heartbeat and eager plans to clear shelf space for some of the many volumes of mathematics and philosophy of mathematics canvassed here by Zalamea.

By Fernando Zalamea, Zachery Luke Fraser (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A panoramic survey of the vast spectrum of modern and contemporary mathematics and the new philosophical possibilities they suggest.

A panoramic survey of the vast spectrum of modern and contemporary mathematics and the new philosophical possibilities they suggest, this book gives the inquisitive non-specialist an insight into the conceptual transformations and intellectual orientations of modern and contemporary mathematics.

The predominant analytic approach, with its focus on the formal, the elementary and the foundational, has effectively divorced philosophy from the real practice of mathematics and the profound conceptual shifts in the discipline over the last century. The first part discusses the…


Book cover of Descartes' Dream: The World According to Mathematics (Dover Books on Mathematics)

Ian Stewart Author Of Flatterland: Like Flatland Only More So

From my list on to find out why math isn’t what you think.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid I read every popular math book I could lay my hands on. When I became a mathematician I wanted to do more than teaching and research. I wanted to tell everyone what a wonderful and vital subject math is. I started writing popular math books, and soon was up to my neck in radio, TV, news media, magazines... For 12 years I wrote the mathematical Recreations Column for Scientific American. I was only the second mathematician in 170 years to deliver the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, on TV with a live tiger. The University changed my job description: half research, half ‘outreach’. I had my dream job.

Ian's book list on to find out why math isn’t what you think

Ian Stewart Why did Ian love this book?

Mathematicians are constantly baffled by the public’s lack of awareness, not just of what mathematics does, but what it is. Today’s technological society functions only because of a vast range of mathematical concepts, techniques, and discoveries, which go far beyond elementary arithmetic and algebra. This was one of the first books to tackle these misunderstandings head on. It does so by examining not just the math and what it’s used for, but the social structures, the ‘conditions of civilization’ that have brought us to this curious state: utterly dependent on math, almost universally unaware that we are. 

By Philip J. Davis, Reuben Hersh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A passionate plea against the use of formal mathematical reasoning as a method for solving mankind's problems. . . . An antidote to the Cartesian view that mathematical and scientific knowledge will suffice to solve the central problems of human existence." — The New York Times
"These cogitations can and should be read by every literate person." — Science Books and Films
"A warning against being seduced or intimidated by mathematics into accepting bad science, bad policies, and bad personal decisions." — Philadelphia Inquirer
Rationalist philosopher and mathematician René Descartes visualized a world unified by mathematics, in which all intellectual…


Book cover of Philosophy and Model Theory

Rocco Gangle Author Of Diagrammatic Immanence: Category Theory and Philosophy

From my list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined.

Why am I passionate about this?

Philosophy’s core questions have always obsessed me: What is real? What makes life worth living? Can knowledge be made secure? In graduate school at the University of Virginia I was drawn to mathematically formalized approaches to such questions, especially those of C. S. Peirce and Alain Badiou. More recently, alongside colleagues at Endicott College’s Center for Diagrammatic and Computational Philosophy and GCAS College Dublin I have explored applications of diagrammatic logic, category theory, game theory, and homotopy type theory to such problems as abductive inference and artificial intelligence. Philosophers committed to the perennial questions have much to gain today from studying the new methods and results of contemporary mathematics.

Rocco's book list on mathematics for the philosophically inclined

Rocco Gangle Why did Rocco love this book?

Far too many math books are written in a style so terse and ungenerous that all but the most mathematically gifted readers hardly have a fair chance of understanding.

On the other hand, the discursive style of much philosophy of mathematics gains readability at the expense of formal rigor. Button and Walsh strike the perfect balance in this exceptionally rich introduction to model theory from a distinctively philosophical perspective.

There’s no getting around the fact that the mathematics of model theory is hard going. But this book works through all the relevant proofs in clear and detailed terms (no lazy “we leave this as an exercise for the reader”), and the authors are always careful to motivate each section with well-chosen philosophical concerns right up front.

An Everest, but worth it.

By Tim Button, Sean Walsh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Model theory is used in every theoretical branch of analytic philosophy: in philosophy of mathematics, in philosophy of science, in philosophy of language, in philosophical logic, and in metaphysics.
But these wide-ranging uses of model theory have created a highly fragmented literature. On the one hand, many philosophically significant results are found only in mathematics textbooks: these are aimed squarely at mathematicians; they typically presuppose that the reader has a serious background in mathematics; and little clue is given as to their philosophical significance. On the other hand, the philosophical applications of these results are scattered across disconnected pockets of…


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