The most recommended Ralph Waldo Emerson books

Who picked these books? Meet our 20 experts.

20 authors created a book list connected to Ralph Waldo Emerso, and here are their favorite Ralph Waldo Emerso books.
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Book cover of March

Michael C. White Author Of The Garden of Martyrs

From Michael's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Literature professor MFA director

Michael's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Michael C. White Why did Michael love this book?

This was one of my two favorite books I listed by Geraldine Brooks. I often find that when I love a book, I immediately read more by the same author.

I found it fascinating that Brooks based her novel on a fictional character, in this case, the mostly distant father of the March family, made famous in Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women

I enjoy reading novels that take minor characters from well-known books and reimagine the stories from their points of view. 

As Valerie Martin did in Mary Reilly (based on a character from Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Brooks brings the main character, as well as other characters, real and fictional, to vivid life in a story about the Civil War, an era I find of great personal interest and about which I’ve written a novel myself.   

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked March as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of the acclaimed YEAR OF WONDERS, a historical novel and love story set during a time of catastrophe, on the front lines of the American Civil War. Set during the American Civil War, MARCH tells the story of John March, known to us as the father away from his family of girls in LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott's classic American novel. In Brooks' telling, March emerges as an abolitionist and idealistic chaplain on the front lines of a war that tests his faith in himself and in the Union cause when he learns that his side, too,…


Book cover of Self-Reliance and Other Essays

Mechal Renee Roe Author Of I'm Growing Great

From my list on expanding your inner vision and allowing life to rush in.

Why am I passionate about this?

My name is Mechal Roe and I have loved creating fun and colorful art to inspire the inner child in all of us. I began my journey in children's print design and worked my way up to Clothing Designer. It was quite rewarding, and I learned so much. After, I left to create a children's book and toys to serve underrepresented youth. Creating the book was a form of introspection to move me along my heart's path. It was also a gift to those young ones who also struggle with understanding themselves in the world. 

Mechal's book list on expanding your inner vision and allowing life to rush in

Mechal Renee Roe Why did Mechal love this book?

I recommend this book because it had a great influence on me as a young child. Moving through the world, particularly as a black woman, requires a great deal of self-reliance and resourcefulness. This book/essay speaks to universal truths that are often forgotten.

I found myself equipping my toolbox with quotes that have been relevant to my present day working life. I learned how to relate in a deeper way to myself and society while crafting a value system that, as I age, is allowed to become malleable.

By Ralph Waldo Emerson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Self-Reliance and Other Essays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Ralph Waldo Emerson's essays and poems on the transcendental movement in the United States became some of the most important literary pieces in American History. In this culmination of essays, Emerson takes the reader through different forms of philosophies that attempt to explain the world and man's purpose within it.

Heavily vested in the philosophy of transcendentalism, though not one to label himself a true follower of the movement, Emerson believed that spirituality and wholeness were central to the ways in which humans could place themselves within nature. Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson is a collection of integral works that…


Book cover of The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living

Ben Le Fort Author Of The Investor's Mindset: Analyze Markets. Invest Strategically. Minimize Risk. Maximize Returns.

From my list on helping you invest your money and grow your wealth.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been rather fixated with money and finances since I was a kid beating my friend's parents at Monopoly. I majored in economics and had a few rough years financially graduating into the depths of the great recession in 2010. In 2013 I completed my Master’s in finance and economics, took a day job in economic research, and have been moonlighting as a finance writer for the past five years.  

Ben's book list on helping you invest your money and grow your wealth

Ben Le Fort Why did Ben love this book?

You might be thinking, what is a philosophy book doing on a list of books to make me a better investor?

Here’s a bit of a secret about investing; learning the technical details about how to build a portfolio is the easy part. The hard part is staying cool during market crashes, bear markets, and recessions. The easiest way to lose money as an investor is to panic sell at the worst possible time.

The philosophy of stoicism is defined by focusing our attention on only the things we can control and making peace with the things we can’t. That is also the definition of a great long-term investor. You can’t control the markets but you can control how you react. 

By Ryan Holiday, Stephen Hanselman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The beloved classic daily devotional of Stoic meditations—the only authorized print edition in the US and complete with a ribbon marker—with more than two million copies sold!

Why have history's greatest minds—from George Washington to Frederick the Great to Ralph Waldo Emerson, along with today's top performers from Super Bowl-winning football coaches to CEOs and celebrities—embraced the wisdom of the ancient Stoics? Because they realize that the most valuable wisdom is timeless and that philosophy is for living a better life, not a classroom exercise.

The Daily Stoic offers 366 days of Stoic insights and exercises, featuring all-new translations from…


Book cover of The Soul's Economy: Market Society and Selfhood in American Thought, 1820-1920

Michael Zakim Author Of Accounting for Capitalism: The World the Clerk Made

From my list on modern capitalist economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

As both a scholar and a citizen I have spent my adult life seeking to better understand the dynamics of power, especially power wielded in flagrantly unjust fashion in societies otherwise founded on notions of life, liberty, and happiness for all. This has led me to study the history of the economy, not just as a material but as a cultural system that encodes the categories of modern life:  self and society, private and public, body and soul, and needs and desires.

Michael's book list on modern capitalist economy

Michael Zakim Why did Michael love this book?

Jeffrey Sklansky is that rare academic with a writer’s literary imagination, which serves the reader well in engaging The Soul’s Economy, a riveting and dense intellectual history of the market’s emergence as the organizing principle of not only economic life, but of a distinctly new moral sensibility between 1820 and 1920. 

Sklansky explores this far-reaching turn of events through a series of dedicated readings of America’s leading philosophers and pundits of the times, ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to John Dewey, who collectively recast the pursuit of wealth into an ethic of personal rectitude and even the source of society’s general welfare.

By Jeffrey Sklansky,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Socializing the psyche; Tracing a seismic shift in American social thought, Jeffrey-Sklansky offers a new synthesis of the intellectual transformation entailed in the rise of industrial capitalism. For a century after Independence, the dominant American understanding of selfhood and society came from the tradition of political economy, which defined freedom and equality in terms of ownership of the means of self-employment. However, the gradual demise of the household economy rendered proprietary independence an increasingly embattled ideal. Large landowners and industrialists claimed the right to rule as a privilege of their growing monopoly over productive resources, while dispossessed farmers and workers…


Book cover of Daughter of Boston: The Extraordianary Diary of a Ninteenth Century Woman

Susan Higginbotham Author Of The Queen of the Platform: A Novel of Women's Rights Activist Ernestine Rose

From my list on nineteenth century feminists in their words.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of biographical historical fiction, with some of my novels set in medieval and Tudor England, others set in nineteenth-century America. In researching my books, I try to immerse myself in my characters’ world, and that means reading primary sources, such as newspapers, periodicals, letters, diaries, and memoirs. I especially like to read my characters’ own words. Fortunately, the nineteenth-century feminists featured in this list left a lot of words behind them!

Susan's book list on nineteenth century feminists in their words

Susan Higginbotham Why did Susan love this book?

Before I stumbled across this book, I had never heard of Caroline Healey Dall, a prickly but vulnerable and fiercely intelligent Bostonian who knew almost everyone in the various reform movements that swept across the United States in the mid-nineteenth century.

On one day, Dall is recording the details of a pregnancy that went horribly wrong; on another, passing along salacious gossip about a lady who propositioned Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May). All the while, she champions the cause of women’s rights while clashing with some of the many strong personalities in the movement.

By Caroline Healey Dall, Helen R. Deese (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This Journal is my safety valve-and it is well, that I can thus rid myself of my superfluous steam . . . I trust posterity will remember this, should it ever be gratified by a glimpse at these pages.

In the nineteenth century, Boston was well known as a center for intellectual ferment. Amidst the popular lecturing of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the discussion groups led by Margaret Fuller sat a remarkable young woman, Caroline Healey Dall (1822-1912): Transcendentalist, early feminist, writer, reformer, and-perhaps most importantly-active diarist.

Dall kept a diary for seventy-five years.She captured in it all the fascinating…


Book cover of The Next World Interviewed

Marc Hartzman Author Of Chasing Ghosts: A Tour of Our Fascination with Spirits and the Supernatural

From my list on ghosts written by people who might now be ghosts.

Why am I passionate about this?

Though I’ve always found the idea of survival after death fascinating, it was my interest in Modern Spiritualism that really sparked the desire to write Chasing Ghosts. That era (mid-1800s to the early 1900s) was a time when millions confidently believed they could communicate with the dead. Of course, this was only the tip of the paranormal iceberg. So I continued the journey into the lore of haunted places, ancient cultural beliefs, and scientific endeavors to find evidence for paranormal experiences or to debunk it. As a historian of the weirder pages of the past, this topic endlessly fascinates me. I hope it will for you as well. 

Marc's book list on ghosts written by people who might now be ghosts

Marc Hartzman Why did Marc love this book?

This obscure 1896 book is a collection of interviews with dead luminaries. At least, that’s what the psychic author alleges. Inside you’ll find conversations with Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. Discover their wisdom from beyond the veil, and in the case of Ben Franklin, you can enjoy a new set of his famous aphorisms, including this one: “Spiritual knowledge, like gems hidden in the bowels of the earth, is only to be reached by patient upturning of the soil.”

By S. G. Horn,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Excerpt from The Next World Interviewed

A previous volume, given through the mediumship of Mrs. Horn, entitled Strange Visitors, was so interesting, that it gave pleasure to learn that another volume of a similar kind was in preparation, and that the Spirit editor, Judge Edmonds, desired that it Should be placed in our hands for publication. The matter was found to be insufficient to form a volume of the kind intended, and during the movements of the medium, to secure favourable conditions for receiving further communications, much time was exhausted, as the dates appended indicate. The localities subjoined to the…


Book cover of The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches

David Sterling Brown Author Of Shakespeare's White Others

From my list on color your thinking about race.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer and a Shakespeare and critical race studies scholar who’s always been intrigued by the invisible, artificial race-based boundaries in our world. I love analyzing the lives of literary characters and seeing how they can serve as mirrors for us along lines of gender, mental health, and more. My critical interests are informed by the fact that I grew up in a predominantly Black/Latino low-income neighborhood and attended an affluent, predominantly white private school from the sixth to twelfth grade. My adolescent experiences with inclusion/exclusion dynamics required me to reflect on race, for example, so I could understand and navigate the kinds of socio-cultural dynamics that affect us all.

David's book list on color your thinking about race

David Sterling Brown Why did David love this book?

I love this book, which was published in 1903, because of how timeless it is and because of how relevant Du Bois’ words are to our present moment in which racial inequality and racism persist.

I appreciate the historical perspective Du Bois provides his readers so the past is not forgotten, so the past helps us understand the historical trajectory that led us to right now. The writing is clear, smart, and beautiful, offering a blend of genres—from music to memoir—that keeps readers engaged as they read Du Bois’ astute analyses of the past and his suggestive projections about the future.

As an English professor, I love introducing my students to this classic text, which inevitably evokes empathy from them and, in some, elicits a desire for activism. This is a text that moves people. 

By W. E. B. Du Bois,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches is a 1903 work of American literature by W. E. B. Du Bois. It is a seminal work in the history of sociology and a cornerstone of African-American literature.


The book contains several essays on race, some of which had been published earlier in The Atlantic Monthly. To develop this work, Du Bois drew from his own experiences as an African American in American society. Outside of its notable relevance in African-American history, The Souls of Black Folk also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works…


Book cover of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Benjamin Reiss Author Of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America

From my list on making you rethink 19th-century America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by historical figures who were deemed marginal, outcast, or eccentric and also by experiences (like sleep or madness) that usually fall beneath historical scrutiny. I am drawn to nineteenth-century literature and history because I find such a rich store of strange and poignant optimism and cultural experimentation dwelling alongside suffering, terror, and despair. As a writer, I feel a sense of responsibility when a great story falls into my hands. I try to be as respectful as I can to the life behind it, while seeking how it fits into a larger historical pattern. I am always on the lookout for books that do the same!   

Benjamin's book list on making you rethink 19th-century America

Benjamin Reiss Why did Benjamin love this book?

Marshall is my favorite working biographer, and this book had me hooked from page 1.

Fuller’s life almost demands Hollywood treatment. This early feminist thinker was a great friend, intellectual sparring partner, and collaborator of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the first editor to publish Henry David Thoreau.

Less well known is her second career as a pioneering newspaper reporter, who eventually became the first female foreign correspondent in US history. Her dispatches on the cultural scene in Europe and then her eyewitness accounts of the revolutions of 1848 were riveting. Traveling with her Italian aristocrat-turned-revolutionary lover and their young child, she returned to the US with a draft of a history of the Roman republic.

But the ship sank off Fire Island; Fuller, her lover, their child, and the manuscript were lost. But thanks to Marshall, we at least have her story!

By Megan Marshall,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The award-winning author of The Peabody Sisters takes a fresh look at the trailblazing life of a great American heroine. Whether detailing her front-page New-York Tribune editorials against poor conditions in the city's prisons and mental hospitals, or illuminating her late-in-life hunger for passionate experience - including a secret affair with a young officer in the Roman Guard - Marshall's biography gives the most thorough and compassionate view of an extraordinary woman. No biography of Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.


Book cover of A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir

Kim Heacox Author Of John Muir and the Ice That Started a Fire: How a Visionary and the Glaciers of Alaska Changed America

From my list on John Muir.

Why am I passionate about this?

Kim Heacox has written 15 books, five of them published by National Geographic. He has twice won the National Outdoor Book Award (for his memoir, The Only Kayak, and his novel, Jimmy Bluefeather), and twice won the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in travel journalism. He’s featured on Ken Burns’ film, The National Parks, America's Best Idea, and he’s spoken about John Muir on Public Radio International’s Living on Earth. He lives in Gustavus, Alaska (next to Glacier Bay Nat’l Park), a small town of 500 people reachable only by boat or plane.

Kim's book list on John Muir

Kim Heacox Why did Kim love this book?

This is a complete biography of Muir that according to the Journal of American History “Supplants all earlier Muir biographies and will undoubtedly stand the test of time for its sophisticated interpretations and impressive narrative power.” The journal added that it’s also “a pleasure to read.” Worster knows his stuff. He’s Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas.

By Donald Worster,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Donald Worster's A Passion for Nature is the most complete account of the great conservationist and founder of the Sierra Club ever written. It is the first to be based on Muir's full private correspondence and to meet modern scholarly standards, yet it is also full of rich detail and personal anecdote, uncovering the complex inner life behind the legend of the solitary mountain man. It traces Muir from his boyhood in Scotland and frontier Wisconsin to his
adult life in California right after the Civil War up to his death on the eve of World War I. It explores…


Book cover of The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America

Carroll Pursell Author Of The Machine in America: A Social History of Technology

From my list on technology interacting with American society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been teaching and writing in the field of the history of technology for over six decades, and it's not too much to say that the field and my professional career grew up together. The Society for the History of Technology began in 1958, and its journal, Technology and Culture, first appeared the following year. I've watched, and helped encourage, a broadening of the subject from a rather internal concentration on machines and engineering to a widening interest in technology as a social activity with cultural and political, as well as economic, outcomes. In my classes I always assigned not only original documents and scholarly monographs but also memoirs, literature, and films.

Carroll's book list on technology interacting with American society

Carroll Pursell Why did Carroll love this book?

My admiration for this book is demonstrated by the way in which I quite shamelessly ripped off its title for my own. It has been said that America is the only nation that began perfect and hoped to improve. The engine of that improvement, from the earliest days of the Republic, had been new technologies but by the middle of the pre-Civil War period some Americans began to realize that the “improvement” they had unleashed was beginning to erode the very “perfection” that they had hoped to enshrine in the nation’s foundation. Writers, artists, and creative intellectuals in general are society’s canaries in the mine shaft, and the great names of the American Renaissance—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Washington Irving, Herman Melville, George Innes, Charles Sheeler, and their colleagues—attempted to describe, understand, and perhaps heal the destructive effects of the machine. As Marx concludes, “what was a grim possibility…

By Leo Marx,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For over four decades, Leo Marx's work has focused on the relationship between technology and culture in 19th- and 20th-century America. His research helped to define-and continues to give depth to-the area of American studies concerned with the links between scientific and technological advances, and the way society and culture both determine these links. The Machine in the Garden fully examines the difference between the "pastoral" and "progressive"
ideals which characterized early 19th-century American culture, and which ultimately evolved into the basis for much of the environmental and nuclear debates of contemporary society.

This new edition is appearing in celebration…