Once again, we have studied the latest Bookseller Buyer’s Guides and picked out the books on classical themes which publishers believe will be of interest to the general reader (and added a few more).
The major highlight is Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls, the Trojan War as seen by Briseis – another feminised fictional version of the ancient world to add to those covered in previous notes. We also have Country by Michael Hughes, the Iliad transposed to Northern Ireland in 1996, which has had strong reviews, Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, “a weird and wonderful revisioning of Oedipus Rex”, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and Metamorphica by Zachary Mason, a re-imagining of Ovid. In more popular vein, there are the latest works from Robert Fabbri, Margaret George, Conn Iggulden, Douglas Jackson, Anthony Riches and Simon Scarrow.
Among childrens’ books, we note Lucy Coats with Beasts of Olympus, Stella Tarakson with Hopeless Heroes (Greek mythology) and Tim Collins with The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Gladiator (all for the 7-9s) and, for older children, Know-It-All: Greek Mythology in the National Geographic ‘Weird but True’ series, Russell Punter’s “action-packed graphic novel adaptation” of The Odyssey and Isabel and Imogen Greenberg’s Athena: The Story of a Goddess. There are also Nick Pierce’s “Starters” books on Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, with bite-sized text, timelines, quizzes and “can you find?”
The non-fiction highlight is Guy de la Bedoyere’s Domina: The Women Who Made Imperial Rome (of the Julio-Claudian dynasty). We also have Tony Spawforth’s The Story of Greece and Rome, David Stuttard’s Nemesis : Alcibiades and the Fall of Athens, Robin Waterfield’s Olympia: the Story of the Ancient Olympic Games, Peter Jones with Memento Mori : What the Romans Can Tell Us About Old Age and Death, Fred Naiden with Soldier, Priest and God: A Life of Alexander the Great (which explores his personal religion), Jeremiah McColl with Clan Fabius, Defenders of Rome (the history of the Fabii Maximi) and Richard Hingley with Londinium: A Biography: Roman London from its Origins to the Fifth Century.
In the category of “reception”, we note Charlotte Higgins’ Red Thread: On Mazes and Labyrinths, which starts with the classical poets and then explores widely among later gardens, writers and artists. Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones has Designs on the Past, how Hollywood Created the Ancient World from 1916-1966, lavishly illustrated. Adrienne Mayor offers Gods and Robots: Myths, Machines and Ancient Dreams of Technology and James M Russell has Plato’s Alarm Clock and Other Amazing Ancient Inventions. Donna Zuckerberg’s Not All Dead White Men: Classics and Misogyny in the Digital Age exposes the way in which the American “Alt-Right” cites classical texts to support their claims.
Among books for students we note Oliver Taplin’s new translation of the Oresteia, with a clutch of critical essays, Simon Pulleyn’s new edition of Homer’s Odyssey Book 1, and a set of Bloomsbury Ancient Comedy Companions - Aristophanes: Peace edited by Ian C Storey, Plautus: Casina by David Christenson, and Terence: Andria by Sander M Goldberg. The latest Cambridge Green and Yellows include Homer: Iliad Book XVIII from Richard Rutherford and Xenophon: Anabasis Book III from Luuk Huitink and Tim Rood. The latest Loebs include Quintus Smyrnaeus’ Posthomerica, edited by Neil Hopkinson, the final volume of their Hippocrates, edited by Paul Potter, and Vol XI of their Livy, edited by John Yardley. There are new translations of Cicero’s De Amicitia from Philip Freeman and Epictetus’ Enchiridion (and other works) from Anthony Long. Andrew Stumpf offers Ancient Philosophy: A Companion to the Core Readings, Michael Moore has Classical Philosophy in a Nutshell and there is also the first English translation of Martin Heidegger’s 1943/4 lectures on Heraclitus.
Philip Hooker is the Hon. Treasurer of the Classical Association, and writes regularly for the CA Blog on Classics in the Media.