The best books on The History of Science and Religion, recommended by Peter Harrison

Have science and religion been fundamentally at war throughout history? Are they incompatible? Has religion always held back scientific progress? These views may seem intuitive but few historians would defend them. Professor Peter Harrison looks at the complexity of science-religion interactions, including the cases of Galileo and Darwin, and considers how we frame the debate.

The best books on Science and Islam, recommended by Amira Bennison

Islamic scientific discoveries underpinned much of the European Renaissance and the Islamic world inspired Europe as much as Greece and Rome did, says Cambridge professor Amira Bennison. She recommends the best books to get a better understanding of the Islamic contribution to modern science.

The best books on The Saints, recommended by Simon Yarrow

Heroes are universal to human culture and, in Christian culture, they manifested themselves as saints. Historian Simon Yarrow recommends the best books to understand the saints, from their widespread appearance in late antiquity to their continuing influence in modern America.

The best books on The Bible, recommended by Nicholas King

The Bible is not always an easy read—nor is it always obvious how or where to start reading it. Here, Nicholas King, a Jesuit priest and biblical scholar, chooses five books to help you start getting to grips with what is, arguably, the world’s all-time bestselling book.

The best books on The Inquisition, recommended by Toby Green

The Papal, Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions left records that are goldmines for historians. However, as Professor Toby Green explains, getting caught up in one of their investigations was no fun at all. Here he chooses five books to help you understand why the Inquisitions were created, what they were trying to achieve and why they lasted so long.

The best books on Jerusalem, recommended by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Jerusalem is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a place of longing for three faiths—and yet we know it mostly as a place of strife and conflict. British historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Jerusalem: the Biography, recommends books that capture the historical ups and downs of this ever-changing city, but also its vitality, including its irresistible cuisine.

The best books on The Reformation, recommended by Peter Marshall

On October 31st 1517, Martin Luther, an unknown friar in an obscure town in eastern Germany may or may not have posted a list of complaints to the door of his local church. His actions would lead to what was later called ‘the Reformation’ — a grisly period in European history that nonetheless paved the way for a more tolerant and pluralistic society. Peter Marshall, one of the period’s leading scholars, talks us through the best books on the Reformation.

The Best Thomas Cromwell Books, recommended by Benedict King

The Mirror and the Light—the final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s epic trilogy covering the life of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s chief minister and architect of the English Reformation—was published to great acclaim this month. Here, Five Books contributing editor Benedict King chooses five of the best books to help you get to grips with the real Thomas Cromwell and the political and religious environment in which he operated. You can watch Benedict talking about his Thomas Cromwell book choices here.

The best books on Adam and Eve, recommended by Stephen Greenblatt

Who were Adam and Eve, really? Over many centuries, the origin story has undergone countless transformations. The Pulitzer Prize-winner and Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt chooses five books that explore the history of Adam and Eve, and tells us why the world isn’t ready to leave the narrative of Eden behind

The best books on Christmas, recommended by Bruce Forbes

Did you know that Santa Claus was a 4th century bishop in what is now Turkey? That Puritans tried to outlaw Christmas? Or Tiny Tim was originally Little Fred? Religious scholar Bruce Forbes recommends books that shed light on Christmas’s pagan past and consumerist present.