The most recommended books on morality

Who picked these books? Meet our 62 experts.

62 authors created a book list connected to morality, and here are their favorite morality books.
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What type of morality book?


Book cover of The Family Fang

Eric Schlich Author Of Eli Harpo's Adventure to the Afterlife

From my list on dysfunctional family novels about mythmaking.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a debut novelist who loves a good family drama. I’m a fiction professor at the University of Memphis, where I teach a course on the dysfunctional family novel featuring books on this list. I’m also an atheist, a bisexual, and a father to a one-year-old—all of which influenced my book. In addition to the novel, I’ve written a story collection called Quantum Convention. My stories have aired on Public Radio International’s Selected Shorts and appeared in American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, and Electric Literature, among other journals. I also have a new essay up at Lit Hub about channeling my bisexuality through queer characters.

Eric's book list on dysfunctional family novels about mythmaking

Eric Schlich Why did Eric love this book?

Wilson’s novels often interrogate art and morality in a hilarious fashion.

In this book, siblings Annie and Buster struggle to overcome their childhood personas of Child A and Child B in their parents’ performance art pieces. When Caleb and Camille disappear under mysterious circumstances, Annie and Buster must investigate to find out if their parents are really dead or if this is yet another elaborate scheme in the name of art.

What is real? What is artifice? Can they escape the myth of their parents’ making and find a healthier way to make their own art?

By Kevin Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mr and Mrs Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief. Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist's work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parent’s strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and…

Book cover of Ruthless Heir

B. G. Howard Author Of Thicker Than Blood

From my list on where characters see the end before the end.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a past award-winning weekly newspaper columnist turned business owner, I eventually embraced the love of writing following an auto accident that necessitated more than eight years of rehabilitative therapy. Scripting my first novel proved more of a therapeutic undertaking and it was released in 2020 to moderate success. That experience then compelled me to learn more about the craft of being a novelist. Two years later, the original work was modified and Revised Edition Family Ties: Thicker Than Blood was launched in June of 2022. 

B. G.'s book list on where characters see the end before the end

B. G. Howard Why did B. G. love this book?

Sasha Leone displays her mastery of the ability to draw readers into the clutches of events transpiring throughout the novel beginning with the first pages. The irony of her chivalrous Cousin Rian, heir apparent to the family’s criminal empire, serving as protector to his not-so-innocent younger female cousin is the ultimate oxymoron. Enter Gabriel Corso, a mafia prince from a merciless rival family, who is the source of a bitterness Bianca can’t understand but, still, can’t shake. Yet, she is drawn to him like metal to an unsuspecting magnet. A forced marriage to secure the family’s legacy proves more than she can come to terms with…or does it? Having lived a life "teetering on the line" dividing legality and morality, I found myself subconsciously drawn to the story's principal characters; sometimes even "telling" them what should be their next moves.

By Sasha Leone, Wander Aguiar (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

His proposal is ruthless. Marry him or die.

Gabriel Corso is the stuff of nightmares. And dirty dreams.
A sinfully gorgeous mafia prince from a brutal rival family.

In school, he was the bane of my existence.
The dark villain to my sheltered princess.

Then, poof. He disappeared.

If only he’d stayed away.

Turns out, our marriage is a term of his inheritance.
And he’s returned to collect what’s his.

That means ripping me from my gilded cage.
It means locking me beneath his searing flesh.
It means war.

I’m not supposed to like it.
To beg for more.

Book cover of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Thijs ten Raa Author Of Microeconomics: Equilibrium and Efficiency

From my list on microeconomics on how markets are interconnected.

Why am I passionate about this?

Microeconomics is a turnoff to most readers. Not without reason. Many books in this field are dull rewrites of other books and opaque.  In particular, it is not clear how the behavior of individual consumers and producers adds to the performance—good or bad—of an economy. The books listed here helped me to sharpen my own mind and to make my writing lucid.

Thijs' book list on microeconomics on how markets are interconnected

Thijs ten Raa Why did Thijs love this book?

As a moderate leftist I was attracted by this propagandist of rightist policies. 

Ayn Rand makes a strong case to keep out the state and leave the economy to free markets. It helped me to sharpen my mind. 

What is missing in her analysis? How does that modify a rightist political outlook? She challenged me and thus influenced my own writing.

By Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Alan Greenspan , Robert Hessen

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this series of essays, Ayn Rand presents her stand on the persecution of big business, the causes of war, the default of conservatism, and the evils of altruism.

The foundations of capitalism are being battered by a flood of altruism, which is the cause of the modern world's collapse. This is the view of Ayn Rand, a view so radically opposed to prevailing attitudes that it constitutes a major philosophic revolution. Here is a challenging new look at modern society by one of the most provocative intellectuals on the American scene.
This edition includes two articles by Ayn Rand…

Book cover of The Heart That Bleeds: Latin America Now

June Carolyn Erlick Author Of A Gringa in Bogotá: Living Colombia's Invisible War

From my list on classics for understanding Latin America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I accidentally fell in love with Latin America, a love that has lasted my lifetime. When I was young, I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in New York, learning Spanish from my neighbors. After I graduated from Columbia Graduate School of Journalism I got a job covering the Cuban community in New Jersey because I spoke Spanish. Eventually I ended up living in Colombia and then Managua as a foreign correspondent. Now I edit a magazine at Harvard about Latin America. It's not just the news that interests me; I love the cadence of the language, the smell and taste of its varied cuisine, the warmth of the people, the culture, and, yes, soccer.

June's book list on classics for understanding Latin America

June Carolyn Erlick Why did June love this book?

Mexican-born, Bogotá-based New Yorker writer Alma Guillermoprieto writes about Latin America in a vivid, compassionate way, using individual stories to tease out trends and shed a light on history. I've loved all of Guillermoprieto's books, including her wonderful chronicles about dancing in Cuba and Brazil, but this volume is a true classic. She captures the feeling of the spirit of Latin America and Latin Americans. Even when I've been to the places she describes, she makes me see them in a different way through her meticulous reporting and lush descriptions.

What I like best about Guillermoprieto is that she looks into ordinary lives, ranging from Mexican garbage pickers to the window-pane fixers who make a living in Bogotá after glass is shattered by bombs.

By Alma Guillermoprieto,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An extraordinarily vivid, unflinching series of portraits of South America today, written from the inside out, by the award-winning New Yorker journalist and widely admired author of Samba.

Book cover of First Lie Wins

Mary Carroll Moore Author Of Last Bets

From my list on badass women who don’t start out that way.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve long been intrigued by what makes a woman a hero in her own life. My three novels feature characters who are not obvious heroes—they are trying to shed a difficult past, they may run towards risky second chances, and they eventually stand up to their history and heal it and themselves. A lot of my inspiration for my stories comes from my mother, who was a pilot in World War II. I grew up with the legacy of women as heroic; it fostered an intense curiosity about female ambition and morality, women who would risk personal freedom and safety to find something greater than they expected.

Mary's book list on badass women who don’t start out that way

Mary Carroll Moore Why did Mary love this book?

A young woman begins to steal; she has no other way to support her starving and ill mother. When she’s caught, she’s given the fairytale choice of either jail time or service to a mastermind criminal. I’m a big fan of complex morality in a story, and I loved this twisted scenario—who is justified to commit a crime? How can a woman survive in a life of lies? And how can she eventually break free in a very unexpected way?

Because of the unexpected ways she responds to these three dilemmas, she became heroic in my eyes, and I cheered her on at the surprise ending. The author expertly layered the different timelines in this character’s life, never losing me in the transitions, which was an additional delight.

By Ashley Elston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked First Lie Wins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“This fast-paced read has everything you could want in a thriller: secret identities, a mysterious boss and a cat & mouse game that kept me guessing the whole way through.”—Reese Witherspoon

“One of the best thrillers I’ve ever read... Amazing.”—Jesse Watters

Evie Porter has everything a nice, Southern girl could want: a perfect, doting boyfriend, a house with a white picket fence and a garden, a fancy group of friends. The only catch: Evie Porter doesn’t exist.

The identity comes first: Evie Porter. Once she’s given a name and location…

Book cover of Thy Neighbor's Wife

Michael E. Long Author Of The Molecule of More: How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity—and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race

From my list on finding your place in the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m interested in everything – which is a problem, because there’s not time for everything. So how do you find the best of the world and your own place in it? Understanding your motivations is a good place to start, hence The Molecule of More. The rest comes from exploring as much as you can, and that begins with understanding the scope of what’s out there: ideas, attitudes, and cultures. The greatest joy in my life comes from the jaw-dropping realization that the world is so full of potential and wonder. These books are a guide to some of the best of it, and some of the breadth of it.

Michael's book list on finding your place in the world

Michael E. Long Why did Michael love this book?

Every generation believes that they see further and think deeper – and weirder – than every one that came before. From this perspective, we imagine that we can do everything differently that those who preceded us. In this book, one of the creators of the so-called New Journalism shows just how wrong we are. In particular, Talese provides a tour of the history of sexual mores, how cultures reflect those mores, and how tradition turns out to be a more powerful cultural magnet than we expect. We can try to make our own new ways in a lot of areas, but the biological pull we all experience invariably pulls us back to a few tendencies and trends we will likely never shake as a species.

By Gay Talese,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The provocative classic work newly updated

An intimate personal odyssey across America's changing sexual landscape

When first published, Gay Talese's 1981 groundbreaking work, Thy Neighbor's Wife, shocked a nation with its powerful, eye-opening revelations about the sexual activities and proclivities of the American public in the era before AIDS. A marvel of journalistic courage and craft, the book opened a window into a new world built on a new moral foundation, carrying the reader on a remarkable journey from the Playboy Mansion to the Supreme Court, to the backyards and bedrooms of suburbia—through the development of the porn industry, the…

Book cover of Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman Author Of The Two Moralities: Conservatives, Liberals, and the Roots of Our Political Divide

From my list on the psychology behind our politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

A university professor for 40 years (now emerita), I focused my most recent research on moral psychology. I am also a political junkie, so perhaps it is no surprise that I have combined these two interests. As both a social psychologist and political psychologist, I have conducted numerous studies on the moral underpinnings of our political ideologies. In addition to two books, I have published over 90 papers, many devoted to morality and/or politics, and I was awarded a generous three-year National Science Foundation grant to study the two moralities that are discussed in my book.   

Ronnie's book list on the psychology behind our politics

Ronnie Janoff-Bulman Why did Ronnie love this book?

This was George Lakoff’s groundbreaking early book linking morality and politics.

Here the renowned cognitive psychologist, draws from his expertise as a linguist to uncover the unconscious worldviews of liberals and conservatives. More specifically, he argues that distinct conceptual metaphors, each associated with the family, underlie the politics of the left and right, specifically the strict father for conservatives and the nurturant parent for liberals.  

By George Lakoff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Moral Politics was first published two decades ago, it redefined how Americans think and talk about politics through the lens of cognitive political psychology. Today, George Lakoff's classic text has become all the more relevant, as liberals and conservatives have come to hold even more vigorously opposed views of the world, with the underlying assumptions of their respective worldviews at the level of basic morality. Even more so than when Lakoff wrote, liberals and conservatives simply have very different, deeply held beliefs about what is right and wrong. Lakoff reveals radically different but remarkably consistent conceptions of morality on…

Book cover of Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome

Daisy Dunn Author Of Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

From my list on love and sex in ancient rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve trips to Roman villas in Britain, theatres in Sicily, and museums across Europe. After studying Classics at Oxford, I completed a Masters and then a Ph.D., eager to gain as strong a grounding in the ancient world as I could before pursuing a career as an author. Ancient history has a reputation for being complicated. When I write books, I strive not to simplify the past, but rather to provide an engaging, memorable, and above all enjoyable path into it. 

Daisy's book list on love and sex in ancient rome

Daisy Dunn Why did Daisy love this book?

We often assume that the Romans were in love with love but, actually, they could be very divided over it. Love, for some, was not only destructive, it was practically criminal. The author of this academic book looks at the ethics of love and sex in Rome and considers the surprising appeal of ‘sexual virtue’, abstention, and chastity in ancient society. 

By Rebecca Langlands,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Traditionally, scholars have approached Roman sexuality using categories of sexual ethics drawn from contemporary, Western society. In this 2006 book Dr Langlands seeks to move away from these towards a deeper understanding of the issues that mattered to the Romans themselves, and the ways in which they negotiated them, by focusing on the untranslatable concept of pudicitia (broadly meaning 'sexual virtue'). She offers a series of nuanced close readings of texts from a wide spectrum of Latin literature, including history, oratory, love poetry and Valerius Maximus' work Memorable Deeds and Sayings. Pudicitia emerges as a controversial and unsettled topic, at…

Book cover of Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person

Aihwa Ong Author Of Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality

From my list on people's lives in contemporary China.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor emerita of Anthropology at Berkeley. I have written books on Muslim women in runaway factories; the modern Chinese diaspora; Cambodian refugees in the US; neoliberal Asian states; and Singapore's biomedical hub. I also write on contemporary Chinese art. We live in worlds interwoven by assemblages of technology, politics, and culture. Each situation is crystallized by the shifting interactions of global forces and local elements. Given our interlocking, interdependent realities, a sustainable future depends on our appreciation of cultural differences and support of transnational cooperation. For many people, China today is a formidable challenge, but learning about its peoples' struggles and desires is a beginning toward recognizing their humanity.

Aihwa's book list on people's lives in contemporary China

Aihwa Ong Why did Aihwa love this book?

This collection, by anthropologists and psychiatrists, gives us a glimpse of soul searching by ordinary people as China compresses centuries of industrial growth into two decades. The unprecedented fragmentation of families and loss of culture have scattered lives and disoriented minds. The chapter authors consider intimate topics --  death, sex, depression, stigma, suicide, and madness -- that lie beneath the glossy images of Chinese achievements. They reveal the deep confusion of ordinary people as they struggle with questions of morality and humanity in a relentless, turbulent world.

By Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun , Sing Lee , Everett Zhang , Pan Tianshu , Wu Fei , Jinhua Guo

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Deep China" investigates the emotional and moral lives of the Chinese people as they adjust to the challenges of modernity. Sharing a medical anthropology and cultural psychiatry perspective, Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhua delve into intimate and sometimes hidden areas of personal life and social practice to observe and narrate the drama of Chinese individualization. The essays explore the remaking of the moral person during China's profound social and economic transformation, unraveling the shifting practices and struggles of contemporary life.

Book cover of Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

Todd May Author Of A Significant Life: Human Meaning in a Silent Universe

From my list on what makes a life meaningful.

Why am I passionate about this?

Todd May has been teaching philosophy for over thirty years. He is the author of sixteen books of philosophy, many of which have been praised for their clarity and relevance to people reflecting on their lives. He was also a philosophical advisor to the hit television sit-com The Good Place.

Todd's book list on what makes a life meaningful

Todd May Why did Todd love this book?

This is the most influential book on my own thinking about meaningfulness in life. Wolf's idea that a meaningful life is distinct from both a happy life and a moral one—although there can be overlapping with these—is both simple and profound. And, unlike many contemporary philosophers, her writing is clear and accessible.

By Susan Wolf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Meaning in Life and Why It Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this…