The most recommended Ovid books

Who picked these books? Meet our 16 experts.

16 authors created a book list connected to Ovid, and here are their favorite Ovid books.
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What type of Ovid book?


Book cover of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Justin Martin Author Of A Fierce Glory: Antietam--The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery

From the list on for experiencing the vivid reality of the Civil War.

Who am I?

My specialty is American history, meticulously researched, but delivered in a narrative style that’s akin to fiction. My latest book, A Fierce Glory, is about Antietam, a battle that occupied a single day in 1862, yet remains one of history’s most consequential events. Of course, there are countless military histories of Antietam–or any Civil War battle, for that matter–focusing on troop movements and tactics. I wanted to get at the emotional heart of this epic showdown: the confusion, terror, sadness, along with some startling and selfless acts of heroism. To do so, I drew inspiration from some of my favorite fictional works.

Justin's book list on for experiencing the vivid reality of the Civil War

Why did Justin love this book?

This fifth pick isn’t fiction. But like the best fiction, poetry can pierce through to the very essence. Although shaggy poet Whitman was the furthest thing from a soldier imaginable, he was deeply involved in the war effort nonetheless. After the Battle of Fredericksburg, Whitman traveled to Virginia to find his wounded brother. He then chose to remain in Washington, DC, nursing wounded soldiers. Whitman’s war-time experiences gave rise to some of the finest poems in Leaves of Grass such as “The Wound-Dresser,” “Come Up from the Fields Father,” and “A Sight in Camp in the Daybreak Gray and Dim.”

By Walt Whitman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This Library of America edition is the biggest and best edition of Walt Whitman's writings ever published. It includes all of his poetry and what he considered his complete prose. It is also the only collection that includes, in exactly the form in which it appeared in 1855, the first edition of Leaves of Grass. This was the book, a commercial failure, which prompted Emerson’s famous message to Whitman: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.” These twelve poems, including what were later to be entitled “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric,” and a…

Bulfinch's Mythology

By Thomas Bulfinch,

Book cover of Bulfinch's Mythology

Hester Velmans Author Of Slipper

From the list on forgotten fairy tales every adult should read.

Who am I?

At the age of seven, already a devoted bookworm, I came upon a large stack of early-20th century children's magazines filled with stories, poems, and especially fairy tales, some the classic kind, and some weird, scary or unfamiliar. I don't know where those dog-eared, well-thumbed annuals came from, or what happened to them afterward – they were lost or given away when our family moved, I suppose. But I have never forgotten them, or the effect they had on my imagination and longings. I've been searching for those long-lost tales ever since... and it finally led me to decide I would just have to write a few of my own.

Hester's book list on forgotten fairy tales every adult should read

Why did Hester love this book?

When I was young I devoured Bullfinch's Mythology from cover to cover. Looking back, I am amazed that I had the time and the devotion to read the whole 900-odd pages, which give short, matter-of-fact recaps of the Greek and Roman myths, as well as the legends of King Arthur and Charlemagne. You'll find these tales far more beautifully told in the original Ovid or Virgil versions, I suppose, but if you just want the facts, Ma'am, the who's who of it all, then this is a fine place to start.

By Thomas Bulfinch,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Legendary tales of myth and romance written so everyone can enjoy the stories!

Can’t keep all your gods and goddesses straight? Wondering about mythological references in classic literature? Bulfinch’s Mythology offers approachable accounts of ancient legends in a compilation of the works of Thomas Bulfinch, banker and Latinist. This volume includes all three of Bulfinch’s original titles: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, and The Legends of Charlemagne. Bulfinch states his purpose for the book clearly: “Our work is not for the learned, nor for the theologian, nor for the philosopher, but for the reader of English literature...who…

Why Bob Dylan Matters

By Richard F. Thomas,

Book cover of Why Bob Dylan Matters

Peter Tasker Author Of On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director

From Peter's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Reader Investor Japanophile Traveler with no destination

Peter's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Why did Peter love this book?

Who would have thought that the teenage Robert Zimmerman, later known as Bob Dylan, belonged to his high school Latin club? Richard Thomas, who found the evidence, was not so surprised.

A Professor of Ancient Greek and Roman poetry at Harvard and a long-standing fan, he has traced Dylan’s increasing use of classical allusions. The singing Nobel prizewinner’s favorite is Ovid, whose phrases he has used over 30 times in his lyrics. “Ancient footsteps are everywhere,” to quote his song “When I Paint My Masterpiece.”

Thomas’s book is personal and easy to read, casting new light on the enigmatic 82-year-old. As a committed fan myself, I can safely say it is the best Dylan book yet, leaving out the ones he authored himself.

By Richard F. Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Bob Dylan Matters as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'At last an expert classicist gets to grips with Bob Dylan' Mary Beard

'Thomas's elegant, charming book offers something for everyone - not just the super-fans' Independent

When the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Bob Dylan, the literary world was up in arms. How could the world's most prestigious book prize be awarded to a famously cantankerous singer-songwriter in his Seventies, who wouldn't even deign to make an acceptance speech?

In Why Dylan Matters, Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas answers that question with magisterial erudition. A world expert…

Book cover of Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook

Maggie L. Popkin Author Of Souvenirs and the Experience of Empire in Ancient Rome

From the list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome.

Who am I?

I love exploring new places, buildings, and artworks. Luckily, my job, as a professor of ancient Roman art history at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, allows me to do so! I am fascinated by the material culture of the Roman Empire and the ways in which buildings and objects—whether grand monuments like the Pantheon in Rome or humbler items like a terracotta figurine of a gladiator—shape how we experience the world and relate to other people. Whether I am living in Paris or Rome, excavating in Greece or Italy, or traveling elsewhere in the former lands of the Roman Empire, these topics are never far from my mind.

Maggie's book list on travel and leisure in ancient Rome

Why did Maggie love this book?

If you want to know what some Romans thought about sport and spectacle in their own words, turn to Anne Mahoney’s sourcebook, which offers translations of key literary passages and inscriptions. From Horace’s descriptions of unruly theater audiences to Ovid’s advice to young Roman men about how to pick up girls at the circus, this sourcebook brought the world of Roman spectacle to life for me. I love that she shows how the themes that make modern sport and fandom so complex—religion, gender, politics, and money—were just as relevant in ancient Rome. I always come away from reading the sources she compiles feeling that Roman sports fans are not so different from us today.

By Anne Mahoney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Roman Sports and Spectacles: A Sourcebook contains numerous translations from the Latin, including famous authors, such as Cicero, Seneca, Tertullian and Augustine, and the not so famous, including graffiti, advertisements and tombstones to paint a world view of what sports Romans played and what they thought of them. The world of Roman sports was similar in many ways to our own, but there were significant differences. For one thing Roman sports centered during religious festivals and the participants were most often slaves. Roman sports were not team sports, but individual competitions. And sports like chariot racing and gladiatorial competitions were…

The Art of Love

By Ovid, James Michie (translator),

Book cover of The Art of Love

Daisy Dunn Author Of Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

From the list on love and sex in ancient rome.

Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the ancient world. Some of my happiest childhood memories involve trips to Roman villas in Britain, theatres in Sicily, and museums across Europe. After studying Classics at Oxford, I completed a Masters and then a Ph.D., eager to gain as strong a grounding in the ancient world as I could before pursuing a career as an author. Ancient history has a reputation for being complicated. When I write books, I strive not to simplify the past, but rather to provide an engaging, memorable, and above all enjoyable path into it. 

Daisy's book list on love and sex in ancient rome

Why did Daisy love this book?

This is my ancient choice. The most notorious of Ovid’s poetry books, the Ars Amatoria, as it was known in Latin, provides an eye-popping view of what was considered permissible by certain individuals in Rome. The poet provides plenty of tips for the would-be lover, from how to get a date at the races, to how to communicate privately with someone across the dinner table. It’s a useful and readable source – even if the modern reader can find little to praise in Ovid’s outlook.

By Ovid, James Michie (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

" . . . Humphries has rendered (Ovid's) love poetry with conspicuous success into English which is neither obtrusively colloquial nor awkwardly antique." -Virginia Quarterly Review


By Ovid, Allen Mandelbaum (translator),

Book cover of Metamorphoses

Jordanna Max Brodsky Author Of The Immortals

From the list on inspired by Greek mythology.

Who am I?

Jordanna Max Brodsky is the author of the Olympus Bound trilogy 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 inspired by Greek mythology

Why did Jordanna love this book?

Ancient Roman poet Ovid gives us the definitive versions of nearly 250 different myths, most involving transformations of men and women into beasts, trees, or flowers. If that sounds dull, know that there’s more incest than Game of Thrones and more bloody mutilation than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Some tales, like that of Orpheus and Eurydice, are well-known. Others, like the story of the fleet-footed Atalanta, should be. For anyone interested in writing their own story inspired by Greek myth, Ovid’s Metamorphoses provides an invaluable source of inspiration. Read Allen Mandelbaum’s excellent poetic translation for the most authentic experience.

By Ovid, Allen Mandelbaum (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Through National Book Award-winning translator Allen Mandelbaum's poetic artistry, this gloriously entertaining achievement of literature — classical myths filtered through the worldly and far from reverent sensibility of the Roman poet Ovid — is revealed anew.Savage and sophisticated, mischievious and majestic, witty and wicked, The Metamorphoses weaves together every major mythological story to display a dazzling array of miraculous changes, from the time chaos is transformed into order at the moment of creation, to the time when the soul of Julius Caeser is turned into a star and set in the heavens. In its earthiness, its psychological acuity, this classic…

Women in Ancient Rome

By Bonnie MacLachlan,

Book cover of Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook

Jeremiah McCall Author Of Rivalries that Destroyed the Roman Republic

From the list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse.

Who am I?

I am a historian and history teacher in Ohio with a passion for studying the endlessly fascinating Roman Republic. It was a time when many believed the gods walked the earth, when legend and reality mixed. The resulting stories lure us with their strangeness while reminding us of our modern world. For me, no topic in the Republic captures this paradox of strangeness and familiarity more than the political systems of the Republic. Our very ideas about representative democracy come from the Romans. But the legacy is deeper. In Roman politicians’ thirst for votes and victory, their bitter rivalries we can, perhaps, see the dangers of excessive political competition today.

Jeremiah's book list on exploring the Roman Republic and its collapse

Why did Jeremiah love this book?

Even though the details of specific aristocratic women in the late Republic are often fleeting, serious digging into our sources provides a much fuller and richer picture of Roman women, a critical half of the Roman people. McClachlan offers a brief, but rich introduction to the available literary evidence. The book extends before and beyond the Republic, painting a picture that transcends the political structure of Monarchy, Republic, and Empire. The English translations are very readable (not always the case to be sure).

What makes her work so engaging for those who want to dig into the Romans’ own words, is that McLachlan essentially writes in each chapter a combination of narrative, context, and commentary that work seamlessly with the passages from the ancient sources to deliver an engaging narrative about the topics from Legendary Dido, to the historical women protesting the Oppian laws. It is such an accessible way…

By Bonnie MacLachlan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This sourcebook includes a rich and accessible selection of Roman original sources in translation ranging from the Regal Period through Republican and Imperial Rome to the late Empire and the coming of Christianity. From Roman goddesses to mortal women, imperial women to slaves and prostitutes, the volume brings new perspectives to the study of Roman women's lives. Literary sources comprise works by Livy, Catullus, Ovid, Juvenal and many others. Suggestions for further reading, a general bibliography, and an index of ancient authors and works are also included.

Book cover of Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman 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

Why did Virginia love this book?

Imagine re-creating the works of Shakespeare or Milton from the graffiti on the walls of Victorian England – impossible you’d say. But it is possible to find lines of the most famous poets of the Roman world scratched into the walls of Pompeii, and Milnor provides a systematic overview of how and why this literary re-production occurred, what it indicates about literacy and learning, and how differently the ancients viewed writing in public spaces.

By Kristina Milnor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graffiti and the Literary Landscape in Roman Pompeii as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this volume, Milnor considers how the fragments of textual graffiti which survive on the walls of the Roman city of Pompeii reflect and refract the literary world from which they emerged. Focusing in particular on the writings which either refer to or quote canonical authors directly, Milnor uncovers the influence- in diction, style, or structure-of elite Latin literature as the Pompeian graffiti show significant connections with familiar authors such as Ovid,
Propertius, and Virgil.

While previous scholarship has described these fragments as popular distortions of well-known texts, Milnor argues that they are important cultural products in their own right,…


By David Wishart,

Book cover of Ovid

Adrian Murdoch Author Of Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest

From the list on the Roman Empire’s defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

Who am I?

I am a writer, classical historian, and journalist. While there is no shortage of Roman historians in Britain and the US, I have long felt that English-speaking historians have had a blind spot as far as Roman Germany goes. Fascinated by the Battle of Teutoburg Forest for many years, while there were numerous accounts in German, it frustrated me that there was no general account of what happened in English. So I wrote it! I was clearly not alone in my interest in Roman Germany and have presented a number of documentaries on the battle on the History Channel and National Geographic since. 

Adrian's book list on the Roman Empire’s defeat at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest

Why did Adrian love this book?

For those who like their conspiracy theories, it is hard not to be seduced by Ovid and David Wishart’s hard-boiled detective Marcus Corvinus.

Commissioned to bring back Ovid’s ashes, the author links the exile of the poet Ovid by the Emperor Augustus to the loss of the three legions under Varus. The book is notable both for the real sense that it gives how the defeat became one to be avoided in the polite society in Rome, but also for its generally sympathetic portrait of the Roman governor. Varus is corrupted and betrayed by Arminius, but he is not wholly incompetent. 

By David Wishart,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In AD8, Augustus banished the poet Ovid to Tomi, on the Black Sea. In spite of repeated appeals by his friends in Rome for the sentence to be revoked, he died in exile ten years later.

No one knows why Ovid was banished.

The most convincing explanation is that Ovid was involved somehow with the emperor's granddaughter Julia, who was exiled the same year for immorality. However, Julia's sexual partner was sentenced to nothing worse than social ostracism. Her husband, on the other hand, was executed shortly afterwards for treason ...

Why should the witness to a crime be punished…


By Harold Weinrich, Steven Rendall (translator),

Book cover of Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting

Guy Beiner Author Of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

From the list on forgetting.

Who am I?

Guy Beiner specializes in the history of social remembering in the late modern era. An interest in Irish folklore and oral traditions as historical sources led him to explore folk memory, which in turn aroused an interest in forgetting. He examines the many ways in which communities recall their past, as well as how they struggle with the urge to supress troublesome memories of discomfiting episodes.

Guy's book list on forgetting

Why did Guy love this book?

An inspirational exploration of profound contemplations on forgetting, which takes the reader on a guided tour through neglected passages in the writings of illustrious writers from antiquity to present times, including Homer, Ovid, Plato, Augustine, Dante, Rabelais, Montaigne, Cervantes, Locke, Voltaire, Kant, Goethe, Nietzsche, Sartre, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Böll, Borges, and many others.

By Harold Weinrich, Steven Rendall (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Our daily encounters with forgetting have not taught us enough about how much power it exercises over our lives, what reflections and feelings it evokes in different individuals, how even art and science presuppose-with sympathy or antipathy-forgetting, and finally what political and cultural barriers can be erected against forgetting when it cannot be reconciled with what is right and moral.... We find that cultural history provides a helpful perspective in which the value of the art of forgetting emerges.... That is the subject this book (through which flows Lethe, the meandering stream of forgetfulness) will try to represent and discuss…


By Simon May,

Book cover of Love: A History

John Cottingham Author Of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

From the list on the human search for meaning.

Who am I?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 

John's book list on the human search for meaning

Why did John love this book?

This astonishingly rich and beautifully written survey shows how deeply love is involved in what has always been one of my main philosophical preoccupations – the human search for meaning. Simon May reveals love as the ‘harbinger of the sacred,’ while at the same time warning of how often it bears the burden of unrealistic and misconceived expectations.

By Simon May,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An illuminating exploration of how love has been shaped, idolized, and misconstrued by the West over three millennia, and how we might differently conceive it

Love-unconditional, selfless, unchanging, sincere, and totally accepting-is worshipped today as the West's only universal religion. To challenge it is one of our few remaining taboos. In this pathbreaking and superbly written book, philosopher Simon May does just that, dissecting our resilient ruling ideas of love and showing how they are the product of a long and powerful cultural heritage.

Tracing over 2,500 years of human thought and history, May shows how our ideal of love…

The Metamorphoses

By Ovid, Hendrik Goltzius (illustrator), A.S. Kline (translator)

Book cover of The Metamorphoses

Leopoldine Prosperetti Author Of Woodland Imagery in Northern Art, c. 1500 - 1800: Poetry and Ecology

From the list on trees in literature and art.

Who am I?

"Ut pictura poesis", as goes painting so goes poetry is a pithy phrase that sums up the truth that a picture is mute poetry and poetry is a speaking picture. I have studied the history of this tradition from many angles and I have derived from it the term “lyrical naturalism” which I use to discover what is charming or captivating in the world of plants. As an art historian, well-read in European literature, I regard myself as a member of the environmental humanities which increasingly is the home of many academics eager to participate in the great debate on how to honor the natural world in literature and art before it is too late.

Leopoldine's book list on trees in literature and art

Why did Leopoldine love this book?

There is no book as rich in tree imagery as Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It is a book of fables many of which are about trees. Best known, I believe, is the story of Apollo and Daphne, in which a nymph is transformed into a laurel tree. The fable that I use in the book is the story of Pan and Syrinx, painted collaboratively by Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder. It explains the mythical origins of the sedges and reeds that fringe the riverbanks.

By Ovid, Hendrik Goltzius (illustrator), A.S. Kline (translator)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Metamorphoses - Ovid. A translation into English prose by A. S. Kline. Published in entirety with mythological index and illustrations by Hendrik Goltzius.

In the Metamorphoses Ovid retells stories from the Greek myths, arranging them in roughly chronological order, from the origins of the world to his own times. His charming and graceful versions, full of life and interest, express his humanist approach, his feeling for pathos, and his endless curiosity and delight in human affairs. Each tale involves a transformation of some kind, and the whole collection provided a potent source of motifs and images for later art,…

The Hawk in the Rain

By Ted Hughes,

Book cover of The Hawk in the Rain: Poems

Steve Griffin Author Of The Things We Thought Were Beautiful

From the list on nature poems to make you think and feel.

Who am I?

I’ve been writing poems since an inspirational period of study in Stirling in my twenties, when I did a lot of hill walking in the Scottish Highlands. For me, poetry that doesn’t move you, that doesn’t make you feel, is just words on a page. I love poems that make you shiver as they incongruously bear the full load of life’s mystery. I like all kinds of poetry but have a special place reserved for nature poems, poems that find the heart and soul in the landscape, rivers, and wildlife.

Steve's book list on nature poems to make you think and feel

Why did Steve love this book?

The first collection by former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes includes one of the most stunning poems about the connection between poet, pen, and nature in the form of "The Thought-Fox." Hughes has a pared back, often disturbing vision of the world that seizes your attention. If you like this don’t stop, there are plenty of other wonderful books by Hughes, especially his retelling of the "Tales from Ovid" and "The Birthday Letters," his poems about his relationship with his first wife, the equally brilliant Sylvia Plath.

By Ted Hughes,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Published in 1957, Hawk in the Rain was Ted Hughes's first collection of poems. It won the New York Poetry Centre First Publication Award, for which the judges were W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Marianne Moore, and the Somerset Maugham Award, and it was acclaimed by every reviewer from A. Alvarez to Edwin Muir. When Robin Skelton wrote, 'All looking for the emergence of a major poet must buy it', he was right to see in it the promise of what many now regard as the most important body of work by any poet of the twentieth century.

The Unknown Socrates

By Marc Mastrangelo, R. Scott Smith, Stephen M. Trzaskoma, William M. Calder, Bernhard Huss

Book cover of The Unknown Socrates

Armand D’Angour Author Of Socrates in Love

From the list on the life, death, and thoughts of Socrates.

Who am I?

I have studied the ancient world for over 50 years and have found that there are always new things to discover. Everyone thought that all that was known about Socrates had already been said, so I was excited to discover new evidence for his relationship with Aspasia - a woman of extraordinary influence and intellect - hiding in plain sight. I am a Professor of Classics at Oxford University and Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Jesus College, Oxford

Armand's book list on the life, death, and thoughts of Socrates

Why did Armand love this book?

This book provides a series of translations of ancient texts relating to the life of Socrates, raising questions about his earlier trajectory among other things. The scattered sources gathered in this volume tell a very different story about the philosopher from that normally obtained by concentrating almost exclusively on his trial and death.

By Marc Mastrangelo, R. Scott Smith, Stephen M. Trzaskoma, William M. Calder, Bernhard Huss

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Socrates (469 399 B.C.) is one of history's most enigmatic and intriguing figures. He is often considered the father of Western philosophy, yet the four most famous accounts we have of him present a contradictory, confusing picture.

Just who was Socrates? Was he Plato's brilliant philosopher, at times confounding and infuriating, morally serious and yet ironic; the ever-worldly man, sometime mystic, and uncommon martyr? Or did Plato conflate Socrates' views with his own startling genius, as Aristotle suggests? Was Socrates instead the less impressive, more mundane man whose commonsense impressed the laconic Xenophon? Or could Socrates have been the charlatan,…

The Love-Artist

By Jane Alison,

Book cover of The Love-Artist

Jesse Browner Author Of The Uncertain Hour: A Novel

From the list on historical novels of the ancient world.

Who am I?

If you want to learn about historical societies and events, read history books. But if you want to understand your own world, and how it has emerged from and been shaped by the eternal, unchanging human psyche, intellect and fragility, read historical fiction. A great historical novel should always be first and foremost about the time in which it is written. That is what first drew me to the story of Petronius in The Uncertain Hour – if it doesn’t have a human heart, no amount of technical historical detail will kindle it in the reader’s imagination.

Jesse's book list on historical novels of the ancient world

Why did Jesse love this book?

The Roman poet Ovid was one of the most popular writers of his day, but the defining tragedy of his life – his lifelong exile from Rome at the very height of his powers – remains as mysterious today as it was in his own time. In The Love-Artist, Jane Alison provides that tragedy with a back story, when Ovid, on holiday on the shores of the Black Sea, meets and is enchanted by the witch-like Xenia and persuades her to return with him to Rome, with dire consequences. But it’s the book’s dream-like atmosphere – the sense that we are seeing the world through the eyes of a great poet with one foot in the ambitious world of empire and the other in an unstable netherworld of imagination and mythology – that will remain with the reader.

By Jane Alison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A darkly brilliant first novel imagines a missing chapter in the life of Ovid. Why was Ovid, the most popular author of his day, banished to the edges of the Roman Empire? Why do only two lines survive of his play Medea, reputedly his most passionate work, and perhaps his most accomplished? Between the known details of the poets life and these enigmas, Jane Alison has interpolated a haunting drama of passion and psychological manipulation. On holiday in the Black Sea, on the fringes of the Empire, Ovid encounters an almost otherworldly woman who seems to embody the fictitious creations…