10 books like Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Reuben Levy (translator),

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

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Beowulf

By Seamus Heaney,

Book cover of Beowulf

Beowulf is fascinating because it was written in Angle-land, probably Suffolk, probably in the 900s AD, when the Angles (Southern Scandinavians) held sway, with the Danes in Northumbria and Mercia, before the Anglo Saxons began to create the first truly English dynasty in Alfred the Great. It tells of a hero from Geats (in modern Sweden, possibly in the 600s AD) who rids the king of the Danes of the monster Grendel. Of all the translations Seamus Heany is the most vigorous and beautiful, and I often return to it as a reference.

Beowulf

By Seamus Heaney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Composed towards the end of the first millennium, the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf is one of the great Northern epics and a classic of European literature. In his new translation, Seamus Heaney has produced a work which is both true, line by line, to the original poem, and an expression, in its language and music, of something fundamental to his own creative gift.

The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed, in that exhausted aftermath. It is not hard to draw parallels between this story and the history of the…


The Odyssey

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Book cover of The Odyssey

It doesn’t get any more epic or classic than Homer’s Odyssey. Of the many trials the hero overcomes, outwitting Polyphemus (the Cyclops), and tying himself to his ship’s mast to hear the alluring call of the Sirens, are my two favorites. Everything about this war-weary hero’s saga to return back from Troy to Ithaca is storytelling at its finest. I’ve always loved Greek mythology, and Homer demonstrates the capricious pettiness of the gods as they play games with us mere mortals. When Odysseus finally gets home, everything is changed. He’s changed. At least his dog still recognizes him. Read it and you will understand why this is a story that books are written about.

The Odyssey

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan War has inspired  writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus  survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops  and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens' song  and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his  most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous  suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal  wife, Penelope. Favorite of the gods, Odysseus  embodies the energy, intellect, and resourcefulness  that were of highest value to the ancients and that  remain ideals in out time.

In this  new…


The Nibelungenlied

By Unknown, A.T. Hatto (translator),

Book cover of The Nibelungenlied

Dark and violent, this twelfth-century tale of love and revenge is a compelling vision of medieval values, combining many of the tropes of later pseudo-medieval sagas – treasure, gory battles, a cloak of invisibility, sexual deception and a dragon – with the spiritual angst that the later tales miss. From Siegfried’s brief encounter with a scaly beast to the fire-and-blood blitzkrieg of the climax – a ferocious battle in the hall of Attila the Hun – the story is told with breathless passion. Whether it glamourises war, or warns against its cost, is a matter of enduring debate. The tale has certainly had its share of cranky fans, from the silent movie filmmaker Fritz Lang to Heinrich Himmler, a testament to its provocative power.

Which version to read? The Penguin edition, translated by A.T. Hatto and published in 1965, offers a very readable prose version that captures the tale’s fiery…

The Nibelungenlied

By Unknown, A.T. Hatto (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written by an unknown author in the twelfth century, this powerful tale of murder and revenge reaches back to the earliest epochs of German antiquity, transforming centuries-old legend into a masterpiece of chivalric drama. Siegfried, a great prince of the Netherlands, wins the hand of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgundy, by aiding her brother Gunther in his struggle to seduce a powerful Icelandic Queen. But the two women quarrel, and Siegfried is ultimately destroyed by those he trusts the most. Comparable in scope to the Iliad, this skilfully crafted work combines the fragments of half-forgotten myths to create one…


The Ramayana

By Valmiki, Arshia Sattar (translator),

Book cover of The Ramayana

The scale of this ancient Indian epic is off the charts, fusing Hindu iconography with story beats of startling familiarity. Monkeys build a bridge between India and Sri Lanka, an army of demons takes on the vanguard of the gods and the villain is felled by a celestial bow. An influence on storytelling down the ages – notably Star Wars – it’s a tale as exciting as it is charming, with a surprisingly downbeat coda, as Queen Sita discovers that being rescued by her divine husband isn’t enough to survive the prejudices of her age.

Which version to read? Arshia Sattar’s 1996 translation is available in Penguin translation. I can’t testify to its accuracy, but it’s a magnificent read.

The Ramayana

By Valmiki, Arshia Sattar (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of India's greatest epics, the Ramayana pervades the country's moral and cultural consciousness. For generations it has served as a bedtime story for Indian children, while at the same time engaging the interest of philosophers and theologians. Believed to have been composed by Valmiki sometime between the eighth and sixth centuries BC, the Ramayana tells the tragic and magical story of Rama, the prince of Ayodhya, an incarnation of Lord Visnu, born to rid the earth of the terrible demon Ravana. An idealized heroic tale ending with the inevitable triumph of good over evil, the Ramayana is also an…


Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (translator),

Book cover of Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings

This is one of the monuments of world literature and is considered to be the most important work ever composed in Persian. Compiled and versified a thousand years ago from heroic legends dating back a thousand or more years before that, the Book of Kings celebrates Iran’s pre-Islamic history and is the single greatest marker of Iranian cultural identity today.

Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Dick Davis (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Dick Davis, "our pre-eminent translator from the Persian" (Washington Post) has revised and expanded his highly-praised translation of Ferdowsi's masterpiece, including more than 100 pages of newly translated text. Davis's elegant combination of prose and verse allows the poetry of the Shanameh to sing its own tales directly, interspersed sparingly with clearly-marked explanations to ease along modern readers. Among the greatest works of world literature, this prodigious narrative, composed by the poet Ferdowsi in the late tenth century, tells the story of pre-Islamic Iran, beginning in the mythic time of creation and continuing forward to the Arab invasion in the…


The Iran-Iraq War

By Williamson Murray,

Book cover of The Iran-Iraq War

Wick Murray is one of America’s greatest military historians and Kevin Woods was the leader of the team sent by the U.S. government to exploit the documents and taped conversations captured by U.S. forces in Iraq after 2003. Murray was a key member of that team and they also interviewed many former Iraqi generals.  Finally, they also managed to unearth some Iranian accounts of the war—some from the Iraqi intelligence archives. Not surprisingly, this is a terrific account of the war, one that brings in all kinds of new material, especially from the Iraqi side. Their narrative description hits all of the key points of a very long, complex conflict, their insights and analysis are spot on, and the addition of the new material from the Iraqi side makes this the definitive work on the subject at least until comparable materials come to light from the Iranian side.

The Iran-Iraq War

By Williamson Murray,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Iran-Iraq War is one of the largest, yet least documented conflicts in the history of the Middle East. Drawing from an extensive cache of captured Iraqi government records, this book is the first comprehensive military and strategic account of the war through the lens of the Iraqi regime and its senior military commanders. It explores the rationale and decision-making processes that drove the Iraqis as they grappled with challenges that, at times, threatened their existence. Beginning with the bizarre lack of planning by the Iraqis in their invasion of Iran, the authors reveal Saddam's desperate attempts to improve the…


The Colonel

By Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Tom Patterdale (translator),

Book cover of The Colonel

This novel was banned in Iran and published outside of it by a renowned Iranian author who grew up in a village and moved to Tehran, where he became a prominent writer and political prisoner. It lends a surreal and personal perspective to the Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War – the two most dramatic and formative events in the Islamic Republic’s forty-year existence. It tells the haunting and heart-wrenching story of an unnamed and disgraced former army colonel, who futilely tries to keep his mind intact and his family together during this tumultuous period. The novel poignantly demonstrates how the revolution and war tore individuals and their loved ones apart to the point of madness and death. It is a microcosm of the deep-seated dissonance and disillusionment that Iranians have experienced over aspirational nationalism and piety, on one side, and endemic fragmentation and repression, on the other. A difficult…

The Colonel

By Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, Tom Patterdale (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2013 Jan Michalski Prize
Longlististed for the Man Asian Literary Prize

A new novel by the master of Iranian letters that directly engages politics in Iran today
 
Ten years in the writing, this fearless novel—so powerful it’s banned in Iran—tells the stirring story of a tortured people forced to live under successive oppressive regimes.
 
It begins on a pitch black, rainy night, when there’s a knock on the Colonel’s door. Two policemen have come to summon him to collect the tortured body of his youngest daughter. The Islamic Revolution is devouring its own children. Set over the…


Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran

By Habib Levy, Hooshang Ebrami, George W. Maschke (translator)

Book cover of Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora

This book is the first comprehensive source on the history of the Jews of Iran, which, considering the vastness of the Persian Empire during ancient times, must be reckoned second only to Israel in importance, yet it is also the most obscure, because little of it has been published. The Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran, where the Jews have been living for over 2700 years, not only describes the history of Jews in ancient Iran (Persia), but covers all periods, particularly the 19th and 20th centuries.

Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran

By Habib Levy, Hooshang Ebrami, George W. Maschke (translator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora


City of Lies

By Ramita Navai,

Book cover of City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death, and the Search for Truth in Tehran

British-Iranian journalist, Ramita Navai shines a spotlight on 21st century Tehran that we rarely see in the mainstream press, delving into the city’s youth culture, illicit entertainment, and seedy underbelly of drugs and despair. City of Lies exposes the reality of how young, modern Iranians really live - constantly evading the authorities to seek out the pleasures they are denied under the regime.

City of Lies

By Ramita Navai,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Absorbing and unforgettable, City of Lies travels up and down Vali Asr Street in today's Tehran, where the most ordinary Iranians are forced to live extraordinary lives. Ramita Navai paints an intimate portrait of the city's recesses where intrigues abound. Survival depends on an intricate network of falsehoods, and the difference between modesty and profanity, loyalty and betrayal, honor and disgrace is often no more than the believability of a lie.


A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Book cover of A History of Iran: Empire of the Mind

An engagingly written, fair and balanced history for readers interested in more detail and analysis than is found in my own slim introductory volume. In my view the single best scholarly history of Iran ever written.

A History of Iran

By Michael Axworthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Iran is a land of contradictions. It is an Islamic republic, but one in which only 1.4 percent of the population attend Friday prayers. Iran's religious culture encompasses the most censorious and dogmatic Shi'a Muslim clerics in the world, yet its poetry insistently dwells on the joys of life: wine, beauty, sex. Iranian women are subject to one of the most restrictive dress codes in the Islamic world, but make up nearly 60 percent of the student population of the nation's universities. In A History of Iran, acclaimed historian Michael Axworthy chronicles the rich history of this complex nation from…


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