The best Ovid books

3 authors have picked their favorite books about Ovid and why they recommend each book.

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Ovid

By David Wishart,

Book cover of Ovid

Marcus Valerius Corvinus is a natty young aristocrat-about-town, the despair of his strait-laced father. Young Marcus is determined to take no part in Roman government and concentrates on partying. Of course, he is not nearly as feckless and two-dimensional as he tries to make himself out to the reader, and when the lovely Perilla asks for his help, we get not only a mystery but also a very-well-done romance. Wishart starts off this series in wise-cracking style which is a feature of Marcus’ first person narration, but there is genuine historical mystery behind it all, which scholars have worried over for years—why was the poet Ovid exiled? Wishart knows his stuff, and his enthusiasm for Rome pervades his novels. Debauchery and treachery abounds!


Who am I?

Ever since I stumbled through the “Early Roman Empire” paper in Finals using I, Claudius by Robert Graves, I have held a deep admiration of those authors who can portray the complex world of Rome with such authority. I went on to teach the Greeks and Romans for 25 years, so I have grown to love these characters—Caesar is a philandering schemer, Augustus has ice for blood, Livia is a skilled practitioner of poisons… How can one resist such entertaining people who operate in a system where the upper classes must compete through bribery, intrigue and occasional revolutions? 


I wrote...

Rome's End

By Fiona Forsyth,

Book cover of Rome's End

What is my book about?

45 B.C.E. Rome is under a Dictator. Caesar has won the final battle of a bloody Civil War, and Romans are ready for peace. So, when Lucius Sestius Quirinalis, an aspiring lawyer, is called into his father’s study one autumn morning, he is thinking of nothing more than the family’s latest case. The charge against the historian Sallust is his corrupt rule in Roman Africa. But it is his research into the twenty-year-old Catilinarian Conspiracy which is proving unsettling for some, possibly even Rome’s new Dictator. In the build-up to the Ides of March, Lucius will meet with betrayal, murder and disillusionment.

Lethe

By Harold Weinrich, Steven Rendall (translator),

Book cover of Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting

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.


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.


I wrote...

Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

By Guy Beiner,

Book cover of Forgetful Remembrance: Social Forgetting and Vernacular Historiography of a Rebellion in Ulster

What is my book about?

Forgetful Remembrance examines the paradoxes of what actually happens when communities persistently endeavour to forget inconvenient events. The question of how a society attempts to obscure problematic historical episodes is addressed through a detailed case study grounded in the north-eastern counties of the Irish province of Ulster, where loyalist and unionist Protestants--and in particular Presbyterians--repeatedly tried to repress over two centuries discomfiting recollections of participation, alongside Catholics, in a republican rebellion in 1798.

The Hawk in the Rain

By Ted Hughes,

Book cover of The Hawk in the Rain: Poems

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.


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.


I wrote...

The Things We Thought Were Beautiful

By Steve Griffin,

Book cover of The Things We Thought Were Beautiful

What is my book about?

The Things We Thought Were Beautiful includes poems about our changing feelings and connection to nature and the world around us, the beauty and strangeness of travel, and the places we look for meaning. There are also poems that explore the difficulty of living without love, as well as the redemption of home and family.

Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

By Walt Whitman,

Book cover of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass

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.”


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.


I wrote...

A Fierce Glory: Antietam--The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery

By Justin Martin,

Book cover of A Fierce Glory: Antietam--The Desperate Battle That Saved Lincoln and Doomed Slavery

What is my book about?

This is a character-rich, modern-style account of an 1862 Civil War battle that was more important than Gettysburg and—with a death toll of 3,650 soldiers—remains the bloodiest single day in U.S. history. Had the South won, we’d likely be living in two separate nations today. Because it was a Northern victory instead, though by the slimmest of margins, Lincoln chose to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, imbuing the war effort with a new and noble purpose–freeing the slaves. Lincoln is woven deeply into this tale, far more than in a standard military history of the battle. The rich cast also includes generals George McClellan and Robert E. Lee, medical pioneers Clara Barton and Jonathan Letterman, and Alexander Gardner, the groundbreaking photographer.

The Metamorphoses

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

Book cover of The Metamorphoses

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.

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.


I wrote...

Woodland Imagery in Northern Art, c. 1500 - 1800: Poetry and Ecology

By Leopoldine Prosperetti,

Book cover of Woodland Imagery in Northern Art, c. 1500 - 1800: Poetry and Ecology

What is my book about?

Woodland Imagery instills a sense of a “lyrical naturalism” that reconnects the reader to the natural world as it was before the industrial revolution. Twelve essays explore the copses and “frothing hedges,” and other features of the woodland ecosystem as pleasing landmarks that make their appearance in nature, poetry, and art. The chapters include the story of Albrecht Dürer’s love of linden trees, and reveal Jan van Eyck’s boastful conviction that art trumps nature in creating visions of a “new earth.” Other essays tell the stories of Paul Rubens, Pieter Bruegel, Jan Brueghel the Elder and other masters of sylvan beauty gathered together as never before between the covers of a single, lavish volume.

Love

By Simon May,

Book cover of Love: A History

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.


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. 


I wrote...

In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

By John Cottingham,

Book cover of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

What is my book about?

What is the soul? Does the concept still have a place in our modern scientifically oriented world? I argue that the concept of the soul is one that has a claim to be central to our thinking about what it is to be human. We are all engaged in the task of trying to understand the experiencing subject, the core self that makes us what we are. In searching for the soul, we aim to realize our true selves and find meaning in our lives. Exploring the soul in its many dimensions, historical, moral, psychological, and spiritual, In Search of the Soul aims to show how strongly the concept of soul still resonates today when human beings speak about what matters most deeply to them.

The Unknown Socrates

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

Book cover of The Unknown Socrates

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.


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


I wrote...

Socrates in Love

By Armand D’Angour,

Book cover of Socrates in Love

What is my book about?

Socrates: the philosopher whose questioning gave birth to the ideas of Western thought, and whose execution marked the end of the Athenian "Golden Age". But what was he like as a younger man, and what impelled him to take the path of philosophy? My book investigates these questions, and unravels the evidence for a surprising and overlooked influence on Socrates' life and thought - the brilliant and unfairly defamed Aspasia of Miletus.

Metamorphoses

By Ovid, Allen Mandelbaum (translator),

Book cover of Metamorphoses

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.


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.


I wrote...

The Immortals

By Jordanna Max Brodsky,

Book cover of The Immortals

What is my book about?

Manhattan has many secrets. Some are older than the city itself. In the predawn calm, Selene DiSilva finds the body of a young woman washed ashore, gruesomely mutilated and wreathed in laurel. Her ancient rage returns, along with the memory of a promise she made long ago—when her name was Artemis. 

The Immortals reimagines the Greek Gods in a modern Manhattan backdrop to create a pulse-pounding blend of myth and mystery.

The Love-Artist

By Jane Alison,

Book cover of The Love-Artist

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.


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.


I wrote...

The Uncertain Hour: A Novel

By Jesse Browner,

Book cover of The Uncertain Hour: A Novel

What is my book about?

A.D. 66. Having been falsely implicated in a plot to assassinate the emperor Nero, Titus Petronius has a choice: await the executioner at dawn, or die a noble Roman death by his own hand. Deciding that his will be a suicide like no other the world has ever seen, he summons a small circle of intimate friends to his magnificent villa on the coast of southern Italy. As they feast on course after course of the most sumptuous and exotic fare the empire has to offer, his guests are expressly forbidden to dwell on the imminent tragedy; instead, they are enjoined to sing, eat, drink, and celebrate. But as his life dwindles to a few precious hours, Petronius himself cannot shake off the ghosts of his past or his regret over mistakes that can no longer be set right.

The Art of Love

By Ovid, James Michie (translator),

Book cover of The Art of Love

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.


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. 


I wrote...

Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

By Daisy Dunn,

Book cover of Catullus' Bedspread: The Life of Rome's Most Erotic Poet

What is my book about?

A vivid narrative that recreates the life of Gaius Valerius Catullus, Rome’s first “modern” poet, and follows the young man’s journey through a world filled with all the indulgences and sexual excesses of the time, from doomed love affairs to shrewd political maneuvering and backstabbing—an accessible, appealing look at one of history’s greatest poets.

Born to one of Verona’s leading families, Catullus spent most of his young adulthood in Rome, mingling with the likes of Caesar and Cicero and chronicling his life through his poetry. Famed for his lyrical and subversive voice, his poems about his friends were jocular, often obscenely funny, while those who crossed him found themselves skewered in raunchy verse, sudden objects of hilarity and ridicule. These bawdy poems were disseminated widely throughout Rome. Many of his poems recall his secret longstanding affair with the seductive ‘Lesbia’.

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