The best books about Ancient Greece by Ancient Greeks

Who am I?

I was introduced to the fascinating world of the Ancient Greeks by an inspirational teacher at my Primary School when I was about 10 years old—he read us tales of gods and monsters and heroes and heroism, and I was entranced. My grandpa bought me a copy of The Iliad. I read it with my torch under the bedclothes and embarked on a magical journey that has seen me spend the greater part of my life travelling in the world of the Ancient Greeks, both physically and intellectually. Those characters, both real and mythical, have become my friends, enemies, warnings, and role-models ever since.


I wrote...

The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State

By Steve P. Kershaw,

Book cover of The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato's Ideal State

What is my book about?

The Atlantis story, first told by the Greek philosopher Plato, is one of the most intriguing tales from antiquity. But where did Atlantis come from? What was it like? And where did it go to? The author follows the quest for Atlantis from Scandinavia to Antarctica and explores how the story has been manipulated by successive generations—used by the Conquistadors to justify their annexations, and by Himmler to prove the Aryan supremacy. 

The Atlantis story is remarkably prescient in our ‘post-truth’ world, not because it invites a search for a mysterious lost continent, but because of its warnings about the disastrous effects of Atlantis-style luxury, excess, corruption, and imperialism on a prosperous society. It should be prescribed reading for every modern political leader.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Iliad of Homer

Steve P. Kershaw Why did I love this book?

Homer’s Iliad is a fabulously exciting tale of action and heroism, as the mightiest Greek heroes fight beneath the walls of Troy for the most beautiful woman who ever lived. But there is so much more to it! It’s partly the tale of one man’s anger, and partly a timeless tale about war and sacrifice for all humanity. Homer confronts some of the most significant human problems with amazingly contemporary power and nuance: the beauty and horror of combat; the inseparability of glory and destruction; the raw emotional power of reconciliation between mortal enemies; and the fact that there is more to life than revenge and more to being a man than slaughtering other men. Richmond Lattimore’s inspired translation makes you feel like Homer himself is reciting the tales to you.

By Homer, Richmond Lattimore (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus / and its devastation." For sixty years, that's how Homer has begun the Iliad in English, in Richmond Lattimore's faithful translation-the gold standard for generations of students and general readers.

This long-awaited new edition of Lattimore's Iliad is designed to bring the book into the twenty-first century-while leaving the poem as firmly rooted in ancient Greece as ever. Lattimore's elegant, fluent verses-with their memorably phrased heroic epithets and remarkable fidelity to the Greek-remain unchanged, but classicist Richard Martin has added a wealth of supplementary materials designed to aid new generations of readers.…


Book cover of The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland)

Steve P. Kershaw Why did I love this book?

Herodotus is a joy to read. In his Enquiries into the heroic struggle of Greece against the mighty Persian Empire, he wanted to preserve the memory of wondrous deeds. And he does it brilliantly. Along the way we discover how to catch a crocodile in Egypt, visit the walls of Babylon, and travel with the fearsome, gender-fluid, Scythian warriors. As the massed Persian armies with their arrogant and manipulative commanders bear down on the divided state of Greece, we are taken to battlefield of Marathon, witness the tenacious heroism of the 300 Spartans, and fight on the sea at the great Greek victory at Salamis. This epic conflict between the forces and ideals of East and West is rendered beautifully in Tom Holland’s fluent translation, which nimbly walks the line between accuracy and accessibility.

By Herodotus, Tom Holland (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Histories (Translated by Tom Holland) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Western history's greatest books springs to life in Tom Holland's vibrant new translation

Herodotus of Halicarnassus-who was hailed by Cicero as "the father of history"-wrote his histories around 440 BC. It is the earliest surviving work of nonfiction and a thrilling narrative account of (among other things) the war between the Persian Empire and the Greek city-states in the fifth century BC.

With a wealth of information about ancient geography, ethnography, zoology, comparative anthropology, and much else, The Histories is also filled with bizarre and fanciful stories, which award-winning historian Tom Holland vividly captures in this major new…


Book cover of The Peloponnesian War

Steve P. Kershaw Why did I love this book?

I actually started to read Thucydides in Greek before I read all his work in English! But whether you do that or choose Martin Hammond’s lucid translation, this is a magnificent account of the terrible Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta and their rival political systems. Thucydides fought as a general on the Athenian side but was exiled by the democracy for a commanding an unsuccessful campaign. He used his new leisure time to write a work that he said was not designed to meet the taste of an immediate public but to last forever. He is an acute analyst of the achievements, atrocities, mistakes, and political decision-making of the two sides, and his work is considerably enlivened by great speeches, vivid descriptions of combat, and insights into the emotional effects of the war on its participants and observers.

By Thucydides, P.J. Rhodes, Martin Hammond (translator)

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Peloponnesian War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'The greatest historian that ever lived'

Such was Macaulay's verdict on Thucydides (c. 460-400 BC) and his history of the Peloponnesian War, the momentous struggle between Athens and Sparta as rival powers and political systems that lasted for twenty-seven years from 431 to 404 BC, involved virtually the whole of the Greek world, and ended in the fall of Athens. Thucydides himself was a participant in the war; to his history he brings an awesome intellect, brilliant narrative, and penetrating analysis of the nature
of power, as it affects both states and individuals.

Of his own work Thucydides wrote: 'I…


Book cover of Lysistrata and Other Plays: The Acharnians, the Clouds, Lysistrata

Steve P. Kershaw Why did I love this book?

‘Comedy’ is a Greek word, and there’s no better place to experience Greek humour than in Aristophanes’ plays. He never shies away from transgressive material and would probably send any twenty-first-century ‘celebrity’ straight to the libel courts—no topic or personality is off-limits, and there are 204 terms for genitalia in his surviving work, plus 190 for sex! Three fantastic plays are translated in Alan Sommerstein’s readable translation: The Acharnians, where an ordinary Athenian, Dicaeopolis (Mr. Just City), defeats the political establishment to enjoy a life of peace, food, alcohol, and sex; The Clouds, a stinging satire of philosophers and ‘modern’ education that includes a brilliant contest between Wrong and Right (spoiler alert—Wrong wins!); and Lysistrata, where the heroine puts an end to the war by organizing a sex strike, with all the hilarious consequence that entails.

By Aristophanes, Alan H. Sommerstein (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek


Book cover of Guide to Greece: Volume 1

Steve P. Kershaw Why did I love this book?

A brilliant 2nd century AD guidebook to Ancient Greece! The intrepid Pausanias travelled throughout Greece, recording the sights and the artworks that he viewed on the way, and relating the strange myths, rituals, and legends behind them. It’s a splendidly vivid and remarkably accurate book, full of fascinating information about the Greek landscape, natural wonders, and descriptions of the art and architecture of many famous sacred locations—Athens, Olympia, Delphi, etc.—and even today you can still visit many of the major archaeological sites in Greece and use it to guide you around. In Peter Levi’s clear translation, it really takes you into the heart and soul of Ancient Greece.

By Pausanias, Peter Levi (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Guide to Greece as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written in the second century AD by a Greek traveller for a predominantly Roman audience, Pausanias' Guide to Greece is an extraordinarily literate and well-informed guidebook. A study of buildings, traditions and myth, it describes with precision and eloquence the glory of classical Greece shortly before its ultimate decline in the third century. This volume, the first of two, concerns the five provinces of central Greece, with an account of cities including Athens, Corinth and Thebes and a compelling depiction of the Oracle at Delphi. Along the way, Pausanias recounts Greek legends that are unknown from any other source and…


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Book cover of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

Maryka Biaggio Author Of The Model Spy: Based on the True Story of Toto Koopman’s World War II Ventures

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Who am I?

Author Historical fiction author Lover of hidden stories Research nerd Opera fanatic

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What is my book about?

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What is this book about?

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In London she attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, the William Randolph Hearst of England. She soon became his confidante, companion, and translator, traversing the Continent and finding herself caught in the winds of impending war. Beaverbrook introduced her to influential people, including a director at…


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Interested in Greece, Ancient Greece, and Herodotus?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Greece, Ancient Greece, and Herodotus.

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