The most recommended books about liberty

Who picked these books? Meet our 66 experts.

66 authors created a book list connected to liberty, and here are their favorite liberty books.
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Book cover of Liberalism: A Counter-History

Dillon S. Tatum Author Of Liberalism and Transformation: The Global Politics of Violence and Intervention

From my list on liberalism and politics.

Who am I?

Dillon Stone Tatum is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Francis Marion University. His research interests are on the history, development, and politics of liberal internationalism, international political theory, and critical security studies.

Dillon's book list on liberalism and politics

Dillon S. Tatum Why did Dillon love this book?

Italian philosopher and historian Domenico Losurdo’s book Liberalism: A Counter-History represents one of the most ambitious attempts to conceptually and historically tie the liberal tradition to the politics of slavery, empire, and genocide. What I find to be most evocative about Losurdo’s “counter-history” is both his sweeping narrative of the liberal tradition balanced against a close reading of key figures in that tradition. Losurdo provides an important critique of liberalism, and provides us with the analytic and methodological tools to interrogate its legacy, its past, its future.

By Domenico Losurdo, Gregory Elliott (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this definitive historical investigation, Italian author and philosopher Domenico Losurdo argues that from the outset liberalism, as a philosophical position and ideology, has been bound up with the most illiberal of policies: slavery, colonialism, genocide, racism and snobbery.


Book cover of Illusions of Emancipation: The Pursuit of Freedom and Equality in the Twilight of Slavery

Frank J. Cirillo Author Of The Abolitionist Civil War: Immediatists and the Struggle to Transform the Union

From my list on the long and difficult fight against slavery in America.

Who am I?

I spent many a night growing up glued to the television, watching Ken Burns’ Civil War. But as I got older, I found my interests stretching beyond the battles and melancholic music on the screen. I decided to become a historian of abolitionism–the radical reform movement that fought to end the evils of slavery and racial prejudice. Through my research, I seek to explain the substantial influence of the abolitionist movement as well as its significant limitations. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 2017, and have since held positions at such institutions as The New School, the University of Bonn, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Frank's book list on the long and difficult fight against slavery in America

Frank J. Cirillo Why did Frank love this book?

Reidy's book is an elegant and engaging read, but it is not an easy one.

It illustrates how the process of emancipation actually played out on the ground after Abraham Lincoln issued his famed Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. It takes us away from the marble edifices of Civil War Washington and into the dirt, showing us how messy the process of implementing freedom truly was.

It does so, moreover, by centering our attention on the actual men and women fighting for their own freedom. Reidy offers us historians a seminal reminder: change is not made solely from on high.

By Joseph P. Reidy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

As students of the Civil War have long known, emancipation was not merely a product of Lincoln's proclamation or of Confederate defeat in April 1865. It was a process that required more than legal or military action. With enslaved people fully engaged as actors, emancipation necessitated a fundamental reordering of a way of life whose implications stretched well beyond the former slave states. Slavery did not die quietly or quickly, nor did freedom fulfill every dream of the enslaved or their allies. The process unfolded unevenly.

In this sweeping reappraisal of slavery's end during the Civil War era, Joseph P.…


Book cover of On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint

Friederike Otto Author Of Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods, Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change

From my list on starting to think about the much abused idea of freedom.

Who am I?

I’m a physicist who ended up doing their PhD in philosophy, because the “so what” question for me always was more interesting to answer than finding out how the physical world is changing. Working as a climate scientist I see how climate change and extreme weather devastate livelihoods on a daily basis. It makes me very aware I know nothing, but also that the philosophical and humanist ideas we build our societies upon are much more important to solve the climate crisis than physics and technology. One of the most important ones is to reclaim freedom and actually allow people to live good lives.

Friederike's book list on starting to think about the much abused idea of freedom

Friederike Otto Why did Friederike love this book?

This is the most obvious book on this list. If you do read one book about climate change, make it this one.

It’s mainly not about climate change at all, but about the difficult balance between protecting people and freedom of expression. If we want a society that makes life better for all, and I do want that, we need to get this balance right.

It’s hard, as Nelson shows, but also incredibly exciting to identify freedom, in art, in sex, in drugs and in climate. This list isn’t an accident. 

By Maggie Nelson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What can freedom really mean?

'One of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation' OLIVIA LAING

In this invigorating, essential book, Maggie Nelson explores how we might think, experience or talk about freedom. Drawing on pop culture, theory and real life, she follows freedom - with all its complexities - through four realms: art, sex, drugs and climate. On Freedom offers a bold new perspective on the challenging times in which we live.

'Tremendously energising' Guardian

'This provocative meditation...shows Nelson at her most original and brilliant' New York…


Book cover of Four Essays on Liberty

James Fallon Author Of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain

From my list on philosophies.

Who am I?

Philosophy is defined as “the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.” Put another way, it is not so much the study of things and phenomena, but the derivative question below the veneer of what things are. I am interested in everything, how everything works, but also why it, and all of nature, including the mind and eyelashes, exist in the first place. I can remember back to childhood always thinking like this. This involves grasping for knowledge of both the details and global contexts of everything, whether it’s biology, chemistry, religion, neuroscience, horticulture, violence, goodness, hockey, or even what Plato was trying to say.

James' book list on philosophies

James Fallon Why did James love this book?

I mention this book as a way to listen to some old hour-long video talks by the sage Isaiah Berlin. He did, in fact, hate to write, but he loved talking. After reading any of his several essays, go right to the meat. Which will give the political, philosophical How-to Guide to leading a Nazi, Marxist or Terrorist revolution. I give talks and podcasts on the biological psychiatry of such evils and he is my go-to guy.

By Isaiah Berlin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Four Essays on Liberty as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The four essays are `Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century'; `Historical Inevitability', which the Economist described as `a magnificent assertion of the reality of human freedom, of the role of free choice in history'; `Two Concepts of Liberty', a ringing manifesto for pluralism and individual freedom; and `John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life'. There is also a long and masterly introduction written specially for this collection, in which the author replies to his critics. This book is intended for students from undergraduate level upwards studying philosopohy, history, politics. Admirers of Isaiah Berlin's writings.


Book cover of Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865

John C. Rodrigue Author Of Freedom's Crescent: The Civil War and the Destruction of Slavery in the Lower Mississippi Valley

From my list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War.

Who am I?

I am a historian who has always been fascinated by the problem of slavery in American history. Although a “Yankee” by birth and upbringing, I have also always been drawn to the history of the American South—probably because it runs so counter to the dominant narrative of U.S. history. My childhood interest in history—especially in wars, and the Civil War in particular—was transformed in college into a serious engagement with the causes and consequences of the Civil War. I pursued this interest in undertaking graduate study, and I have devoted my entire scholarly career to the examination of slavery and emancipation—and their consequences for today.

John's book list on emancipation during the U.S. Civil War

John C. Rodrigue Why did John love this book?

This epic study traces the destruction of slavery throughout the United States during the Civil War. James Oakes argues, provocatively, that the Civil War did not “become” a war against slavery, as most scholars maintain. Instead, Abraham Lincoln and other Republicans were committed to a war against slavery right from the start. Oakes roots Union emancipation policy in the prewar struggles over slavery, as that institution became an all-consuming issue in national politics. Once hostilities commenced, and as enslaved persons responded by seeking shelter behind Union military lines, Republicans were ready to put their emancipationist views into practice. I may not necessarily agree with Oakes’s argument, but his book is a monumental achievement and essential reading on the topic.

By James Oakes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Freedom National is a groundbreaking history of emancipation that joins the political initiatives of Lincoln and the Republicans in Congress with the courageous actions of Union soldiers and runaway slaves in the South. It shatters the widespread conviction that the Civil War was first and foremost a war to restore the Union and only gradually, when it became a military necessity, a war to end slavery. These two aims-"Liberty and Union, one and inseparable"-were intertwined in Republican policy from the very start of the war.

By summer 1861 the federal government invoked military authority to begin freeing slaves, immediately and…


Book cover of Freedom: Volume I: Freedom In The Making Of Western Culture

Paul Anthony Cartledge Author Of Democracy: A Life

From my list on freedom and freedom of speech in Ancient Greece.

Who am I?

My Democracy book was the summation of my views to that date (2018) on the strengths and weaknesses of democracy as a political system, in both its ancient and its modern forms. I’d been an activist and advocate of democracy since my undergraduate days (at Oxford, in the late 1960s – interesting times!). As I was writing the book the world of democracy suddenly took unexpected, and to me undesirable turns, not least in the United States and my own U.K. An entire issue of an English-language Italian political-philosophy journal was devoted to the book in 2019, and in 2021 a Companion to the reception of Athenian democracy in subsequent epochs was dedicated to me.

Paul's book list on freedom and freedom of speech in Ancient Greece

Paul Anthony Cartledge Why did Paul love this book?

I have met Orlando only once, alas, at the university where he has taught for many years (Harvard), he is both a novelist and historical sociologist. For a Black scholar originating from Kingston, Jamaica, to write approvingly of forms of freedom that he believes ‘made’ Western culture, when that culture arguably in both its ancient Greek and its modern Euro-American modes was also based on slavery, is in itself very remarkable. This is the first of a two-volume study.

By Orlando Patterson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This magisterial work traces the history of our most cherished value. Patterson links the birth of freedom in primitive societies with the institution of slavery, and traces the evolution of three forms of freedom in the West from antiquity through the Middle Ages.


Book cover of Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace

Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal Author Of Sex, Purity, and the Longings of a Girl's Heart: Discovering the Beauty and Freedom of God-Defined Sexuality

From my list on Christian books on marriage and sexuality.

Who are we?

We are sisters and the co-founders of Girl Defined Ministries, where our goal is to help modern girls understand and live out God’s timeless truth for womanhood. Through Girl Defined we talk about such topics as biblical womanhood, relationships, love, marriage, sexuality, identity, and much more.

Kristen's book list on Christian books on marriage and sexuality

Kristen Clark and Bethany Beal Why did Kristen love this book?

In Finally Free, Heath Lambert details a Biblical process for fighting and overcoming pornography and sexual sin. No matter how long or hard the battle, there is so much hope in Christ! Whether you’ve struggled with this, or know someone who has, read this book! It’s transformative! It’s not about porn; it’s about Christ and the hope of the gospel. He can lead you to finally find freedom.

By Heath Lambert,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Eight gospel-centered strategies for overcoming the lure of pornography and finally breaking free.

This book is not about pornography. You won't find graphic depictions about the porn industry, the catastrophic effects it has on individuals and relationships, or how to think differently about porn. If you're reading this book, you probably have some understanding of those things already-the last thing you need is to be subjected to that kind of detail...again.

Finally Free is about hope. It's about discovering the freeing power available to those who trust in Jesus Christ, who can, will, and does set people free from the…


Book cover of Philosophical Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom

Adrian Johnston Author Of Zizek's Ontology: A Transcendental Materialist Theory of Subjectivity

From my list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek.

Who am I?

Thanks to developing interests in both psychoanalysis and German idealism during my time as a student, I came across Slavoj Žižek’s writings in the mid-1990s. Žižek immediately became a significant source of inspiration for my own efforts at interfacing philosophies with psychoanalysis. By the time I began writing my dissertation – which became my first book, Time Driven: Metapsychology and the Splitting of the Drive – I had the great fortune to meet Žižek. He soon agreed to serve as co-director of my dissertation and we have remained close ever since. I decided to write a book demonstrating that Žižek is not dismissible as a gadfly preoccupied with using popular culture and current events merely for cheap provocations.

Adrian's book list on understanding the work of Slavoj Žižek

Adrian Johnston Why did Adrian love this book?

Schelling’s 1809 Freiheitschrift is one of Žižek’s favorite philosophical works of all time. Schelling therein strives to develop an account of evil as a positive ontological reality unto itself, rather than a negative rendition of it as a simple privation of goodness. In so doing, he is led to elaborate a metaphysics in which determinism, à la a Spinoza-inspired ontological monism, and freedom, à la the self-legislating subject of German idealism, are rendered compatible. As part of this vision, Schelling distinguishes between “ground” and “existence”—with free subjectivity depicted as the resurgence, within the pacified, stable reality of existence, of the unruliness of shadowy, primordial ground. Žižek’s repeated recourses to quantum physics for ontological insights are heavily reliant on this Schelling in particular.

By F.W.J. Schelling, Jeff Love (translator), Johannes Schmidt (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Philosophical Investigations Into the Essence of Human Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Schelling’s masterpiece investigating evil and freedom.

Jeff Love and Johannes Schmidt offer a fresh translation of Schelling’s enigmatic and influential masterpiece, widely recognized as an indispensable work of German Idealism. The text is an embarrassment of riches—both wildly adventurous and somberly prescient. Martin Heidegger claimed that it was “one of the deepest works of German and thus also of Western philosophy” and that it utterly undermined Hegel’s monumental Science of Logic before the latter had even appeared in print. Schelling carefully investigates the problem of evil by building on Kant’s notion of radical evil, while also developing an astonishingly original…


Book cover of Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America

Lee Ann Timreck Author Of Pieces of Freedom: The Emancipation Sculptures of Edmonia Lewis and Meta Warrick Fuller

From my list on the activism of African American women.

Who am I?

I'm fascinated with material culture – studying the things we make and use – and what they tell us about our history. My particular passion is for nineteenth-century Black material culture, often the only tangible history of enslaved and newly-emancipated Black lives. The books on my list educated me of the historical realities for African Americans, from emancipation to Jim Crow – providing critical context for deciphering the stories embedded in historical artifacts. Overall, the gendered (and harrowing) history these books provide on the contributions of African-American women to civil rights and social justice should be required reading for everyone. 

Lee's book list on the activism of African American women

Lee Ann Timreck Why did Lee love this book?

I consider Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves one of the best books on how Confederate monuments came to dominate nineteenth-century public spaces – most notably in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia - and what they tell us about post-Civil War history.

It is a compelling narrative of how white Southern society purposefully chiseled racism and white superiority into their post-war commemorative landscape, and used these memorials to both re-define the public’s memory of the Civil War and to cement the white-black hierarchy established during slavery. 

Savage’s analysis of the Confederate monuments looks at all the political, historical, cultural, and artistic factors that enabled the creation of Richmond’s racialized landscape. This approach helped me understand the importance of context when examining nineteenth-century public art through a twenty-first-century lens. 

By Kirk Savage,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A history of U.S. Civil War monuments that shows how they distort history and perpetuate white supremacy

The United States began as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves. Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves explores how the history of slavery and its violent end was told in public spaces-specifically in the sculptural monuments that came to dominate streets, parks, and town squares in nineteenth-century America. Looking at monuments built and unbuilt, Kirk Savage shows how the greatest…


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 my 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

Peter T. Leeson 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.…