10 books like The Ornament of the World

By María Rosa Menocal,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Ornament of the World. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Bible in Spain; or, the journeys, adventures, and imprisonments of an Englishman, in an attempt to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula

By George Henry Borrow,

Book cover of The Bible in Spain; or, the journeys, adventures, and imprisonments of an Englishman, in an attempt to circulate the Scriptures in the Peninsula

On the face of it, this classic 19th-century travelogue is about one man travelling through Spain and Portugal in the 1830s distributing Bibles… which is not exactly a page-turning idea. And indeed the first section – set in Portugal – is unbearably tedious (in fact, just skip it altogether). But once Borrow crosses the border into Spain it becomes a whole other book. It’s as if he can finally cast off his dour, pious disguise and write about what really excites him: Spanish Gypsies. Already speaking their language (the man was a machine when it came to picking up foreign tongues), he falls in with them almost immediately, leading to numerous colourful adventures as he wends his way in Quixotic fashion across the country. The tales he tells are exotic and Romantic (with a capital ‘R’) and capture something of the ineffable essence of the country: a playful, mysterious and…


Tuning Up at Dawn

By Tomas Graves,

Book cover of Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca

The books in this list are all written by non-Spaniards, for obvious reasons. This one is almost an exception. Tomás Graves is the eighth son of the English poet and novelist Robert Graves. He has lived almost his entire life on the island of Mallorca, and is, effectively, as native as they come. Tuning Up at Dawn is a wonderfully lyrical account of his upbringing, his memories of his father, and his life as a musician. It is deliciously evocative of a slower world which has now all but disappeared.

Tuning Up at Dawn

By Tomas Graves,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A loving portrait of the other Majorca, and of a blissful life there revolving around the magic of music - a book to savour, perfect for escaping those crowded beaches.

Tomas Graves was born in and belongs to Majorca. His father, the great love poet Robert Graves, famously ended up on the beautiful Mediterranean island pretty much by accident, but it is the happiest accident of Tomas' life. His love for the special beauties of Majorcan culture shines on every page of this infectiously happy book. This is the real Majorca. 'Tuning Up at Dawn' examines both the suppression and…


Madrid

By Jules Stewart,

Book cover of Madrid: A Guide for Literary Travellers

Hemingway (who might have fully ‘got’ Spain if he had been less obsessed with ‘being Hemingway’) once described Madrid as ‘the centre of the world’. Jules Stewart is a former reporter who knows the city like the back of his hand. In this book he provides a perfect guide for travellers (even of the armchair variety) around what is one of the most vibrant European capitals. From Dalí’s favourite café to the place where Cervantes drew his last breath, it brings the history of the place alive like nothing else.

Madrid

By Jules Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hemingway called Madrid 'the most Spanish of all cities' and the 'centre of the world'; it was a place that drew him back again and again. But he wasn't the only writer to have been inspired by this proud city which fizzes with energy and is so infused with art and literature. From the Cafe Gijon, a popular hang-out of Lorca, Dali and Bunuel, and the Bar Chicote, Hemingway's preferred watering hole and a popular haunt for bohemian Madrid during the Civil War, to the Hotel Florida where John Dos Passos and Antoine de Saint Exupery used to stay, to…


Forgotten Places

By Nick Lloyd,

Book cover of Forgotten Places: Barcelona and the Spanish Civil War

Another book which brings the history of a city to life. For years, Nick Lloyd has been leading highly informative guided walks around Barcelona sites associated with the Spanish Civil War, and now he has compiled much of his vast knowledge on the subject in this excellent book. Packed with fascinating details and anecdotes, this is pretty much the last word on the subject.

Forgotten Places

By Nick Lloyd,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a guide to Barcelona in the Spanish Civil War, beginning in the 19th century with the conditions and movements which led to the social revolution of 1936, and ending with the fall of the city on 26 January 1939 when Franco's tanks drove down the Diagonal and set about destroying everything the Republic and the revolutionaries had built. Stories from the aftermath of the war, the exile and the Franco regime are also included. In addition with dealing with the more obvious issues such as anarchism, the Spanish Republic, Catalonia, George Orwell, the aerial bombing, and the May…


The Cloister

By James Carroll,

Book cover of The Cloister: A Novel

The Cloister: A Novel by James Carroll (Anchor, 2019) is a gripping, magical novel that dramatizes the connections between the medieval and modern worlds. Father James Kavanaugh meets Rachel Vedette at the Cloisters, the famous museum and gallery in upper Manhattan dedicated to the art of the Middle Ages. He is a parish priest with doubts and worries; she is a Holocaust survivor; and their relationship brilliantly conjures up the forbidden love affair between the medieval philosopher and “rock star,” Peter Abelard, and Heloise, an immensely talented nun. James Carroll, a former priest, is also the author of Constantine’s Sword, a memorable non-fiction book about the history of the Church and the Jews. The Cloister paints convincing pictures of Abelard and Heloise and creatively blurs the line between modernity and religious tradition.    

The Cloister

By James Carroll,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Héloïse, and its impact on a modern priest and a Holocaust survivor seeking sanctuary in Manhattan.

Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked when he sees a friend from his seminary days at the altar of his humble parish in upper Manhattan—a friend who was forced to leave under scandalous circumstances. Compelled to reconsider the past, Father Kavanagh wanders into the medieval haven of the Cloisters and stumbles into a conversation with a lovely and intriguing docent, Rachel Vedette.

Having survived the Holocaust…


Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

By Etienne Gilson,

Book cover of Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

Etienne Gilson was the leading intellectual historian of the medieval Church in France, and this is the clearest, most lucid exposition of St. Thomas Aquinas’s thinking that I have read. Perhaps because the Roman Catholic Church has often used Aquinas’s thinking to justify conservative positions, we often forget that he was a world-class genius who radicalized religious and ethical thought in the Middle Ages, and whose work helped inspire later movements of reform like the Vatican II Council. Gilson’s sympathetic treatment of Aquinas restored this understanding of his thinking and helped produce the modern neo-Thomist movement. It is worth reading – and it is readable!

Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas

By Etienne Gilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this final edition of his classic study of St. Thomas Aquinas, Etienne Gilson presents the sweeping range and organic unity of Thomistic philosophical thought. The philosophical thinking of Aquinas is the result of reason being challenged to relate to many theological conceptions of the Christian tradition. Gilson carefully reviews how Aquinas grapples with the relation itself of faith and reason and continuing through the existence and nature of God and His creation, the world and its creatures, especially human beings with their power of intellect, will, and moral life. He concludes this study by discussing the life of people…


The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages

By Edward Grant,

Book cover of The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional and Intellectual Contexts

Edward Grant’s book begins, as mine does, with the medieval rediscovery of Aristotle’s works, but he focuses more intensively than I do on the impact of the new learning on scientific education and discovery. Writing clearly and gracefully, Grant demonstrates that a real scientific revolution began three hundred years before the “Scientific Revolution” of the sixteenth century. Along the way, he has some fascinating things to say about the curriculum of medieval universities and life among the first generation of European scientists. A valuable and enjoyable read.    

The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages

By Edward Grant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Contrary to prevailing opinion, the roots of modern science were planted in the ancient and medieval worlds long before the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. Indeed, that revolution would have been inconceivable without the cumulative antecedent efforts of three great civilisations: Greek, Islamic, and Latin. With the scientific riches it derived by translation from Greco-Islamic sources in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Christian Latin civilisation of Western Europe began the last leg of the intellectual journey that culminated in a scientific revolution that transformed the world. The factors that produced this unique achievement are found in the way…


Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition

By Sir Anthony Kenny,

Book cover of Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition

Readers seriously interested in the continuing influence of Aristotle on Western and global thinking will find the short book of Sir Anthony Kenney’s essays both useful and enjoyable. The author, a well-known authority on the history of Western philosophy, Thomas Aquinas, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, writes with panache on a wide variety of topics relevant to Aristotelian thought and modern intellectual and social life.      

Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition

By Sir Anthony Kenny,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Essays on the Aristotelian Tradition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

During most of the Christian millennia Aristotle has been the most influential of all philosophers. This selection of essays by the eminent philosopher and Aristotle scholar Anthony Kenny traces this influence through the ages. Particular attention is given to Aristotle's ethics and philosophy of mind, showing how they provided the framework for much fruitful development in the Middle Ages and again in the present century. Also included are some contributions to the
most recent form of Aristotelian scholarship, computer-assisted stylometry. All who work on Aristotle and his intellectual legacy will find much to interest them in these Essays on the…


Communities of Violence

By David Nirenberg,

Book cover of Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages

This is a scholarly book, beautifully written but challenging both in its exposition and argument. Grounded in deep archival research, Nirenberg examines violence against religious minorities—Jews and Muslims—in the lands of the Christian Crown of Aragon in northeastern Spain and southern France. Navigating between rose-tinted and bleak accounts of this past, he makes the surprising argument that the long coexistence between Jews, Christians, and Muslims depended on regular and almost ritualistic violence between them. Violence, he proposes, enabled peace.

Communities of Violence

By David Nirenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the wake of modern genocide, we tend to think of violence against minorities as a sign of intolerance, or, even worse, a prelude to extermination. Violence in the Middle Ages, however, functioned differently, according to David Nirenberg. In this provocative book, he focuses on specific attacks against minorities in fourteenth-century France and the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia). He argues that these attacks--ranging from massacres to verbal assaults against Jews, Muslims, lepers, and prostitutes--were often perpetrated not by irrational masses laboring under inherited ideologies and prejudices, but by groups that manipulated and reshaped the available discourses on…


The Dream of the Poem

By Peter Cole,

Book cover of The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492

Among the wonders of medieval Spain is the appearance of the first Hebrew secular poetry since Biblical times. In this masterful and unparalleled set of translations by Peter Cole, we witness the profound, pious, chauvinistic, and indeed, sensual traditions of secular poetry over centuries. A fusion of Arabic and Hebrew traditions, in and of themselves, these poems stand as a metaphor for the Jewish community itself as well as its dynamism and endurance under Muslim and then, Christian rule. 

The Dream of the Poem

By Peter Cole,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hebrew culture experienced a renewal in medieval Spain that produced what is arguably the most powerful body of Jewish poetry written since the Bible. Fusing elements of East and West, Arabic and Hebrew, and the particular and the universal, this verse embodies an extraordinary sensuality and intense faith that transcend the limits of language, place, and time. Peter Cole's translations reveal this remarkable poetic world to English readers in all of its richness, humor, grace, gravity, and wisdom. The Dream of the Poem traces the arc of the entire period, presenting some four hundred poems by fifty-four poets, and including…


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