Gad-Zeus! When it came to epic story-telling, the Ancient Greeks sure knew how to keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Driven by drama and passion, populated by super-human gods and goddesses, and delivering profound lessons on the natural world and human behaviour, it’s perhaps little wonder that a pantheon of contemporary writers have found inspiration in these timelessly compelling tales.
So, if you’re seeking stories that entertain and enthral, look no further than this collection of 20+ terrific books featuring Greek myths - from absorbing history-infused retellings, to rambunctious riffs that give the originals powerful new wings, à la Pegasus himself.
Among our recent favourites are a clutch of female-fronted, female-authored epics, including Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles and Circe, the latter of which is a dazzling portrayal of a much misunderstood woman. Then there’s Mary Renault’s The King Must Die, a beautifully-written, magnificently-imagined account of Theseus in Minoan Crete.
Meanwhile, the brilliant, playful The Penelopiad sees Margaret Atwood, in the words of our reviewer Charlotte, “weave her own witty and fiery version of events in order to ensure her story is known.”
Female accounts of the Trojan War are explored to terrific effect in Natalie Haynes’s A Thousand Ships, Emily Hauser’s For The Most Beautiful and Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls. All three books pack potent punch, with their imaginative exuberance underpinned by scholarship.
A number of notable contemporary novels have taken structural or narrative inspiration from Greek Myths too, among them Cold Mountain, which is, of sorts, a re-visioning of Homer’s The Odyssey. For younger readers (though eminently enjoyable for adventure-minded grown-ups), we’re huge fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson’s Greek Myths - the series is an audaciously funny romp.
Finally, our expert Liz absolutely adored Pandora’s Jar, a recently-published non-fiction gem that invites (and compels) readers to reconsider Greek myths in an entirely new light through putting “the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk”.
Before diving into this collection, you might want to follow Dionysius’s example by grabbing yourself a goblet of wine - “Yamas!” as they say in Greece.