Felipe Fernández-Armesto's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Felipe Fernández-Armesto recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Felipe Fernández-Armesto's favorite book recommendations of all time.

Dr Joseph Needham's account of the Chinese achievement in science & technology will stand as one of the great works of our time. It's been acclaimed by specialists in both East & West & also by readers with wider & more general interests. The text, based on research of a high critical quality, is supported by many hundreds of illustrations & is imbued with a warm appreciation of China. Volume 1 is an introductory volume, in which Needham prepares his readers for the study of a whole human culture. He begins by examining the structure of the Chinese language; he reviews the... more
Recommended by Felipe Fernández-Armesto, and 1 others.

Felipe Fernández-ArmestoI love this book. I have a personal, emotional investment in it because I read it in my teens and it was just such a revelation to have a book that was so broad in its scope and so sharp in its vision. And of course it’s written by a biochemist, not by a professional historian. It’s rather chastening to think of how someone coming from outside the discipline can bring that freshness of... (Source)

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Arnold Toynbee's A Study of History has been acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements of modern scholarship. A ten-volume analysis of the rise and fall of human civilizations, it is a work of breath-taking breadth and vision. D.C. Somervell's abridgement, in two volumes, of this magnificent enterprise, preserves the method, atmosphere, texture, and, in many instances, the very words of the original. Originally published in 1947 and 1957, these two volumes are themselves a great historical achievement.

Volume 1, which abridges the first six volumes of Toynbee's...
Recommended by Felipe Fernández-Armesto, and 1 others.

Felipe Fernández-ArmestoI have a slightly different take on Toynbee from the conventional one. For me, the reason I greatly admire him and love his work is that he realized that you can’t write any history without seeing it in its environmental framework. (Source)

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The Communist Manifesto

"A spectre is haunting Europe," Karl Marx and Frederic Engels wrote in 1848, "the spectre of Communism." This new edition of The Communist Manifesto, commemorating the 150th anniversary of its publication, includes an introduction by renowned historian Eric Hobsbawm which reminds us of the document's continued relevance. Marx and Engels's critique of capitalism and its deleterious effect on all aspects of life, from the increasing rift between the classes to the destruction of the nuclear family, has proven remarkably prescient. Their spectre, manifested in the Manifesto's vivid... more

Peter SingerYes, it is. I chose The Communist Manifesto, rather than, say, Capital because it shows in a much easier-to-read, shorter work something that is central to Marx’s vision. Capital is much drier, and a lot of it is focused on economics, although there are some remarkable passages of Capital describing the conditions of industrial workers in England at the time. (Source)

Felipe Fernández-ArmestoMarx and Engels’s historical analysis is breathtakingly, brilliantly simple. I think it’s wrong but, again, you’ve just got to admire its genius. Obviously, without understanding the historical basis of Marx’s thought you can’t understand anything else in Marxism. (Source)

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The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha

New Revised Standard Version

For over 50 years students, professors, clergy, and general readers have relied on The New Oxford Annotated Bible as an unparalleled authority in Study Bibles. This fifth edition of the Annotated remains the best way to study and understand the Bible at home or in the classroom. This thoroughly revised and substantially updated edition contains the best scholarship informed by recent discoveries and anchored in the solid Study Bible tradition.

- Introductions and extensive annotations for each book by acknowledged experts in the field provide context and guidance....

Timothy BealI teach biblical studies at a secular university and I use this version a lot. It’s the standard critical edition for academic study, but many people use it for personal reasons. It uses the New Revised Standard Version translation, which I think is among the best. (Source)

Roger ThurowFeed the hungry is a central command of all religions great and small. But the question is, if that’s the case, and it is, how have we come into the 21st century with one billion chronically hungry people? (Source)

Felipe Fernández-ArmestoChapters 7 to 12 of the Book of Daniel constitute, in my opinion, the first genuinely global history ever written. (Source)

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The Muqaddimah

An Introduction to History - Abridged Edition

"The Muqaddimah," often translated as "Introduction" or "Prolegomenon," is the most important Islamic history of the premodern world. Written by the great fourteenth-century Arab scholar Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), this monumental work established the foundations of several fields of knowledge, including the philosophy of history, sociology, ethnography, and economics. The first complete English translation, by the eminent Islamicist and interpreter of Arabic literature Franz Rosenthal, was published in three volumes in 1958 as part of the Bollingen Series and received immediate...

Mark ZuckerbergIt's a history of the world written by an intellectual who lived in the 1300s. It focuses on how society and culture flow, including the creation of cities, politics, commerce and science. While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it's still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it's all considered... (Source)

Robert IrwinHe spends about two and a half years writing the first draught of the Muqaddimah, which he will work on for the rest of his life. It’s one hell of a great work. It’s intended as a prolegomenon – an introduction to what he is going to write – and the complexity starts there, really, because he started out with one idea of what he was going to write about…. And then he broadens and broadens (Source)

Thomas BarfieldIbn Khaldun began writing the book in 1375 so it’s certainly the oldest on my list. It is also a unique work from that period in its attempt to analyse the context of history by understanding how societies organise themselves and how different modes of organisation can affect the interactions amongst people. (Source)

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