100 books like Word and Object

By Willard Van Orman Quine,

Here are 100 books that Word and Object fans have personally recommended if you like Word and Object. 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 Naming and Necessity

Yehonathan Sharvit Author Of Data-Oriented Programming

From my list on become a great developer.

Why am I passionate about this?

I boast a two-decade-long career in the software industry. Over the years, I have diligently honed my programming skills across a multitude of languages, including JavaScript, C++, Java, Ruby, and Clojure. Throughout my career, I have taken on various management roles, from Team Leader to VP of Engineering. No matter the role, the thing I have enjoyed the most is to make complex topics easy to understand.

Yehonathan's book list on become a great developer

Yehonathan Sharvit Why did Yehonathan love this book?

Naming and Necessity had a profound impact on my understanding of the importance of using proper names in programming (for functions, variables, etc.). I was fascinated by Kripke’s exploration of the usage of names in our day-to-day language. His arguments challenged my thinking and introduced me to new ways of considering reference and meaning.

The clarity and rigor of his analysis pushed me to refine my reasoning skills. Despite being a challenging read, I found it incredibly rewarding.

By Saul A Kripke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Naming and Necessity' has had a great and increasing influence. It redirected philosophical attention to neglected questions of natural and metaphysical necessity and to the connections between these and theories of naming, and of identity. This seminal work, to which today's thriving essentialist metaphysics largely owes its impetus, is here reissued in a newly corrected form with a new preface by the author. If there is such a thing as essential reading in metaphysics, or in philosophy of language, this is it.


Book cover of Philosophical Investigations

Gary Kemp Author Of What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

From my list on those interested in language itself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher of language (and of art) and have been for 30+ years. Why philosophy of language? Well, it encourages a certain salutary kind of self-consciousness—which is extremely valuable to philosophy—and facilitates greater rigor. But it only got going some one hundred and twenty years ago. So it's modern(ish) as well as deep.  And whereas it might seem a narrow slice of the philosophical pie, it isn't; it seems to provide fruitful ways of thinking for almost any philosophical subject. For example, rather than 'What is X?', we ask 'What do we mean by "X"?'; a subtle difference perhaps but the change in perspective might be a key.

Gary's book list on those interested in language itself

Gary Kemp Why did Gary love this book?

I first read this book at age twenty-one and have never stopped returning to it. It gets better and deeper each time.

Ludwig teaches that language and reality are bound up in so many ways. It also contains some famous themes and head-scratchers, such as language games, family resemblance, private language, and rule-following, discussed, as always, in a non-technical way. 

By Ludwig Wittgenstein,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Philosophical Investigations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Incorporating significant editorial changes from earlier editions, the fourth edition of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations is the definitive en face German-English version of the most important work of 20th-century philosophy The extensively revised English translation incorporates many hundreds of changes to Anscombe's original translation Footnoted remarks in the earlier editions have now been relocated in the text What was previously referred to as 'Part 2' is now republished as Philosophy of Psychology - A Fragment , and all the remarks in it are numbered for ease of reference New detailed editorial endnotes explain decisions of translators and identify references and…


Book cover of The Man Without Qualities

Gary Kemp Author Of What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

From my list on those interested in language itself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher of language (and of art) and have been for 30+ years. Why philosophy of language? Well, it encourages a certain salutary kind of self-consciousness—which is extremely valuable to philosophy—and facilitates greater rigor. But it only got going some one hundred and twenty years ago. So it's modern(ish) as well as deep.  And whereas it might seem a narrow slice of the philosophical pie, it isn't; it seems to provide fruitful ways of thinking for almost any philosophical subject. For example, rather than 'What is X?', we ask 'What do we mean by "X"?'; a subtle difference perhaps but the change in perspective might be a key.

Gary's book list on those interested in language itself

Gary Kemp Why did Gary love this book?

Musil is a person who you know you’ll never quite keep up with; he has irony within irony within irony. The book is fiction, but few things are better for learning skepticism about "essences" and big ideas, and yes, humility about oneself.

Ulrich, Diotima, General Stumm, sister Agatha, and Moosebrugger are the unforgettable characters, and post-World War I, Vienna is the stage. 

By Robert Musil, Sophie Wilkins (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Man Without Qualities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an introduction by Jonathan Lethem

It is 1913, and Viennese high society is determined to find an appropriate way of celebrating the seventieth jubilee of the accession of Emperor Franz Josef. But as the aristocracy tries to salvage something illustrious out of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the ordinary Viennese world is beginning to show signs of more serious rebellion. Caught in the middle of this social labyrinth is Ulrich: youngish, rich, an ex-soldier, seducer and scientist.

Unable to deceive himself that the jumble of attributes and values that his world has bestowed on him amounts to anything…


Book cover of Painting as an Art

Gary Kemp Author Of What is this thing called Philosophy of Language?

From my list on those interested in language itself.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a philosopher of language (and of art) and have been for 30+ years. Why philosophy of language? Well, it encourages a certain salutary kind of self-consciousness—which is extremely valuable to philosophy—and facilitates greater rigor. But it only got going some one hundred and twenty years ago. So it's modern(ish) as well as deep.  And whereas it might seem a narrow slice of the philosophical pie, it isn't; it seems to provide fruitful ways of thinking for almost any philosophical subject. For example, rather than 'What is X?', we ask 'What do we mean by "X"?'; a subtle difference perhaps but the change in perspective might be a key.

Gary's book list on those interested in language itself

Gary Kemp Why did Gary love this book?

I have loved painting since I was a boy.

Wollheim teaches that this is largely, if tacitly, a philosophical interest, in particular, an interest in philosophy in mind, depth psychology, and meaning. That is why pictures fascinate us in the way they do. It is the very opposite of deconstructionism; the facts of history, artistic intention, psychoanalysis, and perception make something urgently real out of painting.  

By Richard Wollheim,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the twentieth century's most influential texts on philosophical aesthetics

Painting as an Art is acclaimed philosopher Richard Wollheim's encompassing vision of how to view art. Transcending the traditional boundaries of art history, Wollheim draws on his three great passions-philosophy, psychology, and art-to present an illuminating theory of the very experience of art. He shows how to unlock the meaning of a painting by retrieving-almost reenacting-the creative activity that produced it. In order to fully appreciate a work of art, Wollheim argues, critics must bring a much richer conception of human psychology than they have in the past. This…


Book cover of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature

Chad LeJeune Author Of "Pure O" OCD: Letting Go of Obsessive Thoughts with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

From my list on thoughts, and our relationship with them.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a clinical psychologist, I listen to thoughts all the time. I’m also having my own, constantly. We rely on our thoughts to help us navigate the world. However, our thoughts can also be a source of suffering. At times, they're not such reliable guides or helpers. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a way of thinking about thinking. ACT captured my imagination early in my clinical career. I trained with ACT’s originator, Steven Hayes, in the early 1990’s. I’ve come to believe that being more aware of our own thoughts, and our relationship to them is key to creating positive change and living a life grounded in our values.

Chad's book list on thoughts, and our relationship with them

Chad LeJeune Why did Chad love this book?

In this witty and provocative book, psycholinguistics researcher Steven Pinker explores the role of language in shaping our experience of reality. 

Human-style thinking would not be possible without our capacity for language. Thoughts are basically internal language. Among the basic experiences shaped by linguistics is our experience of time. 

We use language to construct a spatial metaphor for time, thinking in terms of “moving” “forward” or “backward” in time. Pinker takes us for a walk around the metaphorical space of consciousness, examining how language shapes our experience of the world.   

By Steven Pinker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize finalist author of The Blank Slate presents an accessible study of the relationship between language and human nature, explaining how everything from swearing and innuendo to prepositions and baby names reveal facts about key human concepts, emotions, and relationships.


Book cover of Language Unlimited: The Science Behind Our Most Creative Power

Asya Pereltsvaig Author Of Languages of the World: An Introduction

From my list on how human language works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by languages since my teenage years, when, in addition to my native Russian, I learned English, French, Spanish, Latin, Hebrew, and Esperanto to varying degrees of fluency. But it was in college that I decided to pursue linguistics as a profession, in part influenced by one of the books on my list! After 20 years of doing scientific research and teaching linguistics at different universities, I switched gears and now focus on bringing linguistic science to the general audience of lifelong learners. Even if you don’t change your career, like I did, I hope you enjoy reading the books on my list as much as I have!  

Asya's book list on how human language works

Asya Pereltsvaig Why did Asya love this book?

A whirlwind tour of what state-of-the-art linguistic science has to offer!

Even after 25 years of working in the field, I learned many new things from this book, ranging from how children acquire sign languages of the deaf to experiments trying to teach apes human language. I particularly liked the many clearly-presented examples from English and other languages.

But what was especially fun for me was a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how Adger designed an alien language for a TV show. It made me wonder how I would have done it differently and how our personal experiences influence us as scientists.

By David Adger,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Language Unlimited explores the many mysteries about our capacity for language and reveals the source of its endless creativity.

All humans, but no other species, have the capacity to create and understand language. It provides structure to our thoughts, allowing us to plan, communicate, and create new ideas, without limit. Yet we have only finite experiences, and our languages have finite stores of words. Where does our linguistic creativity come from? How does the endless scope of language emerge from our limited selves?

Drawing on research from neuroscience, psychology, and linguistics, David Adger takes the reader on a journey to…


Book cover of About Philosophy

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Author Of Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (and Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between

From my list on a taste of philosophy.

Why are we passionate about this?

Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein have been thinking deep thoughts and writing jokes for decades, and now they are here to help us understand philosophy through jokes, and jokes through philosophy. They like philosophy and they like jokes, not necessarily in that order. Best of all, they like combining them. 

Thomas' book list on a taste of philosophy

Thomas Cathcart and Danny Klein Why did Thomas love this book?

It’s one of the best and most accessible introductions to philosophy, now in its tenth edition. It’s also by our favorite college teacher.

By Robert Wolff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four Decades of Student-Friendly Philosophy



About Philosophy is an introductory text that covers all the major fields of philosophy in an easy-to-read language, interspersed with short selections from the major philosophers. It has been a best-selling leader in the field for more than forty years and it is written by an internationally recognized author of more than twenty books.


Book cover of More Than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor

Paul Frank Spencer Author Of Marvelous Light

From my list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

My very intelligent, very (self-described) un-literary father taught me all about the complexities and beauty of God. My librarian mother gave me the literature that would introduce me to the most profound descriptions of those complex beauties. As the author of Marvelous Light, numerous metaphor-dependent blog posts, and future allegorical novels, I hope to introduce each of my readers to the divine realities on which I depend daily.

Paul's book list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor

Paul Frank Spencer Why did Paul love this book?

Lakoff famously contends that metaphor is the crux of all human understanding. This classic academic, literary, philosophical, and sociological text suggests that at the root of what it means to be human is an absolute need to describe all experience and knowledge through comparison. Read More Than Cool Reason to begin gaining an appreciation for the theory of how metaphor makes us who we are and establishes our place in the universe.

By George Lakoff, Mark Turner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked More Than Cool Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The authors restore metaphor to our lives by showing us that it's never gone away. We've merely been taught to talk as if it had: as though weather maps were more 'real' than the breath of autumn; as though, for that matter, Reason was really 'cool.' What we're saying whenever we say is a theme this book illumines for anyone attentive." - Hugh Kenner, Johns Hopkins University

"In this bold and powerful book, Lakoff and Turner continue their use of metaphor to show how our minds get hold of the world. They have achieved nothing less than a postmodern Understanding…


Book cover of Proust's Way: A Field Guide to in Search of Lost Time

Eric Karpeles Author Of Paintings in Proust: A Visual Companion to in Search of Lost Time

From my list on Marcel Proust and expanding your grasp of him.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first read Swann’s Way when I was seventeen. Throughout the following five decades, In Search of Lost Time has always remained within reach, a parallel universe more enriching than words can express. As a painter, I’m drawn to Proust’s subtle use of paintings to reveal and mystify the relationship between what we see and what we know. I’ve spoken on Proust at Berkeley, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Houston, and was invited to give the annual Proust lecture at the Center for Fiction in New York as well as the Amon Carter Lecture on the Arts at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin.

Eric's book list on Marcel Proust and expanding your grasp of him

Eric Karpeles Why did Eric love this book?

"Like the Bible, In Search of Lost Time embodies its own sources, myths, and criticism. Like an archaeological site, the novel has come to stand for a state of civilization.” Roger Shattuck is masterful in reach and insight; his “field guide” is aptly named. The reader journeys alongside him to traverse the vast and incomparable terrain of a seven-volume novel. Full of wit and provocation, he leads us through thick and thin, and best of all, he allows our own reading of the great work to revive within us, illuminating the very experience of reading that Proust so brilliantly mined.

By Roger Shattuck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For any reader who has been humbled by the language, the density, or the sheer weight of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, Roger Shattuck is a godsend. Winner of the National Book Award for Marcel Proust, a sweeping examination of Proust's life and works, Shattuck now offers a useful and eminently readable guidebook to Proust's epic masterpiece, and a contemplation of memory and consciousness throughout great literature. Here, Shattuck laments Proust's defenselessness against zealous editors, praises some translations, and presents Proust as a novelist whose philosophical gifts were matched only by his irrepressible comic sense. Proust's Way, the…


Book cover of The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention

John Langdon Author Of The Science of Human Evolution: Getting it Right

From my list on tell us who we are.

Why am I passionate about this?

My sister once remarked that listening to our mother’s stories about living during World War II made it sound like we missed something really exciting. That is what history has always been for me–something I missed out on, for better or worse. What would it really have been like? Could I have survived? Family genealogies bring history to me on a personal level; archaeology and paleontology extend that wonder much deeper into the past. During the time I taught anatomy and human evolution at the University of Indianapolis, I tried to be as interdisciplinary as possible, both in study and teaching. I continue this in my retirement. 

John's book list on tell us who we are

John Langdon Why did John love this book?

I have tried to appreciate linguistics before but never really succeeded until I stumbled across this book. For one thing, it is a difficult field if you haven’t learned a second language. (I tried but not successfully.) For another, when I have delved into language theory, it has been much easier to think about, oh, what I am going to have for dinner tonight, or the fact that my library book is due tomorrow, or almost anything else. Guy Deutscher’s narrative is refreshingly different.

Of the traits that make humans different from all animals on this planet, language is certainly near the top of the list. As an evolutionist, language is important to me for two reasons. The first is that its origin is both important and mysterious. The French Academy of Sciences famously banned discussion of the first question because it was useless speculation and wasted time. That problem…

By Guy Deutscher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blending the spirit of Eats, Shoots & Leaves with the science of The Language Instinct, an original inquiry into the development of that most essential-and mysterious-of human creations: Language

Language is mankind's greatest invention-except, of course, that it was never invented." So begins linguist Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the genesis and evolution of language. If we started off with rudimentary utterances on the level of "man throw spear," how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced degrees of meaning?

Drawing on recent groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation…


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