100 books like Love, Sex and Tragedy

By Simon Goldhill,

Here are 100 books that Love, Sex and Tragedy fans have personally recommended if you like Love, Sex and Tragedy. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Ancient City: Life in Classical Athens and Rome

Nigel Rodgers Author Of The Colosseum From AD80 To The Present Day

From my list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by ancient Greece and Rome since I first saw Italy and Greece as a teenager, revisiting them whenever I can. I studied ancient history at Cambridge University and have written eight books about it, most recently The Colosseum. After living in Paris, Rome, and London, I am now based in Wiltshire in southwest England, almost within sight of Stonehenge. There is a small megalith outside my own house.

Nigel's book list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome

Nigel Rodgers Why did Nigel love this book?

This book has the best illustrations of the two main cities of antiquity that l have ever seen. Besides superb photographs (all in colour) of the ruins today, they include Peter Connolly’s brilliant reconstructions of buildings of all sorts: houses, palaces, baths, temples, forums, hippodromes, theatres, amphitheaters, insulae (blocks of flats), bars and aqueducts, plus styles in furniture, clothing, and hair. All are shown in colourful detail, many with cutaway illustrations that recreate city life of 2000 years ago with wonderful vividness. They are complemented by Dr. Hazel Dodge’s lucid, informative text. The first part covers Athens at its democratic peak under Pericles around 434BC, the second Rome at its imperial zenith some 500 years later, when it was the greatest city on earth.

By Peter Connolly, Hazel Dodge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Superb, detailed reconstructions of buildings provide the starting-point for a vivid exploration of these two great cities and the lives of the people who inhabited them. Peter Connolly's illustrations and reconstructions have a unique authority, with their blend of superb draughtsmanship, imagination, and meticulous research. The text appeals to a wide spectrum of readers, from young adults to professional historians.


Book cover of Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic

David M. Gwynn Author Of The Roman Republic: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on the fall of the Roman Republic.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in New Zealand I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I had decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach many different aspects of that transformation, from the Roman Republic to early Christianity and the Goths, and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 

David's book list on the fall of the Roman Republic

David M. Gwynn Why did David love this book?

Named for the river that Julius Caesar crossed when he invaded Italy and began the civil war which brought the Roman Republic to its knees, this book offers a sweeping account of the Republic’s fall and has been rightly described as narrative history at its best. All the major characters are vividly presented, from Marius and Sulla to Pompey, Cicero and Caesar, in prose that manages to remain readable and fast-paced while spanning almost 400 pages. Tragedy is arguably more apparent than triumph, understandably in a book devoted to the collapse of the Republican order. But the glory of the Republic does also shine through, and the story is told on a larger scale than my book would have allowed.

By Tom Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Roman Republic was the most remarkable state in history. What began as a small community of peasants camped among marshes and hills ended up ruling the known world. Rubicon paints a vivid portrait of the Republic at the climax of its greatness - the same greatness which would herald the catastrophe of its fall. It is a story of incomparable drama. This was the century of Julius Caesar, the gambler whose addiction to glory led him to the banks of the Rubicon, and beyond; of Cicero, whose defence of freedom would make him a byword for eloquence; of Spartacus,…


Book cover of The Classical World: An Epic History from Homer to Hadrian

Nigel Rodgers Author Of The Colosseum From AD80 To The Present Day

From my list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by ancient Greece and Rome since I first saw Italy and Greece as a teenager, revisiting them whenever I can. I studied ancient history at Cambridge University and have written eight books about it, most recently The Colosseum. After living in Paris, Rome, and London, I am now based in Wiltshire in southwest England, almost within sight of Stonehenge. There is a small megalith outside my own house.

Nigel's book list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome

Nigel Rodgers Why did Nigel love this book?

Robin Lane Fox, best known for his books on Alexander the Great, has produced a superb overview of ancient history, from the emergence of Greece c.776BC to the Roman empire’s zenith under the emperor Hadrian (reigned  AD117-138).  He takes a firmly narrative approach, which makes for a thrilling read. His focus is on the lives of great men such as Pericles, Alexander, and Julius Caesar and on key political and military events rather than on cultural and social factors. While his epic approach may not impress all academics, it will probably still be read with enthusiasm long after more specialist works have been forgotten. Lots of illustrations, some in colour. Ideal for the general reader.

By Robin Lane Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classical civilizations of Greece and Rome once dominated the world, and they continue to fascinate and inspire us. Classical art and architecture, drama and epic, philosophy and politics-these are the foundations of Western civilization. In The Classical World , eminent classicist Robin Lane Fox brilliantly chronicles this vast sweep of history from Homer to the reign of Hadrian. From the Peloponnesian War through the creation of Athenian democracy, from the turbulent empire of Alexander the Great to the creation of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Christianity, Fox serves as our witty and trenchant guide. He introduces us…


Book cover of The Penguin Dictionary of Ancient History

Nigel Rodgers Author Of The Colosseum From AD80 To The Present Day

From my list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by ancient Greece and Rome since I first saw Italy and Greece as a teenager, revisiting them whenever I can. I studied ancient history at Cambridge University and have written eight books about it, most recently The Colosseum. After living in Paris, Rome, and London, I am now based in Wiltshire in southwest England, almost within sight of Stonehenge. There is a small megalith outside my own house.

Nigel's book list on daily life in ancient Athens and Rome

Nigel Rodgers Why did Nigel love this book?

Dictionaries are not usually meant to be fun but this fact-packed book is so well-written that it is a joy to read. Wonder who on earth was Cicero? What the Punic wars were all about? How the Greeks defeated the Persians at the Battle of Salamis? What was so special about Greek theatre? And why  Rome conquered Britain? You will find all the answers here. Besides military and political events, it covers literature, philosophy, art, religion, sport, and society, all the way from 776BC and the first Olympic Games to the end of the Roman Empire in the west in AD476.

By Graham Speake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Penguin Dictionary of Ancient History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ranging from the year of the first Olympic Games in 776 BC to the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476, this dictionary contains over 2000 entries providing a reference guide to the ancient Greco-Roman world. It includes entries on personalities, events, politics, literature, art and society.


Book cover of Nero: Matricide, Music, and Murder in Imperial Rome

Jennifer Burke Author Of Sub Rosa: A Valerius Mystery

From my list on bringing Ancient Rome alive.

Why am I passionate about this?

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?

So, just how bad was Nero? After 2000 years, it’s a question that we’ll probably never be able to answer with any certainty.

This non-fiction book makes a fantastic effort at trying to dig through a lot of the biases against Nero to find a more balanced view. While there’s no question that Nero was a monster in his later reign (certainly by our modern standards), it’s often forgotten that he started off incredibly popular with the common people, while his disregard for established traditions made him a lot of enemies amongst the patricians.

And, of course, it’s those patricians who got the final say when it came to writing down his history. It's a really fascinating read!  

By Anthony Everitt, Roddy Ashworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A striking, nuanced biography of Nero—the controversial populist ruler and last of the Caesars—and a vivid portrait of ancient Rome

“Exciting and provocative . . . Nero is a pleasure to read.”—Barry Strauss, author of The War That Made the Roman Empire: Antony, Cleopatra, and Octavian at Actium

The Roman emperor Nero’s name has long been a byword for cruelty, decadence, and despotism. As the stories go, he set fire to Rome and thrummed his lyre as it burned. He then cleared the charred ruins and built a vast palace. He committed incest with his mother, who had schemed and…


Book cover of The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times

Stephen R. Wilk Author Of Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon

From my list on the unexpected truths behind myths.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a scientist, engineer, and writer who has written on a wide range of topics. I’ve been fascinated by mythology my entire life, and I spent over a decade gathering background material on the myth of Perseus and Medusa, and came away with a new angle on the origin and meaning of the myth and what inspired it. I was unable to present this in a brief letter or article, and so decided to turn my arguments into a book. The book is still in print, and has been cited numerous times by scholarly journals and books. It formed the basis for the History Channel series Clash of the Gods (in which I appear).

Stephen's book list on the unexpected truths behind myths

Stephen R. Wilk Why did Stephen love this book?

Adrienne Mayor, a historian of ancient science and folklorist at Princeton University, looks at classical myths that ultimately owe their inspiration to fossils found and interpreted by the Greeks and Romans.

Stories of Giants and Monsters grew up around the giant and mysterious fossil bones that resembled nothing they knew. In particular, she relates the image and stories of griffins to ceratopsian fossils, like those of Protoceratops and Psitticasaurus.

She also shows how dwarf elephant fossils may have inspired the myth of the Cyclops. An excellent read.

By Adrienne Mayor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Griffins, Cyclopes, Monsters, and Giants--these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if these beings were more than merely fictions? What if monstrous creatures once roamed the earth in the very places where their legends first arose? This is the arresting and original thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores in The First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she convincingly shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact--in…


Book cover of Extinction

Charles Lambert Author Of Birthright

From my list on set in 20th century Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in the UK, in Lichfield, but moved to Italy in 1976 and to Rome in 1982. Over the past forty years, Rome has become my city, my home, and my inspiration, as it has for hundreds of thousands of other people during its millennia as caput mundi. It isn’t always the easiest place to live, but it’s varied and colourful and endlessly stimulating. It’s provided a backdrop to several of my novels and not only that. Rome is a character in its own right, boisterous, elegant, breathtakingly beautiful, unutterably sordid. Roma è casa mia!

Charles' book list on set in 20th century Rome

Charles Lambert Why did Charles love this book?

I discovered Bernhard—miraculously—in a provincial train station in southern Italy, where the bar had a selection of books on sale.

This was when Bernhard translations into English were hard to find, so my early experience of the writer, in my opinion one of the most extraordinary of his generation, was in Italian. His final novel, Extinction, is set in Rome and it’s a classic of Bernhardian nihilism, scratching at the itch of the absurdity that is life in the face of death.

Bernhard’s Rome is the yin of intellectual freedom to the suffocating and hypocritical yang of Austria. In the end, what I love most about this book is probably its exhilarating contempt for mediocrity and its capacity, I’ll admit it, to make me laugh out loud at just how awful life really is.

By Thomas Bernhard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The last work of fiction by one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Extinction is widely considered Thomas Bernhard’s magnum opus.
 
Franz-Josef Murau—the intellectual black sheep of a powerful Austrian land-owning family—lives in Rome in self-imposed exile, surrounded by a coterie of artistic and intellectual friends. On returning from his sister’s wedding on the family estate of Wolfsegg, having resolved never to go home again, Murau receives a telegram informing him of the death of his parents and brother in a car crash. Not only must he now go back, he must do so as the master of Wolfsegg. And…


Book cover of When in Rome

Rosanna Staffa Author Of The War Ends At Four

From my list on the unexpected ways we find home.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm an Italian-born writer living in Minneapolis. I experienced being an outsider early on in my childhood when my family moved from Naples to Este, a small town in the hills near Venice. My fascination with language started then as I had to master the different Northern dialect. I was a listener rather than a talker. My shyness was painful in life but turned out to be a gift as a writer. When I left Italy for America, once again I was an outsider, too visible or invisible, and facing a new language. I relate to estrangement and longing, but I treasure that being an outsider still gives me a sense of wonder about reality.

Rosanna's book list on the unexpected ways we find home

Rosanna Staffa Why did Rosanna love this book?

I'm loving this novel by Liam Callanan.

It poses questions I feel close to and presents turns of life I have been surprised by myself, if in a different way. The writing is richly textured and so very delicate.

"...She'd known quiet, of course... But not silence, not like this. This silence had texture and shape; it felt attached to each molecule of air. Everything inside her was falling silent, too."

Claire, 52 and a real estate broker, deeply desires a fresh start. She receives a call from a convent in Rome that is facing its end. When she arrives she meets a colorful, fierce group of nuns living in a crumbling villa and starts wondering if she should stay forever.

By Liam Callanan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From nationally bestselling, award-winning author Liam Callanan, the story of an opportunity to start over at midlife, a chance to save a struggling convent in the Eternal City, and the dramatic re-emergence of an old flame . . .

Meet Claire: fifty-two, desperate to do something new and get a fresh start.

Enter the chance to go to Rome: Home to a struggling convent facing a precipitous end, the city beckons Claire, who's long had a complicated relationship with religion, including a “missed connection” with convent life in her teens. Once in Rome, she finds a group of funny, fearless…


Book cover of How to Stop a Conspiracy: An Ancient Guide to Saving a Republic

Emily Katz Anhalt Author Of Embattled: How Ancient Greek Myths Empower Us to Resist Tyranny

From my list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first visited ancient Greece as an undergraduate. Homer and Plato seemed to speak directly to me, addressing my deepest questions. How do you live a good life? What should you admire? What should you avoid? Frustrated by English translations (each offers a different interpretation), I learned to read ancient Greek and then Latin. In college and then graduate school, I came to know Homer, Plato, Aeschylus, Cicero, Ovid, and many others in their own words. The ancient Greeks and Romans faced the same existential struggles and anxieties as we do. By precept, example, and counter-example, they remind me of humanity’s best tools: discernment, deliberation, empathy, generosity.

Emily's book list on why Ancient Greece and Rome matter today

Emily Katz Anhalt Why did Emily love this book?

Osgood details the ancient version of a phenomenon we may recognize: a cold-blooded grift by a charismatic, lawless, leader transmuted into terrorism while posing as patriotism.

Detailing the violent conspiracy of L. Sergius Catilina (63 BCE), Osgood’s elegant translation of Sallust’s The War Against Catiline (c. 43 BCE) emphasizes the danger that political violence and intimidation pose to communal welfare and stability. The Romans never found the recipe for combining individual freedom with equality and political harmony. (Rome’s 450-year-old Republic ultimately devolved into civil war and autocracy.)

Sallust’s tale and Rome’s experience caution us against preserving inequities even as we seek to preserve the rule of law.

By Sallust, Josiah Osgood (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Stop a Conspiracy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An energetic new translation of an ancient Roman masterpiece about a failed coup led by a corrupt and charismatic politician

In 63 BC, frustrated by his failure to be elected leader of the Roman Republic, the aristocrat Catiline tried to topple its elected government. Backed by corrupt elites and poor, alienated Romans, he fled Rome while his associates plotted to burn the city and murder its leading politicians. The attempted coup culminated with the unmasking of the conspirators in the Senate, a stormy debate that led to their execution, and the defeat of Catiline and his legions in battle. In…


Book cover of The Public Image

Charles Lambert Author Of Birthright

From my list on set in 20th century Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born in the UK, in Lichfield, but moved to Italy in 1976 and to Rome in 1982. Over the past forty years, Rome has become my city, my home, and my inspiration, as it has for hundreds of thousands of other people during its millennia as caput mundi. It isn’t always the easiest place to live, but it’s varied and colourful and endlessly stimulating. It’s provided a backdrop to several of my novels and not only that. Rome is a character in its own right, boisterous, elegant, breathtakingly beautiful, unutterably sordid. Roma è casa mia!

Charles' book list on set in 20th century Rome

Charles Lambert Why did Charles love this book?

I’ve always seen Muriel Spark as a kindred spirit, and her experience of Rome as mirroring my own, albeit on a more luxurious scale (although I did once live round the corner from her flat near Piazza Farnese).

Of the novels she set in Italy, my favourite is probably The Public Image, a story of revenge and dissimulation that captures the dark heart of the city at a time when it was known as Hollywood on the Tiber. It’s a wonderful portrait of what lay beneath the dolce vita and also, presciently, has a lot to say about celebrity culture and its manufacture. Listen up, influencers!

By Muriel Spark,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Spark chooses Rome, "the motherland of sensation," for the setting of her story about movie star Annabel Christopher (known to her adoring fans as "The English Lady-Tiger"), who has made the fatal mistake of believing in her public image. This error and her embittered husband, and unsuccessful actor, catch up with her. Her final act is only the first shocking climax-further surprises await. Neatly savaging our celebrity culture, Spark rejoices in one of her favorite subjects-the clash between sham and genuine identity-and provides Annabel with an unexpected triumph.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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