Six of the Best Books About Rome and Its History

View of the Roman Forum and Colosseum
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Thousands of books have been written about Rome and its history. But these are the ones I keep on my bookshelf for quick reference.

For an even wider selection of books about Rome, see my Rome book list on Bookshop.

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

This instant bestseller by British historian Mary Beard is chocked-full of interesting tidbits about Ancient Rome, its customs, leaders, architecture, territory, and way of life. Written with “crisp and merciless clarity,” according to NYT, the book covers 1,000 years of Roman history.

A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome

Published first as “Una Giornata nell’Antica Roma,” this book by popular Italian historian Alberto Angelo is a fun, page-turner. This 24-hour “tick-tock” of day-to-day Roman life reads more like a walking tour than a history book. Learn about Roman hairstyles, bathhouses, brothels, childbirth, and more.

Rome: The Biography of the City

Renowned Rome historian Christopher Hibbert wrote this comprehensive book about Rome that stretches from Etruscan times to the era of Mussolini. This is a good all-around textbook for learning about the various essential time periods that shaped the Eternal City.

Rome: A History in Seven Sackings

Rome is known as much for its decline as it is for its glory. But the details about the former are always quite foggy. This book from (yet another) British historian fills in the gaps, explaining the many falls of Rome at the hands of the Gauls, the Goths, the Nazis, and others.

The Families Who Made Rome

Colonna. Barberini. Chigi. These are just a few of the family names that you will see when visiting Rome or reading its history. This book from Anthony Majanlahti helps unravel the mysteries behind these noble families and details the architecture, art, estates, and legacies that they left behind.

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling

This is a history of Rome’s most famous work of art — Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. But Ross King’s novel-like bestseller also documents Michelangelo’s painting techniques, his relations with his patron and other artists, and other inside and outside forces that helped and hindered the master’s artistic process.