347 books directly related to Europe 📚

All 347 Europe books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Black Europe and the African Diaspora

Black Europe and the African Diaspora

By Darlene Clark Hine, Trica Danielle Keaton, Stephen Small

Why this book?

As one of the first scholarly attempts to investigate the Black experience on a continental scale (as opposed to in individual European nations), this edited volume presents a good introduction to the multifaceted questions and approaches that emerge when studying this topic. Offering insights from various scholarly disciplines and 20th and 21st-century case studies from individual countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands, it provides thoughtful essays that explore the meanings of ‘Blackness’ and belonging in Europe, and the roles the local, national, global, and metaphysical play within (imaginary) diasporic discourse and identity. As such, it…

From the list:

The best books on Black Europe

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Book cover of The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

The Transformation of European Politics 1763-1848

By Paul W. Schroeder

Why this book?

This masterful analysis of European foreign policy encompasses a period slightly larger than the life of Napoleon, but the core of the book is the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. On first reading this I was struck not only by the depth and breadth of Schroeder’s knowledge, but also by his uncanny ability to question standard interpretations and to present an original and oftentimes provocative evaluation. This book made me think about how best to write history. Elegantly written, this is an accomplished tome that will be read by students of foreign policy for many years to come. 

From the list:

The best books about the Napoleonic Wars and their impact on Europe

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Book cover of Rain!

Rain!

By Linda Ashman, Christian Robinson

Why this book?

This book shows a grumpy man and a cheerful little kid’s morning on rainy day, of course a grumpy old man grumbles about rainy day and a little guy enjoys the rainy day. Same rainy day outing, two totally different attitude! And we all get to know it’s the positive attitude make everything brighter and more fun! Christian’s simple, colorful illustrations caught my eyes first, the contrast between the grumpy man and a kid’s world is just perfect!

From the list:

The best children’s books about rainy day

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Book cover of The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring

The Boy Who Didn't Believe in Spring

By Lucille Clifton, Brinton Turkle

Why this book?

King Shabazz doesn’t believe in this spring that everybody is talking about, but he and his friend Tony Polita and set out through the city in search of it, finding spring in green growing sprouts with pointy yellow flowers in a vacant lot and a nest of eggs birds have made in an abandoned car. 

From the list:

The best books about growing things

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Book cover of The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World

By Catherine Nixey

Why this book?

You can’t overstate the impact of religion on this tumultuous period. The transition from paganism to Christianity not only coincided with, but greatly impacted everything that happened in early medieval Europe. Catherine Nixey’s controversial book focuses on that transition and shows it in full, gory detail – the violence it spurned, and the destruction it caused to the ancient culture that preceded the onset of Christianity. A necessary read for understanding the full picture of the 4th and 5th centuries in Europe.

From the list:

The best books on Barbarian Europe

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Book cover of Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire

By Alan Forrest

Why this book?

Not since the monumental work of Jacques Morvan in his Le Soldat Imperial, almost a century ago, has a scholar brought so much learning and insight to the experience of the soldiery of the longest wars in modern European history. Forrest brings his hallmark skills as an archival scholar to the daunting task of reassembling the lives of the men who did the fighting, endured the horrors and the hardships behind the glittering uniforms, and heroic paintings of the battles. He brings the ordinary to life and puts the extraordinary in its proper context of the hardscrabble, but adventurous,…

From the list:

The best books on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe to its core

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Book cover of Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

Time Out Great Train Journeys of the World (Time Out Guides)

By Time Out

Why this book?

Yes, this is a guidebook. Why do I love it so much? It’s the next best thing to actually riding a train. My bucket list of dream train rides is very long, and with two young kids, a couple of jobs, and currently an ongoing global pandemic, it’ll probably take me a while to get to all of them. Until then, I can immerse myself in the photos and descriptions in this book. 

From the list:

The best books about trains

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Book cover of Berlin Diary, 1934-1941: The Rise of the Third Reich

Berlin Diary, 1934-1941: The Rise of the Third Reich

By William L. Shirer

Why this book?

Berlin was at the centre of Nazi Europe and is invariably at the heart of my novels, including Agent in Berlin. I’m fascinated by Berlin and I try to get beyond the obvious aspects of the city and give a sense of what life was like on a daily basis.  I have chosen this book by William Shirer, an American journalist based in the city from 1934 and who only left after Pearl Harbor. The book combines the sharp observations of a journalist with an eye for fascinating detail, such as the nuanced wording of the death notices of…

From the list:

The best books to get a sense of Berlin under the Nazis

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Book cover of Witnesses of War: Children's Lives Under the Nazis

Witnesses of War: Children's Lives Under the Nazis

By Nicholas Stargardt

Why this book?

Nick Stargardt’s Witnesses of War is the kind of book I’d love to write – it’s really one of the most comprehensive and accessible studies of children’s experiences under Nazism out there. The author doesn’t shy away from describing the lives of the Third Reich’s youthful victims in harrowing detail, but he also explores the lives of children who were seduced by the Nazi dictatorship. "In war," he writes, "all children are victims." 

From the list:

The best books about childhood in Nazi Germany

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Book cover of The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance

The Changeover: A Supernatural Romance

By Margaret Mahy

Why this book?

Laura Chant knows the world can wobble. She knows the boy at school, Sorry Carlisle, is a good deal more than he seems. When her little brother is lost to a vicious predator, Laura has to find a new self, or perhaps her own hidden depths, and face the changeover, which will remake her into another form. To do this, she has to place her trust in Sorry and his strange family, but she’ll do anything to save Jacko. Margaret Mahy is one of my favourite writers, and I think this book is her best. It is beautifully written in…

From the list:

The best books on double identities and other selves

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Book cover of Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools

By Victoria Twead

Why this book?

Besides being delighted by the title, I was keen to read this highly-recommended book about moving to Spain. Victoria and her long-suffering husband really did up sticks and buy a home in a tiny mountain village in Andalucía. I was dying to know how they got on.

What a treat. This exquisitely written book is packed with hilarious tales about their property restorations, the local folks, and the battles they have with a psychotic cockerel. Really, it’s true! I learned about the region, loved Victoria’s character descriptions and finished wanting more. Rumour has it that many folks wanted to dash…

From the list:

The best books on moving abroad to Europe

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Book cover of Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds: Living the Dream in Rural Ireland

By Nick Albert

Why this book?

As a doggy person, this sounded a fun book, an added attraction being that it is a memoir about moving overseas. The author, and his wife, Lesley, buy a property in a rural part of Ireland. Sounds simple enough, but having done the same ourselves, I guessed there might be challenges ahead. Nick skillfully draws the reader into his world. I felt as though I was alongside them as he describes the properties they visit and misadventures along the way. The anecdotes about their dogs are delightful. His descriptions conjure up pictures of a stunningly beautiful country filled with enchantingly…

From the list:

The best books on moving abroad to Europe

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Book cover of Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I

By Michael Neiberg

Why this book?

This book provides a radically alternative perspective on what this event meant for ordinary people. Using a wide range of letters, diaries, and memoirs, Neiberg reveals that most people had no idea what the war was about and saw no good reason for it, while the soldiers were often confused as to whom they were fighting and which part of the world they were in. It is a short book but an enlightening read.

From the list:

The best books to truly understand the First World War

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Book cover of Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

Game of Queens: The Women Who Made Sixteenth-Century Europe

By Sarah Gristwood

Why this book?

There is no doubt that the sixteenth century was a man’s world. Women were treated as second-class citizens and viewed as inferior in every single respect: mentally, physically and emotionally. Yet it was also the era of powerful female sovereigns, consorts and regents. Sarah Gristwood’s beautifully written and well-researched study follows the varying fortunes of some of the period’s most formidable matriarchs, from Isabella of Castile to the six wives of Henry VIII.

From the list:

The best books about life in Tudor times

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Book cover of Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry

Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry

By Jacob Presser

Why this book?

The late Jacob Presser (1899-1970) was a historian, scholar, and a Holocaust survivor himself. His wife was deported and died, and he survived by going into hiding He spent fifteen years researching the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and the plight of the Dutch Jews.

He speaks movingly of finding small scraps of paper, messages thrown from trains leaving Westerbork (an internment camp and later a transit camp in the Netherlands), noting that “Before me, hardly anyone has read them and, after me, they are locked into the archives and it’s possible nobody else will see them.” They awoke in…

From the list:

The best books on World War II in Europe

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Book cover of The World at Night

The World at Night

By Alan Furst

Why this book?

What would World War II book recommendations be without a good spy novel? Alan Furst has written a dozen of them as part of his Night Soldiers series. The series can sometimes be formulaic (especially the love stories), but all do an excellent job of exploring little-known facets of history and the complex choices and risks individuals face in times of uncertainty. (Another title, The Spies of Warsaw, has been dramatized.)

The World of Night follows a film producer in Paris, whose world is upended by the Nazis. Another strength of the series is its depiction of the early…

From the list:

The best books on World War II in Europe

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Book cover of The Culture of Food

The Culture of Food

By Massimo Montanari

Why this book?

A really satisfying read for anyone with an appetite for culinary history. Montanari, a medieval historian who teaches at the University of Bologna, describes the evolution of European cuisine as the clash between the wheat-, grape- and olive-based Mediterranean food traditions of the Roman Empire and the beer-, pork- and animal fat-based cooking of the Teutonic tribes that descended from the North. The invaders introduced their foods to Northern Italy, while the monks traveling north to spread the teachings of Christianity carried with them the wheat and grapes essential for celebrating the Eucharist. A slow assimilation ensued.

From the list:

The best books about food catering to the plate, the eye, and the mind

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Book cover of Louisbourg: Key to a Continent

Louisbourg: Key to a Continent

By Fairfax Downey

Why this book?

This is the most obscure book on my list. But I truly enjoyed reading it. Not only was it utterly informative about the town and fortress of Louisbourg, the largest fort outside of Europe in its day, but Mr. Downey wrote his work in an almost beautiful way. He made countless references and drew many parallels to other eras and conflicts. After reading, I better understood what it was like to be trapped inside those walls during a siege. Likewise, I shivered as I considered the conditions suffered by the besiegers outside.

From the list:

The best books on the war that made America

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Book cover of The Viking Achievement

The Viking Achievement

By P.G. Foote, D.M. Wilson

Why this book?

This is one of the first books of Viking history that approached the Vikings on their own terms rather than their effect on Christian Europe. It illuminates areas of their lives like Viking technology, laws, and social organizations, and then how Viking explorers, traders, and raiders exported those abroad. As I began researching my Viking novels, this was one of the books that brought me into the Viking world the most fully.

From the list:

The best books for understanding the Vikings

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Book cover of Waverley

Waverley

By Sir Walter Scott

Why this book?

To understand the trauma caused by the Napoleonic Wars, and the craving of people in France, Europe and elsewhere to return to the ‘normal pace of times’ as the Austrian Statesman Clemens von Metternich had it, Walter Scott’s ‘Waverley’ is the best vehicle to convey ourselves into the mindset of the contemporary Europeans. Europe had to curb the ‘evil passions’ and had to ‘come to its senses’. Just as Waverley’s young hero Edward does by letting go of his romantic love for the rebellious Flora and returning in the arms of his very English, quiet and harmonious fiancée, Rose. Scott’s…

From the list:

The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Europe: A Natural History

Europe: A Natural History

By Tim Flannery

Why this book?

I have to deal, from time to time, with nervous would-be experts who have an abject fear of hybrid species in the sanctuary where I am a volunteer. One of the main lessons you take away from this ecological history is that hybrids drive a great deal of evolution, and trying to wipe out the hybrids is, in fact, an attempt to interfere with nature.

Looking at Europe as an evolutionary melting pot, we see that time and again, species migrated into the continent and were transformed, whether the immigrants were humans, elephants, or plane trees. Like all of Flannery’s…

From the list:

The best books about history and science

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Book cover of London: The Biography

London: The Biography

By Peter Ackroyd

Why this book?

The daddy of all London books, an encomium to a city of myth. Its buildings hold and hide legends. Its rivers are lost underground. Its backstreets vanish into fable. Its characters are blurred between fact and fiction. Truths have been twisted by fantasy. Tourists are rendered blind, stepping around beggars to photograph the past, and sit in parks reading of a city that only springs to life in the mind, for in reality only the faintest outline traces now remain. A truly remarkable tour de force.

From the list:

The best books about London for the curious

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Book cover of Queenship in Medieval Europe

Queenship in Medieval Europe

By Theresa Earenfight

Why this book?

Theresa Earenfight is a renowned queenship scholar whose ideas about queens and queenship inspired me when I was a graduate student and continue to excite me today. This is a book that I recommend to my own students as the perfect place to start with medieval queenship. Earenfight’s book moves chronologically across the Middle Ages, drawing together examples of queens from all across Europe to illustrate key ideas about queenship and demonstrate how different women exercised the queen’s office. An engaging read which is underpinned by years of research and deep expertise in the field.

From the list:

The best books on queens and queenship

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Book cover of God is My Co-Pilot

God is My Co-Pilot

By Robert L. Scott

Why this book?

The archetypal combat flying story, this is an easy, fun, and eye-opening book that Scott wrote only months after returning from the war. Scott clearly loved to fly and had done so since the early 1930s after graduating from West Point. Resourceful and tenacious, he received command of a fighter group in China after having been officially told the previous year that he was too old (at the ripe old age of 33) to fly fighters. This is a rollicking read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

From the list:

The best personal accounts of World War II air combat

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Book cover of Lewis Carroll: Photographer

Lewis Carroll: Photographer

By Helmut Gernsheim

Why this book?

Mention the name ‘Lewis Carroll’ and most people will immediately think of the two Alice books. Very few would equate the name to Charles Dodgson, the photographer. This, however, is the aspect of the multi-talented Oxford don which Gernsheim, a professional photographer himself, appraised in his 1949 first edition for the very first time, concluding that Dodgson was ‘the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century. Many of the black and white plates substantiate this claim, but equally, Dodgson’s mastery of this new invention enabled him to meet and photograph (sometimes uniquely) numerous famous writers and artists, as…
From the list:

The best books about Lewis Carroll and Alice

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Book cover of Manhattan, When I Was Young

Manhattan, When I Was Young

By Mary Cantwell

Why this book?

This is an elegant, finely written memoir by a former writer and editor at Vogue, Mademoiselle and the New York Times that offers an interesting hook: her story is set in five different apartments in Manhattan as her life progresses from single working girl to professional and personal success and hardships including motherhood and divorce. If you’ve ever dreamed of working at a magazine in New York City - particularly during this golden period, then this is the book for you.
From the list:

The best books if you’re delusional and want to pretend you live in 1940s Manhattan

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Book cover of The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris

The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Paris

By Anna-Louise Milne

Why this book?

Beginning in the seventeenth century at the moment when Paris was redesigned, it became a great literary city and the center of the French literary tradition. For anyone interested in how the most important French writers have celebrated their city and depicted the ways in which Paris has changed over the centuries and the impact such changes have had on its inhabitants this is the perfect book.

From the list:

The best books on what makes a city great – and in particular on what makes Paris a great city

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Book cover of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

By Nicky Gardner, Susanne Kries

Why this book?

Back in the day, no self-respecting InterRail traveller would leave home without the iconic red Thomas Cook European timetable and while it’s still available in different formats these days, apps and websites have removed the urgency of travelling with a big book of timetables. But this sterling work, updated regularly, fills the gap between inspiration and destination – full of the nuts and bolts of European rail travel (what tickets, where, and how to buy) while featuring over fifty routes, complete with descriptions, diversions, recommendations, and discoveries. It’s brilliant for the armchair traveller, and invaluable for anyone eyeing a leisurely…

From the list:

The best books about rail journeys

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Book cover of Africa's Discovery of Europe, 1450-1850

Africa's Discovery of Europe, 1450-1850

By David Northup

Why this book?

Northup provocatively challenges our perceptions of the early modern world. By offering a relativist view and investigating the primary sources written by Africans themselves the Africans of the early modern period. They reveal much about sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, as well as African civilizations.     

From the list:

The best history books about everyone and for everyone

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Book cover of To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe

To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe

By Akwugo Emejulu, Francesca Sobande

Why this book?

While the Black freedom struggle is often approached through the activism of Black males, the history of the struggle in Europe—like in the United States and elsewhere in the world—owes much to Black women, Black female scholar-activists, and Black feminist and Queer networks. Yet they remain woefully underrepresented in scholarship and collective memory.

I, therefore, chose this edited volume, because it uniquely presents the stories, intersectional experiences, and visions of contemporary Black female activists, artists, and scholars from across the continent. This not only uncovers the significant intellectual, political, social, and cultural contributions of Black women, but also expands definitions…

From the list:

The best books on Black Europe

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Book cover of Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race

By Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why this book?

Next to a growing body of work on the centuries-old Black human and cultural presence in and contributions to Europe (see among others the work of David Olusoga, Peter Fryer, Paul Gilroy, Olivette Olete, and Jacqueline Nassy Brown), memoirs and autobiography provide an excellent means for understanding the Black lived experience in Europe. In line with a longer, transnational Black tradition of using the genre to counter Black invisibility in history writing and collective memory, such works often expertly combine personal narrative with historical research.

While countless other impressive examples exist (see e.g. Afua Hirsh) and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s work doesn’t…

From the list:

The best books on Black Europe

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Book cover of Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

Neither Here Nor There:: Travels in Europe

By Bill Bryson

Why this book?

I’m middle-aged and then some, and I’ve traveled to many places more than once. I was curious to compare my double experiences with Bryson’s. Would the Leaning Tower of Pisa be leaning even more? Would Paris disappoint on a second visit? I won’t tell, but bear in mind I hold a special place in my dark heart for snarky humor, which I find perversely amusing.
From the list:

The best travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

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Book cover of Am I Really Ready for A Puppy?

Am I Really Ready for A Puppy?

By Doliah Snead

Why this book?

Being kind is not only doing something, but kindness is also knowing when you are not ready or responsible enough to care for something like a pet. Oftentimes we think of ourselves and our wants and overlook our capabilities and responsibilities.
From the list:

The best children’s books where kindness wins every time

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Book cover of Mog and the Baby

Mog and the Baby

By Judith Kerr

Why this book?

“Mog loves babies!” says the poor cat’s owners but this is not strictly true. Mog just wants to snooze undisturbed but a visiting baby soon puts paid to that. Her expressions are brilliantly done as the baby takes more and more liberties. When Mog escapes out the window, the baby follows, with almost catastrophic results in the road outside. But Mog saves the day - and the baby - and is rewarded with a gigantic fish. 

From the list:

The best classic books about babies

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Book cover of A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai

By Tess Johnston

Why this book?

Hard to imagine now, but when Tess Johnston arrived in Shanghai as an American diplomat in 1981, no one was researching or writing much about Old Shanghai. Fascinated by the city’s old Western buildings, she collaborated with Shanghainese photographer Deke Erh to piece together the stories behind the once-grand architecture. Photographed in the 1980s and ’90s, A Last Look provides a provocative visual history of Old Shanghai, accompanied by succinct text penned in Johnston’s personable style. This oeuvre is not only an appealing entrée into a lost era but has become a precious remembrance, as many of its subject buildings…

From the list:

The best books on China’s greatest city Shanghai

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Book cover of Darwinia

Darwinia

By Robert Charles Wilson

Why this book?

Sometimes history is just as dizzying and alienating as physics, astronomy, and contemplating the end of the universe. Unraveling the chains of could-have-beens and strange possibilities is tempting, but too big for the human imagination. In Darwinia, the Earth of 1912 becomes even more. Europe and large parts of other continents have vanished, replaced by pieces of another, much more hostile planet - and the alternate history only gets stranger from there. It perfectly captures that dazed, giddy feeling of trying to understand just how big our universe really is.

From the list:

The best science fiction books about the past

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Book cover of Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

Kingdoms and Communities in Western Europe 900-1300

By Susan Reynolds

Why this book?

Susan Reynolds was renowned for speaking her mind, never rudely but always forthrightly. If she considered that a generally accepted view or term was wrong or misleading or ill-defined, she said so. In a later work of hers, Fiefs and Vassals, she questioned the very value of the term “feudalism” when analyzing the Middle Ages. In Kingdoms and Communities, a rather less polemical work, she argued for the importance of self-organizing lay communities (parishes, guilds, even “the community of the realm”) as contrasted with the traditional focus on kings and the Church. Susan was in the line of…

From the list:

The best books that look at medieval Europe as a whole

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Book cover of Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe

Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of Rome and the Birth of Europe

By Peter Heather

Why this book?

Peter Heather’s work is one of the broadest in scope on the topic of the European ‘Barbarians’, while still retaining enough detail to keep the reader’s attention pinned. A great starter for this period of history, encompassing the entire first millennium AD, the time when the heart of European civilization gradually moved from the Mediterranean South to the cold Barbarian North. It reads like a novel – but is supported by years of painstaking research. If you can only read one book on Barbarian Europe, this is the book.

From the list:

The best books on Barbarian Europe

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Book cover of How to Use Woodworking Tools

How to Use Woodworking Tools

By R.L. Bridgman

Why this book?

Published in 1881 this is an absolutely fundamental book for the beginner. Amply illustrated, you will learn important details such as how to hold tools and what to expect from them as well as how basic joints are formed and made. Focused on wooden tools this is information not commonly reproduced in more contemporary books.

This book is not currently available.

From the list:

The best books on traditional woodworking

Book cover of Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb- An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources

Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb- An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources

By W.E. Begley, Z.A. Desai

Why this book?

This is an anthology of all of the written sources on the Taj Mahal from the period of its construction in the 17th century. It brings together translations of every description or mention of the building in Mughal court histories, or accounts by foreign travellers, and explains all of the historical and religious inscriptions that are written on the building itself. The book is meant for the serious student and lacks narrative flow; but the focus exclusively on written sources dating from the same time as the Taj really helps you understand it in its own time. 

From the list:

The best books on the Taj Mahal

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Book cover of Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen: The Story of Six Novels, Three Notebooks, a Writing Box, and One Clever Girl

By Deborah Hopkinson, Qin Leng

Why this book?

A luminous portrait of Jane Austen chocked full of spirited text and shimmery illustrations that capture the times. The story highlights the beginnings of Austen’s great career as a novelist from her youngest days all the way to famous writer. It’s a great addition to any classroom or library. Like Jane Taylor before her, Austen’s success paved the way for women authors to come.

From the list:

The best children’s books about writers

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Book cover of Half Magic, 1

Half Magic, 1

By Edward Eager

Why this book?

Edward Eager will never go out of style. Every generation of children, no matter how technologically sophisticated, discovers his books and delights in them. Half Magic, the first of Eager’s “daily magic series” (there are seven in all), is a portal book in which four siblings are transported to other places and times by means of a talisman. And yet the reader is transported to a parallel universe in another respect as well – one inhabited, shaped, and determined solely by kids, outside the orbit of adults. And isn’t that just how childhood feels? Published in 1954, set in…

From the list:

The best classics of children’s fantasy for readers of any age

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Book cover of Children's Drawings (Le Dessin Enfantin)

Children's Drawings (Le Dessin Enfantin)

By Georges-Henri Luquet, Alan Costall

Why this book?

This book, originally published in French in 1927 (and now at long last translated into English by psychologist Alan Costall), is the earliest systematic analysis of the odd, nonrealistic features of children’s drawings, and the first to argue against those who considered these oddities as defects to be overcome. Instead, children’s drawings at different stages are shown to have their own logic and intelligence. Luquet opposed any kind of intervention or correction by adults, which he felt might destroy children’s love of drawing. He took children’s drawings seriously, never dismissing them in terms of what they lacked. This highly readable…

From the list:

The best books about the value of children’s art

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Book cover of Salamander Dream

Salamander Dream

By Hope Larson

Why this book?

This book was a hidden gem for me. I found this on a dusty shelf in an old bookstore and was instantly in love with its whimsical drawings. The simplicity of color use and a narrative are told only through its illustrations. Intended for young adult readers, however, this book really is for all dreamers of ages. 

From the list:

The best graphic memoirs with creativity and flair

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Book cover of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945)

Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770-1945)

By Diana Mishkova, Marius Turda, Balazs Trencsenyi

Why this book?

The sources found in Collective Identities illustrate how national ideas were received, fashioned, and conveyed by thinkers in many parts of Europe during the modern era. Each volume also includes a number of opening essays and chapter introductions which provide helpful references to additional foundational texts and matters of historical context. In sum, the volumes perform the very valuable service of introducing readers to some common elements in many ‘discourses’ from the period as well as important local variations in style and content.
From the list:

The best books which document the spread of nationalism throughout the modern world

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Book cover of The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Why this book?

The Yellow Wallpaper inspired my book and brand. Gilman not only defined the madwoman of Gothic literature by writing one of the most haunting and empowering stories of the 19th century, but she also lived it. Her experience inspired her story and exposed the horror of hysteria treatments. This story inspired me because I could relate to Gilman and her main character. Though hysteria is no longer a recognized condition and women have gained many more rights, ideologies left over from the hysteria panic still creep in our culture and generational memory. Women are still called crazy. The assumption that…

From the list:

The most empowering gothic historical fiction on hysteria

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Book cover of Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman

By Alice Steinbach

Why this book?

Without Reservations gave me hope following the death of my beloved husband of 37 years. Living with his unique and nontraditional worldview, I’d grown into and inhabited a wider, less conventional way of being than my suburban middle-class upbringing had prepared me for. But once he was gone, what and who was I going to be? Steinbach’s travelogue goes to many of the places my husband and I traveled in England and Europe, and that brought reminiscences of great pleasure. But it was her inner journeying in search of her soul that gave me the courage to embark on the…

From the list:

The best books by women about grieving the loss of a quirky marriage partner

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Book cover of Sophie's Squash

Sophie's Squash

By Pat Zietlow Miller, Anne Wilsdorf

Why this book?

Sophie befriends a squash meant for dinner, and her parents respect this relationship, her emotions, and her decision-making. Even after the squash begins to rot. There’s gentle humor here, but it’s not a laugh-out-loud book, or an overtly interactive book. So why list it here? Because it’s just fantastic storytelling that never fails to completely capture the online attention of classrooms of kids I’ve read it to (and a niece more times than I can count). A perfect story can do that. And it has a scientific solution to the dilemma! I adore and recommend it for that reason as…

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The best picture books for engaging kids on Zoom and FaceTime (and in person, too)

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Book cover of Hitler's War and the Germans

Hitler's War and the Germans

By Marlis G Steinert

Why this book?

This is not a full biography – the biography Steinert wrote later in her career is not available in English – but many of the ideas in Steinert’s biography can also be found in this earlier work, which has faded into posterity slightly but can be read with great profit. Here, Steinert is concerned to give texture to a hitherto often two-dimensional image of German society and its attitudes to Hitler’s War. The result is an interesting, differentiated account of public opinion in Nazi Germany. In many respects, it was pioneering and opened up questions surrounding the relationship between state…

From the list:

The best biographical studies of Hitler

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Book cover of When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures

When Cultures Collide: Leading Across Cultures

By Richard D. Lewis

Why this book?

Masterpiece of cultural observations. I wish there were more books like this. Insights into different countries' cultures. Some amazing, like the reason for American's lack of manners, or Japanese procedures. I practically underlined the entire book, I loved it so much.

From the list:

The best books to change how you understand the world

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Book cover of Sculpture Parks in Europe: A Guide to Art and Nature

Sculpture Parks in Europe: A Guide to Art and Nature

By Raul Rispa

Why this book?

Both reference book and travel guide, this second edition includes over 90 sculpture parks in 27 European countries. The parks featured are those that have an ‘art and nature’ element, in which artists collaborate with nature, working in and with nature to create artworks and situations that help us think about and enjoy both. One to take with you on your next trip around Europe!

From the list:

The best books about Destination Art

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Book cover of Taken by the Stranger

Taken by the Stranger

By Jenna Rose

Why this book?

This book is so deliciously over-the-top. Forced into a marriage she doesn't want, Sophie gets desperate and makes a crazy post online, begging someone to kidnap her. Phoenix actually does it, and it's just an insane level of possessive hotness from then on out. Phoenix is dark and gruff and growly and everything an obsessive alpha male should be.

From the list:

The best insta-love short reads featuring possessive alpha males

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Book cover of Death in Venice

Death in Venice

By Thomas Mann, Stanley Appelbaum

Why this book?

There are so many amazing books set in Venice, but no list is complete without Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. It’s a literary classic from 1912 that not only stands the test of time, it exceeds the hype. Death in Venice follows Gustav von Aschenbach, a famous author who travels to Venice in search of inspiration. Instead, he finds obsession. Death in Venice is erotic and dark, but what I love most about this book is how it captures the city’s bewitching personality. 

From the list:

The best historical fiction set in Venice, Italy

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Book cover of Aux Frontières du Jazz

Aux Frontières du Jazz

By Robert Goffin

Why this book?

Any aficionado follower of our music is aware that – for all the lists of books on jazz, worldwide nowadays – in truth the very first nations to study seriously and passionately this extraordinary music called jazz were the European countries.   They discovered in the 1930s the magic of those Black orchestras that entertained the wealthy cruise ships travelling from the United States to France and Europe. The local musicians welcomed their Black colleagues who became their teachers. While in the United States jazz music was considered just another form of dance music, in Europe, it was examined, dissected, catalogued,…

From the list:

The best books to welcome you to the magical world of jazz

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Book cover of Sister Dear

Sister Dear

By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Why this book?

If you happen to like the type of books that end with a gut punch, then you are going to love Sister Dear. This had an ending that I didn’t see coming, which is probably why I love it so much. I have a few authors on my ‘must read’ list and this one holds the title for #1 because of her endings. Warning: you start reading the book thinking you know where it’s headed, but trust me when I say you don’t!

From the list:

The best books that keep you up past your bedtime

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Book cover of Little Monsters

Little Monsters

By Kara Thomas

Why this book?

Kacey, the new girl in Broken Falls who has two best friends, Bailey and Jade. There’s a sinister vibe in this book, right off the top; something feels off with this friend group, and when Bailey goes missing, we—as readers—are left flipping the pages, trying to find out what could have happened.

This is one of those books where you really feel like you can’t trust anyone—even the main character. I loved how this story kept me guessing until the very end. Its gritty, filled with family and friendship drama, and the wintery setting make it all the more haunting…

From the list:

The best small town YA mysteries to keep you up all night

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Book cover of The Land of 10,000 Madonnas

The Land of 10,000 Madonnas

By Kate Hattemer

Why this book?

I bought this book for the title, and happily there are Madonnas galore in this story, including in the apartment of “two motherless dudes,” dying teen Jessie T. Serrano and his dad. This quest novel—before he dies, Jessie sets up a mysterious trip to Europe for his three cousins, best friend and girlfriend—follows five grieving young adults on a doomed pilgrimage in a strange continent. If you have ever been a teen (as I assume you have) you will connect with the six (!!) point of view characters, each flawed but achingly human. "Not all stories are about love," says…

From the list:

The best YA novels featuring strangers in strange lands

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Book cover of Climate and Society in Europe: The Last Thousand Years

Climate and Society in Europe: The Last Thousand Years

By Christian Pfister, Heinz Wanner

Why this book?

This is a most impressive account of human history and past climatic extremes. It brings together the best of our knowledge of the climate history of Europe as recorded in old archives, paintings, monastery records, sagas, pay lists, tax records, hinting at years without summer, famines, bonanza yields, etc. These fingerprints of the past are combined with the best of modern climatology and provide a holistic picture of past and novel aspects of climatic change. A masterpiece resulting from the cooperation of two outstanding authors: a historian and a climatologist. If you wish to understand climatic extremes, this is the…

From the list:

The best books if you have an interest in history and the science of nature

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Book cover of The Past as Future

The Past as Future

By Jurgen Habermas, Max Pensky

Why this book?

In addition to being postwar Germany’s most important philosopher, Habermas is also its leading public intellectual. In this volume of his “short political writings” Habermas develops his ideas on a number of concrete issues in the memory politics of postwar Europe that emerged in the early 1990s – including conservative attempts to normalize the Holocaust, the effects of German unification, and the implications of the fall of communism for the EU – in an accessible manner through a series of interviews. This format also allows him to open up the question of the status of public intellectuals and their role…

From the list:

The best books on memory and postwar Europe

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Book cover of The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe

By Richard Ned Lebow, Wulf Kansteiner, Claudio Fogu

Why this book?

Although this is my final recommendation, this book is where my interest in the topic of memory and the political, intellectual, and social development of postwar Europe began. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College, I had the opportunity to assist my advisor, Ned Lebow, with the preparation of this volume. Following a short theoretical introduction to the paradigm of collective memory, this collection then presents chapters on the specific dynamics of the politics of remembrance in various European states written by local country specialists. This is both a great read and a great resource for further information on the…

From the list:

The best books on memory and postwar Europe

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Book cover of Journey into Russia

Journey into Russia

By Laurens van der Post

Why this book?

The author was an old fraud but this is a delightful period piece which reveals a good deal, sometimes inadvertently, about the lives of Russians in the benighted Soviet sixties.
From the list:

The best books to read when visiting Russia

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Book cover of The Corfu Trilogy

The Corfu Trilogy

By Gerald Durrell

Why this book?

As an animal-lover who has spent many blissful years on holiday in Greece, I had wanted to read this much-loved classic for ages. Gerald Durrell writes about his life in Corfu with brilliant humour. Vignettes about his unconventional family and that strange assortment of hangers-on who keep appearing had me in stitches. These, and the accounts of intrepid expeditions to pursue new creatures for his collection, fill the book with colour. I found his portrayals of Corfu and its locals utterly captivating. His romance with the island is enough to inspire anyone to pluck up the courage and move abroad.
From the list:

The best books on moving abroad to Europe

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Book cover of Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

Witch Hunting and Witch Trials

By C L'Estrange Ewen

Why this book?

This was the book that got me started over thirty years ago, and which I still turn to today. It’s an absolute mine of information, specifically relating to the written indictments for witchcraft which survive in great numbers for the Home Assize Circuit – that is, the courts that heard felonies in south-eastern England.

Ewen doesn’t provide much in the way of analysis. There is a substantial, very useful, introduction, but the really incredible thing about this book is how Ewen managed to comb through the archives, then held in the Public Records Office in London, and find almost all…

From the list:

The best books on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

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Book cover of Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England

By Alan Macfarlane

Why this book?

Originally published in 1970, this was another foundational text for me and other witchcraft scholars of my generation.

It grew out of Macfarlane’s doctoral thesis focusing on Essex, which had been supervised by Keith Thomas, whose own great book, Religion and the Decline of Magic (much of which dealt with witches), came out the following year. Even then, the historian Macfarlane was on his way to becoming an anthropologist – a transition visible on every page of this fascinating book.

But its overriding character is that of a work of sociology. Social science models helped to impose interpretative order on…

From the list:

The best books on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

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Book cover of Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft

By Robin Briggs

Why this book?

This builds on the archives, on the sociology and anthropology, and on the politics, law and religion discussed so far, but its emphasis is on communities – what has been called (by my research supervisor, Keith Wrightson) ‘the politics of the parish’. If witch-hunting was shaped by the structures and relationships of the state, as in Levack’s book, it also belonged to the local political world of ordinary people, who helped each other out and joined forces to resist perceived enemies in their midst. And there was no enemy more frightening than the witch, who was the anti-neighbour, anti-mother, anti-Christian…

From the list:

The best books on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

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Book cover of A Tramp Abroad

A Tramp Abroad

By Mark Twain

Why this book?

In a travelogue which spends much of its time in the Alps, Twain delivers anecdotes of haplessness that will make readers smile, if not laugh out loud. Twain portrays himself as an American naif who thinks he understands everything while actually understanding nothing at all.

From the list:

The best books about the Alps from a history and travel writer

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Book cover of Terror on the Mountain

Terror on the Mountain

By Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz

Why this book?

Swiss novelist Ramuz delivers a taut, engrossing tale about Alpine villagers whose decision to tempt fate ends in disaster. Ignoring the pleas of their elders, some young men take their flocks to summer in an upland mountain pasture that is reputed locally to be a cursed place. It turns out that the reputation is well earned.

From the list:

The best books about the Alps from a history and travel writer

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Book cover of Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

By Tony Judt

Why this book?

My own background, process, and style have me reaching for ever-tinier stories that I think I can go deep on, in order to hopefully excavate something larger. Judt’s Postwar is the opposite: a colossal swing at a multi-decade period across European history. In this, he synthesizes political, economic, social, and cultural histories to guide the reader through Europe’s development after World War II. It’s a book where you find yourself going over each line a few times in order to make sure you’ve wrung all meaning from it and every sentence returns you to your notes.

From the list:

The best stories on how people and societies grapple with the end of wars

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Book cover of Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956

By Anne Applebaum

Why this book?

People in the West tend to celebrate 1945 as a year of liberation; but, of course, in Eastern Europe, the defeat of Germany merely heralded the beginning of four more decades of repression. In this book, Anne Applebaum describes the Communist takeover of three European countries – East Germany, Poland, and Hungary. It’s a masterpiece both of research and of analysis. Communism, just like capitalism, had many faces: this book shows brilliantly just how varied repression can be. In 2013 it won the lucrative Cundill Prize, and deservedly so.

From the list:

The best books on the immediate aftermath of World War 2

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Book cover of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

By Chris Cleave

Why this book?

Chris Cleave’s fourth novel was inspired by memories of his grandparents and their letters during the war. The novel follows the lives and relationships of four young people in Britain during the early years of World War II. It also follows action on the island of Malta, a part of World War II history not as well known. It’s also a story of love, friendship, and surprising choices. A warning: Do not read ahead. The novel has an incredible last scene and you don’t want to ruin it!

From the list:

The best books on World War II in Europe

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Book cover of Brave Men

Brave Men

By Ernie Pyle

Why this book?

I came close to picking James Tobin’s brilliant biography, Ernie’s Pyle’s War, but decided that it was impossible to overlook Pyle’s own prose. This anthology contains the articles he wrote in Sicily, Italy, and France in 1943-44. It shows, more movingly than any other eyewitness account, just how terrible the fighting could be in what is too often glibly remembered as America’s “good war.”

From the list:

The best books to understand WW2 from eyewitnesses and historians

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Book cover of Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking

Chinese Technique: An Illustrated Guide to the Fundamental Techniques of Chinese Cooking

By Ken Hom, Willie Kee, Harvey Steiman

Why this book?

An excellent primer in the ingredients and techniques of Chinese cooking, with very instructive step by step photos from the pre youtube era by an experienced, knowledgeable and encouraging teacher. This book was one of the first Chinese cookbooks I acquired many years ago, and I still refer to it often.

From the list:

The best Chinese cookbooks that have influenced my cooking

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Book cover of Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

Women, Armies, and Warfare in Early Modern Europe

By John A. Lynn II

Why this book?

This is one of the first scholarly studies of women in and around the battlefield. It is notable for its depiction of women who were active in warfare who were not queens or larger-than-life heroines. It also includes what I think is hands-down the best discussion of the uncomfortable relationship between military history and gender studies that plagues all attempts to write about women in war.

From the list:

The best books about women in war

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Book cover of How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas

How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas

By Joseph Collins, Stefano DeZerega, Zahara Heckscher

Why this book?

A comprehensive guide for potential volunteers wishing to make the world a better place. It includes first-hand stories, worksheets, and evaluative information about hundreds of volunteer organisations.

Written by veteran volunteers who are all founders of respected organizations, the book covers the whole process of volunteering, from how to decide if international volunteering is right for you, to choosing the right program, to what to do before and after you go abroad. It also covers the vital political and social contexts of people from the US volunteering abroad, and how to be aware of these factors to ensure you volunteer…

From the list:

The best books about international volunteering

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Book cover of Veneziaenigma: Thirteen Centuries of Chronicles, Mysteries, Curiosities and Extraordinary Events Poised Between History and Myth

Veneziaenigma: Thirteen Centuries of Chronicles, Mysteries, Curiosities and Extraordinary Events Poised Between History and Myth

By Alberto Toso Fei

Why this book?

Toso Fei is a Venetian author who writes about the quirks and mysteries of Venice. He has several books about ghost stories, strange events, and inventions. All his books are great because he not only writes well but is knowledgeable as only an insider can be.

From the list:

The best books about Venice (non-guidebooks)

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Book cover of Chronicles: Volume One

Chronicles: Volume One

By Bob Dylan

Why this book?

An essential read for anyone interested in the life and art of Bob Dylan. The long-awaited autobiography is scarcely the typical celebrity volume. While little more than a taster, providing selected parts of the artist’s story in his own words and in his uniquely engaging voice, the areas covered appear in surprisingly revelatory detail and with extraordinary candor. It is the biggest selling Dylan book, by far, with an initial print run of 250,000, eclipsing all other such titles, its appearance 18 years ago was a major publishing event. Sub-titled Volume One, it begs the question, will we ever see…
From the list:

The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

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Book cover of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever

By Richard Scarry

Why this book?

Try to get your hands on the original 1963 edition that made Richard Scarry‘s fortune and allowed him to move his family to Switzerland, for the skiing. It’s a fabulous book that’s crowded with scenes of purpose and industry, and with labeled pictures that bespeak the world’s exciting wideness. There are birds (the quail, pheasant, wren, bittern), buildings (a cathedral, pyramid, fort, skyscraper), flowers (clover, pansies, asters, foxgloves), and houses (the igloo, grass house, half-timbered house, chalet). Over time, subsequent editions were stripped of this eccentric specificity and of Scarry’s courtly depictions of traditional social roles (gone, for instance, are…
From the list:

The best picture books to build a baby’s brain

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Book cover of Afropean: Notes from Black Europe

Afropean: Notes from Black Europe

By Johny Pitts

Why this book?

Written in a riveting style, this book by Black British writer and photographer Johny Pitts likewise combines personal narrative with journalism and historical research. Pitts recounts his journey visiting numerous, often invisible Black urban communities across the European continent. By highlighting their lived experiences and identity formations, Pitts’ account challenges conventional understandings of ‘Black Europe’ and the ‘Black Atlantic.’ These are too often drawn from the Black British experience and its connections to the Americas, even though the majority of Europeans who identify (or are identified) as Black live on the continental mainland, speak languages other than English, and came…

From the list:

The best books on Black Europe

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Book cover of Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide

By Doug Mack

Why this book?

The author gets ahold of his mother’s copy of Frommer's 1967 Europe on Five Dollars a Day and uses it as his basis for a contemporary visit. Like his mother, I, too, did the tour in 1967. I was curious to see what had happened to Europe and to my view of it. Of course, most of the restaurants no longer exist, and $5 dollars a day was more like $50 dollars a day, but this travel memoir is full of funny, disastrous, and touching adventures. I admit to a fondness for funny disasters.
From the list:

The best travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

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Book cover of Island

Island

By Mark Janssen

Why this book?

A dear colleague of mine, a few years back he decided to just go for it. He used all his experience and did stuff he never did before. The result, an explosion of colour and beautiful use of different techniques. These pictures just keep on giving and giving. Every time you'll spot something new. Once again wordless, but children necessarily don't need words to understand a story.
From the list:

The best books for travelling in different or strange circumstances

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Book cover of The Unconsoled

The Unconsoled

By Kazuo Ishiguro

Why this book?

In this extraordinary novel, a famous pianist arrives in an unnamed middle European city to give a recital.  But he is constantly thwarted by events. The story works like one of those anxiety dreams in which you are trying to get somewhere, but can somehow never quite reach it. And this is not a coincidence because Ishiguro quite deliberately set out to write a novel that used the narrative devices of dreams to tell its story.  In dreams, for instance, we can open a door and step right through into a different part of town, or we can hear people’s…

From the list:

The best hard-to-categorize novels

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Book cover of Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

Between Two Cultures: An Introduction to Economic History

By Carlo M. Cipolla, Christopher Woodall

Why this book?

Cipolla, a brilliant author, shows in this study how economic history and economic concepts can be used to study the past even when they did not exist at the time. Cipolla engagingly explains how economic concepts, even when unrecognized, can be useful tools of analysis. In order to demonstrate this principle, for example, he memorably explains how the clothes used to prevent plague in medieval Europe were effective for reasons totally different than contemporaries realized. Mistaken understandings could still lead to effective actions.  

From the list:

The best books from Medieval European history to contemporary Japanese literature

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Book cover of Becoming a Queen in Early Modern Europe: East and West

Becoming a Queen in Early Modern Europe: East and West

By Kataryzna Kosior

Why this book?

Early modern Europe is a ‘hot spot’ for queenship studies and there are countless individual biographies, works on groups of royal women and collections on key themes which I could have recommended. I’ve chosen this work as, like Earenfight, it is a great place to begin exploring what it meant to be a queen in this period. Unlike Earenfight, this book is divided up by key themes instead of working chronologically, exploring various facets such as royal weddings and ceremonial, motherhood and political agency. Kosior also brings together plenty of European examples to illustrate these themes and a distinctive feature…

From the list:

The best books on queens and queenship

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Book cover of The Great Good Thing

The Great Good Thing

By Roderick Townley

Why this book?

“Slyvie had an amazing life, but she didn’t get to live it very often . . .” There are several fantasies about fictional characters breaking out of their books, but Roderick Townley’s is my favorite because it’s the most surprising. I loved this book because of the way it expresses the beauty and joy of reading and because of its exploration of what it means to break out of the outlines that other people draw for you and discover in yourself something completely new. 

From the list:

The best literary fantasies for young adults

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Book cover of The Making of the Middle Ages

The Making of the Middle Ages

By R.W. Southern

Why this book?

Very early in Southern’s Making of the Middle Ages, when he is discussing the divisions of Latin Christendom, and the various languages that were spoken in western Europe, he tells the story of a monk who travelled from Catalonia to Germany in 1051, reporting the death of count Wilfrid of Cerdaña and requesting from the monasteries and cathedrals he passed prayers to be inscribed on the parchment roll he carried. This roll still survives and it gave Southern the opportunity to paint a concrete and lively picture of the varied world that the monk encountered. It is typical of…

From the list:

The best books that look at medieval Europe as a whole

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Book cover of A Man and His Cat

A Man and His Cat

By Umi Sakurai

Why this book?

This heart-melting story of an unusual-looking cat and the widower who adopts him will bring happy tears to the eyes of any animal-lover. Fukumaru is a cat who isn’t conventionally cute, and worries he’ll never be adopted. When an older gentleman takes him home, they begin a new life together, introducing love and laughter into their days. An uplifting story, but make sure to have tissues handy when reading this!

From the list:

The best cat-themed graphic novels and manga

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Book cover of The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000

The Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000

By Chris Wickham

Why this book?

Another synthesis of the ‘Dark Ages’ Europe, this one from the Penguin History series. An easy, but thorough read, painting a broad canvas from Ireland to Byzantium, and from the last days of Rome to the last days of Anglo-Saxon England, shines the light on the centuries that, while still seen as shrouded in the darkness of violence and barbarism, are in fact the true cradle of the European civilization as we know it today.

From the list:

The best books on Barbarian Europe

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Book cover of Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles

Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles

By Squatting in Europe Kollective

Why this book?

From 2009 to 2021, the Squatting Europe Kollective provided a platform for innovative research on squatting by both academics and activists. The group organized international meetings, created an interactive map of squatter actions in various European cities, and published a number of books. Their 2013 volume provided a state of the art of squatter research. The first chapter distinguishes between different modes (‘configurations’) of squatting; for example squatting as an alternative housing strategy, a strategy for saving monumental dwellings from demolition or squatting as a tactic for confronting neoliberalism. The subsequent chapters zoom into particular issues, such as the ways…

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The best books on squatting and urban activism

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Book cover of Yes & No

Yes & No

By Elisha Cooper

Why this book?

I grew up a dog lover, but today our family has one dog and one cat. I’ve learned to accept and even appreciate the differences in attitude between the two, and this beautifully-illustrated picture book celebrates them lovingly. We follow a dog and a cat throughout their day, as the dog responds an enthusiastic “Yes!” to all queries from the person of the house, while the cat gives a standoffish “No.” By the end, the roles reverse and we feel affection for both animals in their unique quirkiness. Cuddly and hopeful.

From the list:

The best children’s books about dogs

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Book cover of The Parasites

The Parasites

By Daphne du Maurier

Why this book?

This novel, published in 1949, is about three grown-up siblings who are still dominated by the memory of their famous parents, both accomplished performers, and their atypical early years, which they spent playing in theaters across Europe. Though the majority of the novel takes place after the parents have died, the ties of family remain paramount for the three protagonists. At times each one feels desperate to escape those ties, but their shared past exerts an irresistible pull on all three. Unusually, the novel is narrated in the first-person plural: the narrative often refers to “us,” but tells each sibling’s…

From the list:

The best novels about families from the mid-twentieth century

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Book cover of Guard Your Daughters

Guard Your Daughters

By Diana Tutton

Why this book?

The true identity of Diana Tutton remains uncertain. She published three idiosyncratic novels in England in the 1950s, all of which have now fallen into obscurity. Of those, Guard Your Daughters is the best: it describes a loving family dedicated to protecting the children’s mother, whose poor health has led to an insular, overly sheltered lifestyle for her many daughters. Each of the girls is distinct and vividly drawn by Tutton, who has a keen eye for the traditions, tensions, and excitement of siblings in their teenage years. Over the course of the novel, the sisters gradually forge more connections…

From the list:

The best novels about families from the mid-twentieth century

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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 Swordheart

Swordheart

By T. Kingfisher

Why this book?

This is the first T. Kingfisher book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. The main characters, Halla and Sarkis, hooked me right from the start. Halla, in particular, drew me in because she’s not the usual heroine for a fantasy romance; she’s a widow in her thirties, a little sheltered, but brimming with curiosity about the world she’s never really seen. But because she’s not a child, she’s got a good head on her shoulders and a wonderful perspective. Her relationship with Sarkis, a warrior trapped in a magic sword, is delightful, and their time together on the…

From the list:

The best traveling fantasy romance books

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Book cover of A Fine White Dust

A Fine White Dust

By Cynthia Rylant

Why this book?

Pete’s whole life changes the summer the Preacher Man comes to town. Hearing the Man speak fills Pete with purpose. No one understands Pete like the Preacher Man — neither Pete’s parents, who no longer attend church, nor his best friend, who is an atheist — and Pete will do anything to hold fast to his devotion.

I read this short, deceptively simple book twice while working on Miraculous. It is an honest look at the longings and purpose so many of us search for, the power a persuasive individual can have, and the flaws that make us all…

From the list:

The best middle grade novels about mysterious strangers

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Book cover of One Came Home

One Came Home

By Amy Timberlake

Why this book?

Everything about this book is stellar: the haunting descriptions of passenger pigeon carnage, the distinctive rural Wisconsin setting, the sharp dialogue. And the main character, Georgie, is a marvel. When a mangled corpse wrapped in her runaway sister’s dress is brought home, Georgie is the only one who insists on learning the whole truth—and so, with a rifle and a borrowed mule, she sets out to find it. Georgie is stubborn, unworldly, self-reliant, dangerously honest, and even more dangerously good with that rifle. But it’s the ways she chooses compassion over cruelty that make her a heroine I adore.  

From the list:

The best middle grade mysteries to keep you reading all night

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Book cover of Finding Orion

Finding Orion

By John David Anderson

Why this book?

"Everybody’s family is a little nutso. But there’s nuts…and then there’s the Kwirks." A scavenger hunt to find the ashes of their late grandfather! That premise may seem macabre, but John David Anderson has a gift for plotting the oddball, yet heartfelt, storyline with memorable main characters. With Rion Kwirk and his nutty family, he has done it again. From the opening chapter when a clown appears at the Kwirk’s door, singing a message about the death of their grandfather, I knew I was in for a hilarious, fun-filled journey—one that reminded me that being out of the…

From the list:

The best middle grade books with kids who feel like outsiders in their family

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Book cover of The Ebony Tower

The Ebony Tower

By John Fowles

Why this book?

Another story that's impossible to forget – actually this is a novella in a collection of stories with this name. Again, about a lost house in a forest in France, an artist, a young man in love, and the two young women who bewitch him in turns. John Fowles is an English writer from the 1960s, whose work I loved when young and still do. He was much influenced by Alain-Fournier.

From the list:

The best books set in France with themes to match

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Book cover of The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe

By Brian P. Levack

Why this book?

The Witch-Hunt is the place to start for anyone interested in European witch-hunts, witch trials, and beliefs about diabolic magic. The book is a concise history of magic and witchcraft in England and across the continent from 1450 to 1750. Levack touches on everything anyone needs to know about the topic, yet the book is more than a survey. The author provides in-depth information and myriad graphic details about the accusations, trials, tortures, and executions of thousands of people, largely women. Witchcraft was ubiquitously thought to be a crime and moral abomination, and it was prosecuted by both secular and…

From the list:

The best books on the history of European magic and witchcraft

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Book cover of G.

G.

By John Berger

Why this book?

John Berger was a fantastic cultural observer and art critic, this book is erotic both in its observation of culture and context but also of human fallibility, and psychic and psychological transportation of love itself. It had a big influence on me as an art student and for the brief years when I was a sculptor. What I love about it is its empathy for both the female and male inner erotic life, although it is set in England and Europe at the end of the 19th century, Berger’s razor-sharp, succinct blending of the internal and external world is…

From the list:

The best pillow books for when familiarity sets in

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Book cover of Hot Dog Taste Test

Hot Dog Taste Test

By Lisa Hanawalt

Why this book?

Hanawalt's trademark watercolor style is a perfect match for rendering food, especially her whimsical observations. Whether it's an illustrated taxonomy of NYC street food or a page dedicated to her anxious “incorrect” opinions on how she likes her eggs, the vibrant shapes and colors invite you to stop and think about your usual meals in an offbeat way.

From the list:

The best graphic novels that make you hungry

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Book cover of The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600

The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600

By Alfred W. Crosby

Why this book?

This is one of the most lucid explanations of our modern culture of numbers, and deals with topics ranging from music and architecture to, of course, money. It was the “big think” book that most inspired me to consider money not as something in and of itself, but as an artifact of a culture, transformed by time, place, and the genius of individuals.

From the list:

The best books that explore what money is, from beginning to Bitcoin

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Book cover of The Suicide Shop

The Suicide Shop

By Jean Teulé, Sue Dyson

Why this book?

A funny book about suicide, what more do you want? If like me you’re prone to those dark thoughts, you really do have to laugh about it. This book is absurd yes but also has so much to say about human nature and spirit. It’s a cult classic that’s about life, not death, that will make you feel hopeful, the same way I hope my book does.

From the list:

The best books for when you’re having an existential crisis that will make you feel better

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Book cover of Living the Dream: in the Algarve, Portugal

Living the Dream: in the Algarve, Portugal

By Alyson Sheldrake

Why this book?

The author and her husband decide to leave successful careers in the UK and settle in the Algarve. Determined to assimilate with the local culture, they buy a house on the outskirts of a village, adopt a rescue dog (who I instantly fall in love with), and begin a new life. I know the Algarve well and loved the author’s vivid descriptions of the places they visit, the scenes, sights, and customs. I could easily imagine having that daily coffee and delicious pastel de nata in the village café. It’s a delightfully Portuguese tradition.

Throughout the book, Alyson provides advice…

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The best books on moving abroad to Europe

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Book cover of The Beardless Adventurer and her inconvenience: A first-time cycle trip across Europe

The Beardless Adventurer and her inconvenience: A first-time cycle trip across Europe

By Donna Marie Ashton

Why this book?

I often find adventure books written by women to be way more honest and inspiring and Donnas book is testament to that. Cycling 5000km through Europe with no previous cycling experience proves that you don’t have to be an ex-Olympian or from a military to go off and have an epic adventure.

From the list:

The best books about long distance cycling

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Book cover of Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II

By Keith Lowe

Why this book?

Keith Lowe is a brilliant researcher and this account of the after-effects of the Second World war on Europe makes for harrowing reading. When Europe was still shuddering from the war's destruction, the allies frequently behave brutally towards the vanquished Germans. The worst excesses, especially against women, were deliberately committed by the Russians followed by the French. This aspect of the war has mostly been overlooked by historians.
From the list:

The best books on the rise and fall of the Third Reich

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Book cover of The Second World War

The Second World War

By Antony Beevor

Why this book?

It's too easy to dismiss the Second World War. To relegate that epochal conflict into realms of ancient history, action films, kitset models, unread Father's day gifts, and black & white footage. But we all live through the consequences of this epic global struggle. This was the last time western civilisation brought itself close to destruction and it was a close call. 60 million lives were lost and no one died easily. The war was also raging just shy of 80 years ago. In the scheme of human history, that's recent.

Beevor's history of the global conflict - and it…

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The best books about Armageddon

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Book cover of Mirror of the Soul: A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev

Mirror of the Soul: A Life of the Poet Fyodor Tyutchev

By John Dewey

Why this book?

The most compelling aspect of Mirror of the Soul is its analysis of the great poet Tyutchev’s bi-polar temperament and compulsive philandering. He was a forgivable Don Juan, in that he deeply empathized with his victims, although his misbehaviour shortened the lives of his first wife and of his most infatuated mistress. Morbidly irresponsible, he impregnated at least two mistresses and both his wives before marriage. Joy was for Tyutchev a thin veneer of light over misery and darkness; deaths of those close to him and contrition (if not guilt) finally reconciled him, in a death-bed poem, with a “punitive…

From the list:

The best books on Russia and the USSR from someone fascinated by their culture and history

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Book cover of Sicily '43: The First Assault on Fortress Europe

Sicily '43: The First Assault on Fortress Europe

By James Holland

Why this book?

Holland is a talented scholar who has honed his skill in providing excellent campaign-level accounts of the war. Thus, among much else, his books include Fortress Malta (2003), The Battle of Britain (2010), Burma ’44 (2016), Normandy ’44 (2019), and this excellent study of the Anglo-American invasion of Sicily in 1943. Holland is particularly good at capturing the grittiness of war, and at adding the perspective of individual combatants without being trapped by it. Reads very well and provides a superb campaign-level account that is also tactically adroit.

From the list:

The best and most recent books on WW2 in Europe

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Book cover of The Epigrams Of Martial

The Epigrams Of Martial

By Henry George Bohn

Why this book?

With this one I'm not going to recommend an edition, because while Martial is witty, bitingly sarcastic and a keen commentator on his society he can also be breathtakingly obscene. Imagine teenage scrawls on toilet walls - if those scrawls were written by Shakespeare - and you'll be close enough. So pick your edition with care – however broad you imagine your mind to be, an unexpurgated Martial will stretch it a bit more and have you chuckling and nodding the rest of the time.

From the list:

The best books on ancient Rome by ancient Romans

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Book cover of A Companion to Marcus Aurelius

A Companion to Marcus Aurelius

By Marcel van Ackeren

Why this book?

This is a large and expensive academic book containing over thirty chapters by different authors (disclaimer: two of them are by me). It’s perhaps not the sort of thing that a typical general reader is likely to buy. But taken together these chapters constitute the fullest discussion of Marcus Aurelius available in English and most questions that people are likely to have about Marcus or his philosophy are probably answered somewhere in its five hundred plus pages.

From the list:

The best books on Marcus Aurelius and his desire to live a good life

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Book cover of Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

By Dorie Clark

Why this book?

So many entrepreneurs work endless hours without finding a way to monetize their work. They achieve success on paper, but don’t actually reap the financial benefits. This book provides a roadmap to monetize your talents in a number of ways – from building your brand to figuring out how to get people to pay for your services. 

From the list:

The best books for part-time entrepreneurs

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Book cover of Russka: The Novel of Russia

Russka: The Novel of Russia

By Edward Rutherfurd

Why this book?

I really love Edward Rutherfurd's writing style. He obviously does plenty of historical research, so the events in his epic sagas are accurate, and yet he is creative enough to come up with fictional characters which fit into history in the most interesting and remarkable way. By reading this one, you can painlessly learn several centuries of Russian history and have lots of fun doing it. I would say that this one and "London" are two of his best efforts.
From the list:

The best historical fiction on royalty and Russia

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Book cover of Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon

By Michael O'Brien

Why this book?

I already mentioned this gripping account of a 40-days trip of a lonely lady in a solitary carriage, hobbling from St. Petersburg, via Riga, Tilsit to Paris above. Everyone interested in the Napoleonic Wars, should also feel obliged to read her account, how she witnessed ‘houses half burnt’, a war ‘shedding its gloom around all the objects, announcing devastation and despair’. And how happy she was when being helped by allied soldiers, and upon reaching her destination safe and sound (with her little boy) in Paris, where the allied leaders were setting up their headquarters.

From the list:

The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France After Napoleon

Our Friends the Enemies: The Occupation of France After Napoleon

By Christine Haynes

Why this book?

Where my book, Fighting Terror, zooms in on the Allied Council, and its encompassing security culture, Christine Haynes’ rich and detailed book reconstructs the interactions between occupying soldiers and the occupied in Paris and across the French countryside. She meticulously details how these interactions involved violence, but also promoted cultural exchange (vernacular, songs, dances, fashion, food) and reconciliation between the French and their former enemies. Her book reads as a narrative on how to transform former enemies into allies, a unique blueprint for fraternizing-through-occupying on the ground.

From the list:

The best books on how Europe waged peace after Napoleon

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Book cover of Watery Ways

Watery Ways

By Valerie Poore

Why this book?

With humor and grace, Valerie describes her trials and tribulations as she transitions from a divorce and corporate job in Johannesburg, to renting and eventually purchasing an old barge in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. As she points out, “one of the first things you learn about living on a barge is that an awful lot of stuff is going to end up in the water.”

From the list:

The best books featuring unusual travel stories

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Book cover of Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler

Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler

By Bruce Henderson

Why this book?

Sons and soldiers is a remarkable book not so much due to the content, which is amazing in and of itself; it is remarkable due to the secrecy surrounding their selection, training, and operations decades after the war was over. These men each have their own tragic tales, which are offset by their bravery and dedication to serving their adopted country to the best of their abilities.
From the list:

The best books about military history and true stories of survival

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Book cover of At Home With The Marquis De Sade

At Home With The Marquis De Sade

By Francine Du Plessix Gray

Why this book?

The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) is one of those characters that you loathe, but cannot help but find fascinating. By all standards, this deviant aristocrat was a gentleman in name only. Yet his remarkable life (32 years of it spent in prison) and amoral philosophizing provide the grist for a great biography under the pen of Gray. Readers will find many of de Sade’s horrific exploits here, yet this book also explores his relationship with the two most important women in his life: his beloved wife, who indulged him for decades, and his hated mother-in-law, whom he envisioned flaying alive…

From the list:

The best books about the Enlightenment and the world it created

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Book cover of Doom of the Gods

Doom of the Gods

By Michael Harrison, Tudor Humphries

Why this book?

This is a vigorous retelling of the last battle of the Norse gods and their enemies, how the gods tried to avert their doom, how they first met those who would kill almost all of them, and what happened after all the slaughter and destruction. The book has the size and format of a typical picture storybook but its powerful illustrations of threat and attack make it more suitable for an older audience.

From the list:

The best books for people with a passion for Norse myths and legends

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Book cover of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

By Chip Heath, Dan Heath

Why this book?

In today’s world, you’re not just selling stuff—you’re creating experiences for your customers. Rather than leaving those experiences to chance, this book encourages you to craft them with care. It’s well-written and entertaining and will inspire you to think differently about the way you craft meaningful moments, for your customers and in your personal life.

From the list:

The best books for rethinking marketing

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Book cover of The Elves And The Shoemaker

The Elves And The Shoemaker

By Grimm Brothers, Jim LaMarche

Why this book?

Christmas is a wonderful time for magical tales that children love. In this one, a poor but good-hearted cobbler is rewarded for his honesty during the night, when clever elves sneak into his shop and make shoes for him to sell. It gives children the chance to imagine invisible helpers, and also the thrill of doing good deeds in secret.
From the list:

The best classic Christmas books

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Book cover of Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad

Why this book?

“The horror, the horror,” are the words famously uttered by Conrad’s anti-hero Kurtz (and by Marlon Brando’s character in Apocalypse Now) near the end of the Polish-born author’s riveting short novel. Conrad’s central character Marlowe narrates a slow voyage up the Congo River to a land ruled by Kurtz, a Belgian who has lost his sanity and, in the end, his life. This magically written book explores the meaning of “civilization” and “savagery” and suggests that it’s Europeans rather than Africans who are the real savages. Although Marlowe tells most of the story, there is another, unnamed, narrator who frames…
From the list:

The best books for understanding the impact of European colonialism on Africa and Africans

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Book cover of The World of Venice

The World of Venice

By Jan Morris

Why this book?

The greatest travel writer of her generation (she died in November of 2020) produced a popular introduction to the city, mixing fact and story in her uniquely engaging style. It is a book that rivals Honour’s guide but focuses more on the patterns and rituals of life in Venice, linked by a profound appreciation for that unusual place, a city where the “streets are full of water”. If you like Morris, you might also be interested in her old but still engaging Venice, written when she was still James Morris.

From the list:

The best books on Venice, an improbable city

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Book cover of Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

Like Froth Floating on the Sea: The World of Pirates and Seafarers in Late Imperial South China

By Robert J. Antony

Why this book?

Formerly a professor of History at the University of Macau, Robert Antony has made it his life’s work to study piracy along the China coast. Among his several books on the topic, this one digs deepest into the development of piracy in the early 19th century, citing weather, economic, and political conditions, told in a highly readable narrative style. Among the entertaining details, he tracks the average annual going rates for ransom and stolen goods. He writes in an agreeable, relaxed manner, with a number of incidents told as edge-of-your-seat thrillers. The title itself was a common term of…

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The best books on Chinese pirates

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Book cover of The Seven Days of Creation

The Seven Days of Creation

By Vladimir Maximov

Why this book?

In this multi-generational novel, Maximov showed what the Soviet system meant for ordinary people whose speech he had a rare gift for capturing. In his portrait of seven decades of the Lashkov family, he showed how the drive of the communists to control the lives of others on the basis of an ideology whose implications they themselves did not understand tore families apart. Pyotr Lashkov, the patriarch, became totally alienated from his alcoholic anti-communist brother.  Vadim Lashkov, a member of the third generation, is put in a mental hospital. A fellow prisoner advises him: “If ever you think of trying…

From the list:

The best books for understanding the Soviet Union and Post-Soviet Russia

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Book cover of Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock'n'roll as Literature and Literature as Rock 'n'roll

By Lester Bangs

Why this book?

Lester Bangs was a great writer: funny, erudite, fearless — to be honest, he was probably slumming it writing about rock and roll in the 1970s. But his one-on-ones with Lou Reed, who Bangs revered and despised in equal proportions, make for some of the best rock writing of Bangs’, or any other, generation.
From the list:

The best books about rock and roll

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Book cover of Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

Bob Dylan: No Direction Home

By Robert Shelton

Why this book?

Among the 1,000 plus books about Bob Dylan this is the closest we have to a full authorised biography. Robert Shelton was with the artist from the beginning in 1961, witnessing all the controversial concerts. No Direction Home is the definitive biography, written with Dylan’s blessing and co-operation and with favoured access to original sources. This beautifully illustrated 2011 edition, edited By Elizabeth Thomson and Patrick Humphries, is an update of the original 1986 standard.
From the list:

The best books to help fathom Bob Dylan, the enigmatic song-laureate of the 20th century

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Book cover of Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny

Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny

By Michael Broers

Why this book?

Hailed by most reviewers as the definitive biography on Napoleon. It is written by the doyen of Napoleonic studies at Oxford. Based on the meticulous research and the recently completed new & expanded edition of Napoleon’s letters. Despite this Broers wears his erudition lightly and has written a gripping and page-turning life story of the man who changed Europe beyond recognition. It is by far the most European biography ever written on the French Emperor. We all await volume 3 with great anticipation!

From the list:

The best books about Napoleon, his rise to power, and his downfall

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Book cover of The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West 1500-1800

By Geoffrey Parker

Why this book?

In the year 1500 European civilization was fractured, deficient in natural resources, and unremarkable in its military technology. By 1800 it had gained control over one-third of the globe. How? This seminal work by Geoffrey Parker tackles that question with a sweeping assessment of global developments during the period, revealing the suite of innovations that allowed the West to expand so dramatically. Sparking a debate that continues to this day, it is a must-read on the subject of early modern technology, imperialism, and warfare.

From the list:

The best books on early modern European warfare

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Book cover of Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North

Visit to Iceland and the Scandinavian North

By Madame Ida Pfeiffer

Why this book?

In 1842, after 45 years of frustratingly sedentary domesticity, the Austrian-born Ida Pfeiffer gave full vent to her wanderlust. Within five years, her jaw-dropping round-the-world journeys would make her one of the most widely-traveled persons of that century, while her talent for vivid portrayals made her one of the most well-known travel writers. Of her many chronicles, I especially enjoy this tale of her 1845 trip to the northern reaches of Scandinavia and Iceland—a place almost no continental Europeans had visited and few even knew existed. Pfeiffer’s insights and thoughtful reportage, as well as a newly emerging fascination with Iceland…
From the list:

The best books on travel and exploration written by women in the Victorian Era

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Book cover of Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear

Sleepover with Beatrice and Bear

By Mônica Carnesi

Why this book?

Beatrice and Bear are two very different animals who, despite those differences, play together all summer and fall. When winter comes and it’s time for Bear to hibernate, Beatrice, a bunny, wants to hibernate too. Of course, she’s way too active to sleep all winter. How can she share her winter with Bear? By making a scrapbook with pictures of all the things she does while he’s sleeping! When Bear wakes, she shares her winter adventures with him. Beatrice’s scrapbook “was the perfect gift to read together again and again.” Charming illustrations, and an endearing tale about enduring friendship.

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The best picture books about sleepovers

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Book cover of We've Gone to Spain

We've Gone to Spain

By Tom Provan

Why this book?

I bought this book when we first decided to move. It's jam-packed with advice and tips for anybody thinking of moving to Spain. From the kind of property available, to the cost of living, right down to the small details like, the postal service and internet availability. This book is great for those traveling through Spain looking for somewhere to put down their roots.
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The best books about emigrating to Spain

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Book cover of Transatlantic Cultural Exchange: African American Women's Art and Activism in West Germany

Transatlantic Cultural Exchange: African American Women's Art and Activism in West Germany

By Katharina Gerund

Why this book?

This impressively well-researched study focuses on the reception of Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker in post-World War II Germany. Although it only marginally references the Black German perspective (for that I recommend among others the work of Tina Campt, Tiffany Florvil, and Fatima El-Tayeb), it skillfully shows how Europeans perceive notions of race and racism through the prism of (African) Americanization.

Gerund illuminates particularly how White Germans’ interactions with (Black) America can provide pivotal insights into the meaning of ‘Whiteness’ and ‘citizenship’ in a European national context. This matters, because this in turn shapes (mis)understandings of…

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The best books on Black Europe

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Book cover of The Innocents Abroad: Or the New Pilgrim's Progress

The Innocents Abroad: Or the New Pilgrim's Progress

By Mark Twain

Why this book?

The Innocents Abroad is the classic travel diary written by America’s most celebrated, tongue-in-cheeky humorist Mark Twain. For the five months that you are sailing with him and his select companions, you are privy to what he does and doesn’t like about his adventures on land -- Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land -- as well as at sea. Twain’s laser focus on human foibles -- his own American-style arrogance and that of his fellow passengers -- is both hilarious and spot on. Written in 1869, his insights into human nature and travel still ring true.
From the list:

The best travel memoirs that will both inform and amuse you

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Book cover of The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of Australia

The Other Side of the Frontier: Aboriginal Resistance to the European Invasion of Australia

By Henry Reynolds

Why this book?

A confronting history of the British invasion of Australia, documenting the massacres but also the resistance of indigenous people across the continent as they defended their tribal lands well into the twentieth century. No longer could anyone imagine that Australia had been settled peacefully. The book had a profound impact on Australians’  understanding of their history, but also on the continuing political struggle for indigenous rights.

From the list:

The best politically engaged books about Australia

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Book cover of The Bossier Baby

The Bossier Baby

By Marla Frazee

Why this book?

Boss Baby is used to being in charge but when his baby sister arrives, it is clear that there is a new CEO in town, and he is not happy about the perks she is getting that he never got. Boss baby feels replaced and ignored until an unexpected move from the new CEO shows that perhaps there is room for two CEOs after all. With a loud fun voice and adorable artwork, this is a hilarious and heart-squeezing read.

From the list:

The best picture books for expanding families

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Book cover of Curious George at the Parade

Curious George at the Parade

By H.A. Rey

Why this book?

Curious George seems to find trouble wherever he goes, and a parade is a prime place to find trouble. There are plenty of laughs to be had as George wanders away from the Man in the Yellow Hat and gets carried away with curiosity.
From the list:

The best children’s books featuring festive parades

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Book cover of Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895

Anglo-Russian Rivalry in Central Asia 1810-1895

By Gerald Morgan

Why this book?

This is a medium-length book by another well-established historian, who writes in a reasonably accessible manner. His is a more in-depth treatment of the Great Game, aided by Geoffrey Wheeler, an expert on Central Asia, who wrote the book’s Epilogue. It contains three maps and appendices (but no illustrations).

From the list:

The best books describing the Great Game

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Book cover of In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed

In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed

By Carl Honoré

Why this book?

In Praise of Slow was first published in 2004 and it advocated rejecting the all-pervasive cult of speed and living in a way that allowed you to be present, mindful, in the moment and focused on doing one thing at a time whether that’s working on a project, talking to a colleague, cooking a meal, socialising with a friend or reading to a child. It’s the antithesis of the cult of speed that can easily pervade our lives and contribute to burnout. For anyone who’s wanted to reassess what might be contributing to the stress that puts them at risk,…

From the list:

The best books about burnout and how you can fight it

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Book cover of In the Woods

In the Woods

By Tana French

Why this book?

Many thrillers go down like fast food – enjoyable in the moment, but instantly forgettable. Tana French’s novels are more like rich feasts, none more so than her debut, a novel that starts out with a compelling mystery and slowly descends into the psychological hell of a particularly clever horror movie. Uncompromising in its bold choices but always tender in how it treats its wounded, fractured but all-too-human characters. There are many reasons Tana French has gained such a fervent cult following, and all of them can be found in this book.

From the list:

The best thought-provoking thrillers

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Book cover of Rat Fair

Rat Fair

By Leah Rose Kessler, Cleonique Hilsaca

Why this book?

This almost wordless picture book has some of my favorite artwork. The illustrations of the cute rats make me smile just thinking about them. This book forces you to look at every page and use your imagination to create your own story. What would a rat fair look like? Kids will love flipping through the pages to follow the rat's journey.
From the list:

The best debut children's books of 2021

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Book cover of A Lasting Moment: Marc Riboud Photographs Leeds 1954 and 2004

A Lasting Moment: Marc Riboud Photographs Leeds 1954 and 2004

By Marc Riboud

Why this book?

Riboud was already famous when he first arrived in Leeds to document the city in 1954. What his black and white images startlingly portray, though, is a place that could easily still be in the 19th century. He doesn’t go for the great and the good, but searches out ordinary people and children playing in the streets. It’s life among emotional and physical rubble, a contrast to the shiny, bright colours 50 years later (and now also a part of history as time speeds by). It’s searing, starkly beautiful, and the essay by Leeds-born playwright Caryl Phillips adds another…

From the list:

The best books on Leeds as it was

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Book cover of Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Beatrix Potter, Scientist

By Lindsay H. Metcalf, Junyi Wu

Why this book?

We all know Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated Peter Rabbit and other children’s books, but how many people are aware that young Beatrix was a groundbreaking mushroom scientist? In Beatrix Potter, Scientist, Metcalf unveils the secret scientific side of Beatrix Potter, long before her books became classics. Beatrix studied all sorts of fungi, discovering a mushroom known as the Old Man Of The Woods, but as a female she was prohibited from presenting a scientific paper to London’s Linean Society. I love one of this book’s underlying messages, that someone can be an artist AND a scientist; there’s no…

From the list:

The best books for inspiring your young scientist

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Book cover of The Tea Party in the Woods

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi

Why this book?

The Tea Party in the Woods is an homage to Little Red Riding Hood, but with a twist. Kikko sets off to bring her grandmother a pie and comes upon a magical tea party in the woods where all of the woodland creatures politely welcome and share their spread. Instead of being a victim of a cautionary tale, Kikko’s grandmother applauds her bravery in traveling on her own. The woods, by the way, are not scary or dangerous at all.

From the list:

The best children’s picture books about playing outside

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Book cover of Dandelion

Dandelion

By Don Freeman

Why this book?

I loved this book as a child and shared it with my own kids when they were little. It really hit home when my youngest daughter was a pre-schooler. Dandelion’s friends do not recognize him when he dresses up and has his hair done. When my daughter was in pre-school, I went to the hairdresser and she dried my curly hair, straight. When I went to pick up my daughter, she started crying and was quite distressed about my new look. I had to put on a hat in order to get her to stop. Reading Dandelion helped her get…

From the list:

The best picture books about building self-esteem and self-love

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Book cover of It's Only Stanley

It's Only Stanley

By Jon Agee

Why this book?

Stanley is a very busy dog. If, in the middle of the night, you hear a noisy CLANK CLANK CLANK, it’s only Stanley fixing the oil tank. If you smell a funky smell… it’s only Stanley making catfish stew. Do you hear a buzzing noise? It’s only Stanley fixing the old TV…

I really like this one. It’s so funny, and every time the dad says “It’s only Stanley” I laugh like a kid. The ending is pretty surprising but… no spoiler.

From the list:

The best books starring characters with four paws

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Book cover of Guri and Gura's Magical Friend

Guri and Gura's Magical Friend

By Rieko Nakagawa, Yuriko Yamawaki, Peter Howlett, Richard McNamara

Why this book?

Guri and Gura’s books shine with the energy of childlike wonder and vitality. Children would delight in Guri and Gura’s adventures. For the parents these books present an opportunity to tap into a possibly dormant, yet present sense of wonderment, magic, and the joy of eating, running, nature, friendship and discovery.

From the list:

The best picture books beyond good and bad, right and wrong

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Book cover of An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi

An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evliya Çelebi

By Robert Dankoff, Sooyong Kim, Evliya Çelebi

Why this book?

Evliya Çelebi's Book of Travels has remained a well-kept secret—until now. Evliya was a seventeenth-century Ottoman courtier who wandered the empire and beyond for over 40 years and recorded his adventures in what is considered to be the longest travel account in world literature. This well-chosen selection of excerpts from his entertaining and informative masterpiece brings glimpses of the many climes and cultures he explored to an English-speaking readership, while luring us irresistibly into his idiosyncratic world.

From the list:

The best books about the Ottoman Empire

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Book cover of The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden

By Karina Yan Glaser

Why this book?

There are so many nice things we, as humans, can do for others. Especially people we know! It simply takes a little time and effort. In The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Oliver and his siblings decide to grow a garden in an abandoned plot of land in Harlem, something his elderly neighbor “has been hinting at for years”. Before long, it’s not just the Vanderbeekers who are helping with the garden. And I dare you not to smile when the whole neighborhood sees it bloom. 

From the list:

The best middle grade books about caring and helping others

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Book cover of You Will Be My Friend!

You Will Be My Friend!

By Peter Brown

Why this book?

Lucy Bear is determined to make a friend, but it turns out to be a harder task than she anticipated. Her efforts startle, bother, annoy, and anger the other forest animals. She’s ready to give up but in the end, she finds a perfect friend—perfect for her, that is, and isn’t that what really matters? I adore Peter Brown’s colorful, jocular illustrations and the way the answer to Lucy’s desire is presented not in the text, but in the art. For a bonus friendship lesson, check out Brown’s bio on the dust jacket.

From the list:

The best children’s picture books about navigating friendship

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Book cover of Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe

By Josh Allen, Sarah J. Coleman

Why this book?

Writing a really good spooky short story is hard. Writing 13 of them is near-impossible. Yet Allen has put together an anthology of sheer terror, with each story hinging on something simple and mundane. Basically, Allen makes you afraid of everything, and does it with a smile.

From the list:

The best spooky middle grade books

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Book cover of Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages

Sainthood in the Later Middle Ages

By André Vauchez, Jean Birrell

Why this book?

One of the most exciting areas of research and publication in medieval history over the last few generations has been the cult of the saints. A landmark was Peter Brown’s slim but fundamental The Cult of the Saints (1981), an effervescent essay on the origins of the veneration of saints in the Late Antique period. In the same year a very different book appeared, the French original of Vauchez’s enormous and comprehensive study of Christian saints in Latin (western) Christendom, the heart of which was an analysis of the 71 people who were proposed for papal canonization in the period…

From the list:

The best books that look at medieval Europe as a whole

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Book cover of How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

How Musicals Work: And How to Write Your Own

By Julian Woolford

Why this book?

Woolford describes his book as a prenatal guide for musicals and it is indeed just that. He breaks down the process from idea to opening night for a thorough examination of what goes into each part of writing a musical. From the tickle of inspiration—and everything that went into its construction after that point, including the steps back and sideways, trying to find the right formula for success—there isn’t much left out. Warning: You might be inspired to try your hand at writing once you finish this book! 

I felt as if I’d taken a college-level theatre course at the…

From the list:

The best books for next level Broadway fans

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Book cover of Slavery, Bondage, and Dependency in Southeast Asia

Slavery, Bondage, and Dependency in Southeast Asia

By Anthony Reid, Jennifer Brewster

Why this book?

This book became the starting point for many publications on slavery in Southeast Asia. It is a collection of essays that not only provides us with an overview of the entire region over the past 700 years but also suggests how we can study the multifarious forms of slavery and bondage in the region in a comparative manner. Although almost forty years old it is still indispensable reading for any course on slavery in Southeast Asia, including my own course.

From the list:

The best books about slavery in Asia

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Book cover of Hug Me

Hug Me

By Simona Ciraolo

Why this book?

Hug Me depicts the story of Felipe, a young cactus, who just wants to be hugged. The problem is that his family just isn't the touchy-feely kind. It leads Felipe to go on his own path to find a friend. But hugging a cactus can be a tricky thing... This simple yet touching story will make you see the prickliest person as someone who also needs to be loved and hugged. I promise you, this cute little cactus will melt your heart!

From the list:

The best children's books to discuss loneliness and depression

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Book cover of Cows Can't Jump

Cows Can't Jump

By Philip Bowne

Why this book?

Winner of the Spotlight First Novel Prize. The first thing to mention is that this is a debut novel. I tend to avoid them, the writing is usually sloppy, and it takes a few books for authors to learn the craft and get a feel for their style and voice. 

That is not the case with this book. The writing is excellent. This writing is up there at bestseller standard. I didn’t find a single typo or error in the book, not something I can say for most of the top names. I found half a dozen in the last…

From the list:

The best dark and twisted psychological thriller books

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Book cover of James Herriot's Dog Stories: Warm and Wonderful Stories about the Animals Herriot Loves Best

James Herriot's Dog Stories: Warm and Wonderful Stories about the Animals Herriot Loves Best

By James Herriot

Why this book?

When I was young, James Herriot’s hilarious, insightful, and touching memoirs about his experiences as a vet in rural 1930s and 1940s Yorkshire made me both a reader and a writer. Happily, he adapted some of his dog stories for children, gathered here in an appealing illustrated anthology. I’ve read them all to my own kids, many times. I love that they’re long enough to allow kids to settle in and focus (short and snappy picture books have their place. So do long and dense ones!). The writing is eloquent and entertaining, and the stories are absorbing. Good luck not…

From the list:

The best children’s books about dogs

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Book cover of The Italian Wars 1494-1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe

The Italian Wars 1494-1559: War, State and Society in Early Modern Europe

By Christine Shaw, Michael Mallett

Why this book?

What would a world awash in mercenaries look like? Like medieval northern Italy, which was the Afghanistan of its day. Back then, mercenaries were how you fought wars, and anyone who could swipe a check could wage war no matter how absurd or petty. Aristocrats, city-states, and popes routinely hired mercenaries. When I wrote The New Rules of War, I spent three months digging through the archives in Florence, Bologna, and other city-states to understand how the dynamics of private warfare worked. For those who want a feel of the times, try this rare book by famed historian Mallett.…

From the list:

The best books on mercenaries from a former military contractor

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Book cover of Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask

By Tyson Fury

Why this book?

The thing I love about Tyson's story is he makes it so relatable to ask questions that others are too afraid to answer. He talks about his triumphs but especially his tribulations. He single handily put mental health on the horizon up for discussion and this man being a giant and talented boxer showed men in particular that it was alright to hurt at times to get lost and to fall apart. Up to then, most celebrities were too proud to go deep and talk about their struggles. Not Tyson, this is the greatest gift you can give.

Honesty and…

From the list:

The best books with real life stories of people overcoming adversity

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Book cover of The Unwanted Wife

The Unwanted Wife

By Natasha Anders

Why this book?

The Unwanted Wife made me feel so much. My heart ached for Theresa and sometimes I wanted to smack Sandro with a frying pan. But I loved it. Every damn word. Maybe I have a masochistic streak, but I enjoyed the pain. The only thing I liked more was watching Sandro grovel. Books based on misunderstandings might not be everyone’s cup of tea – but this one is a winner. If you enjoy being swamped with emotion and cheering on the HEA – this book is for you. 

From the list:

The best romance novels full of emotion, adventure, and enough heat to keep you warm

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Book cover of Santa Lilio Sangre Ayami Kojima Artworks Art Book

Santa Lilio Sangre Ayami Kojima Artworks Art Book

By Ayami Kojima

Why this book?

Ayami Kojima has held my heart for as long as I was an artist. Her visual style is something anyone can recognize, and the aftershock of knowing that this artist defined an entire video game industry aesthetic made me love her work even more. I managed to find only pieces of this book online until I was able to finally afford this super rare book filled with her hyper-detailed oil paintings.
From the list:

The best manga art books that have inspired me as an artist

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Book cover of Bulls, Bears and Other Beasts: A Story of the Indian Stock Market

Bulls, Bears and Other Beasts: A Story of the Indian Stock Market

By Santosh Nair

Why this book?

If you are interested in the history of the Indian stock market, then this book is a must-read for you. Written in an easy-to-understand language, the book will take you on an exciting journey from the early days of the Bombay Stock Exchange, narrating all major episodes and players with learnings that can help you to navigate in the Indian Stock Market.

From the list:

The best books on the Indian Stock Market

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Book cover of Feathers for Lunch

Feathers for Lunch

By Lois Ehlert

Why this book?

Although many of Lois Ehlert’s works are now classics, I wasn’t familiar with her work until I was an adult. Her illustration style and simplicity of her books have had a big impact on my work. This book about the greatest enemy of backyard birds (the housecat) is graphically gorgeous and (spoiler alert) ends with a hungry cat and all the birds unharmed. 

From the list:

The best books about birds for little kids

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Book cover of Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

Graph Theory in America: The First Hundred Years

By Robin J. Wilson, John J. Watkins, David J. Parks

Why this book?

Robin Wilson, the famous mathematical historian and storyteller with a great sense of humor, along with his co-authors, tell the story of how one particular area of mathematics (graph theory, my favorite area) got its start in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, found its way across the Atlantic to America, and what effect Americans had on this area of mathematics. It also tells the fascinating story of how and where more advanced mathematics became part of America. 

This book will be available Fall 2022.

From the list:

The best books to read if you want to be a mathematician

Book cover of The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples

The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples

By Herwig Wolfram, Thomas Dunlap

Why this book?

Herwig Wolfram is the Grand Master of Germanic history. His mighty History of the Goths is a work cited perhaps more than any other by any author writing about this period, and its influence of study of Early Middle Ages is unparalleled. But History of the Goths is a heavy, dense, scholarly work, and not easy to find these days. The Roman Empire is a more popular synthesis, focusing not just on Goths, but on all Late Antiquity Germanic tribes – Franks, Burgundians, Saxons, and others – providing a rich view of the barbarians from the perspective of their Roman…

From the list:

The best books on Barbarian Europe

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Book cover of My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein

Why this book?

Like me, millions of mainly women readers were captivated by this saga of an intense and heartbreaking relationship between two girls that evolves over four volumes. The story of Lila and Lenù’s friendship begins in 1950s Naples when they are young schoolgirls, living in a poor, crime-ridden neighborhood. Even though on the surface my boring middle-class life did not resemble theirs even remotely, the emotions that tied the two together as they grew into adolescence feel universal. In fact, reading Ferrante’s novel made me understand what I was trying to figure out in my own book––and led me…

From the list:

The best books to read about how women's friendships shape the stories of their lives

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Book cover of Friday

Friday

By Robert A. Heinlein

Why this book?

Robert Heinlein excels himself in this story narrated in the first person by a young woman, who is not really a human but rather a synthetic person but one you can relate to. Published in 1982, when much of the technology it describes was not yet in the realm of possibility, this book shows us an image of a chaotic world that may well be in our future. Serious issues sprinkled through this book’s pages are hidden between fun, fast action, a bit of licentious behavior, and some absurdity. Fun is guaranteed.

From the list:

The best realistic science fiction books

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Book cover of Back to Blackbrick

Back to Blackbrick

By Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

Why this book?

One night, Cosmo’s grandfather—who has started to forget things—gives him a key and tells him to go to Blackbrick, a crumbling estate on the edge of town. When Cosmo arrives there in the middle of the night and unlocks the front gate, he finds himself stepping back in time—and making friends with his fifteen-year-old grandfather. Back to Blackbrick is about time travel. It’s about love. It’s about learning to live with loss. It’s quietly tender and deeply emotional. And it’s one of the most life-affirming books I’ve ever read.

From the list:

The best middle grade books that use magic to explore trauma

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Book cover of Edenbrooke

Edenbrooke

By Julianne Donaldson

Why this book?

Lately becoming known as a modern and very recent classic, Edenbrooke is sweet romantic fiction at its best with authentic echoes of Jane Austen. The setting is well-established, the characters multi-dimensional, and the writing is elegant and beautiful. It is a romance novel that can be enjoyed again and again, and it's a shame that it hasn't been brought to film yet. 

From the list:

The best clean and wholesome historical romances

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Book cover of An Obedient Father

An Obedient Father

By Akhil Sharma

Why this book?

A dark story about a corrupt man, An Obedient Father unfolds in a closely observed world. From page one: “It was morning. The sky was blue from edge to edge. I had just bathed and was on my balcony hanging a towel over the ledge. The May heat was so intense that as soon as I stepped out of the flat, worms of sweat appeared on my bald scalp.” The close sensory detail makes a dark story shockingly intimate.

From the list:

The best sensuous writing: literature of India

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Book cover of Space Dumplins: A Graphic Novel

Space Dumplins: A Graphic Novel

By Craig Thompson

Why this book?

I love a good adventure, don’t you? Craig Thompson has created a space-epic about friendship, family, and loyalty. Violet is a young girl who sets out on an adventure to save her Dad, who’s gone missing. With his usual jaw-dropping illustrations, this action-packed graphic novel is full of interesting characters, amazing settings, and cool spaceships! I found it to be very cinematic. It’s a fun ride, full of heart and important messages. Perfect for 8-14-year-olds who like to be engulfed in a new world.
From the list:

The best graphic novels about navigating friendships and family

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Book cover of Taken

Taken

By Erin Bowman

Why this book?

This one was very unique in that it barely introduces the dystopian world in the first book and focuses on it much later in the series despite the significant impact it has on the characters from the very first page. The lead is male, which is becoming less common these days, and gives us a more calculating look into the world of dystopia. I enjoyed seeing things from another angle as that really reminds me to explore those less-common threads in my own writing as well. And what could be more interesting than people disappearing on their birthday and then…

From the list:

The best swoony dystopian novels that aren’t Hunger Games repeats

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Book cover of Beyond the Pond

Beyond the Pond

By Joseph Kuefler

Why this book?

This is a beautifully done book, from the illustrations to the whimsical story. What I love about this book is that although there is so much to see in nature, there is also a lot to imagine. This book nicely combines the beauty of nature with the beauty of imagination.

From the list:

The best books for young nature lovers

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Book cover of Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love

Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love

By Jane Klonsky

Why this book?

This National Geographic collection of photos and stories of sweet senior dogs is sure to make you swoon. Photographer Jane Sobel Klonsky loves animals and people, and her book is a celebration of the human-animal bond and all the endearing traits that make senior dogs so special. Unconditional is an excellent gift book for dog lovers. It’s also fun to follow Project Unconditional on Facebook and Instagram.

From the list:

The best books for people who love sweet old dogs

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Book cover of With Love, Wherever You Are

With Love, Wherever You Are

By Dandi Daley Mackall

Why this book?

Author Dandi Daley Mackall wrote With Love, Wherever You Are after reading a trunk-load of letters exchanged by her parents during their years as a nurse and doctor on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Mackall's novel is based on genealogical research and is a story about people and the matters of their hearts, instead of military strategies and battles. Mackall was closer in time, though, since With Love, Wherever You Are is about her parents and set during the 1940s. She had access to primary sources in her research. As “The Greatest Generation” is passing away, it’s…
From the list:

The best war books that go beyond bombs: how war affects families

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Book cover of A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife

By Robert Goolrick

Why this book?

This novel created a stir when it first came out in 2010; it seemed everyone was talking about it. After I read it, I had to agree it was worth the buzz. In 1909, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman in rural Wisconsin, places a notice in a Chicago paper advertising for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. She plans to win his devotion, poison him, and leave a…
From the list:

The best books about wily, take-charge women

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Book cover of Dragons in a Bag

Dragons in a Bag

By Zetta Elliott, Geneva B.

Why this book?

If there’s anything that I love almost as much as witches, it’s dragons, so the combination of the two makes for perfect fantasy reading. I’m a sucker for a grumpy old lady witch, and this book is filled with fun and surprises and good-plans-gone-wrong as young hero Jax struggles to complete his task of seeing three baby dragons safely home.

From the list:

The best middle grade books with witches as heroes

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Book cover of The Life and Work of Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757): The Queen of Pastel

The Life and Work of Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757): The Queen of Pastel

By Angela Oberer

Why this book?

I discovered the extraordinary artist Rosalba Carriera when I saw an exhibition of her pastel portrait drawings in Venice a decade ago. She has perfected the art of pastel drawing with a technique that is so skillful that the transition in color and tone is undetectable – she virtually paints with pastel. I find her portraits as good as the oils by famous artists. Rosalba Carriera deserves to be better known – I was thrilled when this book on her life and work was published in English in 2020. Studying her work helped me to understand the limitless possibilities with…

From the list:

The best books on the drawing techniques of great masters and great mistresses

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Book cover of Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite

Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite

By Michael P. Ghiglieri, Charles R. Farabee, Jim Myers

Why this book?

This book is an incredibly detailed look at the many fatalities that have occurred throughout history at Yosemite National Park. Organized into categories and then covered chronologically, you’ll be stunned by the kinds of trouble people can get themselves into. The book can get a little overwhelming at points, but the authors do a good job of keeping the stories moving. It is a good overview of the history of the park and our interactions with it. I’d also say it’s an effective warning to watch your step so you don’t become an entry in future editions. 

From the list:

The best books about national park adventures and misadventures

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Book cover of The Time of the Doves

The Time of the Doves

By Mercè Rodoreda, David H. Rosenthal

Why this book?

The Time of the Doves is one of my favorite books of all time for its intimacy, immediacy, and unusual descriptive power. Natalia, a young woman living in Barcelona around the time of the Spanish Civil war, paints for the reader a vivid and seamless picture of her life from the inside out—her loves and losses, survival, the confusion of a world broken by chaos and violence and put back together again by perseverance and tenderness. A short but unforgettable read that I return to again and again.
From the list:

The best historical fiction by diverse women

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Book cover of Fateful

Fateful

By Claudia Gray

Why this book?

Werewolves on the Titanic. I know. It sounds crazy, but I’m telling you it works. I was so engrossed in this story! I was skeptical about how the author would blend the tragedy, the historical time period, and werewolves together but she pulled it off exceptionally. I loved Tess and Alec. The last section of the book had me on the edge of my seat because I knew (as we all do) that the Titanic was about to sink. 

From the list:

The best YA books with werewolves

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Book cover of Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Why this book?

Like many people, I was really impressed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk on the problem of a single story. So when I saw that she’d written a short chapbook of feminist advice for a friend who’d recently become a mother to a baby girl, I had to get my hands on a copy. My own daughter was still a preschooler when it came out, so I figured I had just enough time to make good on the fifteen pieces of advice she offers. Witty, wise, and supremely accessible, this is a book for mothers and daughters equally – as…

From the list:

The best books about smart girls figuring out hard stuff

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Book cover of The Shabbat Box

The Shabbat Box

By Lesley Simpson, Nicole In Den Bosch

Why this book?

The Shabbat Box is by Lesley Simpson. Ira’s preschool uses a box to store all the Shabbat objects and when school ends on Shabbat, one of the students gets to take the box home. But when it’s Ira’s turn to take it home, he loses it in the snow. Upset, he decides to make a new Shabbat Box for his class. On Monday, at sharing time, his friends are all surprised and pleased by Ira’s new Shabbat Box. And, then to the children’s delight, the teacher tells them she found the missing Shabbat Box, and now they have two! The…

From the list:

The best picture books for Jewish preschool children

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Book cover of Trick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween

Trick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween

By Leslie Kimmelman, Jorge Monlongo

Why this book?

I recommend this raucous tale because it combines two kid favorites (and, let’s be honest, two of my favorites): pirates and Halloween! I thoroughly enjoyed the stomping, clomping, romping rhyme and the refrain young readers will eagerly repeat—“We be pirates. Trick arrr treat!” The fact that the book features an inclusive cast of characters is an added bonus. All these things combine to make this book a marvelous choice for a fun, engaging pirate or Halloween-themed storytime.

From the list:

The best children’s books for perfectly piratey storytimes

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Book cover of Almost a Lady

Almost a Lady

By Jane Feather

Why this book?

Almost A Lady is filled with love, passion, and adventure for the restless soul. It has a fiery heroine who isn’t afraid to fight for her life, and the most ideal roguish pirate scoundrel one longs for in a Historical Romance. The perfect enemies-to-lovers tale that will have you staying up late for more. I loved this book because it revealed far more than what a traditional HR setting could be. It gave me love and peril and a hot slow-burn of fervor and intensity one needs in a great Historical Romance.

From the list:

The best books to fall in love with historical romance

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Book cover of Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

By Joann Sfar

Why this book?

In another life, I believe I was a traveling Klezmer musician. I’m not sure why I am not today, but such is how it is. In any case, this book translates the life and energy of Klezmer music into a fun and whimsical tale of a young klezmer musician. Great pacing and fun dialogue keep the story moving. And there’s something about European comics that is a bit more wild and fanciful than American comics.

From the list:

The best graphic novels about Jewish themes

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Book cover of The Grounding of Group Six

The Grounding of Group Six

By Julian F. Thompson

Why this book?

This is an obscure book you’ve probably never heard of from the 80s, but trust me here. (And yes, it’s set at a boarding school.) In this story, the kids assigned to group 6 are part of a secret society not of their own choosing. Their parents have sent them there to get rid of them. Permanently. With the help of their teacher, they escape to the wilderness to figure out how to survive

From the list:

The best YA books about secret societies

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Book cover of Fallen Academy: Year Two

Fallen Academy: Year Two

By Leia Stone

Why this book?

I love Academy series where the reader discovers the world along with the main character. At the Fallen Academy you’re either Demon Cursed or Angel Blessed. Of course, Brielle is a little of both, which shouldn’t be possible and confuses everyone and makes her life a mixture of heaven and hell. 

From the list:

The best books about supernatural kick-butt girls who don’t take crap from guys

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Book cover of Vulture: Isles of Storm and Sorrow

Vulture: Isles of Storm and Sorrow

By Bex Hogan

Why this book?

This is the third book in the awesome Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy. The hero, Marianne, is not only a queen and a mage but an amazing, kick-ass pirate. That means a lot of the adventure takes place on what for us are historic sailing ships – which I love – as well as in and around the various wonderfully described islands. Marianne’s moral struggles also fascinate me, particularly in Vulture. How easy is it to draw the line between fighting back for the right reasons and taking revenge simply for the pleasure of it? It’s a dilemma…

From the list:

The best fantasy novels featuring fierce queens

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Book cover of Upside Down

Upside Down

By N.R. Walker

Why this book?

Many asexual romances tend to be written in a harmful way because they are often written by allosexual authors who do not do enough research to understand asexuality. Not this book, though. And while some asexual people can and do enjoy sex, I prefer a sexless, sweet romance that focuses on the emotional development and deep human connection, that this one offers. I understand not every reader is a fan of the MC because of his personality, but I tend to be pretty open to different kinds of personalities (within reason).

From the list:

The best books with positive asexual representation

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Book cover of Through My Window

Through My Window

By Ariana Godoy

Why this book?

This title is for the upper YA crowd, I’m talking sixteen going on seventeen because while set in high school, this read is steamy. What I love about this book is the humane side of things. Ares Hidalgo is far from perfect. He messes up with our heroine Raquel quite a few times, and I love that he’s flawed and kept trying to right his wrongs. I just loved Ares’s boldness, from stealing Raquel’s WiFi, to climbing through her window to fix said WiFi when it’s down, to calling her out on her crush on him. This book is total…

From the list:

The best YA romances with bad boys to swoon over

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Book cover of A Little Bit Brave

A Little Bit Brave

By Nicola Kinnear

Why this book?

I love this book because although it was written before the pandemic, it hits home about being stuck inside—in this case, by choice! The first line is, “Logan was a stay-at-home bunny.” I’m a sucker for bunnies and the friends in this book—Logan and Luna—actually display personalities similar to that of my sons! One of my sons is daring and brave; the other, shy and unadventurous. This story shows that we may think that we are not brave at all, but when we dig deep down, we can all find our brave. Sometimes just a little bit of bravery is…

From the list:

The best children’s books about bravery

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Book cover of Stella Brings the Family

Stella Brings the Family

By Miriam B. Schiffer, Holly Clifton-Brown

Why this book?

This is the story of Stella’s stress when her teacher announces they’ll be having a celebration for Mother’s Day. Stella has two dads! All works out when she invites the biggest crowd of all, including Nonna and an uncle and aunt. It's a great book to share to open a discussion about diverse families, love, and acceptance. The illustrations are expressive and adorable.
From the list:

The best picture books about diverse families

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Book cover of The Stranding

The Stranding

By Kate Sawyer

Why this book?

I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction and the premise of this one – a woman survives the end of the world by hiding inside a whale – had me desperate to read it. And this is a book that really lives up to that intriguing hook. I loved the character of Ruth, who runs away from a complicated relationship to the other side of the world, only for civilisation to collapse in an unexplained series of catastrophes. I grieved alongside her for all the abrupt endings and terrible losses, but found so much hope in her survival. It’s a really…

From the list:

The best books about grief and complicated family dynamics

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Book cover of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women

By Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo

Why this book?

Growing up, I loved fairy tales. So when the first volume in the Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series featuring short stories of real-life women and girls told in a fairy tale style was released, I was excited! The gorgeous illustrations, motivating quotes, and blank pages for readers to write their own stories and draw their own portraits are genius. Filled with 100 extraordinary females—past and present—from countries all over the world, including those who are well-known to the unfamiliar, this book will inspire readers to explore their passions, dream big, and pursue their goals without limits. Spoiler alert:…

From the list:

The best kidlit books starring spunky (aka determined and courageous) girls

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Book cover of Tomorrow

Tomorrow

By Damian Dibben

Why this book?

Though there is a supernatural element to this story, it features a dog named Tomorrow who learns about the real world in the most mundane way possible: by hanging around too long, and experiencing the inevitable loss that we all face. After his master injects Tomorrow with an immortality elixir, the two are separated, and the dog waits over a century for his companion to return. Along the way, he witnesses historical events, while meeting animals who live the innocent life he once enjoyed. By the time Tomorrow resumes his search, he is a changed dog, a person in every…

From the list:

The best novels about animals becoming sentient

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Book cover of The Demon King

The Demon King

By Cinda Williams Chima, Larry Rostant

Why this book?

While this series is aimed at a younger audience, I found it just as enjoyable as anything aimed at adult readers. Yes, again, it is the fledgling, maturing, and sometimes troubled romance that will likely draw you through, however, the worldbuilding and external conflict is easily as captivating as the internal as you join reformed thief Han Alister on his quest to leave his previous career and reputation behind.

From the list:

The best fantasy series with powerful worldbuilding and characters you’ll love

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Book cover of Buying a Home in Spain: A Survival Handbook

Buying a Home in Spain: A Survival Handbook

By David Hampshire

Why this book?

If you are moving to Spain, you’ll appreciate David Hampshire’s guides for deciding which region might suit you, how to choose a home and settling into your new way of life. Hampshire includes vital advice like making a Spanish will, driving and finance. He even provides checklists of things to do before the move, and after arrival. We’d have appreciated advice on what to do if one's removal van knocks over the village fountain, or how to stop our cockerel attacking visitors, but I guess we were just unlucky.
From the list:

The best books on moving to Spain

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Book cover of Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca

Tuning Up at Dawn: A Memoir of Music and Majorca

By Tomas Graves

Why this book?

The books in this list are all written by non-Spaniards, for obvious reasons. This one is almost an exception. Tomás Graves is the eighth son of the English poet and novelist Robert Graves. He has lived almost his entire life on the island of Mallorca, and is, effectively, as native as they come. Tuning Up at Dawn is a wonderfully lyrical account of his upbringing, his memories of his father, and his life as a musician. It is deliciously evocative of a slower world which has now all but disappeared.

From the list:

The best books on Spain (by people who really get Spain)

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Book cover of Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

Clear Waters Rising: A Mountain Walk Across Europe

By Nick Crane

Why this book?

I followed Nick’s adventures from a young age, and he’s partially responsible for my wanderlust. I learned I didn’t have to conform to society’s expectations, that is was OK to follow my dreams, and to pursue what I wanted from life, not what others wanted for me. Nick’s book takes him on an epic hike across Europe, including walking through winter. He is a master storyteller. 

From the list:

The best books on hiking, adventuring, and the outdoors

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Book cover of Witch-Hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics and Religion

Witch-Hunting in Scotland: Law, Politics and Religion

By Brian P. Levack

Why this book?

The distinctive selling-point of this work is summed up by its sub-title: a focus on law, politics and religion as causal factors, not just for humdrum witchcraft accusations but for major, sustained witch-hunts. Brian Levack has made a huge contribution to our understanding of witch-hunting, and here brings his specialist expertise to bear on Scotland, which experienced the most intense, and devastating panics anywhere in the British Isles (and worse even than most places in continental Europe).

Historians have long learned not to see witch-hunts as hysterical spasms of pre-Enlightenment ‘superstition’. Demonology was a serious subject in the sixteenth and…

From the list:

The best books on witch hunting in Britain and Europe

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