The most recommended cultural heritage books

Who picked these books? Meet our 26 experts.

26 authors created a book list connected to cultural heritage, and here are their favorite cultural heritage books.
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Book cover of The Stationery Shop

Betty Bolte Author Of Becoming Lady Washington

From my list on historical fiction about emotionally strong women.

Who am I?

I “discovered” historical fiction when a teen and have devoured it ever since. When my parents took me to the Cowpens National Battlefield in South Carolina in 9th grade, I realized just how much I enjoyed learning about history in real life. I found that reading historical fiction breathed life into what can be a very dull read, so I wanted to bring history to life with my own words. Visiting historical properties has become a big passion of mine! Every trip I take includes a visit to some historical site or another. I’ve been writing historical fiction/romance/fantasy since the late 1990s.

Betty's book list on historical fiction about emotionally strong women

Betty Bolte Why did Betty love this book?

This highly recommended story is a love story between two people who should have been together all along but obstacles prevented them from sharing a life. Those obstacles include political and personal forces, but I won’t elaborate as that would count as giving away the story. I was intrigued by life in Iran back in the 1950s and how girls/women were treated then. How they were expected to behave even as those expectations began to shift to be more Western in nature. Dealing with change is never easy, especially for those who resist new ideas. I haven’t studied this time period nor this country so experiencing Kamali’s story gave me a level of awareness of the culture and the politics of the time in an easy-to-understand form.

By Marjan Kamali,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A poignant, heartfelt new novel by the award-nominated author of Together Tea—extolled by the Wall Street Journal as a “moving tale of lost love” and by Shelf Awareness as “a powerful, heartbreaking story”—explores loss, reconciliation, and the quirks of fate.

Roya, a dreamy, idealistic teenager living amid the political upheaval of 1953 Tehran, finds a literary oasis in kindly Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop, stocked with books and pens and bottles of jewel-colored ink.

Then Mr. Fakhri, with a keen instinct for a budding romance, introduces Roya to his other favorite customer—handsome Bahman, who has a burning passion for justice…


Book cover of The Orenda

Robert Downes Author Of The Wolf and The Willow

From my list on Indians at first contact with Europeans.

Who am I?

I’ve written seven books, all along the theme of adventure in one way or another, but my best-known work is that of my novels of the Ojibwe Indians. As a child, I grew up on a farm where my dad discovered scores of arrowheads and artifacts while plowing the fields. This was a deep revelation for me as to the extent of Indian culture and how little we know of its people. In my books, Windigo Moon and The Wolf and The Willow, I try to bring the world of the 1500s and its Native peoples to life.

Robert's book list on Indians at first contact with Europeans

Robert Downes Why did Robert love this book?

Grounded in historical fact, The Orenda (The Magic) tells the story of Jesuit missionaries caught up in the war between the Wendats (Hurons) and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) living on the shores of Lake Huron in the mid-1600s. It’s a very dark book, with its depictions of ritual torture not for the squeamish, but it perfectly captures the time and culture of two very different civilizations, grappling to understand one another. Bowden does an excellent job of capturing the thoughts and outlook of the Wendat war chief Bird, and the French missionaries struggling to Christianize his village.

I loved this book because it helped me to understand the Indians’ way of thinking and their outlook on the world.

By Joseph Boyden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE LIBRIS AWARD — FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR

In the wilds of seventeenth-century North America, the lives of a Jesuit missionary, a young Iroquois girl, and a great warrior and elder statesman of the Huron Nation become entwined.

The Huron have battled the Iroquois for generations, but now both tribes face a new, more dangerous threat from another land. Uneasy alliances are made and unmade, cultures and beliefs clash in the face of precipitous change, and not everyone will survive the march of history. Joseph Boyden’s magisterial novel tells this story of blood and hope, suspicion and…


Book cover of Bangkok Wakes to Rain

John Burgess Author Of A Woman of Angkor

From my list on fiction set in Southeast Asia throughout time.

Who am I?

I first saw Angkor, capital of the Khmer Empire, in 1969 as a teenager and was bowled over by the place. I kept coming back as a journalist and author. They say you should write about things that truly crank your engine, and I found mine—imperial conquest, Hindu and Buddhist spirituality, astounding architecture, and the lives of the millions of people who inhabited and built the place. I’ve now written three non-fiction books and two historical novels set in the civilization’s twelfth-century peak. The novels are an effort to recreate life in the old days. They draw heavily on my years in Southeast Asia, experiencing what life is like in the present day.

John's book list on fiction set in Southeast Asia throughout time

John Burgess Why did John love this book?

I lived in Bangkok for six years. This is the rare novel that captures the sounds, the smells, the spirit, and spirituality of the place. Bangkok in fact is the main character, with supporting roles by humans who make their lives there, from the nineteenth century to the present and into the not-so-distant future, when water lays permanent claim to a city built more or less at sea level. You can expect lyrical writing and engaging characters, whether human or urban. 

By Pitchaya Sudbanthad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bangkok Wakes to Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Recreates the experience of living in Thailand's aqueous climate so viscerally that you can feel the water rising around your ankles." —Ron Charles, Washington Post

"Important, ambitious, and accomplished." —Mohsin Hamid, New York Times bestselling author of Exit West

A missionary doctor pines for his native New England even as he succumbs to the vibrant chaos of nineteenth-century Siam. A post-World War II society woman marries, mothers, and holds court, little suspecting her solitary fate. A jazz pianist in the age of rock, haunted by his own ghosts, is summoned to appease the house's resident spirits. In the present, a…


Book cover of From Sand and Ash

Natalie Murray Author Of Emmie and the Tudor King

From my list on forbidden romance to tempt and hook you.

Who am I?

Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Antony and Cleopatra—the greatest love stories in human history are awash with forbidden feels. While I shun the icky taboo, I’m easily reeled in by the rush of healthy forbidden attraction, and the higher the stakes, the better. Of course, everything is more fun when it’s not allowed! What attracts me to forbidden romance isn’t only the complicated dynamics, intense storylines, and angsty drama, but the “we can’t have each other but want each other so badly” burn. Give me all the stolen glances, fleeting touches, and breathless kisses. Nothing does sexual tension like forbidden romance.

Natalie's book list on forbidden romance to tempt and hook you

Natalie Murray Why did Natalie love this book?

Angelo is a Catholic priest, and Eva is a Jew in Nazi-occupied Italy. It doesn’t get much more forbidden than a Catholic priest falling helplessly in love. So is the case in this beautifully written novel by Amy Harmon. Set in WWII Italy, it’s a gripping and at times brutal read about the persecution of Italian Jews by the Gestapo. This powerful setting gives rise to a butterflies-inducing romance between a young priest and his Jewish friend that he tries so desperately to protect. The scenes in which Eva and Angelo begin to succumb to their feelings will leave you breathless, and there is an “I can’t believe I’m kissing you” scene that you won’t want to end.

"Confession: I am nineteen years old, and I’ve been kissed many times. But I’ve never been kissed like that."

By Amy Harmon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Italy, 1943-Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva…


Book cover of Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England

Ivy Schweitzer and Gordon Henry Author Of Afterlives of Indigenous Archives

From my list on Native American cultural archives.

Who are we?

Though from different backgrounds, we share a profound passion for Native culture. As an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota, Gordon’s poetry and fiction draw deeply from his Anishinabe heritage and contribute to the current flowering of Indian writing. Ivy is the grandchild of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. As a scholar and teacher, she was appalled that Native writers are largely excluded from the American canon and worked to right that wrong. They met through their shared interest in Samson Occom, an 18th-century Mohegan writer, and decided to collaborate on increasing awareness of the necessity of Native writing to sustaining our future.

Ivy's book list on Native American cultural archives

Ivy Schweitzer and Gordon Henry Why did Ivy love this book?

We highly recommend this capacious “counter-archive” of Native writing because it definitively lays to rest the myth of the “vanishing Indian.” Covering more than four centuries, it includes work from ten tribal nations from Maine to Connecticut in the form of early political petitions and land deeds to contemporary poetry and blogs. We love that its editor, a non-Native scholar, drew on the expertise of eleven Native editors from tribal communities for its diverse content, sourced from oral narratives, manuscripts stored in garages, and passed-around bootlegged copies. We also love that the book inspired a website for the extra material and for new work being produced now. In this sense, the website is a living document that illuminates the long history and vibrant presence of Indigenous writing.

By Siobhan Senier (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dawnland Voices calls attention to the little-known but extraordinarily rich literary traditions of New England's Native Americans. This pathbreaking anthology includes both classic and contemporary literary works from ten New England indigenous nations: the Abenaki, Maliseet, Mi'kmaq, Mohegan, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot, Schaghticoke, and Wampanoag.
Through literary collaboration and recovery, Siobhan Senier and Native tribal historians and scholars have crafted a unique volume covering a variety of genres and historical periods. From the earliest petroglyphs and petitions to contemporary stories and hip-hop poetry, this volume highlights the diversity and strength of New England Native literary traditions. Dawnland Voices introduces readers…


Book cover of A Replacement Life

Marilyn Simon Rothstein Author Of Crazy to Leave You

From my list on by authors who make me laugh.

Who am I?

Children were seen and not heard when I was growing up in Flushing, Queens, where I had one tree in front of my house. I moved to Connecticut as an adult and now I look out on woods and bears sneaking into my garage. The result of my silent childhood is I’m an excellent listener and an even better eavesdropper—superb traits for a writer. I owned a Connecticut advertising agency for most of my adult life then realized I could make less money if I became an author. My first book was published when I turned 63—which is amazing because I'm only 40. 

Marilyn's book list on by authors who make me laugh

Marilyn Simon Rothstein Why did Marilyn love this book?

Boris Fishman made his debut with the story of Salva, a journalist for a long famous magazine asked to forge Holocaust-restitution claims—by and for his grandfather, a Russian immigrant living in South Brooklyn. Soon Salva achieves the American dream—a something from nothing business writing false claims.  It seems there’s a neighborhood full of people who can use his writing services. I loved this novel, a tender and wise study in the meaning of family, loyalty, and justice. Tragedy meets comedy in A Replacement Life.

By Boris Fishman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A failing young Russian American journalist's life is unexpectedly transformed when he forges Holocaust restitution claims for his rogue grandfather and his friends

Young Russian immigrant Slava Gelman wants to be a great American writer, but is only a researcher at a New Yorker-style magazine. When his beloved grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, dies, his grandfather corners him with a request: could he forge a few Holocaust restitution claims? Slava resists at first, but eventually his semi-fictional accounts turn out to be the best writing he has ever done. Although he lives in fear of discovery and continues to stumble from…


Book cover of Habitat: Vernacular Architecture for a Changing Climate

Matthias Ripp Author Of A Metamodel for Heritage-based Urban Development: Enabling Sustainable Growth Through Urban Cultural Heritage

From my list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change.

Who am I?

I started my career in tourism but soon discovered my passion for urban heritage. Working as a site manager for a world heritage site, I gathered extensive insights on various levels of heritage management and urban governance from many colleagues around the world. Today there is no single project or meeting that does not address the challenges of climate change. Obtaining my Ph.D. late in life, in Heritage-Based Urban Development, I quickly became convinced that the traditional ideas of what cultural heritage is do not reflect the situation today and hinder giving cultural heritage a role in climate change prevention and adaption, beyond the narrative that it has to be preserved. 

Matthias' book list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change

Matthias Ripp Why did Matthias love this book?

This book gives a great overview of traditional architecture around the world and how it was designed for specific climates.

With great images and descriptions, this book is able to broaden your horizon and help you to discover fabric, design, and uses that can also serve to develop new ideas and solutions that can potentially be transferred into your own context.

Rather than going very deep into examples, it provides more of an overview that can trigger creativity and imagination in the early phases of projects.

By Sandra Piesik (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A compact edition of this landmark publication, which celebrates humanity's ability to create buildings that for millennia have responded ingeniously to cultural and environmental conditions.

There has never been a more important time to understand how to make the best use of local natural resources and create buildings that do not rely on stripping our planet or transporting materials across the globe. First published in 2017, this major book gathers together the world's leading experts on vernacular architecture to examine how local buildings have stood the test of time and offer lessons for the future.

The core of the book…


Book cover of Exit West

Irfan Shah Author Of Sigh For A Strange Land

From my list on displaced people.

Who am I?

A combination of things led me to this topic: My father was forced to leave his home in northern India during partition and was therefore a child refugee. In 2016, I was filming in Ukraine and became hugely interested in what was happening there. I have looked for a way to help ever since then. Discovering Monica Stirling’s novel about refugees from East Europe, I realised that here was an opportunity to help give voice to the refugee experience; to help raise funds for Ukraine, and to help bring back to life an incredible story written by an author who deserves to be rediscovered.

Irfan's book list on displaced people

Irfan Shah Why did Irfan love this book?

The book is a dizzying mix: the grim realities of displacement are intertwined with speculative fiction – fantasy even.

A love story of two migrants, Saeed and Nadia, who traverse the globe to escape conflict and try and find a way to be together. Oftentimes, they find their way across borders through a series of ‘doors’ – a device reminiscent of CS Lewis (in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) and one which takes the protagonists across the world. Elegant, spare prose; brutal realities, and electrifying flights of fancy – Exit West has it all.

One reason I like the book is that the author, Mohsin Hamid, has found a way to bring the desperate, timely topic of refugees out to a wider audience. His previous book, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was made into a film and Exit West is being adapted for Netflix.

I feel it’s important for…

By Mohsin Hamid,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A BBC 2 Between the Covers Book Club Pick - Booker Gems

THE NEW YORK TIMES AND SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2017
WINNER OF THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE

'Astonishing' Zadie Smith
'Stunning' Spectator
'Extraordinary' TLS

An extraordinary story of love and hope from the bestselling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist

All over the world, doors are appearing.
They lead to other cities, other countries, other lives.

And in a city gripped by war, Nadia and Saeed are newly in love.
Hardly more than strangers, desperate to survive, they open a door and step through.…


Book cover of Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability: International Frameworks, National and Local Governance

Matthias Ripp Author Of A Metamodel for Heritage-based Urban Development: Enabling Sustainable Growth Through Urban Cultural Heritage

From my list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change.

Who am I?

I started my career in tourism but soon discovered my passion for urban heritage. Working as a site manager for a world heritage site, I gathered extensive insights on various levels of heritage management and urban governance from many colleagues around the world. Today there is no single project or meeting that does not address the challenges of climate change. Obtaining my Ph.D. late in life, in Heritage-Based Urban Development, I quickly became convinced that the traditional ideas of what cultural heritage is do not reflect the situation today and hinder giving cultural heritage a role in climate change prevention and adaption, beyond the narrative that it has to be preserved. 

Matthias' book list on understanding that cultural heritage can be part of the solution to climate change

Matthias Ripp Why did Matthias love this book?

The key contribution of this book was the systemic understanding of cultural heritage. The collected articles and case studies represent a holistic and integrated concept of cultural heritage. Seeing cultural heritage as a social and political construct, as the authors describe it, opened the door for two new approaches:

First, the integration of different types of heritage that are usually treated separately, e.g., intangible heritage, tangible heritage, etc. And, second, starting to focus on the social parts of cultural heritage, basically the role of people. In my personal view all heritage is only relevant if it is relevant to people, and this book helped me to shape this conviction.

I truly admire how the author connects the different government levels and doesn't shy away from the obvious complexity this brings forward. This big-picture approach is a refreshing alternative to many case-focused articles and books and naturally speaks to my…

By Sophia Labadi (editor), William Logan (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

More than half of the world's population now live in urban areas, and cities provide the setting for contemporary challenges such as population growth, mass tourism and unequal access to socio-economic opportunities. Urban Heritage, Development and Sustainability examines the impact of these issues on urban heritage, considering innovative approaches to managing developmental pressures and focusing on how taking an ethical, inclusive and holistic approach to urban planning and heritage conservation may create a stronger basis for the sustainable growth of cities in the future.

This volume is a timely analysis of current theories and practises in urban heritage, with particular…


Book cover of Falling in Love with Hominids

Rebecca Gomez Farrell Author Of Wings Unfurled

From my list on speculative fiction with lyrical prose.

Who am I?

Born to three generations of poets, I’ve always appreciated a certain quality in the prose I read: lyricism. I want to catch my breath at a beautiful turn of phrase or gasp when I figure out a metaphor’s double meaning. My own writing seeks to reproduce that joy of discovery while preserving the plot-forward conventions of good speculative fiction. The books in this list balance literary style and genre expectations. Snatches of song, poetic prophesies, the perfect comparison—I hope these jewels delight my readers as much as they’ve delighted me in these works.

Rebecca's book list on speculative fiction with lyrical prose

Rebecca Gomez Farrell Why did Rebecca love this book?

In this short story collection, SFWA Grand Master Nalo Hopkinson gives us heaps of imagery to roll around in with delight and horror. Calling a snowflake “six-clawed” or relating a tree’s memory of how it “felt to unfurl your leaves to the bright taste of the sun” all add to the mood-heavy stories of a teenager overcome by her desires after swallowing a cherry pit, children who must survive their parents’ frightening transformations, and more. Through all the tales, humanity shines through, our rough edges and our beautiful scars. And the characters themselves play with language to pass the time.

By Nalo Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falling in Love with Hominids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An alluring new collection from the author of the New York Times Notable Book, Midnight Robber

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, The Salt Roads, Sister Mine) is an internationally-beloved storyteller. Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as having "an imagination that most of us would kill for," her Afro-Caribbean, Canadian, and American influences shine in truly unique stories that are filled with striking imagery, unlikely beauty, and delightful strangeness.

In this long-awaited collection, Hopkinson continues to expand the boundaries of culture and imagination. Whether she is retelling The Tempest as a new Caribbean myth, filling a shopping mall…