100 books like The Last Days of Pompeii

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton,

Here are 100 books that The Last Days of Pompeii fans have personally recommended if you like The Last Days of Pompeii. 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 Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide

Judith Harris Author Of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery

From my list on the joys of life in classical antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a freelance journalist in Italy, I covered, for Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and others, tough topics: terrorism, the Mafia, the heroin traffic which passed via Sicilian laboratories to the U.S. At a certain point I found this overly negative. After taking a course in Rome on archaeology, by chance I was asked to direct a BBC half-hour documentary on Pompeii. In so doing, I realized that it was  time to focus upon the many positive elements of Italian life and history. From that life-changing documentary came this book on Pompeii, on which I worked for five rewarding years. My next book was on historical Venice.

Judith's book list on the joys of life in classical antiquity

Judith Harris Why did Judith love this book?

The late Amanda Claridge, a professor at the University of London, introduces us to the ancient city in the book she co-authored: Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide, now on offer as Rome, An archaeological guide. Over time, archaeology itself changes, and today's critics say that her presentation of up-to-date archaeology in Rome equally entrances both tourists and her fellow scholars. She taught at both Oxford and the University of London, as well as at Princeton University in the U.S. 

By Amanda Claridge,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The city of Rome is the largest archaeological site in the world, capital and showcase of the Roman Empire and the centre of Christian Europe.

This guide provides:

* Coverage of all the important sites in the city from 800 BC to AD 600 and the start of the early middle ages, drawing on the latest discoveries and the best of recent scholarship

* Over 220 high-quality maps, site plans, diagrams and photographs

* Sites divided into fourteen main areas, with star ratings to help you plan and prioritize your visit:
Roman Forum; Upper Via Sacra; Palatine; Imperial Forums; Campus…


Book cover of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Paul Hay Author Of Saeculum: Defining Historical Eras in Ancient Roman Thought

From my list on for aspiring Roman history buffs.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of Roman history who teaches and writes about the social world of the ancient Romans. I’m drawn to the topic of ancient Rome because it seems simultaneously familiar and alien: the people always “feel real” to me, but the many cultural differences between Rome and modern America prod me to contemplate those aspects and values of my own world that I take for granted. I enjoy the high moral stakes of the political machinations as well as the aesthetic beauty of the artistic creations of Rome. And the shadow of Rome still looms large in American culture, so I find the study of antiquity endlessly instructive.

Paul's book list on for aspiring Roman history buffs

Paul Hay Why did Paul love this book?

Perhaps the best place to start for a novice looking to learn about Roman history. I have had students, friends, and family all tell me that this was the book that really got them excited about ancient Rome.

Beard is a very witty, engaging writer who is able to combine major historical moments with obscure but revealing anecdotes to tell a coherent narrative of Roman history. She also demonstrates, such as in her introductory chapter’s discussion of modern references to the ancient conflict between Cicero and Catiline, the continuing relevance of Roman history to our understanding of politics today.

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome "with passion and without technical jargon" and demonstrates how "a slightly shabby Iron Age village" rose to become the "undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean" (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating "the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life" (Economist) in a way that makes "your hair stand on end" (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this "highly informative, highly readable" (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but…


Book cover of Rome's Cultural Revolution

Judith Harris Author Of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery

From my list on the joys of life in classical antiquity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a freelance journalist in Italy, I covered, for Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and others, tough topics: terrorism, the Mafia, the heroin traffic which passed via Sicilian laboratories to the U.S. At a certain point I found this overly negative. After taking a course in Rome on archaeology, by chance I was asked to direct a BBC half-hour documentary on Pompeii. In so doing, I realized that it was  time to focus upon the many positive elements of Italian life and history. From that life-changing documentary came this book on Pompeii, on which I worked for five rewarding years. My next book was on historical Venice.

Judith's book list on the joys of life in classical antiquity

Judith Harris Why did Judith love this book?

Classicist Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, a professor at Sidney Sussex College, was for fourteen years director of the British School in Rome. Among his highly recommended books are Rome's Cultural Revolution and Herculaneum: Past and Future. Prof. Wallace-Hadrill, OBE, who directed the Herculaneum Conservation Project for fifteen years, currently specializes in studying the impact the ancient city has had upon the world.

By Andrew Wallace-Hadrill,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rome's Cultural Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The period of Rome's imperial expansion, the late Republic and early Empire, saw transformations of its society, culture and identity. Drawing equally on archaeological and literary evidence, this book offers an original and provocative interpretation of these changes. Moving from recent debates about colonialism and cultural identity, both in the Roman world and more broadly, and challenging the traditional picture of 'Romanization' and 'Hellenization', it offers instead a model of overlapping cultural identities in dialogue with one another. It attributes a central role to cultural change in the process of redefinition of Roman identity, represented politically by the crisis of…


Book cover of Pompeii

Flora Johnston Author Of The Paris Peacemakers

From my list on historical fiction books with a new take on a famous event.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m fascinated by stories from the past. I worked for many years in museums and heritage, telling Scotland’s stories through exhibitions and nonfiction publications, but I was always drawn to the question best answered through historical fiction – what did that feel like? Well-researched historical fiction can take us right into the lives of people who lived through the dramatic events we read about in academic books. I found that each of the novels on my list transported me to a different time and place, and I hope you enjoy them, too.

Flora's book list on historical fiction books with a new take on a famous event

Flora Johnston Why did Flora love this book?

I picked up this book from the shelf of a holiday cottage and was hooked immediately. I love books which interweave personal human stories with big events.

The ordinary loves and lives of the people of Pompeii are unfolding as the mountain above them begins to behave strangely. Of course, we, the readers, know the disaster that is about to occur, which only adds to the suspense. Unputdownable.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A pulse-rate-speeding masterpiece' Sunday Times

'A stunning novel . . . the subtlety and power of its construction holds our attention to the end' The Times

During a sweltering week in late August, as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow . . .

Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt…


Book cover of Women's Lives, Women's Voices: Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples

Eve D'Ambra Author Of Roman Women

From my list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a professor of ancient art at Vassar College where I teach Roman art and archaeology. I have published widely in the field and traveled extensively in the Mediterranean. My first encounters with Roman art occurred as a child in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC where I would stand before Roman portrait heads because their faces seemed stern and grim, yet ordinary and matter-of-fact. I have continued to observe Roman portraits over the years, but admit that I still sometimes find them daunting.

Eve's book list on women in Ancient Rome that cut the clichés

Eve D'Ambra Why did Eve love this book?

It is an anthology of essays that provide a range of topics and approaches to women who lived and worked in these small towns, now spectacularly preserved despite their sudden destruction by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 CE. The lives lived here tend towards the gritty, workaday world with studies of women in business and trade, although elite women, public priestesses, also make an appearance. Two that feature women's names scratched on walls (graffiti) and drawings of women etched in or painted on Pompeian walls (by Erika Zimmermann Damer and Margaret L. Laird) argue for women's (partial) literacy and their greater visibility. These essays do much to make the fascinating archaeological material accessible.

By Brenda Longfellow (editor), Molly Swetnam-Burland (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives, Women's Voices as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Literary evidence is often silent about the lives of women in antiquity, particularly those from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Even when women are considered, they are often seen through the lens of their male counterparts. In this collection, Brenda Longfellow and Molly Swetnam-Burland have gathered an outstanding group of scholars to give voice to both the elite and ordinary women living on the Bay of Naples before the eruption of Vesuvius.

Using visual, architectural, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence, the authors consider how women in the region interacted with their communities through family relationships, businesses, and religious practices,…


Book cover of Behind Closed Doors: Her Father's House and Other Stories of Sicily

Jacqueline Alio Author Of Queens of Sicily 1061-1266

From my list on Sicilian women and their lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

Very little has been written in English about Sicilian women. Most of the studies written in English about the women of southern Italy are the work of foreigners who discovered our region in adulthood. While some non-Italian colleagues have produced fine work, my books reflect the perspective of a scholar who, being Sicilian, has been familiar with the region and its people all her life. This is seen in my knowledge of the Sicilian language, from which I've translated texts, and even the medieval cuisine mentioned in my books. Viva la Sicilia!

Jacqueline's book list on Sicilian women and their lives

Jacqueline Alio Why did Jacqueline love this book?

These short stories about ordinary Sicilian women of the early years of the twentieth century bring us a gritty realism that may bring tears to your eyes.

Not only is this great literature, albeit in translation, but it also provides an insight into the history of Sicilian life and emigration. We usually read about this from the American point of view. Here, it is presented from an Italian perspective. In my opinion, it's useful and informative to read both.

Book cover of Through the Looking-Glass

Peter Cave Author Of Humanism: A Beginner's Guide

From my list on grappling with what it is to be human.

Why am I passionate about this?

Who knows why, but I have always been enticed by absurdities, paradoxes, incongruities — I use them in my talks, articles, and books — of everyday lives, our humanity, and mysteries of our ‘going on.’ Reflections on being human can be triggered by humour such as Cambridge’s Beyond the Fringe and New York’s sitcom Seinfeld — within which I wallow — as well as by lengthy philosophical works and novels. My work draws on bafflements: for example, shampoo instructions “Lather, rinse, repeat” (making shampoo-ing infinite?); Barmaid to Peter Cook, “Bitter?”, reply being “Just tired”— and Samuel Beckett’s “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” Yes, I go on.

Peter's book list on grappling with what it is to be human

Peter Cave Why did Peter love this book?

Many of us, when young, read Looking-Glass with Carroll’s first work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but it was as an adult, eager to reflect philosophically, that I began to appreciate deep puzzles within our language and consciousness – and these are more prominent in Looking-Glass.  

I taught philosophy for many years  oops, not true, I don’t think philosophy can be taught. Rather, I encourage people to step back and think philosophically by confronting paradoxes, using their imagination, and looking beyond appearances. I often recommend Looking-Glass to achieve a sense of bewilderment and the delicious desire to dig into and question everyday assumptions of living.

By Lewis Caroll,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Through the Looking-Glass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Alice, who is bored, falls asleep in a chair and dream that it happens on the other side of the mirror of the show. The mirror of the world is both the English countryside, a chessboard, and the upside down world, where you have to run very fast to stay put. Alice came across chess pieces (queen, knight) and characters of children's culture of the Victorian era. One finds in this novel the mix of poetry, humor and nonsense that makes the charm of Lewis Carroll. It is better to know the basic rules of chess to appreciate the subtleties…


Book cover of The Other Pareto

Christopher Adair-Toteff Author Of Vilfredo Pareto's Contributions to Modern Social Theory: A Centennial Appraisal

From my list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was trained as a philosopher and have been a professor of philosophy for more than three decades. Beginning with Plato, I have been persuaded that reason is powerful. I am also a social theorist and have published scholarly books on Max Weber, Ferdinand Tönnies, and Raymond Aron. Yet Pareto’s writings have convinced me that people are most often motivated by interests and passions and then use reasons to justify their behavior. Plato showed people as they ought to be; Pareto showed them as they are. Philosophy is important, but so is Pareto’s social psychology.

Christopher's book list on Vilfredo Pareto’s sociological writings

Christopher Adair-Toteff Why did Christopher love this book?

The Other Pareto contains one of the best accounts of Pareto’s thinking. He provides a fuller context regarding Pareto's place in social thinking. 

Bucolo began with Pareto’s early writings from 1872 and proceeds to provide an explanation of Pareto’s ideas until Pareto’s death in 1923. Bucolo provided massive quotations from Pareto’s writings to support and document his interpretation.

By Placido Bucolo (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

308p hardback with green laminated jacket, as new, dense ink notes to front endpapers, pages clean with bibliography and index, very good


Book cover of The Art Stealers

Gail Levin Author Of Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography

From my list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Distinguished Professor of art history at CUNY and biographer of artists. I grew up in Atlanta, attended college in Boston, and have worked in New York since my twenties. With a new Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers, I began as curator of the Hopper Collection at the Whitney Museum, assigned to produce a definitive catalogue of all Edward Hopper’s authentic art. His papers were missing except for his record books that recorded every time a work left for sale, loan, or gift. I traced each work as it left Hopper’s possession and discovered a massive number of undocumented artworks stolen from the estate, which the Whitney still wants to cover up.

Gail's book list on the fate of the Edward Hopper Estate

Gail Levin Why did Gail love this book?

Esterow, then employed by Larry Fleischman, assessed hundreds of Edward Hoppers that an unknown minister offered to sell.

The book’s dust jacket advertises “a lively history of certain fabulous art thefts—and the strange breed of thieves who perpetrated them.” Esterow’s book inspired one reviewer to comment that few of his criminals “are very ingenious.”

Sanborn, who must have seemed to Esterow like a character that belonged in his narrative, told me that Esterow offered him a consignment deal for what he was shown, which later turned out to be just a small part of Sanborn’s loot.

Had he known Sanborn’s story, Esterow might have added his scheme of befriending the aging sister of a famous artist, whose early works were jammed into the attic of the family home. 

By Milton Esterow,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You

Michelle Wildgen Author Of Wine People

From my list on complicated relationships between fascinating women.

Why am I passionate about this?

Maybe it’s because I come from a family that expresses conflict, shall we say, indirectly, but nothing fascinates me the way relationships do. What do we desire, what do we offer? And how much more do we care about friendships and family bonds than world peace? I also love stories about passions we pursue professionally, and ever since I fell in love with the food and wine world, that’s the world I’ve written about and the world in which my characters’ intense relationships play out. Real drama plays out over a drink or at a dinner table, and of course a glass of wine only unleashes a little more.

Michelle's book list on complicated relationships between fascinating women

Michelle Wildgen Why did Michelle love this book?

What’s more fraught and intimate than friends? Sisters.   

Munro’s title story is about a relationship of extremes: sisters Char and Et can laugh over the darkest shit imaginable, and yet they also have certain psychic rooms they’ll never let the other into. Is this love or hostility? More happens in here than I can say, except that Char is the beautiful sister and Et the sharp-tongued, practical one, and an old flame returns and wreaks havoc.

It’s Munro, so there is sex, death, and betrayal, but delivered so obliquely you aren’t always sure what the characters deliberately did. Maybe that’s why this story enraptures me: it’s about the things you’ll never get to know, and I always think I'll figure it out this time.

By Alice Munro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable early collection of stories by Alice Munro, the bestselling author of Dear Life, and one of the greatest fiction writers of our time.

'Alice Munro's stories are miraculous'
Sunday Times

'No one else can - or should be allowed to - write like the great Alice Munro'
Julian Barnes

'She sets down the pains and pleasures of living in a spare, singing prose, not a word wasted'
Daily Telegraph

'Read not more than one of her stories a day, and allow them to work their spell: they are made to last'
Observer

'She's the most savage writer I've…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in classical antiquity, Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about classical antiquity, Pompeii, and Mount Vesuvius.

Classical Antiquity Explore 56 books about classical antiquity
Pompeii Explore 20 books about Pompeii
Mount Vesuvius Explore 11 books about Mount Vesuvius