The best books on cathedrals 📚

Browse the best books on cathedrals as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

By David Macaulay

Why this book?

We love all of David Macauley’s books. He uses hand-drawn black-and-white illustrations to describe the enormous effort and complicated processes involved in building some of the most magnificent structures in the world, from cathedrals to castles to pyramids. Cathedral was his first, and we think the best. Although intended for young readers, there are many builders, engineers, and architects that find wonder in Macauley’s work. 

From the list:

The best hand-illustrated books on building

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Book cover of The Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth

By Ken Follett

Why this book?

As a life-long reader and historical novelist, Ken Follet is one of my larger-than-life heroes. When I enjoy an author’s voice, characters, and story, I treasure a big fat book that requires a significant time investment. Set in twelfth-century England, this epic tale humanizes medieval history. After completing The Pillars of the Earth, I feel like I could walk through the Kingsbridge Cathedral and experience a familiar connection with the stonemasons and architects who built it. Effortless and entertaining history absorption!
From the list:

The best books for effortless, entertaining history absorption and gorgeous grammar

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Book cover of The Spire

The Spire

By William Golding

Why this book?

Golding was living in Salisbury when he wrote The Lord of the Flies, and his day job as a teacher at a local boys' school left a clear imprint on his dystopic view of young men left to their own hierarchical devices. But the classroom also provided a very literal view of the inspiration for The Spire, a dense and disturbing parable in which rationality and physics crumble under evangelical mania and corporal lust. It is the story of Jocelin, Dean of a medieval cathedral, who, obsessed with a divine “vision in stone,” insists that the spire be…
From the list:

The best books about construction projects, literal and metaphysical

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Book cover of Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel

Map of Bones: A Sigma Force Novel

By James Rollins

Why this book?

Not all treasure is gold—in Map of Bones, one of Rollins’ many excellent novels, it is bones. Ancient bones. In the aftermath of a horrific crime, the bones of the Three Magi are stolen from a German cathedral. A Vatican investigator and an American covert operative chase the thieves—an ancient cult of assassins—across two continents to recover the relics. Map of Bones is especially appealing to me, being a sucker for historic or exotic settings with which I’m familiar. Rollins’ books are all page-turners, fast-paced and compelling, and the Sigma Force series is perfect for those of us who…

From the list:

The best novels about hunting for a treasure that isn’t gold

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Book cover of Collected Poems

Collected Poems

By Philip Larkin

Why this book?

By its very nature, poetry is about compression. At its best — again, at least to me — a great poem opens up over and over as you read and reread it. It’s a constant journey of discovery. And Northern Ireland’s Philip Larkin, the best English-speaking poet of the 20th century that most Americans have never read, is a master of the compressive arts. I’m recommending his entire Collected Poems here, but if you read only one Larkin poem, make it “Church Going.” In 474 carefully chosen words describing his visit to a mostly abandoned country cathedral, Larkin delivers…

From the list:

The best books that tell a big story through a small lens

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Book cover of A Column of Fire

A Column of Fire

By Ken Follett

Why this book?

Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth changed the way I think about cathedrals, and the latest book in the series is an excellent example of how to build on a successful series, yet create a book which stands alone. A Column of Fire moves on to the complex world of the Elizabethan court. Queen Elizabeth’s secret agents lurk everywhere, and the conflict between Catholics and Protestants leads to continued plotting against the Queen. 

From the list:

The best historical fiction books about the Elizabethans

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