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20+ Terrific Books Featuring Greek Myths

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.

Beginning with The Silver Bow, David Gemmell’s Troy Trilogy comes hugely recommended for its sheer sense of adventure and epic scale - it’s vivid, passionate, and utterly gripping.

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.

Circe

Circe

Author: Madeline Miller Format: Hardback Release Date: 19/04/2018

The Song of Achilles was a beautiful and evocative retelling of a Greek myth which well deserved its praise and prize.  It is possible that this second offering is even better.  The language is poetic with not a word wasted, a real joy to read.  I remember Circe was one of the challenges met by Odysseus, the one who turned men into pigs.  The beautiful character who narrates this story is that same “wicked witch” but a far cry from how Homer portrayed her.  She is lovely, misunderstood, wilful and brilliant, a strong woman slowly growing into her power.  Many famous mythical figures pepper these pages; Jason, Prometheus, the Minator … but don’t worry if you haven’t heard of them all, this spellbinding story gives you all you need to know.  If you are familiar with the myths you will find new life in them in this enchanting retelling.  I really cannot praise it enough.  It is a special book, bridging romance, fantasy, poetic literature and feminist writing to create a work of high standard with wide appeal.  I loved it and I think you will too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

eBooks of the Month
The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/05/2013

Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012. A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War - a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart.

eBooks of the Month
Penelope's Web

Penelope's Web

Author: Christopher Rush Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/09/2015

Startling, assertive and intense, this is a distinctive and original take on the myth of Odysseus, focusing on reality, creative reality and fabrication. Reading ‘Penelope’s Web’, you quickly realise that the title is entirely appropriate, however make no mistake, this is a book about war, about bloody violence, rape, pillage, death… and it’s about the mental wounds that war inflicts. This is also a book where four-letter expletives and the treatment of women may make you cringe, in fact they should make you cringe. Keep an eye out for the icons heading each section as you start to read, Odysseus, Penelope and the Narrator have very different voices, yet the icons set the tone for the story and your expectations. Odysseus is a soldier, brutal, frank, cunning, able to express the basic animal instincts that cut in during battle, yet he also has a higher awareness of humanity. Penelope weaves gossamer strands of truth, spinning romance, half truths and exaggeration into a tapestry of myth and legend. Occasionally, I found some of the modern day terminology that Odysseus uses, jarred slightly in the storyline, however it served as reminder that war hasn't changed, it still maims and steals mental wellbeing and lives. Christopher Rush has written a tenacious and thought- provoking tale that is so graphically powerful, it feels as though you’re watching a film in the privacy of your own mind. ~ Liz Robinson

eBooks of the Month
The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad

Author: Margaret Atwood Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2018

I first read The Penelopiad directly after being introduced to The Odyssey at University. Atwood's perspective on this epic tale was a breath of fresh air. Penelope reflects from the other side of the Styx on the struggles that she faced as Odysseus sailed to Agamemnon's side to resolve the issues caused by Penelope's cousin, Helen of Troy.  Maintaining control of Ithaca, a wayward son and greedy suitors, Penelope weaves her own witty and fiery version of events in order to ensure her story is known. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

Author: Pat Barker Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/08/2018

In The Iliad, the Trojan War is a battle between men over Helen, a stolen woman. The Silence of the Girls centres on another stolen woman, Briseis, queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles pillaged her city, murdered her husband and made her his concubine. And she’s not the only one. Countless women have been snatched from their homes and face the same subjugation, and this powerful novel chimes with a chorus of women’s voices from all walks of life.  Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries. Briseis herself is an engaging narrator, her words vital, visceral and potent: “Blood, shit and brains – and there he is, the son of Peleus, half beast, half god, driving on to glory.” Her enforced move from queen to captive sees her fight for freedom in a blaze of witty, relatable commentary: “I’m supposed to just put up with it and say nothing, and if I do try to talk about it, it’s ‘Silence becomes a woman’”. And her disclosure that Achilles was called “the butcher” through a sea of oft-cited indulgent praise for him reveals a key thread of this novel. Namely, that accounts of history are often one-sided and therefore do not tell the entire truth. Gripping, smart and brilliantly imaginative, this is a richly relevant re-telling.

Troy: Lord Of The Silver Bow

Troy: Lord Of The Silver Bow

Author: David Gemmell Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/04/2006

This is the start to one of my all time favourite trilogies which is quite simply glorious. David Gemmell takes the epic tale based around Troy and brings it to vivid passionate life. Adventure, action, love, heartache, courage, betrayal, all fought out on the battlefield or whispered conversations in the rooms of power. I adored his previous books (I’ve read all of them) which were firmly heroic fantasy. The first book in the trilogy Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow was published in 2005, and I felt that his writing soared to new heights. I fell deeply in love and this is a trilogy that I regularly reread. After the author’s death in 2006, his wife Stella Gemmell wrote the second part of the third book from his notes. In 2007 Troy: Fall of Kings was published under both David and Stella Gemmell. In 2008 the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy began. Books in The Troy Series: 1. Lord of the Silver Bow 2. Shield of Thunder 3. Fall of Kings Serial Reader? Check out our 'Fall in Love With a Book Series' collection to find amazing book series to dive in to.

Troy: Shield Of Thunder

Troy: Shield Of Thunder

Author: David Gemmell Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/04/2007

The war of Troy is looming, and all the kings of the Great Green are gathering, friends and enemies, each with their own dark plans of conquest and plunder. Into this maelstrom of treachery and deceit come three travellers; Piria, a runaway priestess nursing a terrible secret, Kalliades, a warrior with a legendary sword, and Banokles who will carve his own legend in the battles to come. Troy: Shield of Thunder takes the reader back into the glories and tragedies of Bronze Age Greece, reuniting the characters from Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow; the dread Helikaon and his great love, the fiery Andromache, the mighty Hektor and the fabled storyteller, Odysseus. The story concludes in Troy: The Fall of Kings. Have you read the previous title Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow?

Troy: Fall Of Kings

Troy: Fall Of Kings

Author: Stella Gemmell, David Gemmell Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/03/2008

Darkness falls on the Great Green, and the Ancient World is fiercely divided. On the killing fields outside the golden city of Troy, forces loyal to the Mykene King mass. Among them is Odysseus, fabled storyteller and reluctant ally to the Mykene, who knows that he must soon face his former friends in deadly combat. Within the city, the Trojan king waits. Ailing and bitter, his hope is pinned on two heroes: his favourite son Hektor, and the dread Helikaon who will wreak terrible vengeance for the death of his wife at Mykene hands. War has been declared. As enemies, who are also kinsmen, are filled with bloodlust, they know that many of them will die, and that some will become heroes: heroes who will live for ever in a story that will echo down the centuries. Have you read the previous two books in the series Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow and Troy: Shield of Thunder?

The King Must Die

The King Must Die

Author: Mary Renault Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/03/2015

Mary Renault is deeply loved by many, though is today not nearly as widely read as she deserves to be. Just as Rosemary Sutcliff gave me Roman Britain, so did Renault guide me — and so many others — to Classical Greece. As with many (though not all) great novelists, readers can legitimately debate which is her best book. Reading is a dialogue, after all, not a monologue: we bring our own taste, personality, our age and times, the state of our life when we pick up a book … and that has much to do with whether we hate, like, love a novel. I’m going to name what I do think is Renault’s best.  The King Must Die is the first of two novels about the mythic figure of Theseus (it can absolutely be read alone), taking him from childhood to the island of Crete and an unforgettable imagining of what Minoan Crete (before 1500 BCE!) might have been like at the height of that culture, including the celebrated bull-dancers. We can’t know, but Renault’s magnificent act of creation lets us imagine it with her, and be wrapped in wonder. It is a beautifully-told story, written in a way that opens a reader up to the idea of the strangeness of the past (more on this later) — while offering characters that are both mythic and profoundly immediate and intense. I don’t say masterpiece often, but I think this book is. Selected by our Spring 2021 Guest Editor, Guy Gavriel Kay

For the Most Beautiful

For the Most Beautiful

Author: Emily Hauser Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/01/2016

February 2016 Debut of the Month. The story of the Trojan War told by two of its most important, yet often overlooked, characters: Briseis, the slave girl Agamemnon and Achilles fought over, and Krisayis (Shakespeare’s Cressida) promised to the Gods but lover of a prince. Also very present are the Gods themselves, playing with lives, betting on battles and arguing amongst themselves. It is a well-known tale, moving, frightening, bloody. This re-telling shows a feminine side, away from the battles but still dependent on their outcome. It is an engrossing world, easy to fall into. As spies, lovers, slaves and prophets these women of Troy show themselves the equal of the more famous men. Even if you know the story well this is still an entrancing read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

eBooks of the Month
A Thousand Ships

A Thousand Ships

Author: Natalie Haynes Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/04/2019

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2020 In A Thousand Ships, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective, for fans of Madeline Miller and Pat Barker. This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of all of them. . . In the middle of the night, Creusa wakes to find her beloved Troy engulfed in flames. Ten seemingly endless years of brutal conflict between the Greeks and the Trojans are over, and the Greeks are victorious. Over the next few hours, the only life she has ever known will turn to ash . . . The devastating consequences of the fall of Troy stretch from Mount Olympus to Mount Ida, from the citadel of Troy to the distant Greek islands, and across oceans and sky in between. These are the stories of the women embroiled in that legendary war and its terrible aftermath, as well as the feud and the fatal decisions that started it all. . . Powerfully told from an all-female perspective, A Thousand Ships gives voices to the women, girls and goddesses who, for so long, have been silent.

Pandora's Jar

Pandora's Jar

Author: Natalie Haynes Format: Hardback Release Date: 01/10/2020

You are encouraged to view the Greek myths in a completely new way with this fascinating book that focuses rather wonderfully on the women from the tales. Natalie Haynes “redresses the imbalance… she puts the women of the Greek myths on equal footing with the menfolk”. She has chosen ten women and here we see how they were actually viewed in the ancient world. These are stories that include Hera, Athena, Artemis, Eurydice, and Penelope. As the author explains, of the eight tragedies written by Eurpides that survive today, seven were titled by women, only one included a man. Yet over the years the stories have altered, the women have been overshadowed, made into monsters,  or they even brought about the downfall of men. “Which version of a story we choose to tell... reflect both the teller and the reader. They are not villains, victims, wives and monsters: they are people”. Pandora’s Jar really is the most interesting and readable book, it sits on the Liz Picks of the Month and comes as highly recommended by me.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Mythos The Greek Myths Retold

Mythos The Greek Myths Retold

Author: Stephen Fry Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/07/2018

A brilliant introduction into Greek Mythology. If you're fascinated by mythology and you're looking for a vibrant and engaging collection of stories, look no further than Stephen Fry's Greek Myths series.  From the Greek creation story to the birth of the Olympians, an introduction to the Gods and classic stories retold in Fry's witty style, Mythos is entertaining and informative in equal measure. Included in this book is a treasure trove of stories, some popular myths you can enjoy again and some that are perhaps unfamiliar to you. A brilliant recommendation for mythology and Stephen Fry fans.  Stephen Fry's Greek Myths series: 1. Mythos 2. Heroes 3. Troy

Heroes

Heroes

Author: Stephen Fry Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/06/2019

Atalanta, Oedipus, Orpheus and Jason, Stephen Fry's Heroes, is the retelling of these great Greek heroes' stories and more. Companion to Mythos, this book focuses on most of the iconic heroes of the era in an entralling and engaging collection.  Read about the trial of Heracles, the Golden Fleece, many a gruesome monster defeated and many a damsel saved. This is a brilliant selection of stories for those who enjoyed Mythos and want to read more about greek mythology from an engaging source. However, there is one notable omission from this collection, to learn more about Achilles, check out Troy.

Audiobooks of the Month
Troy

Troy

Author: Stephen Fry Format: Hardback Release Date: 29/10/2020

For anyone who has enjoyed Stephen Fry's telling of Greek Myths so far this is a must-read! Told in the same style as it's predecessors Mythos and Heroes  this is "the oldest and greatest story ever told". It's interesting, funny and heartbreaking in equal measure, especially for fans of Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles. A brilliant choice for anyone fascinated by the Greek Gods and looking to learn more from an engaging storyteller

Audiobooks of the Month
Gods Behaving Badly

Gods Behaving Badly

Author: Marie Phillips Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/05/2008

Being immortal isn't all it's cracked up to be. Life's hard for a Greek god in the 21st century: nobody believes in you any more, even your own family doesn't respect you, and you're stuck in a delapidated hovel in north London with too many siblings and not enough hot water. But for Artemis (goddess of hunting, professional dog walker), Aphrodite (goddess of beauty, telephone sex operator) and Apollo (god of the sun, TV psychic) there's no way out... Until a meek cleaner and her would-be boyfriend come into their lives, and turn the world literally upside down. Gods Behaving Badly is that rare thing, a charming, funny, utterly original first novel that satisfies the head and the heart.

Girl Meets Boy

Girl Meets Boy

Author: Ali Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2018

Girl meets boy. It's a story as old as time. But what happens when an old story meets a brand new set of circumstances? Ali Smith's remix of Ovid's most joyful metamorphosis is a story about the kind of fluidity that can't be bottled and sold. It is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, a story of puns and doubles, reversals and revelations. Funny and fresh, poetic and political, here is a tale of change for the modern world. The Myths series brings together some of the world's finest writers, each of whom has retold a myth in a contemporary and memorable way. Authors in the series include Karen Armstrong, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt, David Grossman, Natsuo Kirino, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Pullman, Ali Smith and Jeanette Winterson.

Fifteen Dogs

Fifteen Dogs

Author: Andre Alexis Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/11/2015

Winner of the Giller Prize 2015 Winner of the Writers' Trust Fiction Prize 2015 It begins in a bar, like so many strange stories. The gods Hermes and Apollo argue about what would happen if animals had human intelligence, so they make a bet that leads them to grant consciousness and language to a group of dogs staying overnight at a veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of complex thought, the dogs escape and become a pack. They are torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into unfamiliar territory, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings. Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks. Engaging and strange, full of unexpected insights into human and canine minds, this contemporary take on the apologue is the most extraordinary book you'll read this year.

Cold Mountain

Cold Mountain

Author: Charles Frazier Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/12/2006

This arrived on our shores in 1998 as a large, expensive paperback and proceeded to sell through word-of-mouth.  Then the publishers made a bold decision … they brought out a hardback turning the traditional publishing route of hardback, paperback upside down.  I applauded, I am a firm believer that a new author (and this was a debut novel) should earn a hardback edition, and so Charles Frazier did.  There then followed a mass market paperback and later a disappointing film.  This is a big novel in every sense; long, detailed, dramatic and quite wonderful.Comparison: Stef Penney, Alistair MacLeod, Guy Vanderhaeghe.

House of Names

House of Names

Author: Colm Toibin Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/04/2018

'They cut her hair before they dragged her to the place of sacrifice. Her mouth was gagged to stop her cursing her father, her cowardly, two-tongued father. Nonetheless, they heard her muffled screams.' On the day of his daughter's wedding, Agamemnon orders her sacrifice. His daughter is led to her death, and Agamemnon leads his army into battle, where he is rewarded with glorious victory. Three years later, he returns home and his murderous action has set the entire family - mother, brother, sister - on a path of intimate violence, as they enter a world of hushed commands and soundless journeys through the palace's dungeons and bedchambers. As his wife seeks his death, his daughter, Electra, is the silent observer to the family's game of innocence while his son, Orestes, is sent into bewildering, frightening exile where survival is far from certain. Out of their desolating loss, Electra and Orestes must find a way to right these wrongs of the past even if it means committing themselves to a terrible, barbarous act. House of Names is a story of intense longing and shocking betrayal. It is a work of great beauty, and daring, from one of our finest living writers.

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break

Author: Steven Sherrill Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/11/2019

Five thousand years after leaving the Cretan Labyrinth, the Minotaur - or M as he is known to his colleagues - is working as a line chef at Grub's Rib in Carolina, keeping his horns down, trying in vain to put his past behind him. He leads an ordered lifestyle in a shabby trailer park where he tinkers with cars, writes and re-writes to-do lists and observes the haphazard goings on around him. Outwardly controlled, M tries to hide his emotional turmoil as he is transported deeper into the human world of deceit, confusion and need.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes

Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes

Author: Rick Riordan Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/05/2016

The fabulous Percy Jackson himself takes the reader back, to roughly 4,000 years ago and tells the stories of twelve Greek Heroes. This isn't about Percy, however his unique voice shines through as he tells the tales in his own audacious way. This is funny and witty and mixes modern day with ancient times in a way that shouldn't work, but oh how it does, brilliantly. The tales include Jason and the Golden Fleece, Hercules and his tasks and Otrera’s Amazons (they don't all end happily). Percy helpfully tells you how to pronounce some of the more difficult names and gives his own sage advice along the way. By the end of ‘Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes’, after the chuckles and cackles have stopped, it’s worth celebrating Rick Riordan for the magician wordsmith, and cloaked ninja of an educator that he truly is. Like Percy Jackson?...They'll love Fenn Halflin and Monster Hunter.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods

Author: Rick Riordan Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/05/2015

Percy Jackson, hero and demi-god, is the best guide you could have to the Greek gods and goddesses. As he is half-god - his father is Poseidon - and half-mortal – he is also a schoolboy in Manhattan - Percy is perfectly placed to give the inside stories! Percy’s account of the lives of the gods is chatty and informal. They are near to humans as you’ll ever find them – but they still have some awesome powers! A fun and fantastic introduction to an extraordinary world.

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