38 books like The Silk House

By Kayte Nunn,

Here are 38 books that The Silk House fans have personally recommended if you like The Silk House. 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 Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

Deborah Swift Author Of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

From my list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historical fiction author but have always enjoyed actually making things as well as writing. In the past, I was a theatre designer, so I was often immersed in recreating antique objects for the stage. Our versions weren’t the real thing–but it meant researching old crafts and then imitating them to build a convincing fake version. My research filled me with great admiration and respect for the real craftsmen of the past–their skill and artistry, and I only have to look at our old cathedrals–so lovingly created, to be inspired all over again.

Deborah's book list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople

Deborah Swift Why did Deborah love this book?

Every Renaissance fan loves a bit of Leonardo, don’t they? And I was intrigued by the relationship between the older, established artist Leonardo and the hot-headed Michelangelo.

This is a brilliantly written book with lots of glorious details about art and painting. These are two giants of their time, and it was a brave subject to tackle–Storey manages to convey their intellect as well as their art.

Reading about the sheer labour involved in carving a block of stone into something human was really awe-inspiring, and Stephanie Storey does a great job of getting inside the heads of these two men.

By Stephanie Storey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In her brilliant debut, Storey brings early 16th-century Florence alive, entering with extraordinary empathy into the minds and souls of two Renaissance masters, creating a stunning art history thriller. From 1501 to 1505, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti both lived and worked in Florence. Leonardo was a charming, handsome fifty year-old at the peak of his career. Michelangelo was a temperamental sculptor in his mid-twenties, desperate to make a name for himself.

Michelangelo is a virtual unknown when he returns to Florence and wins the commission to carve what will become one of the most famous sculptures of all…


Book cover of The Painter's Apprentice

Deborah Swift Author Of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

From my list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historical fiction author but have always enjoyed actually making things as well as writing. In the past, I was a theatre designer, so I was often immersed in recreating antique objects for the stage. Our versions weren’t the real thing–but it meant researching old crafts and then imitating them to build a convincing fake version. My research filled me with great admiration and respect for the real craftsmen of the past–their skill and artistry, and I only have to look at our old cathedrals–so lovingly created, to be inspired all over again.

Deborah's book list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople

Deborah Swift Why did Deborah love this book?

I loved the detail of the craft of gilding in this book, a craft that is little known today. I was interested, too, in the effect that the plague had on the city of Venice. Another plus for me was that Maria’s love interest was a Moor, Cristiano, and this added to the slow-burn tension of the relationship.

For me, this was the sort of historical fiction I don’t read often–immaculately researched with plenty of insider details that could only be known by an expert. Though the story doesn’t move particularly fast, it did make me think and immersed me in the period. 

By Laura Morelli,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Would you rather sacrifice your livelihood, your lover, or your life?

When the Black Death comes knocking on your door, you'd better decide quickly.

ERIC HOFFER GRAND PRIZE FINALIST

EDITOR'S CHOICE, HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW

Venice, 1510. Maria Bartolini wants nothing more than to carry on her father’s legacy as a master gilder. Instead, her father has sent her away from the only home she’s ever known to train as an apprentice to Master Trevisan, a renowned painter.

Maria arranges to leave the painter’s workshop to return to her family workshop and to a secret lover waiting for her back home.…


Book cover of The Glassblower of Murano

Deborah Swift Author Of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

From my list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historical fiction author but have always enjoyed actually making things as well as writing. In the past, I was a theatre designer, so I was often immersed in recreating antique objects for the stage. Our versions weren’t the real thing–but it meant researching old crafts and then imitating them to build a convincing fake version. My research filled me with great admiration and respect for the real craftsmen of the past–their skill and artistry, and I only have to look at our old cathedrals–so lovingly created, to be inspired all over again.

Deborah's book list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople

Deborah Swift Why did Deborah love this book?

I loved the descriptions of the craft of glassmaking, especially the fact that something so hard could be made out of something so hot and molten. A big part of my enjoyment of this book rested on the descriptions of glittering glass, which seemed to mirror the Venetian Lagoon.

Another thing I loved was the fact I felt a connection to Nora, who was transported from her ordinary life to a life in Venice where everything was shifting because of its watery nature. There was great attention to detail in the writing that brought the seventeenth-century past to life on the island of Murano, a closed world where no one could leave.

By Marina Fiorato,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city,…


Book cover of The Illuminator

Deborah Swift Author Of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

From my list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historical fiction author but have always enjoyed actually making things as well as writing. In the past, I was a theatre designer, so I was often immersed in recreating antique objects for the stage. Our versions weren’t the real thing–but it meant researching old crafts and then imitating them to build a convincing fake version. My research filled me with great admiration and respect for the real craftsmen of the past–their skill and artistry, and I only have to look at our old cathedrals–so lovingly created, to be inspired all over again.

Deborah's book list on historical fiction to immerse you in the old skills of artisans and craftspeople

Deborah Swift Why did Deborah love this book?

I loved the portrait of late 14th-century feudal England in this story of a master illuminator and his forbidden English translation of the Bible.

There are not many books set in this period, and it really immersed me in the time. Lady Kathryn of Blackingham Manor is a character that is both strong and vulnerable, and I was really rooting for her and for her relationship with Finn, the craftsman, to work out. The monastic life is excellently described, as is the craft of illumination.

This is a book that stayed with me for a long time with its rich portrayal of the past.

By Brenda Rickman Vantrease,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A glowing first novel that brings us "historical fiction in the grand epic manner, beautifully felt and written"

It is England, in the fourteenth century -- a time of plague, political unrest and the earliest stirrings of the Reformation. The printing press had yet to be invented, and books were rare and costly, painstakingly lettered by hand and illuminated with exquisite paintings. Finn is a master illuminator who works not only for the Church but also, in secret, for John Wycliffe of Oxford, who professes the radical idea that the Bible should be translated into English for everyone to read.…


Book cover of The Flight of Icarus: Artisan Autobiography in Early Modern Europe

James R. Farr Author Of Who Was William Hickey? A Crafted Life in Georgian England and Imperial India

From my list on autobiography, memory, identity, and the self.

Why am I passionate about this?

I stumbled upon Hickey’s memoirs and while reading them became captivated not only by the frequently hilarious episodes he recounts from his life, but also by the subject of autobiography and how narrating our life story somehow projects a sense of self and identity to the reader. Trying to grasp this process led me to exploring a wide range of books, and opened up understanding of how our selves are fashioned and what they mean to others. An endlessly fascinating subject.

James' book list on autobiography, memory, identity, and the self

James R. Farr Why did James love this book?

Amelang’s book is one-of-a-kind, a non-fiction study of hundreds of autobiographies by a group of people from whom one would not expect literary productions: common artisans and tradesmen and women. He explores through their writings covering several hundred years how a sense of individuality gradually emerged over time, pointing toward the appearance of the modern self.

By James S. Amelang,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Exploring autobiographical texts written by European urban craftsmen from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries, this wide-ranging book studies memoirs, diaries, family chronicles, travel narratives, and other forms of personal writings from Spain, France, Italy, Germany, and England. In the process, it considers the motivations of the authors, the changing forms and emphases of artisan narratives, and, more generally, the significance of written self-expression in early modern popular culture. By analyzing reading and writing as practices laden with social meaning, this work aims to illuminate the changing role of the lower classes and other groups considered marginal in the history…


Book cover of William Morris: A Life for Our Time

Jan Marsh Author Of The Collected Letters of Jane Morris

From my list on William Morris and his family.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve had a lifelong admiration for William Morris’s eloquent writings on political optimism. And how these fit with the personal life of his wife Janey and daughter May. This began with my biography of the two women, published by the feminist Pandora Press and continuing through to editing Jane Morris’s Collected Letters. Admiration is also critical engagement rather than simple fandom. We need to think, act, and endeavor to promote how we might live better lives in the world. I love the task of relating individual lives in the context of their time. Biography involves historical imagination to fill the gaps in recorded information and conceive how those in the past thought, felt and behaved.   

Jan's book list on William Morris and his family

Jan Marsh Why did Jan love this book?

This is a brilliantly written biography by the late lamented MacCarthy, for whom William Morris was the hero of heroes in regard to both design and political ideals. It’s a book that should never go out of print, indispensable to understanding the people, places, and events that determined Morris’s life, work, and historical influence.

By Fiona MacCarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize, and described by A.S.Byatt as 'one of the finest biographies ever published', this is Fiona MacCarthy's magisterial biography of William Morris, legendary designer and father of the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement.

'Thrilling, absorbing and majestic.' Independent
'Wonderfully ambitious ... The definitive Morris biography.' Sunday Times
'Delicious and intelligent, full of shining detail and mysteries respected.' Daily Telegraph
'Oh, the careful detail of this marvellous book! . . . A model of scholarly biography'. New Statesman

Since his death in 1896, William Morris has been celebrated as a giant of the Victorian era. But…


Book cover of Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts

Markus Eberl Author Of War Owl Falling: Innovation, Creativity, and Culture Change in Ancient Maya Society

From my list on innovation in the past when this wasn't yet a thing.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an archaeologist, I love prehistoric things and what can I learn from them about the people that made them and left them behind. I study ancient Maya commoners in what is now modern Guatemala. Their material remains are humble but include depictions and symbols normally found in the palaces of Maya kings and queens. First I wondered and then I studied how the title-giving war owl fell into the hands of Maya commoners. By approaching this process as innovation, I discuss creativity in the past and cultural changes that result from it.

Markus' book list on innovation in the past when this wasn't yet a thing

Markus Eberl Why did Markus love this book?

I admit that modern technology and its products are fascinating; marveling at a smartphone makes me realize, though, that I have for the most part no clue how to repair and even less so how to make it. This is not only my dilemma – Langlands discusses the challenges of making things with your own hands. His book inspired me to ask my students to collect clay, make pottery, and fire it in a course I teach. Apart from the DIY aspect, I was enthralled by his discussion of crafting as a state of being engaged. You have to know your skills and your resources very well to make a great pot!

By Alexander Langlands,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Faced with an endless supply of mass-manufactured products, we find ourselves nostalgic for goods bearing the mark of authenticity-hand-made tools, local brews, and other objects produced by human hands. Archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands reaches as far back as the Neolithic period to recover our lost sense of craft, combining deep history with detailed scientific analyses and his own experiences making traditional crafts. Craft brims with vivid storytelling, rich descriptions of natural landscape, and delightful surprises that will convince us to introduce more craft into our lives.


Book cover of Artisans in Europe, 1300-1914

Henry C. Clark Author Of Compass of Society: Commerce and Absolutism in Old-Regime France

From my list on understanding where “capitalism” came from.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long found it mysterious how we can live in what is truly one interconnected global order. Traders, merchants, deal-makers have long been viewed with suspicion. I wrote Compass of Society to explore how one country, France, with its tradition of land-based elites, could contemplate remaking itself as a “commercial society.” Adam Smith said that even in his time, everyone “becomes in some measure a merchant, and the society itself... a commercial society.” Revisionists are finding high levels of commercialization even in premodern China and India. In this list, I picked five of my favorite books that reshaped our understanding of where European “capitalism” came from.

Henry's book list on understanding where “capitalism” came from

Henry C. Clark Why did Henry love this book?

Though sometimes described as a “textbook,” this authoritative, lucidly written, and altogether reliable synthesis—covering much of Europe—is actually a fine way to learn about the guild masters who dominated pre-industrial labor. Their paradoxical condition comes through clearly: employers and employees, they were at once seamlessly integrated into the social hierarchy and ruthlessly exclusionary toward outsiders. They touted a timeless, divinely sanctioned order, while also being true wheelers and dealers for their own honor and interests, leading to levels of entrepreneurship and inequality amongst their own ranks that would surprise many.

By James R. Farr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Artisans in Europe, 1300-1914 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a survey of the history of work in general and of European urban artisans in particular, from the late middle ages to the era of industrialization. Unlike traditional histories of work and craftsmen, this book offers a multi-faceted understanding of artisan experience situated in the artisans' culture. It treats economic and institutional topics, but also devotes considerable attention to the changing ideologies of work, the role of government regulation in the world of work, the social history of craftspeople, the artisan in rebellion against the various authorities in his world, and the ceremonial and leisure life of…


Book cover of King’s Envoy

Walter Rhein Author Of The Reader of Acheron

From my list on from criminally oppressed and exploited authors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been working professionally as a writer for twenty-five years. I’m nothing close to a household name, but a number of my articles have gone viral throughout the years. I’ve had educators reach out to mention they’ve taught my work at both the high school and college levels. Writing is an occupation of passion, and the authors I’ve mentioned are all talented and passionate about their craft. It’s rare to find people who speak the truth anywhere in our society. These writers don’t just speak the truth, they make it sing.

Walter's book list on from criminally oppressed and exploited authors

Walter Rhein Why did Walter love this book?

Cas Peace is an extremely talented author. Her Artesans of Albia series is a well-realized work of fantasy and magic. Her world-building is exceptional, and the whole series has a tremendous sense of history. This is a series that you can truly sink your teeth into.

By Cas Peace,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked King’s Envoy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Taran Elijah's quest for knowledge uncovers a plot that threatens the world...In Albia, the fourth realm, the precious Artesan gift is dying. Although born to the craft, Taran is struggling to achieve his potential. Against his friends' advice, he embarks on a foolhardy plan to acquire the teaching he craves. Alone, he crosses into Andaryon, the fifth realm, but instead of finding a mentor, he stumbles upon a treacherous plot.In the wake of Taran's actions, Albia suffers a series of vicious raids. Major Sullyan of the High King's forces is sent to oppose them. But a dark and treacherous force…


Book cover of Making Modern Meals: How Americans Cook Today

David E. Sutton Author Of Bigger Fish to Fry: A Theory of Cooking as Risk, with Greek Examples

From my list on scholarly reads about cooking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in food, even as young as 3 years old I remember wanting to taste everything, and I found the process of cooking fascinating. But I really got interested in food as a topic for research during my time studying Greek culture for my PhD thesis. People on the island of Kalymnos, where I’ve conducted research for 30 years, made a strong connection between food and memory, but it was a connection that few scholars have written about until recently. So I’ve been excited to participate in a new field reflected by all of these books, and hope you will be as well.

David's book list on scholarly reads about cooking

David E. Sutton Why did David love this book?

This book really debunks many of the myths about how and whether Americans cook today.

I loved the way that the author took us  into the thoughts and practices of contemporary home cooks going about their daily cooking. I also found fascinating the comparison and contrast with those who have taken up artisanal production of sourdough bread and other skilled food products.

By Amy B. Trubek,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Home cooking is crucial to our lives but it is not necessary to our survival. Over the past century, it has become an everyday choice even though it is no longer an everyday chore. By looking closely at the stories and practices of American home cooks-witnessing them in the kitchen and at the table-Amy B. Trubek reveals our episodic but also engaged relationship to making meals. Making Modern Meals explores the state of American cooking across all its varied practices, whether cooking is considered a chore, a craft, or a creative process. Trubek challenges current assumptions about who cooks, who…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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