The best books about human culture

Who picked these books? Meet our 88 experts.

88 authors created a book list connected to culture, and here are their favorite culture books.
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What type of culture book?


The Empathy Exams

By Leslie Jamison,

Book cover of The Empathy Exams: Essays

Samuel Fleischacker Author Of Being Me Being You: Adam Smith and Empathy

From the list on the importance of empathy.

Who am I?

I’m a philosopher who has spent much of the past 30 years writing about Adam Smith—widely considered one of the first theorists of empathy. One consequence of spending all that time on Smith is that I came to see how much empathy infused even his work on economics (he is for one thing the first theorist ever to write empathetically about the lives of the poor). I’ve become as a result something of a crusader on behalf of the importance of bringing empathy into social science and policy-making today. Understanding people’s perspectives from within is essential to figuring out who they are and what they need.

Samuel's book list on the importance of empathy

Discover why each book is one of Samuel's favorite books.

Why did Samuel love this book?

I don’t read a lot of creative non-fiction, but I loved this one. It’s a collection of essays that recalls the best of Joan Didion or Tom Wolfe. Minutely observed, crisply written, and suffused with a wry humor, it’s as much fun as a good novel. And the first essay, toggling between the author’s experience as a medical actor (item 31 on the checklist for how medical students handle her supposed conditions: “Voiced empathy for my situation/problem”) and two real medical problems she faced, is all about empathy. Much of the rest of the book deals with empathy too, at least indirectly: in James Agee’s photographs, and in the way Jamison herself enters into the worldviews of drug dealers, extreme marathoners, and participants in a medical cult. But the first essay is squarely on the topic, and it’s fabulous.

By Leslie Jamison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From personal loss to phantom diseases, The Empathy Exams is a bold and brilliant collection, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

A Publishers Weekly Top Ten Essay Collection of Spring 2014

Beginning with her experience as a medical actor who was paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison's visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about each other? How can we feel another's pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade…

Lady of Milkweed Manor

By Julie Klassen,

Book cover of Lady of Milkweed Manor

Rachel Fordham Author Of A Lady in Attendance

From the list on historical romance that transport you in time.

Who am I?

My fascination for historical novels began long before I ever penned one of my own. As a child, I often sought out books that took me back in time. Before I was even a teenager I began gravitating toward historical novels with romantic threads (give me all the sweet romance). My love of all things historical has only grown through the years. My children have come to expect our vacations to include stops at museums and historical sites. I have four published novels (as of 2021), files of future ideas, and stacks of novels beside my bed ready to take me for a historical ride.

Rachel's book list on historical romance that transport you in time

Discover why each book is one of Rachel's favorite books.

Why did Rachel love this book?

I’m a sucker for a book that pulls at my heartstrings. A woman finds herself pregnant during an unforgiving time. She’s sent to a home so it can all be kept a secret, here she meets other women in similar situations. This book made the plight of these women real as they struggle to make peace with what’s happened, as they give birth and say goodbye or get creative and find ways to stay in their children’s lives. 

As a mother to both biological children and foster children, I am often drawn to the stories of mothers and this one stuck with me for a long time. I ached for and cheered for the characters in this book and in the end tears were flowing and my heart was full.

By Julie Klassen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this inspirational historical romance debut novel set in 19th-century England, a young pregnant woman is forced to make difficult choices. Twenty-year-old Charlotte Lamb is the daughter of a heartless English vicar, as we discover when she becomes pregnant and he throws her out of her childhood home. Vulnerable and unprotected, she is forced to a lodging place for unwed mothers. Soon, Lamb must make decisions involving true love and sacrifice, providing many powerful turning points throughout the story.

Everyday Drinking

By Kingsley Amis,

Book cover of Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis

Michael P. Foley Author Of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinner's Guide to a Holy Happy Hour

From the list on culture and booze.

Who am I?

One of my fondest childhood memories is the holiday parties that my parents threw. Lying in bed I could hear roars of laughter crash the silence and gently ebb as the grownups shared stories and made merry. Later in life, I came to realize how different that kind of drinking is from the frat-boy binging of college and the anxious bracers at singles’ bars. As an adult, I became a Catholic theologian, got married, and had a family of my own. My wife Alexandra and I have relished an evening cocktail together in order to unwind and catch up on each other’s day (Alexandra has homeschooled all six of our children, which is itself a compelling reason to drink daily).

Michael's book list on culture and booze

Discover why each book is one of Michael's favorite books.

Why did Michael love this book?

The first book I read by British novelist Kingsley Amis was Lucky Jim, one of the greatest satires on academic life ever written (I do not, however, recommend reading it when you are applying for a teaching position as I foolishly did, since it will mess, mess, mess with your head). Amis enjoyed the drink far more than he should have, earning him the reputation, as he put it, “of being one of the great drinkers, if not one of the great drunks, of our time.” His extensive familiarity with the bottom of a glass bore at least one good fruit. Everyday Drinking is a painfully witty, laugh-out-loud collection of essays and even quizzes on different kinds of alcohol from around the world. 

By Kingsley Amis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Kingsley Amis was one of the great masters of comic prose, and no subject was dearer to him than the art and practice of imbibing. This new volume brings together the best of his three out-of-print works on the subject: Kingsley Amis in Drink, Everyday Drinking and How's Your Glass? In one handsome package, the book covers a full shelf of the master's riotous and erudite thoughts on the drinking arts: Along with a series of well-tested recipes (including a cocktail called the Lucky Jim) are Amis's musings on The Hangover, The Boozing Man's Diet, The Mean Sod's Guide, and…

His Picture in the Papers

By Richard Schickel,

Book cover of His Picture in the Papers: A Speculation on Celebrity in America Based on the Life of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.

Landon Y. Jones Author Of Celebrity Nation: How America Evolved into a Culture of Fans and Followers

From the list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by celebrities and heroes ever since I was a child. That compulsion became something I wanted to understand. I got my chance as the head editor of People magazine. Over the years, I met more than my share of celebrities – Ronald Reagan, Tom Hanks, Malcolm X, and Princess Diana, to name only a few. I began to take notes about my brushes with fame and think about celebrities in history and why they have recently become so dominant in our culture. Celebrity Nation is the result. Enjoy it!

Landon's book list on celebrity culture and what it is doing to America

Discover why each book is one of Landon's favorite books.

Why did Landon love this book?

When I decided to write about celebrity, I knew from the beginning that I would depend on Richard Schickel’s His Picture in the Papers.
Schickel was the former movie reviewer for both LIFE and TIME magazines, and I used simply enjoy his perceptive insights when I also worked at TIME.
Schickel uses the case study of the charismatic Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. to show how his celebrity was generated by his image reproduced in movies, magazines, and newspapers.

Schickel later wrote Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity in America, which further discussed how celebrity images have replaced the value of ideas in American culture.

By Richard Schickel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked His Picture in the Papers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Schickel, Richard

Miss Pym Disposes

By Josephine Tey,

Book cover of Miss Pym Disposes

Kristin Cashore Author Of Winterkeep

From the list on mysteries—and solutions—you never saw coming.

Who am I?

As a reader and writer, I work with a pretty broad definition of “mystery.” You’ll find my own novels in the fantasy section of the bookstore, but my books are mysteries too — and romances, and tales of adventure, and intimate character studies, and reflections on our reality, no matter how fantastical the worlds in which they take place. I love melding genres! So when I think of my favorite mysteries, I try not to limit myself to the mystery section of the bookstore. Few things make me happier than discovering partway through a book that a mystery has been building that I didn’t even notice.

Kristin's book list on mysteries—and solutions—you never saw coming

Discover why each book is one of Kristin's favorite books.

Why did Kristin love this book?

This is my favorite novel by the mystery master Josephine Tey, because it quietly breaks the mold. Miss Pym, bestselling writer of a book about psychology, makes an author visit to an English “college of physical culture,” where young women are training in various athletic arts. As the students of this school charm Miss Pym and occupy her ruminations, she continues to delay her departure. But where is the mystery? It isn’t until the final third of the book that the mystery appears, and it was only on rereading that I realized it had been coming all along. I love this kind of unexpected unfolding. I also adored the resolution.

By Josephine Tey,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A classic murder mystery from the Golden Age of detective fiction, written by genre legend Josephine Tey.

Leys Physical Training College is famous for its excellent discipline and its spectacularly athletic students. Miss Lucy Pym, expert psychologist, is pleased and flattered to be invited to lecture there - even if the Olympian splendour of the students leaves her feeling just a little inadequate.

But a nasty accident spoils the occasion, and suddenly Miss Pym must turn her intellect to the unpleasant suspicion that, among all these healthy young students, there lurks an incurably sick mind...

The Travel Activity Book

By DK Publishing,

Book cover of The Travel Activity Book

Joni Hilton Author Of Family Funbook

From the list on family activity books.

Who am I?

I love playing with my kids. When my eldest was eight and we were sitting on the porch together he said, “On my last day of being playful, I want to play with you the whole day. I sure hope it’s on a Saturday.” My kids know that I turn most things into a game, that I’ll screech and stop for a tarantula on the road because it’s educational, that I'll get them to sing their quiz answers, and that I’ll sculpt a cake into almost anything for a school project. I believe learning should be fun, so we would drink lemonade out of measuring cups, guess how many hops from the bed to the closet, and have Whipped Cream Spray Wars every summer (outside, thank you). I also think families would spend more time together if they had a great collection of cool—and easy—stuff to do together. As a writer I’m creative, and never run out of fun ideas. Why not share them with the world?

Joni's book list on family activity books

Discover why each book is one of Joni's favorite books.

Why did Joni love this book?

Traveling is a time when you often need to entertain a bored child on a train, plane, or in a car. This book has tons of great games, puzzles, stickers, and even cultural information that will educate your child. Lots of photography and illustrations to entertain, as well. A good mix of education and fun.

By DK Publishing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Make car and plane trips a blast with these fun, educational travel activities for kids. The interactive games and travel journal will keep kids busy during vacations and school holidays.

Doodles to draw, puzzles to solve, games to play, and stickers to find--children will be entertained whether the family is traveling by car, plane, or even just hanging poolside. The Travel Activity Book includes a unique blend of illustrations and photography for lots of visual fun. The book also highlight facts and information about real destinations and monuments, so children can discover life and culture around the world. Learns about…

Classes and Cultures

By Ross McKibbin,

Book cover of Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951

Robert Colls Author Of George Orwell: English Rebel

From the list on George Orwell.

Who am I?

I was first introduced to George Orwell on 30 October 1969 when I bought the Penguin Road to Wigan Pier at Sussex University bookshop. The light blue sticker on the inside verifies time and place. The price shows that I was willing to fork out as much as 4 shillings, (or two days worth of cigarettes) for one of the most enduring friendships of my life.

Robert's book list on George Orwell

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

If you are going to read Orwell you need to know something about what Mckibbin calls the “fundamental mentalities and structures” of English social and political life. This is the best, covering Orwell’s life-span. These were the years when England first began to see itself as ‘democratic’, and yet, “the great mass of the English people was unmoved, or unmoved directly, by the cultures of the country’s intellectual elites”. Enter George Orwell.

By Ross McKibbin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ross McKibbin investigates the ways in which 'class culture' characterized English society, and intruded into every aspect of life, during the period from 1918 to the mid-1950s. He demonstrates the influence of social class within the mini 'cultures' which together constitute society: families and family life, friends and neighbours, the workplace, schools and colleges, religion, sexuality, sport, music, film, and radio. Dr McKibbin considers the ways in which
language was used (both spoken and written) to define one's social grouping, and how far changes occurred to language and culture more generally as a result of increasing American influence. He assesses…

Creative Clarity

By Jon Kolko,

Book cover of Creative Clarity

Karen Hold Author Of Experiencing Design: The Innovator's Journey

From the list on mastering design thinking.

Who am I?

Inspired by the brilliant Silicon Valley technologists that I worked with in the early 90s and the pioneering design work of my husband’s grandfather, Leroy Grumman, I believe that design thinking is one of the most important reasons to believe that teams can achieve extraordinary results. It increases the likelihood of implementation of ideas by enhancing any companies’ abilities to align, learn, and change together. I have made it my mission to build creative capacity in individuals, organizations, and cities using the language of design thinking so that everyone can make positive change within their sphere of influence.

Karen's book list on mastering design thinking

Discover why each book is one of Karen's favorite books.

Why did Karen love this book?

It is hard to pick just one Jon Kolko book to recommend because all of his books are brilliant. My copy of Creative Clarity is dog-eared and heavily underlined which is an indicator of just how much I rely on it over and over again. I like it because Kolko articulates the specific conditions necessary to achieve creative cultures and most importantly details how to do it. Mastering design thinking is much more than learning new tools and building the mindsets and behaviors to deepen your experience, it is about solving more problems and ultimately creating more impact. This book will help you do that. 

By Jon Kolko,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book is built on a simple premise: Most companies don't know what creativity really is, so they can't benefit from it. They lack creative clarity.  Creative clarity requires you to do four things: 1. Choreograph a creative strategy, describing a clear future even among the blurry business landscape.
2. Grow teams that include those creative, unpredictable outcasts;  give them the space to produce amazing work; and build a unique form of trust in your company culture.
3. Institutionalize an iterative process of critique, conflict, and ideation.
4. Embrace chaos but manage creative spin and stagnation.  This book is primarily…

China in Ten Words

By Yu Hua, Allan H. Barr (translator),

Book cover of China in Ten Words

Tamim Ansary Author Of The Invention of Yesterday: A 50,000-Year History of Human Culture, Conflict, and Connection

From the list on the human story as a single whole.

Who am I?

Tamim Ansary is the son of an Afghan father and an American mother.  As a writer, growing up in Afghanistan and growing old in America has drawn him to issues that arise from cultural confusion in zones where civilizations overlap. His books include histories and memoirs, which he considers two sides of the same coin: a memoir is history seen up close, history is memoir seen from a distance.  Much of his work explores how perspective shapes perceptions of reality—a central theme of his best-known book, Destiny Disrupted, A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes.

Tamim's book list on the human story as a single whole

Discover why each book is one of Tamim's favorite books.

Why did Tamim love this book?

Culture is how we group ourselves. Culture is how we see. To make ourselves understood by people of other cultures, we have to lend them our eyes. That’s hard, but Yu Hua meets that challenge for me. His book China in Ten Words offers ten essays about China, each with a one-word title: Revolution. Reading. Copycat. Words like that. Each essay surrounds its title-word with content until one understands what the word means, not to oneself, but to Hua. The essays work like a fusion of memoir and history. They draw the reader into one man’s experience; and at the same time they illuminate a broad patch of history—Maoist and post-Maoist China.

By Yu Hua, Allan H. Barr (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked China in Ten Words as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

People. Leader. Reading. Writing. Revolution. Grassroots. Through these and other common vernacular words and phrases, Yu Hua - widely regarded as one of China's greatest living writers - frames powerful personal stories of the Chinese experience from the Cultural Revolution to the 2010s. With wit, insight and courage, he presents a refreshingly candid vision of the 'Chinese miracle' and its consequences, and reveals a unique perspective on the world's most populous yet misunderstood nation.

Book cover of Understanding the Analects of Confucius: A New Translation of Lunyu with Annotations

Stephen C. Angle Author Of Growing Moral: A Confucian Guide to Life

From the list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now.

Who am I?

The first time I ever had Chinese food was as a 20-year-old junior in college, on the first night of studying abroad for a semester in Nanjing, China. (Luckily, I liked it.) Confucianism was not in my upbringing, at least not explicitly or on purpose. I happened upon China as a freshman at Yale in the 1980s, immersed myself in the language, and went on to earn a PhD in Chinese philosophy. I have taught at Wesleyan University since 1994, and my favorite comment from students is that they find my classes among the most “relevant” things they take—even when we’re studying twelfth-century medieval Confucianism. 

Stephen's book list on how ancient Confucianism tells us to live well now

Discover why each book is one of Stephen's favorite books.

Why did Stephen love this book?

Peimin Ni’s translation of the foundational Confucian text, the Analects of Confucius, is not for those who want to zoom through the book looking for catchy phrases. Ni presents the text as a living document, embedded in two thousand years of conversation over its meaning. He strives to mirror ambiguities in the original in his translation, and his comments do a lovely job of opening the text up for the reflective reader. 

By Peimin Ni,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Scholarly Study of Literature presented by the Modern Language Association

The Analects of Confucius is arguably the single most influential work of China's cultural heritage. In this new English translation, Peimin Ni accomplishes the rare feat of simultaneously providing a faithful translation of the text, offering his own reading based on gongfu (practice) perspective, and presenting major alternative readings to help the reader understand how diverse interpretations and controversies arise. In addition to the inclusion of the original Chinese text, Ni adds a comprehensive introduction, a…

The Lost Sisterhood

By Ruth Rosen,

Book cover of The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America, 1900-1918

Jan Mackell Collins Author Of Behind Brothel Doors: The Business of Prostitution in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma (1860–1940)

From the list on historical prostitution.

Who am I?

Having grown up with an older generation—my great-grandparents, great-great aunts and uncles, and a godmother, all who were born between 1877 and 1900—I learned to appreciate how they lived and what they went through. As a child, I found a hand-written poem about a brothel queen who caused a gunfight between her paramour and a stranger. Then, in college, I met a wonderful old man who told me stories about the former red-light district right in my own neighborhood. Once I learned the often tragic, but also successful stories of these ladies, I decided to be their voice and remind America how important they were to our history.

Jan's book list on historical prostitution

Discover why each book is one of Jan's favorite books.

Why did Jan love this book?

Like Anne Butler, Ms. Rosen used credible sources to explain the “whys and hows” of frontier prostitution, prostitutes’ roles in society, and the culture that kept them in their place. Her book includes government studies conducted with the women themselves regarding their careers. Statistics on the ladies’ health and social diseases are included here too.

By Ruth Rosen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Rosen has broken entirely new ground in what will surely remain the definitive study of urban prostitution in America for many years to come."--'TLS'


By Robin Robertson,

Book cover of Mortification: Writers’ Stories of Their Public Shame

Suzette A. Hill Author Of Shadow Over Southwold

From the list on making one laugh or ponder.

Who am I?

Privately and professionally, I've always been addicted to literature and history and stirred by the experiences that these studies reveal. Yet as a novelist (retired from college lecturing) I instinctively assume the comic or satirical mode. Whereas in analysing the poetry of perhaps T.S. Eliot, I'm totally serious, when creating a story I start to giggle. Psychiatrists might label this a defence mechanism – but I suspect it's the result of formative years spent reading social satirists such as Huxley, Greene, Wodehouse, and Waugh. While certainly no imitator, I feel that this type of literature has become insidiously bred in the bone – hence my listed choices being socially directed and often comic or acerbic. 

Suzette's book list on making one laugh or ponder

Discover why each book is one of Suzette's favorite books.

Why did Suzette love this book?

Probably four of my writers would not have suffered the mortification described here, but the scenarios certainly resonated with this pen-pusher!

Seventy contemporary authors – novelists, poets, biographers – describe in wincing detail the embarrassment they had sometimes felt in the course of promotional appearances: book signings, talks, interviews, etc. Their anecdotes are at once funny and cringingly painful. Distinguished names as diverse as Margaret Attwood, Val McDermid, Michael Holroyd, Edna O’Brian, Colm Tóibín, Willian Boyd, poets Thom Gunn and Simon Armitage, and a host of other literary heroes, bravely and vividly recount their worst moments under the public gaze. In some ways the humorous revelations are reassuring – evidently the eminent can be as vulnerable as the lesser known. But in reading this book, comradely laughter is tinged with a frisson of fear!

By Robin Robertson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A collection of stories from some of the world’s greatest writers about their own public humiliation.

Humiliation is not, of course, unique to writers. However, the world of letters does seem to offer a near-perfect micro-climate for embarrassment and shame. There is something about the conjunction of high-mindedness and low income that is inherently comic; something about the very idea of deeply private thoughts – carefully worked and honed into art over the years – being presented to a public audience of dubious strangers that strays perilously close to tragedy.

Here, in over eighty contributions, are stories about the writer’s…

Book cover of Critical Thinking and Popular Culture: Reading and Writing the American Experience

Peg Tittle Author Of Critical Thinking: An Appeal to Reason

From the list on learning how to think logically and critically.

Who am I?

Of all my university courses, the one that had the greatest impact on me was called "Informal Logic." Accurate, but misleadingly dry and academic. One of the assignments in that course—and the one I remember most, of all my university assignments—was to prepare a "Crapbook": a collection of ten bits of crap—ads, arguments, whatever—that were full of crap (essentially, incorrect reasoning/logical fallacies). I loved it. So when, twenty years later, I was hired by a small university to teach Critical Thinking …  

Peg's book list on learning how to think logically and critically

Discover why each book is one of Peg's favorite books.

Why did Peg love this book?

Although many critical thinking texts include some analysis of bits from popular culture, I wanted to include this book on my list because, as its title indicates, it focuses on popular culture­—which is good because most of us immerse ourselves in popular culture and so it influences our thinking in a huge way. There's a whole chapter. There's a whole chapter dedicated to "Analyzing American Television," another dedicated to "American Advertising and the Subtle Art of Manipulation," and one dedicated to "Popular Culture in Speeches."  

By Peter Elias Sotiriou,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Critical Thinking and Popular Culture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Book by Sotiriou, Peter Elias

Book cover of The Interpretation of Cultures

Robert Darnton Author Of Pirating and Publishing: The Book Trade in the Age of Enlightenment

From the list on anthropology for lovers of history.

Who am I?

I am an emeritus professor from Harvard and have spent decades trying to develop an anthropological mode of understanding history. Far from being “one damned thing after another,” as Henry Ford allegedly put it, history is an attempt to understand the human condition. It brings us into contact with people in the past, showing us how they thought, felt, and acted. For many decades, anthropologists have endeavored to do the same thing, concentrating on people separated from us by space rather than time. By applying anthropological insights to historical research, I think it is possible to make the past come alive to modern readers, while at the same time making it interesting and even amusing.

Robert's book list on anthropology for lovers of history

Discover why each book is one of Robert's favorite books.

Why did Robert love this book?

This collection of essays by one of the greatest anthropologists of the last century inspired a whole generation of historians—for example, Joan Scott and William Sewell, Jr. as well as myself.  The essays also should appeal to the general reader because of their well-wrought style and wit.  Drawing on Max Weber, Geertz treats cultures as symbolic systems and shows how they helped ordinary people make sense of the world.  Far from wandering off into abstractions, he offers fine-grained descriptions of actual events, notably a Balinese cockfight in an essay that has been cited and debated endlessly among social scientists.

By Clifford Geertz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In The Interpretation of Cultures, the most original anthropologist of his generation moved far beyond the traditional confines of his discipline to develop an important new concept of culture. This groundbreaking book, winner of the 1974 Sorokin Award of the American Sociological Association, helped define for an entire generation of anthropologists what their field is ultimately about.


By Beth Berry,

Book cover of Motherwhelmed: Challenging Norms, Untangling Truths, and Restoring Our Worth to the World

Olga Mecking Author Of Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing

From the list on that will change the way you think about parenting.

Who am I?

I’m a writer, journalist, and occasional translator. Originally from Poland, I now live in the Netherlands with my German husband and three multilingual children. Since my children were born, I’ve become fascinated by the various ways culture and society affect the way we raise our children. I have written about various topics, but mostly parenting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and the BBC, among others. When not writing or thinking about writing, I can be found reading books, drinking tea, and doing nothing.

Olga's book list on that will change the way you think about parenting

Discover why each book is one of Olga's favorite books.

Why did Olga love this book?

Do you think that you’re failing as a mother? That you’re not doing enough, or doing too much, or doing all the wrong things? Do you always have the feeling that you should enjoy parenting more and beat yourself up if you can’t? Mostly, do you believe that it’s your fault? 

Guess what, it’s not you, it’s the culture. A culture that doesn’t support parents. That expects everything of them without giving anything back in return. 

But there is a way out of this mess and it starts with re-writing your story.

I have chosen this book because of its radical message that mothers are not just worthy of support but that they can also change the world. That they’re tired and exhausted and overwhelmed but also strong and smart and powerful. 

By Beth Berry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Today’s mothers are struggling; though, it's not for the reasons most moms tend to think. We’ve been conditioned to believe our inadequacy is the reason we can’t seem to “keep up” or enjoy mothering more, but nothing could be further from the truth.

We aren’t failing as mothers. We’re mothering within a culture that is misleading and inadequately supporting us.

Motherwhelmed is a deep, yet lighthearted exploration of the messy frontier of modern-day motherhood we’re all struggling to navigate. With compassion, realness, and rich storytelling, Beth Berry:

• Illuminates the mindsets and narratives keeping us feeling overwhelmed, disempowered, anxious, isolated,…

The Bi-ble

By Lauren Nickodemus (editor), Ellen Desmond (editor),

Book cover of The Bi-ble: Volume Two

Julia Shaw Author Of Bi: The Hidden Culture, History, and Science of Bisexuality

From the list on bisexuality research, history, and culture deep dive.

Who am I?

I am a psychological scientist, BBC science communicator, and best-selling author. I am also bisexual. As an academic, my tendency is to immediately look for research and scholarly writing about topics that interest me. But for bisexuality, I found that this was incredibly hard to do. So, I dug into archives and journals, connected with hundreds of bisexuality researchers and activists, and after much searching, I finally found the answers to questions I had had my entire life. I wrote them all down in my new book Bi.

Julia's book list on bisexuality research, history, and culture deep dive

Discover why each book is one of Julia's favorite books.

Why did Julia love this book?

If it’s personal accounts and many different voices you are looking for, The Bi-ble: Vol. 2 is perfect. It includes essays by various bisexual people, giving brief and poignant insights into their lives. 

This easy-to-read collection is a good example of the long tradition of anthologies in bi+ literature. Some stories are deeply relatable, others challenge you to look beyond your own experiences. It helped me to realise that while there is a commonality between the experiences of bisexual people, there are important individual differences that we need to keep in mind. No one person can speak for the entire bi community, so this book lets many people have their own voice.

By Lauren Nickodemus (editor), Ellen Desmond (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of A Place Called Schugara

Stuart Aken Author Of An Excess Of ...

From the list on character-driven novels.

Who am I?

I’ve been reading for 69 years, writing fiction for 43 years. I’ve read many more than 10,000 books. In my own writing, I begin with characters I create from combinations of traits and personalities I’ve met in life. I get to know them as friends. I then put them into the setting I’ve devised and given them free rein to develop the story. I know the destination, but the route is left to them. This involves much re-writing once the story is down on paper, but allows me to experience the excitement, concern, fear, love, and delights felt by the characters as I write the tale.

Stuart's book list on character-driven novels

Discover why each book is one of Stuart's favorite books.

Why did Stuart love this book?

I write character-driven fiction and it is always the people and their relationships that most engage me in any story. I found the characters here complex, real, engaging, and, in some instances, foul specimens demonstrating that existence for survival alone is an inadequate way of life for any person. These are fully developed people, though they are mostly unusual individuals; archetypes rather than stereotypes. The people hooked me from the start. I cared what happened to these adventurers. I also cared that those who deserved retribution would receive it.

By Joe English,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A story of life, death, love lost and meaning found in Schugara and beyond.


By Jim Enote (editor), Jennifer McLerran (editor),

Book cover of A:shiwi A:wan Ulohnanne, The Zuni World

Eric Magrane Author Of The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide

From the list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way.

Who am I?

I love field guides. I can vividly picture my first copy of Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds, tattered and weather-beaten. I also love poetry and literature, so it seemed natural to me to bring the two together in my work. I’m from New England, but I've lived in the U.S. Southwest for over twenty years. Place is important to me: I think a lot about how we get to know and care for the places we live and call home and how we can work to be good neighbors. I worked for about a decade as a hiking guide and have also taught environmental education. I now teach geography at New Mexico State University. 

Eric's book list on looking at field guides and atlases in a new way

Discover why each book is one of Eric's favorite books.

Why did Eric love this book?

In the introduction to this book and catalog that features map art by Zuni artists, Jim Enote writes, “these maps are like relatives, like aunts and uncles that entrance us with narrations of places they have been to or heard about.” I love this way of thinking about maps as relational. As a non-Indigenous person viewing these maps, they help me to think about mapping and representations of place in new ways, and they challenge Western and colonial mapping traditions and cartographic practices that have often historically been put to the use of empire, land grabs, and greed.

By Jim Enote (editor), Jennifer McLerran (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

Creative Dreaming

By Patricia Garfield,

Book cover of Creative Dreaming: Plan and Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity Overcome Fears Solve Proble

Jenny Alexander Author Of Writing in the House of Dreams: Unlock The Power of Your Unconscious Mind

From the list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity.

Who am I?

I came to writing after twenty years of working with dreams, so I already had lots of techniques for coming and going easily between the everyday world and the inner worlds of imagination, and I’m sure that’s why I’ve never suffered from any creative blocks or anxieties. In a career spanning 30 years, I have written about 150 books, both fiction and non-fiction, for children and adults, and scores of articles including a monthly column in Writing Magazine. I have taught creative workshops for major writing organisations such as The Society of Authors, The Arvon Foundation, and The Scattered Authors’ Society, and I offer a varied programme of courses independently throughout the year.

Jenny's book list on dreams for writers who want to boost creativity

Discover why each book is one of Jenny's favorite books.

Why did Jenny love this book?

This ground-breaking book, written in the 1970’s, is still essential reading for anyone wishing to explore dreams as a creative resource rather than interpret them in the traditional Western psychological way. I started recalling and recording dreams in therapy nearly fifty years ago and had reached the conclusion that trying to interpret them was confusing and potentially misleading. Then I chanced on this collection of studies of different dream traditions from other parts of the world. It changed everything. If you think of dreams in a purely psychological way, this book could give you whole new perspectives. 

By Patricia Garfield,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From Simon & Schuster, Creative Dreaming: Plan And Control Your Dreams to Develop Creativity, Overcome Fears, Solve Problems, and Create a Better Self is Patricia Garfield's definitive guide to dreaming.

Patricia Garfield presents techniques and information, drawn from many dreamers and widely varied cultures and times, that will enable you to plan your dreams ahead of time, influence them while they are occurring, and recall them and their lessons forever afterward.

Test Chamber

By Dani Alexis Ryskamp (editor), Sam Harvey (editor),

Book cover of Test Chamber

Alyssa Gonzalez Author Of Nonmonogamy and Neurodiversity: A More Than Two Essentials Guide

From the list on neurodiversity and relationships.

Who am I?

Relationships are treacherous terrain for people outside the mainstream. Whether we’re tangling with the unwelcome biases of those who do not understand us or trying to navigate situations designed without us in mind, trying to find “our people” is tricky and often exhausting. I am an autistic polyamorous sapphic trans woman and each of those adjectives adds a layer of challenge to the life I have to lead. I am also the holder of a doctorate and like to think I’m pretty clever. Between these realities, I’ve found books about relationships, neurodivergence, and what it’s like to be someone like me that I think do a pretty good job. I hope you enjoy them.

Alyssa's book list on neurodiversity and relationships

Discover why each book is one of Alyssa's favorite books.

Why did Alyssa love this book?

The Spoon Knife anthology series is the seminal place to find short neuroqueer fiction: fiction that explores what neurodivergent minds have to offer, how we see the world, and what our lives can be like, usually via speculative or sci-fi elements.

Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber is loosely themed on the idea of the “test chamber,” a space in which one’s every move, choice, and outcome is scrutinized, and its 36 essays, poems, and short stories all approach this idea from different directions.

Several of its essays deal directly with neurodivergent and queer experience without the interpretive lens of science fiction and can help readers understand people like us and people like us to feel seen and comprehended.

By Dani Alexis Ryskamp (editor), Sam Harvey (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Spoon Knife Anthology is NeuroQueer Books' annual open-call collection to find new talent and to bring together our favorite regular contributors in a celebration of literature that pushes boundaries and defines the interiors of neurodivergent, Queer, and Mad experiences.

In Spoon Knife 2: Test Chamber, editors Dani Alexis Ryskamp and Sam Harvey give you a series of examinations of what it means to live in an environment where one feels that existence itself is a series of tests that must be successfully navigated. From the back cover:

"The writers (and editors and publishers) of the book you now hold…