The 10 Best Greek Mythology Books

The 10 Best Greek Mythology Books

My classics professor would be glad to know that her class did not just serve as a means to secure some effortless credits; I have now developed a genuine affection for Greek mythology. And no, it’s not just because I’ve watched Thor: Ragnarok more times than I care to admit (although maybe that’s part of it), but Greek mythology books, from the timeworn pages of Homer’s epic tales to the glossy covers of contemporary reimaginings, have been instrumental in winning me over. I’m fond of traditional retellings that serve us the age-old legends on a platter, as they’ve been told since fire was the only source of nightly entertainment. 

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Equally, I’m all for modern interpretations sauntering in, flipping the script, and whispering fresh tales into my eager ears. These sassy new renditions often come with a twist, perhaps suggesting that Medusa was just having a series of bad hair days or that Icarus, with his wax wings, was merely attempting the world’s first extreme sport. The joy of these myths, whether nestled in ancient parchment or gleaming from the latest bestseller list, is that they continue to evolve, proving that, much like Dionysus’s wine, some stories get better with time. The following is a list of the top 10 books about Greek mythology that I have enjoyed reading over the years. 

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
(Harper Perennial)

A Thousand Ships is a delightful excursion into the Trojan War, but not as the burly, bearded blokes would have you hear it. No, this tale is narrated by the women—the oft-overshadowed figures who, in traditional tellings, might’ve been relegated to the footnotes or, at best, a sultry subplot. Haynes, with the wit of Athena and the flair of Aphrodite, thrusts these ladies into the limelight. 

And what a refreshing light it is. Who knew that the Trojan War, often painted with strokes of testosterone-fueled bravado, could be reimagined with such finesse and feminine verve? Here, women aren’t merely the prizes or pawns; they’re sages and the story’s beating heart. Haynes’ retelling makes one wonder: maybe Helen’s face didn’t launch a thousand ships. Perhaps it was her perspective, her story, her voice—and the voices of countless other women—that truly set the sails alight.

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
(Flatiron Books)

It’s as if the author of Ariadne took one of those ancient Grecian urns, gave it a good shake, and out spilled all the hidden stories of mythology’s unsung heroines. Now, everyone knows Theseus, the dashing hero who slays the Minotaur. But behind every great man, as they say, is a woman rolling her eyes—and, in this case, rolling out a life-saving ball of thread. 

Enter Ariadne, the unsung heroine who is more than just an afterthought in Theseus’ epic journey. Jennifer Saint elegantly crafts her narrative, shedding light on the silenced voices of Crete and beyond. Ariadne is about more than just surviving life’s complexities and avoiding man-bulls. It’s a story about sisters, love, betrayal, and the age-old question: why do heroines armed with wit and wisdom become buried in history? 

Elektra by Jennifer Saint

Elektra by Jennifer Saint
(Flatiron Books)

When it comes to Elektra by the ever-perceptive Jennifer Saint, we’re not delving into the annals of a forgotten superheroine nor a treatise on static electricity. Instead, Saint plunges us deep into the heart of Greek tragedy, reviving the titular character who often lurks in the dramatic shadows of her vengeance-seeking family. 

Forget the dreary choruses and grim prophecies you might associate with the ancients; this Elektra boasts a fresh life and modern sparkle. While Agamemnon and Clytemnestra play their eternal blame game and Orestes grapples with his fate, Elektra emerges as the true magnetic force in this story. With her usual flair, Saint reveals a woman who is more than her grief and anger. 

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller
(Back Bay Books)

You’ll find that Circe is not your granddad’s Odyssey. Circe, historically a footnote in Odysseus’ grand sea-soaked saga, takes center stage in this retelling, turning from a mere enchantress with a penchant for pig transformation into a fully-fledged protagonist. Madeline Miller whisks us away from the hustle and bustle of godly Olympus and marooned heroes and into the solitude of Circe’s island. 

Suddenly, the witch with the brief cameo in the epic becomes a woman of depth, grappling with divinity, loneliness, and love. With prose as enchanting as one of Circe’s spells, Miller crafts a story where gods and monsters are secondary to the immortal struggles of the heart. 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
(Ecco Press)

In a world where tales of Achilles usually revolve around his godly might, impenetrable skin, and that ever-so-vulnerable heel, Miller asks, “But what about his heart?” This tale reharmonizes the Trojan War’s greatest hits by delving into the bond between Achilles and his comrade-in-arms, Patroclus. In The Song of Achilles, the monotonous refrains of bronze-clad warriors and tactical war games are gone, replaced by a melody of love, loss, and longing. 

Miller’s prose flows smoothly, painting an Iliad that Homer might’ve sung had he been a bit more … enlightened about bromances. If you ever fancied a Trojan epic that digs deeper than Achilles’ sulking tent escapades or wondered if perhaps there was more simmering between those ancient Greek lines, Miller’s rendition is pitch-perfect. 

Mythos by Stephen Fry

Mythos by Stephen Fry
(Chronicle Books)

Reading Mythos is like attending an ancient Greek class by your favorite, quick-witted British professor. Stephen Fry dives into the world of gods and mortals not as a mere storyteller but as a whimsical tour guide, offering us tidbits, trinkets, and delectable details along the way. The Titans? The Olympians? Mere pawns in Fry’s grand plan to make mythology accessible (and utterly entertaining) again. 

With tales that have more twists than Zeus has affairs, Fry’s take on the Greek pantheon is rife with contemporary references, sly innuendos, and, of course, that classic Fry humor. Have you ever wondered what went down at the original Big Bang, or fancied the idea of Hermes as a divine postman with wings on his heels? Mythos has got you covered. 

Heroes by Stephen Fry

Heroes by Stephern Fry
(Chronicle Books)

Again, Stephen Fry saunters into the grand arena of Greek mythology, ready to regale us with stories that are, frankly, older than a fine bottle of Dionysian wine. Yet, in his hands, these ancient yarns feel freshly spun. While many might expect heroes like Perseus or Heracles to swagger about in bronze and bravado, Fry paints them with a touch more … humanity. 

Fry does more than merely retell in Heroes; he revitalizes, making the epics as accessible as a contemporary soap opera. Heroes is your golden goblet if you’ve ever wished there was a version of the Twelve Labours with humorous commentary and brilliant footnotes. 

The Greek Myths by Robert Graves

The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
(Penguin Group)

The Greek Myths by Robert Graves is a comprehensive and renowned work on Greek mythology. Its reputation precedes it, for it is widely acclaimed and highly regarded in scholarly circles. Published in 1955, it unveils the myths not as mere bedtime stories but as elaborate tapestries of historical and ritual importance. 

Graves, a master of words, waltzes into the subject with the finesse of a classical scholar and the magnetism of a poetic storyteller. While his interpretations and theories have been both lauded and debated by scholars, there’s no denying the influence of The Greek Myths in the world of classical studies. 

Metamorphoses by Ovid

Metamorphoses by Ovid
(Oxford University Press, USA)

Metamorphoses by Ovid is a classic that doesn’t just chronicle changes in tales but is itself a tale of changes. Imagine a gossip column penned by a Roman poet—a tabloid of transformations, if you will. From Daphne’s leafy escape from Apollo’s clutches to Narcissus’ watery selfie moment, Ovid crafts a narrative that flows fluidly.

But don’t be mistaken; it’s not just a mere collection of “who-turned-into-what” episodes. With each verse, the wily poet nudges and winks, reminding readers that metamorphosis isn’t just for mortals in myths; it’s the essence of life itself. And in true Ovidian style, the tales dance and weave, ensuring you’re enlightened and entertained. 

Treasury of Greek Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli

Treasury of Greek Mythology by Donna Jo Napoli
(National Geographic Kids)

Treasury of Greek Mythology is not your average storybook where Zeus simply throws thunderbolts and Poseidon splashes around. No, Donna Jo Napoli dives deeper. One could expect to encounter gods and heroes within its pages, but Napoli guarantees you’ll leave feeling as if you’ve been personally introduced at an Olympus party. 

While the book is great for kids, adults who have ever pondered Medusa’s inner thoughts or wondered what Artemis thinks of modern archery will appreciate this book. The author might not offer those precise insights, but her depth and detail make you feel like you could hazard a pretty good guess. It’s as if the classics met contemporary critique and had a baby.

(featured image: Harper Perennial/Back Bay Books/Chronicle Books/Ecco Press)


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Author
Faith Katunga
Faith is a freelance journalist with an insatiable curiosity for all aspects of current events, from the global economy and fashion to pop culture and travel. She watches an absurd number of cat videos on Instagram when not reading or writing about what is going on in the world. Faith has written for several publications, including We Got This Covered, Italy Magazine, TheTravel, etc., and holds a master's degree in Fashion Culture and Management.