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10 Best Books About Egypt To Read

These books about Egypt provide a glimpse into the country, a land steeped in history and mystique that has fascinated and captivated the imagination of people around the world for millennia.

Its rich tapestry of culture, mythology, and ancient wonders has been a source of endless fascination for scholars, adventurers, and armchair travellers alike. From the majestic pyramids that rise from the desert sands to the enigmatic hieroglyphs that adorn the walls of temples and tombs, Egypt’s allure is undeniable.


Books About Egypt

To delve into the depths of this ancient land’s secrets, one must turn to the pages of books. Of course, there are many books about Egypt but these are some of the best to get a good look into the country.

The first several on the list are non-fiction historical books and the last few are fiction books with some of them showing a contemporary look into modern Egypt.

If you’re planning a trip to Egypt you can find hotels in Cairo here.


The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day translated by Raymond Faulkner

The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day is a remarkable and essential work that provides readers with a profound glimpse into the religious beliefs and rituals of ancient Egypt.

This ancient text, also known as the “Book of the Dead,” is not a single book but a collection of spells, prayers, and instructions designed to guide the deceased through the afterlife and ensure their safe passage to the realm of the gods.

Raymond Faulkner’s translation is renowned for its clarity and accessibility, making it an excellent choice for those seeking to understand the intricate beliefs and practices of ancient Egyptian spirituality.

The book allows readers to explore the journey of the soul after death, the challenges it faces, and the rituals and incantations necessary for a successful transition to the afterlife.

This is one of the best books about Egypt that not only serves as a valuable resource for Egyptologists and scholars but also appeals to anyone interested in ancient history, spirituality, or the profound cultural heritage of Egypt.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt by Ian Shaw

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt is an authoritative and comprehensive exploration of the history of ancient Egypt, from the earliest prehistoric settlements along the Nile to the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great.

This book offers readers a detailed and insightful journey through the various epochs of Egyptian history, spanning over 4,000 years of civilization.

Ian Shaw, a renowned Egyptologist, presents a well-researched and engaging narrative that delves into the political, cultural, social, and religious aspects of ancient Egypt.

The book covers key topics such as the rise and fall of dynasties, the construction of monumental architecture like the pyramids, the development of hieroglyphic writing, the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, and their interactions with neighbouring civilizations.

One of the strengths of this book is its accessibility. It is written in a way that is approachable for both scholars and general readers with an interest in ancient history. Shaw’s writing style is engaging, and he weaves together the various threads of Egyptian history into a cohesive and compelling narrative.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt is also enriched with numerous illustrations, photographs, and maps, providing visual context and enhancing the reader’s understanding of this fascinating civilization.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt by Richard H. Wilkinson

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt is a comprehensive and highly regarded reference book that offers a detailed exploration of the diverse pantheon of deities in ancient Egyptian religion.

This book serves as an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Egyptian mythology, religion, and culture.

Richard H. Wilkinson, an accomplished Egyptologist, provides readers with a wealth of information about the gods and goddesses worshipped by the ancient Egyptians. The book covers a wide range of topics, including the roles, attributes, and symbolism associated with each deity, as well as the historical and cultural context of their worship.

It also delves into the complex interrelationships between the gods and goddesses and their connections to various aspects of Egyptian life, from agriculture to the afterlife.

One of the strengths of this book is its accessibility. While it is a scholarly work, Wilkinson’s writing is clear and engaging, making it suitable for both scholars and general readers with an interest in Egyptian mythology.

The book is also beautifully illustrated with images, photographs, and artwork from ancient Egyptian sources, which helps readers visualize the deities and their iconography.

The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt is an excellent reference for those studying Egyptology, mythology, or ancient history, as well as for individuals who simply want to explore the fascinating world of ancient Egyptian religion and spirituality.

This is one of the best books about Egypt if you have an interest in the ancient mythology of the country.

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson

The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt is a highly acclaimed historical account that provides a comprehensive and engaging narrative of the long and complex history of ancient Egypt.

This book takes readers on a journey through the millennia, from the earliest days of Egypt’s civilization to its ultimate decline and absorption into the Roman Empire.

Toby Wilkinson, a respected Egyptologist and historian, skillfully weaves together the various threads of Egyptian history, offering insights into the political, social, cultural, and religious developments that shaped this remarkable civilization.

The book covers key events such as the construction of the pyramids, the reign of the pharaohs, the development of hieroglyphic writing, the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Egyptians, and their interactions with neighbouring civilizations.

What sets this book apart is its ability to make the history of ancient Egypt accessible to a wide range of readers. Wilkinson’s writing is both informative and engaging, making it suitable for both scholars and general enthusiasts of ancient history.

He also draws upon the latest archaeological discoveries and historical research, ensuring that the information presented is up-to-date and accurate.

The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present by Toby Wilkinson

The Nile: A Journey Downriver Through Egypt’s Past and Present offers you a captivating exploration of the Nile River, the lifeblood of Egypt, and a journey through the country’s rich history and contemporary life.

Rather than focusing solely on the grand monuments and ancient civilizations, this book takes a unique approach by examining Egypt through the lens of its most important geographical feature, the Nile.

Toby Wilkinson embarks on a physical and intellectual journey down the length of the Nile, providing readers with a multi-dimensional understanding of Egypt’s past and present.

Along the way, he delves into the cultural, historical, and environmental aspects of the river, its significance in Egyptian mythology and daily life, and its role in shaping the country’s destiny.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Cleopatra: A Life is a meticulously researched and highly acclaimed biography that offers readers a compelling and nuanced portrait of one of history’s most iconic and enigmatic figures, Cleopatra VII.

This book takes a deep dive into the life, reign, and legacy of the last Pharaoh of Egypt, who remains a subject of fascination and intrigue to this day.

Stacy Schiff draws upon a wide range of historical sources, including ancient texts, archaeological discoveries, and modern scholarship, to reconstruct the life of Cleopatra.

Rather than presenting her as a mere seductress or a one-dimensional historical figure, Schiff provides a balanced and empathetic portrayal of Cleopatra as a formidable ruler, diplomat, and strategist who navigated the complex political landscape of the ancient Mediterranean.

The book explores Cleopatra’s upbringing in the Ptolemaic dynasty, her education, her relationships with prominent Roman leaders such as Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, and her efforts to maintain Egypt’s independence in the face of Roman expansion.

Schiff also delves into Cleopatra’s cultural and intellectual pursuits, shedding light on her patronage of the arts and her contributions to the blending of Egyptian and Greco-Roman traditions.

This is one of the best books about Egypt if you have an interest in Cleopatra.

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

The Alexandria Quartet is a renowned tetralogy of novels set in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, during the mid-20th century. The quartet is composed of four interrelated novels: “Justine” (1957), “Balthazar” (1958), “Mountolive” (1958), and “Clea” (1960).

Together, these novels form a complex and innovative narrative that explores themes of love, identity, perception, and the multifaceted nature of reality.

The story is primarily narrated by the main character, Darley, an English writer living in Alexandria. Through Darley’s perspective and the perspectives of other characters, each novel provides a different viewpoint on the events and relationships within the story.

This narrative technique allows Durrell to present a multifaceted and intricate examination of the characters and their experiences.

The quartet is known for its lush and evocative prose, rich descriptions of the city of Alexandria, and its intricate exploration of the character’s inner lives. It delves deeply into the complexities of love and desire, often blurring the lines between reality and perception.

The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany

The Yacoubian Building was first published in 2002 and the book quickly became a bestseller in Egypt and gained international recognition for its portrayal of Egyptian society, politics, and the complex lives of its diverse characters.

Set in Cairo, the novel is named after a once-elegant apartment building that has fallen into disrepair but still retains an aura of faded grandeur. The story weaves together the lives of various residents, providing a mosaic of contemporary Egyptian society.

The characters come from different backgrounds, social classes, and generations, and their lives intersect in unexpected ways.

Through the experiences of its characters, “The Yacoubian Building” explores a wide range of social, political, and cultural issues in Egypt, including corruption, religious extremism, sexual identity, and the challenges faced by women.

Alaa Al Aswany skillfully portrays the complexities and contradictions of Egyptian society, offering a nuanced perspective on the country’s cultural and political landscape.

This is one of the best books about Egypt if you have an interest in modern-day Egypt.

Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz

Palace Walk is the first novel in the Cairo Trilogy, written by the renowned Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz.

This trilogy is considered one of the most significant works of modern Arabic literature and is a cornerstone of Mahfouz’s literary legacy. “Palace Walk” was originally published in 1956 and is set in Cairo during the early 20th century.

The novel provides readers with a vivid and intricate portrayal of an Egyptian family living in the tumultuous period of British colonial rule and the early years of Egyptian nationalism.

The story revolves around the life of Ahmad Abd al-Jawad, the patriarch of the family, and his wife, Amina, along with their five children. While Ahmad is a strict and traditionalist figure, Amina represents the voice of tradition and domesticity within the confines of their home.

“Palace Walk” delves into the complexities of family dynamics, tradition, and societal change. It explores the tension between the private, and domestic sphere and the broader political and social forces at play in Egypt during this period.

The Abd al-Jawad family’s experiences reflect the wider struggles and aspirations of Egyptian society as it seeks to define its identity and destiny.

This is one of the best books about Egypt if you have an interest in the colonial days of Egypt and the beginning of Egyptian nationalism.

Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris by Emily Sands

Egyptology: Search for the Tomb of Osiris is a unique and beautifully illustrated book that blends elements of fiction, historical exploration, and interactive elements to create an engaging and immersive experience for readers, especially young adult and middle-grade readers interested in ancient Egypt.

The book presents itself as a journal or scrapbook created by the fictional character Emily Sands, an amateur archaeologist who embarks on a quest to uncover the lost tomb of Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife.

The narrative is interspersed with diary entries, drawings, maps, and other interactive elements that give readers a sense of participating in the adventure themselves.

As you progress through the book, they can explore the mysteries of ancient Egypt, learn about its mythology and history, and follow Emily Sands on her expedition.

The book provides insights into Egyptian culture, hieroglyphics, mummies, and archaeological techniques while maintaining an engaging and accessible style.

This is one of the best books about Egypt for young adults.


Egypt

These books about Egypt cover a wide range of topics related to the country, from its ancient history to its modern culture and society, providing a well-rounded understanding of this fascinating country.

If you’re planning a trip to Egypt you can find hotels in Cairo here.

For good travel guides to Egypt to help plan any trip there take a look at these two:

Lonely Planet Egypt is a good overall guide for practical information for travelling there and the DK Eyewitness Egypt is loaded with good images and illustrations to give you a good idea of where to visit.

For more on the country take a look at the 10 best documentaries about Egypt.


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