The most recommended books on Rome

Who picked these books? Meet our 225 experts.

225 authors created a book list connected to Rome, and here are their favorite Rome books.
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Book cover of Pope Joan

Alex Myers Author Of The Story of Silence

From my list on reimagine the Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been reading fiction set in the middle ages since…well, since I could read! Tales of Arthur and his knights featured largely on my childhood bookshelves. In graduate school, I got the chance to study both the literature and the religion of the middle ages and read up on the source texts. Reading literature from the period itself – whether saints’ lives or poems or travel tales – made me realize how rich the age was, and how few stories we tend to retell. I became passionate about writing more about the experiences of those who didn’t fit the mainstream expectations of gender and sexuality. There are a wealth of tales that need to be retold.

Alex's book list on reimagine the Middle Ages

Alex Myers Why did Alex love this book?

I love this novel because of how it takes what seems like an impossible story (a female pope?!) and writes it so carefully and compellingly that the impossible becomes completely plausible. The young woman’s journey from her home and family to becoming pope…how she navigates a world that is completely not designed for her…I was totally captivated by the story.

By Donna Woolfolk Cross,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama—love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review

In this international bestseller and basis for the 2009 movie of the same name, Donna Woolfolk Cross brings the Dark Ages to life in all their brutal splendor and shares the dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day.

For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die—Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who…


Book cover of The Histories

Ahimsa Kerp Author Of Empire of the Undead

From my list on the Roman world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ahimsa Kerp is a peripatetic language mercenary and spec-fic writer who hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but has lived on 5 continents. He is fond of rambling hikes, board games, and tofu tacos. He is the author of several novels, role-playing game books, and the co-founder of Knight Owl Publishing. He earned his Masters in Ancient History from the University of Queensland.

Ahimsa's book list on the Roman world

Ahimsa Kerp Why did Ahimsa love this book?

The year 68 CE is a very important, not to mention interesting, year in Roman History. Because history was written by the upper class, we tend to lose sight that Nero was a populist, a man of the people. Tacitus gives you the scoop here on all the soap opera that unfolds with the end of the Julio-Claudian line. If you think history is boring, you might be surprised at how fast-paced and scandalous these accounts are.

By Tacitus, Kenneth Wellesley (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

AD 69, the year following Nero's suicide and marking the end of the first dynasty of imperial Rome, was one of the most dramatic and dangerous in the city's history. In the surviving books of his Histories, the great barrister-historian Tacitus gives a gripping account of the long but single year' that saw the reigns of four emperors: disciplinarian Galba; conspirator and dandy Otho; unambitious hedonist Vitellius; and pragmatic victor Vespasian, who went on to establish the Flavian dynasty. In a narrative that extends from Britain to Egypt and from the Caucasus to Morocco, taking in revolt, conspiracy, battles and…


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 my list on the grit and glamor of Ancient Rome.

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Josiah Osgood 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…


Book cover of 69 A.D.: The Year of Four Emperors

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

From my list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD.

Why am I passionate about this?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

Martha Marks Why did Martha love this book?

The Civil War of 69 AD — aka “The Year of Four Emperors” — was a complex, pivotal moment in the history of the Roman Empire. Since it took place at a key moment in my trilogy’s timeline, and since so many of my characters were active participants, I had to understand it. Morgan expertly clarifies an interrelated series of historical threads that I needed to follow to make my three-part fictional story both historically accurate and novelistically intriguing.

By Gwyn Morgan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 69 A.D. as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Year of Four Emperors, so the ancient sources assure us, was one of the most chaotic, violent and frightening periods in all Roman history: a time of assassinations and civil wars, of armies so out of control that they had no qualms about occupying the city of Rome, and of ambitious men who seized power only to lose it, one after another.
In 69 AD, Gwyn Morgan offers a fresh look at this period, based on two considerations to which insufficient attention has been paid in the past. First, that we need to unravel rather than cherry-pick between the…


Book cover of The Gates of Rome

Trevor P. Kwain Author Of The Wynnman and the Black Azalea

From my list on turning history upside down.

Why am I passionate about this?

History is nearly always relegated to heavy tomes and stuffy museum rooms. Learning about our past seems no longer important, and we keep promoting it in such uncool and unsexy ways. I feel any of our histories, with either a capital or lower case ‘h’, whether focused on big world events or local life, deserve to be told in a special kind of way, with that sprinkle of “magic realism” only fiction authors can deliver. Alternative history, historical fiction, magic fabulism, they are the sides of the same dice creating new, different stories inspired by our collective memory of things that have happened. These books touch this topic so dear to me.

Trevor's book list on turning history upside down

Trevor P. Kwain Why did Trevor love this book?

Reliving the lives of two famous Romans in a new fictional light is what makes this five-book series a dazzling example of magical realism. The entire settings, that is Ancient Rome during the Republic, is real and has existed in the form it is presented. The characters, though, have taken on a more personal shape, independent from the historical image we know. Caesar and Brutus become larger-than-life characters, allowing more to be told about them, their feelings, their ambitions, and giving us a version of them we may never read in history books. We become closer to them, and try to understand them more as human beings engulfed by history rather than historical figures. It is an unparalleled humanisation of history through fiction.

By Conn Iggulden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The ultimate Rome story

From the spectacle of gladiatorial combat to the intrigue of the Senate, from the foreign wars that secure the power of the empire to the betrayals that threaten to tear it apart, this is the remarkable story of the man who would become the greatest Roman of them all: Julius Caesar.

In the city of Rome, a titanic power struggle is about to shake the Republic to its core. Citizen will fight citizen in a bloody conflict - and Julius Caesar, cutting his teeth in battle, will be in the thick of the action.

The first…


Book cover of Midnight in the Piazza

Nancy McConnell Author Of Into the Lion's Mouth

From my list on kids traveling to Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with Italy when I traveled there with my family in 2013. While touring through this fascinating country, I felt inspired to write about it. When I came home, I threw myself into research. That research spawned my debut novel, Into the Lion’s Mouth, which is set in Renaissance Venice. I am always on the lookout for all things Italian, podcasts, TV shows, and definitely books. Since middle grade is my sweet spot, I am a sucker for a middle grade book set in Italy. Here are some of my favorites that will have you browsing airplane tickets to Italy and beyond.

Nancy's book list on kids traveling to Italy

Nancy McConnell Why did Nancy love this book?

I discovered this book through a podcast I love about living the expat life. Thirteen-year-old Beatrice has landed in Rome with her professor father, and she would rather not be there. But Rome is full of wonders and Beatrice becomes entranced by the turtle fountain in the piazza outside her apartment, especially when those turtles seem to vanish. The author lives in Rome and is very knowledgeable about the art and culture of Italy, so I learned a lot about art and history without realizing I was learning at all. Middle grade readers will love the mystery, and who would not want to sneak into an ancient Roman building in the middle of the night to catch a thief? 

By Tiffany Parks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Midnight in the Piazza as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

Mysteries abound in this exciting race through Rome!

Beatrice Archer may love history, and Rome may be chock-full of it, but that doesn’t mean she wants to move there!

Too bad Beatrice’s father got a job as the head of the history department at the American Academy in Rome—now, Beatrice has no choice but to get used to the idea.

When she arrives in Rome she explores her new city as much as she can, but it isn’t until she hears talk of a strange neighborhood legend that Beatrice perks up. A centuries-old unsolved mystery about the beautiful turtle fountain…


Book cover of The Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

Ray Cunningham Author Of The Post-Growth Project: How the End of Economic Growth Could Bring a Fairer and Happier Society

From my list on our fatal addiction to economic growth.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my career, I managed research into how the problems of modern industrial society are tackled in different countries. This reflected my own comparative instinct, which arose out of growing up bilingual and at home in two cultures. My journey into politics, sociology, and economics made me increasingly aware of the blindness of our social arrangements to the growing ecological crisis – and of how this blindness is perpetuated by the narrow silos of our political and academic systems. Our only hope now lies with thinkers who can escape those silos and integrate different perspectives into a holistic understanding. We don’t need more specialists, but generalists. Fewer economists, more moral philosophers. 

Ray's book list on our fatal addiction to economic growth

Ray Cunningham Why did Ray love this book?

A vast propaganda effort has been undertaken since the Club of Rome first issued ‘The limits to growth’ report in 1972 to rubbish its predictions and hypotheses. If you actually take the trouble to read the 1972, 1994, and 2004 reports, then you can see through this desperate effort. The authors were fundamentally – in broad terms – correct, and visionary. True, they overestimated how rapidly the planet was likely to succumb to world-scale resource-depletion crises; but they actually underestimated how rapidly we would start to succumb to crises arising from pollution. Their warnings need to be heeded very rapidly, now.

By Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis Meadows

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Groundbreaking call to action by Donella Meadows, the bestselling author of Thinking in Systems!

Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse the Guardian The updated edition of the groundbreaking classic that kickstarted the movement for environmental and ecological reform!

Perfect for fans of The Uninhabitable Earth and There is No Planet B

It is no unknown fact that at the present rate of climate change, population growth and capitalistic expansion, we are over-exceeding our planet's resources. We're stretched pretty thin and if we continue at the present rate we'll soon be headed towards irreversible consequences as…


Book cover of Ovid

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

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

Why am I passionate about this?

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

Adrian Murdoch 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…


Book cover of La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World

Margo Sorenson Author Of Secrets in Translation

From my list on to take you to enchanting Italy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my first seven years in Spain and Italy, devouring books and Italian food and still speak (or try!) my childhood languages. The Italian language and culture are precious to me—an integral part of my life. Our visits back to Italy, speaking Italian with friends, cooking Italian meals, writing for the Italian Language Foundation's website, and enjoying our community's Italian movie nights maintain my Italian experience. Sadly, I can't be in Italy all the time, but have found some fabulous books that take me right back! Il cuore e italiano—my heart is Italian.

Margo's book list on to take you to enchanting Italy

Margo Sorenson Why did Margo love this book?

If you love Italy—and if you don't love it now, you definitely will—after reading this engaging, vibrant tribute to Italy! Knighted by the President of Italy for her writing about Italy, author Dianne Hales describes the native, inherent passion of Italians—la passione italiana— as the source and nurturer of our civilization's love for art, music, architecture, cars, ceramics, sculpture, design, literature, film, food, and wine. Bursting with talent and passion, the legacy of Italian passion for life in our culture is ubiquitous and all-encompassing. Italy and its passion itself have taken hold of our imaginations, and your imagination will take you directly to la bella Italia, as it did for me, while reading this engaging book.

By Dianne Hales,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A jubilant celebration of Italy’s outsize impact on culture, from literature to art, music to movies, that “masterfully examines the multitude of reasons why so many people fall in love with Italy and the Italian lifestyle” (Forbes)

Can you imagine painting without Leonardo, opera without Verdi, fashion without Armani, food without the signature tastes of pasta, gelato, and pizza? The first universities, first banks, first public libraries? All Italian.

New York Times bestselling author Dianne Hales attributes these landmark achievements to la passione italiana, a primal force that stems from an insatiable hunger to discover and create; to love and…


Book cover of A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening

Ian Ross Author Of War at the Edge of the World

From my list on novels set in the later Roman Empire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ian Ross was born in England and studied painting before turning to writing fiction. He has been researching the later Roman empire and its army for over a decade, and his interests combine an obsessive regard for accuracy and detail with a devotion to the craft of storytelling. His six-novel Twilight of Empire series follows the career of Aurelius Castus as he rises from the ranks of the legions to the dangerous summit of military power, against the background of a Roman world in crisis.

Ian's book list on novels set in the later Roman Empire

Ian Ross Why did Ian love this book?

The setting for this book is only marginally late Roman, but the picture it evokes, of the shadows lengthening over the classical world, is entirely appropriate. Our hero Lucius is the duumvir, or leading magistrate, of a provincial city in Lusitania at the end of the 2nd century AD. Cultured and urbane, devoted to the classical traditions and philosophies of Rome, Lucius is disturbed both by the appearance of a fervent sect of Christians in his city, and by rumours of an approaching horde of Moorish barbarians. With conflict both within the city and without, and the daughter of the richest citizen turning to the new religion, Lucius soon finds his nerves stretched and his ideals questioned. As the barbarians surround the city walls, and Lucius tries to repel their assault with his ragged band of militia, the duumvir’s faith in his own civilisation is tested to destruction. A God…

By Mario De Carvalho, Gregory Rabassa,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Portuguese Writers' Association Grand Prize for Fiction and the Pegasus Prize for Literature, and a best-seller in Portugal, Mario de Carvalho's A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening is a vivid and affecting historical novel set at the twilight of the Roman Empire and the dawn of the Christian era. Lucius Valerius Quintius is prefect of the fictitious city of Tarcisis, charged to defend it against menaces from without -- Moors invading the Iberian peninsula -- and from within -- the decadent complacency of the Pax Romana. Lucius's devotion to civic duty undergoes its most…