16 books directly related to the Reformation 📚

All 16 Reformation books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Book cover of Providence in Early Modern England

Providence in Early Modern England

By Alexandra Walsham,

Why this book?

In the world of the Reformation, nothing happened by chance. Providentialism was the belief that every event in the human and natural world was a result of the direct will of God, and was infused with meanings for people to interpret. With great sensitivity and insight, Walsham draws us into these unfamiliar ways of thinking, where everything from a bout of bad weather to the unmasking of a political plot could be a message from God demanding an urgent collective response.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village

By Eamon Duffy,

Why this book?

Eamon Duffy’s justly acclaimed ‘microhistory’ transports us away from the world of bishops, parliament and the court in order to track, across four crucial decades, the experiences of a tiny village on the edge of Exmoor in Devon, based on meticulous recordings in the ‘church book’ by the long-serving parish priest. It is a story in miniature of the tragically destructive aspects of the Reformation, but also an uplifting one in its depiction of the capacity of ordinary people to survive and adapt.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590

Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525–1590

By Karl Gunther,

Why this book?

This incisive account of the development of Protestant extremism reveals that the beliefs of the Pilgrims were not novel. Dr Gunther traces their development back to the early years of the Reformation. When the religion of images and priests was replaced by the religion of words and preachers the implications for the English church could only be extensive and devastating. When the Bible was translated into the vernacular and increasing numbers of Christians read it for themselves it is clear (though only in hindsight) that the centre could not hold. People were driven by conscience to oppose, not only their…

From the list:

The best books on the background of the Pilgrim fathers

Book cover of The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations

By Henry A. Jefferies,

Why this book?

Since the later sixteenth century, historians have been trying to explain why the Irish refused to follow their political leaders into the newly established protestant church. Jefferies’s book highlights the scale of the problem – showing that by the turn of the seventeenth century, seventy years after the beginnings of protestant reform, the number of native Irish converts amounted to little more than one hundred. Pushing against the triumphalism that marked an older way of writing the history of the reformation, Jefferies demonstrates the popularity of the late medieval church and argues that historians should reframe their research questions.

It…

From the list:

The best books on the history of Christianity in Ireland

Book cover of Q

Q

By Luther Blissett,

Why this book?

Q takes place in strife-ridden 1500s central Europe. At the center is an Anabaptist revolutionary, of many names, hunted by a Papal spy, Q. Identities mutate in Q. Thus, Q is an espionage novel, with disguises, code, counterfeiting. Commoners build egalitarian communities in Q. But rulers cannot tolerate egalitarianism. It might be catching. Thus, Q is also a war novel, with battles, skirmishes, narrow escapes. 

Is Q an allegory for modern revolution? The take-away seems to be, “Use the new technology and dissimulate.” A seems self-evident. But B? Would I even know, if they’re dissimulating? An idea-filled, engrossing,…

From the list:

The best fiction books set in the 16th century

Book cover of The Sword Bearer: John Knox and the European Reformation

The Sword Bearer: John Knox and the European Reformation

By Stewart Lamont,

Why this book?

My upbringing taught me to believe that John Knox was the Antichrist but that only piqued my curiosity to know more about the Thundering Scot. What fired his driving ambition? Why did the ordained priest reject the Roman Catholic Church? How did he become leader of the Scottish Reformation? Was the twice married preacher who wrote The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women really such a rampant misogynist? How did his public persona differ from the private family man? Rev Lamont answers these questions and more in an exciting non-fiction account that reads more like…
From the list:

The best books on Mary, Queen of Scots and her people

Book cover of The Socialist Phenomenon

The Socialist Phenomenon

By Igor Shafarevich,

Why this book?

A Soviet dissident scientist and prominent conservative ideologist of Russian nationalism, Shafarevich (1923-2017) traces the roots of modern socialism to statist and collectivist experiments in ancient Egypt, China, and Inca civilizations. He also explores the aggressive egalitarianism of modern socialism’s predecessors among European eschatological movements in medieval and early modern Europe (e.g., Lollards in England, Taborites in Bohemia, Peasants’ War during the Protestant Reformation in Germany, and the Jesuit state in Paraguay). Among other things, the author examines in detail the early 1920s Bolshevik activities in Russia, Maoist assaults on traditional society in China, and the rise of the Western…

From the list:

The best books about the history of socialism

Book cover of King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther: The Reformation Before Confessionalization

King Sigismund of Poland and Martin Luther: The Reformation Before Confessionalization

By Natalia Nowakowska,

Why this book?

Poles have long prided themselves on having been tolerant of religious differences, this toleration dating from the deep historical past. In this pathbreaking and provocative work, Natalia Nowakowska challenges such interpretations of King Sigismund’s relationship to Protestants and Protestantism. Exquisitely argued, the book is an absolute tour de force, one that sheds new light on the period of the early Reformation.
From the list:

The best books that capture the complexity of Poland and Polish history

Book cover of Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing

By Rochelle Melander, Melina Ontiveros (illustrator),

Why this book?

This book will not only teach you history about different people from diverse backgrounds, it will give you tips on how to write so that you can start changing the world with your own words. This book is a great bedtime book so that your children can learn about some of history's great writers.
From the list:

The best debut children's books of 2021

Book cover of The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

By Patrick Collinson,

Why this book?

Thirty years after its first publication, Patrick Collinson’s elegantly written account of how Protestantism transformed English society remains fresh, challenging and surprising. Focusing on art and culture, urban life, the family and ideas of nationhood, it persuasively argued that it makes more sense to see the Reformation as a drawn-out process rather than a dramatic ‘event’, and as one that was coming to fruition only in the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. It is also a triumphant demonstration of how short books can punch above their weight.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of John Knox

John Knox

By Jane Dawson,

Why this book?

So it is not a novel, but might as well be for its twists, turns, and transformations. Edinburgh in 1572 was a small town of some 3,000 families, so my real-life narrator William Fowler would know and meet one of its most notable citizens, Preacher John Knox of Haddington, along with his young and socially aristocratic second wife (the latter attribute was more a matter of gossip and criticism than the thirty-seven years age gap), and witnessed him being helped up into the pulpit at St Giles to give his congregation a last good talking to. This is the most…

From the list:

The best books for the walking the wild side of the Scotland-England borderlands

Book cover of The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England

The Social Universe of the English Bible: Scripture, Society, and Culture in Early Modern England

By Naomi Tadmor,

Why this book?

At the heart of the Reformation in England was an insistence that people be allowed access to Scripture in their own language, but translation was invariably a selective and creative process. Tadmor brilliantly shows how the translators of the Hebrew Bible (‘Old Testament’) remade the ancient world in the image of contemporary Tudor society, editing out many references to slavery and polygamous marriage, and merging together distinct forms of political governance through consistent reference to the authority of a ‘prince’. The findings are eye-opening, and the book should be required reading for modern biblical fundamentalists.

From the list:

The best books on the English Reformation

Book cover of Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England

Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England

By Keith Thomas,

Why this book?

An unlikely complement to Huizinga tracing the overlap between magical beliefs in religion as well as astrology and the emerging accusations of witchcraft. Deeply immersed in research about 16th-17th century England, this book offers a form of historical anthropology for baseline views of the strange ideas that drove spiritual life.

From the list:

The best books about values in European historical periods

Book cover of Luther and Liberation: A Latin American Perspective

Luther and Liberation: A Latin American Perspective

By Walter Altmann, Thia Cooper (translator),

Why this book?

Because the Reformation took place in 16th century Germany, it’s common to wonder how ideas that were popular 500 years ago in Central Europe might have anything to say to today’s global realities. In this book, Brazilian Lutheran professor Walter Altmann explores the ways that Martin Luther’s teachings resonate with the contemporary concerns of Latin American theologies of liberation. Altmann’s approach sets a great model for how people today can apply the spiritual riches of the past to the practical needs of the present.

From the list:

The best books on Lutherans and social change

Book cover of Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift-Bringers

Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift-Bringers

By Tom A. Jerman,

Why this book?

If you’re into investigating the origins and mythos of Santa from other cultures, this is the book to find. It is a well-researched look at the international history of the legend from the pagan god Odin to the present day Father Christmas, Weihnachmann, Père Noël, Ded Moroz, and Santa Claus. While not for young children it is a great and thorough historical study of the evolution of the various legends through time. A must for history buffs with great illustrations and documentation.
From the list:

The best books about Santa Claus and his history

Book cover of From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

From Dawn to Decadence: 1500 to the Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life

By Jacques Barzun,

Why this book?

This is the big one. 912 pages, from the Protestant Reformation to the end of the 20th Century. Barzun, a French-American historian who died in 2012 just short of his 105th birthday, actually lived for about 20% of the era covered. He finished this magnum opus when he was 93, better positioned than most to lend some perspective (and as the title indicates, not optimistic). Still, with so much ground to cover, it’s amazing how much time he gives to obscure yet pivotal personalities and events—hence all those pages, cross-referenced, linking forward and back, following threads within the weave. This…
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The best books to make a history buff into a history expert