The most recommended books about archetypes

Who picked these books? Meet our 36 experts.

36 authors created a book list connected to archetypes, and here are their favorite archetype books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of archetype book?

Loading...
Loading...

Circle of Stones

By Judith Duerk,

Book cover of Circle of Stones: Woman's Journey to Herself

Anita Johnston Author Of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

From the list on the archetypal feminine.

Who am I?

I’m a clinical psychologist who has specialized in women’s issues and disordered eating for over thirty years. Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in a matriarchal and multicultural household where storytelling was a means of transmitting important concepts, traditions, and values, and was a way to experience meaningful and joyful connections with others. Because I was raised by strong women and my indigenous ancestors were Chamorro, a matrilineal culture that honored the motherline, I have always been interested in the archetypal feminine rooted in these stories, although I didn’t discover the term until I began to study psychology.

Anita's book list on the archetypal feminine

Why did Anita love this book?

I have read this book nearly a hundred times. Given that it is less than seventy pages long with sometimes only twenty-five words (or less) on a page, that may not seem like much of a feat. But the exquisite spacing between the words invites the reader to drop deep into the lost feminine, to pause, and to feel her essence. This book allows us to not only recognize what has been lost but also to repeatedly imagine how our lives might be different if we could fully experience and embrace the archetypal feminine.

By Judith Duerk,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Long ago before the patriarchal period, in many places on Earth, the Goddess was worshipped. Circle of Stones draws us into a meditative experience of the lost Feminine and creates a space for us to consider our present lives from the eyes of women's ancient culture and ritual. Incorporating the most ancient symbol of spirituality-the circle of stones-Duerk weaves stories, dreams, and visions of women to lead each reader into a personal yet archetypal journey, posing the reflective question, "How might your life have been different if . . ."

Complete with reading group guide.


Elric of Melniboné

By Michael Moorcock,

Book cover of Elric of Melniboné

Alex Gough Author Of Caesar’s Soldier

From Alex's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author History nut Ancient Rome nut Scientist Guitarist

Alex's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Alex love this book?

I’ve been aware of the Elric books for many years, but it has taken me a long time to get around to reading about the eternal champion. It was worth the wait.

It is fascinating to see how these stories have had such far-reaching influence, from roleplaying games to video games to fantasy authors. Elric is a great anti-hero, and though you always root for him, you often feel like you shouldn’t!

By Michael Moorcock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Michael Moorcock comes the first book in his famous Elric of Melniboné series, brought to vivid new life with stunning illustrations.

In one of the most well-known and well-loved fantasy epics of the 20th century, Elric is the brooding, albino emperor of the dying Kingdom of Melnibone. With Melnibone’s years of grandeur and decadence long since passed, Elric’s amoral cousin Yrkoon sets his eyes on the throne. Elric, realizing he is his country’s best hope, must face his nefarious cousin in an epic battle for the right to rule.

Elric of Melnibone is…


Kalanon's Rising

By Darian Smith,

Book cover of Kalanon's Rising

Kate Haley Author Of Steel and Stone: The War of the North Saga Book One

From Kate's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Raccoon Asylum escapee Fantasy adventurer

Kate's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Kate love this book?

I picked this one up because I became friends with the author, but I finished it because it was really good solid fantasy with a decent mystery – and I say that as someone who struggles to find books I enjoy.

The characters were familiar archetypes without being too tropey, and the world building had some very cool substance to it. I enjoyed it enough that I will be reading the sequels and prodding the author to produce more.

Like my saga, the Agents of Kalanon books switch protagonist focus each book while staying with the same crew of characters – which is something I love. I’m big into character-driven story and enjoy when enticing side characters end up becoming main characters.

By Darian Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Solve the Murders. Save the World.
The war is over. There’s supposed to be peace. So why is a member of the royal family murdered? Why is an ambassador no one trusts somehow connected? Why does Kalanon’s mage have a new body?
Brannon’s attempt at peace is over.
If he doesn’t solve the murder – and fast – war will return to Kalanon. But that’s not the worst of it. Dark magics are afoot and schemes no one could expect. The darkness is a threat not just to Kalanon but to the whole world.
Brannon’s life is about to change...That’s…


Shadow Legion

By Thomas Deja, Chris Kemple (illustrator), Mike Fyles (illustrator)

Book cover of Shadow Legion

Percival Constantine Author Of Heroes Forged

From the list on superheroes that aren’t comics.

Who am I?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by superheroes. Maybe it’s because as a bit of an outcast myself growing up, I gravitated towards stories of people who were outside society, yet actually more powerful because of it. Perhaps I’m drawn to the idea of people who work outside the system to make the world a better place, regardless of if it’s dangerous to them or if they don’t reap any kind of personal reward. Or maybe I just like to watch beautiful people in colorful costumes beat the crap out of each other. You can always listen to me on the Superhero Cinephiles podcast to hear me talk more about superheroes.

Percival's book list on superheroes that aren’t comics

Why did Percival love this book?

If your superhero tastes run more to the weird and dark, this is definitely in your wheelhouse. Deja’s Shadow Legion could best be described as “superhero noir.” It’s got aspects of the supernatural and horror mixed in with pulp hero archetypes and intriguing interpretations of classic super powers. Plus, it features one of the best villains in any piece of superhero media, bar none.

By Thomas Deja, Chris Kemple (illustrator), Mike Fyles (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WELCOME TO
NOCTURNE, FLORIDA

There has always been something strange about Nocturne, Florida: the City That Lives by Night. It is an entertainment nexus luring tourist from around the world to its night clubs, music venues and other, more adult entertainment venues. But there is a darker side to which these carefree revelers never see; one of dark doings, violence and eldritch evil.

Now a new sinister force threatens Nocturne and only a handful of unique, gifted beings can protect the city’s innocent.
Nightbreaker; a radio star turned vigilante, he exist in a strange limbo world. The beautiful Dreamcatcher who…


Women Who Run with the Wolves

By Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

Book cover of Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Jane Stork Author Of Breaking the Spell: My Life as a Rajneeshee and the Long Journey Back to Freedom

From Jane's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Reader Nature lover Gardener Cook

Jane's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Jane love this book?

I first read Women Who Run With The Wolves 30 years ago and loved it.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a born storyteller, having grown up in an extended family where story-telling was a beloved daily tradition practiced by old and young alike. As a young adult, Clarissa became a Jungian analyst. For her doctorate, she travelled the world, seeking out tribal peoples and communities where the traditional stories were still told. These stories were to become the core of her doctoral thesis and this book.

Rereading this book after 30 years elicited palpable excitement in me. I recognized so many of the stages in a woman’s journey through life that these ancient stories describe and that Clarissa decodes as only a storyteller can. Beautiful, magical, affirming.

By Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Women Who Run with the Wolves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published three years before the print edition of Women Who Run With the Wolves made publishing history, this original audio edition quickly became an underground bestseller. For its insights into the inner life of women, it established Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes as one of the most important voices of our time in the fields of Jungian psychology, myth, and women's mysteries.

Drawing from her work as a psychoanalyst and cantadora ("keeper of the old stories"), Dr. Estes uses myths and folktales to illustrate how societies systematically strip away the feminine spirit. Through an exploration into the nature of the…


Beldan's Fire

By Midori Snyder,

Book cover of Beldan's Fire

Ceri Clark Author Of Children of the Elementi

From the list on superpowers that aren't about superheroes.

Who am I?

I love escapist fantasy and science fiction. I like stories that stretch the imagination and take me places I’ve never been. I want to be lost and be completely confused after taking my eyes off the written word, still in the fantasy world of the story. My picks are those kinds of stories. Worlds where anything is possible, and the characters have skills and powers which can help them achieve anything, something I want for my own characters.

Ceri's book list on superpowers that aren't about superheroes

Why did Ceri love this book?

Although Jobber possesses the rare and powerful gift of fire, it comes with a heavy price - death by hanging, as is the fate of anyone discovered to have one of the Gifts of Oran.

These abilities stem from the elements themselves, and those who possess them must keep their powers hidden.

What sets this book apart is the inclusion of several strong female characters, defying the typical "sole hero" archetype. However, my favorite has always been Jobber, whose tomboyish nature resonated with me on a personal level.

By Midori Snyder,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Two hundred years ago, the Fire Queen destroyed her rival queens of Earth, Air, and Water in the fateful Burning and took power over Oran. No child with a trace of the elemental magic was allowed to live. Years later, the country still trembles under her oppression. But now there are rumors of hope. Four young women escaped—, four who have the powers of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air—, and are even now finding each other. At the same time, a ragtag army of artists and singers, orphans and vagrants, thieves and knifewielders is stealing into the city. Their sign…


Book cover of The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human, and How to Tell Them Better

Tom Ireland Author Of The Good Virus: The Amazing Story and Forgotten Promise of the Phage

From the list on science about way more than science.

Who am I?

I am a science journalist and magazine editor. I feel really lucky to be a bioscience specialist – it really is at the forefront of solving some of the great challenges of our time, from making sustainable fuels and materials, to climate change mitigation, age-related disease, pandemics, food security, habitat restoration…plus there’s an incredible diversity of life on our planet still to be discovered. I always try to relate scientific progress to our everyday lives: it’s not just about creating new knowledge, it is about how that knowledge might improve our health, change our outlook, transform society, or protect the planet. 

Tom's book list on science about way more than science

Why did Tom love this book?

I’ve dipped into books about writing, storytelling, and scriptwriting before, and I’ve always found them to be utterly uninspiring, and in fact quite depressing – little more than a set of formulas to ensure your story’s structure is like other stories.

But Will Storr’s excellent book uses insights from evolutionary biology and psychology to help you get to understand why human minds love stories, and what it is about great stories that keeps readers turning the pages. His advice is powerful, simple – primal, even.

I’ve used this excellent book to help improve my writing and ensure my first book was a real page-turner. But The Science of Storytelling has also left a huge mark on me in terms of thinking about how and why we communicate. It’s for our own survival, after all. 

By Will Storr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

'If you want to write a novel or a script, read this book' Sunday Times

'The best book on the craft of storytelling I've ever read' Matt Haig

'Rarely has a book engrossed me more, and forced me to question everything I've ever read, seen or written. A masterpiece' Adam Rutherford

Who would we be without stories?

Stories mould who we are, from our character to our cultural identity. They drive us to act out our dreams and ambitions, and shape our politics and beliefs. We use them to construct our relationships, to keep order in our…


The Infinite Harmony

By Michael Hayes,

Book cover of The Infinite Harmony: Musical Structures in Science and Theology

Sarita Armstrong Author Of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

From the list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching.

Who am I?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.

Sarita's book list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

Why did Sarita love this book?

The innovative thinking in this book inspired me to put my original ideas into writing. Here was someone else who was looking into the profound origins of humanity and how the world is made up. It reassured me I was on the right track in associating the Major Arcana of the Tarot with the I-Ching. Michael Hayes goes further in detecting a numerical and musical synthesis between ancient doctrines and current scientific discoveries. It is not a quick read, but a real eye-opener. Whilst not agreeing with all of it, there was so much fascinating information; I had to read it through twice straight off.

By Michael Hayes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a numerical study proving that religion and science share a common underlying structure, which is very similar to music theory. This study proposes that all the world's major religious and esoteric doctrines share a common scientific origin. Further that this hidden science is none other than musical theory: music being the true common denominator of both religious and scientific traditions. From the mysterious cults of ancient Egypt, China and India and Greece right through to the latest findings in molecular biology and particle physics, there is a law of proportions that corresponds to the rules of music.


Restoring the Balance

By Chöjé Akong Tulku Rinpoche,

Book cover of Restoring the Balance

Sarita Armstrong Author Of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

From the list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching.

Who am I?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.

Sarita's book list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

Why did Sarita love this book?

This is an easy-to-read book for anyone new to a Buddhist way of thinking. The deceptively simple philosophy put forward by the author is startlingly relevant to all of us in today’s world – a world so obviously in need of restoring balance. Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche was the founder of the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the U.K.

By Chöjé Akong Tulku Rinpoche,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Sharing Tibetan Wisdom


Supergods

By Grant Morrison,

Book cover of Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Blake M. Petit Author Of Other People's Heroes

From the list on superheroes outside of graphic novels.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and teacher from Ama, Louisiana, who has also been a reader of comic books since I first learned how to read. I spent many years as a columnist, reviewer, and podcaster for a now-defunct comic site, while also working on my own novels, humor columns, and even the occasional stage play. My time these days is split between my day job as a high school English teacher, my dream job writing, and my full-time job of being the father of a five-year-old.

Blake's book list on superheroes outside of graphic novels

Why did Blake love this book?

Not a novel, but Supergods is one of the most intriguing books about the superhero as a concept that I’ve ever read. In Supergods, the always thought-provoking Grant Morrison digs into what superheroes actually are by picking apart archetypes, delving into the history of the medium, and exploring their place as a sort of modern mythology. Having written countless superhero comics, including some of the most surreal such stories ever to exist, Morrison is in a unique position to dissect the genre in a way that leaves you thinking about what superheroes mean and why they matter. It's the kind of book that makes you examine what the building blocks of superheroes are, and as someone who enjoys playing in that sandbox, it makes me look at one of my favorite genres in new and unique ways. 

By Grant Morrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human

Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. They are on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and in our dreams. But what are they trying to tell us? For Grant Morrison, one of the most acclaimed writers in the world of comics, these heroes are powerful archetypes who reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves. In this exhilarating work…


Awakening the Heroes Within

By Carol S. Pearson,

Book cover of Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World

Traci Harding Author Of The Twelve Chapters of the Infinite Night

From the list on inciting the imagination.

Who am I?

I was in my teens when I discovered that if I focused on something hard enough I could manifest it. During my investigations into whether others had experienced this, I discovered the Adyar Bookstore in the Strand Arcade in Sydney, and that I had an insatiable thirst for all texts metaphysical, historical, and quantum theory. Turns out that many of the greatest thinkers in history believed that humans hold sway over many of the events and occurrence of their own lives, including Einstein, Plato, Tesla, Carl Sagan, and more. My books are the product of my exploration into the nature of personal reality, spirituality, and the meaning of life.

Traci's book list on inciting the imagination

Why did Traci love this book?

This book outlines the Twelve Archetypes of the human condition - the Innocent, Lover, Healer, Warrior, Seeker, Ruler, Destroyer, Sage, Creator, Orphan, Magician, and Fool. 

These Archetypes are the basis of my Twelve Chapters, exploring one day in the life of each of these archetypes, as they strive to overcome their inner dragons and fulfil their true life purpose. 

As my characters are spread across time - the past, the near future and the distant future - I actually had to write many of these chapters simultaneously, as their stories wove through each other. 

The insights into each stage of the hero’s journey of these archetypes was invaluable to me throughout the process. 

Other writers, psychiatrists, or anyone seeking greater insight into humanity and what drives us, might find this most insightful. 

By Carol S. Pearson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Awakening the Heroes Within as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This companion to the bestselling THE HERO WITHIN outlines twelve archetypal patterns that can aid inner development and the quest for wholeness.


Book cover of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

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

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

Who am I?

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

Why did Chad love this book?

Julian Jaynes was a researcher and teacher whose whole career focused on describing and understanding human consciousness. 

This strange, enchanting book looks at consciousness as an “operation” (like mathematics) rather than a thing. It examines how consciousness constructs an internal “space” in our heads that is an analog for the external world. In this space, we manipulate thoughts and ideas in much the same way we manipulate objects in the material world. 

This is a foundational text that calls into question our most basic assumptions about how we experience the realm of thought.

By Julian Jaynes,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of this classic, seminal book is Julian Jaynes's still-controversial thesis that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but instead is a learned process that came about only three thousand years ago and is still developing. The implications of this revolutionary scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion -- and indeed our future.


Book cover of Let Us Dance! The Stumble And Whirl With The Beloved

Anita Johnston Author Of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

From the list on the archetypal feminine.

Who am I?

I’m a clinical psychologist who has specialized in women’s issues and disordered eating for over thirty years. Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in a matriarchal and multicultural household where storytelling was a means of transmitting important concepts, traditions, and values, and was a way to experience meaningful and joyful connections with others. Because I was raised by strong women and my indigenous ancestors were Chamorro, a matrilineal culture that honored the motherline, I have always been interested in the archetypal feminine rooted in these stories, although I didn’t discover the term until I began to study psychology.

Anita's book list on the archetypal feminine

Why did Anita love this book?

This young woman is profoundly wise beyond her years. In a style reminiscent of the poetry of the mystics Rumi and Hafiz from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Harkin gives voice to the deep feminine as she is emerging into modern consciousness. This is poetry to touch your heart and quicken your inner feminine. Full disclosure: I was honored to write the forward to this beautifully written book.

By Chelan Harkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let Us Dance! The Stumble And Whirl With The Beloved as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Let Us Dance! The Stumble And Whirl With The Beloved is here to inspire you to harness your beautiful, dynamic power and look the world directly in the eye. It emboldens the reader to let go of shames and shoulds with God and entices you to step up to the dance floor of your life and ask The Divine for a whirl. It has within it a potency that cracks open old ways that no longer serve us and brings us to life. Let Us Dance! is more than just poetry. It catalyzes and transfers to its reader living, inspired…


Purpose and Profit

By George Serafeim,

Book cover of Purpose and Profit: How Business Can Lift Up the World

Anne Bahr Thompson Author Of Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit

From the list on shifting the role business plays in society.

Who am I?

I pivoted into brand consulting after working in banking, because I saw a need to align organizational behaviors and actions with purpose and values. So naturally, as a strategist my work has always informally included an element of coaching brands and people to have the courage and confidence to be their best, true selves. To have a broader societal vision and positive social impact. Since the Me-to-We continuum of Brand Citizenship emerged unsolicited in research, I also have been on a larger mission to help business balance how it earns a profit with how it serves individual people, betters society, and regenerates the planet.

Anne's book list on shifting the role business plays in society

Why did Anne love this book?

Although I was familiar with Harvard Business School professor George Serafeim’s research and work on impact weighted accounting before I read this book, I still found it informative and inspiring.

The first half of this book is a primer on ESG and sustainability highlighting societal shifts and why purpose and impact have moved to the forefront. And the second half details how impact and outcomes can be achieved. 

This book is an excellent introduction for people new to purpose – or questioning its real value financially – as well as for those of us who have long been in this space.

Drawing extensively on his research and that of colleagues, Serafeim emphasizes how doing good creates competitive advantage.

By George Serafeim,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Are purpose and profit in conflict, or can both be achieved simultaneously with the right mindset and tools?

What are the forces that are reshaping the relationship between the two? What can we all do to strengthen the relationship between purpose and profit as entrepreneurs, managers, employees, consumers, and investors? Backed by cutting-edge research, Purpose and Profit provides answers to these fundamental questions that are increasingly defining the business landscape all around the world. Distinguished Harvard Business School Professor George Serafeim takes readers on a research-driven journey to understand:

How and why environmental and social issues are becoming increasingly relevant…


Four Quartets

By T.S. Eliot,

Book cover of Four Quartets

Sarita Armstrong Author Of The Magic of Tao in The Tarot

From the list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching.

Who am I?

I have always seen my life as a journey, with lessons to be learnt along the way. Adventures on land and sea have drawn me into contact with many races and traditions and brought me close to nature in its many moods. When a physical journey ends, an inner journey takes me in directions I had never looked at before. Early spiritual questioning led me to eastern philosophies and made me aware of the underlying links between all cultures. In relying on my own experiences rather than what others have written, I believe my writing brings a freshness and individuality to the age-old questions of who we are and where we are going.

Sarita's book list on tarot archetypes and the I Ching

Why did Sarita love this book?

I want to include this slim volume of four fairly long, connected poems because I have turned to it so often over the years. T.S. Eliot could be called a modern mystic, for he was ahead of his time. Nostalgia for another age is mixed with single lines that keep you thinking for days, and there are elements you can only appreciate intuitively. Reading these poems takes me to unknown places that I think I remember, and to times beyond this time.

By T.S. Eliot,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Four Quartets is the culminating achievement of T.S. Eliot's career as a poet. While containing some of the most musical and unforgettable passages in twentieth-century poetry, its four parts, 'Burnt Norton', 'East Coker', 'The Dry Salvages' and 'Little Gidding', present a rigorous meditation on the spiritual, philosophical and personal themes which preoccupied the author. It was the way in which a private voice was heard to speak for the concerns of an entire generation, in the midst of war and doubt, that confirmed it as an enduring masterpiece.


The Seven Basic Plots

By Christopher Booker,

Book cover of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

James R. Benn Author Of Road of Bones

From the list on essential books for writers.

Who am I?

I’ve always wanted to write. It took years to get started, and after working in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years, I quit the day job routine in 2011 to write full time. I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have been of immense help. The first is a quote from writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me that "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.

James' book list on essential books for writers

Why did James love this book?

This book is a masterwork of more than thirty years of research into why people tell stories. Booker breaks down literature into seven archetypal themes which occur across all types of stories. Using a wealth of examples ranging from ancient myths and folktales to plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, he demonstrates how these archetypal themes have remained constant over the generations. Not everyone will agree with Booker, but everyone will learn from him—about reading, writing, and understanding. This fascinating read provides writers with a new way to look at their own plotting and tap into the hero’s journey.

By Christopher Booker,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This remarkable and monumental book at last provides a comprehensive answer to the age-old riddle of whether there are only a small number of 'basic stories' in the world. Using a wealth of examples, from ancient myths and folk tales via the plays and novels of great literature to the popular movies and TV soap operas of today, it shows that there are seven archetypal themes which recur throughout every kind of storytelling.
But this is only the prelude to an investigation into how and why we are 'programmed' to imagine stories in these ways, and how they relate to…


My Story Can Beat Up Your Story

By Jeffrey Alan Schechter,

Book cover of My Story Can Beat Up Your Story: Ten Ways to Toughen Up Your Screenplay from Opening Hook to Knockout Punch

Marshall Dotson Author Of Actions and Goals: The Story Structure Secret

From the list on story structure.

Who am I?

I’ve been a student of story structure for decades. As a novelist, this initially started as a means to learn as much as I could from those with more experience than myself, but quickly grew into a passion. I read everything on the subject I could get my hands on and eventually began analyzing the plots of novels and movies for myself, amalgamating what I had learned with my own theories and insights which coalesced into a wholly new structural paradigm. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of working with many talented screenwriters and novelists to help them shape their stories using Six Act Structure. 

Marshall's book list on story structure

Why did Marshall love this book?

Schechter divides the traditional 3-act structure into four parts; Act 1, Act 2A, Act 2B, and Act 3. While that’s not revolutionary in itself, he uses this four-part breakdown to structure multiple story elements like theme and motivation. My favorite element is his breakdown of the character’s story evolution into four archetypes: Orphan, Wanderer, Warrior, and Martyr. Seeing how these archetypes can be metaphorical such as Jason Bourne being “orphaned” from his previous life at the beginning of The Bourne Identity, or literal, such as Rose martyring herself by returning to the sinking Titanic to rescue Jack, is worth the price of admission alone.

By Jeffrey Alan Schechter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Story Can Beat Up Your Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

My Story Can Beat Up Your Story! is the same powerful, easy-to-learn system that industry insiders have used to generate millions of dollars in script sales and ?assignments. In a clear, step-by-step fashion, this book is a fun, eye-opening, ?brain-expanding, and often irreverent guide to writing stories that sell. Covering everything from Heroes to Villains, from Theme to Plot Points, from cooking up good ideas to a business plan for smart writers, this book forever eliminates that horrible feeling every writer goes through — staring at the blank page and wondering “what comes next?”


Book cover of What It Is Like to Go to War

Benjamin Sledge Author Of Where Cowards Go to Die

From the list on war that leave you shattered.

Who am I?

I’m a Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient who fought in both Afghanistan and Iraq. As I explored the ramifications of combat and struggled to reintegrate when I returned home, I often felt veterans’ memoirs teetered on the brink of “war porn” as opposed to the crushing devastation and fear men and women face on the battlefield. Seeking to rectify the misconceptions about the longest-running wars in U.S. history, I began writing about my experiences on medium.com and amassed over 40,000 followers (which turned into a book deal). This list of books below directly influenced my work and—I believe—are the gold standards for true war stories.

Benjamin's book list on war that leave you shattered

Why did Benjamin love this book?

The sheer number of times I cried in this book is absurd. Marlantes is a Vietnam veteran and Navy Cross recipient who chronicles his journey leaving Yale University to serve as a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam. Throughout, he chronicles the struggle to readjust to civilian society and intermingles religion, philosophy, and psychology while recounting some of his most harrowing tales of combat. If you’ve ever had a loved one or friend serve who came home different and wondered why or how you can help, this is the book to read. 

By Karl Marlantes,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What It Is Like to Go to War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Matterhorn" author Karl Marlantes' nonfiction debut is a powerful book about the experience of combat and how inadequately we prepare our young men and women for the psychological and spiritual stresses of war. One of the most important and highly-praised books of 2011, Karl Marlantes' "What It Is Like to Go to War" is set to become just as much of a classic as his epic novel "Matterhorn". In 1968, at the age of twenty-two, Karl Marlantes was dropped into the highland jungle of Vietnam, an inexperienced lieutenant in command of a platoon of forty Marines who would live or…


The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

By C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler (translator),

Book cover of The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Antonio Zadra Author Of When Brains Dream: Exploring the Science and Mystery of Sleep

From the list on the science of dreams.

Who am I?

Although I had many intriguing dreams during my childhood, including fantastic flying dreams, the idea of becoming a sleep scientist never crossed my mind. All that changed during my first year in college. It was then that I experienced an exceptionally long and vivid lucid dream that changed my life; it was because of this dream that I decided to become a dream researcher. Today, I’m a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, director of the department’s Dream Research Laboratory, and have published over 100 scientific articles and book chapters on sleep and dreams. I don’t have as many flying dreams as I once did, but I do have a really cool job while awake. 

Antonio's book list on the science of dreams

Why did Antonio love this book?

Jung proposed many fascinating ideas about the inner workings of the mind. His concept of the archetypes and of the collective unconscious are two of his best-known contributions, and both are intimately tied to his conceptualization of dreams. The idea that dreams not only emanate from our personal unconscious, but also from our collective unconscious (a deep stratum of the unconscious common to all humankind) and contain universal patterns, images, and dispositions, has helped countless people develop a deeper understanding of their dreams.

What’s more, this book exposes Jung’s view of dreaming as a wholesome, natural process that can give rise to creative—even transcendent—experiences featuring personal challenges, unmapped potentials, and elements of one’s personality. Not always the easiest of reads, but highly rewarding. 

By C.G. Jung, Gerhard Adler (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Essays which state the fundamentals of Jung's psychological system: "On the Psychology of the Unconscious" and "The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious," with their original versions in an appendix.


Conscious Femininity

By Marion Woodman,

Book cover of Conscious Femininity

Anita Johnston Author Of Eating in the Light of the Moon: How Women Can Transform Their Relationship with Food Through Myths, Metaphors, and Storytelling

From the list on the archetypal feminine.

Who am I?

I’m a clinical psychologist who has specialized in women’s issues and disordered eating for over thirty years. Born on the island of Guam, I was raised in a matriarchal and multicultural household where storytelling was a means of transmitting important concepts, traditions, and values, and was a way to experience meaningful and joyful connections with others. Because I was raised by strong women and my indigenous ancestors were Chamorro, a matrilineal culture that honored the motherline, I have always been interested in the archetypal feminine rooted in these stories, although I didn’t discover the term until I began to study psychology.

Anita's book list on the archetypal feminine

Why did Anita love this book?

Marian Woodman has been my shero ever since I attended a workshop of hers. I recall sitting in the audience listening to her speak and blinking my eyes. How could it be that she could shape-shift from a coy flirtatious maiden, into a warm nurturing mother, and then moments later appear as a regal, confident, and sovereign queen and then a deeply wise crone? She clearly understood and embodied the full range of the conscious feminine in its various aspects.

Of her many books, this is the one I love the most because, in this collection of interviews with her, the passion of her speaking voice comes through the written word loud and clear. Her phrasing is so delicious, my tattered copy is underlined throughout.

By Marion Woodman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

1993 INNER CITY BOOKS SOFTCOVER