The best British Museum books

Who picked these books? Meet our 31 experts.

31 authors created a book list connected to the British Museum, and here are their favorite British Museum books.
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What type of British Museum book?


Roman Britain

By Ralph Jackson, Richard Hobbs,

Book cover of Roman Britain

Ruth Downie Author Of Medicus

From the list on Roman Britain.

Who am I?

A family visit to Hadrian’s Wall first sparked my interest in Roman Britain, and since then I’ve written eight novels, one novella, and a couple of short stories featuring Roman Army Medic and reluctant sleuth Gaius Petreius Ruso and his British partner, Tilla. I’m the owner of an archaeological trowel and infinite curiosity, both of which I wield as often as possible in search of the “real” Roman Britain. 

Ruth's book list on Roman Britain

Discover why each book is one of Ruth's favorite books.

Why did Ruth love this book?

This is the British Museum’s take on Roman Britain and as you’d expect, there are gorgeous photos on every page. If you can drag your eyes away from the visual feast, the text is intelligent and informative and there are suggestions for further reading. Don’t just leave it adorning the coffee table – pick it up and discover a lost world!

By Ralph Jackson, Richard Hobbs,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The British Museum's new introductory guide to Roman Britain combines an informative text with first-class design and is illustrated with plentiful artefacts from the museum's collections. Throughout the book the emphasis is on cultural interaction and change, showing the impact of the Roman presence, but also British survivals; the book starts, perhaps unusually for general guides of this kind, with a section on pre-Roman Britain, and ends with a chapter on Britons after Rome. In between we learn about the military, the new literate culture introduced by Rome, about the impact of Rome on the rural economy, and on life…

The Lewis Chessmen

By Irving Finkel,

Book cover of The Lewis Chessmen: and what happened to them

T.M. Rowe Author Of A Viking Moon

From the list on transporting you back through time.

Who am I?

I have three lifelong passions, the first was reading, then writing, and then archaeology/history. To this end I studied and trained as an archaeologist before I sat down and decided to write stories set in the past as a way of bringing it to life. Of course, there had to be an adventure, a bit of a mystery, and a dash of magic to bring it all together. The books on my list are just a few of those that I have enjoyed reading during my hunt to get to know the past in intimate detail – on my own time travelling journey.

T.M.'s book list on transporting you back through time

Discover why each book is one of T.M.'s favorite books.

Why did T.M. love this book?

My interest in the Vikings initially arose out of seeing the Lewis Chessmen at the British Museum, they have such interesting faces, full of life and mystery. For me, the chessmen are the reason for my writing journey and in this small and perfectly formed book is the story of their discovery on the Isle of Lewis and their journey to the present day.

Written by the marvelous storyteller Irving Finkel who is the Assistant Keeper of Ancient Mesopotamian script, languages, and cultures in the Department of the Middle East in the British Museum – which is something of a mouthful (check out his YouTube videos).

It is an easy read that transports a person back into time, wondering who the chessmen belonged to, why did they end up on a Scottish beach and what do those funny little carved characters make of it all? 

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Lewis Chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in mysterious circumstances. Consisting of elaborately worked walrus ivory and whales' teeth in the form of seated kings and queens, bishops, knights, warders and pawns, this curious chess set is strongly influenced by Norse culture. Of the 93 pieces known to us today, 11 pieces are in Edinburgh at the National Museum of Scotland, and 82 are in the British Museum, where they have delighted generations of visitors with their wonderfully expressive details. In this engaging story, Irving Finkel follows the many adventures of the chessmen after they came to…

Book cover of The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum

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

From the 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

Discover why each book is one of David's favorite books.

Why did David love this book?

Much of Classical Greece remains intangible, but some of its artworks have survived (albeit often in fragments) allowing us to gaze upon what ancient Greeks once saw. Among the greatest sculptures are those which adorned the Parthenon, created in Athens’ heyday under Pericles. Few knew more about them than the late and much-missed Ian Jenkins, whose sumptuously illustrated book not only discusses the artworks but reproduces many in such glorious detail that you feel you could almost touch them. You can certainly appreciate their energy. And in the end, for me, it’s this energy – preserved through time in art or literature – that makes the study of Classical Greece so exciting. As Sparta was for Athens, so Classical Greece can be for us a mirror in which to reevaluate ourselves. 

By Ian Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum are unrivalled examples of classical Greek art that have inspired sculptors, artists, poets and writers since their creation in the fifth century BC. This book serves as a superb visual introduction to these magnificent sculptures. The book showcases a series of specially taken photographs of the different sculptural elements: the pediments, metopes and Ionic frieze. It captures the vitality of the sculptures in a group, an individual sculpture or an exquisite eye-catching detail, such as the mane of a horse, a human foot, the swish of drapery or a youthful head bowed in…


By A.S. Byatt,

Book cover of Possession

Erica Bauermeister Author Of No Two Persons

From the list on (re)immersing you in the magic of books.

Who am I?

I've been book-besotted my entire life. I've read, studied, taught, reviewed, and written books. I went to “gradual” school, as John Irving calls it, earning a PhD in literature before gradually realizing that what I really loved was writing. For me, books contain the intellectual challenge of puzzles, the fun of entertainment, the ability to fill souls. They have changed my life, and the best compliments I have received are from readers who say my books have changed theirs. I read widely and indiscriminately (as this list shows) because I believe that good books are found in all genres. But a book about books? What a glorious meta-adventure. 

Erica's book list on (re)immersing you in the magic of books

Discover why each book is one of Erica's favorite books.

Why did Erica love this book?

I remember the first time I read this book, thinking how does she write sentences like that?

Thirty years later, I still do. Possession is the ultimate combination of literary geekiness and romance as two young scholars in the 1980s join forces to investigate a possible love affair between two Victorian poets. What starts as a mysterious letter found tucked into an old book in a stately British library becomes a cross-country adventure.

For those who ever wondered if it’s possible to combine the genres of romance and academic scholarship, Possession proves the point. Just make sure you’ve had your cup of coffee before reading.

By A.S. Byatt,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets. Following a trail of letters, journals and poems they uncover a web of passion, deceit and tragedy, and their quest becomes a battle against time.


Book cover of The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt

Ann R. Williams Author Of Lost Cities, Ancient Tombs: 100 Discoveries That Changed the World

From the list on ancient Egypt’s pharaohs.

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.

Ann's book list on ancient Egypt’s pharaohs

Discover why each book is one of Ann's favorite books.

Why did Ann love this book?

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.

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.

Book cover of A History of the World in 100 Objects

Bruce A. Tate Author Of Seven Languages in Seven Weeks

From the list on technology adoption through history.

Who am I?

I’m a serial adventurer and entrepreneur who loves to read, teach, and encounter our world in as many different ways as I can. I am an innately curious programmer and a goal-oriented completionist at heart. I’ve cruised around America’s Great Loop, run a marathon, written more than fifteen books, and been involved with many small businesses. I also love to work with new programming languages. I was around for the early days of the Java, Ruby, and Elixir programming languages. I built teams to build products using each one of them. My passion is to help programmers break through their blockers with fresh insights. 

Bruce's book list on technology adoption through history

Discover why each book is one of Bruce's favorite books.

Why did Bruce love this book?

I love adoption, but sometimes I don’t have the energy to read a whole treatise on the subject.

This book is about 100 historical objects, from the Rosetta Stone that helped linguists unlock Egyptian scripts to a throne built out of weapons arising in Mozambique from an African civil war. They span millions of years and six continents, and each object has its own significance.

I love this book because it felt like 100 smaller adoption and conflict stories wrapped into one small package, and I could read one at a time. One of my fondest memories of my daughter was reading her paper copy as we flew from one continent to another.

By Neil MacGregor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A History of the World in 100 Objects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2010, the BBC and the British Museum embarked on an ambitious project: to tell the story of two million years of human history using one hundred objects selected from the Museum's vast and renowned collection. Presented by the British Museum's Director Neil MacGregor, each episode focuses on a single object - from a Stone Age tool to a solar-powered lamp - and explains its significance in human history. Music, interviews with specialists and quotations from written texts enrich the listener's experience. On each CD, objects from a similar period of history are grouped together to explore a common theme…

The Feather Thief

By Kirk Wallace Johnson,

Book cover of The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

Jean E. Rhodes Author Of Older and Wiser: New Ideas for Youth Mentoring in the 21st Century

From the list on understanding the psychology of deception.

Who am I?

I'm clinical psychology professor at UMass Boston and expert on mentoring relationships. When I was a senior in high school, my dad left behind thirty years of marriage, four kids, and a complicated legal and financial history to start a new life. I couldn't fully comprehend the FBI investigation that forced his departure—any more than I could've fathomed the fact that my classmate Jim Comey would eventually lead that agency. I was also reeling from a discovery that my dad had “shortened” his name from Rosenzweig to Rhodes, a common response to anti-Semitism. It was during that period that I experienced the benefits of mentors and the joy of books about hidden agendas and subtexts.

Jean's book list on understanding the psychology of deception

Discover why each book is one of Jean's favorite books.

Why did Jean love this book?

This book, by Kirk Wallace Johnson tells the story of a bizarre heist that took place at the British Museum of Natural History in 2009.

The thief, Edwin Rist, was a 20-year-old American flute student who broke into the museum to steal hundreds of priceless, exotic bird specimens, many of which were collected by the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace in the 19th century.

What first drew me to the book was that I knew Edwin’s dad back when I was in grad school. But what kept me turning the pages was the writing and story. The book explores the world of Victorian-era fly-tying and the obsession that collectors have with rare feathers.

Rist, who was also an avid fly-tier, had planned the heist to obtain feathers for his own collection, which he intended to sell to other collectors. Many of the collectors and fly-tying enthusiasts knew that the feathers probably…

By Kirk Wallace Johnson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Feather Thief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As heard on NPR's This American Life

"Absorbing . . . Though it's non-fiction, The Feather Thief contains many of the elements of a classic thriller." -Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air

"One of the most peculiar and memorable true-crime books ever." -Christian Science Monitor

A rollicking true-crime adventure and a captivating journey into an underground world of fanatical fly-tiers and plume peddlers, for readers of The Stranger in the Woods, The Lost City of Z, and The Orchid Thief.

On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin…


By T. G. H. James, Araldo de Luca (photographer),

Book cover of Tutankhamun

Ann R. Williams Author Of Treasures of Egypt: A Legacy in Photographs From the Pyramids to Cleopatra

From the list on King Tut and his treasures.

Who am I?

I studied the ancient world in college, but Egypt really got my attention when I covered the CT scanning of King Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings on January 5, 2005, for National Geographic magazine, where I was a staff writer for many years. Ancient Egypt has become one of my great passions, especially the royal successions of the 18th dynasty and the saga of King Tut. I’m currently president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt, and I host a lecture about ancient Egypt every month for that group. I’m also studying hieroglyphs—and appreciating how the landscape comes alive now that I can read the signs.

Ann's book list on King Tut and his treasures

Discover why each book is one of Ann's favorite books.

Why did Ann love this book?

The mother of all coffee-table books. Fabulous photos by Araldo de Luca, who’s famous for shooting Tut’s personal effects in ways that show them at their stunning best. And text written by T.G.H. James, long-time keeper of the department of ancient Egypt at the British Museum and one of the great authorities on the teenage king and his era. If I’m stuck on a gnarly detail about some of King Tut’s stuff, I turn here. I get information that I can trust, and images that allow me to see the tiniest of evocative details.

By T. G. H. James, Araldo de Luca (photographer),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The purpose of this book is to describe by text and illustration the extraordinary tomb of this seemingly unimportant king of the late Eighteenth Dynasty, with its exceptional contents. An introductory chapter sets the historical scene for the reign of Tutankhamun, placing it in the context of the anciently reviled period of heresy associated with King Akhenaten, and its disintegration after his death. Tutankhamun ruled on the point of the change back to a traditional Egyptian regime, with the rehabilitation of the old gods, a change, which was consolidated after his death by his general Horemheb. A second chapter discusses…


By Anna Maude,

Book cover of London: A View from the Streets

Melissa McShane Author Of Burning Bright

From the list on touring the unfamiliar corners of Regency England.

Who am I?

I’ve loved the Regency era since first reading Jane Austen’s novels, but in writing my series of 19th-century adventure fantasies, I discovered there was so much more to the period than I’d ever dreamed. Though their culture and traditions aren’t like ours, I’m fascinated by how much about the lives of those men and women is familiar—the same desires, the same dreams for the future. I hope the books on this list inspire in you the same excitement they did in me!

Melissa's book list on touring the unfamiliar corners of Regency England

Discover why each book is one of Melissa's favorite books.

Why did Melissa love this book?

After getting a general idea of what Regency England was like, I recommend this slim little book produced in connection with the British Museum. It’s mostly reproductions of famous pictures and drawings, but for me it made the streets of London come alive. It’s great to read about the famous theaters at Covent Garden and Drury Lane, but so much better to see what they looked like at the height of their fame. And it saves you the cost of a trip to the British Museum!

By Anna Maude,

Why should I read it?

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

The Ark Before Noah

By Irving Finkel,

Book cover of The Ark Before Noah: Decoding the Story of the Flood

Paul Pettitt Author Of Homo Sapiens Rediscovered: The Scientific Revolution Rewriting Our Origins

From the list on understanding the evolution of the human mind.

Who am I?

I went to university wanting to become a Roman specialist, but ended up going backwards in time until I landed with a bump on the hard flints of the Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age). I research aspects of the behaviour of the Pleistocene (Ice Age) indigenous Europeans – the Neanderthals – and the origins and evolution of our own species, Homo sapiens. I undertake fieldwork across Europe, and I’m particularly interested in the origins and early development of art – both on portable objects and cave walls – and the long-term evolution of our treatment of the dead. My scientific love is how we can try to get inside the mind of our most remote ancestors.

Paul's book list on understanding the evolution of the human mind

Discover why each book is one of Paul's favorite books.

Why did Paul love this book?

During the Bronze and Iron Ages the first texts appeared that allow us an unadulterated glimpse into the prevalent beliefs of the time, in Egypt and in Mesopotamia.

Finkel, a consummate cuneiformist and expert in the literature of Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria, presents here a jaunty, entertaining, humorous but above-all scholarly account of his new understanding of the Sumerian-derived flood story, made possible by his discovery in the archives of the British Museum a missing clay tablet – a couple of chapters – of the flood myth.

What follows is a true detective story, in which Finkel cleverly plays some mental gymnastics in order to reconstruct exactly what the Ark would have looked like. In part ancient history, historiography, theology, and just a lesson in how stories turn into myths, Finkel reveals a very different story to the one we all grew up with.

By Irving Finkel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah's Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel's enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum - the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet - the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to…


By Kim Sloan (editor), Andrew Burnett (editor),

Book cover of Enlightenment: Discovering the World in the Eighteenth Century

Ludmilla Jordanova Author Of The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice

From the list on visual culture.

Who am I?

I’m a historian and writer who strives to combine the history of science and medicine, the study of visual culture, and cultural history in my work. Although I hated being dragged round art galleries and museums as a child, something must have stuck, laying the foundations for my interest in using images and artefacts to understand both the past and the present. Since the early 1990s I’ve been writing about portraits, how they work, and why they are important—I remain gripped by the compelling ways they speak to identity.  It was a privilege to serve as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery in London between 2001 and 2009.

Ludmilla's book list on visual culture

Discover why each book is one of Ludmilla's favorite books.

Why did Ludmilla love this book?

London’s British Museum, with its massive and diverse collections, is world famous and the story of its foundation and early years in the eighteenth century sheds light on the histories of collecting, knowledge, and exploration. More than twenty essays were assembled to celebrate the opening of the Enlightenment Gallery in the King’s Library after years of research and refurbishment. These essays draw readers into the people, the objects, and the ideas that shaped this important and influential institution. The book is lavishly illustrated with gorgeous photographs of paintings and statues, coins, fossils, china, and much more—a wonderful way to grasp the museum’s stupendous holdings and also to understand better the controversies it has engendered.

By Kim Sloan (editor), Andrew Burnett (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The extraordinary companion to the British Museum's 250th anniversary exhibition.
Opened in 1753 as the world's first public museum, the British Museum epitomized the Age of Enlightenment's dream of a rational universe. Indeed, in many ways the museum was the age's most potent instrument: the incarnation of a world that could be parsed, classified, and comprehended through the physical observation of objects, all in the name of reason, progress, and civic improvement.

In this lavishly illustrated volume, published to coincide with a new permanent exhibit, the museum's centrality to the Enlightenment enterprise is explored through the stunning breadth and variety…

The Global Art World

By Hans Belting (editor), Andrea Buddensieg (editor),

Book cover of The Global Art World: Audiences, Markets, and Museums

John Zarobell Author Of Art and the Global Economy

From the list on art and globalization.

Who am I?

I am a professor of International Studies and a former museum curator. This combination provides me with a unique perspective not only on the inner workings of the art world, but the way that those practices map on to broader social, political, and economic transformations that occur as a result of globalization. This leads me, for example, to an assessment of how free-trade zones affect the art market. In past research, I have focused on colonialism and French art in the nineteenth century, so I am attuned to power imbalances between the center and the periphery and I am fascinated to see how these are shifting in the present.

John's book list on art and globalization

Discover why each book is one of John's favorite books.

Why did John love this book?

This book was the first to bring together a group of international artists, curators, and scholars to discuss and engage the changing nature of the art world, as a result of globalization.

The project was launched at the Center for Media and Art (ZKM) in Karlsrühe, Germany in 2006 with a series of conferences that turned into a series of books over time and an exhibition in 2013.

No other book considers so many new manifestations of the museum in the twenty-first century, illuminating new opportunities for the reader to explore distant lands vicariously and also to discover how many different ways institutions are being developed in cities around the world.

By Hans Belting (editor), Andrea Buddensieg (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the second publication from the ongoing research series, Global Art and the Museum (GAM), which was initiated in 2001 by German art historian Hans Belting and artist, writer and curator Peter Weibel at the ZKM Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. The last 20 years have seen a rapid globalization of the art world, resulting in geographic decentralization and a shift away from a primarily Western perspective. GAM's aim is to analyze the effect of these changes on the art market, museums and art criticism. This volume comprises a collection of essays by experts--such as Claude…

Book cover of A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

Simon Elliott Author Of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

From the list on Roman Britain.

Who am I?

Dr. Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist, author, broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology, Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels, and President of the Society of Ancients. He frequently appears on broadcast and social media as a presenter and expert regarding the ancient world, and currently has 12 books on sale on similar themes, with three more due later this year. He is also a PR Week award-winning, highly experienced communications practitioner who has advised a wide variety of clients at a senior level on their interaction with the world of the media and politics. 

Simon's book list on Roman Britain

Discover why each book is one of Simon's favorite books.

Why did Simon love this book?

Numismatics has a huge role to play in helping tell the story of Roman Britain, not only from a chronological perspective, but also because the types and quality of the coinage tells us much about the nature of the province and empire in a given period. Here the British Museum’s Sam Moorhead has written a masterful account of this key aspect of the archaeology of Roman Britain. 

By Sam Moorhead,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

If you have a Roman coin that you want to identify look no further. If you want to delve deeper into the coin, emperor, or particular period the book is an excellent starting point for further and deeper research. With over 1600 colour photographs this is the only book on Roman Coins you will ever need! Written by Sam Moorhead of the British Museum, this book provides a chronological overview of Roman coinage from the Republican period (300BC) to the early 5th century, with an emphasis on Roman coinage used in Britain. The text provides an introduction to the history…

How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs

By Mark Collier, Bill Manley, Richard Parkinson (illustrator)

Book cover of How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself

Tamara Bower Author Of The Mummy Makers of Egypt

From the list on Ancient Egypt by an archaeological illustrator.

Who am I?

I have been fascinated by ancient Egypt since I was a child and dressed up to play as ancient Egyptian with her friends. I studied fine art in college, and was trained in archaeological illustration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I worked as a staff illustrator in the Department of Egyptian Art. I later worked in the Department of Egyptian Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I have worked as the technical illustrator for a dozen archaeological digs in Egypt, Turkey, Spain, Belize, and California. 

Tamara's book list on Ancient Egypt by an archaeological illustrator

Discover why each book is one of Tamara's favorite books.

Why did Tamara love this book?

This is the best up-to-date book for beginners learning to read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. Egyptian hieroglyphs are the most beautiful written language. They are not an alphabet. It is a complex system. The authors have it organized in sections that make it easier to understand the basics, and to read actual ancient texts on Egyptian artifacts. 

By Mark Collier, Bill Manley, Richard Parkinson (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Hieroglyphs are pictures used as signs in writing. When standing before an ancient tablet in a museum or visiting an Egyptian monument, we marvel at this unique writing and puzzle over its meaning. Now, with the help of Egyptologists Mark Collier and Bill Manley, museum-goers, tourists, and armchair travelers alike can gain a basic knowledge of the language and culture of ancient Egypt. Collier and Manley's novel approach is informed by years of experience teaching Egyptian hieroglyphs to non-specialists. Using attractive drawings of actual inscriptions displayed in the British Museum, they concentrate on the kind of hieroglyphs readers might encounter…

Eagle of the Empire

By Martin Ferguson,

Book cover of Eagle of the Empire

Chris Turnbull Author Of The Planting of the Penny Hedge

From the list on fiction with an historical twist.

Who am I?

I am a Yorkshire writer with a passion for historical fiction. My love of history came as a surprise to me in my late teens, as I had originally thought history was not my thing. However, I soon discovered the incredible stories throughout history, and how many authors carve fictional stories around these time periods or historical events. I love researching for my own historical writing, whether it be to find out what kind of jobs people did, or what they ate for breakfast. I love reading and writing historical fiction in multiple eras, such as WW2, Victorian times, and further back to the Romans and ancient Egyptians. 

Chris' book list on fiction with an historical twist

Discover why each book is one of Chris' favorite books.

Why did Chris love this book?

Martin Ferguson has quickly become one of my favourite authors, thanks to his Relic Hunters series. What I love about these books is that they are split between two stories, the modern-day story based on the Relic Hunters who work at the British Museum, and the secondary story set in the past relating to the relic they are hunting in the modern chapters. In some ways I would say the historical chapters are my favourite, and the author clearly does a lot of research for these books. These books make me eager to go away and read the rest of the history surrounding the relic, history, and myths. I am always recommending these books to friends. 

By Martin Ferguson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

RELIC HUNTERS: EAGLE OF THE EMPIREWhen his brother mysteriously disappears, sixteen-year-old Adam Hunter discovers that the myths and legends he was told as a boy have more truth to them than he ever thought possible.To free his brother, Adam must uncover the truth about the lost Roman Ninth Legion and find its fabled Eagle Standard, an artefact of mysterious mythical power. Adam calls on the help of the British Museum, a team of quirky Relic Hunters, skilled in recovering and protecting relics around the world. However, they need to act fast for they are not the only ones searching for…

Collecting the World

By James Delbourgo,

Book cover of Collecting the World: Hans Sloane and the Origins of the British Museum

Patricia Fara Author Of Life after Gravity: Isaac Newton's London Career

From the list on enlightenment science.

Who am I?

I’m an Emeritus Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, and I’ve written several popular books as well as featuring in TV/radio programmes such as In Our Time and Start the Week (BBC). I love the challenge of explaining to general audiences why the history of science is such an exciting and important subject – far more difficult than writing an academic paper. I believe that studying the past is crucial for understanding how we’ve reached the present – and the whole point of doing that is to improve the future. My underlying preoccupations involve exploring how and why western science has developed over the last few centuries to become the dominant (and male-dominated) culture throughout the world.

Patricia's book list on enlightenment science

Discover why each book is one of Patricia's favorite books.

Why did Patricia love this book?

James Delbourgo’s book shows that history matters. As the founder of London’s British Museum, Sir Hans Sloane has always played an important part in displaying our national heritage, and Delbourgo’s book explores the wondrousness of the artifacts he amassed from all over the world. But it also reveals how his wealth, fame, and success depended on the international trade in enslaved peoples during the eighteenth century. Sloane’s statue has not been destroyed, but it no longer stands prominently in the Museum’s entrance hall. Like Delbourgo, I believe we need to examine and confront the deeds of previous generations, and his book appeared while I was grappling with similar dilemmas about Sloane’s predecessor as President of the Royal Society, Sir Isaac Newton.

By James Delbourgo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Leo Gershoy Award
Winner of the Louis Gottschalk Prize
A Times Book of the Week
A Guardian Book of the Week

"A wonderfully intelligent book."
-Linda Colley

"A superb biography-humane, judicious and as passionately curious as Sloane himself."
-Times Literary Supplement

When the British Museum opened its doors in 1759, it was the first free national public museum in the world. Collecting the World tells the story of the eccentric collector whose thirst for universal knowledge brought it into being.

A man of insatiable curiosity and wide-ranging interests, Hans Sloane assembled a collection of antiquities, oddities, and…

Viking Britain

By Thomas Williams,

Book cover of Viking Britain

Dawn M. Hadley and Julian D. Richards Author Of The Viking Great Army and the Making of England

From the list on the Vikings (from two archaeologists).

Who are we?

Julian. D. Richards is a Professor of Archaeology at York. He has directed excavations at the Viking settlement at Cottam, and the only Viking cremation cemetery in the British Isles at Heath Wood. He is the author of Viking Age England, and The Vikings: A Short Introduction. His co-author is Dawn M. Hadley. Dawn is a Professor of Medieval Archaeology at the University of York. She and Julian Richards are Co-Directors of the Torksey project - which has been investigating the winter camp of the Viking Great Army of AD 872-3. She is the author of The Vikings in England and The Northern Danelaw.

Dawn's book list on the Vikings (from two archaeologists)

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Why did Dawn love this book?

Thomas Williams was project curator for the major international exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend, held at the British Museum in 2014. In this tremendously readable account of Viking Britain from the late eighth to the end of the tenth century he interweaves first-person narrative, evocative prose, and more conventional historical and archaeological discussion to provide a new form of Viking history. Williams demonstrates how the Vikings have shaped British society, and how our perception has been shaped by authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien and William Morris.

By Thomas Williams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A new narrative history of the Viking Age, interwoven with exploration of the physical remains and landscapes that the Vikings fashioned and walked: their rune-stones and ship burials, settlements and battlefields.

To many, the word 'Viking' brings to mind red scenes of rape and pillage, of marauders from beyond the sea rampaging around the British coastline in the last gloomy centuries before the Norman Conquest. It is true that Britain in the Viking Age was a turbulent, violent place. The kings and warlords who have impressed their memories on the period revel in names that fire the blood and stir…

Book cover of Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

Sheila Finch Author Of A Villa Far From Rome

From the list on Roman Britain and the Celts.

Who am I?

Sheila Finch is best known as a Nebula-winning author of science fiction, but on a visit back to her first alma mater in Chichester, UK, she encountered a mystery that wouldn’t let her go. Who built the nearby magnificent Roman palace that was just now being excavated at Fishbourne, and why? Months of research later, she came up with a possible explanation that involved a sixteen-year-old Roman mother, a middle-aged Celtic king of a small tribe, and Emperor Nero’s secret plans:

Sheila's book list on Roman Britain and the Celts

Discover why each book is one of Sheila's favorite books.

Why did Sheila love this book?

Another, more popularly oriented (and much shorter) discussion of Celtic life by Simon James (with Valerie Rigby), has a different focus: Britain and the Celtic Iron Age. Like the longer, less specific to Britain version by this author, this one gave me a much greater “feel” for the life of my characters before and after the Roman conquest. It’s full of photos and illustrations of Celtic artifacts, many of them collected by the British Museum.

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain and the Celtic Iron Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Celts are seen as a family of European peoples who spoke related languages and shared many things in common, from art to aspects of religion and social organization. Was the British Iron Age simply part of this supposedly uniform, Celtic world, or was it something much more distinctive, complex, strange and fascinating than we have been led to believe? New research is promoting reappraisals of Britain's prehistory, in ways which challenge many ideas, such as that of a familiar Celtic past. This work discusses the many facets of the lives of Iron Age Britons, drawing on the wealth of…


By Unknown, Stanley Lombardo (translator),

Book cover of Gilgamesh

Jordanna Max Brodsky Author Of The Wolf in the Whale

From the list on mythology books beyond the Greeks.

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.

Jordanna's book list on mythology books beyond the Greeks

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Why did Jordanna love this book?

Unlike the Homerian epics, Gilgamesh has been studied by scholars since only the late 19th century. (David Damrosch’s The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh details its fascinating discovery among a box of cuneiform shards in the British Museum.) Yet this Babylonian epic predates the Odyssey by over a millennium and relates a hero’s journey even more formidable. While Odysseus just wants to get back home, Gilgamesh seeks immortality itself. Bloody battles with giants, marathon sex with goddesses, heartbreaking love between two men, and the universal human quest to reconcile ourselves with death—Gilgamesh has it all.

By Unknown, Stanley Lombardo (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This stirring new version of the great Babylonian epic includes material from the recently discovered "monkey tablet" as well as an Introduction, timeline, glossary, and correspondences between lines of the translation and those of the original texts. "A comprehensive Introduction with a light touch (Beckman), a poetic rendering with verve and moxie (Lombardo): This edition of the colossal Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic should satisfy all readers who seek to plumb its wealth and depth without stumbling over its many inconvenient gaps and cruxes. A fine gift to all lovers of great literature." -Jack M. Sasson, Emeritus Professor, Vanderbilt University and The…

And Only to Deceive

By Tasha Alexander,

Book cover of And Only to Deceive

Tracy Grant Author Of The Seven Dials Affair

From the list on unraveling the secrets at the heart of a marriage.

Who am I?

I've always been fascinated by stories about married couples, especially when there are secrets in the marriage. My series The Rannoch Fraser Mysteries follows Mélanie and Malcolm Rannoch, whose marriage began when Mélanie, a French agent, married British agent Malcolm to spy on him during the Napoleonic Wars. As the Rannochs investigate mysteries, they grapple with personal and political betrayals and the secrets between them. 

Tracy's book list on unraveling the secrets at the heart of a marriage

Discover why each book is one of Tracy's favorite books.

Why did Tracy love this book?

I love this whole series, but what drew me to the first book was the story of a young widow unraveling the secrets of her late husband.

It’s poignant to see her only fall in love with him after he's gone. But at the same time it's fascinating to see her finding herself even as she learns that the man she was married to was far more complicated than she realized.

By Tasha Alexander,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked And Only to Deceive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From New York Times bestselling author Tasha Alexander comes a stunning novel of historical suspense set in Victorian England, meticulously researched and with a twisty plot that involves stolen antiquities, betrayal, and murder

Lady Emily's first mystery . . .

For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was just an easy way to escape her stifling home life and overbearing mother. So when her new husband dies on safari soon after the wedding, she feels little grief. After all, she barely knew the man.

Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was a far different…