Since we can’t go back in time or meet anybody who lived during the rule of Pharaohs, students of the time period often rely on books. Luckily, there are a lot of materials out there for fans of Ancient Egypt. I want to give you a short list of some of my favorite books to expand your collection or learn some more if you are interested.
There are many different versions of The Book of the Dead. These funeral texts, some of which are on display at The British Museum, taught us much of what we know about the rituals and beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. The most well-known is probably the E.A. Wallis Budge edition, and for good reason: Dr. Budge worked in the Egyptology department at The British Museum and helped steal the Papyrus of Ani from Egypt in 1888. Personally, I like the Ogden Goelet and Raymond Faulkner edition for its oversized, glossy photos and readability. It is a good place to start if you’d like to learn about the techniques, prayers, and ceremonies regarding Egyptian funerals, or if you want to practice translating hieroglyphics.
If you wish to understand more about the religious aspects of the Egyptian culture, you might feel overwhelmed by the number of beings in their pantheon. A good book serves as a helpful guide to understanding both the major and minor deities and what part they played in the lives of their people. An easy to manage, yet thorough collection, can be found in Richard H. Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. I especially like the images that are included.
To learn more about the history of Egypt, I highly recommend The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson. It has the right blend of honesty and awe when it comes to this fascinating culture – the violence and brutality, the splendor and the knowledge. I also like that it doesn’t feel dry or as if I am being lectured. You get a good grasp of life in Egypt for its people, whether they were a Pharaoh or an ordinary citizen. If you’re just starting your journey into Egyptian studies, I recommend starting here.
For those of you who prefer fiction, there are a lot of books out there, some more historically accurate than others. Of the books that I’ve read, I have two favorites. The first is by Nobel Prize-winning author Naguib Mahfouz, titled Akhenaten: Dweller in Truth, a journalistic style novel about the “sun king” whose controversial reign I find incredibly interesting. The second fictional book I would recommend is The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George, which is both a well-researched and completely engrossing (albeit fictional) version of events told from the point of view of Cleopatra herself.
Finally, if you are hoping to encourage or further the interests of a younger reader, I have some recommendations there as well. For early readers, Mummy Cat has wonderful illustrations, an engaging story about a cat who wants to be reunited with his owner, and some facts about Egyptian culture at the end. For lovers of chapter books, Mummies in the Morning, Book 3 of the fascinating and imaginative series The Magic Treehouse is an interesting take on a tomb exploring adventure. DK Publishing has a great set of books for children about Egypt, from what life was like to glossy photos of the art of the time period, to extensive bios of the major people and deities of the time period.
I hope this little guide helped you, and if there is a book in particular that you like and that I missed, please let me know in the comments!