The most recommended books about personal values in ethics

Who picked these books? Meet our 28 experts.

28 authors created a book list connected to personal values, and here are their favorite personal values books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of personal values book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism

Adam Kotsko Author Of Neoliberalism's Demons: On the Political Theology of Late Capital

From my list on understanding neoliberalism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up outside of Flint, Michigan, which during my lifetime went from being a pretty nice place to live to being a perpetual basket case that still doesn’t have clean water. I’ve always been very concerned with the question of what went wrong, and very early in my graduate education, it became clear to me that the neoliberal agenda that started under Reagan has been at the root of the economic rot and destruction that has afflicted Flint and so many other places. That personal connection, combined with my background in theology, makes me well-suited to talk about how political belief systems “hook” us, even when they hurt us.

Adam's book list on understanding neoliberalism

Adam Kotsko Why did Adam love this book?

Most commentators see neoliberalism as primarily an economic project that tries to overcome old cultural prejudices and divisions. Cooper shows us that beneath this cosmopolitan façade, neoliberalism has always been about reinforcing traditional hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality. Through a painstaking review of the actual roll-out of neoliberal policy from Reagan to Obama, she shows that racism, sexism, homophobia, and nationalism are not outdated “leftovers” from a previous era but an essential part of the neoliberal order.

By Melinda Cooper,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An investigation of the roots of the alliance between free-market neoliberals and social conservatives.

Why was the discourse of family values so pivotal to the conservative and free-market revolution of the 1980s and why has it continued to exert such a profound influence on American political life? Why have free-market neoliberals so often made common cause with social conservatives on the question of family, despite their differences on all other issues? In this book, Melinda Cooper challenges the idea that neoliberalism privileges atomized individualism over familial solidarities, and contractual freedom over inherited status. Delving into the history of the American…


Book cover of The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking

Richard Fisher Author Of The Long View: Why We Need to Transform How the World Sees Time

From my list on to take a longer view of time.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by humanity’s place within deeper time. As a boy, I collected rocks and fossils, and at university studied geology. The long term has also been a theme running throughout my journalism career at New Scientist and the BBC, and it inspired my research during a recent fellowship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. I believe we need to embrace a deeper view of time if we are to navigate through this century’s grand challenges – and if we can, there’s hope, agency, and possibility to be discovered along the way. 

Richard's book list on to take a longer view of time

Richard Fisher Why did Richard love this book?

The concept of the ‘good ancestor,’ originally coined by physician Jonas Salk, is the focus of Roman Krznaric’s excellent book about our relationship with future generations.

I’ve known Roman for a few years now: he spoke about long-term time on a panel I organised at the Hay Festival a few years ago, and he makes an appearance in my own book on a trip we both made to the House of Lords to watch a debate about future generation policy.

He is a crystal clear thinker and communicator, and I’ve learnt a lot from him. One of the most interesting (of many) ideas in his book is the idea that we are “colonising” the future: treating it as some distant no-man’s land where we can dump environmental degradation, malignant heirlooms, carbon emissions, and so on.

Of course, the future belongs to the people living there: our grandchildren. Roman makes a…

By Roman Krznaric,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'This is the book our children's children will thank us for reading' - The Edge, U2

How can we be good ancestors?

From the first seeds sown thousands of years ago, to the construction of the cities we still inhabit, to the scientific discoveries that have ensured our survival, we are the inheritors of countless gifts from the past. Today, in an age driven by the tyranny of the now, with 24/7 news, the latest tweet, and the buy-now button commanding our attention, we rarely stop to consider how our actions will affect future generations. With such frenetic short-termism at…


Book cover of Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason

Chrisoula Andreou Author Of Choosing Well: The Good, the Bad, and the Trivial

From my list on essay collections wth themes being tempted or torn.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been drawn to philosophical inquiry for as long as I can remember (even before knowing philosophy was a thing, which I didn’t realize until after high school). My most enduring interest is in inquiry concerning rationality and irrationality. My early studies focused on the relationship between morality and rationality. My current research focuses on choice situations and preference structures that can interfere with choosing well by prompting self-defeating patterns of choice. The relevant patterns are associated with being tempted or torn and include cases of individual and collective procrastination. Though not a cure-all, understanding rationality’s guidance can, I think, highlight certain pitfalls in life and help us avoid them.  

Chrisoula's book list on essay collections wth themes being tempted or torn

Chrisoula Andreou Why did Chrisoula love this book?

This collection revolves around the for-some-liberating-and-for-others-distressing idea that, given the plurality of things that matter in life, the options one faces might sometimes not be rankable in relation to one another as either one better than the other or as equally good; instead, they might be incomparable or else on a par.

While some think this idea requires qualification or is mistaken, others accept it and ask if or when it raises a serious challenge for choosing well. In a world rich with diverse possibilities that one can find oneself torn between, it’s natural to wonder whether rational choice between options that cannot be ranked in relation to one another is possible and, if so, how such choice proceeds.

This collection provides an influential starting point for such inquiry.  

By Ruth Chang (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Can quite different values be rationally weighed against one another? Can the value of one thing always be ranked as greater than, equal to, or less than the value of something else? If the answer to these questions is no, then in what areas do we find commensurability and comparability unavailable? And what are the implications for moral and legal decision making? In this book, some of the sharpest minds in philosophy struggle with these questions.


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…


Book cover of Finish Strong: Putting Your Priorities First at Life's End

Haider Warraich Author Of Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life

From my list on death, medicine, and end of life care.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a physician, I have been in innumerable situations where people and their loved ones were facing off a serious illness but felt like they were completely lost. The reality of the end of life is nothing like how we have experienced it throughout our history. I have written about end-of-life care for the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic amongst others, but felt that this was such an important and vast issue that it deserved a deeper dive. My research also focuses on end-of-life care and I was able to weave a story presented through stories, historical texts, and research papers in a way that readers will feel like they have a map of just how life and death have evolved with scientific advances and a changing society. It doesn’t hurt that I trained at Harvard Medical School and Duke University, providing me the best environments to shape my views and perspective.

Haider's book list on death, medicine, and end of life care

Haider Warraich Why did Haider love this book?

Barbara Coombs Lee is a nurse, lawyer, and leader of the movement to promote assisted death in the United States and around the world for people with terminal illnesses. Lee is a patient advocate at heart, a position she embodied given her work as a nurse. In this book, she provides a humane, eye witness view of what she saw as a nurse that inspired her to spark a movement that strives to give patients control over their bodies and medical decisions.

By Barbara Coombs Lee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the President Emerita/Senior of Compassion & Choices, THE guide to achieving the positive end-of-life experience you want and deserve.It’s hard to talk about death in America. But even though the topic has been taboo, life’s end is an eventual reality. So why not shape it to our values? FINISH STRONG is for those of us who want an end-of-life experience to match the life we’ve enjoyed. We know we should prepare, but are unsure how to think and talk about it, how to live true to our values and priorities, and how to make our wishes stick.The usual advice…


Book cover of The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don't Need

Sam Pizzigati Author Of The Case for a Maximum Wage

From my list on why we need a world without billionaires.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in the 1950s next door to Long Island’s iconic Levittown. All my aunts and uncles lived in similar modest suburbs, and I assumed everyone else did, too. Maybe that explains why America’s sharp economic U-turn in the 1970s so rubbed me the wrong way. We had become, in the mid-20th century, the first major nation where most people—after paying their monthly bills—had money left over. Today we rate as the world’s most unequal major nation. Our richest 0.1 percent hold as much wealth as our bottom 90 percent. I’ve been working with the Institute for Public Studies, as co-editor of Inequality.org, to change all that.

Sam's book list on why we need a world without billionaires

Sam Pizzigati Why did Sam love this book?

Our nation’s most insightful—and readable—sociologist? Boston College’s Juliet Schorr has my vote.

Over the past quarter-century, Schor has probably done more than anyone else in the world to bring grand conceptual constructs like income distribution down to the nitty-gritty of daily life.

Her 1999  best-seller, The Overspent American, strikingly exposes how inequality unleashes a “competitive consumption” dynamic that has us consuming ever more and enjoying life ever less. And that dynamic poses more dangers today than ever before.

As Schor put it in an interview with her I did some years back, we have “no chance” at achieving ecological sustainability “with the kind of extreme income distribution” that we have today. 

By Juliet B. Schor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An in-depth look at the corruption of the American Dream, the follow-up to the the Overworked American examines the consumer lives of Americans and the pitfalls of keeping up with the Joneses. Schor explains how and why the purchases of others in our social and professional communities can put pressure on us to spend more than we can afford to, how television viewing can undermine our ability to save, and why even households with good incomes have taken on so much debt for so many products they dont need and often dont even want.


Book cover of Zero

Jennifer Frank Author Of The Worm Family Has Its Picture Taken

From my list on building self-esteem and self-love.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a mom of three girls, I taught my daughters to celebrate the differences in themselves and others. My older two girls were diagnosed with Celiac Disease prior to the trend of gluten-free foods being widely available. They had to bring their own food to birthday parties and food-based school events, and it was harder to be spontaneous and stay at a friends’ house for dinner or sleepover. Needless to say - they felt different. One of the things that helped them begin to appreciate their difference, was reading picture books that demonstrated that it is differences that make people special and keep life interesting. I am hopeful that my story will do the same for the kids who read it.

Jennifer's book list on building self-esteem and self-love

Jennifer Frank Why did Jennifer love this book?

This is a fabulous book about self-love and self-acceptance. Zero does not think she counts like all the other numbers. She sees herself as empty inside. Over the course of the book, we watch zero’s self-discovery and self-acceptance. It is beautifully written and an important book about not trying to change yourself in order to fit in. I wish I had this book when I was a kid.

By Kathryn Otoshi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Zero is a big round number. When she looks at herself, she just sees a hole right in her center. Every day she watches the other numbers line up to count: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 ...!" "Those numbers have value. That's why they count," she thinks. But how could a number worth nothing become something? Zero feels empty inside. She watches One having fun with the other numbers. One has bold strokes and squared corners. Zero is big and round with no corners at all. "If I were like One, then I can count too," she thinks.…


Book cover of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

Anne Bahr Thompson Author Of Do Good: Embracing Brand Citizenship to Fuel Both Purpose and Profit

From my list on shifting the role business plays in society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I pivoted into brand consulting after working in banking, because I saw a need to align organizational behaviors and actions with purpose and values. So naturally, as a strategist my work has always informally included an element of coaching brands and people to have the courage and confidence to be their best, true selves. To have a broader societal vision and positive social impact. Since the Me-to-We continuum of Brand Citizenship emerged unsolicited in research, I also have been on a larger mission to help business balance how it earns a profit with how it serves individual people, betters society, and regenerates the planet.

Anne's book list on shifting the role business plays in society

Anne Bahr Thompson Why did Anne love this book?

At a time when businesses are targeting net zero carbon emissions, Net Positive is a rallying cry for leaders to embrace a wider definition of sustainability.

As Paul Polman, former CEO of Unilever, who I’ve had the privilege of interviewing, and Andrew Winston explain net positive companies improve the lives of everyone they touch, increasing long-term shareholder returns in the process; take ownership of social and environmental impacts their business models create, viewing these as opportunities to innovate; and partner with competitors, civil society and governments to drive transformative change. 

Although some concepts presented in this book were not new to me, the authors’ examples add meaningful perspective. Net Positive affirmed my belief in purpose-led organizations and the power of business to do more.

By Paul Polman, Andrew Winston,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year

Named one of 10 Best New Management Books for 2022 by Thinkers50

"An advocate of sustainable capitalism explains how it's done" - The Economist

"Polman's new book with the sustainable business expert Andrew Winston...argues that it's profitable to do business with the goal of making the world better." - The New York Times

Named as recommended reading by Fortune's CEO Daily

"...Polman has been one of the most significant chief executives of his era and that his approach to business and its role in society has been both valuable and path-breaking."…


Book cover of Culture's Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations Across Nations

Andrea Nelson Trice Author Of Strong Together: Building Partnerships Across Cultures in an Age of Distrust

From my list on people who want to change the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a faculty member and program evaluator, I’ve spent over two decades exploring questions around cross-cultural dynamics, empowerment, and human flourishing. I care deeply about vulnerable people and the misuse of power, and I find joy in conducting research that can improve people’s lives. I recognize that my early work as a counselor brings a unique perspective to my work, as does my childhood, which was partially spent in the Peruvian rainforest. 

Andrea's book list on people who want to change the world

Andrea Nelson Trice Why did Andrea love this book?

If you want to understand the importance of cultural differences across countries and within our own communities, this is a phenomenal book!

I appreciate the tables and charts throughout the book that give me quick access to concrete ways in which people differ culturally. These differences affect our work environments, male/female relationships, and even our life goals, but we are too often oblivious because we don’t know to look for them. 

I’ve used this book for years, and I’m a strong believer that we can’t contribute to positive change around the world unless we understand more about the many ways that we all differ culturally. 

By Geert Hofstede,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"An important, sophisticated and complex monograph . . . Both the theoretical analysis and the empirical findings constitute major contributions to cross-cultural value analysis and the cross-cultural study of work motivations and organizational dynamics. This book is also a valuable resource for anyone interested in a historical or anthropological approach to cross-cultural comparisons."
--PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY

--PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY

The Second Edition of this classic work, first published in 1981 and an international best seller, explores the differences in thinking and social action that exist among members of more than 50 modern nations. Geert Hofstede argues that people carry "mental programs" which…


Book cover of The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth

Xolani Kacela Author Of Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks

From my list on a deep understanding of human nature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have a passion for helping people realize they are only limited by their imagination. By dreaming wildly and acting on one’s dreams, a person can achieve highly unlikely outcomes. People are born to be free and pursue the things in life that make them happy and fulfilled. However, people need education, training, and mentoring. I am driven to do each of these to help others live fulfilling and purposeful lives. My expertise arises from my formal training and applied life lessons acquired from modeling highly-gifted teachers and friends.

Xolani's book list on a deep understanding of human nature

Xolani Kacela Why did Xolani love this book?

This book was foundational to me finding a workable definition of love and the key to finding happiness and peace in life.

It contains abiding truths that steer the reader into a life of honesty and right relationship with people. Most importantly, the book taught me the importance of paying attention and persevering through difficult patches. As a result, very few problems stop me from achieving what I set my mind to accomplish.

By M. Scott Peck,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Road Less Traveled as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now featuring a new introduction by Dr. M. Scott Peck, the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the classic bestseller The Road Less Traveled, celebrated by The Washington Post as “not just a book but a spontaneous act of generosity.”

Perhaps no book in this generation has had a more profound impact on our intellectual and spiritual lives than The Road Less Traveled. With sales of more than seven million copies in the United States and Canada, and translations into more than twenty-three languages, it has made publishing history, with more than ten years on the New York Times bestseller list.

Written…