100 books like Empires of the Sea

By Roger Crowley,

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

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Leopard

Anika Scott Author Of Sinners of Starlight City

From my list on sparking an obsession with Sicily.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a traveler and a dreamer ever since I was a little girl. I used to write to the tourism bureaus of different countries and tape pictures of faraway places onto the walls of my bedroom. It’s no surprise I ended up living in Europe, my home base for excursions all over the world. My historical fiction always features places that mean a lot to me, whether it’s Germany (where I live now), or Sicily – where my mother’s family came from. Digging into my Sicilian heritage and the culture and life of the island for my third novel was like discovering a new home.

Anika's book list on sparking an obsession with Sicily

Anika Scott Why did Anika love this book?

This is the novel to read if you want to submerge yourself in Sicily’s culture and history.

I read it during a visit to Italy, and was sucked right into this tale of an aristocratic Sicilian family decaying in the 19th century in the time of Garibaldi’s revolution. I really despised the patriarch Don Fabrizio, and was still fascinated by the choices he had to make to keep his family status in turbulent times.

Once you finish the book, check out the 1963 film starring Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon.

By Giuseppe Di Lampedusa,

Why should I read it?

6 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…


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

Andrew R. Novo Author Of Restoring Thucydides: Testing Familiar Lessons and Deriving New Ones

From my list on history that resonates across time and place.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian who teaches strategic studies at the National Defense University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I'm fascinated by how we write and teach history, how we interpret it, and how we use it. To use history, we have to “get it right,” but we also have to think about how the past impacts the present. One of the foremost challenges confronting historians is how to write the history of their particular subject well while making it applicable (and interesting) more universally. The following books are all particular to the region I study most closely—the Eastern Mediterranean—but their grasp of humanity is profound. Their power and perspectives ring true across millennia.

Andrew's book list on history that resonates across time and place

Andrew R. Novo Why did Andrew love this book?

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…

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,…


Book cover of Freedom and Death

Andrew R. Novo Author Of Restoring Thucydides: Testing Familiar Lessons and Deriving New Ones

From my list on history that resonates across time and place.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a historian who teaches strategic studies at the National Defense University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC. I'm fascinated by how we write and teach history, how we interpret it, and how we use it. To use history, we have to “get it right,” but we also have to think about how the past impacts the present. One of the foremost challenges confronting historians is how to write the history of their particular subject well while making it applicable (and interesting) more universally. The following books are all particular to the region I study most closely—the Eastern Mediterranean—but their grasp of humanity is profound. Their power and perspectives ring true across millennia.

Andrew's book list on history that resonates across time and place

Andrew R. Novo Why did Andrew love this book?

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…

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


Book cover of Ironfire

William Havelock Author Of The Last Dying Light

From my list on historical fiction depicting premodern battle.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am fascinated by how societies conduct war. Who is expected to fight, and how are they organized? How is technology developed, implemented, and improvised in the heat of battle? And, most importantly, how do its participants make sense of the carnage around them? History is replete with tales of savagery and courage, of honor and depravity. Perilously few of these have been formed into novels, leaving an incomplete and disjointed understanding of thousands of years of struggle. Many authors, including those listed here, paved the path for holistic depictions of historical battle fiction – my hope is to contribute tales from oft-neglected societies, beginning with Belisarius and the 6th-Century Roman Empire.

William's book list on historical fiction depicting premodern battle

William Havelock Why did William love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean

Brian Catlos Author Of Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad

From my list on the multi-religious Mediterranean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Having lived in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and visited many, many more countries, I am a traveler first and foremost. I travel because I like getting to know different types of people and seeing how they live and how they think about the world and about their place in it. As a historian, I can travel back in time to places even more exotic than one can visit today. My favorite place is the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages – an exciting environment where Christians, Muslims, and Jews from Africa, Europe, and Asia, came together sometimes in conflict, but as often as not in collaboration or friendship.

Brian's book list on the multi-religious Mediterranean

Brian Catlos Why did Brian love this book?

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.

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…


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

Roger Crowley Author Of Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

From my list on the Mediterranean world.

Why am I passionate about this?

The Mediterranean is in my family’s history. My dad was a naval officer who worked in the sea in peace and war and took us to Malta when I was nine. I was entranced by the island’s history, by an evocative sensory world of sunlight, brilliant seas, and antiquity. I’ve been travelling in this sea ever since, including a spell living in Turkey, and delved deep into its past, its empires, and its maritime activity. I’m the author of three books on the subject: Constantinople: the Last Great Siege, Empires of the Sea, and Venice: City of Fortune.

Roger's book list on the Mediterranean world

Roger Crowley Why did Roger love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of The Ottoman Empire and the World Around It

Emrah Sahin Author Of Faithful Encounters: Authorities and American Missionaries in the Ottoman Empire

From my list on understanding the Ottoman Empire and the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Emrah Sahin is a specialist in the history of religious interactions and international operations in Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. He received a Ph.D. from McGill University, a Social Science and Humanities Research Award from Canada, the Sabancı International Research Award from Turkey, and the Teacher of the Year Award from the University of Florida. He is currently with the University of Florida as a board member in Global Islamic Studies, an affiliate in History, a lecturer in European Studies, a college-wide advisor, and the coordinator of the federal Global Officer program.

Emrah's book list on understanding the Ottoman Empire and the world

Emrah Sahin Why did Emrah love this book?

This archive-powered gem is about moments when people and things moved between Europe and the Middle East not harder than today. From Islamic laws to foreign affairs, slaves to pilgrims, archival sources to further study, it is for readers to observe the trees without losing sight of the Ottoman forestry. 

By Suraiya Faroqhi,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Islamic law the world was made up of the House of Islam and the House of War with the Ottoman Sultan - the perceived successor to the Caliphs - supreme ruler of the Islamic world. However, Suraiya Faroqhi demonstrates that there was no iron curtain between the Ottoman and other worlds but rather a long-established network of diplomatic, financial, cultural and religious connections. These extended to the empires of Asia and the modern states of Europe. Faroqhi's book is based on a huge study of original and early modern sources, including diplomatic records, travel and geographical writing, as well…


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

Caroline Finkel Author Of Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire

From my list on the Ottoman Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Scottish Ottoman historian who has lived half my life in Istanbul. Realising that the archive-based research of my PhD and after was read by too few, I wrote Osman's Dream, which has been translated into several languages and is read generally, as well as by students. I am fascinated by the 'where' of history, and follow historical routes the slow way, by foot or on horseback, to reach the sites where events occurred. That's the thing about living where the history you study happened: its traces and artefacts are all around, every day. I hope I have brought a sense of Ottoman place to Osman's Dream.

Caroline's book list on the Ottoman Empire

Caroline Finkel Why did Caroline love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of Between Two Worlds: The Construction of the Ottoman State

Emrah Sahin Author Of Faithful Encounters: Authorities and American Missionaries in the Ottoman Empire

From my list on understanding the Ottoman Empire and the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Emrah Sahin is a specialist in the history of religious interactions and international operations in Islam and Muslim-Christian relations. He received a Ph.D. from McGill University, a Social Science and Humanities Research Award from Canada, the Sabancı International Research Award from Turkey, and the Teacher of the Year Award from the University of Florida. He is currently with the University of Florida as a board member in Global Islamic Studies, an affiliate in History, a lecturer in European Studies, a college-wide advisor, and the coordinator of the federal Global Officer program.

Emrah's book list on understanding the Ottoman Empire and the world

Emrah Sahin Why did Emrah love this book?

Kafadar’s classic is a compelling prose unraveling the sources and fundamentals of the Ottoman state. It helps navigate the state’s existentialist search for order between Europe and the Orient. I like this book also because it comes from a culturally versed author well trained in multiple countries, disciplines, and traditions. Its focus on early conversations makes it one of my top picks in the Ottoman Empire and the Wider World.

By Cemal Kafadar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This text analyzes medieval as well as modern historiography from the perspective of a cultural historian, demonstrating how ethnic, tribal, linguistic, religious and political affiliations were all at play in the struggle for power in Anatolia and the Balkans during the late Middle Ages. This examination of the rise of the Ottoman Empire - the longest-lived political entity in human history - shows the transformation of a tiny frontier enterprise into a centralized imperial state that saw itself as both leader of the world's Muslims and heir to the Eastern Roman Empire.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean, and Charles II of England?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Ottoman Empire, the Mediterranean, and Charles II of England.

The Ottoman Empire Explore 61 books about the Ottoman Empire
The Mediterranean Explore 62 books about the Mediterranean
Charles II Of England Explore 14 books about Charles II of England