100 books like Napoleon

By Max Gallo, William Hobson (translator),

Here are 100 books that Napoleon fans have personally recommended if you like Napoleon. 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 Napoleon on Napoleon: An Autobiography of the Emperor

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From my list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

Where better to start trying to understand Napoleon than with his own words? If only it was that simple! In total, four of his companions took down Napoleon’s words but he died without editing them. Exiled on St Helena, Bonaparte was determined to counter what he saw as the gross distortions circulating in the English-speaking world. I delight in his confident vision, even after his ultimate defeat. This book gives us insights into his view on the nature of history, his assessment of generals through the ages, including a substantial section on himself, the key events in his career, and a set of final observations in which he attempts to rewrite history to his tastes. Not then a balanced piece of work but no less fascinating for all that. It taught me the importance of putting myself in a character’s shoes before I start writing.

By Somerset de Chair (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

During his exile on St. Helena, Napoleon dictated memoirs, notes, letters and battle commentaries to the generals who shared his captivity. He then edited the material himself. The result is an account of Napoleon's life in his own words, from his childhood in Corsica to his defeat at Waterloo in 1815. Private concerns, such as feuds with his brothers and divorce from Josephine, are mixed with such matters of state as the rebellion of Toussaint-Louverture and the retreat from Moscow. In this edition, de Chair has incorporated much new material from three further volumes of notes and miscellanies dictated by…


Book cover of The Road to Rivoli: Napoleon's First Campaign

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From my list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

This is a detailed and meticulously researched book focusing on Bonaparte’s first independent command. The Army of Italy is little more than an afterthought but he forges his rag-tag troops into a force that expels the Austrians from most of northern Italy. I loved the eye-witness accounts and the author’s ability to evaluate events such as those at the bridge over the Arcole. It became part of the Napoleonic legend, immortalised in Gros’ painting, that the young general was in the thick of the fighting but this has been denounced as blatant propaganda. We learn from Boycott-Brown that both things are true. Napoleon did expose himself to fierce enemy fire to rally his troops to the standard, although he did not make it to the bridge, and his men did not follow, forcing him to retreat. This is where I learnt to accept the notion that history is messy! 

By Martin Boycott-Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the spring of 1796 the 26-year-old Napoleon took command of the Army of Italy - a collection of some 45,000 ill-fed, poorly-clothed and disillusioned men. He had only ever participated in one campaign and had never been involved in a major battle, much less conducted one as the commander of an army. And yet within just two months he and his scarecrow army had knocked the Piedmontese out of the war, driven the Austrians half way across Italy and laid siege to the fortress of Mantua, the capture of which was essential for the control of northern Italy. Over…


Book cover of How Far From Austerlitz?: Napoleon 1805-1815

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From my list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

As a St Helena Lullaby puts it, quoted by Horne at the start of his scholarly but eminently readable book, "How far is St Helena from the field of Austerlitz?" Horne is a brilliant historian and he crafts a compelling book tracing Napoleon’s career from its apogee on the field of his greatest victory to its nadir with his exile to St Helena, far out in the south Atlantic. But we don’t just get the events, we get to experience the slippery nature of success, as Spain swallows troops and Russia decimates the Grande Armée. We see this through Napoleon’s own words, and Horne’s relentless research, as he struggles to maintain his dominance. I loved the balanced assessment of this final decade in power. I marvelled at Bonaparte’s brilliance and achievements whilst learning to appreciate how much the odds were stacked against him.

By Alistair Horne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How Far From Austerlitz? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A London Sunday Times Book of the Year
A Daily Telegraph Book of the Year


Book cover of Napoleon Surrenders

Gareth Williams Author Of Needing Napoleon

From my list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head.

Why am I passionate about this?

I taught about Napoleon for thirty years, having studied history at Cambridge. I’ve been fascinated by the Corsican outsider, who, thanks to the French Revolution, rose to dominate Europe, since I saw a china bust of him in his green Chasseurs uniform on my maternal grandparents’ sideboard. I always loved historical fiction and having retired into a locked-down world, I put my time on the Isle of Skye to good use and set about researching and writing the novel I had always said I would write. Re-reading old favourites and encountering new interpretations was a joy and certainly made compiling this list an enjoyable challenge!

Gareth's book list on getting inside Napoleon Bonaparte’s head

Gareth Williams Why did Gareth love this book?

As I fingered a copy of Napoleon Surrenders in a second-hand bookshop, a passing stranger said to me, "Read anything by Martineau, it’s all good, and that one is brilliant." Encouraged, I willingly paid £2 for my copy. Well, I have never spent so well! This detailed account whisks us from the evening after Waterloo to HMS Northumberland under sail for St Helena. Until I read this book, it was too easy to see Bonaparte’s story as over once he was defeated by the Duke of Wellington. But Martineau changed my mind. He crafts the story of those agonising months in which Napoleon has to say goodbye to his family, his soldiers, his home, and his country. He relinquishes his title for a second time and throws himself at the mercy of London. Martineau conjures the historical actors as real people confronting an impossible dilemma: what to do with Napoleon?

Book cover of Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819

Philip Mansel Author Of King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV

From my list on French Court.

Why am I passionate about this?

The French court has fascinated me since boyhood visits to Blois and Versailles. The appeal of its unusually dramatic history is heightened by the prominence of women, by the number and brilliance of courtiers’ letters and memoirs, and by its stupendous cultural patronage: Even after writing seven books on the French court, from Louis XIV to Louis XVIII, I remain enthralled by Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Paris where, as the new science of court studies expands, there is always more to see and learn. The power and popularity of the French presidency today confirm the importance of the French monarchy, to which it owes so much, including its physical setting, the Elysée Palace.

Philip's book list on French Court

Philip Mansel Why did Philip love this book?

Madame de Boigne describes the same period as Chateaubriand, whom she disliked, from a liberal perspective. Both had their style and mind improved by suffering during the Emigration, which also made both, for a time, feel half-English. Boigne married a French officer who had made a fortune in India, but failed to tell her he had brought back an Indian wife. She took his money and returned to live with her parents. 

Born with what she called a ‘taste for royalty and the instinct for court life’, she described salons and quarrels, royalty and revolution, Paris and England, from 1780 to 1840. Her friend Count Pozzo di Borgo, for example, she says, would have descended into hell to find enemies for Napoleon, whom he had hated since their childhood in Corsica. She blamed the long foretold revolutions of 1830 and 1848 on monarchs’ exaggerated sense of their infallibility. A genius…

By Charles Nicoullaud (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs of the Comtesse de Boigne 1815 - 1819 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The personal writings of a 18th-19th century French Noble woman taken from her personal writings. Her papers (published in several volumes) throw many side-lights upon a long period extending from the reign of Louis XIV to the Revolution of 1848, and this rather by means of the special details which are narrated than by any generalizations from a wider outlook. This period was in every respect one of the most troubled and extraordinary in French history, and is fertile in events and changes, important though not always fortunate. Mme. De Boigne held an important social position and for nearly sixty…


Book cover of Napoleon Bonaparte

James Charles Roy Author Of The Vanished Kingdom: Travels Through the History of Prussia

From my list on Prussia from different perspectives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am what is euphemistically called an "independent scholar," meaning I have no academic affiliation, no straightforward road I must follow (in order, let’s say, to gain tenure), and no duty per se to follow a pre-ordained or politically correct point of view. But being a "freelance"  has obligations which I take very seriously. I feel that my job, in any subject I choose to pursue, is to engage the reader in a joint venture. I must instill in them the same enthusiasm I have for whatever I’m writing about, which in this case is the history of Prussia, and the state of this footprint on earth which war and ceaseless conflict have rearranged countless times. To do that, I usually take an often oblique and "off the radar" approach that I think will pull the reader along with me, making the journey for both of us something that matters.

James' book list on Prussia from different perspectives

James Charles Roy Why did James love this book?

This relatively recent biography of Napoleon, well researched and written, has Prussia all over it (tangentially), mostly because of the French emperor’s insatiably aggressive appetite, which involved all his neighbors diplomatically, socially, militarily, and economically. Everything Napoleon did had ramifications everywhere else, and it took a united Europe to thwart him. Prussia, along with Great Britain, was in the forefront of this effort. Marshal Blücher's Prussian forces, in fact, provided the last-minute, decisive intervention that led to Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1814, a pivotal moment in European and Prussia history

By Alan Schom,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A definitive biography of Bonaparte from his birth in Corsica to his death in exile on St Helena, this book examines all aspects of Bonaparte's spectacular rise to power and his dizzying fall. It offers close examination of battlefield victories, personal torments, military genius, Bonaparte's titanic ego and his relationships with the French government, Talleyrand, Wellington and Josephine. It is a consummate biography of a complex man.


Book cover of The Queen's Fortune: A Novel of Desiree, Napoleon, and the Dynasty That Outlasted the Empire

Michelle Cameron Author Of Beyond the Ghetto Gates

From my list on historical fiction books on the French Revolution and Napoleon that portray real life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Napoleon and the French Revolution since I was a teenager. Novels that capture the essence of the struggles of the French people – and especially those that feature Napoleon as a highly layered character – have always called to me. As a Jewish author, I am particularly drawn to a fair representation of Jewish characters in these tales – which frankly, Georgette Heyer does not, as she adheres to stereotypes in describing any Jewish characters. (I only forgive her because her books are so brilliant.)

Michelle's book list on historical fiction books on the French Revolution and Napoleon that portray real life

Michelle Cameron Why did Michelle love this book?

I loved this modern retelling of the story of Désirée Clary, which was somewhat rawer and more visceral than the original Désirée. It continued to help shape my own impressions of Napoleon, who does not come off well in this novel.

Pataki’s ability to capture life at court, Désirée’s continued entanglements with both Napoleon and Josephine, as well as her elevation to the Swedish court as princess and then queen (which she was never comfortable with), is brilliantly captured. 

By Allison Pataki,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Queen's Fortune as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A sweeping novel about the extraordinary woman who captured Napoleon’s heart, created a dynasty, and changed the course of history—from the New York Times bestselling author of The Traitor's Wife, The Accidental Empress, and Sisi

“I absolutely loved The Queen’s Fortune, the fascinating, little-known story of Desiree Clary—the woman Napoleon left for Josephine—who ultimately triumphed and became queen of Sweden.”—Martha Hall Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of Lilac Girls

As the French revolution ravages the country, Desiree Clary is faced with the life-altering truth that the world she has known and loved is gone and it’s fallen on her…


Book cover of The Campaigns of Napoleon

Tom Kratman Author Of The Romanov Rescue

From my list on history and practice of war.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been fascinated by war since I was literally a toddler. True story, I was the only two-and-a-half-year-old in South Boston, Massachusetts with an adult library card. I had to get one, and to get it to prove to the librarian that I could read, in order to check out certain books that I wanted. I only recall one title, The Battle of Midway. Since then, though I’ve done other things like practice law and become a novelist, most of my adult life was still spent as an enlisted man, non-commissioned officer, and company grade and field grade infantry officer in the Army.  

Tom's book list on history and practice of war

Tom Kratman Why did Tom love this book?

This one is pricey, but is perhaps the best single source on war as carried out by Napoleon. Why does this matter? Because—less logistics, for the most partwe are still locked into an essentially Napoleonic system of making war. I love this book because the author was patient and thorough, didn’t take shortcuts, assumed the reader had a lot to learn on the subject, and taught just about everything there was to teach.

By David G. Chandler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Describes every campaign and every battle which Napoleon personally conducted. It contains descriptions of tactics, logistics, topography, weaponry, casualties, the roles of individuals under Napoleon's command or against him. Has pull-out map of Napoleon's 1798 voyage to Egypt and Nelson's chase.


Book cover of Napoleon: The End of Glory

Michael Broers Author Of Napoleon: The Decline and Fall of an Empire: 1811-1821

From my list on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in Napoleon, although in what ways have shifted back and forth over time. His reforms shaped the Europe we live in today, as few other rulers have managed. To go to law, to buy and sell, to marry, be born, or divorce, all these actions belong to his Civil Code. That is why I took up the study of his regime and its work as a professional historian. His myth, his exploits, gripped me as a boy, and still do. So spectacular a rise and fall do not happen by chance. There was no one like him.

Michael's book list on Napoleon and an era that shook Europe

Michael Broers Why did Michael love this book?

The accomplished historian of France across the years of Revolution, Empire and Restoration, Munro Price brings all his arsenal of erudition, archival acumen, and intellectual insight to bear on the last crisis of the empire. His attention to detail, his sensitivity to character and motivation make for one of the most penetrating, illuminating accounts of the implosion of support for Napoleon among the French elites ever written. No non-French scholar had picked through the complex politics of late Napoleonic France with as much skill or precision. Price delivers all this in elegant prose, the sign of a subtle historian.

By Munro Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On April 20, 1814, after a dizzying series of battles, campaigns, and diplomatic intrigues, a defeated Napoleon Bonaparte made his farewell speech to the Old Guard in the courtyard of the Chateau de Fontainebleau and set off for exile on the island of Elba. Napoleonic legend asserts that the Emperor was brought down by foreign powers determined to destroy him and discredit his achievements, with the aid of highly placed domestic traitors. Others argue that once Napoleon's military defeats began in 1812, his fall became inevitable. But in fact, as Munro Price shows in this brilliant new book, Napoleon's fall…


Book cover of The Josephine B. Trilogy

Marcia DeSanctis Author Of 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go

From my list on women in France.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a former television news producer who worked for Barbara Walters and Peter Jennings at ABC News, and at Dateline NBC and CBS’s 60 Minutes. I was always a journalist, but mid-career, I switched lanes from TV to writing. Since then, I've contributed essays and stories to many publications, among them Vogue, Travel & Leisure, The New York Times, BBC Travel, and others. I mostly write about travel, but also cover beauty, wellness, international development, and health. I'm the recipient of five Lowell Thomas Awards for excellence in travel journalism, including one for Travel Journalist of the Year. My book of essays, A Hard Place to Leave: Stories From a Restless Life comes out in May 2022.

Marcia's book list on women in France

Marcia DeSanctis Why did Marcia love this book?

It can be difficult to recall that, while laying waste to the armies of Europe, proving himself to be one of the finest military commanders in history, Napoleon was writing salty love letters home to his wife. Narrated in first-person diary-style by Josephine, Sandra Gulland’s sensational trio of books is a credit to the sometimes-overlooked genre of historical autobiographical fiction. The events around her life with the self-anointed Emperor of the French are defined with both intimacy and sweep. Josephine emerges as a most intriguing woman, charming and clever, and a full participant aside from her husband as he rises and falls.

The three books cover the many phases of her exceptional life. From her childhood in the French colony of Martinique, through her first marriage and imprisonment during the revolution, to her fateful introduction to the “strange little man,” and through their marriage and demise, the woman who became…

By Sandra Gulland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Josephine B. Trilogy comprises three acclaimed,bestselling novels that draw the reader into the delicate yet passionaterelationship between Josephine and Napoleon Bonaparte: The Many Lives& Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.; Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe;and The Last Great Dance on Earth. Together in this omnibusedition, they form an irresistible epic, tracing Josephine’s transformationfrom impressionable young girl to canny and compassionate wife, to confidanteempress and one of the most sophisticated and powerful women in history.

Adored by readers of historical fiction, the Josephine novelsare a sweeping tale of love and loss, political intrigue and revolution duringone of the most tumultuous…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Napoleon Bonaparte, France, and Corsica?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Napoleon Bonaparte, France, and Corsica.

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