100 books like Persian Fire

By Tom Holland,

Here are 100 books that Persian Fire fans have personally recommended if you like Persian Fire. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Never Greater Slaughter: Brunanburh and the Birth of England

Myke Cole Author Of The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

From my list on narrative military history.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong warfighter, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and emergency services worker, intimately familiar with the crisis response and what makes conflict so fascinating to students of history. I’m also a popular novelist with an in-depth understanding of story arcs and what makes great prose. I’ve previously published narrative military history myself – Legion Versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World. My short nonfiction, much of it based on military history and crisis work, has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Ancient Warfare Magazine.

Myke's book list on narrative military history

Myke Cole Why did Myke love this book?

Livingston is the undisputed master of conflict geography/cartography, using battlegrounds as the interpretative mechanism for truly ground-breaking scholarship. He has already disrupted centuries of scholarship on major medieval battles such as Hastings, Crecy and Agincourt, completely changing how we view them (and proving where they were actually fought). He’s also an accomplished novelist, and he brings his flair for dramatic narrative to this towering scholarly work, making it as exciting to read as a pulse-pounding action novel. Never Greater Slaughter absolutely raises the bar on what great scholarship can do, and how gripping it can be while doing it.

By Michael Livingston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Never Greater Slaughter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'No one has done more than Michael Livingston to revive memories of the battle, and you could not hope for a better guide.' BERNARD CORNWELL Bestselling author of The Last Kingdom series Late in AD 937, four armies met in a place called Brunanburh. On one side stood the shield-wall of the expanding kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons. On the other side stood a remarkable alliance of rival kings - at least two from across the sea - who'd come together to destroy them once and for all. The stakes were no less than the survival of the dream that would…


Book cover of The Plague of War: Athens, Sparta, and the Struggle for Ancient Greece

Myke Cole Author Of The Bronze Lie: Shattering the Myth of Spartan Warrior Supremacy

From my list on narrative military history.

Who am I?

I’m a lifelong warfighter, law enforcement officer, intelligence officer, and emergency services worker, intimately familiar with the crisis response and what makes conflict so fascinating to students of history. I’m also a popular novelist with an in-depth understanding of story arcs and what makes great prose. I’ve previously published narrative military history myself – Legion Versus Phalanx: The Epic Struggle for Infantry Supremacy in the Ancient World. My short nonfiction, much of it based on military history and crisis work, has appeared in The New York Times, The Daily Beast, The New Republic, Foreign Policy, and Ancient Warfare Magazine.

Myke's book list on narrative military history

Myke Cole Why did Myke love this book?

Roberts’ groundbreaking, game-changing story of the Peloponnesian War (really, wars) is richly detailed and comprehensive, a modernizing “leveling up” from Donald Kagan’s 2004 standard text. By centering her narrative in the impact of the war, rather than strategy and politics, Roberts brings home the terrible human cost of the conflict, and the book serves as a critical examination of what wholesale violence means to a society, from the high to the low. Roberts writes with incredible empathy, and her voice makes the book more than enlightening, it’s a deeply moving mediation on the depths of self-inflicted suffering as only human beings can engender. 

By Jennifer T. Roberts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In 431 BC, the long simmering rivalry between the city-states of Athens and Sparta erupted into open warfare, and for more than a generation the two were locked in a life-and-death struggle. The war embroiled the entire Greek world, provoking years of butchery previously unparalleled in ancient Greece. Whole cities were exterminated, their men killed, their women and children enslaved. While the war is commonly believed to have ended with the capture of the Athenian
navy in 405 and the subsequent starvation of Athens, fighting in Greece would continue for several decades. Sparta's authority was challenged in the so-called Corinthian…


Book cover of The Thirty Years War

Laurence W. Marvin Author Of The Occitan War: A Military and Political History of the Albigensian Crusade, 1209–1218

From my list on premodern western warfare.

Who am I?

From my earliest memories I’ve always been interested in military history, and as a young man I served in the U.S. Navy on a nuclear submarine. As an ardent bibliophile, my home and office overflows with books. As a professor, for the past 25 years I’ve been fortunate enough to teach a broad survey on western military history, which gives me the opportunity to experiment with many books for my own and the students’ enjoyment. The books on this list are perennial favorites of the traditional-age undergraduates (18-22) I teach, but will appeal to any reader interested in premodern military history. 

Laurence's book list on premodern western warfare

Laurence W. Marvin Why did Laurence love this book?

Wedgewood published this in 1938, on the cusp of World War II.

In many ways the disaster that was the Thirty Years war provided an allegory of what was to come. Many authors have tackled this subject since Wedgewood wrote, some far more massive than her 500 pages, but there’s a reason this one remains in print. Wedgewood wrote an eminently readable narrative that is as delightful to read as its subject is dreadful. She excelled at what narrative should provide: a sense of development, how a huge event happens from beginning to end, all while keeping the reader’s attention. 

Wedgewood conveyed the nastiness, carnage, and utter craziness of the conflict in a dispassionate, easily understandable way.

By C.V. Wedgwood,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Europe in 1618 was riven between Protestants and Catholics, Bourbon and Hapsburg--as well as empires, kingdoms, and countless principalities. After angry Protestants tossed three representatives of the Holy Roman Empire out the window of the royal castle in Prague, world war spread from Bohemia with relentless abandon, drawing powers from Spain to Sweden into a nightmarish world of famine, disease, and seemingly unstoppable destruction.


Book cover of Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire

Jay Penner Author Of Regent Cleopatra

From my list on Cleopatra and ancient Egypt.

Who am I?

The genre I specialize in is Ancient Historical Fiction. I have always been fascinated by history, and my vacations often involve visiting ancient ruins. I’m an avid reader on various periods of our past, especially Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, and India, and I enjoy writing about them. On the topic of Egypt and Cleopatra — Egypt is one of my favorite civilizations, and Cleopatra is one of the more interesting figures. I wanted to give her a treatment I felt she deserved—as a capable administrator, brilliant, ruthless, and fighting the circumstances of her times.

Jay's book list on Cleopatra and ancient Egypt

Jay Penner Why did Jay love this book?

It is this book, about the successors of Alexander the Great, that inspired me to write my first novel, the Atlantis Papyrus. It is a great read—the pages feel less like an academic paper and more like an action novel and keeps one’s interest until the very end. I learned about so many fascinating figures in Alexander’s world I had never really known about and the tumultuous years following his death. In my work, I drew inspiration from some of the characters and events depicted in this book.

By James Romm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghost on the Throne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-two, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea in the west all the way to modern-day India in the east. In an unusual compromise, his two heirs—a mentally damaged half brother, Philip III, and an infant son, Alexander IV, born after his death—were jointly granted the kingship. But six of Alexander’s Macedonian generals, spurred by their own thirst for power and the legend that Alexander bequeathed his rule “to the strongest,” fought to gain supremacy. Perhaps their most fascinating and conniving adversary was Alexander’s former Greek secretary, Eumenes, now a general…


Book cover of The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

David Stuttard Author Of Phoenix: A Father, a Son, and the Rise of Athens

From my list on understanding classical Greece.

Who am I?

Ever since my father introduced me to the Greeks, I’ve been passionate about the ancient world and bringing it alive. I read Classics at university and taught for eleven years, during which time I founded the award-winning theatre company, Actors of Dionysus, dedicated to performing Greek drama in translation. A highlight was staging my adaptation of Trojan Women not just in Ephesus Theatre but besides the walls of Troy. From 2010, I’ve divided my time between writing books and articles on wide-ranging classical subjects, editing Bloomsbury Academic Press’ ‘Looking at…’ series on Greek drama (which include my translations), book-reviewing, lecturing, and directing theatrical performances (most recently with Dame Sian Phillips).

David's book list on understanding classical Greece

David Stuttard Why did David love this book?

For anyone wanting to find out not just what happened in the Graeco-Persian Wars (490–479 BC) but how their participants viewed the world, Herodotus’ Histories are a treasure trove. Writing a generation after the event, Herodotus travelled widely, interviewing as many people as he could from veterans to Egyptian priests. But readers must be wary: Herodotus wasn’t writing history as we understand it. Instead, he blended fact, anecdote, and moralizing to demonstrate why in his view the Greek way of life (especially Athenian democracy) was superior to Persian totalitarianism, and why Persian hubris merited divine punishment. While the Landmark edition’s translation of Herodotus’ seductive prose may not be the best (Tom Holland’s, for example, is better), the number and clarity of its maps make it invaluable.

By Robert B. Strassler (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 5th century BC an adventurous Ionian Greek, Herodotus of Halicarnassus, journeyed extensively through the lands of the eastern Mediterranean, from Egypt to Asia Minor, collecting tales of the upheavals that had afflicted the region in the earlier part of the century. The fruits of his wanderings were The Histories, in which he used his narrative gifts not only to chronicle the rise of the Achaemenid Persian Empire and its war with the Greek city-states, but also to recount his experiences with the varied peoples and cultures he had encountered during his journey.
Herodotus earned the nickname 'the father…


Book cover of The Battle of Salamis: The Naval Encounter that Saved Greece—and Western Civilization

Josiah Ober Author Of The Greeks and the Rational: The Discovery of Practical Reason

From my list on why ancient Greece still matters today.

Who am I?

I fell in love with the ancient Greeks a half-century ago. Ever since I have tried to learn from the past, by recognizing the ways in which the ancients were at once very like us and shockingly different. I only recently grasped that the Greeks were like us in their self-consciousness about human motivation: They recognized that many (perhaps most) people are driven by self-interest. But only a few of us are skilled at strategic choice-making. They knew that cooperation was necessary for human flourishing, but terribly hard to achieve. Today working together on common projects remains the greatest challenge for business, politics – and your everyday life. 

Josiah's book list on why ancient Greece still matters today

Josiah Ober Why did Josiah love this book?

Barry Strauss is among the best writers ever to address the history of ancient Greece and Rome. In this exciting book, Strauss retells the great battle of Salamis – the naval battle that turned the tide of the Greek-Persian wars of the early fifth century BCE and inaugurated the Athenian Golden Age. He does so through the eyes of a wide range of those who participated in the battle – on both sides. This is military history that attends closely to the human element, and that reminds us that at various points in the past, the future of the world hung in the balance – and that the result was never foreordained. 

By Barry Strauss,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On a late September day in 480 B.C., Greek warships faced an invading Persian armada in the narrow Salamis Straits in the most important naval battle of the ancient world. Overwhelmingly outnumbered by the enemy, the Greeks triumphed through a combination of strategy and deception. More than two millennia after it occurred, the clash between the Greeks and Persians at Salamis remains one of the most tactically brilliant battles ever fought. The Greek victory changed the course of western history -- halting the advance of the Persian Empire and setting the stage for the Golden Age of Athens.
In this…


Book cover of Jewel of Persia

Stephanie Landsem Author Of The Tomb: A Novel of Martha

From my list on bringing women of the Bible to life.

Who am I?

I’m a writer who has traveled the world in real life and traveled through time in my research and imagination. In the past dozen years, I’ve researched historical women of the Bible for my own novels and have come to realize that women of the ancient world were much like women of today. Biblical women had dreams and fell in love. They worried about their children, politics, and the world around them. They wished for security and happiness just as we do. I have a special regard for historical fiction that brings these ancient women to life—honoring their lives and their struggles.

Stephanie's book list on bringing women of the Bible to life

Stephanie Landsem Why did Stephanie love this book?

This is a lesser-known gem of a novel that has all the hallmarks of excellence in historical fiction. Roseanna White does a brilliant job of weaving solid historical research into a captivating story. This is based on the book of Esther, but is also a compelling story of Xerxes, the Persian king that was her captor and husband. Richly drawn historical detail, page-turning action, and a cast of fascinating characters will keep you reading late into the night. 

By Roseanna M. White,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

How can she love the king of kings without forsaking her Lord of lords?
Kasia grew up in a poor Jewish home with more siblings than luxuries. But when a chance encounter forces her to the palace of Xerxes, she becomes a concubine to the richest man in the world. She alone, of all Xerxes' wives, loves the man beneath the crown. She alone, of all his wives, holds the heart of the king of kings.

Traveling with Xerxes through Europe as he mounts a war against Greece, Kasia knows enemies surround her, but they re not the Spartans or…


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.

Who am I?

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 Greek Mysteries: The Archaeology of Ancient Greek Secret Cults

Peter Mark Adams Author Of Mystai: Dancing out the Mysteries of Dionysos

From my list on ancient mystery cults.

Who am I?

For longer than I can remember I have been fascinated by ancient civilizations, earth mysteries, cave art, magic, mythology, and shamanism. As an author, my research and writing continues to be inspired by these interests. I specialise in the ethnography of sacred landscapes and rituals; and more generally in esotericism, consciousness, and healing. My non-fiction is published by Inner Traditions and Scarlet Imprint; literary prose and poetry by Corbel Stone Press and Paralibrum. My essays on energy healing have appeared in the peer-reviewed Paranthropology Journal and the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology as well as on my academia.edu page.

Peter's book list on ancient mystery cults

Peter Mark Adams Why did Peter love this book?

Greek Mysteries brings together a collection of essays on a variety of specialist topics related to the ancient mystery cults. Written by some of the world’s leading scholars, many of these essays were originally published in academic journals and are therefore appropriate for a more scholarly readership. That said, this important work provides the perfect entry into contemporary academic scholarship on the mysteries.  

By Michael B. Cosmopoulos (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by an international team of acknowledged experts, this excellent book studies a wide range of contributions and showcases new research on the archaeology, ritual and history of Greek mystery cults.

With a lack of written evidence that exists for the mysteries, archaeology has proved central to explaining their significance and this volume is key to understanding a phenomenon central to Greek religion and society.


Book cover of The Idol Hunter

Jeffrey Hantover Author Of The Three Deaths of Giovanni Fumiani

From my list on what to read when the museum is closed.

Who am I?

For four decades, I have written about art for publications in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. I have interviewed, among other artists, Frank Stella, Mary Ellen Mark, Dale Chihuly, Deng Lin (the daughter of Deng Xiaoping), the most celebrated Vietnamese contemporary painters, and the leading Japanese ceramicists. My ideal vacation is to wander the cobblestone streets of Italy, walking into a church to see the art of Caravaggio, Raphael, and Bernini. On a trip to Venice, I saw the immense illusionist ceiling painting by Giovanni Fumiani in the church of San Pantalon. Looking up at angels swirling in heaven, the idea for my second novel was born. 

Jeffrey's book list on what to read when the museum is closed

Jeffrey Hantover Why did Jeffrey love this book?

For my high school sophomore history teacher, world history was only Greece under Pericles and England under Elizabeth I. I went to Greece under her spell, and ever since, I have been drawn to books about Greece—fiction and non-fiction.

This book is about a fictional Greek island at the end of the Ottoman empire, an English con man caught up in his archaeological con, a beautiful artist (played by a young Helen Mirren in the film version), greedy government officials, and an informer who fears for his life is our unreliable narrator. It makes for an engrossing novel of adventure and ideas that holds up on a second reading after over forty years. 

By Barry Unsworth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NY 1980 first edition. Simon Schuster. Hardcover octavo. Fine in Fine dj.


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