100 books like The Lunar Men

By Jenny Uglow,

Here are 100 books that The Lunar Men fans have personally recommended if you like The Lunar Men. 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 Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

Patricia Fara Author Of Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career

From my list on enlightenment science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I’ve written several popular books as well as featuring in TV/radio programmes such as In Our Time and Start the Week (BBC). I love the challenge of explaining to general audiences why the history of science is such an exciting and important subject – far more difficult than writing an academic paper. I believe that studying the past is crucial for understanding how we’ve reached the present – and the whole point of doing that is to improve the future. My underlying preoccupations involve exploring how and why western science has developed over the last few centuries to become the dominant (and male-dominated) culture throughout the world.

Patricia's book list on enlightenment science

Patricia Fara Why did Patricia love this book?

James Delbourgo’s book shows that history matters. As the founder of London’s British Museum, Sir Hans Sloane has always played an important part in displaying our national heritage, and Delbourgo’s book explores the wondrousness of the artifacts he amassed from all over the world. But it also reveals how his wealth, fame, and success depended on the international trade in enslaved peoples during the eighteenth century. Sloane’s statue has not been destroyed, but it no longer stands prominently in the Museum’s entrance hall. Like Delbourgo, I believe we need to examine and confront the deeds of previous generations, and his book appeared while I was grappling with similar dilemmas about Sloane’s predecessor as President of the Royal Society, Sir Isaac Newton.

By James Delbourgo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Leo Gershoy Award
Winner of the Louis Gottschalk Prize
A Times Book of the Week
A Guardian Book of the Week

"A wonderfully intelligent book."
-Linda Colley

"A superb biography-humane, judicious and as passionately curious as Sloane himself."
-Times Literary Supplement

When the British Museum opened its doors in 1759, it was the first free national public museum in the world. Collecting the World tells the story of the eccentric collector whose thirst for universal knowledge brought it into being.

A man of insatiable curiosity and wide-ranging interests, Hans Sloane assembled a collection of antiquities, oddities, and…


Book cover of Bodies Politic: Disease, Death, and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900

Patricia Fara Author Of Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career

From my list on enlightenment science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I’ve written several popular books as well as featuring in TV/radio programmes such as In Our Time and Start the Week (BBC). I love the challenge of explaining to general audiences why the history of science is such an exciting and important subject – far more difficult than writing an academic paper. I believe that studying the past is crucial for understanding how we’ve reached the present – and the whole point of doing that is to improve the future. My underlying preoccupations involve exploring how and why western science has developed over the last few centuries to become the dominant (and male-dominated) culture throughout the world.

Patricia's book list on enlightenment science

Patricia Fara Why did Patricia love this book?

After I decided to include this old favourite of mine, I discovered to my great delight that Bodies Politic is about to be reissued in paperback. Roy Porter was the most prolific, fluent and insightful academic I have ever been privileged to know, and decades ago, his lectures inspired me to recognise how much fun historical research can be. In my own work, I have focused strongly on images – not only in textbooks, but also in journals, art galleries and albums. As Porter expertly discusses, studying caricatures is immensely enjoyable but also invaluable for uncovering concealed controversies, which provide crucial indicators of what people really thought.

By Roy Porter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a historical tour de force, Roy Porter takes a critical look at representations of the body in death, disease and health, and at images of the healing arts in Britain from the mid-seventeenth to the twentieth century. Porter's key assumptions are that the human body is the chief signifier and communicator of all manner of meanings religious, moral, political and medical and that pre-scientific medicine was an art which depended heavily on ritual, rhetoric and theatre. Porter argues that great symbolic weight was attached to contrasting conceptions of the healthy and diseased body, and that such ideas were mapped…


Book cover of The Mind Has No Sex?: Women in the Origins of Modern Science

Gina Rippon Author Of Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds

From my list on women’s science superpowers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a myth-busting feminist neuroscientist waging a campaign against the rigid gender stereotypes that govern so much of our lives and set so many onto unfulfilling paths. Seeing how often the brain gets dragged into explanations for gender gaps, I put my neuroscience hat on to check back through science and through history to find the truth behind the idea that female brains were different (aka inferior) and that their owners were therefore incompetent and incapable. What a myth! Nowhere does this play out more clearly than in the history of women in science, as shown by the books on this list. 

Gina's book list on women’s science superpowers

Gina Rippon Why did Gina love this book?

If you know anyone who still holds on to the belief that science can operate in a political vacuum, please thrust this book upon them! In 1673, a brave philosopher called Francois Poullain de la Barre publicly observed that he saw no reason why women could not be treated as the equals of men in all spheres of influence, including science. The Mind has no Sex, he declared! In this wonderfully readable book on the history of women in science, Londa Schiebinger shows us just how that belief played out. Track the jaw-dropping arrogance of science’s male gatekeepers as they systematically used every trick in their power to exclude women, weaponising their biology against them (Blame the Brain!), demeaning and downgrading their annoyingly evident talents. This book will make you angry – and so it should!

By Londa Schiebinger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mind Has No Sex? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As part of his attempt to secure a place for women in scientific culture, the Cartesian Francois Poullain de la Barre asserted as long ago as 1673 that "the mind has no sex." In this rich and comprehensive history of women's contributions to the development of early modern science, Londa Schiebinger examines the shifting fortunes of male and female equality in the sphere of the intellect. Schiebinger counters the "great women" mode of history and calls attention to broader developments in scientific culture that have been obscured by time and changing circumstance. She also elucidates a larger issue: how gender…


Book cover of The Ambiguous Frog: The Galvani-Volta Controversy on Animal Electricity

Patricia Fara Author Of Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career

From my list on enlightenment science.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I’ve written several popular books as well as featuring in TV/radio programmes such as In Our Time and Start the Week (BBC). I love the challenge of explaining to general audiences why the history of science is such an exciting and important subject – far more difficult than writing an academic paper. I believe that studying the past is crucial for understanding how we’ve reached the present – and the whole point of doing that is to improve the future. My underlying preoccupations involve exploring how and why western science has developed over the last few centuries to become the dominant (and male-dominated) culture throughout the world.

Patricia's book list on enlightenment science

Patricia Fara Why did Patricia love this book?

Electricity was by far the most popular science of the Enlightenment – ‘an Entertainment for Angels’, as one fictional young woman enthused. Marcello Pera’s slim book is delightfully written, but also philosophically profound. It surveys with great humour the diverse array of electrical devices, tricks and performances that were created as money-spinners in Europe’s rapidly commercialising society. But it also picks apart the confrontation between electricity’s two Italian figureheads: Luigi Galvani (who made frogs’ legs twitch) and Alessandro Volta (the Napoleonic devotee who introduced current electricity). These debates were not only about who was right, but also about how to win over converts and eliminate the opposition.

By Marcello Pera,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How do ideas become accepted by the scientific community? How and why do scientists choose among empirically equivalent theories? In this pathbreaking book translated from the Italian, Marcello Pera addresses these questions by exploring the politics, rhetoric, scientific practices, and metaphysical assumptions that entered into the famous Galvani-Volta controversy of the late eighteenth century. This lively debate erupted when two scientists, each examining the muscle contractions of a dissected frog in contact with metal, came up with opposing but experimentally valid explanations of the phenomenon. Luigi Galvani, a doctor and physiologist, believed that he had discovered animal electricity (electrical body…


Book cover of The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America

Ruth Brandon Author Of Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

From my list on group biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love writing group biographies (I‘ve written four and my next book, Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art, will be another). I enjoy the intellectual scope they offer, the way they let you explore a world. I’m less interested in the details of individual lives than in the opportunity biography offers to explore social history, and group biography is particularly suited to that. They’re not easy to do, it’s no good putting down just one damn life after another, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the shape that will let me fit everyone’s personalities and ideas into a coherent story. 

Ruth's book list on group biographies

Ruth Brandon Why did Ruth love this book?

The Metaphysical Club is about the Pragmatist philosophers: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. This sounds forbidding, but it’s anything but. Group biography shows how and why particular ideas occur to particular people at a particular moment, and this is a brilliant example of it.

By Louis Menand,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A riveting, original book about the creation of the modern American mind.

The Metaphysical Club was an informal group that met in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1872, to talk about ideas. Its members included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., founder of modern jurisprudence; William James, the father of modern American psychology; and Charles Sanders Peirce, logician, scientist, and the founder of semiotics. The Club was probably in existence for about nine months. No records were kept. The one thing we know that came out of it was an idea - an idea about ideas. This book is the story of that idea.…


Book cover of A Chance Meeting: Intertwined Lives of American Writers and Artists

Ruth Brandon Author Of Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

From my list on group biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love writing group biographies (I‘ve written four and my next book, Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art, will be another). I enjoy the intellectual scope they offer, the way they let you explore a world. I’m less interested in the details of individual lives than in the opportunity biography offers to explore social history, and group biography is particularly suited to that. They’re not easy to do, it’s no good putting down just one damn life after another, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the shape that will let me fit everyone’s personalities and ideas into a coherent story. 

Ruth's book list on group biographies

Ruth Brandon Why did Ruth love this book?

Cohen spent a year driving through America accompanied only by two crates of books. She realised, reading them, how many of their authors had met, more or less significantly, one another, from Mark Twain and Henry James to James Baldwin and Elizabeth Bishop. The result was this daisy-chain book. It’s fascinating, illuminating, and utterly charming.

By Rachel Cohen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Chance Meeting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Each chapter of A Chance Meeting takes up an actual encounter between two historical figures. As Rachel Cohen writes in her introduction: 'They met in ordinary ways - a careful arrangement after long admiration, a friend's casual introduction, or because they both just happened to be standing near the drinks. They talked to each other for a few hours or for forty years, and later it seemed to them impossible that they could have missed each other.' A Chance Meeting opens with a young Henry James in the studio of the great Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, and captures the…


Book cover of The Group

Ruth Brandon Author Of Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

From my list on group biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love writing group biographies (I‘ve written four and my next book, Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art, will be another). I enjoy the intellectual scope they offer, the way they let you explore a world. I’m less interested in the details of individual lives than in the opportunity biography offers to explore social history, and group biography is particularly suited to that. They’re not easy to do, it’s no good putting down just one damn life after another, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the shape that will let me fit everyone’s personalities and ideas into a coherent story. 

Ruth's book list on group biographies

Ruth Brandon Why did Ruth love this book?

This is about a group of young women dealing with sex, contraception, powerlessness, and the conflicting demands of family and work. It appeared in 1963, was set in 1933, and was scandalously frank. But women’s lives and problems have not changed. Candace Bushnell, advised by her editor to write a modern version of it, produced Sex and the City. Need one say more?

By Mary McCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

* 'I consider it a masterpiece' HILARY MANTEL
* 'A brilliant novel: honest, engaging and sharp as a tack' SARAH WATERS
* 'One of my favourite books ever' INDIA KNIGHT

When first published in 1963, The Group was on a bestseller for almost two years. This groundbreaking novel, with its frank depiction of friendship, sex, and women's lives, was a revelation, and continues to inspire today.

Mary McCarthy's most celebrated novel portrays the lives and aspirations of eight Vassar graduates. 'The group' meet in New York following graduation to attend the wedding of one of their members - and reconvene…


Book cover of Brief Lives - Volume I

Ruth Brandon Author Of Surreal Lives: The Surrealists 1917-1945

From my list on group biographies.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love writing group biographies (I‘ve written four and my next book, Spellbound by Marcel: Duchamp, Love, and Art, will be another). I enjoy the intellectual scope they offer, the way they let you explore a world. I’m less interested in the details of individual lives than in the opportunity biography offers to explore social history, and group biography is particularly suited to that. They’re not easy to do, it’s no good putting down just one damn life after another, but I enjoy the challenge of finding the shape that will let me fit everyone’s personalities and ideas into a coherent story. 

Ruth's book list on group biographies

Ruth Brandon Why did Ruth love this book?

John Aubrey’s gossipy Lives allow us to glimpse the unofficial side of his famous contemporaries and near-contemporaries, among them Thomas Hobbes (whom he knew), Shakespeare (who died ten years before he was born), Sir Walter Raleigh, and many others. You can dip in and out, and if you haven’t read them, this is a treat in store.

By John Aubrey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Brief Lives - Volume I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Brief Lives - Volume I" from John Aubrey. English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer (1626 – 1697).


Book cover of The Reaper's Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

Nicholas Hudson Author Of A Political Biography of Samuel Johnson

From my list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher and writer, I am a passionate believer in the ideals of the Enlightenment. In my understanding of these ideals, they include a belief in reason and honest inquiry in the service of humanity. More and more we need these ideals against bigotry, self-delusion, greed, and cruelty. The books recommended here are among those that helped to inspire me with continued faith in the progress of the human species and our responsibility to help each other and the world we live in.

Nicholas' book list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world

Nicholas Hudson Why did Nicholas love this book?

I was on the Guggenheim committee that awarded The Reaper’s Garden the prize for the best book on the eighteenth century in 2010.

The eighteenth century marked the climax of the slave trade and the plantation system in European colonies in the Americas and elsewhere. Brown’s book brings the plantation world of eighteenth-century Jamaica alive like no other that I have read.

This was a world filled with death, not only the mortality of the African slaves but just as commonly of the white plantation owners and their families who seldom lasted two years before dying of tropical diseases. Funerals became competing sites for display between blacks and whites.

The funerals of black people became such powerful vehicles of protest and cultural identity that the plantation owners tried to repress them. Brown’s book stands out in my mind as a powerful study of the evils of slavery and morbid culture…

By Vincent Brown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Reaper's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Merle Curti Award
Winner of the James A. Rawley Prize
Winner of the Louis Gottschalk Prize
Longlisted for the Cundill Prize

"Vincent Brown makes the dead talk. With his deep learning and powerful historical imagination, he calls upon the departed to explain the living. The Reaper's Garden stretches the historical canvas and forces readers to think afresh. It is a major contribution to the history of Atlantic slavery."-Ira Berlin

From the author of Tacky's Revolt, a landmark study of life and death in colonial Jamaica at the zenith of the British slave empire.

What did people make…


Book cover of Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

Nicholas Hudson Author Of A Political Biography of Samuel Johnson

From my list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher and writer, I am a passionate believer in the ideals of the Enlightenment. In my understanding of these ideals, they include a belief in reason and honest inquiry in the service of humanity. More and more we need these ideals against bigotry, self-delusion, greed, and cruelty. The books recommended here are among those that helped to inspire me with continued faith in the progress of the human species and our responsibility to help each other and the world we live in.

Nicholas' book list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world

Nicholas Hudson Why did Nicholas love this book?

This book has perhaps the best opening of any history book ever written. This is a detailed and gruesome description of the public torture and mutilation of Robert-François Damien in 1757.

The description is meant to shock, for it illustrates the difference between a modern attitude towards punishment and the idea of punishment that prevailed in the French ancien régime before the Revolution of 1789. Today we generally see punishment not as a means to display the state’s anger against those who defy its authority but rather as a means to improve society and even rehabilitate the offender.

This book opened my eyes to the modern world very much. It shows how political and social power transformed during the eighteenth century into the forms of discipline and surveillance that govern our lives today. We may not be threatened with public torture but every aspect of our behavior is shaped to…

By Michel Foucault,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A brilliant work from the most influential philosopher since Sartre.

In this indispensable work, a brilliant thinker suggests that such vaunted reforms as the abolition of torture and the emergence of the modern penitentiary have merely shifted the focus of punishment from the prisoner's body to his soul.


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