The most recommended books about Cleopatra

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to Cleopatra, and here are their favorite Cleopatra books.
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Book cover of Ghost on the Throne: The Death of Alexander the Great and the Bloody Fight for His Empire

Jay Penner Author Of Regent Cleopatra

From my list on Cleopatra and ancient Egypt.

Why am I passionate about this?

The genre I specialize in is Ancient Historical Fiction. I have always been fascinated by history, and my vacations often involve visiting ancient ruins. I’m an avid reader on various periods of our past, especially Egypt, Rome, Mesopotamia, and India, and I enjoy writing about them. On the topic of Egypt and Cleopatra — Egypt is one of my favorite civilizations, and Cleopatra is one of the more interesting figures. I wanted to give her a treatment I felt she deserved—as a capable administrator, brilliant, ruthless, and fighting the circumstances of her times.

Jay's book list on Cleopatra and ancient Egypt

Jay Penner Why did Jay love this book?

It is this book, about the successors of Alexander the Great, that inspired me to write my first novel, the Atlantis Papyrus. It is a great read—the pages feel less like an academic paper and more like an action novel and keeps one’s interest until the very end. I learned about so many fascinating figures in Alexander’s world I had never really known about and the tumultuous years following his death. In my work, I drew inspiration from some of the characters and events depicted in this book.

By James Romm,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Ghost on the Throne as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-two, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea in the west all the way to modern-day India in the east. In an unusual compromise, his two heirs—a mentally damaged half brother, Philip III, and an infant son, Alexander IV, born after his death—were jointly granted the kingship. But six of Alexander’s Macedonian generals, spurred by their own thirst for power and the legend that Alexander bequeathed his rule “to the strongest,” fought to gain supremacy. Perhaps their most fascinating and conniving adversary was Alexander’s former Greek secretary, Eumenes, now a general…


Book cover of The Queen's Handmaid

Debra Williams Author Of Ah-Fur, Super Sleuth: The Case of The Missing Moggies

From Debra's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Reader Book reviewer Puppet creator

Debra's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Debra Williams Why did Debra love this book?

I am a history fan, especially when it comes to Ancient Egypt.

I loved this story as a wonderful blend of fiction, ancient and Biblical history, expertly woven by the author into an intriguing tale. It kept me turning the page to find out what happened to the young protagonist, Lydia, who starts out in servitude to the evil Cleopatra, and eventually becomes the handmaid to Herod’s wife, Mariamme.

The story spans a period of many years, after Lydia is tasked by a dying Jewish man to reunite ancient scrolls with a secret group of mystical keepers. The characters were engrossing and believable and took me on a wonderful journey of imagery and reality combined. I wanted Lydia to win, after her early mistreatment in life. I wasn’t disappointed.

By Tracy L Higley,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Egypt, 39 B.C., young Lydia serves as a handmaid to an aging Cleopatra and her son, until she is entrusted with an ancient set of sealed scrolls and joins the household of a visiting Galilean governor to return them to Jerusalem.


Book cover of The Reign of Cleopatra

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Burstein's The Reign of Cleopatra is an accessible introduction to Cleopatra's life and the context in which she lived.

Biography and historical background combine with an exploration of the politics of Ptolemaic Egypt, scholarship and the arts at Alexandria, and the multicultural Hellenistic world. Primary sources, both artifacts, and documents, bring the story to life.

A glossary defines relevant terminology and an annotated bibliography provides guidance for further study. 

By Stanley M. Burstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ambitious, intelligent, and desired by men and emperors, Cleopatra VII came to power at a time when Roman and Egyptian interests increasingly tended to concern the same object: the Egyptian Empire itself. Cleopatra lived her whole life at the center of this complex and persistent power struggle, and her death simultaneously heralded the end of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the loss of Egyptian political independence, and the beginning of Caesar Augustus's Roman rule in Egypt. Cleopatra's legacy has since lost much of its former political significance, as she has come to symbolize instead the potent force of female sexuality and power.…


Book cover of Cleopatra: A Life

Dana Cameron Author Of Exit Interview

From my list on badass women in history and fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

My first career in archaeology fed my love of history and cultures, giving me insight into human motivations. As a writer, I also love a good action scene, and I began taking mixed martial arts when I was writing the Emma Fielding archaeology mysteries and then the “Fangborn” urban fantasy novels. I soon realized I wanted to write a thriller with female characters who were badass—tough and smart—women I’d want to have at my back in a fight. I found them when I wrote Exit Interview. I love a book where a woman takes charge to change things, whether it's in her community or more globally.

Dana's book list on badass women in history and fiction

Dana Cameron Why did Dana love this book?

This next one is a bit of a curve ball, but it also reflects my interest in strong women in history and fiction—as well as my love of history and archaeology. Cleopatra: A Life, takes a historical figure who was nearly mythological, and roots her firmly within a cultural and historical context. Gone is the wily temptress of fiction and antiquity; Stacy Schiff's subject is a queen, a military strategist, an ingenious diplomat, and a polymath. She waged (and survived) civil war and foreign invasions, and reshaped the ancient world. The book reads like a novel, but never skimps on the historical and archaeological data--even the footnotes are compelling. Who wouldn't want this woman as backup?

By Stacy Schiff,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.Her palace shimmered with onyx, garnets, and gold, but was richer still in political and sexual intrigue. Above all else, Cleopatra was a shrewd strategist and an ingenious negotiator.Though her life spanned fewer than forty years, it reshaped the contours of the ancient world. She was married twice, each time to a brother. She waged a brutal civil war against the first when both were teenagers. She poisoned the second. Ultimately she dispensed with an ambitious sister as…


Book cover of Cleopatra and Rome

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Kleiner's Cleopatra and Rome is an essential Cleopatra book for art lovers.

It combines Cleopatra's story with an excellent introduction to the art history of the ancient Mediterranean world. One of the most interesting aspects of Kleiner's work is the effect she describes Cleopatra having on her Roman conqueror.

Although Augustus presented Cleopatra as a dangerous enemy of Rome, the iconography he used to present his family as a kind of "first family" for Rome borrowed from the visual language Cleopatra created to communicate with her Egyptian subjects.

By Diana E. E. Kleiner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With the full panorama of her life forever lost, Cleopatra touches us in a series of sensational images: floating through a perfumed mist down the Nile; dressed as Venus for a tryst at Tarsus; unfurled from a roll of linens before Caesar; couchant, the deadly asp clasped to her breast. Through such images, each immortalizing the Egyptian queen's encounters with legendary Romans--Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, and Octavian Augustus--we might also chart her rendezvous with the destiny of Rome. So Diana Kleiner shows us in this provocative book, which opens an entirely new perspective on one of the most intriguing women…


Book cover of Let the Emperor Speak

Jim Carr Author Of Yesterdays

From my list on wars over the ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love history and languages from the first time my school classes opened my eyes to them and it has stayed with me ever since. Learning Latin helped me to understand how these people talked and how they thought and expressed themselves. It didn’t matter what, whether the daily lives of Romans and how they built their empire. It has coloured my thinking, and helped me in writing all my books that take place during the past, whether in Roman life or medieval warfare.

Jim's book list on wars over the ages

Jim Carr Why did Jim love this book?

And speak Caesar Augustus does with a number of prominent figures, including Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Tiberius, Cicero, and even Virgil. His comments and asides let us know what he really thinks of them. He lets you know that the war with Pompey is a distraction and a bore. His comments are blunt and reveal a strong, wily individual completely in control of the Latin empire, and written in a way that, at times, you forget you’re not reading a history book but fiction.

It was comments like this regarding his meeting with Cleopatra that make the book rewarding: 

“I felt her power, her quite remarkable seductiveness. It was like listening to the deepest, most desirable temptation; it held promises of bliss and power. I understood how Anthony had found himself caught like a beast in a net. I looked away…”

By Allan Massie,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Let the Emperor Speak


Book cover of The Memoirs of Cleopatra

Stephanie Dray Author Of Becoming Madam Secretary

From my list on historical fiction women who changed the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

My graduating class in high school once designated me as “the most likely to start a feminist revolution.” That was a lot to live up to, but I’ve made a very small stab at it by writing about women who have changed our world. I love to bring awareness about the contributions great women have made in history, but I also want modern women to see themselves in these struggles. I always say that Historical Fiction is an exercise of empathy, and I hope my work encourages women today to get involved and make a difference in the world, too.

Stephanie's book list on historical fiction women who changed the world

Stephanie Dray Why did Stephanie love this book?

In many ways, this book started my writing career. I picked up this novel in an airport on the way to our honeymoon destination and found myself so inspired by Margaret George’s wonderfully emotive writing that I dreamed of writing a book.

I was also inspired by the tragic ancient queen whose war with Rome changed the course of Western civilization. Love her or hate her, Cleopatra is the most famous woman in history, and this novel beautifully illustrates her bravery, intelligence, and romantic heart.

It’s dramatic, well-researched, and a big, beautiful saga that you can sink into.

By Margaret George,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The mesmerizing story of Queen Cleopatra in her own words - by bestselling novelist Margaret George, author of The Autobiography of Henry VIII and Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles.

Told in the first person - from the young queen's earliest memories of her father's tenuous rule to her own reign over one of the most glittering kingdoms in the world - this is an enthralling saga of ambition and power.

It is also a tale of passion that begins when the twenty-one-year-old Cleopatra, desperate to return from exile, seeks out the one man who can help her: Julius…


Book cover of The Art of Seduction

Michael F. Schein Author Of The Hype Handbook: 12 Indispensable Success Secrets From the World's Greatest Propagandists, Self-Promoters, Cult Leaders, Mischief Makers, and Boundary Breakers

From my list on get people to do what you want.

Why am I passionate about this?

After years of struggling to start my own business, I had a revelation that changed everything for me. The best marketers weren’t marketers—they were resourceful punks, propagandists, cult leaders, and other assorted riff-raff. I began to adopt their tactics, and I started having some success—first as a freelance copywriter and then as a marketing agency owner. Ever since, I’ve been obsessed by the weird psychology we fall into when we’re with other humans and how people can hack that psychology to make others do what they want. 

Michael's book list on get people to do what you want

Michael F. Schein Why did Michael love this book?

I have to admit it: I’m pretty sure I bought this book in my early twenties with less-than-pure intentions. It didn’t end up doing much for my romantic life, but it changed the way I think forever after.

In writing about how to get attractive people to fall into your arms (and into your bed), Robert Greene makes no distinction between seducing an individual and seducing an audience of millions. It’s one of those books that makes you feel like you want to take a shower. Then again, most of my favorite books make me feel that way.

By Robert Greene,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A fascinating inside look at the nature of seduction uses a vast array of sources, from Freud and Nietzsche to Cleopatra and Josephine Bonaparte, to uncover the truth about this important feature of the human animal.


Book cover of The Reception of Cleopatra in the Age of Mass Media

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

There are many books about the reception of Cleopatra in high art like Shakespearean drama and Renaissance painting, but Daugherty's The Reception of Cleopatra in the Age of Mass Media is a delightful exploration of Cleopatra in popular creations such as video games, graphic novels, and television.

The incredible variety of material and engaging writing style makes this book a perfect introduction to reception studies and a must-read for pop culture aficionados.

By Gregory N. Daugherty,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Reception of Cleopatra in the Age of Mass Media as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This study examines the reception of Cleopatra from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day as it has been reflected in popular culture in the United States of America. Daugherty provides a broad overview of the influence of the Egyptian queen by looking at her presence in film, novels, comics, cartoons, TV shows, music, advertising and toys. The aim of the book is to show the different ways in which the figure of Cleopatra was able to reach a large and non-elite audience.

Furthermore, Daugherty makes a study of the reception of Cleopatra during her own lifetime.…


Book cover of Cleopatra and Egypt

Prudence J. Jones Author Of Cleopatra: A Sourcebook

From my list on Cleopatra for non-academics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by Cleopatra ever since I learned that she used science to outwit one of Rome's most powerful men by inventing the world's most expensive cocktail (a pearl disintegrated in vinegar). As a professor of Classics at Montclair State University, I have the opportunity to study ancient historical and literary texts about Cleopatra, as well as monuments, inscriptions, and papyri. I use these primary sources in teaching an advanced ancient history course on Cleopatra to undergraduate students.

Prudence's book list on Cleopatra for non-academics

Prudence J. Jones Why did Prudence love this book?

Ashton's Cleopatra and Egypt considers Cleopatra from an Egyptian perspective.

Her detailed examination of the Egyptian sources for Cleopatra's life and reign distinguishes her work from most other books, which tend to place Cleopatra into a framework of Greek and Roman history. A large number of images center the Egyptian monuments and works of art associated with Cleopatra.

The text provides ample background on the Egyptian political and religious traditions onto which the Ptolemies imposed their rule.

By Sally-Ann Ashton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This beautifully illustrated new biography of Cleopatra draws on literary, archaeological, and art historical evidence to paint an intimate and compelling portrait of the most famous Queen of Egypt. * Deconstructs the image of Cleopatra to uncover the complex historical figure behind the myth * Examines Greek, Roman, and Egyptian representations of Cleopatra * Considers how she was viewed by her contemporaries and how she presented herself * Incorporates the author's recent field work at a temple of Cleopatra in Alexandria * Beautifully illustrated with over 40 images