100 books like What We Owe the Future

By William MacAskill,

Here are 100 books that What We Owe the Future fans have personally recommended if you like What We Owe the Future. 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 The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't

William MacAskill Author Of What We Owe the Future

From my list on doing good.

Who am I?

William MacAskill is an associate professor in philosophy at the University of Oxford. At the time of his appointment, he was the youngest associate professor of philosophy in the world. He cofounded the nonprofits Giving What We Can, the Centre for Effective Altruism, and Y Combinator–backed 80,000 Hours, which together have moved over $300 million to effective charities. He is the author of Doing Good Better and What We Owe The Future.

William's book list on doing good

William MacAskill Why did William love this book?

The Scout Mindset is one of the best books I know on reasoning clearly and developing a truth-seeking attitude. Galef argues that instead of being like “soldiers,” who engage in wishful thinking by defending the ideas they most want to believe, we should be more like “scouts,” whose goal is to actually find out what is true. The book includes some of the latest research on the skills and habits one needs to be an excellent reasoner. 

By Julia Galef,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of best smart thinking book 2022 (Business Book Awards)
Guardian best books of 2021

'Original, thought-provoking and a joy to read' Tim Harford

'Highly recommended. It's not easy to become (more of) a scout, but it's hard not to be inspired by this book' Rutger Bregman

When it comes to what we believe, humans see what they want to see. In other words, we have what Julia Galef calls a 'soldier' mindset. From tribalism and wishful thinking, to rationalising in our personal lives and everything in between, we are driven to defend the ideas we most want to believe…


Book cover of The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Author Of The Role of the Arab-Islamic World in the Rise of the West: Implications for Contemporary Trans-Cultural Relations

From my list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century.

Who am I?

I am a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist. My work at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, St. Antony’s College, and the World Economic Forum (as a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Complex Risks) focuses on transdisciplinarity, with an emphasis on the interplay between philosophy, neuroscience, strategic culture, applied history, technology, and global security. I am particularly interested in the exponential growth of disruptive technologies, and how they have the potential to both foster and hinder the progress of human civilization. My mission is rooted in finding transdisciplinary solutions to identify, predict and manage frontier risks, both here on earth and in Outer Space.

Nayef's book list on the frontier risks facing humanity in the 21st Century

Nayef R.F. Al-Rodhan Why did Nayef love this book?

This is a fascinating book that explores the risks to humanity’s future, from well-documented threats such as climate change and weapons of mass destruction to less understood dangers emanating from disruptive technologies and man-made pandemics.

Ord, an Oxford philosopher, does an impressive job at explaining complex scientific issues in terms easily digestible for a broader audience. The book also develops important moral frameworks for tackling a wide range of existential risks.

By Toby Ord,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This urgent and eye-opening book makes the case that protecting humanity's future is the central challenge of our time.

If all goes well, human history is just beginning. Our species could survive for billions of years - enough time to end disease, poverty, and injustice, and to flourish in ways unimaginable today. But this vast future is at risk. With the advent of nuclear weapons, humanity entered a new age, where we face existential catastrophes - those from which we could never come back. Since then, these dangers have only multiplied, from climate change to engineered pathogens and artificial intelligence.…


Book cover of Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Help Others, Do Work That Matters, and Make Smarter Choices about Giving Back

Benjamin Todd Author Of 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good

From my list on how to have a positive social impact with careers.

Who are we?

We’re a nonprofit that aims to help people have a positive social impact with their careers. Since you have, on average, 80,000 hours in your career, what you decide to do with that time might be your biggest opportunity to make a difference. Over the past ten years, we’ve conducted careful research into high-impact careers, and have helped thousands of people plan a career that has a high positive impact. 

Benjamin's book list on how to have a positive social impact with careers

Benjamin Todd Why did Benjamin love this book?

For those of us who want to live an ‘ethical life’ and help others, it’s not always easy to know what to do. Will gives one answer: the principles of effective altruism. The book sets out a practical guide to increasing your impact through your charity, volunteering, purchases, and choice of cause. We think it’s a really valuable tool to understand how you can have a positive impact.

By William MacAskill,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A radical reassessment of how we can most effectively help others by a rising star of philosophy and leading social entrepreneur.

'A surprising and often counterintuitive look at the best ways to make a difference . . . MacAskill is that rarest of beasts: a do-gooder who uses his head more than his heart.'
SUNDAY TIMES

Most of us want to make a difference. We donate to charity, buy Fairtrade coffee, or try to cut down on our carbon emissions. Rarely do we know if we're really helping, and despite our best intentions, our actions can have ineffective - and…


Book cover of The Alignment Problem: Machine Learning and Human Values

Benjamin Todd Author Of 80,000 Hours: Find a Fulfilling Career That Does Good

From my list on how to have a positive social impact with careers.

Who are we?

We’re a nonprofit that aims to help people have a positive social impact with their careers. Since you have, on average, 80,000 hours in your career, what you decide to do with that time might be your biggest opportunity to make a difference. Over the past ten years, we’ve conducted careful research into high-impact careers, and have helped thousands of people plan a career that has a high positive impact. 

Benjamin's book list on how to have a positive social impact with careers

Benjamin Todd Why did Benjamin love this book?

One example of an especially pressing threat facing humanity is the rapid development of artificial intelligence. If we want this new technology to go well, it needs to be ‘aligned’ – that is, it should have or act on the same values as us. 

In this book, Brian sets out why aligning artificial intelligence is an extremely tricky issue and one which deserves more attention from talented and dedicated people.

By Brian Christian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today's "machine-learning" systems, trained by data, are so effective that we've invited them to see and hear for us-and to make decisions on our behalf. But alarm bells are ringing. Recent years have seen an eruption of concern as the field of machine learning advances. When the systems we attempt to teach will not, in the end, do what we want or what we expect, ethical and potentially existential risks emerge. Researchers call this the alignment problem.

Systems cull resumes until, years later, we discover that they have inherent gender biases. Algorithms decide bail and parole-and appear to assess Black…


Book cover of A Brief History of the Human Race

John Robert McNeill Author Of The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History

From my list on world history from the Paleolithic to the present.

Who am I?

I’m a historian who wants to understand the big picture as best I can. And while occasionally I can clear my schedule enough to read a 1,000pp book, realistically that won’t happen often so I am always on the alert for short books that aim to provide what I am looking for: a coherent vision of the whole of human history. That’s asking a lot of an author, but these five do it well.

John's book list on world history from the Paleolithic to the present

John Robert McNeill Why did John love this book?

This one is 359 pages and says almost nothing about the 20th century. It is quirky in terms of what it includes and what it leaves out, but reliable in its facts and judgments, and full of insights I haven’t encountered elsewhere. It does not bother with grand theories or overarching narrative, but focuses on what the author finds interesting. Cook is a specialist on the history of Islam, which gives the book an uncommon vantage point. 

By Michael Cook,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Brief History of the Human Race as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why has human history been crowded into the last few thousand years? Why has it happened at all? Could it have happened in a radically different way? What should we make of the disproportionate role of the West in shaping the world we currently live in? This witty, intelligent hopscotch through human history addresses these questions and more. Michael Cook sifts the human career on earth for the most telling nuggets and then uses them to elucidate the whole. From the calendars of Mesoamerica and the temple courtesans of medieval India to the intricacies of marriage among an aboriginal Australian…


Book cover of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History

Shelly Marshall Author Of Escaping Myself: Lee B's Biography, a true story of sobriety and his best tall tales

From my list on turning sobriety into a super power.

Who am I?

Most drunks struggle to accept that they have a disease called “alcoholism” and feel shame, intertwined with fear, having to admit it. I, on the other hand, embraced it. Being alcoholic meant I wasn’t “crazy” after all like Grandma. At 21, I embraced the disease along with 12 Step recovery, thanking my lucky stars that there was something I could do about my chaotic hippied lifestyle. “Don’t pick up the first fix, pill, or drink and you can’t get drunk.” Could the solution be so simple? It is. From the moment I set down the drink and drugs, I knew I had to share this amazing revelation with others and my writing career began.

Shelly's book list on turning sobriety into a super power

Shelly Marshall Why did Shelly love this book?

It may not seem relevant to sobriety to recommend a book on how evil is rooted in man’s very existence, yet I find that both alcoholism and recovery are also rooted in my existence.

It’s a monolithic book, but more than half is Bloom citing his sources. The book challenged my view of the world thus influencing my view of recovery. The 12 Steps taught me that problems are basically of my own making and that self-responsibility is the only path to find my way out.

It is not possible to read his book and not see how we humans lay the seeds of our own destruction, not only in a small personal life, but in all of human history. 

By Howard Bloom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Lucifer Principle is a revolutionary work that explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture to put forth the thesis that “evil” is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.

In a sweeping narrative that moves lucidly among sophisticated scientific disciplines and covers the entire span of the earth’s, as well as mankind’s, history, Howard Bloom challenges some of our most popular scientific assumptions. Drawing on evidence from studies of the most primitive organisms to those on ants, apes, and humankind, the author makes a persuasive…


Book cover of Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity

Johan Norberg Author Of Open: The Story of Human Progress

From my list on to make you grateful you live today.

Who am I?

I did not use to believe in human progress, but thought there must have been good old days behind us – until I studied history and understood that my ancestors did not live ecologically, they died ecologically, at an early age. Since then I’ve been obsessed with progress, what makes it possible and how we can spread it to more people. I am a historian of ideas from Sweden, the host of a video series on innovations in history, New and Improved, and the writer of many books on intellectual history and global economics, translated into more than 25 languages.

Johan's book list on to make you grateful you live today

Johan Norberg Why did Johan love this book?

The great fact of economic history is that we all used to be poor, and now most of us are not. 200 years ago, almost 90 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty, today around 9 percent does. This is the story of that remarkable transformation and what made it possible. Of course, there are many good books on this, and I have greatly enjoyed for example Joel Mokyr, Deirdre McCloskey, and David Landes, but this is a powerful, short book by a great historian, that manages to weave together economic, political, technological and intellectual factors into a very compelling narrative of progress and its preconditions over the past one thousand years.

By Stephen Davies,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How did the modern dynamist economy of wealth and opportunity come about? This major new analytical work emphasizes the often surprising, fundamental and continuing processes of innovation and transformation which has produced the world we live in now. / Today we live in a social and economic world that is fundamentally different from the one inhabited by our ancestors. The difference between the experience of people living today and that of all of our ancestors back to the advent of agriculture is as great as that between them and their hunter-gatherer forebears. The processes of transformational changes could have started…


Book cover of The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century

Benjamin Carter Hett Author Of The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

From my list on the legacy of the First World War.

Who am I?

I was a law school graduate heading for my first job when, unable to think of anything better to do with my last afternoon in London, I wandered through the First World War galleries of the Imperial War Museum. I was hypnotized by a slide show of Great War propaganda posters, stunned by their clever viciousness in getting men to volunteer and wives and girlfriends to pressure them. Increasingly fascinated, I started reading about the war and its aftermath. After several years of this, I quit my job at a law firm and went back to school to become a professor. And here I am.

Benjamin's book list on the legacy of the First World War

Benjamin Carter Hett Why did Benjamin love this book?

David Reynolds is simply one of the smartest and most original historians operating today. Do we imagine that no one thought much about the poems of Wilfred Owen until the 1960s? Do we think about how important the fiftieth anniversary of the Somme was for the politics of Ireland? This book is packed full of perceptive and original insights about the Great War’s very long legacy.

By David Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the most violent conflicts in the history of civilization, World War I has been strangely forgotten in American culture. It has become a ghostly war fought in a haze of memory, often seen merely as a distant preamble to World War II. In The Long Shadow critically acclaimed historian David Reynolds seeks to broaden our vision by assessing the impact of the Great War across the twentieth century. He shows how events in that turbulent century-particularly World War II, the Cold War, and the collapse of Communism-shaped and reshaped attitudes to 1914-18.

By exploring big themes such as…


Book cover of K-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher from 2004 - 2016

Nick Prior Author Of Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

From my list on popular music, technology, and society.

Who am I?

I’m a Professor of Cultural Sociology at Edinburgh, UK, and have written extensively on contemporary culture and particularly technological mediations of popular music. I have undertaken empirical research on cultures of popular music in places like Iceland, Japan, and the UK, and I have supervised around 25 doctoral students to successful completion. My work is widely cited in the field of cultural sociology, and I am regularly interviewed by national broadcasters and the press. I’m also an amateur musician, making homespun electronic music in my bedroom and releasing it under the monikers Sponge Monkeys and Triviax.

Nick's book list on popular music, technology, and society

Nick Prior Why did Nick love this book?

This is a collection of essays by Fisher that originally comprised his K-Punk blog and that I return to again and again.

Fisher has a unique voice, a kind of critical conscience for the times that navigates the complexities of what he called "capitalist realism" through the lens of popular culture. These essays are the reason I got into bands on the Ghost Box label, like Pye Corner Audio, The Advisory Circle, and Belbury Poly. They speak to a loss of promised futures in a political context that has increasingly emptied out hope.

I find Fisher’s diagnosis of the culture of late capitalism to be the most compelling out there. His critique of “retro” bands like The Arctic Monkeys is scathing, while his writings on “hauntological” culture are ground-breaking. I’m a big fan of Burial, and Fisher’s reflections on the post-rave come-down are spot on.

Be warned: the collection can…

By Mark Fisher, Darren Ambrose (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Edited by Darren Ambrose and with a foreword by Simon Reynolds, this comprehensive collection brings together the work of acclaimed blogger, writer, political activist and lecturer Mark Fisher (aka k-punk). Covering the period 2004 - 2016, the collection will include some of the best writings from his seminal blog k-punk; a selection of his brilliantly insightful film, television and music reviews; his key writings on politics, activism, precarity, hauntology, mental health and popular modernism for numerous websites and magazines; his final unfinished introduction to his planned work on "Acid Communism"; and a number of important interviews from the last decade.


Book cover of Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb- An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources

Giles Tillotson Author Of Taj Mahal

From my list on the Taj Mahal.

Who am I?

I am an art historian and have been engaged with India for over 40 years. Among other topics, I write about the Rajput courts in Rajasthan – especially Jaipur and Jodhpur – and about the Mughal cities of Delhi and Agra. I taught courses on these subjects at the University of London (at SOAS) in the 1990s. Since 2004 I have been living in India, where I work with museum trusts and with travel companies. Before the pandemic, I lectured regularly to tour groups visiting sites like the Taj Mahal, my aim being to bring the insights provided by expert research to a wider audience. 

Giles' book list on the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Why did Giles love this book?

This is an anthology of all of the written sources on the Taj Mahal from the period of its construction in the 17th century. It brings together translations of every description or mention of the building in Mughal court histories, or accounts by foreign travellers, and explains all of the historical and religious inscriptions that are written on the building itself. The book is meant for the serious student and lacks narrative flow; but the focus exclusively on written sources dating from the same time as the Taj really helps you understand it in its own time. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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