The most recommended books on materialism

Who picked these books? Meet our 44 experts.

44 authors created a book list connected to materialism, and here are their favorite materialism books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of materialism book?


Spectacular Accumulation

By Morgan Pitelka,

Book cover of Spectacular Accumulation: Material Culture, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and Samurai Sociability

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis Author Of Samurai: An Encyclopedia of Japan's Cultured Warriors

From the list on Tokugawa Japan.

Who am I?

I’ve spent all of my career teaching and writing about Japan. Within that country’s long history, the Tokugawa or early modern period (1600-1868) has always fascinated me, going back to my teenage years when I went to Japanese film festivals in Boston with my father and brothers. This fascination stems in part from the period’s vibrancy, color, drama, and the wealth of historical documentation about it that has survived warfare as well as the ravages of time. From these rich sources of knowledge, historians and other scholars have been able to weave rich narratives of Japan’s early modern past.

Constantine's book list on Tokugawa Japan

Why did Constantine love this book?

Who could resist a book whose topics range from tea caddies, Chinese and Japanese tea bowls and paintings, severed heads, swords, falcons, and even a deified hegemon (Tokugawa Ieyasu)? This book about “things” and the famous people who collected them in the late sixteenth (before the onset of the Tokugawa period) and the first few decades of the seventeenth century uses material culture as a window into the politics and society of the military elite. It will entice those who are interested in non-linear history and the social life of things.

By Morgan Pitelka,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Spectacular Accumulation, Morgan Pitelka investigates the significance of material culture and sociability in late sixteenth-century Japan, focusing in particular on the career and afterlife of Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616), the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The story of Ieyasu illustrates the close ties between people, things, and politics and offers us insight into the role of material culture in the shift from medieval to early modern Japan and in shaping our knowledge of history.

This innovative and eloquent history of a transitional age in Japan reframes the relationship between culture and politics. Like the collection of meibutsu, or ""famous objects,""…

Hard Times

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of Hard Times

Jake Bittle Author Of The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration

From the list on modern society’s relationship with nature.

Who am I?

My name is Jake Bittle, and I’m a staff writer at the environmental magazine Grist, where I cover climate change and energy. I’m also the author of The Great Displacement: Climate Change and the Next American Migration, published by Simon & Schuster. In that book I try to explore how human beings interact with nature, and how we try to control nature by building a systematic and inflexible society. This is a theme that has always captivated me, ever since I moved as a teenager to a Florida subdivision built on the edge of a swamp, and it’s something I’m always on the lookout for in fiction as well as nonfiction.

Jake's book list on modern society’s relationship with nature

Why did Jake love this book?

This atypically slim Dickens novel is set not in London but in the fictional city of “Coketown,” a mill-town that is on the verge of industrialization.

It features some of Dickens’s most memorable characters, including the draconian schoolmaster Gradgrind, but also contains profound descriptions of the damage that industrial civilization was already wreaking on the English countryside, such as when Dickens describes a set of factory machines as “melancholy mad elephants” that eventually consume the industrial baron who owns them.

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else'

Dickens's novel honouring the value of the human heart in an age of materialism centres on Coketown, where Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school owner and model of Utilitarian success, feeds his pupils and his family with facts, banning fancy and wonder from young minds. As a consequence his obedient daughter Louisa becomes trapped in a loveless marriage, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in crime. As their fortunes cross with those of a free-spirited circus girl and…

A First Book of Nature

By Nicola Davies, Mark Hearld (illustrator),

Book cover of A First Book of Nature

Julia Rawlinson Author Of Fletcher and the Falling Leaves

From the list on nature and the seasons.

Who am I?

I grew up in London, close to Richmond Park, where I got to know many of the characters who have since popped up in my stories. I bird-watched, caterpillar-collected, and pond-dipped, and my bedroom had a floating population of minibeasts. My first picture book, Fred and the Little Egg, was about a bear cub trying to hatch an acorn, and my stories have continued to reflect my love of nature. My Fletcher’s Four Seasons series follows a kind-hearted fox cub as he explores his wood through the changing seasons. I hope my books will inspire children to explore and care for the natural world too.

Julia's book list on nature and the seasons

Why did Julia love this book?

A gloriously illustrated mixture of nature facts, poetry, and things to do, this book is like my childhood squished between covers, taking in pond-dipping, caterpillar-hatching, rock-pooling, worm-watching and so much more as it guides you through the seasons. I would have loved this book as a child, and still love it now. 

By Nicola Davies, Mark Hearld (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An exquisite book that evokes a child's first experience of nature.

From beachcombing to stargazing, from watching squirrels, ducks and worms to making berry crumble or a winter bird feast, this is a remarkable book - part poetry, part scrapbook of recipes, facts and fragments - and a glorious reminder that the natural world is on our doorstep waiting to be discovered. Mark Hearld's pictures beautifully reproduce the colours of the seasons on woodfree paper, and Nicola Davies' lyrical words capture the simple loveliness that is everywhere, if only we can look.

Just After Sunset

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Just After Sunset

Harmony Stalter Author Of Big Book of Shorts

From the list on things that go bump in the night.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated with the macabre and things that go bump in the night. My parents took me to see my first horror movie when I was a month old. It was the 1974 version of It’s Alive. I have been a horror lover ever since. I read my first Stephen King novel, Pet Semetary, at age nine. Then I moved on to Salem’s Lot and The Shining, devouring all three books before I was ten. I have had experiences of things moving in my bedroom when I am the only one there. I believe in the things that go bump in the night. 

Harmony's book list on things that go bump in the night

Why did Harmony love this book?

We all know King is the master of horror. Most of his books are novels of one story but I love his short stories. They are fast-paced and leave you wondering what lurks around the corner. King talks about struggling as a writer and barely making it in the beginning. He sold his stories to men’s magazines to make ends meet when he was first starting out. It gives hope to us who feel like we will never make it. 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A gripping and satisfyingly scary' (Sunday Telegraph) bumper collection of RIVETING, DARK STORIES from the No. 1 bestselling master of the form, now with a stunning new cover look.

Just after sunset, as darkness grips the imagination, is the time when you feel the unexpected creep into the every day. As familiar journeys take a different turn, ordinary objects assume extraordinary powers.

A blind intruder visits a dying man - and saves his life, with a kiss.

A woman receives a phone call from her husband. Her late husband.

In the emotional aftermath of her baby's sudden death, Emily starts…

The Return of Merlin

By Deepak Chopra,

Book cover of The Return of Merlin

Jim Willis Author Of The Wizard in the Wood: A Tale of Magic, Mystery, and Meaning

From the list on magic, mystery, and meaning in 21st century lives.

Who am I?

I am an author, theologian, musician, historian, and college professor who has written more than twenty books about ancient and alternative history, religion in modern culture, and long-distance, meditative bicycling. My study of the past convinced me that modern life has, for far too many of us, grown one-dimensional. It lacks the magic and mystery that imbued the ancients with the deep and rich mythology which we inherited from them, but then allowed to grow dormant within our sheltered lives. Remembering their vision and experience is a key to restoring our own sense of self-worth and essence. Maybe we all need to meet a “Wizard in the Wood!”

Jim's book list on magic, mystery, and meaning in 21st century lives

Why did Jim love this book?

I have been inspired by Deepak Chopra’s spiritual wisdom for more than thirty years. This is one of his rare novels, a wonderful story of time and magic. Merlin the Magician is the quintessential wizard, inspiring such modern-day spin-offs as Gandalf and Dumbledore. What would happen if he were to return today, bringing a message of earthy magic to a world of informative but increasingly sterile, materialistic science? And what if he has, indeed, done just that already?

By Deepak Chopra,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since the 1980s, an increasing number of black writers have begun publishing speculative-fantastic fictions such as fantasy, gothic, utopian and science fiction. Writing into two literary traditions that are conventionally considered separate -- white speculative genres and black literary-cultural traditions -- the texts integrate an African American sensibility of the past within the present, with speculative fiction's sensibility of the present within the future.

Thaler takes stock of this trend by proposing that the growing number of texts has brought forth a genre of its own. She analyzes recent fictions by Octavia E. Butler, Jewelle Gomez, and Nalo Hopkinson as…

New Grub Street

By George Gissing,

Book cover of New Grub Street

Janet McNaughton Author Of Flame and Ashes: The Great Fire Diary of Triffie Winsor

From the list on Victorian novels for complete beginners.

Who am I?

In my childhood in the 1960s, girls still read novels like Jane Eyre and Black Beauty, and one of my grandmothers was a Victorian herself, born in Scotland in the 1880s, so my connection to that time feels organic. Even today, a new Victorian novel is my idea of vacation reading. Victorian writers looked deeply into the hearts of their imagined characters, leaving us with a vivid record of a world that is now gone. These novels help us understand the past with all its flaws and problems, giving us a way to think about how far we have come, perhaps, even, how much farther we need to go.

Janet's book list on Victorian novels for complete beginners

Why did Janet love this book?

Gissing is forgotten now because he was a realist working in romantic times. Fiction writers were the rock stars of Victorian England. New Grub Street explores the other side of the coin: the vast number of struggling writers who hankered after the fame and fortune that was never to be theirs. At the heart of the story are two friends, the pragmatic materialist Jasper Milvain and the talented but idealistic Edward Reardon. The modest success of one novel prompts Readon to marry, saddling him with an overwhelming financial burden that crushes his talent. Milvain values money over everything else in life at a time when everything else in life depends on money. I found Gissing’s hard-boiled novel touching because, without flinching, he shows the inner conflicts of people trapped by circumstance.

By George Gissing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Because one book had a sort of success he imagined his struggles were over.'

Scholarly, anxious Edwin Reardon had achieved a precarious career as the writer of serious fiction. On the strength of critical acclaim for his fourth novel, he has married the refined Amy Yule. But the brilliant future Amy expected has evaded her husband. The catastrophe of the Reardon's failing marriage is set among the rising and falling fortunes of novelists, journalists, and scholars who labour 'in the valley of the shadow of books'.

George Gissing's New Grub Street was written at breakneck speed in the autumn of…

Book cover of The Garden of Hermetic Dreams

Mike Russell Author Of Strange Medicine

From the list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections.

Who am I?

Hello. My name is Mike Russell. I write books (novels, short story collections, and novellas) and make visual art (mostly paintings, occasionally sculptures). I love art and books that are surreal and magical because that is the way life seems to me, and I love art and books that are mind-expanding because we need to expand our minds to perceive just how surreal and magical life is. My books have been described as strange fiction, weird fiction, surrealism, magic realism, fantasy fiction… but I just like to call them Strange Books.

Mike's book list on strange, weird, surreal short story collections

Why did Mike love this book?

This is a wonderful selection of short stories and novel extracts by early authors of strange, weird, surreal fiction; writers whose subject is the so-called supernatural and who rail against the reduction of life to rational materialism. These works would broadly now be referred to as weird fiction. They are only as weird as the world. The book also contains an excellent introduction by the editor, speaking up for the strange, weird, and surreal.

By Gary Lachman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

' Lachman presents a generous anthology of literary texts inspired by the weird, the supernatural and the gothic. From Beckford's Vathek to Gustav Meyrink's The Golem, there is a successful balance of the well-known, the esoteric and the curious.' Stuart Kelly in Scotland on Sunday 'The first item, from William Beckford's Vathek, indicates the feverish imaginings gathered in this "occult reader". It encompasses drugs, sacrifice, a genii and an Indian who becomes irresistibly arousing by transforming himself into a ball. ETA Hoffman's The Golden Flower Pot shows how this writer's fertile imagination can animate even everyday objects, as in his…

Marx's Ecology

By John Bellamy Foster,

Book cover of Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature

Thomas Kemple Author Of Marx’s Wager: Das Kapital and Classical Sociology

From the list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today.

Who am I?

27 years of teaching social and cultural theory to undergraduate and graduate students at the University of British Columbia have shaped the way I think about challenging works like Marx’s Capital. I’ve come to approach the classics of sociology not just as systematic scientific treatises, but also as literary works with a beginning, middle, and end, and as political projects designed to seize upon the power of words for practical purposes. 

Thomas' book list on Marx’s Capital and its relevance today

Why did Thomas love this book?

This book rocked my theory-world when I finally settled down to read it, long after it was first published and everybody was talking about it. Besides developing Marx’s idea of the ‘metabolic rift’ in the social-natural metabolism, brought on by the industrial revolution, it also traces Marx’s inspiration in the soil sciences of his day, ancient materialist philosophies of nature, and the disregard or distortion of Marx’s ecology during the Soviet era and in the West.  

By John Bellamy Foster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Progress requires the conquest of nature. Or does it? This new account overturns conventional interpretations of Marx and in the process outlines a more rational approach to the current environmental crisis. Marx, it is often assumed, cared only about industrial growth and the development of economic forces. John Bellamy Foster examines Marx's neglected writings on capitalist agriculture and soil ecology, philosophical naturalism, and evolutionary theory. He shows that Marx, known as a powerful critic of capitalist society, was also deeply concerned with the changing human relationship to nature. Marx's Ecology covers many other thinkers, including Epicurus, Charles Darwin, Thomas Malthus,…

Science Set Free

By Rupert Sheldrake,

Book cover of Science Set Free: 10 Paths to New Discovery

Paul J. Mills Author Of Science, Being, & Becoming: The Spiritual Lives of Scientists

From the list on bridging the science and spirituality gap.

Who am I?

I started practicing meditation while I was in high school and within 2 months of starting I had a metaphysical experience. That experience led me to become a scientist, I wanted to learn ways to study the spiritual using the methodologies of science. I've had a successful career with over 400 scientific publications and have had my work featured in the media and presented at hundreds of conferences and workshops around the world, including at the United Nations. Many scientists today are working to bridge the so-called gap between science and spirit and the positive effects they are having on increasing our understanding of what it is to be human.

Paul's book list on bridging the science and spirituality gap

Why did Paul love this book?

For several decades Dr. Rupert Sheldrake has been prodding us to awaken beyond the limitations of western science as we know it.

Trained as a scientist at some of the world’s top institutions, he began to understand that science itself needed to be set free from its own dogma that has accumulated over the centuries. He shows the ways in which science is being constricted by its own assumptions that are not only limiting but dangerous for the future of humanity.

Should science be a belief system or simply a method of inquiry? In the skeptical spirit of true science, Dr. Sheldrake turns the 10 fundamental dogmas of materialism into exciting questions and shows how all of them open to startling new possibilities for discovery.

By Rupert Sheldrake,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Science Set Free as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The bestselling author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home offers an intriguing new assessment of modern day science that will radically change the way we view what is possible.

In Science Set Free (originally published to acclaim in the UK as The Science Delusion), Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world's most innovative scientists, shows the ways in which science is being constricted by assumptions that have, over the years, hardened into dogmas. Such dogmas are not only limiting, but dangerous for the future of humanity.
According to these principles, all of reality is material or…


By Derek R. King,

Book cover of Noir

S.J. Lomas Author Of In Between: Poems of Midlife

From the list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry.

Who am I?

I never thought I’d be a poetry lover. I got my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. During that time, I took quite a few poetry classes, even though I didn’t consider myself a huge poetry fan. Over the course of those classes, I learned that poetry isn’t all about abstract, obscure themes, and academic language. It’s also a way for humans to communicate the feelings and experiences in one heart to another. Once I learned that poetry doesn’t have to be difficult and confusing, I found that I really enjoyed it, and I’d like to help other people discover that poetry can be more accessible and satisfying than what they may have studied in school. 

S.J.'s book list on poetry for people who don’t think they like poetry

Why did S.J. love this book?

This is unlike any poetry collection I’ve read before. The language is accessible, the material is creative, rich, and a little on the dark side. There’s so much unique imagery and beautiful phrasing that it just delighted me to read it. It’s the kind of poetry book that doesn’t try to be verbose and obtuse just for the sake of poetry. Although it explores some gritty themes, it’s a lot of fun.

By Derek R. King,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Tick. Tock.


Can you hear that?

That’s the sound of the clocks getting ready to fall back. The nights stretch longer as the days shrink shorter. Creatures of the night come out to play; to fill autumn’s twilights and winter’s chills.

And at the edge of this mist infused scene, Derek R King stands and drinks in this dream. Muse by his side (or is she within), her whispered breath caresses his ears, as she drapes him in words:
“Let the poetry begin.”

Book cover of A History of the World in 100 Objects

Bruce A. Tate Author Of Seven Languages in Seven Weeks

From the list on technology adoption through history.

Who am I?

I’m a serial adventurer and entrepreneur who loves to read, teach, and encounter our world in as many different ways as I can. I am an innately curious programmer and a goal-oriented completionist at heart. I’ve cruised around America’s Great Loop, run a marathon, written more than fifteen books, and been involved with many small businesses. I also love to work with new programming languages. I was around for the early days of the Java, Ruby, and Elixir programming languages. I built teams to build products using each one of them. My passion is to help programmers break through their blockers with fresh insights. 

Bruce's book list on technology adoption through history

Why did Bruce love this book?

I love adoption, but sometimes I don’t have the energy to read a whole treatise on the subject.

This book is about 100 historical objects, from the Rosetta Stone that helped linguists unlock Egyptian scripts to a throne built out of weapons arising in Mozambique from an African civil war. They span millions of years and six continents, and each object has its own significance.

I love this book because it felt like 100 smaller adoption and conflict stories wrapped into one small package, and I could read one at a time. One of my fondest memories of my daughter was reading her paper copy as we flew from one continent to another.

By Neil MacGregor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of the World in 100 Objects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2010, the BBC and the British Museum embarked on an ambitious project: to tell the story of two million years of human history using one hundred objects selected from the Museum's vast and renowned collection. Presented by the British Museum's Director Neil MacGregor, each episode focuses on a single object - from a Stone Age tool to a solar-powered lamp - and explains its significance in human history. Music, interviews with specialists and quotations from written texts enrich the listener's experience. On each CD, objects from a similar period of history are grouped together to explore a common theme…

Destinations in Mind

By Kimberly Cassibry,

Book cover of Destinations in Mind: Portraying Places on the Roman Empire's Souvenirs

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From the list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Why did Maggie love this book?

Although we often dismiss souvenirs as kitsch, they can be deeply meaningful to people, both today and in antiquity. Taking a phenomenological approach to ancient Roman souvenirs of places, Kimberly Cassibry shows how people would have held, used, and interacted with small objects showing seaside resort towns on the Bay of Naples, the Circus Maximus in Rome, Hadrian’s Wall in Britain, and the western empire’s network of imperial roads. Her book taught me just how large makers and materials loom in how places came to be represented and conceptualized in Roman antiquity. I love that Cassibry forces me to think anew about my own travel souvenirs and how I interact with them to make meaning of places my loved ones or I have visited. 

By Kimberly Cassibry,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Destinations in Mind, Kimberly Cassibry asks how objects depicting different sites helped Romans understand their vast empire. At a time when many cities were written about but only a few were represented in art, four distinct sets of artifacts circulated new information. Engraved silver cups list all the stops from Spanish Cadiz to Rome, while resembling the milestones that helped travelers track their progress. Vivid glass cups represent famous
charioteers and gladiators competing in circuses and amphitheaters, and offered virtual experiences of spectacles that were new to many regions. Bronze bowls commemorate forts along Hadrian's Wall with colorful enameling…

Book cover of The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade: Holy War and Colonisation

William L. Urban Author Of Teutonic Knights: A Military History

From the list on medieval Baltic history.

Who am I?

I became enthusiastic about the history of the Baltics when my dissertation advisor persuaded me to use my language training in German and Russian to test the American Frontier Theory in the Baltic region. None of the various theories were applicable, but I earned a Ph.D. anyway. Later I taught in Italy, Yugoslavia, Estonia, and the Czech Republic. I've written a number of books and won a Fulbright Hays grant, the Dr. Arthur Puksow Foundation prize, the Vitols Prize, and others. I retired in 2017 after fifty-one years of university and college teaching, but I would still be teaching if my hearing had not deteriorated to the point that I could not make out what shy students were saying. 

William's book list on medieval Baltic history

Why did William love this book?

The Germans and Poles moved into a land inhabited by flourishing native tribes that have previously been understood only through the observations of German and Polish chroniclers.

Pluskowski shows that the native peoples had a sophisticated local economy that was hardly changed by the German conquerors. That is, wherever the Teutonic Order and its associated bishops and abbots brought in German or Dutch colonists, the farming practices reflected those of the immigrants’ homelands; however, the three-field system required farmers to work together, while the original inhabitants preferred to retain individual farms worked on the two-field system. The three-field system produced more food, but the Native Prussians valued their freedom more.

This is a very detailed study, with abundant information on what people ate, how they lived, and how they were buried.

By Aleksander Pluskowski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Archaeology of the Prussian Crusade explores the archaeology and material culture of the crusade against the Prussian tribes in the 13th century, and the subsequent society created by the Teutonic Order which lasted into the 16th century. It provides the first synthesis of the material culture of a unique crusading society created in the south-eastern Baltic region over the course of the 13th century. It encompasses the full range of archaeological data, from standing buildings through to artefacts and ecofacts, integrated with written and artistic sources. The work is sub-divided into broadly chronological themes, beginning with a historical outline,…

Playing with History

By Molly Rosner,

Book cover of Playing with History: American Identities and Children's Consumer Culture

Janet Golden Author Of Babies Made Us Modern: How Infants Brought America Into the Twentieth Century

From the list on American children and history.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing, speaking, blogging, and tweeting about the history of American children and their childhoods for many decades. When I went to school—a long time ago—the subject did not come up, nor did I learn much in college or graduate school. I went out and dug up the story as did many of the authors I list here. I read many novels and autobiographies featuring childhood, and I looked at family portraits in museums with new eyes. Childhood history is fascinating and it is a lot of fun. And too, it is a great subject for book groups.

Janet's book list on American children and history

Why did Janet love this book?

Toys! Dolls! Amusement Parks! They aren’t just playthings and play places; they are part of our national character and our consumer culture, as well as our private objects and experiences. Childhood is manufactured—created in our homes, communities, schools, and yes, by play. This book has a lot to say about our history but it is also a fun reminder of the things many of us grew up with or wish we had. It just might have you rooting through your attic or old photo books.

By Molly Rosner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since the advent of the American toy industry, children’s cultural products have attempted to teach and sell ideas of American identity. By examining cultural products geared towards teaching children American history, Playing With History highlights the changes and constancies in depictions of the American story and ideals of citizenship over the last one hundred years. This book examines political and ideological messages sold to children throughout the twentieth century, tracing the messages conveyed by racist toy banks, early governmental interventions meant to protect the toy industry, influences and pressures surrounding Cold War stories of the western frontier, the fractures visible…

The Outsider

By Colin Wilson,

Book cover of The Outsider

Eric Van Lustbader Author Of The Quantum Solution

From the list on perfect examples of great thriller writing.

Who am I?

I've been writing since I learned how to write, first poems, then short stories. I spent a decade in the rock music business, writing about and becoming friends with Elton John, John Lennon, Bryan Ferry, among others. But I grew up reading thrillers and wanting to write novels but seemed hesitant to start. One day, I ran into an old high school friend who was writing westerns for Avon Books. I thought if he can, so can I. So I did. I majored in Sociology in college, so the intricacies of individuals within society always fascinated me. After reading The Outsider, I realized I really wanted to write about the people outside of society.

Eric's book list on perfect examples of great thriller writing

Why did Eric love this book?

I discovered Wilson’s seminal book when I was in college.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that The Outsider changed my life. Before I read it I had no idea who I was or where I belonged. I was not a joiner. I wasn’t affected by peer pressure. As a consequence I felt alone and at sea.

At once, I recognized myself in The Outsider.

Wilson could have been writing about me. Suddenly, I understood who I was, why I reacted to certain things the way I did, and what my place in the world was and would be. There is no more desolate feeling of being alone and misunderstood in the world.

Wilson’s book gave me a sense of belonging. Who could ask for anything more?

By Colin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic study of alienation, creativity and the modern mind
'Excitingly written, with a sense of revelation' GUARDIAN

THE OUTSIDER was an instant literary sensation when it was first published in 1956, thrusting its youthful author into the front rank of contemporary writers and thinkers. Wilson rationalised the psychological dislocation so characteristic of Western creative thinking into a coherent theory of alienation, and defined those affected by it as a type: the outsider. Through the works and lives of various artists, including Kafka, Camus, Hemingway, Hesse, Lawrence, Van Gogh, Shaw, Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, Wilson explored the psyche of the outsider,…

The Mosquito Coast

By Paul Theroux,

Book cover of The Mosquito Coast

Rabindranath Maharaj Author Of The Amazing Absorbing Boy

From the list on for believing you've found a home.

Who am I?

I grew up in a large extended family in a rural district in Trinidad. Frequently, as a young boy, I sought escape in the forested area at the back of the house. There, I would craft childish stories and fantasize about becoming a writer. This wish was granted after I moved to Canada in the 1990s. As an immigrant writer here, most of my books are about movement, dispossession, and finding a home. So, in a sense, I have always been running away from, while at the same time, searching for a home. This tension has given birth to most of my books.

Rabindranath's book list on for believing you've found a home

Why did Rabindranath love this book?

I have a weakness for eccentric characters raging at the world while trying to find a place in it. Allie, the protagonist, leaves America for Honduras, where he tries to create an alternate universe, free from what he views as the ills of America. I read this book while living in the Caribbean and Allie’s pronouncements about imperialism and materialism, though clearly paranoid, contained, I felt, a germ of truth. The ebullient characters, the restless energy, and the dark humour, all characteristics of the novelist’s later books, are on full display here.

By Paul Theroux,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Stanford Dolman Lifetime Contribution to Travel Writing Award 2020

The Mosquito Coast - winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize - is a breathtaking novel about fanaticism and a futile search for utopia from bestseller Paul Theroux.

Allie Fox is going to re-create the world. Abominating the cops, crooks, junkies and scavengers of modern America, he abandons civilisation and takes the family to live in the Honduran jungle. There his tortured, messianic genius keeps them alive, his hoarse tirades harrying them through a diseased and dirty Eden towards unimaginable darkness.

'Stunning. . . exciting, intelligent, meticulously…

Book cover of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

Elizabeth Ford Author Of The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

From the list on eighteenth-century Scotland.

Who am I?

I dropped out of law school to pursue a PhD in music at the University of Glasgow and to write the history of the flute in Scotland. Essentially, I wanted to know that if Scotland was a leader in Enlightenment thought, and if there were hundreds of publications with flute on the title page, and since the flute was the most popular amateur instrument in the eighteenth century, why was nothing written about the flute. I obsessively read Scottish mythology as a child, and was always drawn to the stereotypical wild misty landscapes of Scotland without knowing much about it. 

Elizabeth's book list on eighteenth-century Scotland

Why did Elizabeth love this book?

This is a collection of essays for a major exhibit at the National Museum of Scotland in 2017. It features essays on aspects of the endurance of the Jacobite cause, and objects associated with Jacobitism (like Bonnie Prince Charlie’s silver picnic set). It also has over 200 pictures. This myth has endured through the writings of Sir Walter Scott through Outlander, and this book presents the much, much larger, and more complex story.

By David Forsyth (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1745 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', grandson of James VII and II landed on the Isle of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. He would be the Jacobite Stuarts' last hope in the fight to regain the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The Jacobite legend has an enduring fascination and now renewed global interest due to the Outlander books and television series. A major new exhibition on Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites opens at the National Museum of Scotland on 23 June 2017, and tells a compelling story of love, loss, exile, rebellion and…


By Alexander Langlands,

Book cover of Cræft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts

Markus Eberl Author Of War Owl Falling: Innovation, Creativity, and Culture Change in Ancient Maya Society

From the list on innovation in the past when this wasn't yet a thing.

Who am I?

As an archaeologist, I love prehistoric things and what can I learn from them about the people that made them and left them behind. I study ancient Maya commoners in what is now modern Guatemala. Their material remains are humble but include depictions and symbols normally found in the palaces of Maya kings and queens. First I wondered and then I studied how the title-giving war owl fell into the hands of Maya commoners. By approaching this process as innovation, I discuss creativity in the past and cultural changes that result from it.

Markus' book list on innovation in the past when this wasn't yet a thing

Why did Markus love this book?

I admit that modern technology and its products are fascinating; marveling at a smartphone makes me realize, though, that I have for the most part no clue how to repair and even less so how to make it. This is not only my dilemma – Langlands discusses the challenges of making things with your own hands. His book inspired me to ask my students to collect clay, make pottery, and fire it in a course I teach. Apart from the DIY aspect, I was enthralled by his discussion of crafting as a state of being engaged. You have to know your skills and your resources very well to make a great pot!

By Alexander Langlands,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Faced with an endless supply of mass-manufactured products, we find ourselves nostalgic for goods bearing the mark of authenticity-hand-made tools, local brews, and other objects produced by human hands. Archaeologist and medieval historian Alexander Langlands reaches as far back as the Neolithic period to recover our lost sense of craft, combining deep history with detailed scientific analyses and his own experiences making traditional crafts. Craft brims with vivid storytelling, rich descriptions of natural landscape, and delightful surprises that will convince us to introduce more craft into our lives.

The Matter of History

By Timothy J. Lecain,

Book cover of The Matter of History

Kara Cooney Author Of When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt

From the list on power and the powerless.

Who am I?

I'm a specialist of ancient Egyptian social history, who against the better judgment of (practically all) her colleagues uses the ancient past to make the present understandable. If we don’t fetishize the ancient Egyptians as separate and magical, they have something to teach us, whispering to us from the past through papyri, temples, and archaeological sites. After all, Egyptian history is 3000 years plus in its time span, an astounding data set of a people using same approximate language, government system, religion, and culture. Some of us look hungrily to replicate that kind of lasting and divine power. I am obsessed with power—how it works, why we are helpless to it, and who gets exploited by it. The ancient Egyptian kings effectively packaged their power not only as necessary, but as moral and good, ancient marketing that continues to work on our minds.

Kara's book list on power and the powerless

Why did Kara love this book?

I am recommending this volume because it shocked me with its ability to nestle humans into the world as an integral part of the natural world, not separate from it, not rulers over it, but clever animals that need the Earth more than the Earth needs us. It helps me to undercut the manufactured power of the divinely ordained rulers from ancient Egypt.

By Timothy J. Lecain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

New insights into the microbiome, epigenetics, and cognition are radically challenging our very idea of what it means to be 'human', while an explosion of neo-materialist thinking in the humanities has fostered a renewed appreciation of the formative powers of a dynamic material environment. The Matter of History brings these scientific and humanistic ideas together to develop a bold, new post-anthropocentric understanding of the past, one that reveals how powerful organisms and things help to create humans in all their dimensions, biological, social, and cultural. Timothy J. LeCain combines cutting-edge theory and detailed empirical analysis to explain the extraordinary late-nineteenth…

True Places

By Sonja Yoerg,

Book cover of True Places

Kathleen Basi Author Of A Song for the Road

From the list on finding beauty in the crap life throws at you.

Who am I?

I suspect my passion for this topic was born when my doctor came into my C-section recovery room and uttered the words “chromosomal abnormality.” My daughter has Down syndrome, and full disclosure: I had zero interest in being a disability mom. Yet as I fell in love with this beautiful, funny, sassy girl, my whole worldview shifted. I am a far better person than I was when she entered my life. She has taught me the beauty and the blessing wrapped up in the things that first appear to be the most difficult. 

Kathleen's book list on finding beauty in the crap life throws at you

Why did Kathleen love this book?

Sometimes you get caught up in who you’re “supposed” to be, or the image you’re supposed to project, and you end up losing your authentic self—and your connection with those you love suffers because of it. In True Places, Suzanne’s life of quiet desperation is interrupted when a girl emerges from the forest right in front of her—a girl who’s never encountered civilization. As Suzanne takes this girl under her wing, she starts to question everything she has accepted as sacrosanct. In that, she stands in place of us all: caught in the rat race, longing for permission to cut through the crap and be who we are meant to be. The courage with which she faces the opposition of her family—and finds her way to a new, healthier relationship with them—is inspirational.

By Sonja Yoerg,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An Amazon Charts and Washington Post bestseller.

"True Places is a beautiful reminder that though we may busy ourselves seeking what we want, what we need has an uncanny way of finding us." -Camille Pagan, bestselling author of Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone...and collapses.

Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her-a change she both fears and desperately needs.

Suzanne has the…