100 books like To Calais, in Ordinary Time

By James Meek,

Here are 100 books that To Calais, in Ordinary Time fans have personally recommended if you like To Calais, in Ordinary Time. 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 Plague

Ty Roth Author Of Island No. 6

From my list on medical thrillers for doomsday phobics.

Why am I passionate about this?

Although I come from a family with a number of medical professionals, I am not one myself. My interest in medical thrillers is a three-strand braid that combines my learning and experiences in the fields of sociology, literature, and storytelling. Horrific as the stories on this list are, they share both a hopefulness that mankind is capable of overcoming whatever challenge nature presents, or they themselves conjure and a warning to get ourselves right before the next one comes along. At a time when it is tempting to despair over the human condition, I hope these books inspire your faith in mankind’s resourcefulness and ability to endure.

Ty's book list on medical thrillers for doomsday phobics

Ty Roth Why did Ty love this book?

I especially love this novel as Camus applies his background in existential philosophy to elevate the medical thriller genre into the realm of the metaphysical.

I love how the novel uses the plot device of an outbreak of the plague to force me as a reader to move  beyond the surface questions of “What?” “When?” and “Where?” to ask the deeper question of “Why?” and “What now?”

By Albert Camus,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Its relevance lashes you across the face.” —Stephen Metcalf, The Los Angeles Times • “A redemptive book, one that wills the reader to believe, even in a time of despair.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post 

A haunting tale of human resilience and hope in the face of unrelieved horror, Albert Camus' iconic novel about an epidemic ravaging the people of a North African coastal town is a classic of twentieth-century literature. 

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they…


Book cover of Station Eleven

Eric Porter Author Of A People's History of SFO: The Making of the Bay Area and an Airport

From my list on airports teaching us about society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long had an ambivalent relationship with airports. They have been the starting point for my adventures, but I have also known well the discomfort, boredom, stress, surveillance, bad food, and other unpleasantries that often define airport experiences. Despite my ambivalence, I’ve found airports to be fascinating places where differently situated people (travelers and workers) encounter one another. I’ve learned that those encounters, as well as airport operations and design, tell us something about the places where they are located and the broader societies in which we live. I’ve since become aware that reading (and writing) about airports are also great ways to gain such insights. 

Eric's book list on airports teaching us about society

Eric Porter Why did Eric love this book?

In addition to eerily anticipating the COVID-19 pandemic—thankfully, our pathogen was not nearly as virulent and lethal—this post-apocalyptic novel offers interesting commentary about airports as microcosms of society.

The airport that figures prominently here is the gateway to and manifestation of a “secure” society structured as much by those it excludes as by those it includes. It is also the archive of a society defined, for better and for worse, by its relationship to technology. 

By Emily St. John Mandel,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked Station Eleven as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Best novel. The big one . . . stands above all the others' - George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones

Now an HBO Max original TV series

The New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award
Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
National Book Awards Finalist
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in…


Book cover of Death is a Welcome Guest

Lesley Kelly Author Of The Health of Strangers

From my list on pandemics and humanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my day job working for a charity, I work with emergency planners, examining how we can minimise the harm caused by disasters, including outbreaks of disease. I’m fascinated by the measures in place to deal with catastrophes, and how contingency planners respond on a practical and a human level. When writing my novel about a killer virus, I devoured both fiction and non-fiction books tackling pandemics ranging from the Black Death to Aids. I am confident I know the skills needed to survive when a pandemic reduces the world’s population to a small, doughty band of survivors. I am not confident I possess these skills.

Lesley's book list on pandemics and humanity

Lesley Kelly Why did Lesley love this book?

Louise Welsh has written three novels about a pandemic called the Sweats – her Plague Times trilogy. This is the second book in the series. I particularly liked this one because its protagonist, Magnus, is a Scottish not-very-good stand-up comedian, and I too was once a not-very-good aspiring comic! After a series of unfortunate events, Magnus ends up in prison, where the disease is rife. Breaking out, he decides to make for his childhood home on Orkney, accompanied by fellow escapee Jeb. The fast-moving plot will keep you racing through this book.

By Louise Welsh,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death is a Welcome Guest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year

The second instalment in the thrilling new Plague Times trilogy from the author of A Lovely Way to Burn.

Magnus McFall was a comic on the brink of his big break when the world came to an end. Now, he is a man on the run and there is nothing to laugh about.

Thrown into unwilling partnership with an escaped convict, Magnus flees the desolation of London to make the long journey north, clinging to his hope that the sickness has not reached his family on their remote Scottish…


Book cover of Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World

Lesley Kelly Author Of The Health of Strangers

From my list on pandemics and humanity.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my day job working for a charity, I work with emergency planners, examining how we can minimise the harm caused by disasters, including outbreaks of disease. I’m fascinated by the measures in place to deal with catastrophes, and how contingency planners respond on a practical and a human level. When writing my novel about a killer virus, I devoured both fiction and non-fiction books tackling pandemics ranging from the Black Death to Aids. I am confident I know the skills needed to survive when a pandemic reduces the world’s population to a small, doughty band of survivors. I am not confident I possess these skills.

Lesley's book list on pandemics and humanity

Lesley Kelly Why did Lesley love this book?

I read this book as background reading for writing my own virus-based novel, and it was an absolutely fascinating study of the response to a pandemic that took place almost exactly a century ago. It covers everything from the role of the First World War troops’ demobilisation on spreading the virus, to the impact of poverty on infection rates, to why young, fit people were the most likely to die of the illness. And, of course, why it was called Spanish Flu in the first place (spoiler alert: not because it came from Spain!)

By Laura Spinney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Read the devastating story of the Spanish flu - the twentieth century's greatest killer - and discover what it can teach us about the current Covid-19 pandemic.

'Both a saga of tragedies and a detective story... Pale Rider is not just an excavation but a reimagining of the past' Guardian

With a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people and a global reach, the Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was the greatest human disaster, not only of the twentieth century, but possibly in all of recorded history. And yet, in our popular conception it exists largely as a footnote…


Book cover of Images of the Medieval Peasant

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Author Of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants' Revolt

From my list on medieval peasants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am professor of medieval history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. As a PhD student, I was electrified by the historian E. P. Thompson’s call to rescue the masses ‘from the enormous condescension of posterity’, but it’s often only when peasants revolt, as they did outside Paris in 1358, that we get much evidence about the masses in the Middle Ages. I loved writing The Jacquerie of 1358 because it allowed me to get very close to the men (and a few women) who risked everything to make their society a more just and equal one. It was a privilege, and a pleasure, to tell their story.

Justine's book list on medieval peasants

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Why did Justine love this book?

I really appreciate this book because it explains how medieval people thought about the grossly unequal society they inhabited and how they tried to reconcile its obvious injustices with Christian morality.

I particularly like how it shows peasants’ criticism of the medieval idea of society as being composed of Three Orders: those who fought (the knights and nobles), those who prayed (monks and priests), and those who worked (peasants).

The Three Orders idea supposedly justified the way that nobles and clerics profited from peasant labor, but peasants sometimes threw it back at them, arguing that if the nobles were defeated in war or the Church was full of hypocrites, then the peasants really didn’t owe them anything. It’s a fair argument.

By Paul Freedman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Images of the Medieval Peasant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The medieval clergy, aristocracy, and commercial classes tended to regard peasants as objects of contempt and derision. In religious writings, satires, sermons, chronicles, and artistic representations peasants often appeared as dirty, foolish, dishonest, even as subhuman or bestial. Their lowliness was commonly regarded as a natural corollary of the drudgery of their agricultural toil.

Yet, at the same time, the peasantry was not viewed as "other" in the manner of other condemned groups, such as Jews, lepers, Muslims, or the imagined "monstrous races" of the East. Several crucial characteristics of the peasantry rendered it less clearly alien from the elite…


Book cover of Slavery After Rome, 500-1100

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Author Of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants' Revolt

From my list on medieval peasants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am professor of medieval history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. As a PhD student, I was electrified by the historian E. P. Thompson’s call to rescue the masses ‘from the enormous condescension of posterity’, but it’s often only when peasants revolt, as they did outside Paris in 1358, that we get much evidence about the masses in the Middle Ages. I loved writing The Jacquerie of 1358 because it allowed me to get very close to the men (and a few women) who risked everything to make their society a more just and equal one. It was a privilege, and a pleasure, to tell their story.

Justine's book list on medieval peasants

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Why did Justine love this book?

One of the most disquieting things about medieval peasants for me is that many of them were not free.

Some were outright slaves, particularly at the very beginning and the very end of the Middle Ages, but by 1100, most ‘unfree’ peasants were serfs. Although not a commodity to be bought or sold like slaves, serfs did unpaid labor and suffered serious limitations on their liberty, like the inability to move or marry at will.

Many historians have written on the medieval transition from slavery to serfdom (and back again), but what I like about Rio’s book is her attention to the variety of forms that ‘unfreedom’ could take and to how and why people might lose or gain freedom in the centuries after the fall of Rome and its slave system. 

By Alice Rio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slavery After Rome, 500-1100 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Slavery After Rome, 500-1100 offers a substantially new interpretation of what happened to slavery in Western Europe in the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. The periods at either end of the early middle ages are associated with iconic forms of unfreedom: Roman slavery at one end; at the other, the serfdom of the twelfth century and beyond, together with, in Southern Europe, a revitalised urban chattel slavery dealing chiefly in
non-Christians. How and why this major change took place in the intervening period has been a long-standing puzzle. This study picks up the various threads linking…


Book cover of Tormented Voices: Power, Crisis, and Humanity in Rural Catalonia, 1140-1200

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Author Of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants' Revolt

From my list on medieval peasants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am professor of medieval history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. As a PhD student, I was electrified by the historian E. P. Thompson’s call to rescue the masses ‘from the enormous condescension of posterity’, but it’s often only when peasants revolt, as they did outside Paris in 1358, that we get much evidence about the masses in the Middle Ages. I loved writing The Jacquerie of 1358 because it allowed me to get very close to the men (and a few women) who risked everything to make their society a more just and equal one. It was a privilege, and a pleasure, to tell their story.

Justine's book list on medieval peasants

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Why did Justine love this book?

Tormented Voices often brings me close to tears. Although based on records from 800 years ago, it feels very immediate in its account of the lordly oppression that often blighted peasants’ lives.

The records detail villagers’ complaints against knights who had violently forced them to hand over grain, money, or animals. The villagers say that heads were broken, a woman’s nose cut off, houses made uninhabitable, and so on. The villagers employed scribes to write out these complaints to send to their Count-King in Barcelona, but we don’t know if he even replied, let alone if anything was ever done.

By restoring the peasants’ voices, the book does what it can to right the wrongs done to them so long ago. 

By Thomas N. Bisson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mute in life as in death, peasants of remote history rarely speak to us in their own voices. But Thomas Bisson's engagement with the records of several hundred twelfth-century people of rural Catalonia enables us to hear these voices. The peasants' allegations of abuse while in the service of their common lord the Count of Barcelona and his son the King reveal a unique perspective on the meaning of power both by those who felt and feared it, and by those who wielded it. These records-original parchments, dating much earlier than other comparable records of European peasant life-name peasants in…


Book cover of Women in the Medieval English Countryside: Gender and Household in Brigstock before the Plague

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Author Of The Jacquerie of 1358: A French Peasants' Revolt

From my list on medieval peasants.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am professor of medieval history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. As a PhD student, I was electrified by the historian E. P. Thompson’s call to rescue the masses ‘from the enormous condescension of posterity’, but it’s often only when peasants revolt, as they did outside Paris in 1358, that we get much evidence about the masses in the Middle Ages. I loved writing The Jacquerie of 1358 because it allowed me to get very close to the men (and a few women) who risked everything to make their society a more just and equal one. It was a privilege, and a pleasure, to tell their story.

Justine's book list on medieval peasants

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Why did Justine love this book?

It’s a real frustration of mine that so much historical writing pays little or no attention to women, even though they made up half the population.

However ‘important’ whatever the men were doing was, they couldn’t have done it without women. There’s more written on elite medieval women—queens, noblewomen, abbesses, etc.—than there used to be, but peasant women remain mostly neglected.

I like Bennett’s book not only because she pays attention to village women but also because it doesn’t sugarcoat the story. Peasant women could do many things in medieval England, like owning property, going to court, and running businesses, but their options were sharply curtailed by male domination.

As Bennett puts it, "Insofar as these women had choices about their lives, the choices were always poor ones." 

By Judith M. Bennett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women in the Medieval English Countryside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book, Judith Bennett addresses the gap in our knowledge of medieval country women by examining how their lives differed from those of rural men. Drawing on her study of an English manor in the early-fourteenth century, she finds that rural women were severely restricted in their public roles and rights primarily because of their household status as dependents of their husbands, rather than because of a notion of female inferiority. Adolescent women and
widows, by virtue of their unmarried status, enjoyed greater legal and public freedom than did their married counterparts.


Book cover of The Bookseller's Tale

Toni Mount Author Of The Colour of Bone

From my list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells.

Why am I passionate about this?

Many years ago, when I’d read my first medieval mystery, I decided I wanted to write my own. But mine would be as realistic as I could manage; I wanted the reader to smell medieval London and to be there with me. A lot had been written about Kings and Queens but not much about ordinary life so that became the center of my academic study leading eventually to my Master's Degree in medieval medicine. As well as my novels I now write popular factual books and I’m pleased to say people have taken the time to say how much they enjoy the fine details I share.

Toni's book list on murder mysteries to challenge your brain cells

Toni Mount Why did Toni love this book?

Again, we are in the fourteenth century, in Oxford, but following the first terrible onslaught of the Black Death. The title made this a must-read for me because my own sleuth, Seb Foxley, is involved with the making and selling of books, just like Ann Swinfen’s hero, Nicholas Elyot. I wasn’t disappointed.

The characters came alive for me and I too was sad when a good student was found drowned in the river. But the bookseller is suspicious and uncovers a villainous plot, putting him, his family and friends in danger.

A beautifully-woven medieval mystery; I had to read it in one go – forget the washing up. Fortunately, this is book 1 of the Oxford Medieval Mysteries so there’s more fun to come.

By Ann Swinfen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Oxford, Spring 1353. When young bookseller Nicholas Elyot discovers the body of student William Farringdon floating in the river Cherwell, it looks like a drowning. Soon, however, Nicholas finds evidence of murder. Who could have wanted to kill this promising student? As Nicholas and his scholar friend Jordain try to unravel what lies behind William’s death, they learn that he was innocently caught up in a criminal plot. When their investigations begin to involve town, university, and abbey, Nicholas takes a risky gamble – and puts his family in terrible danger.


Book cover of Plague Land

Nick Brown Author Of The Siege: Agent of Rome 1

From my list on books that take you to another world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Before I was a writer, I was a reader.  My mother was a primary school teacher, so I was encouraged to read from my earliest years. I wanted to be not only entertained but transported to another place, time, or world. When I finally decided to write my first novel, I settled on historical fiction, but I have since written both science fiction and fantasy. I always endeavour to emulate my literary heroes and create engaging characters, compelling plots, and an interesting, unusual, convincing world.

Nick's book list on books that take you to another world

Nick Brown Why did Nick love this book?

This is the first part of S.D. Skyes’ medieval mystery series, following nobleman and investigator Oswald de Lacy. Sykes always creates an intriguing, compelling plot for each of the five de Lacy novels but it is the fourteenth-century setting that draws the reader in.

This is a land ravaged by the Black Death and the reader is not only entertained but informed by this powerful evocation of a society dealing with a disaster almost beyond comprehension.  

By S D Sykes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book 1 in the gripping Oswald de Lacy series, which can be read as a standalone, from 'the medieval CJ Sansom' (Jeffery Deaver)

England, 1350: the Black Death has changed the country forever, taking master and servant alike.

Young Oswald de Lacey was never meant to be Lord of Somershill Manor, but when his father and older brothers die of the Plague, he must return home from the monastery and assume responsibility for an estate ravaged by pestilence.

Almost immediately Oswald is confronted with the vicious murder of a young woman, Alison Starvecrow. The village priest claims it is the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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