Ancient Egypt: A Reading List

Tomb of Ahmose son of Ibana

Last Updated on: 20th December 2022, 12:37 pm

As the Ancient Egyptian civilization lasted for over three thousand years, familiarizing yourself with the country’s history can be a daunting task. But visitors who’ve put in the work can tell you that the more you educate yourself about Ancient Egypt, the more you’ll get out of your trip. With that said, even knowing where to start can be a challenge. That’s where this Ancient Egypt reading list comes in.

To fully appreciate the myriad of landmarks you’ll encounter throughout Egypt, you should ideally have a basic understanding of the main accomplishments of each important Egyptian dynasty, along with the prominent pharaohs of each. After that, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the Ancient Egyptian religion and general worldview.

The following reading list will be divided into two parts. First, we’ll be covering books written by academic Egyptologists. We’ll then be covering some fascinating ‘alternative’ (for lack of a better word) sources that attempt to answer some of Ancient Egypt’s greatest mysteries. 

Recommended Egyptology Books

The Story of Egypt: The Civilization That Shaped the World

As mentioned, Ancient Egyptian history spans over three millennia, so wrapping your head around the chronology takes a lot of time and effort. While you can’t expect to learn everything from one book, the best place to start would be a basic Egyptian history book.

There are a number of Ancient Egyptian history books to choose from, but one that I happened to read was The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher. The author has done an excellent job of condensing thousands of years of history into 500 readable pages.

The book begins with a rundown of the Prehistoric and the Predynastic periods, followed by a detailed overview of every major era of Dynastic Egypt. And near the end of the book, you’ll learn about the Ptolemaic era and the Roman takeover.

Conveniently, the book is available in both print and digital formats.

While I have yet to read them, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt and The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt also look like good choices.

The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries

For anyone with an interest in pyramids, especially the less famous ones, be sure to pick up The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries by Mark Lehner. The book features plenty of pictures and comprehensive information on every pyramid the Egyptians ever built.

The pyramids are presented in chronological order, so it’s also a great way to learn about Egyptian history and the chronology of the pharaohs – at least up until the New Kingdom period.

Lehner is widely regarded as one of the foremost experts on the Giza plateau and the pyramids as a whole. But as excellent as the book is, especially with its hundreds of full-color photos, the subtitle is a little misleading.

Lehner is notorious for shunning any ‘alternative’ theory about Egypt in general, yet he largely glosses over many of the major glaring mysteries surrounding the pyramids (learn more here).

With that said, this book is still well worth purchasing or borrowing from your local library. But given its size, it’s not something you’d bring to Egypt with you.

The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt

Part of the same series as the Complete Pyramids book mentioned above, The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt was written Richard H. Wilkinson. In addition to being highly informative, the book is stunning visually, with colorful photos and maps on every page.

It came out in 2000, so it’s already a bit out of date, but it covers every single Egyptian temple discovered up to that point. Rather than chronologically, the complete list of temples is ordered geographically, from north to south. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the geography of Ancient Egypt, which is essential when planning your trip.

Other sections, meanwhile, cover everything one might want to know about the architectural features of Egyptian temples. Furthermore, you’ll also learn about the different types of temples and the specific roles they played within the complex Egyptian religion.

The History of Egypt Podcast

Okay, so this one is not a book. But for those who want to deep dive into Egyptian history and who have plenty of time to prepare before their trip, The History of Egypt Podcast series is worth checking out.

Each episode is incredibly detail-oriented and very dense. While it may not be everyone’s style, the longer you listen, the most easily you’ll be able to memorize names and important details from throughout Egyptian history. And this will definitely pay off during your travels throughout Egypt.

The series is presented by Dominic Perry, who has done extremely thorough research for each episode, and I got a lot out of listening to the podcast. 

But those who are primarily interested in things like pyramids or the Egyptian religion should know that the creator’s main interest happens to be, of all things, Ancient Egyptian economics. In any case, at least try giving the first few episodes a shot.

Top 'Alternative' Sources

Despite what the academics may tell you, to truly understand Ancient Egypt, it’s important to familiarize yourself with both standard and alternative views. While there certainly are a lot of ridiculous ‘alternative’ theories out there, don’t let that dissuade you from venturing beyond orthodox Egyptology.

The next part of this Ancient Egypt reading list will help you get started.

Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt

Serpent in the Sky by John Anthony West is the best place to start for those wanting to delve deeper into the Ancient Egyptian mindset.

The book is a culmination of the author’s years of study of the works of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, a French chemist and esoteric researcher who’s credited with developing the symbolist interpretation of Ancient Egypt.

While Schwaller’s books are groundbreaking, they’re by no means easy reads. Serpent in the Sky, therefore, serves as an excellent summary of Schwaller’s main points.

As evident throughout the book, West was incredibly well-read and knowledgeable about Egypt from a wide variety of perspectives. One fascinating aspect of this book is that in addition to presenting Schwaller’s ideas, West provides informative block quotes from various authors – including several with whom he disagreed.

After familiarizing yourself with the basics of Egyptian history, this is the book you should read if you ever suspected the Ancient Egyptians were perhaps more than a superstitious group of animal worshippers.

The Traveler's Key to Ancient Egypt

Wouldn’t it be great if someone took Serpent in the Sky‘s symbolist interpretation of Ancient Egypt and presented it in practical travel guide form? Well, it turns out that John Anthony West himself did so in the 1980s, though the book has mysteriously been out of print for years.

Simply put, even decades later, and despite being so expensive to purchase second-hand, The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Egypt remains the best travel guide to Egypt ever written. It’s truly one-of-a-kind, and if you could only take one book from this Egypt reading list with you, make it Traveler’s Key.

As mentioned, the book was first published in the ’80s before being updated in the ’90s. But the tombs and temples that are currently open for tourists are more or less the same as those open decades ago, so the guide holds up surprisingly well. 

Furthermore, Traveler’s Key contains a lot of fascinating info that doesn’t even appear in Serpent in the Sky, and it serves as a great reference for learning about Ancient Egypt in general.

Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt

How did the Egyptians create colossal statues of granite that demonstrate perfect symmetry? What about the sarcophagi of the Serapeum that were somehow carved with the precision of a machine? Could all this have really been created with copper chisels, pounder balls and sandpaper?

In Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt, engineer Christopher Dunn tackles all these questions and more, examining Ancient Egypt through the perspective of engineering and technology.

Dunn spends each chapter focusing on a particular object, such as an obelisk or colossi, explaining to the reader what makes its craftsmanship so remarkable.

Controversially, Dunn claims that many of these objects could not be reproduced today – even with modern machinery. While many online and in academic circles contest this, the fact remains that we have yet to successfully reproduce any of these objects, either with primitive or modern tools.

As the book title suggests, Dunn proposes that the Ancient Egyptians possessed some type of advanced technology that has somehow been lost from the archaeological record. Even if you disagree, Lost Technologies will nevertheless deepen your appreciation for various objects and monuments that often get overshadowed by the splendor of the pyramids.

***

Have any recommendations to add to this Ancient Egypt reading list? Feel free to leave a message or a comment!

Scroll to Top