The most recommended books about the Age of Enlightenment

Who picked these books? Meet our 137 experts.

137 authors created a book list connected to the Age of Enlightenment, and here are their favorite Age of Enlightenment books.
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What type of Age of Enlightenment book?


Crystal Blade

By Nicola M. Cameron,

Book cover of Crystal Blade

Gloria Oliver Author Of The Secret Humankind

From Gloria's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Wallflower Detail stickler Reader Unveiling the fantastic

Gloria's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Gloria love this book?

Reverse Harems are not typically a genre I read, but since I know the author well, I made the exception.

I thoroughly enjoyed book 1, especially since she came up with an actual reason reverse harems were necessary to the otherworld cultures involved. In book 2, we get to learn more about the paladins and Crystal. Her true birthright revealed, Crystal is going to fight for the throne—not for the power or prestige, but because she loves the paladins and wants to save them from their current fate.

Realistic world problems, realistic politics, and other problems abound that will take effort rather than sugar-coated easy fixes. A fantasy that works and has consequences. Loads of surprises, which just adds to the fun. 

By Nicola M. Cameron,

Why should I read it?

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

Bonaparte Falls Apart

By Margery Cuyler,

Book cover of Bonaparte Falls Apart

Brian Anderson Author Of Monster Chefs

From the list on children’s books with not so scary monsters.

Who am I?

I’m fascinated with monsters. Always have been. But in a weird way. I was never a scare seeker. I sought out the unique monsters, not the traditional werewolves and vampires. I related to the creatures who were more human than the humans. The ones that struggled to fit in, but if you took the time to get to know them, they were more interesting than anyone you had ever encountered before. And I think that’s a theme I use in my stories. Overcoming your fear of things that are strange or different can open wondrous new worlds.

Brian's book list on children’s books with not so scary monsters

Why did Brian love this book?

This one oozes adorableness. But it’s more than just cute. It’s a story about a young skeleton who is literally falling apart. Everyone, myself included, can relate to those awkward times. The best part is that his friends help him pull together. Of course, that means lots of silly hijinks, but you’ll get the feels from this story as you read it to your kids.

By Margery Cuyler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Carve out family time for this clever and humorous picture book about a skeleton who is falling to pieces that needs help pulling himself together.
Bonaparte is having a tough time. It’s hard for this young skeleton to just hang loose when he can’t keep hold of himself.
When he plays catch, his throwing arm literally takes a flyer. Eating lunch can be a real jaw-dropping occasion. How can he start school when he has so many screws loose?

Luckily, Bonaparte hit the bone-anza when it came to his friends. Franky Stein, Blacky Widow, and Mummicula all have some bonehead…

Renewing the Covenant

By Eugene B. Borowitz,

Book cover of Renewing the Covenant: A Theology for the Postmodern Jew

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of The Sisters Z

From the list on introducing Jewish ideas to others.

Who am I?

I am a rabbi, educator, scholar and author who has led congregations, organizations and taught in rabbinical seminaries. As a result, I have always straddled the world of the practitioner and the academician. These books have informed my personal religious practice and outlook, as well as my academic approach to Judaism.

Kerry's book list on introducing Jewish ideas to others

Why did Kerry love this book?

Eugene Borowitz was the leading liberal Jewish theologian of the 20th and early 21st century. Although this book may be challenging for those disinclined to read dense theology, it is presented in a more popular way and contains a theology that has informed the lives of many Jews, including myself. 

By Eugene B. Borowitz,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Borowitz creatively explores his theory of Covenant, linking self to folk and God through the contemporary idiom of relationship.

Book cover of Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories

Colin Wright Author Of Some Thoughts about Relationships

From Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Researcher Journalist Analyst World-traveler Science fiction enthusiast

Colin's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Colin love this book?

I read a lot of science fiction, and though space operas and traditional hard sci-fi romps can be fun, I love encountering truly new and original ideas that give me pause, make me feel uncomfortable, and/or force me to question my understandings and beliefs.

I personally found the short stories in this book uneven—some just weren’t for me, or weren’t as compelling as others—but the number of original and fascinating stories without obvious comparison or kin that it contains is remarkable, and I found myself changing my mind about (or seriously questioning) a few long-held opinions after reading and mulling them over.

Book cover of Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment

Tomek Jankowski Author Of Eastern Europe! Everything You Need to Know About the History (and More) of a Region that Shaped Our World and Still Does

From the list on understanding your Eastern European Grandma.

Who am I?

I was born into a family with an Eastern European heritage, and lived and studied in the region for some years – including during the period of the collapse of the communist regimes. I am comfortable in Polish and Hungarian, and more vaguely functional in Russian and German – with Bulgarian a distant last. My undergraduate degree in history included an Eastern European specialization (including a paper co-administered between American and Hungarian institutions), and my graduate degree in economics included a focus on emerging economies. In my “day job” as a business analyst, I deal frequently with the business landscape in the region. I am married to a Pole, and have family in Poland.    

Tomek's book list on understanding your Eastern European Grandma

Why did Tomek love this book?

Again, this may be a bit dense reading but Wolff tackles the very notion of “Eastern Europe.”

The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement that began in the mid-17th century and lasted until about 1800, and it focused on remaking politics. Enlightenment thinkers believed in change and progress, that Europeans were not doomed to suffer under the tyranny of feudal kings.

Wolff explores how these Enlightenment thinkers celebrated an Age of Progress in Western Europe – but were less impressed with the Eastern half. For thinkers like Voltaire, “Eastern Europe” came to mean backward, under-developed, superstitious, and violent Europe.

These thinkers began using this term, “Eastern Europe” in the 1770s to mean “the Other Europe,” like an embarrassing, unwanted sibling. Wolff describes how these attitudes shaped Western policies towards Eastern Europe. 

By Larry Wolff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a wide-ranging intellectual history of how, in the 18th century, Europe came to be conceived as divided into "Western Europe" and "Eastern Europe". The author argues that this conceptual reorientation from the previously accepted "Northern" and "Southern" was a work of cultural construction and intellectual artifice created by the philosophes of the Enlightenment. He shows how the philosophers viewed the continent from the perspective of Paris and deliberately cultivated an idea of the backwardness of "Eastern Europe" the more readily to affirm the importance of "Western Europe".

Measuring the World

By Daniel Kehlmann,

Book cover of Measuring the World

Elise Blackwell Author Of Hunger

From the list on that lie to tell the truth.

Who am I?

Three of my five novels have largely tragic historical settings—the siege of Leningrad, the Great Flood of 1927, and Hurricane Katrina—and I’ve always been fascinated and awed by how people survive the things they do. The origin of “May you live in interesting times” is disputed, but undoubtedly it's more curse than blessing. I’m also just fascinated by the way writers bring real people and events to life in new ways. As the daughter of scientists, I’m often drawn to works of fiction that feature scientists, real or invented. 

Elise's book list on that lie to tell the truth

Why did Elise love this book?

This book features a scientist traveling the world—but this one has a comic tone. It fictionalizes the true story of Alexander von Humboldt’s and Carl Freidrich Gauss’ competing efforts to measure the globe—one by exploring it and the other using mathematics from his home. One of the reasons I read, including fiction, is to learn. This book taught me a great deal about scientific passion in the post-Napoleonic world. It also inspired me with the liberties it took in characterizing two historical figures, with its ability to lie to tell the truth.

By Daniel Kehlmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Measuring the World recreates the parallel but contrasting lives of two geniuses of the German Enlightenment - the naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt and the mathematician and physicist Carl Friedrich Gauss. Towards the end of the 18th century, these two brilliant young Germans set out to measure the world.

Humboldt, a Prussian aristocrat schooled for greatness, negotiates savannah and jungle, climbs the highest mountain then known to man, counts head lice on the heads of the natives, and explores every hole in the ground.

Gauss, a man born in poverty who will be recognised as the greatest mathematician since…


By Simon Schama,

Book cover of Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

Stew Ross Author Of Where Did They Put the Guillotine?-Marie Antoinette's Last Ride: Volume 2 A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Paris

From the list on the French Revolution without losing your head.

Who am I?

I’m not a trained historian (I received my B.S. in geology and spent my career in commercial banking). However, I grew up in Europe during the 1960s and developed a passion for history. I learned to write as a banker back in the “good old” days. I enjoyed it so much that I told myself, “One day, I'm going to write a book.” Well, that day came in Nashville when I was running a small company. Then I found Leonard Pitt’s book called Walks Through Lost Paris. As we walked through the streets of Paris, I turned to my wife and said, “I can write a book like this.” And so I did.

Stew's book list on the French Revolution without losing your head

Why did Stew love this book?

Mr. Schama’s chronicle is considered the essential historical tome of the French Revolution. He presents the background and events leading to the revolution through its end when Robespierre was executed. The author leaves no stone unturned and many of the people, events, and outcomes have chilling similarities to our contemporary world more than 230-years later.

I like how Mr. Schama sticks to the facts. The reader is allowed to digest the events and reach their own conclusions. I think the lessons from the French Revolution are very fluid and every generation can learn from them.

At one point during the 1970s, Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai was asked what he thought was the significance of the French Revolution. He answered, “It’s too soon to tell.” I’m not sure I agree.

By Simon Schama,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of the great landmarks of modern history publishing, Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution is the most authoritative social, cultural and narrative history of the French Revolution ever produced.

'Monumental ... provocative and stylish, Simon Schama's account of the first few years of the great Revolution in France, and of the decades that led up to it, is thoughtful, informed and profoundly revisionist'
Eugen Weber, The New York Times Book Review

'The most marvellous book I have read about the French Revolution'
Richard Cobb, The Times

'Dazzling - beyond praise - He has chronicled the vicissitudes…

The Mind Has No Sex?

By Londa Schiebinger,

Book cover of The Mind Has No Sex?: Women in the Origins of Modern Science

Gina Rippon Author Of Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds

From the list on women’s science superpowers.

Who am I?

I’m a myth-busting feminist neuroscientist waging a campaign against the rigid gender stereotypes that govern so much of our lives and set so many onto unfulfilling paths. Seeing how often the brain gets dragged into explanations for gender gaps, I put my neuroscience hat on to check back through science and through history to find the truth behind the idea that female brains were different (aka inferior) and that their owners were therefore incompetent and incapable. What a myth! Nowhere does this play out more clearly than in the history of women in science, as shown by the books on this list. 

Gina's book list on women’s science superpowers

Why did Gina love this book?

If you know anyone who still holds on to the belief that science can operate in a political vacuum, please thrust this book upon them! In 1673, a brave philosopher called Francois Poullain de la Barre publicly observed that he saw no reason why women could not be treated as the equals of men in all spheres of influence, including science. The Mind has no Sex, he declared! In this wonderfully readable book on the history of women in science, Londa Schiebinger shows us just how that belief played out. Track the jaw-dropping arrogance of science’s male gatekeepers as they systematically used every trick in their power to exclude women, weaponising their biology against them (Blame the Brain!), demeaning and downgrading their annoyingly evident talents. This book will make you angry – and so it should!

By Londa Schiebinger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Mind Has No Sex? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As part of his attempt to secure a place for women in scientific culture, the Cartesian Francois Poullain de la Barre asserted as long ago as 1673 that "the mind has no sex." In this rich and comprehensive history of women's contributions to the development of early modern science, Londa Schiebinger examines the shifting fortunes of male and female equality in the sphere of the intellect. Schiebinger counters the "great women" mode of history and calls attention to broader developments in scientific culture that have been obscured by time and changing circumstance. She also elucidates a larger issue: how gender…

The Sensational Past

By Carolyn Purnell,

Book cover of The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses

Ai Hisano Author Of Visualizing Taste: How Business Changed the Look of What You Eat

From the list on a new understanding of your sensory experience.

Who am I?

I’m a historian of the senses. When I first traveled to the United States, I was fascinated and overwhelmed by the smell and sound of the streets entirely different from my hometown in Japan. Since then, every time I go abroad, I enjoy various sensory experiences in each country. The first thing I always notice is the smell of the airport which is different from country to country. We all have the senses, but we sense things differently—and these differences are cultural. I wondered if they are also historical. That was the beginning of my inquiry into how our sensory experience has been constructed and changed over time.

Ai's book list on a new understanding of your sensory experience

Why did Ai love this book?

The Enlightenment is often associated with intellectual changes. But the book sheds a new light on this “Age of Reason” by showing how emotions and feelings played a crucial role in this intellectually and sensorially dynamic period. Purnell tells this change by providing many interesting, and funny, episodes. My favorite, among others, is the seventeenth-century vogue for perfumes made of the excretions of the civet cat or the musk deer, and it was only in the mid-eighteenth century that floral scents became popular. This shift had to do with people’s ideas about health, cleanliness, and naturalness that changed over time. You will learn how and why people in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought about the senses, how they experience their sensory world, and how our sensory experience came about over the course of a few hundred years.

By Carolyn Purnell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Blindfolding children from birth. Playing a piano made of live cats. Using tobacco to cure drowning. Wearing "flea"-coloured clothes. These actions seem odd to us but in the eighteenth century they made sense.

As Carolyn Purnell persuasively shows, while our bodies may not change dramatically, the way we think about the senses and put them to use has been rather different over the ages. Journeying through the past three hundred years, Purnell explores how people used their senses in ways that might shock now. Using culinary history, fashion, medicine, music and many other aspects of Enlightenment life, she demonstrates that,…

A Culture of Growth

By Joel Mokyr,

Book cover of A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

Alex Mesoudi Author Of Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences

From the list on cultural evolution.

Who am I?

I am Professor of Cultural Evolution at the University of Exeter, UK. In my research I use lab experiments and theoretical models to understand how human culture evolves. Since my undergraduate psychology degree I have always been attracted to big ideas about how evolution has shaped human minds. Yet evolutionary psychology, with its stone age brains frozen in time, seemed unsatisfying. This led me to cultural evolution, with its grand idea that the same evolutionary process underlies both genetic and cultural change. Humans are not just products of countless generations of genetic evolution, but also of cultural evolution. This view of humanity is grander than any other I’ve come across.

Alex's book list on cultural evolution

Why did Alex love this book?

I’ve included this book to illustrate how the perspective of cultural evolution is spreading to disciplines and problems far beyond its origins in biology and anthropology. In this case the discipline is economic history and the problem is explaining why the Enlightenment, which paved the way for the rapid technological and economic transformations brought about by the subsequent Industrial Revolution, occurred when it did (1500-1700) and where it did (Western Europe). Mokyr’s answer draws on cultural evolutionary concepts to argue that a culturally transmitted mindset of innovation and progress, as well as the intense competition of ideas within a politically fragmented Europe, led to rapid scientific advances. Essential reading for anyone interested in the origins of the modern world.

By Joel Mokyr,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why Enlightenment culture sparked the Industrial Revolution

During the late eighteenth century, innovations in Europe triggered the Industrial Revolution and the sustained economic progress that spread across the globe. While much has been made of the details of the Industrial Revolution, what remains a mystery is why it took place at all. Why did this revolution begin in the West and not elsewhere, and why did it continue, leading to today's unprecedented prosperity? In this groundbreaking book, celebrated economic historian Joel Mokyr argues that a culture of growth specific to early modern Europe and the European Enlightenment laid the foundations…