10 books like Empires of the Sea

By Roger Crowley,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Empires of the Sea. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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The Landmark Thucydides

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Book cover of The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War

Thucydides, along with Herodotus a generation earlier, created history as we know it. Herodotus added to narrative the analysis of cause: ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. Thucydides added different levels of causation: the immediate reasons for the war and the long-term causes. He studied how the dynamics of fear and power drive states into warfare. He took the gods out of history (it is hard to remember how radical that was). He studied the corruption of moral language and behaviour under the pressure of conflict. In Pericles’ Funeral Speech he set out the theory of Athenian democracy (Pericles would have denied that our own society was democratic—a challenging thought). Thucydides’ eye is not exactly cold, but it is unblinking: no historian seems so free of illusion.

The Landmark Thucydides

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Thucydides called his account of two decades of war between Athens and Sparta "a possession for all time," and indeed it is the first and still the most famous work in the Western historical tradition.

Considered essential reading for generals, statesmen, and liberally educated citizens for more than 2,000 years, The Peloponnesian War is a mine of military, moral, political, and philosophical wisdom.

However, this classic book has long presented obstacles to the uninitiated reader. Written centuries before the rise of modern historiography, Thucydides' narrative is not continuous or linear. His authoritative chronicle of what he considered the greatest war…


The Leopard

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Book cover of The Leopard

E. M. Forster famously described Lampedusa’s solitary work as “one of the great lonely books.” It is a masterpiece that simultaneously captures both the peculiarity of Sicily within the experience of the wars of Italian Unification while brilliantly portraying characters confronting universal human emotions of love, loss, and struggle in times of momentous change. Lampedusa based the book’s protagonist, the Prince of Salina, on his own grandfather. The story, told in a series of episodes across half a century, while fictionalized, captures the essential elements of the birth of the modern Italian state, the rise of a new class of elites at the expense of the old, landed aristocracy, and the often-fraught attempt to create a unified Italian identity. There is a well-known film with Burt Lancaster in the starring role along with Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale that really evokes the visual power of the subject, but the book…

The Leopard

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Leopard as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Leopard is a modern classic which tells the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution.

'There is a great feeling of opulence, decay, love and death about it' Rick Stein

In the spring of 1860, Fabrizio, the charismatic Prince of Salina, still rules over thousands of acres and hundreds of people, including his own numerous family, in mingled splendour and squalor. Then comes Garibaldi's landing in Sicily and the Prince must decide whether to resist the forces of change or come to terms with them.

'Every once in a…


The Greek Revolution

By Mark Mazower,

Book cover of The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe

There is no better scholar of modern Greece than Mark Mazower and his latest work on the Greek Revolution is a tour de force. As the title suggests, Mazower explores how the Greek Revolution, based on the “new politics” of national identity, overthrew Ottoman imperialism and established the world’s first true nation-state. The Greek Revolution gives us all the famous characters from 1821 in detail: Koloktronis, the brigand turned general who became a national hero. Ibrahim Pasha, the son of the Pasha of Egypt who dreamed of conquering Greece for himself. Ioannis Kapodistrias was a brilliant diplomat who became the first Greek head of state only to be murdered by his own people. And George Byron, the poet, turned adventurer, turned financer of the Greek Revolution who died of fever while campaigning for Greek freedom. At the same time, the book analyzes more universal characteristics of revolutions: their fundamental link…

The Greek Revolution

By Mark Mazower,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the exhausted, repressive years that followed Napoleon's defeat in 1815, there was one cause that came to galvanize countless individuals across Europe and the United States: freedom for Greece.

Mark Mazower's wonderful new book recreates one of the most compelling, unlikely and significant events in the story of modern Europe. In the face of near impossible odds, the people of the villages, valleys and islands of Greece rose up against Sultan Mahmud II and took on the might of the imperial Ottoman armed forces, its Turkish cavalrymen, Albanian foot soldiers and the fearsome Egyptians. Despite the most terrible disasters,…


Freedom and Death

By Nikos Kazantzakes,

Book cover of Freedom and Death

Kazantzakis is perhaps most famous for being excommunicated after he wrote The Last Temptation of Christ, but I think his best book is Freedom and Death. Freedom and Death was described as Kazantzakis’ “modern Iliad,” but it is more than a tale of heroes and war. It is about the struggle of the Cretan people for liberty and their desire to end the Ottoman occupation of their island at the end of the 19th century. In spite of the obvious morality of the cause of freedom, Kazantzakis paints a complex picture in which there are no obvious heroes and humanity’s faults are clearly visible. No character is more noble than the Turk, Nuri Bey. None more flawed than the novel’s Greek protagonist, Captain Michalis. Freedom and Death is also the powerful story of a man’s struggle against himself and the conflict between our personal interests and our…

Freedom and Death

By Nikos Kazantzakes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Freedom and Death


Ironfire

By David Ball,

Book cover of Ironfire

The Great Siege of Malta – a nearly four-month struggle in 1565, should be essential for any military historian to understand. Sadly, its treatment in fiction has been ludicrously underserved.

Enter Ironfire. Mr. Ball’s work builds slowly, showing the reader how various elements of the Ottoman Army (the Janissaries, in particular) were acquired, trained, and readied for war. Likewise, a failing legacy of crusade, as well as a decline in support for religious military orders, plague Christian leadership in Malta. Ball’s ‘slow burn’ narrative ignites into the island’s famous siege by a massive and well-equipped Ottoman army, facing a motley band of knights and Maltese locals reliant upon blades and fire to desperately hold their walls. Ironfire is a master class on premodern siege warfare in fiction.

Ironfire

By David Ball,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the acclaimed author of Empires of Sand comes a mesmerizing new adventure that Jean Auel cites as “crowded with events that both forecast and mirror the conflicts of today.” Sweeping from the drawing rooms of Paris to the palace of Suleiman the Magnificent to the dark hold of a slave ship racing across the sea, here is a dazzling story of love and valor, innocence and identity, an epic novel of the clash of civilizations on a barren island where the future was forged.

The Mediterranean, the sixteenth century: Lying squarely in the midst of the vital sea lanes…


Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean

By Joshua M. White,

Book cover of Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean

Focusing on the period beginning with 1571’s epic battle of Lepanto and extending through the so-called “Northern Invasion” of the English and the Dutch into the Mediterranean, this book examines the central role piracy played in the emergence of an “Ottoman Mediterranean” as a legal space shaped by multiple, ever-shifting factors. In this wide-ranging and beautifully written study, archival sources spanning both religious and imperial spheres of law become windows onto the astonishing complexity of an early modern Mediterranean in which there were “no hard and fast lines separating Christian and Muslim spheres, but rather a culture of legal pluralism in which merchants, travelers, and seamen took advantage of multiple overlapping jurisdictions.” Evocatively written, blending narrative and analysis, White brings this exciting age to vivid life.

Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean

By Joshua M. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1570s marked the beginning of an age of pervasive piracy in the Mediterranean that persisted into the eighteenth century. Nowhere was more inviting to pirates than the Ottoman-dominated eastern Mediterranean. In this bustling maritime ecosystem, weak imperial defenses and permissive politics made piracy possible, while robust trade made it profitable. By 1700, the limits of the Ottoman Mediterranean were defined not by Ottoman territorial sovereignty or naval supremacy, but by the reach of imperial law, which had been indelibly shaped by the challenge of piracy.

Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean is the first book to examine Mediterranean…


Twice a Stranger

By Bruce Clarke,

Book cover of Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Forged Modern Greece and Turkey

We are reminded on almost a daily basis of the plight of refugees in fragile boats that this sea can be cruel as well as kind. The present diaspora has its forerunners – in this book the great population exchange of 1923 that saw the displacement of two million people across the Mediterranean: Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire, Turks living in Greece. Bruce Clarke both explains the chain of events in the aftermath of the First World War and records the personal stories of those who were uprooted from the places they called home. They have a familiar resonance, the repeating patterns of memory and loss: ‘I remember the day they went away,’ recorded a Greek woman of her Muslim neighbours. ‘Some kissed the earth, some took bowls of soil with them. They were decent types; their menfolk used to attend our funerals, and we would exchange presents of…

Twice a Stranger

By Bruce Clarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, nearly two million citizens in Turkey and Greece were expelled from homelands. The Lausanne treaty resulted in the deportation of Orthodox Christians from Turkey to Greece and of Muslims from Greece to Turkey. The transfer was hailed as a solution to the problem of minorities who could not coexist. Both governments saw the exchange as a chance to create societies of a single culture. The opinions and feelings of those uprooted from their native soil were never solicited.

In an evocative book, Bruce Clark draws on new archival research…


The Management Myth

By Matthew Stewart,

Book cover of The Management Myth: Debunking Modern Business Philosophy

Stewart reflects on the hollowness of management consulting dogma in a way that can only be appreciated by a former management consultant. He compares his past field to the Ottoman empire, who he says used to isolate the young from the rest of the society and grant them extraordinary compensation in exchange for absolute loyalty to the throne. Stewart’s writing on this mercenary mentality of work is widely researched and often funny; this is one of my most highlighted books. Stewart’s conclusion is simple and true: a good manager is “nothing more or less than a good and well-educated person.”

The Management Myth

By Matthew Stewart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Fresh from Oxford with a degree in philosophy and no particular interest in business, Matthew Stewart might not have seemed a likely candidate to become a consultant. But soon he was telling veteran managers how to run their companies.

In narrating his own ill-fated (and often hilarious) odyssey at a top-tier firm, Stewart turns the consultant's merciless, penetrating eye on the management industry itself. The Management Myth offers an insightful romp through the entire history of thinking about management, a withering critique of pseudoscience in management theory, and a clear explanation of why the MBA usually amounts to so much…


The Architect's Apprentice

By Elif Shafak,

Book cover of The Architect's Apprentice

Evoking the Ottoman Empire at the height of its power, The Architect’s Apprentice depicts the boy Jahan’s magical life after he brings the first white elephant to the Sultan. Falling in love with Princess Mihrimah, Jahan must survive in a treacherous court. I was privileged to share a talk and book signing day with Elif Shafak in Hatchard’s, London in 2021 and learnt so much from this wonderful, empathetic author about her writing and historical recreations.

The Architect's Apprentice

By Elif Shafak,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Architect's Apprentice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A dazzling and intricate tale from Elif Shafak, Booker-shortlisted author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World - chosen for the Duchess of Cornwall's online book club The Reading Room

'There were six of us: the master, the apprentices and the white elephant. We built everything together...'

Sixteenth century Istanbul: a stowaway arrives in the city bearing an extraordinary gift for the Sultan. The boy is utterly alone in a foreign land, with no worldly possessions to his name except Chota, a rare white elephant destined for the palace menagerie.

So begins an epic adventure that will see…


The Ottoman World

By Hakan T. Karateke (editor), Helga Anetshofer (editor),

Book cover of The Ottoman World: A Cultural History Reader, 1450-1700

The workings of the state and the actions of state functionaries have long supplied the essential narrative informing our understanding of Ottoman history. This new volume by University of Chicago partner scholars is the first to give a platform to a wide spectrum of voices hailing from across the sultan's multilingual realm. Women and men, Muslims, Jews and Christians, prisoners and prostitutes, mystics and scholars, and a host of others, reach across the centuries to beguile us with their dreams and legends, anecdotes and jokes, biographies, and hagiographies. Although billed also as a textbook, as is customary these days in order to reach the widest readership, this book is for anyone who seeks affinity with the people of the early modern Ottoman world.

The Ottoman World

By Hakan T. Karateke (editor), Helga Anetshofer (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Ottoman lands, which extended from modern Hungary to the Arabian peninsula, were home to a vast population with a rich variety of cultures. The Ottoman World is the first primary source reader to bring a wide and diverse set of voices across Ottoman society into the classroom. Written in many languages-not only Ottoman Turkish but also Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, and Persian-these texts, here translated, span the extent of the early modern Ottoman empire, from the 1450s to 1700.

Instructors are supplied with narratives conveying the lived experiences of individuals through texts that highlight human variety and accelerate…


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