10 books like The Silk Roads

By Peter Frankopan,

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

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Against the Grain

By James C. Scott,

Book cover of Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States

Scott takes us through the evidence of the earliest hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies and asks why anyone ever allowed rulers to amass power and centralize control of resources. The evidence is that farmers flourished for centuries without letting anyone lord it over them. Why, then, does agriculture seem to have led to the rise of the state? Readable and compelling, Scott's latest book makes a really convincing case against the benefits, and inevitability, of the state.

Against the Grain

By James C. Scott,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Against the Grain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An Economist Best History Book 2017

"History as it should be written."-Barry Cunliffe, Guardian

"Scott hits the nail squarely on the head by exposing the staggering price our ancestors paid for civilization and political order."-Walter Scheidel, Financial Times

Why did humans abandon hunting and gathering for sedentary communities dependent on livestock and cereal grains, and governed by precursors of today's states? Most people believe that plant and animal domestication allowed humans, finally, to settle down and form agricultural villages, towns, and states, which made possible civilization, law, public order, and a presumably secure way of living. But archaeological and historical…

The Master and His Emissary

By Iain McGilchrist,

Book cover of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

Philosopher and psychiatrist McGilchrist presented a bold thesis about the working of the human mind. It has profound implications for the way we understand human societies. We’ve long known that the two halves of the brain perform different functions but, using approachable case studies and clearly presenting the science, the first half of the book argues that the left, more rational, part of the brain is dangerously dominant. Controlling and grasping, it needs to remain subordinate to the more inclusive, humane, and intuitive functions of the right brain. McGilchrist goes on to trace the consequences for the development of human societies and their problems. The ideas linger, relevant to practically all aspects of our lives.

The Master and His Emissary

By Iain McGilchrist,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Master and His Emissary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A pioneering exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history, and culture-"one of the few contemporary works deserving classic status" (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times, London)

"Persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative 'master' the right. Brilliant and disturbing."-Salley Vickers, a Guardian Best Book of the Year

"I know of no better exposition of the current state of functional brain neuroscience."-W. F. Bynum, TLS

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been…

Sapiens

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

I was blown away by this book and then went on to read his second and third books and can’t wait for his fourth book! The book is an elegant and easier-to-understand version of many longer and harder-to-read books trying to unearth and explain similar matters. Also I agree with Harari about so much of what he’s trying to teach.  

Read the book and you’ll understand so much more about what makes humans tick!

Sapiens

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…


The Anarchy

By William Dalrymple,

Book cover of The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire

It’s hard to understand why much, if not most, Middle East foreign policy in the previous two world wars was driven by Britain’s need to protect access to India without reading William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy. Dalrymple goes back four centuries to explain, in a stunning portrait of the first public-private partnership between a government and a multinational corporation, the East India Company that fractured the enormously wealthy Mughal empire and then the British Parliament when it was discovered to be using its own shares to buy politicians willing to subvert the law in its favor. Parliament’s willingness to unleash The Company to pillage countries it wished to subjugate did not go unnoticed in America, where patriots dumped its tea into Boston Harbor and triggered the American War of Independence in order to prevent “America being devoured by rats”: this, however, did not prevent 20th-century American monopolies from insinuating themselves…

The Anarchy

By William Dalrymple,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Anarchy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE TOP 5 SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S BEST BOOKS OF 2019 THE TIMES HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR FINALIST FOR THE CUNDILL HISTORY PRIZE 2020 LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION 2019 A FINANCIAL TIMES, OBSERVER, DAILY TELEGRAPH, WALL STREET JOURNAL AND TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 'Dalrymple is a superb historian with a visceral understanding of India ... A book of beauty' - Gerard DeGroot, The Times In August 1765 the East India Company defeated the young Mughal emperor and forced him to establish a new administration in his richest provinces. Run by English…

1491

By Charles C. Mann,

Book cover of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

Charles Mann's book was an eye-opener to many people, pointing out that much of the history we learned as children in school was wrong. The realization that the pre-Columbian cultures in the Americas were rich, vibrant, and advanced has taken time to be accepted broadly, but Mann's book pushes that understanding to a new level. The book combines history with science and archaeology to present a full picture of the American history we never learned.

1491

By Charles C. Mann,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked 1491 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A groundbreaking work of science, history, and archaeology that radically alters our understanding of the Americas before the arrival of Columbus in 1492—from “a remarkably engaging writer” (The New York Times Book Review).
 
Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness; rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. The astonishing Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had running water and immaculately clean streets, and was larger than any contemporary European city. Mexican cultures created corn in a specialized…


The American Plague

By Molly Caldwell Crosby,

Book cover of The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic That Shaped Our History

Yellow fever, like many feared diseases, conjures up an image of faraway, steamy rain forests. At one time, yellow fever really was found there. But the disease—and the mosquito that carries it—didn't stay there. I was surprised to learn how prominent and feared yellow fever was in early Colonial America and that it persisted in the United States through the early 20th Century. Crosby provides background on the disease from Africa, its path to the Americas, and routine epidemics in New Orleans, but the book's primary focus is the account of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878 that decimated Memphis, Tennessee, and other towns along the Mississippi River.  I liked this book for filling in the blanks in my awareness and understanding of this American plague. 

The American Plague

By Molly Caldwell Crosby,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this account, a journalist traces the course of the infectious disease known as yellow fever, “vividly [evoking] the Faulkner-meets-Dawn of the Dead horrors” (The New York Times Book Review) of this killer virus.

Over the course of history, yellow fever has paralyzed governments, halted commerce, quarantined cities, moved the U.S. capital, and altered the outcome of wars. During a single summer in Memphis alone, it cost more lives than the Chicago fire, the San Francisco earthquake, and the Johnstown flood combined.

In 1900, the U.S. sent three doctors to Cuba to discover how yellow fever was spread. There, they…


The Dead Wander in the Desert

By Rollan Seisenbayev, John Farndon (translator), Olga Nakston (translator)

Book cover of The Dead Wander in the Desert

The shrinking of the Aral Sea is arguably the greatest manmade environmental disaster of the 20th century. Kazakh writer Rollan Seisenbayev uses the catastrophe as the backdrop for his novel, exploring the impact on local people through the eyes of a fisherman and his son who are confronted not only with the vanishing sea but as a result also the disappearance of their livelihood and future. The Dead Wander in the Desert was long-listed for the PEN Translation Prize and deserves to be much more widely read. 

The Dead Wander in the Desert

By Rollan Seisenbayev, John Farndon (translator), Olga Nakston (translator)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Dead Wander in the Desert as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the PEN Translation Prize.

From Kazakhstan's most celebrated author comes his powerful and timely English-language debut about a fisherman's struggle to save the Aral Sea, and its way of life, from man-made ecological disaster.

Unfolding on the vast grasslands of the steppes of Kazakhstan before its independence from the USSR, this haunting novel limns the struggles of the world through the eyes of Nasyr, a simple fisherman and village elder, and his resolute son, Kakharman. Both father and son confront the terrible future that is coming to the poisoned Aral Sea.

Once the fourth-largest lake on earth, it…

The Dawn of Everything

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Book cover of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity

I loved the speculative audacity of this alternative story of how human civilizations evolve—a collaboration of an anthropologist and an archeologist. The authors take aim at two foundational myths of the human journey. First, they argue that we should not accept as universal an increasingly sophisticated and hierarchical trajectory from hunter-gatherers to farmers to city-dwellers. They present evidence of civilizations that voluntarily abandoned urban life for a return to agricultural and even hunter-gatherer existence. In a second major contribution the authors weave an intriguing and plausible narrative of the possibility that the articulation of the ideals of the enlightenment was a collaborative effort of indigenous North American and European philosophers and statesmen. At a time of existential crisis, the book offers hope in the diversity of human experience.

The Dawn of Everything

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Dawn of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A dramatically new understanding of human history, challenging our most fundamental assumptions about social evolution—from the development of agriculture and cities to the origins of the state, democracy, and inequality—and revealing new possibilities for human emancipation.

For generations, our remote ancestors have been cast as primitive and childlike—either free and equal innocents, or thuggish and warlike. Civilization, we are told, could be achieved only by sacrificing those original freedoms or, alternatively, by taming our baser instincts. David Graeber and David Wengrow show how such theories first emerged in the eighteenth century as a conservative reaction…


Team of Rivals

By Doris Kearns Goodwin,

Book cover of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

Doris Kearns Goodwin’s magnum opus about our 16th Commander In Chief made a powerful impression on me because it showed that before Abraham Lincoln was a remarkable President (and my favorite) he was simply a good man. Most of us won’t ever be President, but all of us can be good people. 

Team of Rivals

By Doris Kearns Goodwin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Team of Rivals as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the most influential books of the past fifty years, Team of Rivals is Pulitzer Prize–winning author and esteemed presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s modern classic about the political genius of Abraham Lincoln, his unlikely presidency, and his cabinet of former political foes.

Winner of the prestigious Lincoln Prize and the inspiration for the Oscar Award winning–film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Tony Kushner.

On May 18, 1860, William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Edward Bates, and Abraham Lincoln waited in their hometowns for the results from the Republican National Convention in Chicago.…

Letters to a Young Muslim

By Omar Saif Ghobash,

Book cover of Letters to a Young Muslim

In this gently articulated yet profoundly challenging book, Omar offers advice to his son and reflects on the assassination of his father. He challenges us about the dangers of certainty and the importance of liberty of thought and speech. “I want you to beware of anyone who tells you, with utter conviction, what you should think.” The letters are to his son, but the contents are great truths for all of us. 

Letters to a Young Muslim

By Omar Saif Ghobash,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Letters to a Young Muslim as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In a series of personal letters to his sons, Omar Saif Ghobash offers a short and highly readable manifesto that tackles our current global crisis with the training of an experienced diplomat and the personal responsibility of a father. Today's young Muslims will be tomorrow's leaders, and yet too many are vulnerable to extremist propaganda that seems omnipresent in our technological age. The burning question, Ghobash argues, is how moderate Muslims can unite to find a voice that is true to Islam while actively and productively engaging in the modern world. What does it mean to be a good Muslim?…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Silk Road, the East–West dichotomy, and Central Asia?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Silk Road, the East–West dichotomy, and Central Asia.

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