The best books on ancient Egypt

15 authors have picked their favorite books about ancient Egypt and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

For many fans of Greek myths, Egypt is the next logical stop on a journey to a broader understanding of world mythology. As a culture which influenced both the Hellenistic and Judeo-Christian world, Egypt’s stories inform our understanding of other Western traditions. And the mania for mummies and pyramids means outstanding examples of Egyptian artifacts await in museums across the world, helping make the ancient tales come alive. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt makes for a fantastic introduction into the world of Ra, Isis, and Osiris.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt

By Richard H. Wilkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt, worshipped for over half of recorded history, are among the most fascinating and complex of any civilization. Here is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the deities that lay at the heart of Egyptian religion and society. It examines the evolution, worship and eventual decline of the numerous gods and goddesses - from minor household figures such as Bes and Taweret to the all-powerful deities Amun and Re - that made Egypt the most completely theocratic society of the ancient world, and made Egyptians, according to Herodotus, 'more religious than any other people'.


Who am I?

Jordanna Max Brodsky is the author of the Olympus Bound trilogy, which follows the Greek goddess Artemis as she stalks the streets of modern Manhattan, and The Wolf in the Whale, a sweeping epic of the Norse and Inuit. Jordanna holds a degree in History and Literature from Harvard University, but she maintains that scholarship is no substitute for lived experience. Her research has taken her from the summit of Mount Olympus to the frozen tundra of Nunavut, and from the Viking ruins of Norway to Artemis’s temples in Turkey.


I wrote...

The Wolf in the Whale

By Jordanna Max Brodsky,

Book cover of The Wolf in the Whale

What is my book about?

A sweeping tale of forbidden love and warring gods, where a young Inuit shaman and a Viking warrior become unwilling allies in a war that will determine the fate of the new world.

A thousand years ago, Omat, born with the soul of a hunter and the spirit of the Wolf, journeys across the icy wastes, fighting for survival with every step. When Omat encounters Brandr, a wounded Viking warrior, they set in motion a conflict that could shatter their icy world... or save it.

The Tale of Sinuhe

By Richard Parkinson,

Book cover of The Tale of Sinuhe: And Other Ancient Egyptian Poems 1940-1640 B.C.

I was immediately attracted to this volume of poetry, particularly when I realised that fragments from the original Tale of Sinuhe papyrus, had at one time been in the collection at Didlington Hall.

Professor Richard Parkinson introduces each poem from the Middle Kingdom and sets it in the context of its time. The Tale of Sinuhe is one of the most famous poems and was written around 1875 BC. It is an illuminating tale of adventure in foreign lands, but one in which Sinuhe reflects on life in Egypt and his relationship with the king. While The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor is an entertaining account of fantastic and exciting adventures with a universal moral. These, and the other eleven poems provide fascinating insights into the minds and culture of the ancient Egyptians.

For someone who enjoys poetry and wants to experience the literature of these ancient people ‘first hand’,…

The Tale of Sinuhe

By Richard Parkinson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of Sinuhe, from c.1875 BC, has been acclaimed as the supreme masterpiece of Ancient Egyptian poetry, a perfect fusion of monumental, dramatic, and lyrical styles, and a passionate probing of its culture's ideals and anxieties. This anthology contains all the substantial surviving works from the golden age of Egyptian fictional literature. Composed by an anonymous author in the form of a funerary autobiography the Tale tells how the
courtier Sinuhe flees Egypt at the death of his king. Other works from the Middle Kingdom (c.1940-1640 BC) include a poetic dialogue between a man and his soul on the…


Who am I?

For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by a family mystery. Names such as Howard Carter, Tutankhamun, and Didlington Hall permeated my childhood along with phrases such as ‘a mummy’s curse’ and ‘financial disaster’. Something had happened years before I was born, which no one would discuss. As an adult I decided to search for the truth, and on the way found inspiration to fulfil a long held ambition, which was to write. I discovered that my family had played a vital, but often forgotten, role in Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun. Our story is of wealth lost, extraordinary characters, passion and tragedy, but through it all Egypt winds like a twist of golden thread.


I wrote...

Nile Cat

By Angela Cecil Reid,

Book cover of Nile Cat

What is my book about?

Nile Cat is my debut novel and I was thrilled to learn that it had been shortlisted for the prestigious 2021 International Rubery Book Award. The story was inspired by my great grandmother, May Tyssen-Amherst’s memoir concerning her childhood trips to Egypt in the 1870s.

The story opens with fourteen-year-old Rose and her twin sister, Lily travelling to Egypt in 1871. At Naples, Mr. John Baxter, an Egyptologist, joins their ship. From that moment, wherever Rose is, there he is too, watching her, like a fox watches a rabbit. Rose grows ever more afraid. When she is given a small stone cat, her dreams are haunted by the unfolding tale of Miut, an ancient Egyptian temple cat, and Hori, the boy who cares for her. Past and present merge in the streets of Cairo and the deserts beyond. Rose knows she has Mr. Baxter to defeat and an ancient mission to complete. She and Lily must work together. The penalty for failure is death.

The Obelisk and The Cross

By Tony Sunderland,

Book cover of The Obelisk and The Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World

As one of earth’s oldest civilisations, ancient Egypt can tell us a lot about early religion and how it affected later spiritual practices and faiths. In this book, Tony Sunderland begins with the question: why is there an Egyptian obelisk standing in the centre of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City? The question becomes even more pertinent when you learn that the obelisk celebrates an ancient sun god! I loved this fascinating book that traces religion from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia through to early Christianity and beyond. Whatever your level of historical religious and spiritual understanding is, The Obelisk and the Cross comes highly recommended.

The Obelisk and The Cross

By Tony Sunderland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why does an ancient Egyptian obelisk celebrating the god of the sun stand in the centre of St Peter's Square in Vatican City, the home of the Pope and the heartland of Catholicism?
Taking this mysterious fact as his starting point, Tony Sunderland examines the history of religious belief in an attempt to understand how what has happened in the past continues to exert a ghostly influence in the present. Going right back to the voluptuous mother goddess figures of our ancestors, the pantheons of the Greeks and Romans, the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible, the birth of Christ, the…


Who am I?

I’ve been interested in ancient Egypt ever since I read Asterix and Cleopatra when I was a boy. The hilarious moment of Obelix accidentally knocking off the Sphinx’s nose has always stayed with me in particular. By my early twenties, I was reading authors like Graham Hancock, Robert Bauval, and Colin Wilson, who showed me that what we think we know about ancient Egypt is not wholly correct. For instance, there’s little evidence that the Great Pyramid’s purpose was to be a tomb and the Sphinx seems to be much older than Egyptologists believe. In 2010, at thirty-four years old, I finally got to visit the wonders of Egypt myself.


I wrote...

The Road to Purification: Hustlers, Hassles & Hash

By Harry Whitewolf,

Book cover of The Road to Purification: Hustlers, Hassles & Hash

What is my book about?

When stress-headed Mad Harry spontaneously books a flight for Egypt after a rather nasty break-up, he doesn’t know he’s about to embark on a mad pot-smoking pilgrimage of adventure. 

Guided by signs in numbers, names, and otherworldly encounters, Mad Harry’s trip often seems to be a magical manifestation of his fragile mind. This good-humoured true travel tale is told in a frank, rhythmic, and playful voice. Set in 2010, shortly before Egypt's revolution, The Road To Purification is a backpacking odyssey through tremendous temples, towering pyramids, chaotic cities, small villages, dirty beaches, and deceitful strangers... with a backdrop of ancient spiritual gnosis. A holiday this is not.

Book cover of The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt

Want to know about magic bricks? You can look them up in this book, along with a lot of other intriguing things.

Sure, you can find descriptions online. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there in the e-sphere. It’s much better to rely on something published by the august British Museum, which has been showcasing artifacts from the ancient world since 1753. I always do.

The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt

By Ian Shaw, Paul Nicholson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This successful and highly-esteemed British Museum reference work is now republished in a new pocket-sized edition. This authoritative illustrated dictionary provides clear explanations and descriptions of the important ideas, events and personalities throughout four thousand years of Egyptian civilization. More than 600 extensively cross-referenced and comprehensively-indexed A-Z entries provide detailed information on all aspects of ancient Egypt and Nubia during the pharaonic and Graeco-Roman periods. Each entry is followed by a bibliography. The dictionary is lavishly illustrated throughout with photographs, line drawings, site plans and maps.


Who am I?

I’m an archaeologist by training and a journalist by profession. During my long career as a staff writer at National Geographic magazine, and now as a freelance Nat Geo book editor and author, I have often written about the ancient world and cultural heritage preservation. I was very lucky to be sent to Egypt on a number of occasions to write stories about sites and discoveries, and I have now come to specialize in Egyptology. I recently took an online course that taught me how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I’m still in glyph kindergarten, but every new sign I learn is allowing me to better understand—and interpret—the culture of the pharaohs.


I wrote...

Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

By Ann R. Williams (editor),

Book cover of Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

What is my book about?

Archaeology is the key that unlocks our deepest history. Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs reveals the stories behind the most intriguing and impactful of those finds and showcases the people who first presented them to the world.

Blending high adventure with history, this book chronicles 100 astonishing archaeological discoveries dating from 50,000 million years ago until modern times. Each account in this book relies on firsthand reports from explorers, antiquarians, and scientists as they crack secret codes, evade looters and political suppression, fall in love, commit a litany of blunders, and uncover ancient curses. Spanning six continents, this enlightening narrative tells the story of human civilization.

Book cover of A Threat of Shadows (The Keeper Chronicles Series)

The words I would use to describe Andrews’ writing are as follows: spirit, strength, impact. Not only does each sentence read like melted butter circling a saucepan, but they are written with purpose. Filled with characters so likable you’ll wish they were your real friends, Andrews puts them through hell and back again in a way that makes you want to cheer for them, or even fight by their sides. If you haven’t read A Threat of Shadows and the rest of The Keeper Chronicles, be prepared to count plenty of sheep to fall asleep afterward. 

A Threat of Shadows (The Keeper Chronicles Series)

By J.A. Andrews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Threat of Shadows (The Keeper Chronicles Series) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#SPBFO Semifinalist

2nd Edition

Alaric betrayed everything he believed to save Evangeline — and failed.

His last chance to save the woman he loves lies in an ancient Wellstone, a repository of power, buried and lost long ago.


Luck—or something more troubling—leads him to a small group searching for the same stone.

A disgruntled dwarf,

a bumbling wizard,

and an elf with an unsettling amount of power.


If he can gain their trust, they might help him find the cure.

But the Wellstone holds more than he knows, and a terrible evil he’d thought defeated is stirring again, searching for…


Who am I?

Growing up and still today, I read a lot of fantasy, including reading the covers right off my copy of The Lord of the Rings boxed set. I’ve also written two major epic fantasy series each more than a million words in length. So I know a thing or two about what makes compelling epic fantasy stories. And these five books (and the series that follow) go above and beyond any measure. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed, but your REM cycle might suffer!


I wrote...

Kingfall

By David Estes,

Book cover of Kingfall

What is my book about?

Be bright but do not burn. Embrace the darkness but do not live in the shadows. 

The powerful godblades were believed to be lost nearly half a millennia ago, when the Godswar ended. Now, however, one has been found by the unlikeliest of wielders: Sampson Gaard, a sheltered prince who's been told he'll never rule Teravainen. As his power grows, the only question is whether he controls the blade or the blade him. With an insidious evil lurking in the shadows, the answer may very well determine the fate of all Kingfall.

The Golden Goblet

By Eloise McGraw,

Book cover of The Golden Goblet

I don't even remember how I got this book, I think mom bought it for me when I discovered Egypt. I've read it every couple of years since and opening the pages is like sitting down to tea with an old friend. It's a simple story, but powerful, and told in a sure voice that really brings you along on the adventure, and allows you to solve the mystery alongside the young boy who tells the story. How I view the story has changed over the years, but I continue to love it all the more for it.

The Golden Goblet

By Eloise McGraw,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A Newbery Honor Book

Winner of a Newbery Honor, an exciting ancient Egyptian mystery!

Ranofer wants only one thing in the world: to be a master goldsmith like his beloved father was. But how can he when he is all but imprisoned by his evil half brother, Gebu? Ranofer knows the only way he can escape Gebu's abuse is by changing his destiny. But can a poor boy with no skills survive on the cutthroat streets of ancient Thebes? Then Ranofer finds a priceless golden goblet in Gebu's room and he knows his luck−and his destiny−are about to change.

"Exceptionally…


Who am I?

When I was in 6th grade, and homeschooling, I discovered Ancient Egypt. That year I had some health problems, which ended up essentially cancelling school for that year, and I was allowed to do whatever I wanted. I spent the entire year studying Egypt. My passion for history spiralled from there, and I've spent the interveaning years studying periods of history from Ancient Egypt to the Italian Rennaisance. I always wanted to be a writer and discovering that Historical Fiction as a genre was eye-opening for me. Since then I hardly read anything else (except fantasy) and all my personal works are Historical Fiction. 


I wrote...

Alexander's Lost General (The Lost General Saga Book 1)

By Caitlin Sumner,

Book cover of Alexander's Lost General (The Lost General Saga Book 1)

What is my book about?

A female warrior in a time dominated by men, a general in a time ruled by kings. Alexis of Macedon was born with a fire in her spirit that could never be quelled. She grew up at the side of giants, Alexander, Hephaistion, Ptolemy, Cassander. Two would be her brothers, one her lover, and one her greatest enemy. For twenty-two years they stood together, winning wars, conquering the known world, bringing in a new age. For ten more Alexis fought to hold Alexander’s empire, side by side with Ptolemy. She became known as ‘The Warrior Queen’ or ‘Queen of Asia’, ruler of the known world after Alexander.

Love. Death. Betrayal. War. This is the story of Alexis of Macedon.

Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt

By John Baines, Jaromir Malek,

Book cover of Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt

The dates that Egyptologists use for most rulers are guesstimates, and there’s not one fixed dating scheme.

Just for instance, one reference volume gives 1334-1325 B.C. as the dates for King Tut’s reign. Another says 1332-1322 B.C. And yet a third another has 1336-1327 B.C.

How do you know which one to believe?

During the three decades I worked as a staff writer at National Geographic magazine, we relied on the king list that Baines and Malek published in this book.

I still consider it as the last word on dates for my own research. It’s also full of very helpful maps, diagrams, and descriptions of archaeological sites all over Egypt.

Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt

By John Baines, Jaromir Malek,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Filled with fascinating facts and stunning images, this single-volume reference to ancient Egypt introduces readers to this unique, sometimes startling culture.


Who am I?

I’m an archaeologist by training and a journalist by profession. During my long career as a staff writer at National Geographic magazine, and now as a freelance Nat Geo book editor and author, I have often written about the ancient world and cultural heritage preservation. I was very lucky to be sent to Egypt on a number of occasions to write stories about sites and discoveries, and I have now come to specialize in Egyptology. I recently took an online course that taught me how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I’m still in glyph kindergarten, but every new sign I learn is allowing me to better understand—and interpret—the culture of the pharaohs.


I wrote...

Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

By Ann R. Williams (editor),

Book cover of Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

What is my book about?

Archaeology is the key that unlocks our deepest history. Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs reveals the stories behind the most intriguing and impactful of those finds and showcases the people who first presented them to the world.

Blending high adventure with history, this book chronicles 100 astonishing archaeological discoveries dating from 50,000 million years ago until modern times. Each account in this book relies on firsthand reports from explorers, antiquarians, and scientists as they crack secret codes, evade looters and political suppression, fall in love, commit a litany of blunders, and uncover ancient curses. Spanning six continents, this enlightening narrative tells the story of human civilization.

The Egyptian Museum Cairo

By Mohamed Saleh, Hourig Sourouzian, Jurgen Liepe (photographer)

Book cover of The Egyptian Museum Cairo: Official Catalogue

I bought this catalogue many years ago in the crowded, chaotic store that used to sell books just inside the front door of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

It remains one of the best sources for descriptions of artifacts displayed in the museum for many decades—everything from King Tut’s gold mask to lifelike statues of scribes, detailed models of boats, and illustrated passages from the Book of the Dead on sheets of papyrus.

Many of these artifacts have recently been transferred to the new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) and other state-of-the-art facilities. I’m going to have to start noting in this book where my favorite things have ended up.

The Egyptian Museum Cairo

By Mohamed Saleh, Hourig Sourouzian, Jurgen Liepe (photographer)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Mohamed Saleh, Hourig Sourouzian


Who am I?

I’m an archaeologist by training and a journalist by profession. During my long career as a staff writer at National Geographic magazine, and now as a freelance Nat Geo book editor and author, I have often written about the ancient world and cultural heritage preservation. I was very lucky to be sent to Egypt on a number of occasions to write stories about sites and discoveries, and I have now come to specialize in Egyptology. I recently took an online course that taught me how to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. I’m still in glyph kindergarten, but every new sign I learn is allowing me to better understand—and interpret—the culture of the pharaohs.


I wrote...

Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

By Ann R. Williams (editor),

Book cover of Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

What is my book about?

Archaeology is the key that unlocks our deepest history. Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs reveals the stories behind the most intriguing and impactful of those finds and showcases the people who first presented them to the world.

Blending high adventure with history, this book chronicles 100 astonishing archaeological discoveries dating from 50,000 million years ago until modern times. Each account in this book relies on firsthand reports from explorers, antiquarians, and scientists as they crack secret codes, evade looters and political suppression, fall in love, commit a litany of blunders, and uncover ancient curses. Spanning six continents, this enlightening narrative tells the story of human civilization.

Book cover of The Treasures of the Pyramids

This overlooked coffee table book is a tour-de-force survey of the decorated mastabas, pyramids, and tombs of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. Written by international experts and edited by the world-famous Zahi Hawass, Treasures of the Pyramids offers something for everyone. I assign many chapters in my undergraduate classes because they are concise, well-written in English by French and German experts, and profusely illustrated in color. 

The Treasures of the Pyramids

By Zahi Hawass,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Treasures of the Pyramids Hawass, Zahi A.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was ten. I started my first project in Luxor, Egypt, when I was 21, and for the last 35+ years, these projects have uncovered the stories of Theban tomb owners and the times in which they lived. For this reason, I’ve chosen some of the most accessible books on ancient Egyptian tombs and their decoration. I hope that these books will excite you about the humanity of those who lived thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt.


I wrote...

The Tomb Chapel of Menna (Tt 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb

By Melinda Hartwig,

Book cover of The Tomb Chapel of Menna (Tt 69): The Art, Culture, and Science of Painting in an Egyptian Tomb

What is my book about?

This lavishly illustrated book offers an in-depth look at the tomb chapel of Menna, Theban Tomb 69, which is one of the most beautiful and complex painted tombs in ancient Egypt. Written by an international group of experts, the book offers a window into the life of the official Menna while discussing the artistic, cultural, and scientific significance of his tomb and its decoration.

Egyptian Magic

By C. Jacq,

Book cover of Egyptian Magic

The world of the ancient Egyptians was a world so permeated with magic, which controlled every facet of life that traces still linger in Egypt to this day. Dr. Jacq is an authority on ancient Egyptian religious texts and it was an encounter with these traces in the form of a family of snake-charmers, which kindled his interest in Egyptian magic. I particularly liked this Aris & Phillips version because it has an Introduction by Rosalie David and in later editions, it was omitted.

Egyptian Magic

By C. Jacq,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Text: English, French (translation)


Who am I?

Having first discovered the mystery of ancient Egypt as a small child via my father’s war-time souvenirs, this interest grew over the years until it became a serious magical under-taking, culminating in Initiation into the magical order of the Temple of Khem. I became Principal tutor of the Order in 1998 and published Liber Ægyptius: The Book of Egyptian Magic in the same year. I continue to teach the Egyptian Mystery Tradition to those willing to submit themselves to the exacting discipline needed to enter the priesthood, and remain a member of the Egypt Exploration Society to keep up-to-date with the current archaeological discoveries in Egypt.


I wrote...

The Atum-Re Revival: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom for the Modern World

By Melusine Draco,

Book cover of The Atum-Re Revival: Ancient Egyptian Wisdom for the Modern World

What is my book about?

An interest in the magic, religion, and spirituality of the ancient Egyptians continues to increase steadily as people begin to realise that it is possible to follow this ancient tradition in the 21st century. The Egyptian religion is the oldest recorded belief system in the world, having just entered its sixth milieu – and it can still teach us how to live today in both earthly and cosmic harmony. The Atum-Re Revival reminds us that both the social and magico-religious developments within Egypt underwent some drastic internal changes during its long history and these are reflected in the differences between the subtle levels of magic, historical influences, and religious emphasis that mark the shift between beliefs and different deities. In this book, I link the old and new in terms of spiritual development.

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