27 books directly related to morality 📚

All 27 morality books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

The Mexicans: A Personal Portrait of a People

By Patrick Oster,

Why this book?

I think that we should all make an effort to understand people who are not from our cultural stew; people who seem different, but wind up being like us; once we get to know them.

Patrick Oster is not a sociologist, a psychologist, or an ugly American. He could be Joe Blow from down the block who decides to go to Mexico, to get to know the Mexican people. He does not make an effort to know all the people, he simply makes friends with those who are friendly, and leaves the others alone; just the way he would do…

From the list:

The best books to read for a clearer understanding of many facets of the human condition

Book cover of Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude

By Colin Higgins,

Why this book?

Maude is such a joyful, wise older woman who embraces life, who refuses to judge people, who provides guidance for a young troubled man.  

Especially infectious is Maude’s love of life which balances nicely with and counters Harold’s preoccupation with death.

The advice delivered by Maude, such as, “It’s best not to be too moral. You cheat yourself out of too much life. Aim above morality,” always contains a unique perspective that is profoundly unpredictable and truthful.

From the list:

The best books about women artists and activists

Book cover of Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil

Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil

By Benjamin A. Cowan,

Why this book?

This book contributes greatly to the global history of the Cold War by showing that “moral technocrats” during the military dictatorship in Brazil equated political subversion with sexual subversion: Anticommunist countersubversion included anxieties about gender, sex, and youth. South American Cold War dictatorships have been traditionally understood as modernizing projects but Cowan complicates the definition by exploring the moral panic, and consequent calls and attempts at repression, related to the sexual revolution, new forms of female sexual expression, and pornography. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of sexuality in modern Latin America

Book cover of Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South

Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South

By Bertram Wyatt-Brown,

Why this book?

No book was more fundamental in shaping and revolutionizing our understanding of the mores and values of the Antebellum South than Bertram Wyatt-Brown’s Southern Honor. Using legal documents, letters, diaries, and newspaper columns, this book reveals how the South’s honor system shaped and influenced how southerners lived, worked, and fought with one another. “Primal Honor” also influenced the way that Southerners made, enforced, or did not enforce the law.  Southern men adopted an ancient honor code that shaped their society from top to bottom. By claiming honor and dreading shame, they controlled their slaves, ruled their households, established the social…

From the list:

The best books on crime and punishment in the Antebellum South

Book cover of Porcupine Pirate Plans the Perfect Day

Porcupine Pirate Plans the Perfect Day

By Robert Magnuson,

Why this book?

This book teaches a fundamental lesson that kids should learn as they grow up, which is the importance of seeing the silver lining of things especially when things don’t go your way. I think this book would also be a great way to introduce kids to comics. It’s not a graphic novel but a children’s book with some aspects of comics in it. The illustrations are super fun to look at too! I like how there’s a variety of creatures in this book.

From the list:

The best animal children’s books that teaches good morals and values

Book cover of The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology

By Daphne Patai,

Why this book?

The title says it all. I choose Patai’s withering account of Orwell’s irredeemable misogyny not because I think she is right but because I think she onto something in him and in his life and times. After Koestler, another dark corner.

From the list:

The best books on George Orwell

Book cover of Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome

Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome

By Rebecca Langlands,

Why 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. 

From the list:

The best books on love and sex in ancient Rome

Book cover of Thy Neighbor's Wife

Thy Neighbor's Wife

By Gay Talese,

Why 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,…

From the list:

The best books to help you find your place in the world

Book cover of A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy

By Nancy L. Rosenblum, Russell Muirhead,

Why this book?

Extremist movements today are not just driven by violent hate and ideologies—they are also deeply embedded in a wide range of conspiracy theories. Muirhead and Rosenblum’s book helped me understand how those conspiracy theories spread and why they are so dangerous to democracies around the world—especially for the ways they disorient individuals, delegitimize expertise, and carry antisemitic and Islamophobic ideas into the mainstream.

From the list:

The best books on radicalization and extremism

Book cover of Celia, a Slave

Celia, a Slave

By Melton A. McLaurin,

Why this book?

This book shares a most harrowing and detailed story of a young slave girl, who had been bought by a much older master. The ordeals she went through and her struggles with her status created in me a lot of empathy. However, questions of justice versus mercy are raised in such a way that I was left speechless by the time I was done reading.

From the list:

The best historical novels on love and slavery

Book cover of Ethics Without Principles

Ethics Without Principles

By Jonathan Dancy,

Why this book?

In this book, Dancy defends the thesis that he calls Ethical Particularism, according to which there is no or virtually no important role for moral rules or principles to play either in moral explanation or in moral understanding. But more importantly, in my view, along the way he lays out in clear and persuasive terms what a powerful explanatory role reasons play in ethical theory. I include it third on my list because the idea that reasons are fundamental and explanatory of everything that has to do with morality and other forms of evaluation has come to be very important…

From the list:

The best books about reasons in ethics

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

Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person

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

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on people's lives in contemporary China

Book cover of Henry and His Manners

Henry and His Manners

By Tracy Schlepphorst, Charlie Martin (illustrator),

Why this book?

When children are raised with proper social skills and values, it reflects in their behaviour towards others. This is a story about teaching proper manners and behaviors, and children will be able to identify and apply positive actions and kindness.
From the list:

The best children’s books where kindness wins every time

Book cover of Guri and Gura's Magical Friend

Guri and Gura's Magical Friend

By Rieko Nakagawa, Peter Howlett, Yuriko Yamawaki (illustrator), Richard McNamara

Why this book?

Guri and Gura’s books shine with the energy of childlike wonder and vitality. Children would delight in Guri and Gura’s adventures. For the parents these books present an opportunity to tap into a possibly dormant, yet present sense of wonderment, magic, and the joy of eating, running, nature, friendship and discovery.

From the list:

The best picture books beyond good and bad, right and wrong

Book cover of These Hollow Vows

These Hollow Vows

By Lexi Ryan,

Why this book?

This was an unexpected read on a few levels. First, that ending! Oh, that ending was rude! It definitely left me on a cliffhanger, which I both love and hate. Let’s be real, I do it in my own writing. It keeps the reader guessing and leaves the reader wanting more. But I also found it to be fast-paced, which isn’t the usual for a romantic fantasy. It had all the elements I love: morally gray heroine, lovers to enemies, love triangle, all the tropes that just go deliciously in a fantasy.

From the list:

The best fantasy novels with a little zingy romance thrown in

Book cover of Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

By Susan Wolf,

Why 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.

From the list:

The best books on what makes a life meaningful

Book cover of The Moral Problem

The Moral Problem

By Michael Smith,

Why this book?

There are a lot of great books about metaethics and a lot of great books about reasons, but this book nabs my top recommendation because Smith makes the topics so deceptively easy to get into and start thinking about. This is the book that I wrote my undergraduate senior thesis on that got me into studying and writing about philosophy for a living, and it is also one of the key books that everyone in my generation in my field grew up thinking about and reacting to. It also has a great balance between an overarching project that spans all…

From the list:

The best books about reasons in ethics

Book cover of Twice-Told Tales

Twice-Told Tales

By Nathaniel Hawthorne,

Why this book?

Many works of fiction explore the core human motivations and how they guide human behavior, but perhaps none more thoroughly and incisively than this collection of Hawthorne short stories. Hawthorne’s stories undoubtedly inspired The Twilight Zone and countless other works of fantasy and science fiction that convey messages about how human desires and cultural worldviews lead people toward thwarted goals and tragic outcomes. As such, they nicely complement the analyses conveyed by the other four books I have recommended. His stories explore guilt, anxiety, and ambition, as desires for security and growth conflict with the values of prevailing worldviews and…

From the list:

The best books on the core desires that guide human behavior

Book cover of Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

Reforming the World: The Creation of America's Moral Empire

By Ian Tyrrell,

Why this book?

Reforming the World sees Ian Tyrrell, the master practitioner of transnational approaches to US history, at the peak of his powers. After tackling the world temperance movement, and US-Australian environmental connections, Tyrrell here turns to the “soft power” of Christian missionaries and evangelicals as they proselytized around the world and hoped to remake it in their image. You cannot fail to be gripped by the idiosyncratic personal histories of Tyrrell’s protagonists which he captures with characteristic attention to detail, humanity, and clear-eyed analysis. This is an important story in its own right, but what’s important is the way in which…

From the list:

The best books on the USA and the world in the nineteenth century

Book cover of The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York

The Murder of Helen Jewett: The Life and Death of a Prostitute in Ninetenth-Century New York

By Patricia Cline Cohen,

Why this book?

Helen Jewett was a sex worker living in New York in the 1830s. She worked in a brothel under a matron, which should have been a safe enough situation—she wasn’t out on the street, at least, and others knew when she had clients. Early one morning, however, others in the house wake up to realize there’s a fire in Helen’s room, and that she’s dead. Was it a murder committed by her last client, a man quickly identified as Richard Robinson, or was it a suicide? If she hadn’t died so brutally, we wouldn’t know Helen Jewett’s name, so she’s…

From the list:

The best books about crimes you've never heard of

Book cover of City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London

City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late-Victorian London

By Judith R. Walkowitz,

Why this book?

This is Victorian London, a city of dynamic growth, extreme class divisions, obsessions with public sexual danger and pathology, growing anxiety in the face of so much that is unknown and uncertain, and moralizing campaigns for reform. Not least, and the book ends with this story, this is the city of Jack the Ripper. Sometimes Walkowitz is densely analytical, for she is skillful as both storyteller and theorist. In both genres, the experience of modernity is central, as are questions about the body and the self, ethnicity, class, and morality. The city that emerges, in all its dread and delight,…
From the list:

The best books on the modern history of cities

Book cover of Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families

Preparing for Parenthood: 55 Essential Conversations for Couples Becoming Families

By Stephanie Dueger,

Why this book?

What I love most about this journal-type workbook is how practical and easy to digest it is. The book doesn’t give specific advice but provides prompts and worksheets for couples to focus on the most frequent topics of concern for new parents so they can plan ahead for how to manage them. The book poses thought-provoking questions for partners to learn more about their own and each other’s experiences, values, and hopes and discover where both their challenges and strengths may be. Couples can pick it up, open it to any page, and have conversation prompts as well as an…

From the list:

The best books for couples on the rollercoaster of pregnancy and new parenthood

Book cover of Leon and Bob

Leon and Bob

By Simon James,

Why this book?

Leon and his mom are new to town. His dad is in the army. Leon shares his new room with his imaginary friend, Bob. Their friendship is as important as it is real, to Leon. A tender and loving relationship. A boy moves in next door. Read the book to see how sweet this deceivingly simple story is. The words are sparse and well-chosen. The artwork is loose and expressive ink linework. Beautiful watercolor washes. The imaginary friend theme is treated in a fresh way. I am always touched by the portrayal of little boys’ natural sweetness - as they…

From the list:

The best children’s books that are truly unique tales (as opposed to preachy and moralizing)

Book cover of Eulalie and the Hopping Head

Eulalie and the Hopping Head

By David Small,

Why this book?

This Is David Small’s very first book that he both wrote and illustrated. I came upon this book in my mid-twenties. I have cherished it ever since. Great artwork with a limited palette due to the archaic 4-color printing process used back then. With this book, it works! Beautiful artwork and humorous wording. Mother Lumps and her baby daughter, Eulalia, are frogs. A mother’s favorite thing happens - Mother Lumps encounters another mother claiming her children are perfect and, therefore, she is perfect as a mother. Grrrrr. Walking along, they encounter a doll left behind at a picnic. They think…

From the list:

The best children’s books that are truly unique tales (as opposed to preachy and moralizing)

Book cover of Freud: The Mind of the Moralist

Freud: The Mind of the Moralist

By Philip Rieff,

Why this book?

This is a very good, fair, smart, early interpretation of Freudian psychoanalysis in general, and of its significance for culture and intellectual history in particular. It’s very well written, probably because Susan Sontag (Rieff’s wife at the time) is widely reported to have actually written the book, and in the 1960s the book became highly influential. It is easily Rieff’s best book. 

From the list:

The best books on Freud and his legacy

Book cover of The Prince of Minor Writers: The Selected Essays of Max Beerbohm

The Prince of Minor Writers: The Selected Essays of Max Beerbohm

By Max Beerbohm,

Why this book?

I love Max, he always makes me laugh because he is so naughty and mischievous. He is utterly unafraid of going against the grain of social propriety, or admitting to his own selfish motives, jealousies, and contrariety. He has a wonderfully conversational style that engages the reader without pandering. (I should also admit that I wrote the introduction to this collection).

From the list:

The best comic essay collections