100 books like Shahnameh

By Abolqasem Ferdowsi, Reuben Levy (translator),

Here are 100 books that Shahnameh fans have personally recommended if you like Shahnameh. 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 Beowulf

Jake Jackson Author Of Norse Myths

From my list on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives.

Who am I?

I write about mythology, history, art, music, and cosmology. I also write science fiction. Mythology for me is an expression of a people trying to explain the world around them within the limits of their own knowledge. We are the same. Our search to understand the origins of the universe are limited by our language and mathematics, as were the Scandinavians who discovered countries for the first time, always expanding their horizons and adapting their legends accordingly. The Vikings had a rare vitality that sprang from every mythic tale and I love to explore both the deep origins of their worldview, and their influence in the cultures of today.

Jake's book list on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives

Jake Jackson Why did Jake love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Odyssey

Sylvia Kelso Author Of Everran's Bane

From my list on journeys in them.

Who am I?

As a child, I wanted to be either a chook (chicken) farmer or an archaeologist. In high school, my Latin teacher gave me a copy of The Hobbit and changed my passion to travel, which, for Australians, mostly means, Overseas. In second year University, The Lord of the Rings cemented that longing, and I have "travelled" Overseas almost annually ever since. But a long research trip for a historical novel taught me that the best travel is a journey: travel with a purpose. And whether or not I'm on a plane, train, bus, or foot myself, some of my favourite reading has always been books with journeys at their heart. 

Sylvia's book list on journeys in them

Sylvia Kelso Why did Sylvia love this book?

Journeys are most often linear – Here to There – or circular – "There and Back Again." The Odyssey is actually a return leg in the most traumatic and perennial circular journey: going to war, and then, getting back. "Wily" (in modern terms, read, "sneaky," "trickster")  Odysseus left Troy a famous warrior, but takes seven years to get home. The fabulous episodes of that journey, the Cyclops, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Circe, and Calypso, the wreck in Phaeacia that leaves him bereft even of clothes, have grounded the Western imagination. But the concluding little things – the recognition scenes, the dog that dies, and the nurse who doesn't – push that epic past into a close, human Now.

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

Why should I read it?

5 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…


Book cover of The Nibelungenlied

Nicholas Jubber Author Of Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe

From my list on the greatest epics from around the world.

Who am I?

Nicholas Jubber has written for the Guardian, Irish Times and Telegraph, amongst other publications. He has won the Dolman Travel Book Award, for which he has been shortlisted three times, and his books have been picked by National Geographic, Wanderlust and the New York Times, amongst other publications, for their books of the year.

Nicholas' book list on the greatest epics from around the world

Nicholas Jubber Why did Nicholas love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of The Ramayana

Nicholas Jubber Author Of Epic Continent: Adventures in the Great Stories of Europe

From my list on the greatest epics from around the world.

Who am I?

Nicholas Jubber has written for the Guardian, Irish Times and Telegraph, amongst other publications. He has won the Dolman Travel Book Award, for which he has been shortlisted three times, and his books have been picked by National Geographic, Wanderlust and the New York Times, amongst other publications, for their books of the year.

Nicholas' book list on the greatest epics from around the world

Nicholas Jubber Why did Nicholas love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Iran-Iraq War

Kenneth M. Pollack Author Of Armies of Sand: The Past, Present, and Future of Arab Military Effectiveness

From my list on Middle East military history.

Who am I?

After college I joined the CIA. They assigned me to the Iran-Iraq military account so I had a front-row seat for the Persian Gulf War. I went on to do two tours at the NSC and a quick stop at DoD in between, all working on Middle East political and security issues. I was unexpectedly thrown out by Bush II in 2001 and so had to flee to the think tank world. I’ve since written ten books on the political-military affairs of the Middle East and am now working on my eleventh, a history of the U.S. and Iraq since 1979 titled The Iraq Wars.

Kenneth's book list on Middle East military history

Kenneth M. Pollack Why did Kenneth love this book?

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.

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…


Book cover of The Colonel

Eric Lob Author Of Iran's Reconstruction Jihad: Rural Development and Regime Consolidation after 1979

From my list on Iranian history, politics, and culture.

Who am I?

I am a professor of politics and international relations with a focus on Iran. My passion for the country started while studying Persian or Farsi with an exceptional professor in graduate school. During that time, I had the privilege of traveling to Iran three times to study the language and conduct research on rural politics. This period coincided with the Green Movement uprising, a pivotal moment in the country. Since then, I have been enthralled by Iranian history, politics, and culture. Their richness and complexity make it a subject that can be studied and appreciated for a lifetime.              

Eric's book list on Iranian history, politics, and culture

Eric Lob Why did Eric love this book?

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…

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…


Book cover of Persepolis: The History and Legacy of the Ancient Persian Empire's Capital City

Michael Buckley Author Of Shangri-La: A Travel Guide to the Himalayan Dream

From my list on the best places you have never been to.

Who am I?

I have a life-long interest in the intersection of the real and the mythical when it comes to travel and adventuring in foreign lands. This has driven my own exploration of many parts of Asia and the Himalayan regions. One tiny nugget of information can take you on a wild journey that leads to great discoveries. Curiously, we keep losing precious knowledge through war and neglect—and then re-discover it. The finest example of lost and found cultural facets has to be hieroglyphics. The meaning of the writing was lost for over a thousand years until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, which enabled us to decipher Egyptian temple art again. So hieroglyphics entered the realm of the mythical and then returned to reality once decoded.

Michael's book list on the best places you have never been to

Michael Buckley Why did Michael love this book?

The city of Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great, or at least named in his honour. And Alexander the Great is responsible for wiping out other fabled cities. Most notably, the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, located in modern-day Iran. Finally, a place you can actually visit! But the massive palace lies in ruins, nowhere near its original splendour with all the statuary and furnishings, and the pomp and majesty of Persia’s kings and courtiers—at the time when Persia was a global superpower.

Around 2,000 years ago, Alexander the Great’s troops looted Persepolis and burned it to the ground. And there it lay in the sand, forgotten, until the site was revived in the 1930s and somewhat restored. The site lies in southwest Iran and was inscribed to the World Heritage List in 1979.  Given that travel to Iran today is fraught with obstacles, this book about Persepolis could…

By Charles River Editors,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Includes pictures *Includes ancient historians' descriptions of Persepolis and the Persians *Includes online resources and a bibliography for further reading “By the favor of Ahuramazda these are the countries which I got into my possession along with this Persian people, which felt fear of me and bore me tribute : Elam, Media, Babylonia, Arabia, Assyria, Egypt, Armenia, Cappadocia, Lydia, the Greeks who are of the mainland and those who are by the sea, and countries which are across the sea, Sagartia, Parthia, Drangiana, Aria, Bactria, Sogdia, Chorasmia, Sattagydia, Arachosia, Hinduš, Gandara, Sacae, Maka.” – An inscription on a terrace wall…


Book cover of The Ungrateful Refugee: What Immigrants Never Tell You

Will Buckingham Author Of Hello, Stranger: How We Find Connection in a Disconnected World

From my list on hospitality, and the art of dealing with strangers.

Who am I?

I’m a writer originally from the UK, but now usually found elsewhere in the world. Currently, I’m based in Sofia, Bulgaria. I have always been fascinated by the subtle art of connecting with strangers, and by the complex ways that human beings forge bonds with those they don’t know. I have an MA in anthropology and a PhD in philosophy. Hello, Stranger is my thirteenth book, and in August 2021 was selected by BBC Radio 4 to be the book of the week.

Will's book list on hospitality, and the art of dealing with strangers

Will Buckingham Why did Will love this book?

Dina Nayeri’s powerful book—half memoir and half polemic—challenges us to rethink our assumptions about nations, borders, strangers, and the meaning of asylum.

“Asylum seekers is so mild a phrase,” Nayeri writes. “We weren’t politely seeking, we were ravenous for it, this creature need for the safety for our bodies.” In this hard-hitting book, Nayeri skillfully weaves together stories of exile, asylum, and refuge to ask deep questions about what it means to be at home or not at home, welcome or unwelcome.

By Dina Nayeri,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What is it like to be a refugee? It is a question many of us do not give much thought, and yet there are more than 25 million refugees in the world. To be a refugee is to grapple with your place in society, attempting to reconcile the life you have known with a new, unfamiliar home. All this while bearing the burden of gratitude in your host nation: the expectation that you should be forever thankful for the space you have been allowed.

Aged eight, Dina Nayeri fled Iran along with her mother and brother, and lived in the…


Book cover of The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period

John O. Hyland Author Of Persian Interventions: The Achaemenid Empire, Athens, and Sparta, 450−386 BCE

From my list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors.

Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated with ancient history since childhood, but really fell in love with the Achaemenids in college while taking classes on Greek history and wondering about the other side’s perspective on familiar stories of the Persian Wars. I was fortunate to get the opportunity to study both Greek and Persian history in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a leading center of scholarship on the Achaemenid world since the Persepolis excavations in the 1930s. Since 2006, I’ve taught in the History department at Christopher Newport University, a liberal arts university in Newport News, Virginia. I’m currently working on my next book, a new history of Persia’s Greek campaigns. 

John's book list on Achaemenid Persia and its Greek neighbors

John O. Hyland Why did John love this book?

The Persian empire’s size and diversity impose special challenges for modern study. The major sources are written in a wide variety of ancient languages, including Old Persian, Elamite, Babylonian, Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, and many texts were initially studied in specialist publications with limited accessibility outside a small circle of scholars. Kuhrt’s sourcebook did a tremendous service to scholars and students alike by gathering reliable translations of a wide range of written evidence from the Persian empire, replete with supporting notes and bibliography for further reading. It includes substantial selections from Greek historians of Persia, including Herodotus, Xenophon, and the Alexander biographers, but ensures that readers are able to contextualize these texts alongside internal materials reflecting the full diversity of Persian empire and society. 

By Amélie Kuhrt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Bringing together a wide variety of material in many different languages that exists from the substantial body of work left by this large empire, The Persian Empire presents annotated translations, together with introductions to the problems of using it in order to gain an understanding of the history and working os this remarkable political entity.

The Achaemenid empire developed in the region of modern Fars (Islam) and expanded to unite territories stretching from the Segean and Egypt in the west to Central Asia and north-west India, which it ruled for over 200 years until its conquest by Alexander of Macedon.…


Book cover of House of Sand and Fog

Allison Levy Author Of House of Secrets: The Many Lives of a Florentine Palazzo

From my list on the psychological interplay between people and houses.

Who am I?

Allison Levy holds a PhD in Italian Renaissance art and architecture from Bryn Mawr College. She has published five books on Italian visual culture, and has taught in the US, Italy, and the UK. She oversees the digital publishing program at Brown University.

Allison's book list on the psychological interplay between people and houses

Allison Levy Why did Allison love this book?

This #1 New York Times bestseller grapples with what houses say about who we are—or want to become. Slip into a tragic entanglement between Massoud Behrani, a recent immigrant from Iran intent on restoring his family’s honor by purchasing a California bungalow up for auction, and Kathy Nicolo, the house’s owner, and a recovering drug addict determined to hold on to her family property. This penetrating novel will satisfy readers’ unquenchable thirst for stories that explore the psychological ramifications of emotional and social overinvestment in the promise of a house.

By Andre Dubus III,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A recent immigrant from the Middle East-a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force-yearns to restore his family's dignity in California. A recovering alcoholic and addict down on her luck struggles to hold onto the one thing she has left?her home. And her lover, a married cop, is driven to extremes to win her love.

Andre Dubus III's unforgettable characters-people with ordinary flaws, looking for a small piece of ground to stand on-careen toward inevitable conflict. Their tragedy paints a shockingly true picture of the country we live in today.


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