The best books about Mount Vesuvius

Who picked these books? Meet our 12 experts.

12 authors created a book list connected to Mount Vesuvius, and here are their favorite Mount Vesuvius books.
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Pompeii

By Robert Harris,

Book cover of Pompeii

Luciana Cavallaro Author Of Search for the Golden Serpent

From the list on fantasy that blends the past and the imaginary.

Who am I?

In my teens, I read a book by Charles Berlitz titled Atlantis: the lost continent. I was enthralled and fascinated about this lost race of people, who were technically and sophisticated advance society and on one fateful day, vanished. My appetite for Greek mythology and ancient history grew from there, and I wanted to learn more about various ancient cultures and their mythologies. I eventually studied ancient history and continue my education as new archaeological discoveries and advancements are made. It wasn’t until a trip to Europe and seeing the Roman Forum and Colosseum, that I was inspired to write and combine my love for mythology and ancient history into historical fiction fantasy.

Luciana's book list on fantasy that blends the past and the imaginary

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

Why did Luciana love this book?

I included this book due to the historical research that went into writing this story.

Pompeii is told from the POV of a young engineer who takes over the maintenance of the reservoir that brings water to the city and has run dry. Young Attilius needs to determine how and why. The narrative highlights the months and weeks ahead of the devastating eruption that destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.

Attilius faces corruption as he navigates the treacherous path to discovering the truth of the city’s impending doom and those who seek to reap financially from the city’s demise.

By Robert Harris,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A pulse-rate-speeding masterpiece' Sunday Times

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

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

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


Resurrecting Pompeii

By Estelle Lazer,

Book cover of Resurrecting Pompeii

Virginia Campbell Author Of The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society

From the list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city.

Who am I?

I first visited Pompeii on a school trip when I was 17. I have a clear memory of standing in the Forum and thinking it was the most amazing place I had ever been. Decades later, that feeling remains, and the sites destroyed by Vesuvius have become the focus of my research on ancient Rome. I have excavated in Pompeii, conducted epigraphic fieldwork in Herculaneum, and taught students at multiple universities around the UK about the cities, the people who lived there, and their destruction. I am fundamentally interested in the people, how they lived their lives, and have published widely on tombs, epigraphy, and politics in Pompeii.

Virginia's book list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city

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

Why did Virginia love this book?

More often than not, people forget that the Vesuvian sites are, as gruesome as it sounds, large mass burials – not just of the cities themselves, but of people. The human remains of Pompeii (and by extension, Herculaneum) have been ignored or treated like some kind of circus attraction for centuries. What Lazar does is open your eyes to just how much information there is to be found from the casts and skeletons, and the potential to learn so much more about people and life in the first century. Her work is groundbreaking.

By Estelle Lazer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Resurrecting Pompeii provides an in-depth study of a unique site from antiquity with information about a population who all died from the same known cause within a short period of time.

Pompeii has been continuously excavated and studied since 1748. Early scholars working in Pompeii and other sites associated with the AD 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius were seduced by the wealth of artefacts and wall paintings yielded by the site. This meant that the less visually attractive evidence, such as human skeletal remains, were largely ignored.

Recognizing the important contribution of the human skeletal evidence to the archaeology of…


Pompeii

By Mary Beard,

Book cover of Pompeii

Gordon Anthony Author Of In the Shadow of the Wall

From the list on Roman history.

Who am I?

I have had a lifelong love of history, especially ancient history, and have spent years studying it for both interest and pleasure. I also love stories, so I decided to put my knowledge of Roman history to good use, providing what I hope is an authentic backdrop to my novels.

Gordon's book list on Roman history

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

Why did Gordon love this book?

We all love Mary Beard, and this superb book looks into the daily life of the people who lived in Pompeii before its destruction, revealing plenty of fascinating detail, and excellent explanation and commentary. Definitely one of the best books about daily life in an ordinary Roman town.

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ruins of Pompeii, buried by an explosion of Vesuvius in 79 CE, offer the best evidence we have of everyday life in the Roman empire. This remarkable book rises to the challenge of making sense of those remains, as well as exploding many myths: the very date of the eruption, probably a few months later than usually thought; or the hygiene of the baths which must have been hotbeds of germs; or the legendary number of brothels, most likely only one; or the massive death count, maybe less than ten per cent of the population.

An extraordinary and involving…


Book cover of Harriet and the Secret Rings

Sandra Bennett Author Of Secrets Hidden Below

From the list on for children that love to travel around the world.

Who am I?

I am an adventurous exploring soul who loves nature. Whether it’s simple short drives discovering little country towns in my region or travelling further afield, I am in my happy place. As a mother of three grown sons, two of which were reluctant readers, and as a former primary school teacher with a passion for literacy, I know the struggle parents face with teaching a love of reading to their children. Writing adventure stories in unique settings around the world combines my love for travel and early literacy. My adventures help to intrigue children and hook them into reading while fulfilling a fascination with unfamiliar places and developing their imagination with mystery and intrigue.

Sandra's book list on for children that love to travel around the world

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

Why did Sandra love this book?

I have always found ancient history fascinating. I couldn’t learn enough about ancient Rome and Greece during my teenage years. As an adult, one of my bucket list holidays is to visit the amazing ruins throughout Italy, including Mt Vesuvius. Through Harriet’s adventure, we experience ancient Rome in its glory days as if we were there. I found it fascinating to read and learn about the everyday life of an ancient Roman family with twists and turns of a thrilling adventure as Harriet is chased through ancient streets by Roman soldiers. It is great escapism into a place in the past where I wish I could travel to and immerse myself in an ancient society and civilization. 

By Debra Clewer,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found

Josiah Osgood Author Of Rome and the Making of a World State, 150 BCE–20 CE

From the list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I am a historian of ancient Rome. My interest was sparked in my high school Latin classes. On my first trip to Rome, several years later, I truly fell in love. I could see the famed orator delivering his fierce attacks against Catiline amid the grand temples of the Forum and its surrounding hills. I could imagine myself standing in a crowd, listening. In Washington DC, where I now live and teach at Georgetown University, there are classical buildings all around to keep me inspired. I have written a number of books about Roman political history and have also translated the biographer Suetonius and the historian Sallust.

Josiah's book list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome

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

Why did Josiah love this book?

No city of the Roman world survives more fully than Pompeii in southern Italy. Baths, bars, houses, and temples have been recovered, along with pots and pans, foodstuffs, medical instruments, and skeletons with evidence of an appallingly high rate of disease. For a knowledgeable and witty guide to the city you can’t beat Mary Beard, who helps us see it was not all marble columns and pretty paintings. I especially love her description of the House of the Tragic Poet, in which Edward Bulwer-Lytton set an early scene of his novel The Last Days of Pompeii, a dinner party hosted by the character Glaucus. Beard reveals that just behind this house was a cloth-processing workshop in which the main agent used would have been human urine. “In the background to Glaucus’ elegant dinner party,” writes Beard, “there must have been a distinctly nasty odor.”        

By Mary Beard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pompeii is the most famous archaeological site in the world, visited by more than two million people each year. Yet it is also one of the most puzzling, with an intriguing and sometimes violent history, from the sixth century BCE to the present day.

Destroyed by Vesuvius in 79 CE, the ruins of Pompeii offer the best evidence we have of life in the Roman Empire. But the eruptions are only part of the story. In The Fires of Vesuvius, acclaimed historian Mary Beard makes sense of the remains. She explores what kind of town it was-more like Calcutta or…


Women in the Classical World

By Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Sarah B. Pomeroy, H.A. Shapiro, Natalie Boymel Kampen

Book cover of Women in the Classical World

Robin Waterfield Author Of Creators, Conquerors, and Citizens: A History of Ancient Greece

From the list on ancient Greek history.

Who am I?

I’m a British scholar – a former university lecturer, many moons ago – now living in rural southern Greece. In fact, I have Greek as well as UK citizenship, which really pleases me because I’ve loved Greece and things Greek since boyhood. I started to learn ancient Greek at the age of ten! I’ve written over fifty books, mostly on ancient Greek history and philosophy, including many volumes of translations from ancient Greek. But I’ve also written children’s fiction in the form of gamebooks, a biography, a book on hypnosis, a retelling of the Greek myths (with my wife Kathryn) ... I’ll stop there!

Robin's book list on ancient Greek history

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

Why did Robin love this book?

A team of experts got together to create this wonderful book. It is well illustrated, clearly written throughout, and firmly based on textual and other evidence. That is, the authors typically start with a general statement such as “There were increased opportunities for women to be educated in the Hellenistic world,” and then go on for a few pages to show how this came about by translating and commenting on the relevant texts, and showing the relevant vase paintings. Ancient Greek history tends to be very male-oriented – almost all ancient Greek writing was done by men, for instance – so this book is a much-needed antidote.

By Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Sarah B. Pomeroy, H.A. Shapiro, Natalie Boymel Kampen

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

BL The only study to integrate such a wide range of materials on the women of ancient Greece and Rome into one accessible volume BL Written by a team of distinguished classical scholars and art historians Women in the Classical World gathers the most important primary written and visual sources on the lives of ancient women and presents them in a chronological sequence, within their historical and cultural contexts.


The Poison Keeper

By Deborah Swift,

Book cover of The Poison Keeper: An enthralling historical novel of Renaissance Italy

J. C. Briggs Author Of Summons to Murder

From the list on featuring historical figures.

Who am I?

I love the novels of Charles Dickens and when I found out that he did go out with the London Police to research the criminal underworld for his magazine, I thought what a good detective he would make. He has all the talents a detective needs: remarkable powers of observation, a shrewd understanding of human nature and of motive, and the ability to mix with all ranks of Victorian society from the street urchin to the lord and lady. I love Victorian London, too, and creating the foggy, gas-lit alleys we all know from Dickens the novelist.

J. C.'s book list on featuring historical figures

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

Why did J. C. love this book?

Another woman steps out of the shadows of history in this novel about seventeenth-century Italy. Gulia Tofana was a notorious poisoner of terrible men and Deborah Swift explores in a tale full of excitement and drama the imagined early career of Gulia whose mother was executed for murder. Gulia just wants to be an apothecary, but her friendship with the abused wife of an aristocratic, power greedy husband draws her into murder. It is full of rich detail – you can feel the heat, smell the perfume, hear the rustle of silk and taffeta, and you can’t help being on the side of the women trapped in a corrupt and violent world.

By Deborah Swift,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Naples 1633

Aqua Tofana – One drop to heal. Three drops to kill.

Giulia Tofana longs for more responsibility in her mother’s apothecary business, but Mamma has always been secretive and refuses to tell her the hidden keys to her success. But the day Mamma is arrested for the poisoning of the powerful Duke de Verdi, Giulia is shocked to uncover the darker side of her trade.

Giulia must run for her life, and escapes to Naples, under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, to the home of her Aunt Isabetta, a famous courtesan. But when Giulia hears that her mother…


A Day of Fire

By E. Knight, Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Sophie Perinot, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Kate Quinn

Book cover of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii

Steven A. McKay Author Of The Druid

From the list on what you should read after Steven A. McKay's The Druid.

Who am I?

I was born in Scotland in 1977 and always enjoyed studying history – well, the interesting bits, not so much what they taught us in school. My first book in the Forest Lord series, Wolf’s Head, was set in medieval England and it’s a fast-paced, violent retelling of the Robin Hood legends. I’ve since sold over 130,000 books in the past few years. As a working class man from a little village in Scotland, I’m honestly amazed at how many people enjoy my writing.

Steven's book list on what you should read after Steven A. McKay's The Druid

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

Why did Steven love this book?

A collection of interlinked short stories about the volcanic destruction of Pompeii which works better than I thought it would. A lot better, as this is one of the most moving books I’ve ever read, bringing me to tears in places. Six authors, all looking at the doom of quite different characters, from gladiators to senators to a pregnant woman and more, you expect the whole thing to be utterly depressing but, somehow, it isn’t. I must admit I read this when I was in a very fragile state of mind having just suffered a terrible tragedy of my own, so it’s possible that affected my reading of A Day of Fire and how I responded to it, but I know it was extremely well written and I was so glad to have read it. I think you should too.

By E. Knight, Stephanie Dray, Ben Kane, Sophie Perinot, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Kate Quinn

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain's wrath . . . and these are their stories: A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii's flourishing streets. An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire. An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished. A crippled senator welcomes death, until…


Discovering the Gardens of Pompeii

By Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski,

Book cover of Discovering the Gardens of Pompeii: Memoirs of a Garden Archaeologist

Virginia Campbell Author Of The Tombs of Pompeii: Organization, Space, and Society

From the list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city.

Who am I?

I first visited Pompeii on a school trip when I was 17. I have a clear memory of standing in the Forum and thinking it was the most amazing place I had ever been. Decades later, that feeling remains, and the sites destroyed by Vesuvius have become the focus of my research on ancient Rome. I have excavated in Pompeii, conducted epigraphic fieldwork in Herculaneum, and taught students at multiple universities around the UK about the cities, the people who lived there, and their destruction. I am fundamentally interested in the people, how they lived their lives, and have published widely on tombs, epigraphy, and politics in Pompeii.

Virginia's book list on Pompeii and what we know about this Roman city

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

Why did Virginia love this book?

It’s difficult to imagine any discussion of Pompeii (or Roman gardens) without mentioning Jashemski. She quite literally wrote the book(s) on gardens, and her archaeological approach to plant remains revolutionised how botanical evidence is collected. This book, published after her death, is a memoir more than anything, detailing her work, her travels, and her vast experience of working in Pompeii. It is, in many ways, a love letter to the place that somewhat unexpectedly became the focus her life.

By Wilhelmina Feemster Jashemski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These memoirs, illustrated with over 400 photo­graphs, will delight anyone interested in gardens or in the Roman world. They tell the human and the scientific story of how a woman from a small town in Nebraska learned more about the gardens of Pompeii than anyone thought possible. A master raconteur, professor of ancient history and teacher of a popular general humanities class at the University of Maryland, Wilhelmina Jashemski will fascinate both the Pompeian expert and the newcomer to the subject.

She set out in 1955 with her husband, Stanley Jashemski, to explore the gardens of the Roman empire with…


The Last Days of Pompeii

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton,

Book cover of The Last Days of Pompeii

Judith Harris Author Of Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery

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

Who am I?

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

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

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

Why did Judith love this book?

Edward Bulwer Lytton's influential 19th century novel The Last Days of Pompeii was inspired by a painting he had seen in Milan. He immediately rushed to Pompeii, where his book was published in 1834, by coincidence exactly when Vesuvius erupted. It became an immediate success and is still being published. As Benjamen Disraeli wrote that November, "A trembling spectator, I watched the artists till I was overcome by the phantasma, and was glad to find myself once more in the solitude of my armchair." Available in economic form. The book became an immediate success and is still being adapted to today's media.

By Edward Bulwer-Lytton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) was a prolific novelist, poet and playwright in his day; in modern times, his work is considered much as Lovecraft described: “large doses of turgid rhetoric and empty romanticism.”

Originally published in 1834, "The Last Days of Pompeii" itself was probably the first novelization of the catastrophic event.  The city was rediscovered in the mid-1700s and archaeological excavations followed soon after.  Bulwer-Lytton was inspired to write his novel by the painting The Last Day of Pompeii by Karl Briullov, painted in the early 1830s.

"The Last Days of Pompeii" tells the story of the Athenian Glaucus, his…