The Best Books To Understand The Roman World (And How They Could Survive Against The Undead)

The Books I Picked & Why

The First Man in Rome

By Colleen McCullough

The First Man in Rome

Why this book?

The vast majority of media about Rome concerns either Augustus or Julius Caesar. The few exceptions generally stay in the Julio-Claudian line. That’s about 70 years in what was arguably a 1600 year span. McCullough wisely sets this seminal work before the Empire, about 100 BCE. She is writing fiction but the verisimilitude she wields makes it feel like real history. The rivalry between Marius and Sulla drives the story recklessly forward. Given that Julius Caesar’s grandfather and father are in this book, you could consider this a Rogue One to HBO’s Rome.


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The Histories (Translated By Kenneth Wellesley)

By Kenneth Wellesley, Tacitus

The Histories (Translated By Kenneth Wellesley)

Why this book?

The year 68 CE is a very important, not to mention interesting, year in Roman History. Because history was written by the upper class, we tend to lose sight that Nero was a populist, a man of the people. Tacitus gives you the scoop here on all the soap opera that unfolds with the end of the Julio-Claudian line. If you think history is boring, you might be surprised at how fast-paced and scandalous these accounts are.


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The Twelve Caesars (Translated By Robert Graves)

By Suetonius, Robert Graves

The Twelve Caesars (Translated By Robert Graves)

Why this book?

It’s important to state up-front that Seutonius is garbage. You need to consider him to be like the National Enquirer or TMZ of his era. He was all about the clickbait; in that regard, centuries ahead of his time. That said, the salacious stories in here are pure fun and inspired Robert Graves in his creation of I Claudius.


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Letters from a Stoic (Translated By Robin Campbell)

By Lucius Seneca, Robin Campbell

Letters from a Stoic (Translated By Robin Campbell)

Why this book?

Imagine if a current world leader came into power and hired someone like Noam Chomsky or Slavoj Žižek or Tom Stoppard to be their advisor. That’s the case with Nero, and Seneca’s wisdom and foresight helped change Rome, albeit momentarily, into something like a republic again. These letters from Seneca span his political exile and his return to power. Plus Seneca is responsible for a really good joke about divine pumpkins that you’ll have to read this book to find out more about.


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The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

By Max Brooks

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead

Why this book?

By now everyone knows World War Z but this is the OG Zombie book that prepares you for the inevitable apocalypse. If you’re the kind of person who is always wondering the best place to live when zombies attack, or the best weapons to use (hint: you don’t have to reload a sword) to defeat the shambling hordes, then take a look at this.


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