The best books on individualism

Who picked these books? Meet our 39 experts.

39 authors created a book list connected to individualism, and here are their favorite individualism books.
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Deep Survival

By Laurence Gonzales,

Book cover of Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Greg Everett Author Of Tough: Building True Mental, Physical & Emotional Toughness for Success & Fulfillment

From the list on self-reliance to achieve success and fulfillment.

Who am I?

As a coach of elite weightlifters, a lifetime athlete, an outdoorsman, and a passionate advocate for self-reliance, I’m continually searching for quality sources of information that teach, inspire, and drive us to improve our abilities—physical, mental, and emotional—to not just enrich our own lives and bolster our capacity to achieve what’s meaningful to us, but to become better contributors to the world at large and help and inspire others in turn.

Greg's book list on self-reliance to achieve success and fulfillment

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

Why did Greg love this book?

Gonzales has a way of providing information in a compelling manner, managing to use stories to present ideas rather than approaching them clinically. Deep Survival is a fascinating look at how people interact with the world as influenced by their unique and our shared human psychology and experiences. This book provides insight, but also inspiration to pay more attention and learn from our own experiences, creating a mental foundation for further exploration and growth. 

By Laurence Gonzales,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With its mix of adventure narrative, survival science and practical advice, Deep Survival inspires readers on how to take control of stress, learn to assess risk and make better decisions under pressure.

In the Name of Identity

By Amin Maalouf, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

Uzi Rabi Author Of The Return of the Past: State, Identity, and Society in the Post-Arab Spring Middle East

From the list on political identity and divisions.

Who am I?

I am the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. My interest lies in modern history and evolution of states and societies in the Middle East: Iranian- Arab relations, oil and politics, and Sunni- Shi’i dynamics. It is a particularly important period in time for the Middle East as there is a changing paradigm of geopolitics in the region. During the course of the last decade, we have seen repercussions of the Arab Spring, withdrawal of US troops from the region and signing of the Abraham Accords. I follow these developments and frequently provide expert commentary and analysis in various forums. 

Uzi's book list on political identity and divisions

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

Why did Uzi love this book?

In the Name of Identity challenges our thinking about how we decide who we are as individuals, as groups and what makes us behave as we do with each other.

Maalouf addresses the dangers of defining people solely on a singular component of their identity rather than their identity as a whole. He examines his own identity, and acknowledges that it is complex.

He is Arab and Christian, both Lebanese and French. Yet his identity is more than the aggregate of these components. He urges the reader to avoid generalizing based on a singular component of one’s identity and convincingly argues how this can lead to violence.

Maalouf’s wisdom on how we use our identities to define ourselves against each other can help us understand how to avoid hatred and violence. 

By Amin Maalouf, Barbara Bray (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Name of Identity as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Makes for compelling reading in America today.”—New York Times Book Review.

“I want to try and understand why so many people commit crimes in the name of identity,” writes Amin Maalouf. Identity is the crucible out of which we come: our background, our race, our gender, our tribal affiliations, our religion (or lack thereof), all go into making up who we are. All too often, however, the notion of identity—personal, religious, ethnic, or national—has given rise to heated passions and even massive crimes.

Moving across the world’s history, faiths, and politics, he argues against an oversimplified and hostile interpretation of…

The Upswing

By Robert D. Putnam,

Book cover of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It

Anthony Biglan Author Of Rebooting Capitalism: How We Can Forge a Society That Works for Everyone

From the list on to find out what we can do to fix the USA.

Who am I?

I have spent my career studying how we can make our world more nurturing for every person. We can build a society that ensures that every child has the skills, interests, values, and health habits they need to lead a productive life in caring relationships with others. I created Values to Action to make this a reality in communities around the world. We have more than 200 members across the country who are working together to reform our society so that it has less poverty, economic inequality, discrimination, and many more happy and thriving families. 

Anthony's book list on to find out what we can do to fix the USA

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Why did Anthony love this book?

Robert Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett provide an analysis of the past 125 years of American history that makes a significant contribution to the growing movement to reform American Society. They carefully analyze trends in American life in a way that delineates the tangle of problems we are currently experiencing while at the same time offering hope that we can overcome them. The essence of their analysis is that across a wide variety of societal indicators, the past century and a quarter has involved an upswing in prosocial or communitarian norms and practices, beginning in the progressive era of the early twentieth century. That was followed by a reversal toward less communitarian and more individualistic and self-centered norms and practices.

By Robert D. Putnam,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The most important book in social science for many years' Paul Collier, TLS Books of the Year

The Upswing is Robert D. Putnam's brilliant analysis of economic, social, cultural and political trends from the Gilded Age to the present, showing how America went from an individualistic 'I' society to a more communitarian 'We' society and then back again, and how we can all learn from that experience.

In the late nineteenth century, America was highly individualistic, starkly unequal, fiercely polarised and deeply fragmented, just as it is today. However, as the twentieth century dawned, America became - slowly, unevenly, but…

The Machinery of Freedom

By David Friedman,

Book cover of The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

Peter T. Leeson Author Of WTF?! An Economic Tour of the Weird

From the list on economics and political economy.

Who am I?

Peter T. Leeson is the author of the award-winning The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates and Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better than You Think. He is the Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University. Big Think counted Peter among “Eight of the World’s Top Young Economists.”

Peter's book list on economics and political economy

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

Why did Peter love this book?

A key insight of economics is the power of markets to organize human affairs. The Machinery of Freedom takes that insight to the limit. How might society work if even governmental functions were organized using markets? Friedman’s answer will surprise and challenge you. And whether you come away convinced or not, you will come away with a better understanding of markets.

By David Friedman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book argues for a society organized by voluntary cooperation under institutions of private property and exchange with little, ultimately no, government. It describes how the most fundamental functions of government might be replaced by private institutions, with services such as protecting individual rights and settling disputes provided by private firms in a competitive market. It goes on to use the tools of economic analysis to attempt to show how such institutions could be expected to work, what sort of legal rules they would generate, and under what circumstances they would or would not be stable. The approach is consequentialist.…

Book cover of The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

Keith E. Stanovich Author Of The Bias That Divides Us: The Science and Politics of Myside Thinking

From the list on university identity politics and political correctness.

Who am I?

I’m an emeritus professor living in Portland, Oregon, officially retired, but still writing articles and books. Although I am a lifelong US citizen, I spent the heart of my career as the Canada Research Chair of Applied Cognitive Science at the University of Toronto. Most of my books are about aspects of rationality, especially cognitive biases. I have also worked on tools for measuring individual differences in rationality. Lately, I have focused on ways to reduce political polarization by taming the myside bias that plagues all human thought, and by reforming institutions (especially universities) that are currently failing in their role as knowledge adjudicators. 

Keith's book list on university identity politics and political correctness

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Why did Keith love this book?

Lilla’s goal in this book is to show how identity politics threatens the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party. He argues that the party has thrown citizenship—the “we” in political conversation—out the window in favor of “personal identities in terms of the inner homunculus, a unique little thing composed of parts tinted by race, sex, and gender,” and that this will be electorally disastrous for the Democrats. But Lilla’s arguments show that it is disastrous for our national conversation as well. When we give personal identity weight in an argument (Lilla is superb at eviscerating the shopworn phrase “speaking as an X”) we turn the intellectual clock back to premodern times when arguments were settled by power and force.

By Mark Lilla,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From one of the most internationally admired political thinkers, a controversial polemic on the failures of identity politics and what comes next for the left — in America and beyond.

Following the shocking results of the US election of 2016, public intellectuals across the globe offered theories and explanations, but few were met with such vitriol, panic, and debate as Mark Lilla’s. The Once and Future Liberal is a passionate plea to liberals to turn from the divisive politics of identity and develop a vision of the future that can persuade all citizens that they share a common destiny.


Imaginary Homelands

By Salman Rushdie,

Book cover of Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991

Shane Joseph Author Of Circles in the Spiral

From the list on the writing life.

Who am I?

I have been a writer for more than twenty years and have favored pursuing “truth in fiction” rather than “money in formula.” As author Edward St. Aubyn quotes: “Money has value because it can be exchanged for something else. Art only has value because it can’t.” I find books about writers are closer to my lived experience and connect me intimately with both the characters and their author.

Shane's book list on the writing life

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

Why did Shane love this book?

A series of essays and observations by one of literature’s most incendiary writers, written during the decade of his greatest creativity which ended in a life-changing fatwa. Rushdie takes aim at diverse subjects such as racism in Britain, religious fanaticism and literature, the cult of individualism, writers conferences, and trivia about other writers. He holds a candle for the colonial writer who infused the English language with a multitude of thoughts, words, and phrases, and claims that the novel should be subversive, not representative. He also punches back at accusers and justifies his most vilified novel, The Satanic Verses, as a work of dissent not of abuse or insult, and explains its imagery and symbols.

By Salman Rushdie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Containing 74 essays written over the last ten years, this book covers a range of subjects including the literature of the perceived masters and of Rushdie's contemporaries, the politics of colonialism and the ironies of culture, film, politicians, the Labour Party, religious fundamentalism in America, racial prejudice and the preciousness of the imagination and of free expression.

People of Paradox

By Michael Kammen,

Book cover of People of Paradox: An Inquiry Concerning the Origins of American Civilization

Alex Krieger Author Of City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present

From the list on aspirations and unfulfilled promises in America.

Who am I?

My interest in the topic of these books has grown across four decades of teaching about cities and urban planning at Harvard, and in active practice as an architect and urban designer. At any moment a city’s very physicality reflects both a culture’s aspirations and the limitations of that culture to achieve those aspirations. Cities are, in a way, compromises in time: among efforts to preserve a past, overcome the challenges of the present, and pursuit of plans for the future. My book focuses on the role of American ideals especially in city and community building, while the five I recommend offer crucial counterpoints about the difficulties and setbacks encountered in reaching for national ideals.  

Alex's book list on aspirations and unfulfilled promises in America

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

Why did Alex love this book?

For starters an absolutely brilliant book title: beautifully capturing the complexities of American culture, at once compelled by soaring social aspirations while tending to act out of pure individualism often with disdain for social impact. The narrative abounds in identifying seemingly contradictory national impulses – imported vs. Indigenous traditions, socialism vs. libertarianism, utopian vs. prosaic undertakings, the welcoming of and resisting of others – with the author arguing that through the interaction of such opposite impulses over time the particular genius of American society evolved. Kammen delights in reminding Americans of our “unstable pluralism,” and supports William James’ conclusion that “Americanism” continues to be a “volatile mixture of hopeful good and curable bad.”  Overall impressive scholarship and a delightful read.   

By Michael Kammen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the beginning, what has given our culture its distinctive texture, pattern, and thrust, according to Michael Kammen, is the dynamic interaction of the imported and the indigenous. He shows how, during the years of colonization, some ideas and institutions were transferred virtually intact from Britain, while, simultaneously, others were being transformed in the New World. As he unravels the tangled origins of our culture, he makes us see that unresolved contradictions in the American experience have created our national style. Puritanical and hedonistic, idealistic and materialistic, peace-loving and war-mongering: these opposing strands go back to the genesis of our…

Everybody Needs a Rock

By Byrd Baylor, Peter Parnall (illustrator),

Book cover of Everybody Needs a Rock

Pat Zietlow Miller Author Of What Can You Do with a Rock?

From the list on picture books about rocks.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong reader of picture books who now writes my own. I hope my books inspire kids to hope, love, dream, and wonder – and to see how they fit into the world around them.

Pat's book list on picture books about rocks

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

Why did Pat love this book?

This is the original, classic rock book against which all others are measured. It originally came out in 1974, when I was a child, and I read it to my kids more than 20 years later. Happily, it’s still around. The book is written in first person, with the main character sharing 10 rules that will help readers find their own perfect rock. One of my favorite lines from the book is: “It has to feel easy in your hand when you close your fingers over it. It has to feel jumpy in your pocket when you run.”

By Byrd Baylor, Peter Parnall (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everybody Needs a Rock as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Everybody needs a rock -- at least that's the way this particular rock hound feels about it in presenting her own highly individualistic rules for finding just the right rock for you.


By Yevgeny Zamyatin, Gregory Zilboorg (translator),

Book cover of We

T.J. Swackhammer Author Of City of Immortal Shadows

From the list on finding strength in a bleak future.

Who am I?

I’ve been very interested and involved in psychology and philosophy over the years, ever since becoming fascinated by anthropology in my early high school days…the concept of the human psyche is so wonderfully explored in the dystopian genre, setting extremes of how far greed and power can go (authoritarian governments) and how much strength of will and love can go even further (woven into these rebellions). I truly think that these books put so much into perspective of what’s truly important for us as a species and the things we want to carry forward- in all of them, the nature of freedom, community, and expression bonds us all together.

T.J.'s book list on finding strength in a bleak future

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Why did T.J. love this book?

For an absolute classic, I would be amiss if I did not include Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We in this list, as it’s been credited for inspiring both Orwell and Rand in their dystopian journeys. This is a classic dystopian novel set in something called ‘OneState’- a city enclosed in glass under the totalitarian rule of the ‘Benefactor'. In ways similar to Fahrenheit 451, I love We for its exploration of what happens when free thought collapses and is replaced by government-enforced conformity.

The main protagonist (simply named D-503) lives a life void of all passion and creativity. The most precious things like love, family, and reproduction are all closely monitored – with rebellion viciously condemned. All it takes is one person- I-330, one of the few left with a free, courageous spirit to inspire D-503 to break free from the system and decide that ultimately, life is worth living for…

By Yevgeny Zamyatin, Gregory Zilboorg (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A seminal work of dystopian fiction that foreshadowed the worst excesses of Soviet Russia, Yevgeny Zamyatin's We is a powerfully inventive vision that has influenced writers from George Orwell to Ayn Rand. This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the Russian with an introduction by Clarence Brown.

In a glass-enclosed city of absolute straight lines, ruled over by the all-powerful 'Benefactor', the citizens of the totalitarian society of OneState live out lives devoid of passion and creativity - until D-503, a mathematician who dreams in numbers, makes a discovery: he has an individual soul. Set in the twenty-sixth century AD,…


By Vladimir Nabokov,

Book cover of Pnin

Stephen D. Senturia Author Of One Man's Purpose

From the list on campus stories that mix poignancy with humor.

Who am I?

I spent 36 years on the MIT faculty, an exhilarating stint in the academic fast lane. For 25 of those years, I served on my department’s promotion and tenure committee. I was also a journal editor, a book-series editor, and I ran technical conferences, just the kinds of things one expects from someone in my position. Along the way, I started reading novels about the academic life. Finding many of them wanting (too silly, too dysfunctional), I decided that after my retirement, I would write my own novels, presenting a realistic insider’s picture of life in the academic fast lane and the familial stresses that can result.

Stephen's book list on campus stories that mix poignancy with humor

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

Why did Stephen love this book?

Pnin, a Russian émigré teaching at a not-wonderful college, is a remarkably endearing protagonist. I would welcome him into my home. Constantly swimming upstream, he is resolute yet humble. He takes on life in America with thoughtful determination and becomes victorious even in defeat. A stellar individual. Nabokov’s deftness with the English language enriches this short and highly accessible novel.

By Vladimir Nabokov,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Professor Timofey Pnin, late of Tsarist Russia, is now precariously perched at the heart of an American campus. Battling with American life and language, Pnin must face great hazards in this new world: the ruination of his beautiful lumber-room-as-office; the removal of his teeth and the fitting of new ones; the search for a suitable boarding house; and the trials of taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has yet to master.

Wry, intelligent and moving, Pnin reveals the absurd and affecting story of one man in exile.

Lord of the Flies

By William Golding,

Book cover of Lord of the Flies

Dennis Gentilin Author Of The Origins of Ethical Failures: Lessons for Leaders

From the list on business ethics students and practitioners.

Who am I?

My interest in business ethics was forged in the fire of personal experience. In 2004, shortly after commencing my career in the banking and finance industry, I was publicly named as one of the “whistleblowers” in a trading scandal that rocked one of Australia’s largest financial institutions. The fallout was everything you’d expect from a major governance failure: the resignation of the Chair and CEO, large financial losses, significant reputational damage, and criminal charges for the traders involved. The experience caused me to ask, “Why?” Specifically, why do ethical failures happen? And why will they continue to happen? In the years since, I have spent considerable time reflecting deeply on these questions.

Dennis' book list on business ethics students and practitioners

Discover why each book is one of Dennis' favorite books.

Why did Dennis love this book?

Admittedly I don’t read enough fiction. However, good fiction books can be just as (if not more) instructive to business ethics students and practitioners as the best non-fiction works. The best ones provide lessons that are timeless. One example of this is Lord of the Flies. Based on the story of a group of schoolboys who become stranded on a deserted island, the book is a window into the dynamics that emerge when humans form groups – hierarchies naturally emerge, the battle for power is rarely pleasant, and power in the wrong hands invariably corrupts. More importantly, it shows that without the appropriate institutional guardrails to commend the good and condemn the bad, groups (and institutions) ultimately become dysfunctional and decay.

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked Lord of the Flies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A plane crashes on a desert island and the only survivors, a group of schoolboys, assemble on the beach and wait to be rescued. By day they inhabit a land of bright fantastic birds and dark blue seas, but at night their dreams are haunted by the image of a terrifying beast. As the boys' delicate sense of order fades, so their childish dreams are transformed into something more primitive, and their behaviour starts to take on a murderous, savage significance.

First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is one of the most celebrated and widely read of modern…

Book cover of Decoding the New Consumer Mind: How and Why We Shop and Buy

Marty Neumeier Author Of The Brand Gap

From the list on brand strategy.

Who am I?

In my younger days I was a graphic designer and copywriter, approaching brands largely from a creative viewpoint. Over the years I’ve discovered that creative work is much more powerful when harnessed to business strategy, and business strategy is much more powerful when combined with exceptional creative work. I’ve characterized the gulf between strategy and creativity as the “brand gap,” which has led to eight books on branding and a school for professional mastery called Level C.

Marty's book list on brand strategy

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

Why did Marty love this book?

Marketing psychologist Kit Yarrow explains how technology has rewired our brains, making us more individualistic, isolated, emotional, and distrustful. This is not a pessimistic book—it’s a practical guide to addressing customers’ desires and insecurities in a time of deep cultural shifts. Not only has she done her homework, but she also presents the results with lightness and clarity.

By Kit Yarrow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Decoding the New Consumer Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Take a glimpse into the mind of the modern consumer A decade of swift and stunning change has profoundly affected the psychology of how, when, and why we shop and buy. In Decoding the New Consumer Mind, award-winning consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow shares surprising insights about the new motivations and behaviors of shoppers, taking marketers where they need to be today: into the deeply psychological and often unconscious relationships that people have with products, retailers, marketing communications, and brands. Drawing on hundreds of consumer interviews and shop-alongs, Yarrow reveals the trends that define our transformed behavior. For example, when we…

To Die for

By Lucy Siegle,

Book cover of To Die for: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?

Tansy E. Hoskins Author Of Foot Work: What Your Shoes Are Doing to the World

From the list on workers’ rights in the fashion industry.

Who am I?

I'm a journalist and author writing (mostly) about labour rights and the politics of the fashion industry. This work has taken me to Bangladesh, Kenya, Macedonia, and the Topshop warehouses in Solihull. I am the author of Foot Work – What Your Shoes Are Doing To The World, an exposé of the dark origins of the shoes on our feet. My award-winning first book Stitched Up – The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion, is available in six languages and was selected by Emma Watson for her "Ultimate Book List".

Tansy's book list on workers’ rights in the fashion industry

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

Why did Tansy love this book?

A classic book on the pain that fashion inflicts on both people and planet. This book does an excellent job of showing how the exploitation of people is inseparable from the exploitation of the biosphere. It is a searing critique of the fashion industry and its voracious appetite for evermore profit, and how this short-termist model is driving us towards disaster.

By Lucy Siegle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An expose on the fashion industry written by the Observer's 'Ethical Living' columnist, examining the inhumane and environmentally devastating story behind the clothes we so casually buy and wear.

Coming at a time when the global financial crisis and contracting of consumer spending is ushering in a new epoch for the fashion industry, To Die For offers a very plausible vision of how green could really be the new black.

Taking particular issue with our current mania for both big-name labels and cheap fashion, To Die For sets an agenda for the urgent changes that can and need to be…

The Fountainhead

By Ayn Rand,

Book cover of The Fountainhead

Adam Leitman Bailey Author Of Finding the Uncommon Deal: A Top New York Lawyer Explains How to Buy a Home For the Lowest Possible Price

From the list on making you a better and more successful leader.

Who am I?

My name is Adam Leitman Bailey. I am a lawyer, a writer, an advocate, and a leader. Most importantly, I can not stand injustice.  

Adam's book list on making you a better and more successful leader

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

Why did Adam love this book?

At 18 years old, this book taught me that it was okay to be different and that it was okay to aim for greatness and success without worrying about what other people thought of me.

The book also taught me the value of perseverance and the importance of staying true to oneself even in the face of adversity.  

By Ayn Rand,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Fountainhead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Book cover of The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism

Erwin Dekker Author Of The Viennese Students of Civilization: The Meaning and Context of Austrian Economics Reconsidered

From the list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy.

Who am I?

I am a historian and economist who is fascinated by the intersection of the economy and culture. This started for me with the idea that economic ideas were shaped by the cultural context in which they emerged, which resulted in my book on the Viennese Students. Over time it has expanded to an interest for the markets for the arts from music to the visual arts, as well as the way in which culture and morality influence economic dynamism. Economics and the humanities are frequently believed to be at odds with each other, but I hope to inspire a meaningful conversation between them.

Erwin's book list on cultural knowledge to understand the economy

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

Why did Erwin love this book?

Perhaps Max Weber’s book on the Protestant Ethic should be on my list. But I prefer this book by sociologist Campbell which is at least as bold in its argument. It takes a fresh look at consumption and suggests that modern consumption draws on human imagination, a desire for novelty, and experimentation. Like Weber, Campbell traces the historical roots of modern economic action, and he does so by suggesting that Romanticism was not a hostile reaction to capitalism, but the imaginative counterpart to the productive revolution of the eighteenth century. As such Romanticism facilitated the Industrial Revolution and made the modern economy possible. Campbell does not explore this, but I think of the Romantic Ethic as the cultural background for the subjective theory of value in economics.

By Colin Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally published in 1987, Colin Campbell's classic treatise on the sociology of consumption has become one of the most widely cited texts in sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, and the history of ideas. In the thirty years since its publication, The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism has lost none of its impact. If anything, the growing commodification of society, the increased attention to consumer studies and marketing, and the ever-proliferating range of purchasable goods and services have made Campbell's rereading of Weber more urgent still. As Campbell uncovers how and why a consumer-oriented society emerged from a Europe…


By Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Book cover of Emerson: Essays and Lectures

James Strock Author Of Serve to Lead: 21st Century Leaders Manual

From the list on approaching life and work as an artist.

Who am I?

Service and leadership have been a primary focus of my life and work for many years. Though today these are matters of academic study, they weren’t when I was in school. I’ve written and spoken extensively on these topics to corporate, military, academic, governmental, and NGO organizations. I strive to narrow the gap between those who study leadership and management and those who apply the principles in practice. My approach is to pose questions and share the experiences of those who have made significant contributions throughout history into the present moment. The books on my list have meant a lot to me and many others. I hope you’ll find value in them, too.  

James' book list on approaching life and work as an artist

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Why did James love this book?

Ralph Waldo Emerson is recalled as one of the great essayists and speakers of the nineteenth century.

In a time of extraordinary change, Emerson helped forge a universal voice through the prism of the emerging American experience. Emerson ultimately conjured a unique, unmistakable American narrative.

This renders his work timeless. His essays—such as “Self-Reliance”—have been rediscovered by new audiences in the early 21st century.

In another moment of tumult and evolution, Emerson continues to offer actionable inspiration, encouraging everyone to cultivate the courage to experience life and work as a great adventure.

By Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Our most eloquent champion of individualism, Emerson acknowledges at the same time the countervailing pressures of society in American life. Even as he extols what he called “the great and crescive self,” he dramatizes and records its vicissitudes.

Here are all the indispensable and most renowned works, including “The American Scholar” (“our intellectual Declaration of Independence,” as Oliver Wendell Holmes called it), “The Divinity School Address,” considered atheistic by many of his listeners, the summons to “Self-Reliance,” along with the more embattled realizations of “Circles” and, especially, “Experience.” Here, too, are his wide-ranging portraits of Montaigne, Shakespeare, and other “representative…

A Tract on Monetary Reform

By John Maynard Keynes,

Book cover of A Tract on Monetary Reform

Larry Allen Author Of The ABC-Clio World History Companion to Capitalism

From the list on seeing world history thru the lens of economics.

Who am I?

I grew up listening to my grandfathers tell stories about the Great Depression (1930s). My cousins would want me to go out and play, but I wanted to stay indoors and listen to the stories. The Depression proved my grandfathers were not the best cotton farmers, but they were good storytellers, and I ended up an economics professor. Along the way, I ran across a thought from renowned British philosopher Francis Bacon: “Histories make men wise, poets, witty, mathematics, subtle;” Modern economics has gone in for subtlety, and maybe is a little too careless of wisdom. This thought sent me delving deeper into economic history, and I ended up writing five books in economics history. 

Larry's book list on seeing world history thru the lens of economics

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

Why did Larry love this book?

This book is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in economics, overshadowed by Keynes’ more path-breaking General Theory, but oozing with wisdom on every page. Here Keynes transcends the bounds of economics. In his words: “It is one of the objects of this book to urge that the best way to cure this mortal disease of individualism is to provide there shall never exist any confident expectation either that prices are generally going to fall or that they are going to rise; and also that there shall be no serious risk that a movement, if it does occur, will be a big one.” Of course, inflation is the subject here. Its writing style alone elevates it above the commonplace. In this book, the reader finds the balance of practical judgment found in the best economists. 

By John Maynard Keynes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book, is devoted to the need for stable currency as the essential foundation of a healthy world economy. Describing the various effects of unstable currency on investors, business people, and wage earners, Keynes recommends the implementation of policies that aim at achieving stability of the commodity value of the dollar rather than the gold value. Keynes's brilliant, clear analysis of the world monetary situation at the beginning of the twentieth century, with his many suggestions and his masterful elucidation of economic principles, stands as a vital primer for anyone interested in developing a better understanding of basic economics and…

Playing in the Dark

By Toni Morrison,

Book cover of Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Don Kulick Author Of A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea

From the list on see the world with fresh eyes.

Who am I?

I am an anthropologist who has written or edited more than a dozen books on topics that range from the lives of trans sex workers, to the anthropology of fat. I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and Scandinavia. I work at Uppsala University in Sweden, where I am a Distinguished University Professor of Anthropology, and where I direct a research program titled Engaging Vulnerability.

Don's book list on see the world with fresh eyes

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

Why did Don love this book?

This slim volume by Toni Morrison is a spare, elegant meditation on how what is absent – from view, from awareness, from narrative (in this case, what she calls the “Africanist presence” in the literary imagination) – exerts a structuring influence on what is present. The prose is characteristically beautiful, but what keeps me coming back to this book is the luminous tenor of Morrison’s engagement with literature that many people find objectionable and even racist. Rather than dismiss, condemn, and cancel, Morrison wants to understand, engage, and gain insight. “My project arises from delight, not disappointment”, she says, and that truly shows.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison brings the genius of a master writer to this personal inquiry into the significance of African-Americans in the American literary imagination. Her goal, she states at the outset, is to "put forth an argument for extending the study of American literature...draw a map, so to speak, of a critical geography and use that map to open as much space for discovery, intellectual adventure, and close exploration as did the original charting of the New World-without the mandate for conquest."

Author of Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon, and other vivid portrayals of black American…

A Girl's Story

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Book cover of A Girl's Story

Catherine Cusset Author Of Life of David Hockney

From the list on by French women.

Who am I?

I am a French novelist, the author of fifteen novels, many of which are memoirs, so I am considered a specialist of "autofiction" in France, of fiction written about oneself. But I also love writing about others, as you can see in my novel on David Hockney. Beauvoir, Sarraute and Ernaux were my models, Laurens and Appanah are my colleagues. Three of the books I picked would be called memoirs in the States, and the other two novels. In France, they are in the same category. All these women write beautifully about childhood and womanhood. I love their writing because it is both intimate and universal, full of emotion, but in a very sober and precise style. 

Catherine's book list on by French women

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

Why did Catherine love this book?

In A Girl’s Story Annie Ernaux – the author of many memoirs about her parents, her lower-class background, and her sexual life – revisits the summer when she was 18 and a summer camp counselor. For the first time away from home, she was so eager for love that she ended up pursuing a man who dumped and humiliated her. Ernaux has a unique way to find lost time again. She scrutinizes the past with such a precise scalpel that it allows us to identify with the lost young girl and to share her confusion and shame. 

By Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'I too wanted to forget that girl. Really forget her, that is, stop yearning to write about her. Stop thinking that I have to write about this girl and her desire and madness, her idiocy and pride, her hunger and her blood that ceased to flow. I have never managed to do so.' In A Girl's Story, her latest book, Annie Ernaux revisits the summer of 1958, spent working as a holiday camp instructor in Normandy, and recounts the first night she spent with a man. When he moves on, she realizes she has submitted her will to his and…

Book cover of The Province of Affliction: Illness and the Making of Early New England

Andrew M. Wehrman Author Of The Contagion of Liberty: The Politics of Smallpox in the American Revolution

From the list on understanding health and politics in the early US.

Who am I?

I am a historian of early American history who discovered the history of medicine somewhat by accident. As a history graduate student, I wanted to understand how ordinary Americans experienced the American Revolution. While digging through firsthand accounts written by average Americans, I came across a diary written by a sailor named Ashley Bowen. Although Bowen wrote made entries daily beginning in the 1760s, he hardly mentioned any of the political events that typically mark the coming of the American Revolution. Instead, day after day, he wrote about outbreaks of smallpox and how he volunteered to help his community. From then on, I began to understand just how central and inseparable health and politics are. 

Andrew's book list on understanding health and politics in the early US

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

Why did Andrew love this book?

While hundreds of books have been written on early New England, Ben Mutschler deftly paints a portrait of life in New England “with sickness at its center.” He thoroughly integrates family struggles over illness and the demands placed on local governments into the story of the social and political development of this region that has long valued public health even as it has also endured tragic circumstances.

By Ben Mutschler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How do we balance individual and collective responsibility for illness? This question, which continues to resonate today, was especially pressing in colonial America, where episodic bouts of sickness were pervasive, chronic ails common, and epidemics all too familiar.

In The Province of Affliction, Ben Mutschler explores the surprising roles that illness played in shaping the foundations of New England society and government from the late seventeenth century through the early nineteenth century. Considered healthier than residents in many other regions of early America, and yet still riddled with disease, New Englanders grappled steadily with what could be expected of the…