The most recommended books about the Mediterranean

Who picked these books? Meet our 42 experts.

42 authors created a book list connected to the Mediterranean, and here are their favorite Mediterranean books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of Mediterranean book?

Loading...
Loading...

Book cover of The Mediterranean in the Ancient World

Sumru Altug Author Of Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis: Theory and Policy in General Equilibrium

From my list on individual choices and aggregate phenomena.

Who am I?

I was a very bright little girl growing up in Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1960s. I passed the entrance exam for Girls’ Latin School in Boston without difficulty and set out for a lifelong journey through many great institutions of higher learning. By the time I was a university student, I knew I wanted to help solve social problems. So, I chose to become an economist. I’m a bit techy but I also have a passion for great writing and history. In recent years, my profession has allowed me to get to know Asia and its amazing cultures through my visits to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, China, India, and my current abode, Beirut!      

Sumru's book list on individual choices and aggregate phenomena

Sumru Altug Why did Sumru love this book?

I read this wonderful book in the early 2000s when I had returned to Istanbul, Türkiye back from a professional position in the UK.

I was captivated by its description of the flora and fauna of our geography. I recall reading how the beloved chestnut trees of our region had made their way there from China. Braudel is an economic historian who is known to have placed physical and biological nature in the foreground of historical analysis. Thus, according to Braudel, nature is not merely space to be conquered or to be shaped by human desires.

Indeed, the organization of economic life in the Mediterranean was probably shaped by the diversity and difficulty of its geography as much as shaping it, as we argued in our article on Mediterranean business cycles published with Fabio Canova in Open Economies Review in 2013.   

By Fernand Braudel, Sian Reynolds (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This general reader's history of the ancient mediterranean combines a thorough grasp of the scholarship of the day with an great historian's gift for imaginative reconstruction and inspired analogy. Extensive notes allow the reader to appreciate thestate of scholarship at the time of writing, the scale and breadth of Braudel's learning and the points where orthodoxy has changed, sometimes vindicating Braudel, sometimes proving him wrong. Above all the book offers us the chance to situate Braudel's mediterranean, born of a lifetime's love and knowledge, more clearly in the climates of the sea's history.


Book cover of Diversion and Deception: Dudley Clarke's a Force and Allied Operations in World War II

Helen Fry Author Of The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II

From my list on deception in WW2.

Who am I?

Helen is an ambassador for the Museum of Military Intelligence, a trustee of the Friends of the Intelligence Corps Museum, and a trustee of the Medmenham Collection. Her latest book Spymaster: The Man Who Saved MI6 about one of the greatest spies of the 20th century, was a Daily Mail best biography for 2021. Her history of MI9—the first such history for over 40 years—was shortlisted for The Duke of Wellington Medal for Military History. 

Helen's book list on deception in WW2

Helen Fry Why did Helen love this book?

This is perhaps an unusual choice in that it focuses on deception outside the sphere of countries usually covered by historians. Bendeck explores the numerous deceptions around D-Day, in a cluster of operations that were known as Plan Bodyguard. He explores the little-known, but vital, Plan Zeppelin which was the largest and most complex of the Bodyguard plans. Plan Zeppelin, in conjunction with A Force’s strategic deception plans in the Mediterranean, succeeded in convincing Hitler to hold back sixty German divisions from southern France and move them to the Balkans in time for D-Day. Focusing on the years 1943 to 1945, Bendeck illuminates how A Force, under the leadership of charismatic Dudley Clarke, orchestrated both strategic and tactical deception plans to create the illusion of military threats by the Allies to German defences and troops across the southern perimeter of Europe. Her book is a nuanced and important…

By Whitney T. Bendeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Among the operations known as Plan Bodyguard, the deception devised to cover the Allies' Normandy landing, was the little known but critical Plan Zeppelin, the largest and most complex of the Bodyguard plans. Zeppelin, in conjunction with the Mediterranean Strategy, succeeded in pinning down sixty German divisions from southern France to the Balkans in time for D-Day. This was the work of "A" Force, Britain's only military organization tasked with carrying out both strategic and tactical deception in World War II. Whitney T. Bendeck's Diversion and Deception finds "A" Force at its finest hour, as the war shifted from North…


Book cover of Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean

Brian Catlos Author Of Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors: Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad

From my list on the multi-religious Mediterranean.

Who am I?

Having lived in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, and visited many, many more countries, I am a traveler first and foremost. I travel because I like getting to know different types of people and seeing how they live and how they think about the world and about their place in it. As a historian, I can travel back in time to places even more exotic than one can visit today. My favorite place is the Mediterranean world in the Middle Ages – an exciting environment where Christians, Muslims, and Jews from Africa, Europe, and Asia, came together sometimes in conflict, but as often as not in collaboration or friendship.

Brian's book list on the multi-religious Mediterranean

Brian Catlos Why did Brian love this book?

Focusing on the period beginning with 1571’s epic battle of Lepanto and extending through the so-called “Northern Invasion” of the English and the Dutch into the Mediterranean, this book examines the central role piracy played in the emergence of an “Ottoman Mediterranean” as a legal space shaped by multiple, ever-shifting factors. In this wide-ranging and beautifully written study, archival sources spanning both religious and imperial spheres of law become windows onto the astonishing complexity of an early modern Mediterranean in which there were “no hard and fast lines separating Christian and Muslim spheres, but rather a culture of legal pluralism in which merchants, travelers, and seamen took advantage of multiple overlapping jurisdictions.” Evocatively written, blending narrative and analysis, White brings this exciting age to vivid life.

By Joshua M. White,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The 1570s marked the beginning of an age of pervasive piracy in the Mediterranean that persisted into the eighteenth century. Nowhere was more inviting to pirates than the Ottoman-dominated eastern Mediterranean. In this bustling maritime ecosystem, weak imperial defenses and permissive politics made piracy possible, while robust trade made it profitable. By 1700, the limits of the Ottoman Mediterranean were defined not by Ottoman territorial sovereignty or naval supremacy, but by the reach of imperial law, which had been indelibly shaped by the challenge of piracy.

Piracy and Law in the Ottoman Mediterranean is the first book to examine Mediterranean…


Book cover of Humanity at Sea: Maritime Migration and the Foundations of International Law

Robert F. Barsky Author Of Clamouring for Legal Protection: What the Great Books Teach Us about People Fleeing from Persecution

From my list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises.

Who am I?

I have taught a broad array of humanities and social sciences courses over the years, sometimes employing case studies from the realm of law, most notably stories about undocumented migrants, refugees, or homeless people. I’ve also had occasion to teach in law schools, usually in ways that bridge the gap between the legality of forced displacement, and the lived experiences of those who have done it. I won a Rockefeller Foundation grant to write my newest book, Clamouring for Legal Protection, in which I considered the idea that we can learn a lot about refugees and vulnerable migrants with references to people we know well: Ulysses, Dante, Satan, and even Alice in Wonderland.

Robert's book list on to help us harness the ‘classics’ to address crises

Robert F. Barsky Why did Robert love this book?

This book addresses the well-known issue of refugees who are attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to gain refugee status in Europe, but it does so by adding historical detail that helps us to understand the legal issues pertaining to their flight. Mann links these overloaded vessels filled with desperate peoples to the actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese 'boatpeople', Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia, and Syrian refugees currently crossing the Mediterranean, and then legal responses by states and international organizations to these movements. Along the way, he also helps us to understand the value of reading works by twentieth-century thinkers such as Hannah Arendt and Emmanuel Levinas, and other legal materials to form a rich account of an issue of increasing global concern.

By Itamar Mann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This interdisciplinary study engages law, history, and political theory in a first attempt to crystallize the lessons the global 'refugee crisis' can teach us about the nature of international law. It connects the dots between the actions of Jewish migrants to Palestine after WWII, Vietnamese 'boatpeople', Haitian refugees seeking to reach Florida, Middle Eastern migrants and refugees bound to Australia, and Syrian refugees currently crossing the Mediterranean, and then legal responses by states and international organizations to these movements. Through its account of maritime migration, the book proposes a theory of human rights modelled around an encounter between individuals in…


Book cover of The Destroyers

Timothy Jay Smith Author Of Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller

From my list on contemporary gay novels set on the Mediterranean.

Who am I?

Raised crisscrossing America, I developed a ceaseless wanderlust that took me around the world many times. En route, I collected the stories and characters that make up my work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists: I hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that had me smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed me in an African jail. Greece, where I’ve spent some seven years total, stole my heart 50 years ago. Fire on the Island is my homage to it. 

Timothy's book list on contemporary gay novels set on the Mediterranean

Timothy Jay Smith Why did Timothy love this book?

A psychological thriller set on the stunningly beautiful Greek island of Patmos. That was enough to make me want to crack the cover on this book, and what a great read it turned out to be! Ian, fleeing the emotional and financial fallout of his father’s death, joins Charlie, his best childhood friend, who’s rich and basking in the good island life. Or is it a good island life? Ian finds himself drawn into a world where mysteries overlap, infidelities and ambivalent sexuality are rampant, an errant bomb explosion may have missed its intended target, and the conclusion makes the ending to The Silence of the Lambs look like a cakewalk.

By Christopher Bollen,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Destroyers is a smart, sophisticated literary thriller; for all its originality, it invokes the shades of Lawrence Durrell and Graham Greene' Jay McInerney, author of Bright, Precious Days

When Charlie and I were young, we played a game called Destroyers . . . We were sharpening our instincts, jettisoning attachments. We were honing strategies for survival ...

Ian Bledsoe is on the run, broke and humiliated, fleeing the emotional and financial fallout of his father's death. His childhood friend Charlie - rich, exuberant and basking in life on the Greek island of Patmos - is his last hope.

At…


Book cover of Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions That Forged Modern Greece and Turkey

Roger Crowley Author Of Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

From my list on the Mediterranean world.

Who am I?

The Mediterranean is in my family’s history. My dad was a naval officer who worked in the sea in peace and war and took us to Malta when I was nine. I was entranced by the island’s history, by an evocative sensory world of sunlight, brilliant seas, and antiquity. I’ve been travelling in this sea ever since, including a spell living in Turkey, and delved deep into its past, its empires, and its maritime activity. I’m the author of three books on the subject: Constantinople: the Last Great Siege, Empires of the Sea, and Venice: City of Fortune.

Roger's book list on the Mediterranean world

Roger Crowley Why did Roger love this book?

We are reminded on almost a daily basis of the plight of refugees in fragile boats that this sea can be cruel as well as kind. The present diaspora has its forerunners – in this book the great population exchange of 1923 that saw the displacement of two million people across the Mediterranean: Greeks living in the Ottoman Empire, Turks living in Greece. Bruce Clarke both explains the chain of events in the aftermath of the First World War and records the personal stories of those who were uprooted from the places they called home. They have a familiar resonance, the repeating patterns of memory and loss: ‘I remember the day they went away,’ recorded a Greek woman of her Muslim neighbours. ‘Some kissed the earth, some took bowls of soil with them. They were decent types; their menfolk used to attend our funerals, and we would exchange presents of…

By Bruce Clarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, nearly two million citizens in Turkey and Greece were expelled from homelands. The Lausanne treaty resulted in the deportation of Orthodox Christians from Turkey to Greece and of Muslims from Greece to Turkey. The transfer was hailed as a solution to the problem of minorities who could not coexist. Both governments saw the exchange as a chance to create societies of a single culture. The opinions and feelings of those uprooted from their native soil were never solicited.

In an evocative book, Bruce Clark draws on new archival research…


Book cover of Uppity Women of Ancient Times

Faith L. Justice Author Of Twilight Empress: A Novel of Imperial Rome

From my list on awesome women you’ve never heard of.

Who am I?

I’ve loved history since my grandfather told me tales about my ancestors and their exploits. I haunted libraries, reading up on whatever current era I had a passion for: Roman, medieval England, American Civil War, etc. but I was always disappointed that little or no space was given to women’s stories. They had to have existed or all those famous men wouldn’t have been born. It took some digging and a feminist revolution, but finally remarkable women’s lives began to surface in academia and I now turn their stories into popular fiction. I hope these recommendations help readers learn about awesome women who didn’t make it into the history books. Enjoy!

Faith's book list on awesome women you’ve never heard of

Faith L. Justice Why did Faith love this book?

This one is just for fun. I regularly pick up these modern collections of brief biographies of ancient warrior women, doomed queens, she captains, etc. I like to see if “my” characters are included and how they fare with a non-scholarly author. Also, I like to see if any catch my eye for further research and possibly(?) a novel.

Like its sister books, this one is written in a breezy modern style with a certain amount of snark. Leon gives two pages each to about one hundred women who lived from 2500 BC to AD 450 around the Mediterranean and the western Roman provinces. All are real women who made a difference and their names survived, but you’ve probably never heard of most of them. Check it out!

By Vicki Leon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Uppity Women of Ancient Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Profiles two hundred unusual women throughout history, including gladiators, public servants, murderers, rulers, scientists, and homemakers


Book cover of Captain Horatio Hornblower

Lance Lee Author Of Family Matters

From my list on combining memoir, culture, myth, and poetry.

Who am I?

Quite young, I realized my life was based on the fantasies and wish-fulfillments of my parents. As a teenager I turned to science fiction and fantasy whose stories so often engaged imaginatively and decisively with fundamental issues of good and evil, truth and falsity, courage and deception, unlike my reality. In my struggle to portray that reality and its transformation something Freud wondered about proved helpful, whether our careful effort to reconstruct the past was wholly true or in part illusory. If it was effective as an explanation, then he felt it was valid, and I have written in the same spirit.

Lance's book list on combining memoir, culture, myth, and poetry

Lance Lee Why did Lance love this book?

This was published as three separate novels that tell one coherent story (I. Beat to Quarters, II. Ship of the Line, III. Flying Colours). I spent a lot of time in the Hornblower world as an adolescent, an imaginary reality I sensed wasn't wholly imaginary—The Napoleonic Wars were real—although Hornblower is fictional. But we're all heroes of our own stories. What especially appealed is the portrait of a hero divided between alternating bursts of confident action and moments of intense self-doubt. That accords almost exactly with how I was made to feel as a child, at once supremely able and a second later, consumed by doubt and a sense of inadequacy.

By C. S. Forester,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This omnibus edition of the Hornblower Saga contains the first three novels C.S. Forester wrote about Horatio Hornblower — Beat to Quarters, Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours. During the Age of Sail, mastery of the art of naval warfare was daunting — the necessary knowledge and skill required was massive, the need for resourceful leadership essential, and the ability to face war and savagery critical. The complexity of the ships will stagger, the battles will haunt your dreams, and the men will consume your imagination. C.S. Forester brings it all to life.

Beat to Quarters: (The Happy Return…


Book cover of War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad

Roger Crowley Author Of Empires of the Sea: The Final Battle for the Mediterranean, 1521-1580

From my list on the Mediterranean world.

Who am I?

The Mediterranean is in my family’s history. My dad was a naval officer who worked in the sea in peace and war and took us to Malta when I was nine. I was entranced by the island’s history, by an evocative sensory world of sunlight, brilliant seas, and antiquity. I’ve been travelling in this sea ever since, including a spell living in Turkey, and delved deep into its past, its empires, and its maritime activity. I’m the author of three books on the subject: Constantinople: the Last Great Siege, Empires of the Sea, and Venice: City of Fortune.

Roger's book list on the Mediterranean world

Roger Crowley Why did Roger love this book?

Logue’s modernist reworking of the Iliad – the Trojan war - mother of all Mediterranean contests, is quite unlike anything you’ll ever read. Logue doesn’t translate, he remakes. It’s as cinematic as a film script, cast in a poetic language as brilliant as anything in modern times, full of jump cuts, staccato effects, and startling contemporary references. The violence of the fighting has a slamming immediacy (‘Dust like red mist/Pain like chalk on slate’), the Mediterranean – ‘the sea that is always counting’ - glimmers and sighs, the Gods behave like spoiled children, helicopters go whumping over the dunes.

By Christopher Logue,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A remarkable hybrid of translation, adaptation, and invention

Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.

“Your life at every instant up for― / Gone. / And, candidly, who gives a toss? / Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips,” writes Christopher Logue in his original version of Homer’s Iliad, the uncanny “translation of translations” that won ecstatic and unparalleled acclaim as “the best translation of Homer since Pope’s” (The New York Review of Books).

Logue’s account of Homer’s Iliad is a radical…


Book cover of Mediterranean Seafood: A Comprehensive Guide With Recipes

Barbara Santich Author Of The Original Mediterranean Cuisine: Medieval Recipes for Today

From my list on gastronomic Provence.

Who am I?

Since first stepping off a train at Nice I've felt an affinity with southern France, but it was a chance encounter with the local shepherd who, speaking a version of the Provençal language, alerted me to the proud past of this region and its individual identity. (I've written about this time in my book Wild Asparagus, Wild Strawberries.) A serendipitous opportunity to study ancien Provençal led me down a meandering path to a PhD that eventually became The Original Mediterranean Cuisine, and on to a career researching and teaching culinary history. My next book looks at the roots of Provençal cuisine in the eighteenth century. 

Barbara's book list on gastronomic Provence

Barbara Santich Why did Barbara love this book?

Finally, a food book. But more than that, Mediterranean Seafood recounts a personal journey, as Alan Davidson learned to identify the diversity of Mediterranean catches and how best to use each species. It was an invaluable guide on my visits to the market at Sète, and as I pored over the displays I listened to conversations between sellers and buyers, exchanges of gossip and cooking tips, and marvelled at the ingenuity of these Mediterranean women in accommodating seafood in so many different ways when my palate knew only fried or grilled. Part catalogue and part cookbook, it combines the best of both. If only eighteenth-century travellers had the benefit of such a guide, they might have been more daring in their eating. 

By Alan Davidson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Mediterranean seafood is a topic as vast as the riches of that fabled sea itself. Written by distinguished food historian Alan Davidson (author of The Oxford Companion to Food), MEDITERRANEAN SEAFOOD is a seminal work of culinary scholarship. The new edition catalogs edible marine life and provides identifications in a dozen languages and over 100 line drawings. Davidson puts knowledge into practice with 240 skillfully presented recipes, culled from cuisines throughout the region. Davidson'¬?s work possesses the quixotic charm of the true enthusiast; his practical discussions are enlivened by touches of witty erudition that will delight those new to the…