100 books like Understanding Collapse

By Guy D. Middleton,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Book cover of The Holocene: An Environmental History

John F. Haldon Author Of The Empire That Would Not Die: The Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740

From my list on premodern societies, climate, and environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

History has always fascinated me because it offered ways through which I could begin to make sense of the present. History is about how and why things change over time, above all about the causal dynamics underlying how societies, economies, and cultures work and transform. The history of Byzantium is a perfect example, offering many challenges of understanding and interpretation of its own, yet at the same time opening up a whole world of medieval societies and cultures around it, helping to illuminate not just the history of the immediate regions concerned – the eastern Mediterranean and Balkans – but of the world beyond.  

John's book list on premodern societies, climate, and environment

John F. Haldon Why did John love this book?

This book offers a magisterial survey of the last 10,000 years and puts human history firmly in its full environmental context. There are many different ways of writing about the past, but historical writing is above all about how and why things change over time, about the causal dynamics underlying how societies, economies, and cultures work and transform. But in order to achieve this historians have first of all to establish a narrative – their own particular narrative – and it is their critical analysis of the ways in which this narrative can be constructed that helps us understand the past and that can help inform our understanding of the present. This book succeeds wonderfully in this fundamental task.

By Neil Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Holocene provides students, researchers and lay-readers with the remarkable story of how the natural world has been transformed since the end of the last Ice Age around 15,000 years ago. This period has witnessed a shift from environmental changes determined by natural forces to those dominated by human actions, including those of climate and greenhouse gases. Understanding the environmental changes - both natural and anthropogenic - that have occurred during the Holocene is of crucial importance if we are to achieve a sustainable environmental future. Revised and updated to take full account of the most recent advances, the third…


Book cover of A Rural Economy in Transition: Asia Minor from Late Antiquity Into the Early Middle Ages

John F. Haldon Author Of The Empire That Would Not Die: The Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740

From my list on premodern societies, climate, and environment.

Why am I passionate about this?

History has always fascinated me because it offered ways through which I could begin to make sense of the present. History is about how and why things change over time, above all about the causal dynamics underlying how societies, economies, and cultures work and transform. The history of Byzantium is a perfect example, offering many challenges of understanding and interpretation of its own, yet at the same time opening up a whole world of medieval societies and cultures around it, helping to illuminate not just the history of the immediate regions concerned – the eastern Mediterranean and Balkans – but of the world beyond.  

John's book list on premodern societies, climate, and environment

John F. Haldon Why did John love this book?

This is a wonderful illustration of how to do integrated, holistic history that takes into account every aspect of the way a society works and evolves. Combining archaeology with landscape history, social, political, and economic history, Izdebski’s book is also a handbook on how to do environmental history, with detailed and informative methodological considerations on the problems that come with it. It is quite technical in places, but really sets out very clearly how historians who want to incorporate palaeoscientific data into their discussion should be doing it.

By Adam Izdebski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Rural Economy in Transition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Rural Economy in Transition deals with one of the most important periods in the history of Europe and the Middle East - the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. In his monograph, Adam Izdebski focuses on the economic history of Anatolia between the fifth and ninth centuries AD, a period which has traditionally posed great challenges to the historian. Because there are very few written sources from which a detailed economic and rural history of the period might be constructed, A. Izdebski has made extensive use of archaeological material in his study; however, he has also been able…


Book cover of The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000

James Calbraith Author Of The Saxon Spears: An Epic of the Dark Age

From my list on Barbarian Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my novels, I aim to present a different vision of early Post-Roman Britain than the one usually imagined in fiction – especially in the future Kingdom of Kent, where my books are set. To show these connections, and to present the greater background for the events in the novels, I first needed to gain knowledge of what Europe itself looked like in this period: a Gaul divided between Gothic, Frankish, and Roman administration, a complex interplay of Romans and Barbarians, a world in transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The story gleaned from the pages of these books proved as fascinating and intriguing as any I’ve ever read.

James' book list on Barbarian Europe

James Calbraith Why did James love this book?

Another synthesis of the ‘Dark Ages’ Europe, this one from the Penguin History series. An easy, but thorough read, painting a broad canvas from Ireland to Byzantium, and from the last days of Rome to the last days of Anglo-Saxon England, shines the light on the centuries that, while still seen as shrouded in the darkness of violence and barbarism, are in fact the true cradle of the European civilization as we know it today.

By Chris Wickham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Inheritance of Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The breath  of reading is astounding, the knowledge displayed is awe-inspiring and the attention quietly given to critical theory and the postmodern questioning of evidence is both careful and sincere."--The Daily Telegraph (UK)

"A superlative work of historical scholarship."--Literary Review (UK)

A unique and enlightening look at Europe's so-called Dark Ages; the second volume in the Penguin History of Europe

Defying the conventional Dark Ages view of European history between A.D. 400 and 1000, award-winning historian Chris Wickham presents The Inheritance of Rome, a work of remarkable scope and rigorous yet accessible scholarship. Drawing on a wealth of new material…


Book cover of The History of the Countryside

Jeremy Burchardt Author Of Lifescapes: The Experience of Landscape in Britain, 1870-1960

From my list on enhance your understand and enjoyment of landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved the countryside ever since I was a child. Every year we used to stay for a week or two on a beautiful farm hidden away in a hollow of the Leicestershire wolds. I was fascinated by the wildlife and history – the old cottages and churches, local traditions and place names. It’s no accident I became a rural historian! I’m captivated by the strange power of landscape to affect us, subtly weaving itself into our sense of being, and have devoted much of my adult life to trying to understand this. I hope you find the books on the list as rewarding as I have!

Jeremy's book list on enhance your understand and enjoyment of landscape

Jeremy Burchardt Why did Jeremy love this book?

Oliver Rackham is to historical landscape ecology what W.G. Hoskins is to landscape history.

More than anyone else, Rackham had the vision to understand that the pattern of woods, fields, hedges, moors, and marshes that defines the English countryside, although seemingly natural, was in fact created by a delicate and constantly shifting balance between human intervention and geological, climatological and ecological influences. 

The Chiltern beechwoods I’ve enjoyed walking in since childhood, for example, exist partly because the timber was valuable for the chair-making industry that once flourished there, while the species-rich hay meadows of Swaledale that entranced me on a recent cycle tour were part and parcel of the local dairy-farming tradition, and have been put at risk by its decline.

By Oliver Rackham,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The History of the Countryside as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From its earliest origins to the present day, this award-winning, beautifully written book describes the endlessly changing character of Britain's countryside.

'A classic' Richard Mabey

Exploring the natural and man-made features of the land - fields, highways, hedgerows, fens, marshes, rivers, heaths, coasts, woods and wood pastures - he shows conclusively and unforgettably how they have developed over the centuries. In doing so, he covers a wealth of related subjects to provide a fascinating account of the sometimes subtle and sometimes radical ways in which people, fauna, flora, climate, soils and other physical conditions have played their part in the…


Book cover of Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World

Srdja Popovic Author Of Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World

From my list on teaching you how to change society for better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm super passionate about educating people on how to empower themselves and change the world. I do a lot of different things for a living. And my organization CANVAS works with the groups who are involved in the pro-democracy struggles and “art of the revolution.” Starting as a student activist in my homeland, ruled by ruthless dictator Slobodan Milosevic, I was blessed to meet and work with some of the most courageous people. Throughout the last 25 years, I've tried to capture, share, and transfer successful tools common people may use in order to address injustice, inequality, or small tangible problems through mobilizing their peers – and thus make their communities or the world a better place.

Srdja's book list on teaching you how to change society for better

Srdja Popovic Why did Srdja love this book?

Though we often think that positive change is inspired by charismatic leaders, NYT top gun journalist Tina Rosenberg takes us to a very different world, where real positive change is not driven by role models, but the peers. From iconic student-led revolution which has spread like wildfire from campuses to cities and villages in 90s Serbia, through removing the stigma from HIV positive people all the way to amazing process in which smoking has become “non cool” instead of “socially acceptable” this book explores the phenomena of “healing the community through peer pressure” especially among youngsters, and may serve as an amazing lighthouse to those seeking to mobilize-and get inspired by their own environment.

By Tina Rosenberg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Tina Rosenberg has spent her career tackling some of the world's hardest problems. Now, through striking stories from around the globe, Rosenberg shows how positive peer pressure can change people's behavior and solve seemingly intractable social quandaries. In every case, pioneering social entrepreneurs throw out the old models for social change in favor of humanity's most powerful and abundant resource: our connections with one another. The result is one of those rare books that will not only revolutionize the way you look at the world but also give you…


Book cover of Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution

Ian Worthington Author Of Athens After Empire: A History from Alexander the Great to the Emperor Hadrian

From my list on post Classical Athens.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ian Worthington, FSA, FRHistS, is a Professor of Ancient History at Macquarie University, and has written and edited 21 books and over 100 articles on Greek history, oratory, and epigraphy. He also has a Great Courses DVD and CD course titled The Long Shadow of the Ancient Greek World. Away from academic work, he is addicted to reality TV and is an unpaid taxi driver for his two children.

Ian's book list on post Classical Athens

Ian Worthington Why did Ian love this book?

Rome appropriated many aspects of Athenian (and Greek) culture for its political and cultural needs – so much so that the poet Horace spoke of ‘captured Greece capturing the rude conqueror’. This book discusses the ‘Romanization’ of Greece and the impact that Greek culture or Hellenism had on the Romans, and by extension, how the Romans (or at least educated ones) came to view the Greeks. In this cultural interaction, Athens played a key role, as the author shows. This book is an important balance to the ‘usual’ political and military approach to the period, and shows the importance of Athens beyond the terminating Hellenistic era date of 30 BC.

By A.J.S. Spawforth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Greece and the Augustan Cultural Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book examines the impact of the Roman cultural revolution under Augustus on the Roman province of Greece. It argues that the transformation of Roman Greece into a classicizing 'museum' was a specific response of the provincial Greek elites to the cultural politics of the Roman imperial monarchy. Against a background of Roman debates about Greek culture and Roman decadence, Augustus promoted the ideal of a Roman debt to a 'classical' Greece rooted in Europe and morally opposed to a stereotyped Asia. In Greece the regime signalled its admiration for Athens, Sparta, Olympia and Plataea as symbols of these past…


Book cover of Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different

Renée Sentilles Author Of American Tomboys, 1850-1915

From my list on tomboys by a historian of tomboys.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a young girl, I thought I was a tomboy—or I wanted to be one, because the image of a “normal” girl was far too pink and frothy and shallow for my tastes. For me, being a tomboy was less about being boy-like than being unable to claim the markers of femininity. As a historian of women and girls, I wondered how young women saw their futures in this modernizing America, with its True Women and New Women and the opening of advanced education. Did tomboys grow into the rebels who changed the world? Or, like the tomboys in so many fictional stories, did they renounce their assertive sense of self upon marriage and motherhood?

Renée's book list on tomboys by a historian of tomboys

Renée Sentilles Why did Renée love this book?

This one is for girls who want to know more about tomboys in the here and now. Davis essentially asks “how did we get to this time of transgender and nonbinary identity?” She interrogates the term “tomboy” as a way of understanding how our understanding of gender norms has changed and remained unchanged—at the same time.

By Lisa Selin Davis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Based on the author’s viral New York Times op-ed, this heartfelt book is a celebration and exploration of the tomboy phenomenon and the future of girlhood.

We are in the middle of a cultural revolution, where the spectrum of gender and sexual identities is seemingly unlimited. So when author and journalist Lisa Selin Davis's six-year-old daughter first called herself a "tomboy," Davis was hesitant. Her child favored sweatpants and T-shirts over anything pink or princess-themed, just like the sporty, skinned-kneed girls Davis had played with as a kid. But "tomboy" seemed like an outdated word—why use a word with "boy"…


Book cover of Jonathan Schell: The Fate of the Earth, the Abolition, the Unconquerable World

William Knoblauch Author Of Nuclear Freeze in a Cold War: The Reagan Administration, Cultural Activism, and the End of the Arms Race

From my list on the Cold War in the 1980s.

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in the decade and in the Cold War came during graduate school. This was where I discovered Carl Sagan’s theory of a nuclear winter: that after a nuclear war, the debris and smoke from nuclear bombs would cover the earth and make it inhabitable for life on earth. Tracing debates between this celebrity scientist and U.S. policymakers revealed a hesitancy on either side to even consider each other’s point of view. This research made me reconsider the pop culture of my youth—films like The Day After and Wargames, music like “Shout” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and books from Don DeLillo’s White Noise to Dr. Seuss’ Butter Battle Book—and ultimately see them as part of a political contest in which lives—our lives—were in the balance.  

William's book list on the Cold War in the 1980s

William Knoblauch Why did William love this book?

In the 1940s, journalist John Hersey wrote an eye-opening expose on the effects of the atomic bombing of Japan with Hiroshima. In doing so, Hersey began to shape the already-contested memory of why America dropped “the bomb.” Following in Hersey’s footsteps, in the early 1980s Jonathan Schell penned a straightforward warning about the atomic age. After interviewing scientists, policymakers, and intellectuals, he began to pen an accessible essay exposing of what would happen to earth after a nuclear war. The result was Fate of the Earth, and it went on to become one of the most impactful pieces of non-fiction of the decade. It helped to validate scientist Carl Sagan’s controversial “nuclear winter” hypothesis, and inspired an untold number of the public to engage in antinuclear activism. To appreciate the early 1980s as a period of intense nuclear fear, this is a must-read.

By Jonathan Schell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

75 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a collected edition of three classic accounts of our nuclear predicament and the way forward to a peaceful world, by the Rachel Carson of the antiwar movement.

Brave, eloquent, and controversial, these classic works by Jonathan Schell illuminate the nuclear threat to our civilization, and envision a way forward to peace. In The Fate of the Earth--an international bestseller that inspired the nuclear freeze movement--Schell distills the best available scientific and technical information to imagine the apocalyptic aftereffects of nuclear war. Dramatizing the stakes involved in abstract discussions of military strategy, when first published…


Book cover of The Two Milpas of Chan Kom: Scenarios of a Maya Village Life

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina Author Of Beautiful Politics of Music: Trova in Yucatan, Mexico

From my list on falling in love with Yucatan’s ethnography.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Valladolid, a semi-rural city of Yucatan. My parents loved the history and archaeology of the Yucatan peninsula, which not long ago was a single cultural and linguistic entity. I grew up dreaming of becoming an archaeologist. With time, I became fascinated with people and sociality within and beyond Yucatan, so I became an anthropologist. I trained as an anthropologist in Mexico and Canada, and have done research in Canada, Italy, Mexico, and Spain. I live and work in Yucatan, as a professor of anthropology. Good ethnographies are what anthropology is about, and those I write about here are some of the best.

Gabriela's book list on falling in love with Yucatan’s ethnography

Gabriela Vargas-Cetina Why did Gabriela love this book?

This book is many things: A wonderful ethnography, a tribute to the Mexican and foreign ethnographers who preceded Re Cruz’s in the area, a call to ethnographers for writing creativity, and, glowingly, a show of respect for local people, their agency, and their understandings of the world.

Chan Kom, as Re Cruz reminds us, has been an ethnographic laboratory since the first decades of the 20th century. Re Cruz chose to structure her book following the script of a local play performed by high school students. For anthropology students this is a good example of an engaging ethnography.

For historians of the recent past this is a record of the cultural impact that the emergence of Cancun had on Yucatecan rural life.

By Alicia Re Cruz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An ethnographic account of Chan Kom, a contemporary Maya community in Yucatan, Mexico that focuses on the social schism within the community resulting from an accelerated process of migration to Cancun, a major tourist center.


Book cover of Poetry as Spellcasting: Poems, Essays, and Prompts for Manifesting Liberation and Reclaiming Power

Amy Torok and Risa Dickens Author Of Missing Witches Deck of Oracles: Feminist Ancestor Magic for Meditations, Divination, and Spellwork

From my list on understanding real modern witchcraft.

Why we are passionate about this?

We are Witches. Real Witches, doing real magic, casting spells, and weaving webs. We are Amy Torok and Risa Dickens–the co-creators of the Missing Witches project, researching what it means to be a Witch. Together, we have put out almost 300 podcast episodes and published two books and an oracle deck of cards: Missing Witches: Recovering True Histories Of Feminist Magic, New Moon Magic: 13 Anti-capitalist Tools for Resistance and Re-enchantment, and The Missing Witches Deck of Oracles: Feminist Ancestor Magic for Meditations, Divination and Spellwork. Our first book appeared on VICE Magazine’s list: The Best Books for Starting an Occult Library.

Amy and Risa's book list on understanding real modern witchcraft

Amy Torok and Risa Dickens Why did Amy and Risa love this book?

We believe that words are spells and that writing down our thoughts, feelings, and ideas is a form of doing Magic. So we were thrilled to discover this book, co-edited by Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, and Lisbeth White, a book that validates and reifies the magic of poetry.

This book opens a portal to discuss the ritual of writing, the radical imagination required for social justice, the alchemy of collaboration, and a slow revolution. We’re enamored with the collaborative nature of the book and how it illustrates that writing and poetry are not just kept for times of solitude but can be ritualized into a community-building praxis to change the world.

By Tamiko Beyer, Destiny Hemphill, Lisbeth White

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Poems, essays, and prompts to sing a new world into being--Queer & BIPOC perspectives on poetry as an insurgent ritual for manifesting liberation and reclaiming power.

Written for poets, spellcasters, and social justice witches, Poetry as Spellcasting reveals the ways poetry and ritual can, together, move us toward justice and transformation. It asks: If ritualized violence upholds white supremacy, what ritualized acts of liberation can be activated to subvert and reclaim power?

In essays from a diverse group of contributing poets, organizers, and ritual artists, Poetry as Spellcasting helps readers explore, play, and deepen their creativity and intuition as integral…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in archaeology, ancient civilizations, and ancient history?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about archaeology, ancient civilizations, and ancient history.

Archaeology Explore 126 books about archaeology
Ancient Civilizations Explore 19 books about ancient civilizations
Ancient History Explore 20 books about ancient history