The best books on feudalism

4 authors have picked their favorite books about feudalism and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Feudal Society

Feudal Society

By Marc Bloch,

Why this book?

An English translation of a book published in French in 1940 (La société féodale). One of the truly great books on medieval society, it brought the richness and diversity of the Middle Ages alive for me in ways that have stayed with me throughout my career as a scholar and author. It also introduced me to History as written in France, again something that has always inspired me.

From the list:

The best books for exploring important aspects of Medieval History

Book cover of Tokyo: A Biography: Disasters, Destruction and Renewal: The Story of an Indomitable City

Tokyo: A Biography: Disasters, Destruction and Renewal: The Story of an Indomitable City

By Stephen Mansfield,

Why this book?

This biography by writer and photographer Mansfield is probably the best guide into Tokyo’s vibrantly organic nature. To get a thorough line on the largest city in the world isn’t easy, but Mansfield carefully selects the most relevant, and interesting details. Inevitably, it’s a work of exclusion as much as inclusion, but is magnificent for that. Seeing and understanding Tokyo requires getting past the cascade of small details that keep you from seeing the whole forest. Mansfield keeps his biography flowing with the right balance of telling details and insightful summary. His companion volume, Tokyo, a Cultural History is also…

From the list:

The best books on Tokyo’s essence

Book cover of Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake, 1867-1923

Low City, High City: Tokyo from Edo to the Earthquake, 1867-1923

By Edward G. Seidensticker,

Why this book?

This marvelous history of Tokyo focuses on the transformative 50 years from the end of the Tokugawa (Edo) period in 1867 to the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Translator and Japanologist Seidensticker tells the history like the grand journey it was. His narrative is fascinating, with more insights than facts, and it flows with the skill of someone who translated the great Japanese novelists Junichiro Tanizaki, Kafu Nagai, and Yasunari Kawabata, among others. Seidensticker includes thoughtfully chosen details as Tokyo emerges from a feudal society into a modern, industrial state. Seidensticker’s follow-up Tokyo Rising is also recommended.

From the list:

The best books on Tokyo’s essence

Book cover of Alanna: The First Adventure

Alanna: The First Adventure

By Tamora Pierce,

Why this book?

This first book in the Song of the Lioness series was one of my entrees into fantasy. It follows a girl who dresses up as a boy and takes her brother’s place studying to be a knight in a magical feudal world. Alanna perseveres despite many challenges, all while maintaining her secret, and over the series, she becomes the first Lady Knight.
From the list:

The best books with badass heroines that inspired my main character

Book cover of Finnikin of the Rock

Finnikin of the Rock

By Melina Marchetta,

Why this book?

A kingdom cursed after the murder of the royal family is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the immersive world-building in this series. Even with all the details, the pacing of the story never falters. But it’s the dynamic and complex characters like Finnikin and Evanjalin that are so richly portrayed, I was willing to follow them on any adventure.

From the list:

The best YA fantasy books full of dark secrets and epic adventures

Book cover of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

By Jacques Pépin,

Why this book?

This is the heartwarming and inspiring story of the journey a great chef took from serving as a lowly apprentice to becoming a leader in establishing new food traditions in America. I especially enjoyed the many funny stories about Pepin and his family. Warning: the book includes many of his favorite recipes that will cause hunger pangs as you read the book. 

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The best books on leadership that don’t have “leadership” in the title

Book cover of Anglo-Saxon England

Anglo-Saxon England

By Sir Frank Stenton,

Why this book?

This is the granddaddy of history books about the Anglo-Saxons. Much of the history has evolved and moved on since its original publication in the 1940s, but Sir Frank Stenton is comprehensive and thorough and the resulting tome is jam-packed with information.

From the list:

The best books on the world of Anglo-Saxon Britain

Book cover of War in the Middle Ages

War in the Middle Ages

By Philippe Contamine,

Why this book?

This book was my “bible” during my days as an MA student of medieval warfare. Contamine convinced me that medieval warfare was truly at the heart of medieval society and thus deserving of dedicated study and research. While densely packed with facts and figures that can be daunting in their quantity, it is full of fascinating revelations, such as the bugler on the battlefield who died from over-exertion!
From the list:

The best books on medieval warfare (if you love knights and castles)

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