Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Natalie Haynes, writer, broadcaster and classicist:
For ancient Greece, I’d recommend Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad. And if you haven’t already read The Odyssey, treat yourself to Emily Wilson’s terrific new translation. The introduction alone will probably get you through your first-year exams. Daniel Mendelsohn’s An Odyssey is a gorgeous memoir about his late father (who decided, aged 81, to join the undergraduate course Mendelsohn taught on Homer at New York’s Bard College). It is learned, funny and will make your heart hurt. And Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey is a brilliant Borgesian exploration of the epic poem, if you can’t get enough of the flawed Greek hero.

As for Rome, how about Lindsey Davis’s Roman mysteries? The Silver Pigs introduced me to Marcus Didius Falco (her first-century gumshoe) when I was younger. Twenty or so books later, and they are still the place I go and hide when I’m feeling gloomy.

You could also try Robert Harris’s Cicero novels: the first two especially are great.

If you fancy something from after the end of the Roman Empire, try Stella Duffy’s luscious Theodora. And if you’d like some nonfiction about the fall of Rome, Catherine Nixey’s The Darkening Age is great.


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