The 10 Best Humanities Textbooks

video play icon 10 Best Humanities Textbooks

This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in July of 2018. The humanities is a vast subject that encompasses those fields of study broadly concerned with our social condition, past and future, and the ways we understand what it means to be human. These textbooks will help you orient yourself in this extensive field, with choices for those who’d like a general overview as well as for those who are looking for something more discipline-specific. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. The Humanities: Culture, Continuity and Change

2. The Humanities Through the Arts

3. Discovering the Humanities

Editor's Notes

April 08, 2020:

The humanities is an extensive field that covers a broad range of subjects, like history, literature, language, and the arts, to name a few. We decided to focus on texts that combine many of these disciplines into one, for example, Discovering the Humanities, The Humanities: Culture, Continuity and Change, and Humanities Through the Arts.

We also curated more niche selections, including the history-oriented Lies My Teacher Told Me, writing-focused Handbook for the Humanities, The Norton Anthology of World Literature, and the questions-driven Cultural Anthropology. This diverse range of texts should help anyone get a thorough grounding in the field, but that doesn't mean that you couldn't also benefit from some supplemental reading material in anthropology and philosophy.

While The New Reader is still instructional and helpful for the subject, we feel it doesn't go far enough to merit a spot on our list any longer. We decided to remove it and add Culture and Values in its place. This choice is accessible, easy to read, comprehensive, and thoughtfully arranged, with extremely helpful pedagogical features like an "Ideas and Issues" box that looks at the unique problems of certain periods and "Big Picture" summaries that help readers orient what they've read to see how history shapes our world today.

Special Honors

Alison Humanities Courses If you're purchasing a textbook to broaden your knowledge at home, then consider supplementing it with an online humanities course from Alison. Their offerings cover a wide range of subjects, from the social sciences, psychology, and history to personal development, geography, and politics. They also offer guidance for students and people who are reentering the workforce, angling for promotions, and pondering a career change.

National Humanities Alliance The National Humanities Alliance, or NHA, is a nationwide, nonpartisan coalition of organizations who advocate for the humanities on campuses and in communities and government. It's supported by over 200 member organizations, including colleges, universities, libraries, museums, and cultural organizations. They provide illuminating blog posts, columns, newsletters, regular policy updates, conference calls with Washington policymakers, and more.

4. Arts and Culture

5. Culture and Values

6. Landmarks in Humanities

7. Cultural Anthropology

8. The Norton Anthology of World Literature

9. Handbook for the Humanities

10. Lies My Teacher Told Me

Gia Vescovi-Chiordi
Last updated by Gia Vescovi-Chiordi

Born in Arizona, Gia is a writer and autodidact who fled the heat of the desert for California, where she enjoys drinking beer, overanalyzing the minutiae of life, and channeling Rick Steves. After arriving in Los Angeles a decade ago, she quickly nabbed a copywriting job at a major clothing company and derived years of editing and proofreading experience from her tenure there, all while sharpening her skills further with myriad freelance projects. In her spare time, she teaches herself French and Italian, has earned an ESL teaching certificate, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and unashamedly devours television shows and books. The result of these pursuits is expertise in fashion, travel, beauty, literature, textbooks, and pop culture, in addition to whatever obsession consumes her next.

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