Today, let’s talk about books. I mean, firstly, the best books about Rome, but not a travel guide book.
Moving to Italy means many things to me. The biggest one is lifestyle change. Living in Asia, I’ve even no time for an audiobook or a 15-minute podcast. I’ve spent nearly 10 months communing between Orte and Rome in 2019. That 90-min daily round-trip with the poor-to-zero mobile signal is the great gift that the Italian communing life gives to me. I used it for many books and got myself well prepared for Rome, by learning the history, the culture, and the local mentality of ancient Romans and modern Italians.
Novels / Fiction books about Rome
Comparing to non-fiction, novels are always easier to read, especially the book is excellently written to be a page-turner. I’m going to start with some fiction books set in ancient Rome, which show a little bit of history but twist them into attractive story-telling.
The book’s background is set in 1st century ancient Rome and the story is all about a young woman, Thea. The book perfectly mixes the iconic historic personnel like the gladiator, the Empire, the senator, and even the Vestal Virgin. Moreover, the story is all about this one female who’s fighting for her life in the ancient Rome time, when it could be 100 times harder than now. Could I consider it a Roman fiction with a modern feminist spirit?
The book comes with a series, so be prepared for more stunning Roman ladies.
Ok, everyone knows that Julius Caesar and Cleopatra had something in the history. However, what about Cleopatra’s children? Surely, Octavian, or you call him, the Empire Augustus, is not her son. This novel sets the story about Cleopatra’s twins, Selene and Alexander, who survive but live “in chains” in Rome. Again, it’s a story about a young woman, and we can imagine how the aristocrats’ live in ancient Rome.
The book is the last one of the Egyptian Royals Collection. The previous two are not related to ancient Rome, so if you are interested, follow the “Books In This Series” section on the Amazon page.
When you are wandering on Palatine hill or inside Roman Forum, heading towards the top of the Palatine, you will not miss the “House of Augustus and Livia”. Yes, this novel tells the story of Livia, the wife of the Empire Augustus, and the daughter from a powerful Roman aristocrat family. It is actually interesting that from my last recommended book, “Cleopatra’s Daughter”, you will find a jealous and difficult Livia, while in this book, a smart young woman.
I’ve recently mentioned this book on my Instagram, as I randomly “discovered” the church mentioned in this book. To be honest, I watched the movie first, as I and Luigi were in a Dan Brown movie marathon. The intensive story and the many mystery pieces merged into the history and the art in Rome, make me go for the original book. I admit the original novel deserves a read. It’s not only a page-turner book but a “Rome Guide Book” for many locations off the tourist radar. It’s truly unfolded some Rome secrets.
Whatever you are searching for a nice thrill story, or the different “suggestions” of what to see in Rome, Professor. Robert Langdon’s adventure will serve.
History Books about Rome
If you are planning to read a Rome guide book or two to prepare for a Rome trip, I recommend reading a great history book instead.
I find the travel guide books have too many recommendations normally, however, they give very limited historical background. A trip to Rome won’t let you cover all monuments in a guide book. In the end, you might end up with very little knowledge of Rome history, probably even less than what Wikipedia will tell?
Instead, a good-written history book can tell you not only history but also geography, climate, science, politics, socials, and cultures. Moreover, if the book is very well written with new angles or interesting story-telling style, it can be also entertaining like a novel.
If you search Mary Beard in my blog, probably you will find many related topics. The writer’s passion for ancient Rome is clearly shown in her book. Her interpretation of Rome’s famous symbol “SPQR” is through the brothels, bars, and back alleys in ancient Rome city. The history and ancient Rome society emerge in such a vivid way. Many pieces in the book even echo well to our modern society.
Mary Beard, herself, is even a more interesting lady. After watching the documentary “Meet the Romans with Mary Beard”, I’ve truly adored this little energetic lady. I’ve shared it in my 12 Free Virtual Resources to Visit Rome From Home, so enjoy!
This is another of my favorite history book about Rome. In fact, it’s not only about history. The story starts with the birth of Rome, with the story of Romulus and Remus. It gives quite a lot of chapters on ancient Rome history, the rise and the fall of the Empire, and many well-known historic characters and monuments. I did learn tons of facts and secrets about Colosseum from this book. The second half of the book tells the struggling of Rome city and the revolution of modern Italy before and after the two world wars. Some chapters cover the Italian cinematic and political events which might be a hot topic even now.
Why do we need to read history books? Because we need to learn humankinds from the past to get prepare or react better for our future. The Fate of Rome shows a new way for me to see the same history of the Roman Empire’s falling. Is the Empire’s falling absolutely caused by the wrong decision of the Emperors, the collapsed organization of the Empire, or the Barbarians? This history book about Rome points out many uncontrollable facts, such as viruses, pandemics, climates, and more.
Lifestyle Books about Rome
Let’s relax a bit. Not talking about bloody history, nor chasing the up-and-down stories with those novel characters, here are two interesting lifestyle books set in Rome and about Rome. They introduce the Roman lifestyle and mentality with beautiful photos and cheering story-telling.
I think many of you have read this best-seller book by Elizabeth Gilbert, or maybe have watched the movie played Julia Roberts? It’s a great book for females who are looking for some life-goal inspiration and self-discovering. Meanwhile, it covers 3 countries and crosses two continents. It is also a good book for who loves traveling and experiencing different cultures.
I’m obsessed with Coffee Table Books, and as you might know, I’m intentionally collecting them by selecting those related to Italy, Italian culture, Cookbook, and Photography.
This one has hundreds of photographs of Rome from the 1840s. History, art, fashion, ancient Roman, Rome neighborhoods, Roman Catholic Church, and many more are included. It shows the beauty of Rome city and many famous faces like Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Anna Magnani, and more. The classic and glamour Rome lifestyle, like drinking an espresso in a bar or enjoying an Aperitivo on a stunning rooftop, is all that you want to do when visiting Rome.
I hope you enjoy this shortlist. If you are interested in reading something more about Italy, or curious about my favorite book list, welcome to my Book Club, and from there, you can write to me directly for anything related to books.
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