28 Best Books for Greek Mythology: Fantastic Reads For History Buffs and Fantasy Lovers

Dive into the best books for Greek mythology and discover why these classic stories have captured the attention of audiences and scholars throughout the ages. 

From Perseus to Persephone and Artemis to Hercules, the tales of the great Olympians are more than just beloved bedtime stories. They are foundational to western culture and civilization and are as relevant today as they were in ancient times.

Allusions to these old tales abound in modern pop culture, and the issues they address speak to the very heart of what it means to be human. Gods and goddesses, monsters and mortals alike experience the same fear and jealousy, love and anguish that each of us does, and through them, we can learn to understand ourselves better. It’s a potential addition to our list of classic books to read

Best Books for Greek Mythology

1. The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood via Wikipedia, Public Domain

For centuries, the tale of Odysseus has centered on Homer’s epic poem’s proud and heroic titular character. In The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood turns the tables by telling the story instead from the viewpoint of his ever-faithful wife, Penelope, and the chorus of the twelve hanged maidens from Homer’s original story. After thousands of years in Hades, Penelope finally breaks her silence to recount her life with the famed warrior king. The result is a modern, riveting take on one of the world’s best-known tales.

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“What have I amounted to, now the official version has gained ground? An edifying legend. A stick used to beat other women with. Why can’t they be as considerate, as trustworthy, as all-suffering as I was? That’s the line they take, the singers, the yarn-spinners. Don’t follow my example, I want to scream in your ears…”

Margaret Atwood, The Penelopiad

2. A Thousand Ships, by Natalie Haynes

Natalie Haynes
Natalie Haynes via Wikipedia, Public Domain

This critically acclaimed, award-winning tale about the women of the Trojan War, A Thousand Ships, is an unapologetically female take on ancient Greece. As a comedian and classicist, author Natalie Haynes expertly weaves her trademark wit and devotion to the careful study of mythology to create a story full of revenge, romance, and resilience. Her imaginative retelling does an admirable job of reclaiming voices and perspectives previously lost to history.

“When a war was ended, the men lost their lives. But the women lost everything else.”

Natalie Haynes, A Thousand Ships

3. D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, by Ingri D’Aulaire

Ingri D’Aulaire
Ingri D’Aulaire via Wikipedia, Public Domain

In print for more than half a century, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths is a much-beloved classic. Countless children have been introduced to the gods, monsters, and mortals of the ancient world by reading D’Aulaires’ and, as adults, they continue to treasure its tales and share them with their children. From the Titans to the Golden Apple, each chapter recounts the Greek myths in a fashion that is both enthralling and easy to follow, making this collection indispensable to anyone who desires a solid foundational understanding of Greek mythology.

“Everything must come to an end, and so did the rule of Zeus and the other Olympian gods. All that is left of their glory on Earth are broken temples and noble statues.”

Ingri D’Aulaire, D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

4. The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan via Wikipedia, Public Domain

The Lightning Thief has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for ten years. It has been made into a movie and Broadway musical, translated into 37 languages, and taught in countless classrooms. It is the first in a series of novels in which author Rick Riordan creates imaginative, modern retellings of ancient myths. The book’s main character is 12-year-old Percy Jackson. Upon discovering that he is a demigod, half-mortal, and half-god, he becomes entangled in an epic adventure that will have readers hungry for the next installment.

“The real world is where the monsters are.”

Rick Riordan, The Lightning Thief

5. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller via Wikipedia, Public Domain

This masterful retelling of the Iliad is a breathtaking, suspenseful adventure that will likely have you up far too late reading “just one more chapter.” While working as a teacher of Latin and Greek, author Madeline Miller spent ten years writing this, her first novel. The result is an internationally acclaimed triumph that recounts the ancient tale of Achilles and the Trojan War. Overflowing with loyalty and betrayal, love and courage, The Song of Achilles brings iconic characters to life in a real, gritty, and believable way.

“We were like gods at the dawning of the world, and our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.” 

Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles

6. The Greek Myths: The Complete and Definitive Edition, by Robert Graves

The title says it all. It is a carefully researched, indexed, and comprehensive delve into Greek mythology. This is not a book for the light reader but will delight serious scholars. Author Robert Graves was a poet, scholar, and critic who produced more than 140 works in his lifetime, including a lauded translation of Homer’s Iliad. The Greek Myths have become the gold standard for any serious student of mythology.

“Myths, though difficult to reconcile with chronology, are always practical: they insist on some point of tradition, however distorted the meaning may have become in the telling.”

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths

7. Mythos, by Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry via Wikipedia, Public Domain

History buffs and fans of the ancient world will appreciate this collection of modern retellings. It is the first book in a three-part series. Author and comedian Stephen Fry infuses the old tales with fresh humor while retaining the cultural context and staying true to the original stories. Mythos is carefully researched, undeniably nuanced, yet approachable for readers who need to be well-versed in mythology.

“For the world seems never to offer anything worthwhile without also providing a dreadful opposite.” 

Stephen Fry, Mythos

8. The Silence of the Girls, by Pat Barker

Pat Barker
Pat Barker via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Many have heard the story of the heroic Achilles. However, in The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker imagines the ancient tale from the perspective of the conquered rather than the conqueror. The main character, Briseis, has lost her husband and brother to Achilles and his army and now must face a future in which she is a concubine to the man who killed her loved ones. The story explores the darker side of mythological heroics by focusing on the poverty, enslavement, and violence that flourish in the aftermath of war.

“Decades after the last man who fought at Troy is dead, their sons will remember the songs their Trojan mothers sang to them. We’ll be in their dreams–and in their worst nightmares too.”

Pat Barker, The Silence of the Girls

9. Circe, by Madeline Miller

Circe was born a goddess, but when her father, Zeus, discovered that she possessed magic powerful enough to confound gods and mortals alike, he considered her dangerous and banished her to a lonely island. For centuries she has been portrayed as the evil seductress who manipulated Odysseus and turned his men into pigs. In Circe, however, Madeline Miller brilliantly recasts her as a clever, resilient, and utterly real woman. Seeing the story through her eyes offers lovers of mythology a deeper, more thoughtful understanding of the ancient myths.

“But in a solitary life, there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

Madeline Miller, Circe

10. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, by Edith Hamilton

Edith Hamilton is a legend in Greek mythology, and this book is her most impressive contribution to its study. An accomplished scholar, Wharton served as headmistress of the Bryn Mawr preparatory school for girls for many years. Upon her retirement, she began writing books and scholarly articles on Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. Mythology was published in her 75th year. With its carefully researched, encyclopedic survey of mythology, it is undeniably a labor of love and an essential part of any dedicated scholar’s library.

“Love, however, cannot be forbidden. The more that flame is covered up, the hotter it burns. Also, love can always find a way.”

Edith Hamilton, Mythology

11. Ithaka, by Adele Geras

Adele Geras
Adele Geras via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Geras’s Ithaka revisits the classic story of Odysseus’s long and arduous return from war from the perspective of his wife’s young handmaiden, Klymene. Through her eyes, we understand the lives of the long-lauded hero and the son and wife he left behind. This young adult novel is a fresh look at an old story that teenagers will find captivating.

“I’ll come back. I swear I will. On the life of my precious son and on the love that fills me when I look at you. I’m telling you that I’ll return. Don’t stop waiting for me.”

Adele Geras, Ithaka

12. Athena’s Child, by Hannah Lynn

Medusa ranks as one of history’s most terrifying monsters. With her head covered in snakes, and her cold eyes that will turn a man into stone with just one glance, she is the stuff nightmares are made of. But how did she become such an infamous beast? In Athena’s Child, author Hannah Lynn takes a sympathetic look at the tragic path that led an innocent and beautiful young woman to become a terror for the ages.

“When faced with a monster, who ever looked to see beyond the teeth and talons?”

Hanna Lynn, Athena’s Child

13. Ariadne, by Jennifer Saint

Ariadne is best known in mythology for helping Theseus escape the Minotaur in the labyrinth beneath her castle in Crete, but that is only the beginning of her story. Jennifer Saint cunningly imagines a tale of resilience, sisterhood, and courage in this illuminating novel. Ariadne is a surprising tribute to the voices and lives of the women of the ancient world.

“I had been a fool to trust in a hero: a man who could only love the mighty echo of his own name throughout the centuries.”

Jennifer Saint, Ariadne

14. The War that Killed Achilles, by Caroline Alexander

Caroline Alexander is a Rhodes Scholar and holds a doctorate in classics from Cambridge University. Better still, she is an incredible storyteller. Anyone looking for an understandable, enjoyable, yet the accurate explanation of these ancient legends, should look no further than The War that Killed Achilles. It is thoroughly researched and does a brilliant job of explaining the cultural and geographical context of these wars in a way that is informative yet entertaining.

“The greatest war story ever told commemorates a war that established no boundaries, won no territory, and furthered no cause.”

Caroline Alexander, The War that Killed Achilles

15. Pandora’s Jar, by Natalie Haynes

Classicist and best-selling author Natalie Haynes turns her acerbic wit and considerable story-telling acumen on the ancients in this witty, absorbing look at the women of Greek mythology. Historically, most Greek mythology books have centered on the male perspective. They are tales of heroes and gods in which, more often than not, women are sidelined at best and vilified at worst. In Pandora’s Jar, Haynes looks deeper at the women behind the myths.

“There’s comfort in stories which don’t change, even the sad ones.”

Natalie Haynes, Pandora’s Jar

16. Medusa, by Jessie Burton

This young adult novel takes on the ancient Greek story of Medusa by looking more closely at the girl before she became the famed gorgon. Even those familiar with the original tale will feel the edge-of-your-seat suspense of this young woman’s tragic story. With Medusa, young readers will gain a greater understanding of this timeless Greek myth and will learn profound life lessons along the way.

“I’m a half-finished map and I’m always trying to plot my points, and I won’t have anyone do it for me.”

Jessie Burton, Medusa

17. Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood

Daughters of Sparta focuses on the lives of two women, twin sisters Klytemnestra and the famed Helen of Troy, who, though pivotal to the events, are often peripheral to Greek legends. Klytemnestra has been unhappily betrothed to Agamemnon, while Helen finds herself in a passionless marriage to Menelaus. In this retelling, the women’s passions and betrayals have far more influence over the Trojan War than the Greek gods.

“Sometimes we must be led by duty, and sometimes by what is right…The trick is to know when these things are the same, and when they are not.”

Claire Heywood, Daughters of Sparta

18. Lore, by Alexandra Bracken

Alexandra Bracken
Alexandra Bracken via Wikipedia, Public Domain

In Lore, Alexandra Bracken weaves carefully researched mythology into a completely modern tale. Every seven years, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals as atonement for their ancient rebellion. Descendants of ancient bloodlines hunt these fallen gods, knowing they can claim their immortality if they successfully kill one. This spell-binding twist on mythology is one that you won’t be able to put down.

“I was born knowing how to do three things – how to breathe, how to dream, and how to love you.”

Alexandra Bracken, Lore

19. The Riddle of the Labyrinth, by Margalit Fox

Margalit Fox
Margalit Fox via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Devoted Greek mythology fans will find this true-to-life tale of an archaeologist’s discovery of ancient tablets beneath Crete both gripping and inspiring. It took decades and the relentless drive of a handful of key individuals to crack the code and reveal the ancient secrets those tablets held. The Riddle of the Labyrinth is a story of mysterious deaths, obsessive devotion, and nail-biting suspense.

“A scholar’s worst enemy is his own mind. Facts are slippery things. Almost anything can be proved with them, if they are correctly selected.”

Margalit Fox, The Riddle of the Labyrinth

20. Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters, by Donna Jo Napoli

Young enthusiasts of Greek heroes will treasure this beautifully illustrated reference book. There are 25 biographical entries on the most famous of the mythical Greeks. For children who are fans of the Percy Jackson series or parents looking for helpful research resources, Treasury of Greek Mythology is a great choice.

“Their stories are universal and very much resemble the stories and themes told today in books and movies and on television – good vs. evil, triumph over adversity, rooting for the underdog, and so on.”

Donna Jo Napoli, Treasury of Greek Mythology

21. Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips

Imagine twelve Olympians sharing a tiny flat in modern-day England. They’re bored, slowly losing their powers, and not nearly as revered as they once were; hence they are somewhat cranky. Of course, we all know that a cranky Greek god does not bode well for humanity. Gods Behaving Badly is a fun, rollicking adventure that is decidedly for adult mythology enthusiasts.

“She had hair the color of blackmail, a spine as straight as a guillotine, and a face that could sink ships.”

Marie Phillips, Gods Behaving Badly 

22. The Complete World of Greek Mythology, by Richard Buxton

This beautifully illustrated book is a must for Greek mythology lovers. In it, Professor Buxton goes beyond the tales and introduces readers to the chronology, family trees, cultural context, and geography involved in classic Greek myths. The Complete World of Greek Mythology is an engaging compendium of encyclopedic knowledge on the subject that will delight scholars and enthusiasts.

“No group of stories exhibits greater richness and depth, and certainly, none has been more influential than the set of tales which we know as ‘the Greek myths.’”

Richard Buxton, The Complete World of Greek Mythology

23. Galatea, by Madeline Miller

Set in ancient Greece, Galatea is the story of a skilled sculptor who created a statue of a lovely woman that the gods reward him by giving her life. He takes her as his wife but quickly becomes obsessive and controlling. When the sculptor’s compulsions threaten their daughter, however, Galatea summons strength and courage that will become the stuff of legends. Check out our list of the best authors like Tolkien for more.

“But I say this so that you understand what I was up against: that I was worth more to her sick than I was well.”

Madeline Miller, Galatea

24. The Trojan War, a New History, by Barry Strauss

While Homer’s tale of the infamous Trojan War is a cornerstone of cultural history, many know very little about the events that inspired it. Among academics, there is much debate about how much of the story is true and to what extent it has been embellished. With The Trojan War, A New History, scholar Barry Strauss sheds new light on the old legends. Replete with recent archaeological findings, Strauss reveals the most up-to-date research available on ancient Greece and its famed battles.

“Helios the Sun, who sees everything and knows the gods, is beginning his ride in his four-horse chariot, turning the sky a gauzy blue and the sea the color of widows’ tears.”

Barry Strauss, The Trojan War, A New History

25. Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes Handbook: From Aphrodite to Zeus, a Profile of Who’s Who in Greek Mythology, by Liv Albert

As the title suggests, this book is a handy reference for those who wish to learn about the major players of the ancient Greek world. Greek Mythology is smart, funny, thorough, and impeccably researched. The most valuable characteristic of this book is how Albert consistently enlightens readers on the relevance of the ancient myths, deftly drawing comparisons between them and modern pop culture.

“One of the torturous professors in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Alecto Carrow, was named for one of the Furies. The name of Alecto’s brother, Amycus, also game for Greek mythology: Amycus was a man who killed people by imprisoning them in a box.”

Liv Albert, Greek Mythology

26. The Odyssey, by Homer, Translated by Robert Fagles

The tale of the conquering hero king and his 10-year journey home has captivated audiences for thousands of years. This Academy Award-winning translation is the best in the modern era. Dr. Fagles taught literature at Princeton for many years and is best known for this translation of The Odyssey. In it, he retains the concise cadence of the original language while presenting the story in a compelling, lively, and readable way.

“You must not cling to your boyhood any longer — it’s time you were a man.”

Robert Fagles, The Odyssey

27. The Iliad, by Homer, Translated by Robert Fagles

Any dedicated student of the Greek myths must possess a copy of this, one of the world’s most famous poems. It is the story of the final days of the Trojan War, but on a much grander scale, it is a timeless reminder of the essence of humanity. This translation of The Iliad by renowned scholar Robert Fagles is accurate and appealing to the modern reader.

“Now with the squadrons marshaled, captains leading each,
the Trojans came with cries and the din of war like wildfowl
when the long hoarse cries of cranes sweep on against the sky
and the great formations flee from winter’s grim ungodly storms”

Robert Fagles, The Iliad

28. Icarus, by Adam Wing

This lyrical retelling of Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sun, is poignant, tragic, and nothing like the flat renditions you might have heard. Wing’s characters are full of life and breath and will have you hoping despite yourself that maybe you remember it wrong.

“Another part of Ik wanted more than the life he knew, wanted to stand face to face with someone, to hear their words and speak – and scream – his own back at them.”

Adam Wing, Icarus

Author

  • Stefani is a freelance writer who specializes in lifestyle and literary pieces. She worked for several years as a high school English teacher before becoming a full-time writer. Stefani is pursuing a graduate degree in English literature focusing on contemporary poetry. When not writing, you can find her in the garden, making plans for her next road trip, or in her workshop, where she restores vintage and antique furniture.