View Full Version : Civilization books

Sep 17, 2010, 01:37 PM
Anyone have some good suggestions on books that give that ehm "Civilization feeling"?

I really like Edward Rutherfurd's books, for example: Sarum and London. They are about a place that you see developing through the ages as seen by its inhabitants. Engrossing stuff (well, to me at least :) )

I'm looking to discover new material. I'm sure great stories will be written up on this very site again, like Pax Romana by Vanadorn for example and I look forward to those, but I also want some solid books to sink my teeth in.

Anyone got suggestions?

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.

Sep 17, 2010, 04:05 PM
I don't know about fiction, but I can't play Civ without thinking about Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and The Discoverers by Daniel J Boorstin.

Some of the insights in Guns, Germs and Steel actually helped my game (taking note of the east-west temperate zone, basically).

Sep 18, 2010, 07:46 AM
I don't know about fiction, but I can't play Civ without thinking about Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and The Discoverers by Daniel J Boorstin.

Some of the insights in Guns, Germs and Steel actually helped my game (taking note of the east-west temperate zone, basically).

Going to check those out, thanks for the suggestion. Cool, that it actually helped with your game.

Anyone else have a suggestion?

Sep 19, 2010, 12:45 AM
The Source by James Michener-- follow the tale of 2 families from early BC to modern day.

Sep 19, 2010, 09:27 AM
Agree with above poster. Also good books by Michener are Caribbean, The Covenant, Chesapeake and many more!

Sep 19, 2010, 11:18 AM
Asimov's foundation series is basically civilization in space.

Sep 19, 2010, 02:07 PM
Great! More titles to check out. Thanks a lot all! :king:

I've ordered Guns, Germs and Steel, so that's on its way already. Looking forward to diving in.

Some more suggestions:

I also enjoyed Magician (and follow ups) By Raymond E. Feist, great war between a asian nation and a western medieval one. Very much worth a read, although there is some fantasy involved. But you know we'll be getting great fantasy mods again :D

Another favorite author of mine is Bernard Cornwell, albeit the scale is somewhat less epic, his books (Sharp, Redcoat ect) are great read to get me into a civving mood :)
His Saxon series about the reign of Alfred the Great are more Civ-like They show Alfreds reign through the eyes of Uhtred an unlawful pagan, but very much needed by Alfred because he's an survivor and gets the job done. This series in particular show how difficult it is to reign and the hard choices that need to be made sometimes. Worth your time!

Keep the suggestions coming, I read fast and a lot so its never enough! :goodjob:

Sep 19, 2010, 02:48 PM
Rather than books, here are a few board games -- although they are a bit America-specific so I apologize ahead of time, and they don't play th same as Civ...just some of my favorites and I am a huge Civ fan too, so that is how they are related:

Washington's War ( -- American Revolutionary War game

Twilight Struggle ( -- US-USSR Cold War thriller game

Founding Fathers ( -- American Constitutional Convention Game

Power Grid ( -- Power up cities, bid on power plants...don't know how this relates to Civ at all but I listed it b/c it is awesome, particularly with 4-6 players.

Middle-Earth Quest ( -- Adventure/combat game with some innovative mechanics; has combat so I guess that is the connection... Not about dunking the one ring (aka gold in Civ V ;)

War of the Ring (2004 version) ( -- Has politics (for the Fellowship side mostly) and war in the same game. The definitive game to play when you *do* want to dunk the one ring (aka gold); best with 2 players.

Labyrinth: The War on Terror ( (due out in October, 2010) -- I've played through a couple of times on Vassal for the playtester version, and this one looks to be awesome! Based loosely on Twilight Struggle, but applied to the War on Terror.

War! Age of Imperialism ( (recommend the computer version though otherwise there is a lot to keep track of) -- Probably the most like Civ out of those on my list here. It's risk on mega-steroids. Must declare war before attacking; there are natives, revolts, technologic advancements, etc.

Memoir '44 ( (and all of the many expansions) -- for a simple, elegant (dare I say "streamlined"?!) World War II game.

If you are curious, check out for more information on any of these. I left off the obvious ones (Risk, Stratego, Civilization: The Board Game, etc).

EDIT: Links to BoardGameGeek for each game above are added.

Sep 19, 2010, 02:49 PM
I like Harry Turtledove's Books. They give me a nice feeling of war and diplomacy. (esp the Atlantis Series.)

Sep 20, 2010, 12:54 AM
The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson. One of my favorite sci-fi novels, I've read it a couple times. It follows the paths of around 8-10 immortals from roughly 1000 BC to the present, and then into the far future. Its especially fits the civilization theme you are seeking because each of the people starts off from different ones... the oldest guy starts in ancient Phoenicia, there's an ancient Viking, a couple Chinese, a woman from the Middle East, a Native American, a Russian woman, etc.

Sep 20, 2010, 05:43 PM
I just ordered The Boat of a Million Years, I'm a big Poul Anderson fan. Guns Germs and Steel is really good and really relevant to Civ.

I really like A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman. It is basically the story of the Hundred Years war between England and France. I gives a good idea of what countries were like back then and why Nationalism is a discovered tech. It's told from the point of view of a high level French noble.

Sep 20, 2010, 08:13 PM
Look up 'James Clavell'. He wrote a lot of really good books based in the Orient and one about the Islamic revolution in Iran. He also directed a few good movies. His two best books are:

1. Shogun, which is based on a true story set in the 17th century about an English ship pilot discovering Japan after the Portuguese (under Spanish rule) had already infiltrated the feudal Island clans, during the time of Toguwaga (of Civ 4 fame). The pilot (who happens to be one of the deepest characters I've ever discovered in literature) basically has one hell of an adventure in Japan, learns the language and eventually becomes a Samurai. As I said based on a true story about a real man, William Adams, the first Briton to visit Japan and the only foreign Samurai in Japanese history. The other main character Toguwaga is another amazing character and if you ever do read this book you will be amazed at how Clavell paints his cleverness and charisma to the reader. Very well researched packed full of Civ relevant events, wars and philosophy.

2. Tai-Pain Set during the China opium trade days of Imperial Britain this story is based around a real life company (still trading today under the name Jardine Matheson Holdings, which founded HSBC). At one time it was the the main company that filled the vacuum created after the East India Trading Company's monopoly of the Opium-Tea-Gold trade triangle was abolished by Parliament. Basically what it did was buy opium for ridiculously cheap prices from British territory in the Indian peninsula, ship it to China, sell it under the table to the Mandarins for gold and silver, buy huge quantities of tea with this gold and silver, and ship the tea and other tradable good to London and make tens of millions in profit per shipment - they did this on a huge scale with hundreds of ships. The main character Dirk Straun is another bad ass of a character, basically one of those guys who all the girls love, and all the guys want to be, rich beyond imagining, seeped in Chinese culture and habits, speaks Mandarin, is as tough nails, sparkling with intelligence and humour. The story follows Straun as he weaves through the intrigues of the Chinese underground, battles his competitors financially, physically and socially; challenges the British viceroys, Parliament; founds the colony of Hong-Kong; controls the British Navy to do his bidding; trades stocks, shares and survives banking collapses; the hostile Chinese emperor and government, and countless China Sea pirates.

Another good series that I have read is the Conqueror series by Con Iggulden. These were very well researched books trying to bring to life Ghenghis Khan. Instead of portraying how terrible and horrible he was, the book takes most of its character reference from the Chinese book 'The Secret History of the Mongols'. Unusually Igullden's book is on the side of Ghengis and starts when he was a young boy, telling the true story of how he was the second oldest son of a clan-lord of a very warring Mongolian tribe. Due partially to Chinese intervention which kept the Tartars and the Mongolian tribes at war (though he didn't know it at the time) his father was murdered. Instead of his brother becoming the leader, as is custom if the son is old enough to keep hold of power, Ghengis' three brothers, his mother and he are left to die in the inhospitable Mongolian plains by order of the new leader (Ghengis' father's former second in command, now Khan). Temperatures can reach -40 oC in the winter, and they were left without any shelter, equipment or bows to hunt.

The story tells how he survives and brings you on his journey as he not only take power back from his own tribe, but conqueror all of Mongolia and unite the countless warring and separate roaming hunter-gatherer tribes under one banner, then go onto conquer China, the richest, most advanced and cultured empire in the world (at the time) with a small (in comparison) army - as revenge. He then goes onto conquering much of the rest of the world, and the story follows him from Thailand all the way to the Arabian peninsula. There are countless battles against a whole host of civilisations, interesting characters, and a very gripping story packed with real events that give an insight into war tactics, civlizations and cultures.

Sep 20, 2010, 08:57 PM
Ugh. I can't believe I'm admitting I've read this, or even bringing it up. But Pastwatch, by Orson Scott Card, may interest the typical Civ player. Card even credits Civ II in the book's dedication.

But get it from a library or somewhere else that's free. Don't give that guy your money.

Sep 20, 2010, 09:36 PM
Ugh. I can't believe I'm admitting I've read this, or even bringing it up.
Don't give that guy your money.

why not? I really liked his Ender series, although I haven't read anything else of his. Why the hate for Mr Card?

Patronus Potter
Sep 20, 2010, 09:38 PM
If you get a chance try taking a course in ancient history. I took one on the ancient Near East and more often than not the professor sounded like he was talking about Civ. On the first day he basically told us the Sumerian starting position, what technologies they had, and where the resources were. The Indo-Europeans took over the area because, of course, they had horses and iron.

You might also want to watch HBO's "Rome". As for books I would recommend Herodotus' histories and "The Classical World" by Robin Lane Fox.

Sep 21, 2010, 01:37 PM
why not? I really liked his Ender series, although I haven't read anything else of his. Why the hate for Mr Card?

The guy's a crazy bigot from hell. Ender was the only good thing he wrote. Avoid his "Book of Mormon in Space" at all costs.

Sep 21, 2010, 06:56 PM
Guys, read Sistual's Prince of the World. If you agree it should be revised and made a book, pm him.

I think he is actually writing one now, but I'm not sure who his publishing name is or even if it came out yet.