100 books like Daily Life in Late Antiquity

By Kristina Sessa,

Here are 100 books that Daily Life in Late Antiquity fans have personally recommended if you like Daily Life in Late Antiquity. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

On the face of it, this seems like a straightforward book. Magris traces the geography of the Danube from Furtwangen or Donauschingen in southern Germany to the Black Sea, and in so doing surveys the history of the regions through which it passes. That would be a bold enough project in its own right, but the book itself is so much more than this and is one that I’ve returned to many times since I first stumbled across it fifteen years ago. The riverine structure of the book sweeps the reader from prehistory to the twentieth century and back again, individual eddies linger on intriguing episodes – the building of the cathedral tower at Ulm, the significance of the Iron Gates – and then we’re off again on another evocative description of the river or aside on the forgotten history of Mitteleuropa. A terrific read.

By Claudio Magris, Patrick Creagh (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A journey along this famous river described by the author, Claudio Magris, who unravels the amazing history of the many towns along its banks.


Book cover of Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Abby Smith Rumsey Author Of Memory, Edited: Taking Liberties with History

From my list on when history gets personal.

Who am I?

It was in 1982, while a Fulbright scholar in the USSR researching my doctoral dissertation, that I realized my responsibility as a historian extended far beyond writing history books. I lived among Russians and saw up close how the Kremlin-controlled what citizens knew about their own past. The future was already determined—the end of class struggle. The past was merely a made-up prologue. As a consequence of that year, I focus on the creation, preservation, and accessibility of cultural knowledge. History clues us into where we come from. Like a DNA test, it reveals how our single life is intricately braided with people we will never meet.

Abby's book list on when history gets personal

Abby Smith Rumsey Why did Abby love this book?

A collection of biographical essays, from Louis Armstrong and Jorge Luis Borges to Isoroku Yamamoto and Stefan Zweig.

Written with James’s distinctive wit and verve, each essay distills features specific to an individual and also characteristic of the long twentieth century. James is anti-ideological and so are his heroes—Nadezhda Mandelstam, Albert Camus, Duke Ellington, among others.

They tolerated ambiguity and resisted certainty even in the midst of unimaginable violence and shocking injustices. (He includes many of his “intellectual bêtes noires”—Edward Said, Bertold Brecht, Mao Zedong.) This deeply personal collection constitutes James’s battering ram against the walls erected by willful amnesia, ignorance, and censorship, walls that cut the living off from what the dead want to tell us. 

By Clive James,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This international bestseller is an encyclopedic A-Z masterpiece-the perfect introduction to the very core of Western humanism. Clive James rescues, or occasionally destroys, the careers of many of the greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artists, and philosophers of the twentieth century. Soaring to Montaigne-like heights, Cultural Amnesia is precisely the book to burnish these memories of a Western civilization that James fears is nearly lost.


Book cover of Beards

Andy Merrills Author Of The Vandals

From my list on thinking about history in a different way.

Who am I?

Andy Merrills teaches ancient and medieval history at the University of Leicester. He is a hopeless book addict, writes occasionally for work and for the whimsical periodical Slightly Foxed, and likes nothing so much as reading elegantly-composed works which completely change the way he thinks about everything. (This happens quite a lot). 

Andy's book list on thinking about history in a different way

Andy Merrills Why did Andy love this book?

I came across this book unexpectedly in an American bookstore, and have since given it as a gift countless times. In essence, Reynolds provides a survey of human history through facial hair, creating a rambling, eccentric overview and proposing all sorts of improbable theories, many of which are probably right. The bookseller’s note on the back cover of my copy lists it as ‘History (?)’, which seems about right, but it has definitely made me think about history in a different way. I also now have a beard of my own (not connected).

Reynolds also wrote a similarly inspiring book about toilets.  

By Reginald Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

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


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Book cover of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families

Roland Merullo Author Of Dessert with Buddha

From my list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction.

Who am I?

My twenty novels tend to focus on characters who face great challenges, and I have a particular appreciation for beautiful prose. I don’t read for distraction or entertainment, but to be enlightened, moved, and made more compassionate about different kinds of people in different environments.

Roland's book list on thoughtful works of fiction and non-fiction

Roland Merullo Why did Roland love this book?

This is the story of a highly educated writer living with the poorest of the poor in the U.S. Agee was sent to live with Alabama sharecroppers during the Depression. His assignment was to write about them for a magazine, but he ended up making it into a magnificent memoir (Jimmy Carter’s favorite memoir) that is often paired with Walker Evans’ photos. They lived and worked as a team.

Agee is a well-educated, well-off writer, but manages to describe the lives of the poorest of the poor with great respect, artistic originality, and sincerity, and to give us a full, if painful, understanding of the lives of people who could not afford shoes and were worked to the bone by the landowners.

It’s a deeply spiritual work, artistically original in structure and language, a long, slow, magnificent read that has touched me deeply each time I’ve read it.

By James Agee, Walker Evans,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Let Us Now Praise Famous Men as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1936, Agee and Evans set out on assignement for Fortune magazine to explore the daily lives of sharecroppers in the South. Their journey would prove an extraordinary collaboration and a watershed literary event when in 1941 Let Us Now Praise Famous Men was first published to enourmous critical acclaim. This unspairing record of place, of the people who shaped the land, and of the rhythm of their lives today stands as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.


Book cover of A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities

Cass Morris Author Of From Unseen Fire

From my list on ancient Roman society.

Who am I?

I’m a writer and educator working in central Virginia, and I’ve been in love with the ancient world since my first Latin class back in the seventh grade. I’ve always been interested in social history more than just the chronology of battles and the deeds of famous men, so my research looks for sources that can illuminate daily life and the viewpoints of marginalized populations. I hold a BA in English and History from the College of William and Mary and an MLitt from Mary Baldwin University.

Cass' book list on ancient Roman society

Cass Morris Why did Cass love this book?

This book provides an exemplary hour-by-hour guide to what life was like for a citizen of Rome at the height of its power. I love that Angela not only gives us the high-society angle, bringing us into the lush gardens and sumptuous homes of Rome’s wealthy and powerful, but also the crowded apartments and streets that were home to the vast majority of the ancient city’s citizens. You walk alongside them, getting a ground-level view of the patterns of a normal day in all its mundane details, from clothing to food to labor to entertainment, rendered in fascinating prose.

By Alberto Angela, Gregory Conti (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The wondrous extravagance of banquets where flamingos are roasted whole and wine flows like rivers. The roar of frenzied spectators inside the Colosseum during a battle between gladiators. A crowd of onlookers gathered at a slave auction. The silent baths and the boisterous taverns...Many books have dealt with the history of ancient Rome, but none has been able to so engage its readers in the daily life of the Imperial capital.

This extraordinary armchair tour, guided by Alberto Angela with the charm of a born storyteller, lasts twenty-four hours, beginning at dawn on an ordinary day in the year 115…


Book cover of What Life Was Like: When Rome Ruled the World: The Roman Empire 100 BC-AD 200

Suzanne Tyrpak Author Of Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome

From my list on ancient Rome at the time of Nero.

Who am I?

Having been an actor and a dancer, in college I became interested in the origins of those arts. Curiosity led me to study Greek theater and ancient religions. In the early 2000s, I traveled to Rome with a group of writers, including Terry Brooks, Dorothy Allison, Elizabeth Engstrom, and John Saul. As soon as I set foot in Rome, I fell in love with that magnificent city’s history—in particular Vestal Virgins, the most powerful women in the ancient world. That trip inspired me to write Vestal Virgin—suspense in ancient Rome, a bestseller in many categories on Amazon.

Suzanne's book list on ancient Rome at the time of Nero

Suzanne Tyrpak Why did Suzanne love this book?

Frequently, I write about everyday men and women. Consequently, I need to get a feel for what everyday life was like. What did people eat? How did they dress? Where did they work? I visit a lot of museums and have traveled extensively, but when I’m writing at home, I like books with lots of pictures, not only of historical sites, but photos of objects: cookware, weapons, clothing, jewelry, houses. This helps me bring the ancient world to life. This book is packed with pictures and well-researched information.

By Time-Life Books,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Life Was Like as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Provides a look at the Roman empire, detailing its history, social customs, professions, class ranks, military, and religion


Book cover of A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

Amanda Cockrell Author Of Shadow of the Eagle

From my list on life in the Roman Empire.

Who am I?

As Damion Hunter, I have written six novels set in the first and second centuries of the Roman Empire, for which I have done extensive research. My picks are all books that I have found most useful and accessible for the writer who wants to ground her fiction in accurate detail and for the reader who just wants to know the little stuff, which is always more interesting than the big stuff.

Amanda's book list on life in the Roman Empire

Amanda Cockrell Why did Amanda love this book?

The author is a scholar, a professor of Classics, so he knows his stuff. He is also a wonderful writer. This is a collection of small and fascinating facts about Rome and the ancient world. A sampling of entries includes notes on Hannibal’s reputed use of jars of poisonous snakes as catapult ammunition, Roman fly fishing, window glass, and the mechanics of Nero’s revolving dining room.

By J.C. McKeown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The ancient Romans have left us far more information about themselves than has any other Western society until much more recent times. But what we know about them is sometimes bizarre, and hardly fits the conventional view of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army and a very logical and well ordered language.

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities is a serendipitous collection of odd facts and opinions, carefully gleaned from the wide body of evidence left to us by the Romans themselves. Each highlights a unique and curious feature of life in ancient Rome. Readers will…


Book cover of The Roman Way

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni Author Of Rome's Last Citizen: The Life and Legacy of Cato, Mortal Enemy of Caesar

From my list on ancient Roman history.

Who are we?

Rob is an Assistant Professor of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and a former congressional speechwriter. His forthcoming book, Word on Fire: Eloquence and Its Conditions is under contract with Cambridge University Press. He’s published research in journals including the American Political Science Review, the Review of Politics, and History of Political Thought. He has also written for publications including Slate, The Atlantic, and Aeon. Jimmy is an award-winning author and ghostwriter. With Rob, he published a Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age. The book won the 2017 Neumann Prize, awarded by the British Society for the History of Mathematics for the best book on the history of mathematics for a general audience. Jimmy’s writing and commentary have appeared in the Washington Examiner, the New York Observer, Forbes, and The Atlantic, among many other outlets.

Rob's book list on ancient Roman history

Rob Goodman and Jimmy Soni Why did Rob love this book?

An oldie (first published in 1932) but a goodie. Hamilton's short essays on the classic Latin writers--from the first writers of Latin comedy through to the epic poets and historians who did so much to shape the language--aren't just a crash course on the Roman literary canon. They're an accessible introduction to Roman culture from the ground up.

By Edith Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Roman Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this informal history of Roman civilization, Edith Hamilton vividly depicts the Roman life and spirit as they are revealed in the greatest writers of the time. Among these literary guides are Cicero, who left an incomparable collection of letters; Catullus, the quintessential poet of love; Horace, the chronicler of a cruel and materialistic Rome; and the Romantics Virgil, Livy and Seneca. The story concludes with the stark contrast between high-minded Stoicism and the collapse of values witnessed by Tacitus and Juvenal.


Book cover of Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire

Melissa Addey Author Of From the Ashes

From my list on non-fiction to immerse yourself in Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

Curious about Ancient Rome and especially about gladiators, I asked myself, who were the backstage team of the Colosseum? The more I searched for the team, the more I realised there was hardly any mention of them. If there were hundreds of animals, dancers, singers, gladiators, criminals, and more about to be shown off to an audience of 60,000, who was planning and managing it all? And so I created the Colosseum’s backstage team – a retired centurion called Marcus and his scribe Althea, along with a motley crew of slaves, a prostitute, a street boy, even a retired Vestal Virgin… they came alive for me while researching and I eventually created a four-book series.

Melissa's book list on non-fiction to immerse yourself in Ancient Rome

Melissa Addey Why did Melissa love this book?

Oddly there aren’t actually that many books dedicated solely to chariot racing, but this one makes up for that. Huge amount of detail about everything from wheels to horses, but also a real sense of the passion the Romans had for this sport and just how terrifyingly dangerous it was to be a charioteer… almost makes being a gladiator look like a nice safe desk job! I loved the feel of the race day and all the parts that made it a spectacular event – from the vast crowd to the pre-race parades and the many different roles taking part on the day. Gripping read. 

By Fik Meijer, Liz Waters (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chariot Racing in the Roman Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A massive crowd of people, cloaked in the colors of their beloved athletes, slowly fill a 150,000-seat arena to cheer on their favorite teams. Athletes enter the stadium amid great pomp and circumstance as opposing fans hurl insults at one another and place bets on the day's outcome. Although this familiar scene might describe a contemporary football game, it also portrays a day at the chariot races in ancient Rome, where racers were the sports stars of the ancient world. Following close on the heels of his successful book on gladiators, Fik Meijer reveals all there is to know about…


Book cover of Ancient Rome on 5 Denarii a Day

Jennifer Burke Author Of Sub Rosa: A Valerius Mystery

From my list on bringing Ancient Rome alive.

Who am I?

I’ve loved history ever since I was a kid when I first had the realisation that it was made up of stories. Ancient Rome has always fascinated me, not the battles or the emperors or the big picture stuff, but the daily lives of the ordinary people. You only need to read some of the rude graffiti from Pompeii to realise that people have never really changed where it counts! I studied English and History at university, neither of them as thoroughly as I could have, but at least now when people ask me what I’d ever use an Arts degree for, I can point to my book. 

Jennifer's book list on bringing Ancient Rome alive

Jennifer Burke Why did Jennifer love this book?

There are, of course, lots of amazing non-fiction resources on Ancient Rome, but I love the way this one is written as a travel guide, as though you’re a tourist clutching a copy of Lonely Planet.

This is a fun and accessible book, easy to dip in and out of, but also great to read in one hit. There aren’t any emperors or empire-defining battles in this one, just walking tours of the city, tips on where to eat and what to see, and where to go for shopping and entertainment.

The only disappointing thing about this book is the realisation that time travel isn’t actually a thing. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

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