70 books like The Silk Roads

By Peter Frankopan,

Here are 70 books that The Silk Roads fans have personally recommended if you like The Silk Roads. 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 Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures

Zuza Zak Author Of Slavic Kitchen Alchemy: Nourishing Herbal Remedies, Magical Recipes & Folk Wisdom

From my list on wild foods and ancient ways.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in Communist Poland, and when we emigrated to the UK, I craved the tastes of my childhood. More than that, I missed the culture of foraging, preserving, fermenting, and the stories that accompanied these processes–there was something deeply ingrained in my soul that I have been called to explore within my own work. I have written four books on East European cuisine. Slavic Kitchen Alchemy is rather different from the others because of its focus on herbs, healing, and mythology. The books on this list have inspired me in my own writing, and I will keep returning to them again and again.

Zuza's book list on wild foods and ancient ways

Zuza Zak Why did Zuza love this book?

This is one of those books that takes you into a magical, new world; then you remember that, in actual fact, this is the very same world that we live in. The change of perspective that this book gives you can make you dizzy, as every page is filled with mouth-gapingly awesome facts on the life of mushrooms and what they contribute to life on this planet.

Being Polish, I always felt an affinity with mushrooms and thought that I knew more about them than your average person. In the most wonderful way, this book made me realise that I know nothing, and I love books like that.

By Merlin Sheldrake,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Entangled Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A “brilliant [and] entrancing” (The Guardian) journey into the hidden lives of fungi—the great connectors of the living world—and their astonishing and intimate roles in human life, with the power to heal our bodies, expand our minds, and help us address our most urgent environmental problems.

“Grand and dizzying in how thoroughly it recalibrates our understanding of the natural world.”—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes

ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR—Time, BBC Science Focus, The Daily Mail, Geographical, The Times, The Telegraph, New Statesman, London Evening Standard, Science Friday

When we think…

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

Fernanda Pirie Author Of The Rule of Laws: A 4,000-Year Quest to Order the World

From my list on making us rethink global history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an anthropologist on a mission to discover how people have used, and abused, law over the past 4,000 years. After a decade in a wig and gown at the London Bar, I headed back to university to pursue a long-standing interest in Tibetan culture. I spent two years living with remote villagers and nomads, freezing over dung fires, herding yaks, and learning about traditional legal practices. Now, based at the University of Oxford, I’ve turned to legal history, comparing ancient Tibetan texts with examples from all over the world. The Rule of Laws brings a long sweep of legal history and its fascinating diversity to a wide audience.

Fernanda's book list on making us rethink global history

Fernanda Pirie Why did Fernanda love this book?

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.

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…

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

James Blachowicz Author Of The Bilateral Mind as the Mirror of Nature: A Metaphilosophy

From my list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always had equally balanced interests in the arts/humanities and the natural sciences. I like to think that I inherited much of this from my analytical “algebraic” mother, who was a nurse and tended to our family finances, and my holistic “geometrical” father, who was a carpenter. It’s probably no accident that my double major in college was in physics and philosophy...and, down the line, that I should develop a focused interest in human brain laterality, where the division between analysis and holism is so prominent.

James' book list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds

James Blachowicz Why did James love this book?

This is an expansive treatment of the intellectual and cultural ramifications of the bilateral mind from ancient times to the present. The dominance of the analytic left hemisphere (the “emissary”), McGilchrist fears, threatens to usurp its experience-grounded “master” – to the detriment of human culture.

While The Master and His Emissary and The Origin of Consciousness cover similar topics, it is interesting and important to note that there are areas where their perspectives complement each other and those where they differ, such as their accounts of schizophrenia. I still find myself vacillating between the two. I sometimes wonder whether my indecision may itself be the result of my own hemispheric split.

By Iain McGilchrist,

Why should I read it?

6 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…

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Sarah McArthur Author Of The AMA Handbook of Leadership

From my list on working together towards a bright future.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a lifelong student of philosophy, leadership, and principled living. Having worked with great leaders of today and being an editor-in-chief of a leadership journal (Leader to Leader), I experience how their leadership continues the principles set forth in days long past, and I publish works by authors who are keeping these principles alive in their writing. I am grateful for the opportunity to recommend books that might help others as we grapple with how to be in the world today to create value for all.

Sarah's book list on working together towards a bright future

Sarah McArthur Why did Sarah love this book?

I'm not sure when I have learned more about humanity than with the books of Yuval Harari.

I recommend this book as it is the first of the series, and I could read it over and over and still not have captured everything that Yuval Harari explores and teaches us.

A great historian who uses history to explore our future, Yuval Harari is one whose books I read every chance I have.

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

20 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…

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

Sathnam Sanghera Author Of Empireland: How Imperialism Has Shaped Modern Britain

From my list on the British Empire's impact on the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was in my 40s before I began exploring the topic of the British Empire. It came after I realised it explained so much about me (my Sikh identity, the emigration of my parents, my education) and so much about my country (its politics, psychology, wealth…) and yet I knew very little. It turned out that millions of people feel the same way… and I hope I provide an accessible introduction and summary of the massive topic. 

Sathnam's book list on the British Empire's impact on the world

Sathnam Sanghera Why did Sathnam love this book?

The East India Company was an unusual organization, to say the least, beginning as a conventional international trading corporation, dealing in silks and spices, and becoming an aggressive colonial power.

Its complicated nature is one of the reasons why the British empire is so poorly understood: people struggle to comprehend how a company could have been imperial. Dalrymple does a great job of explaining it in this incredibly accessible book.

One of my all-time favourite books on Indian history.

By William Dalrymple,

Why should I read it?

6 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…

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

William H. Steffen Author Of Anthropocene Theater and the Shakespearean Stage

From my list on invasive species and their impact on human history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an English professor in New England whose research and teaching interests focus on the Shakespearean Stage and the Environmental Humanities. As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to romanticize the impact that literature can have on the world—either politically, ideologically, or physically. The story that Kim Todd shares about the European Starling proliferating in North America because of a Shakespeare-loving member of a New York Acclimatization Society has changed the way that I look at birds, at Shakespeare, and the world. It has encouraged me to find other stories like this one to share with my students—and to tell a few of my own.

William's book list on invasive species and their impact on human history

William H. Steffen Why did William love this book?

I’m grateful to see how the narrative about Columbus, the Pilgrims, and European colonialism has changed since I was in elementary school, but for someone who was taught that Columbus was a kind of hero-genius, this book was a revelation.

One of its most powerful lessons is how efficient pre-capitalist systems of commerce were; the Incan Empire, which was far bigger than the Holy Roman Empire or the Ottoman Empire, never experienced famine because they prioritized life and well-being over gold and profit. This book also shows how flora in the Americas exploded during the sixteenth century, leading to the Orbis Spike, or the beginning of anthropogenic environmental change.

The lessons from the pre-Columbian, pre-capitalist, and pre-Enlightenment world are invaluable for confronting contemporary problems of American democracy and environmentalism today.

By Charles C. Mann,

Why should I read it?

8 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…

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

Robert N. Wiedenmann Author Of The Silken Thread: Five Insects and Their Impacts on Human History

From my list on the history we never learned.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am not a historian. I am a retired entomologist with a love for history. My first real experience with history was as a child, reading about Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic adventure on the Endurance—a story I must have re-read 50 times. I have come to recognize that much of the history I learned growing up was either incomplete or was just plain wrong. I am drawn to the arcane aspects of historical events, or that illustrate history from a different angle—which is shown in my list of books. The Silken Thread tells about the history that occurred because of, or was impacted by, just five insects.

Robert's book list on the history we never learned

Robert N. Wiedenmann Why did Robert love this book?

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. 

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…

Book cover of Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

Telmo Pievani Author Of Imperfection: A Natural History

From my list on the fact that evolution didn't predict us.

Why am I passionate about this?

Telmo Pievani is Full Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Padua, where he covers the first Italian chair of Philosophy of Biological Sciences. A leading science communicator and columnist for Il corriere della sera, he is the author of The Unexpected Life, Creation without God, Serendipity, and other books.

Telmo's book list on the fact that evolution didn't predict us

Telmo Pievani Why did Telmo love this book?

I loved this book because I think it is a masterpiece on the contingency of evolution and our presence.

Rewind the tape of life and times and you will get different endings: that’s a great message of freedom for me. The epic of diversity that led to the explosion of multicellular life forms in the early Cambrian concerns us too. Unmissable.

By Stephen Jay Gould,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Wonderful Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

High in the Canadian Rockies is a small limestone quarry formed 530 million years ago called the Burgess Shale. It hold the remains of an ancient sea where dozens of strange creatures lived-a forgotten corner of evolution preserved in awesome detail. In this book Stephen Jay Gould explores what the Burgess Shale tells us about evolution and the nature of history.

Book cover of The Dead Wander in the Desert

Sophie Ibbotson Author Of Uzbekistan

From my list on to discover the Silk Road.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I first visited Central Asia in 2008, little did I know that it would become the focus of my life and work. I now advise the World Bank and national governments on economic development, with a particular focus on tourism, and I’m the Chairman of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs. I am Uzbekistan’s Ambassador for Tourism, a co-founder of the Silk Road Literary Festival, and I’ve written and updated guidebooks to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and the Silk Road.

Sophie's book list on to discover the Silk Road

Sophie Ibbotson Why did Sophie love this book?

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. 

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

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

Craig Nelson Author Of V Is for Victory: Franklin Roosevelt's American Revolution and the Triumph of World War II

From my list on history that will wake you up.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent twenty years as a book publishing executive learning how the trade works before launching myself as a full-time author wanting to make the world a better place. My books use state-of-the-art scholarship for history you can read on the beach, and focus on ‘hinge’ moments, great turnings of the world, as well as on forgotten and unsung heroes.

Craig's book list on history that will wake you up

Craig Nelson Why did Craig love this book?

What ideas do you have about what the first peoples were like, and how human society developed?

Maybe you’ve even read the popular authors on this topic such as Diamond, Harari, Pinker, Hobbes, and Rousseau. Prepare to have all of your notions and received opinions upended and turned to dust by David Graeber (a man universally acknowledged as a genius) and the book he worked on for the last ten years of his life, which brings revolutionary ideas to 30,000 years of civilization.

By David Graeber, David Wengrow,

Why should I read it?

14 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?


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…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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

10,000+ 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.

The Silk Road Explore 15 books about the Silk Road
The East–West Dichotomy Explore 14 books about the East–West dichotomy
Central Asia Explore 30 books about Central Asia