View Full Version : Recommend a Book
01-02-2007, 09:40 PM
I enjoy books that cover ancient history. I find most ancient civilizations quite interesting. Additionally, I want to find a book that isn't "dry". I'm looking for something that will hold my interest and not require me to slog through it. I can do that (slogging, I mean), but right now I'm in the mood for something that doesn't take all that much effort.
I am a fan of Roman history and find individuals such as Julius Caesar, Agustus, Pompey, and the first Augustus fascinating. Caesar really interests me.
I also enjoy any historical novels that cover the beginning of man up to about the 18th century.
So, what are your recommendations? I have a Border's gift card ready to be used. I've already used my other gift card to purchase The Rebels of Ireland, having read and enjoyed the first book in the series.
I eagerly await your recommendations, as I know many of you are avid readers.
01-03-2007, 12:04 AM
You'll love Colleen McCullogh's Masters of Rome series.
01-03-2007, 12:08 AM
I am fond of Creation by Gore Vidal. It follows the interesting travels of the fictional grandson of Zoroaster through Greece, the Persian court, and beyond.
01-03-2007, 08:41 AM
I really enjoyed The Scourge of God by William Deitrich. It's set in 449 - 551 AD and is mainly about Attila and the Hun invasion on the Roman Empire.
Fascinating stuff and it really brought the era and events to life for me...
I'm now pondering getting his Napoleon's Pyramids when it comes out soon in hardback...
01-03-2007, 08:46 AM
Try Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic by Tom Holland. This is history rather than historical fiction, but is by no means "dry". I'd heartily recommend it, and with a username like mine, you know I take books seriously!
01-03-2007, 09:32 AM
Thanks all for the suggestions.
Lissa, I've read the Masters of Rome series. They were a good read.
I will most definitely check out the other suggestions.
01-03-2007, 09:35 AM
I love the Marcus Didius Falco (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_gw/103-9849446-5576641?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lindsey+davis) by Linsey Davis. I don't think anything has ever given me a better feel for Rome as a working city.
01-03-2007, 10:02 AM
Until my (failing) memory allows me to name more, four historical novels I've particularly liked:
The Kingdom of the Wicked, by Anthony Burgess. The birth of Christianism in Ancient Rome. Vintage Burgess.
The Egyptian, by Mika Waltari. Fascinating book where the narrator is a physician living during the reign of Akhenaten, probably the first monotheistic ruler ever. Ancient Egypt viewed by a Finn? Why not?
Sarum, by Edward Rutherfurd. Southern England from 10,000 BCE to WWII. Sweeping.
Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar. The Roman emperor's (2nd century CE) real memoirs have been lost, and Yourcenar imagines what they might have said. A great philosophical reflexion.
01-03-2007, 11:50 AM
Sarum was a great book. I enjoyed it immensely. I think I read it three times. I've read other books by Edward Rutheford too.
Yet more good books to check out. Keep them coming folks. I really appreciate it.
01-05-2007, 08:06 AM
It's very recent, but try "The Historian" by Kostava. Basically it's a modern re-telling of Dracula. It's a thick book (600+ pages) but suprisingly it isn't boring.
And despite it's length, it's a quick read...
01-05-2007, 10:19 PM
I might add Neropolis, by Hubert Monteilhet. Rome under Nero. Pretty disquieting novel.
Also, for an interesting view of how a late-XIXth-century writer saw this same period, Quo Vadis?, by Henryk Sienkiewicz. A love story between a Roman patrician and a Christian young woman in a time of turmoil.
01-05-2007, 11:55 PM
"I, Claudius" by Robert Graves is great.
01-05-2007, 11:58 PM
And "The Clan of the Cave Bear" series by Jean Auel is a fun read, since you say the beginning of man, although that's technically pre-history.
01-06-2007, 01:48 AM
You might enjoy The Ptolemies, by Duncan Sprott; it's a fictionalized account of, IIRC, Ptolemy I at the very least as narrated by Thoth, Egyptian God of Wisdom. It held my interest, although it entirely lacked dialogue and was a bit odd stylistically. Plenty of murder, incest, war, cowardice, though. :D
01-13-2007, 11:10 PM
One I'm reading now is "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc," by Mark Twain. Definitely NOT the humorous sort of story you would expect from him. Twain -- Samuel Clemens -- although not Catholic, was a great admirer of Joan. A labor of love, he researched sources in both France and England for 12 years before ven begining to write. The narrator is ostensibly a childhood friend of hers leaving behind his personal remembrances for his "great-great-grand nephews and nieces' in his old age. Twain was so concerned the public would be disappointed in the book not being another "Tom Sawyer" or "Huckleberry Finn" sort of tale that it first appeared serialized as the work of an anonymous translator in "Harper's Magazine" beginning in April 1895. No one realized it was Twain. Sure enough, when it ws published in book form, and the public knew the real author, they were disappointed, and it rather flopped. But only because it was indeed unlike his other works.
It's quite good so far. You get a good sense of early 15th-century France.
01-13-2007, 11:40 PM
Speaking of Gore Vidal, his novel Julian is about the last pagan roman emperor.
01-14-2007, 05:12 AM
Latro in the Mist by Gene Wolfe (an omnibus of two novels) describes the rather eccentric travels of an amnesiac in the ancient greek world. It's strange and somewhat confusing, but a thoughtful and entertaining work nontheless.
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party
01-14-2007, 05:18 AM
Pompeii by Robert Harris. It's a conspiracy set in Pompeii just before the eruption. An aqueduct engineer realises that something is wrong but he isn't the only one.
In fact, if you like historical fiction, you'll like all of Harris's novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel and Imperium. Enigma was made into a film and Archangel was serialised by the BBC.
01-14-2007, 05:43 AM
I'm going to have to check some of these titles out myself.
01-14-2007, 09:14 AM
Not ancient history (except in the US), but Mayflower is very good. I'm about halfway through it, and finding it very engaging. The real story about the Pilgrims is nothing like the myth.
01-14-2007, 12:14 PM
Great Cities of the Ancient World, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Cities_of_the_Ancient_World) by L. Sprague de Camp, if you can find it.
01-14-2007, 12:17 PM
By the same author: The Ancient Engineers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ancient_Engineers) and Ancient Ruins and Archaeology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citadels_of_Mystery) (alternate title: Citadels of Mystery). Surprisingly not-dry, given the titles and topics.
01-14-2007, 12:33 PM
Mary Renault (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_renault#Historical_novels) wrote eight classic novels about ancient Greece, set in periods from the legendary age of Theseus to the succession wars following the death of Alexander. You'll have a much better cultural context to understand Plato's dialogues (and "Greek love" ;) ) after reading The Last of the Wine.
L. Sprague de Camp also wrote several historical novels set in classical Greece and in Persia of the same period: The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dragon_of_the_Ishtar_Gate) The Bronze God of Rhodes, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bronze_God_of_Rhodes) The Arrows of Hercules, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Arrows_of_Hercules) An Elephant for Aristotle, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Elephant_for_Aristotle) and The Golden Wind. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Wind) Fun, lively reads, every one!
Harry Turtledove, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Turtledove) better known for his alternate-history novels, also has written (under the pen-name of "H.N. Turteltaub") four straight historical novels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellenic_Traders) set in Hellenistic Greece, and one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justinian_%28novel%29) about the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II. (No, not the one who built Hagia Sophia; the later one, who got his nose cut off.)
Recent nonfiction about ancient Greece: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, (http://www.amazon.com/Sailing-Wine-Dark-Sea-Greeks-History/dp/0385495544/sr=1-1/qid=1168799466/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-9666357-8690562?ie=UTF8&s=books) by Thomas Cahill. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Cahill)
01-14-2007, 06:07 PM
I second Pompei. It is incredibly accurate. I just finished Archangel and it was absolutely awesome!
01-14-2007, 06:29 PM
Yay. I get to contribute a selection or two that haven't been listed..
In Search Of Alexander by Robin L. Fox; wonderfully illustrated with color plates and very interesting read.
Although ostensibly written for children, an interesting set (though long out of print) might be the two volume The Orient and The Occident by Richard Halliburton, in which he bankrolls travels around the world in the 1930's by writing short stories, probably the original travel-adventure writer.
01-14-2007, 10:49 PM
"The Source," by James Michener. Israel from prehistoric times to the present day.
01-15-2007, 12:17 AM
Gore Vidal? Hey, Live from Golgotha is really something. A TV crew travels in time and gets the Crucifixion on tape. No doubt that old iconoclastic Gore had lots of fun writing that. And I mean lots.
01-15-2007, 10:25 PM
Speaking of James Michener, I read his "Hawaii" at the time I was moving to Hawaii. Great stuff. From the Polynesian voyagers to present day. Odd, but I remember he made three mistakes in the book concerning Hawaii, and I know that Michenere wa SO familiar with the state that one of them had to have been made on purpose for purposes of a cheap joke. I can't believe he could have made it by accident, it was so basic.
01-18-2007, 04:59 AM
Speaking of James Michener, I read his "Hawaii" at the time I was moving to Hawaii. Great stuff. Odd, but I remember he made three mistakes in the book concerning Hawaii ... I can't believe he could have made it by accident, it was so basic.
Care to enlighten us??
01-18-2007, 10:56 PM
Care to enlighten us??
The famous Japanese-American unit from Hawaii that fought in Europe was the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They were still holding regular get-togethers when I lived in Hawaii, highly renowned. In the book, Michener renamed it the 222nd. He did not rename anything else in this big book, and he knew Hawaii too well to make that kind of error. The only thing I could figure is that he did it on purpose for a cheap joke. In the book, he had the white soldiers ask the Japanese ones which unit they were with, and when they answered the "two two two," the white soldiers would crack up like the Japanese were making train sounds, which is why the white soldiers asked them in the first place.
He also had the Polynesians reaching Hawaii in about AD 800, which I believe is correct, but he said that if they had gone east, they would have encountered the Aztecs in what is now Mexico. The Aztecs would not have been there for another 600 years.
There was a third error, too, but I can't remember what it was.
01-19-2007, 09:42 PM
I heartily recommend a pair of books by Nicholas Guild: The Assyrian and The Blood Star. The first of these can be picked up in most any paperback bookstore. The second (for reasons that totally escape me) never made it out of hardcover and you're only likely to find it in a library. If anyone has a spare copy of The Blood Star, btw, please drop me a note.
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