100 books like The Rhetoric of Religion

By Kenneth Burke,

Here are 100 books that The Rhetoric of Religion fans have personally recommended if you like The Rhetoric of Religion. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Birth and Death of Meaning

Jeff Greenberg Author Of The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life

From my list on the core desires that guide human behavior.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Regents Professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona. Ever since I was a child growing up in the South Bronx, I have been interested in why people are so driven to believe they are right and good, and why there is so much prejudice in the world. This has led to me to a lifelong exploration of the basic motivations that guide people’s actions, and how these motivations influence how people view themselves and others, and the goals they pursue.

Jeff's book list on the core desires that guide human behavior

Jeff Greenberg Why did Jeff love this book?

This is to me is the best book ever written for understanding what human beings are, how we are similar to and different from other animal species, how we develop from helpless newborns to fully functioning adults, and what we are striving for in our lives. Most nonfiction books make a point and then repeat it over and over with examples and anecdotes. In contrast, The Birth and Death of Meaning begins with evolution and progresses logically from its first page to its last. When you finish this book, you will have a much better understanding of yourself, the people in your life, historical and current events, and problems ranging from anxiety and depression to interpersonal conflict to prejudice.  

By Ernest Becker,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Birth and Death of Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Uses the disciplines of psychology, anthropology, sociology and psychiatry to explain what makes people act the way they do.


Book cover of Steps to an Ecology of Mind

Corey Anton Author Of Sources of Significance: Worldly Rejuvenation and Neo-Stoic Heroism

From my list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition.

Why am I passionate about this?

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University, Vice-President of the Institute of General Semantics, Past President of the Media Ecology Association, and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and author. His research spans the fields of media ecology, semiotics, phenomenology, stoicism, death studies, the philosophy of communication, and multidisciplinary communication theory.

Corey's book list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition

Corey Anton Why did Corey love this book?

Gregory Bateson, an intellectual maverick, had an evolutionary rule named after him when he was a teenager, (his father was a famed geneticist), was the formulator, along with Jurgen Ruesch, of the double-bind hypothesis of schizophrenia, and was a pioneer in the field of mammalian communication. Given its wide range of address to issues within evolutionary biology, psychiatry, anthropology, systems theory, cybernetics, and communication theory, this is a classic “must read” collection of short essays. Bateson’s unrelentingly original and provocative analyses provoke thought and defy any easy categorization. At the very least, he shows how mammalian play, as multileveled interaction, paves the way for the evolution of human language, and also, how human interaction, with its multiple logical types and different kinds of learning, occurs at various levels of abstraction.

By Gregory Bateson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Steps to an Ecology of Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gregory Bateson was a philosopher, anthropologist, photographer, naturalist, and poet, as well as the husband and collaborator of Margaret Mead. With a new foreword by his daughter Mary Katherine Bateson, this classic anthology of his major work will continue to delight and inform generations of readers.

"This collection amounts to a retrospective exhibition of a working life. . . . Bateson has come to this position during a career that carried him not only into anthropology, for which he was first trained, but into psychiatry, genetics, and communication theory. . . . He . . . examines the nature of…


Book cover of Interaction Ritual: Essays in Face-to-Face Behavior

Corey Anton Author Of Sources of Significance: Worldly Rejuvenation and Neo-Stoic Heroism

From my list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition.

Why am I passionate about this?

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University, Vice-President of the Institute of General Semantics, Past President of the Media Ecology Association, and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and author. His research spans the fields of media ecology, semiotics, phenomenology, stoicism, death studies, the philosophy of communication, and multidisciplinary communication theory.

Corey's book list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition

Corey Anton Why did Corey love this book?

Erving Goffman was a Canadian sociologist and the founder of the “dramaturgical” tradition within sociology, where metaphors of the stage and theatre are brought to the analysis of everyday life. This particular book is a collection of his early essays concerning “encounters,” or what happens when people, wittingly or unwittingly, come face-to-face and share information, handle interpersonal incidents, and manage identities. With surgeon-like precision, Goffman engages in “micro-sociology” analyses, nuanced descriptions of the ritual expression games in which interactants engage when they come into each other’s presence. The book is a delight to read partly due to Goffman’s uncanny ability to verbally capture the most subtle of expressions and to sum up relevant dynamics within interpersonal interaction; many of his sentences bear the fine-grade clarity of high-definition TV.

By Erving Goffman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Not then, men and their moments. Rather, moment and their men," writes Erving Goffman in the introduction to his groundbreaking 1967 Interaction Ritual, a study of face-to-face interaction in natural settings, that class of events which occurs during co-presence and by virtue of co-presence. The ultimate behavioral materials are the glances, gestures, positionings, and verbal statements that people continuously feed into situations, whether intended or not.

A sociology of occasions is here advocated. Social organization is the central theme, but what is organized is the co-mingling of persons and the temporary interactional enterprises that can arise therefrom. A normatively stabilized…


Book cover of Philosophy in a New Key: A Study in the Symbolism of Reason, Rite, and Art

Corey Anton Author Of Sources of Significance: Worldly Rejuvenation and Neo-Stoic Heroism

From my list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition.

Why am I passionate about this?

Corey Anton is Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University, Vice-President of the Institute of General Semantics, Past President of the Media Ecology Association, and a Fellow of the International Communicology Institute. He is an award-winning teacher and author. His research spans the fields of media ecology, semiotics, phenomenology, stoicism, death studies, the philosophy of communication, and multidisciplinary communication theory.

Corey's book list on language and symbols and how they relate to the human condition

Corey Anton Why did Corey love this book?

Susanne K. Langer was a philosopher of aesthetics, and a specialist in the nature of symbolism and language. This classic book, dedicated to Alfred North Whitehead, contains her now somewhat famous distinction between “presentational forms” and “discursive forms,” which refers, roughly to symbolism such as sculpture and architecture which present much-at-once, and symbolism such as music and language which disclose their meaning linearly over time. She also brilliantly lays out her views on “Language,” where in a chapter by that name, she critiques instinct theories, challenges naïve views, and speculates on how human beings are evolutionary descendants of singing, dancing, pantomiming apes.

By Susanne K. Langer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophy in a New Key as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Modern theories of meaning usually culminate in a critique of science. This book presents a study of human intelligence beginning with a semantic theory and leading into a critique of music.

By implication it sets up a theory of all the arts; the transference of its basic concepts to other arts than music is not developed, but it is sketched, mainly in the chapter on artistic import. Thoughtful readers of the original edition discovered these far-reaching ideas quickly enough as the career of the book shows: it is as applicable to literature, art and music as to the field of…


Book cover of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Chad LeJeune Author Of "Pure O" OCD: Letting Go of Obsessive Thoughts with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

From my list on thoughts, and our relationship with them.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a clinical psychologist, I listen to thoughts all the time. I’m also having my own, constantly. We rely on our thoughts to help us navigate the world. However, our thoughts can also be a source of suffering. At times, they're not such reliable guides or helpers. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a way of thinking about thinking. ACT captured my imagination early in my clinical career. I trained with ACT’s originator, Steven Hayes, in the early 1990’s. I’ve come to believe that being more aware of our own thoughts, and our relationship to them is key to creating positive change and living a life grounded in our values.

Chad's book list on thoughts, and our relationship with them

Chad LeJeune Why did Chad love this book?

In this witty and provocative book, psycholinguistics researcher Steven Pinker explores the role of language in shaping our experience of reality. 

Human-style thinking would not be possible without our capacity for language. Thoughts are basically internal language. Among the basic experiences shaped by linguistics is our experience of time. 

We use language to construct a spatial metaphor for time, thinking in terms of “moving” “forward” or “backward” in time. Pinker takes us for a walk around the metaphorical space of consciousness, examining how language shapes our experience of the world.   

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize finalist author of The Blank Slate presents an accessible study of the relationship between language and human nature, explaining how everything from swearing and innuendo to prepositions and baby names reveal facts about key human concepts, emotions, and relationships.


Book cover of Noir

S.J. Lomas Author Of In Between: Poems of Midlife

From my list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never thought I’d be a poetry lover. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. During that time, I took quite a few poetry classes, even though I didn’t consider myself a huge poetry fan. Over the course of those classes, I learned that poetry isn’t all about abstract, obscure themes, and academic language. It’s also a way for humans to communicate the feelings and experiences in one heart to another. Once I learned that poetry doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing, I found that I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to help other people discover that poetry can be more accessible and satisfying than what they may have studied in school. 

S.J.'s book list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry

S.J. Lomas Why did S.J. love this book?

This is unlike any poetry collection I’ve read before. The language is accessible, the material is creative, rich, and a little on the dark side. There’s so much unique imagery and beautiful phrasing that it just delighted me to read it. It’s the kind of poetry book that doesn’t try to be verbose and obtuse just for the sake of poetry. Although it explores some gritty themes, it’s a lot of fun.

By Derek R. King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tick. Tock.

….Tick….....tock…..

Can you hear that?

That’s the sound of the clocks getting ready to fall back. The nights stretch longer as the days shrink shorter. Creatures of the night come out to play; to fill autumn’s twilights and winter’s chills.

And at the edge of this mist infused scene, Derek R King stands and drinks in this dream. Muse by his side (or is she within), her whispered breath caresses his ears, as she drapes him in words:
“Let the poetry begin.”


Book cover of Nudes and Victims

S.J. Lomas Author Of In Between: Poems of Midlife

From my list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry.

Why am I passionate about this?

I never thought I’d be a poetry lover. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. During that time, I took quite a few poetry classes, even though I didn’t consider myself a huge poetry fan. Over the course of those classes, I learned that poetry isn’t all about abstract, obscure themes, and academic language. It’s also a way for humans to communicate the feelings and experiences in one heart to another. Once I learned that poetry doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing, I found that I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to help other people discover that poetry can be more accessible and satisfying than what they may have studied in school. 

S.J.'s book list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry

S.J. Lomas Why did S.J. love this book?

I love this book because it’s like a collection of very short stories, in poem form. It reads like slices of real life, captured in verbal snapshots. 

Again, one of my favorite things is poetry which uses everyday language and captures the beauty, sorrow, struggle, and joy of normal life. This book is excellent to dip in and out of for a quick little glimpse of life to enjoy and inspire. There’s something in this book for everyone.

By Michael Lawrence,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

I have published a great many novels and stories and been translated into more than 20 languages, but long before I began to publish fiction I wrote poems, a number of which were published in poetry magazines, newspapers and suchlike – until the day I decided that, while continuing to write poems, I no longer wanted to see them in print. NUDES & VICTIMS contains a hundred of the poems written from 1967 to 2001, plus 30 song lyrics written between 1975 and 2012.

I can be contacted at [email protected]


Book cover of Word and Object

Gary Kemp Author Of What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

From my list on those interested in language itself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher of language (and of art) and have been for 30+ years. Why philosophy of language? Well, it encourages a certain salutary kind of self-consciousness—which is extremely valuable to philosophy—and facilitates greater rigor. But it only got going some one hundred and twenty years ago. So it's modern(ish) as well as deep.  And whereas it might seem a narrow slice of the philosophical pie, it isn't; it seems to provide fruitful ways of thinking for almost any philosophical subject. For example, rather than 'What is X?', we ask 'What do we mean by "X"?'; a subtle difference perhaps but the change in perspective might be a key.

Gary's book list on those interested in language itself

Gary Kemp Why did Gary love this book?

I found this book's scientific rigor, systematicity, depth, and wisdom unmatchable. I liked "the passion for desert landscapes" together with the wit.

It’s not easy, at first, to see the philosophical significance of the discussion until you do, and you’re attracted to the idea that philosophy is too often a mere verbal tangle. Quine agrees, and he tries to explain why. 

By Willard Van Orman Quine,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new edition of Quine's most important work.

Willard Van Orman Quine begins this influential work by declaring, "Language is a social art. In acquiring it we have to depend entirely on intersubjectively available cues as to what to say and when." As Patricia Smith Churchland notes in her foreword to this new edition, with Word and Object Quine challenged the tradition of conceptual analysis as a way of advancing knowledge. The book signaled twentieth-century philosophy's turn away from metaphysics and what Churchland calls the "phony precision" of conceptual analysis.

In the course of his discussion of meaning and the…


Book cover of The Boundaries of Babel: The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages

Asya Pereltsvaig Author Of Languages of the World: An Introduction

From my list on how human language works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by languages since my teenage years, when, in addition to my native Russian, I learned English, French, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, and Esperanto to varying degrees of fluency. But it was in college that I decided to pursue linguistics as a profession, in part influenced by one of the books on my list! After 20 years of doing scientific research and teaching linguistics at different universities, I switched gears and now focus on bringing linguistic science to the general audience of lifelong learners. Even if you don’t change your career, like I did, I hope you enjoy reading the books on my list as much as I have!  

Asya's book list on how human language works

Asya Pereltsvaig Why did Asya love this book?

I couldn’t put down this book from the very first pages that tell the story of Monsieur Leborgne and how Doctor Broca, who treated him, made the vital linguistic discovery that immortalized his name.

I learned that some groundbreaking linguistic discoveries are still made in hospitals, but one no longer needs to have a brain injury to be of interest to neurolinguistic science.

I also loved discovering how clever experiments are designed and how MRI gives us a window into how language works in the brain in real-time. 

Book cover of Don't Believe a Word: The Surprising Truth About Language

Clare Williams Author Of An Economic Sociology of Law Reimagined: Beyond Embeddedness

From my list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by (and in love with) language for as long as I can remember; how and why it works, and how slight alterations in phrasing and framing can produce vastly different results in practice. I love looking out for metaphors and phrases that function as tools, directing how we understand and engage with the world. While my research applies these insights to both law and economics, the key takeaways are widely applicable and relevant to all areas of life. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have.

Clare's book list on how we use metaphor and how metaphor uses us

Clare Williams Why did Clare love this book?

Shariatmadari writes beautifully, and this book will make you think differently about how we use language and how that language uses and shapes us, both as individual actors and as a society. Our language – those everyday vocabularies and grammars that we deploy without a second thought – is neither original nor value-free; instead, “to speak is ‘to swim in an inherited stream of images and words’”, crafted by generations before us. For small talk, this may not matter so much. But for the bigger, weightier things in life, for the things that really matter, the way we talk can have real consequences on what we are able to understand, and how we are able to respond.

By David Shariatmadari,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Don't Believe a Word as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Think you know language? Think again.

There are languages that change when your mother-in-law is present. The language you speak could make you more prone to accidents. Swear words are produced in a special part of your brain.

Over the past few decades, we have reached new frontiers of linguistic knowledge. Linguists can now explain how and why language changes, describe its structures, and map its activity in the brain. But despite these advances, much of what people believe about language is based on folklore, instinct, or hearsay. We imagine a word's origin is it's "true" meaning, that foreign languages…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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