The best books on Cleopatra and ancient Egypt

Who am I?

The genre I specialize in is Ancient Historical Fiction. I have always been fascinated by history, and my vacations often involve visiting ancient ruins. I’m an avid reader on various periods of our past, especially Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, and India, and I enjoy writing about them. On the topic of Egypt and Cleopatra — Egypt is one of my favorite civilizations, and Cleopatra is one of the more interesting figures. I wanted to give her a treatment I felt she deserved—as a capable administrator, brilliant, ruthless, and fighting the circumstances of her times.

I wrote...

Regent Cleopatra

By Jay Penner,

Book cover of Regent Cleopatra

What is my book about?

51 B.C., Alexandria, Egypt. With her father sick and her sister dead by his hands, sixteen-year-old Cleopatra is poised to assume the heavy mantle of power and exercise the divine authority vested in her by the gods of Egypt. But the gilded arches and marble columns hide a grim reality and the gathering of storm clouds. A surly Rome is banging on her doors for debt repayments, the kingdom is on the verge of a civil war, and the dying king's powerful advisors seek to discard her like a rag and control the kingdom through her brother. Now, the young regent must confront her adversaries and walk the tightrope over an abyss of treachery and conflict, because one wrong move means ending three thousand years of Pharaonic rule and turning up as a corpse in the Alexandrian marshes.

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The books I picked & why

Cleopatra: A Life

By Stacy Schiff,

Book cover of Cleopatra: A Life

Why did I love this book?

Schiff’s treatment of Cleopatra, showing how she was shaped by her time, and what she dealt with before and during her rule, is exceptional in that it not only steps away from the usual tropes about her, but also gives an expansive glimpse to her world. 

Drawing from scant direct sources of the famous queen but providing context through various sources of the time on other major players, she paints a picture of Cleopatra that is complex, interesting, and leaves one with a much better sense of who she probably was and why she did what she did.

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Cleopatra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as…

Book cover of Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire

Why did I love this book?

It is this book, about the successors of Alexander the Great, that inspired me to write my first novel, the Atlantis Papyrus. It is a great read—the pages feel less like an academic paper and more like an action novel and keeps one’s interest until the very end. I learned about so many fascinating figures in Alexander’s world I had never really known about and the tumultuous years following his death. In my work, I drew inspiration from some of the characters and events depicted in this book.

By James Romm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghost on the Throne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-two, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea in the west all the way to modern-day India in the east. In an unusual compromise, his two heirs—a mentally damaged half brother, Philip III, and an infant son, Alexander IV, born after his death—were jointly granted the kingship. But six of Alexander’s Macedonian generals, spurred by their own thirst for power and the legend that Alexander bequeathed his rule “to the strongest,” fought to gain supremacy. Perhaps their most fascinating and conniving adversary was Alexander’s former Greek secretary, Eumenes, now a general…

Book cover of The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut's Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt

Why did I love this book?

Professor Cooney’s work sheds light on what it meant to rule as a woman—it covers the rise and rule of another enigmatic and famous female ruler, Hatshepsut of Egypt. I found it to be an illuminating treatment of the challenges and complexities of female royals, and it influenced some of my thinking on the book on Cleopatra. It is a great book that depicts what ancient Egypt was like—from the ways of life, to the politics, to the exhausting rituals!

By Kara Cooney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Woman Who Would Be King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hatshepsut, the daughter of a general who took Egypt's throne without status as a king's son and a mother with ties to the previous dynasty, was born into a privileged position of the royal household. Married to her brother, she was expected to bear the sons who would legitimize the reign of her father's family. Her failure to produce a male heir was ultimately the twist of fate that paved the way for her inconceivable rule as a cross-dressing king. Hatshepsut was a master strategist, cloaking her political power plays with the veil of piety and sexual expression. Just as…

River God

By Wilbur Smith,

Book cover of River God

Why did I love this book?

This was the book that made me fall in love with Ancient Historical Fiction. It painted such a vivid and memorable picture of ancient Egypt, painting a tapestry of love, desire, ambition, and violence, and a must for readers who enjoy a thrilling ride.

By Wilbur Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked River God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'Best historical novelist' - Stephen King

'A master storyteller' - Sunday Times

'Wilbur Smith is one of those benchmarks against whom others are compared' - The Times

'No one does adventure quite like Smith' - Daily Mirror


Taita is a humble slave; an expert in art, poetry, medicine and engineering, as well as the keeper of important secrets. He is the most treasured possession of Lord Intef. Yet when…

The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen

By A.C. Mace, Howard Carter,

Book cover of The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen

Why did I love this book?

Who has not heard of King Tut? Written by the discoverer of the tomb, the book is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an accomplished archeologist and a window to the fabulous riches of Egypt. Reading firsthand about what they saw and how things were placed gives us an insight into how things may have been in the last few hours of sealing the tomb. I often use such content to fuel my imagination of what might have happened.

By A.C. Mace, Howard Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

November 4, 1922. For six seasons the legendary Valley of the Kings has yielded no secrets to Howard Carter and his archeological team: "We had almost made up our minds that we were beaten," he writes, "and were preparing to leave The Valley and try our luck elsewhere; and then — hardly had we set hoe to ground in our last despairing effort than we made a discovery that far exceeded our wildest dreams."
Join Howard Carter in his fascinating odyssey toward the most dramatic archeological find of the century — the tomb of Tutankhamen. Written by Carter in 1923,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in ancient Egypt, Egypt, and archaeology?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about ancient Egypt, Egypt, and archaeology.

Ancient Egypt Explore 106 books about ancient Egypt
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Archaeology Explore 106 books about archaeology

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