Books

20 must-read Greek mythology books and retellings

In these 20 must-read Greek mythology books, classic Greek myths are reimagined and retold by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Madeline Miller, Stephen Fry, Ali Smith, Colm Tóibín and more. From Achilles and Odysseus to Penelope, Helen and Paris, these are the stories of gods, goddesses, and mortals as you've never heard them before.

By Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child - not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she possesses the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
By Margaret Atwood
In this shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus, Margaret Atwood gives voice to his wife Penelope so that can tell her story at last and set the record straight once and for all.
By Stephen Fry
Here are the thrills, grandeur, and unabashed fun of the Greek myths, stylishly retold by Stephen Fry. The writer, actor, and comedian breathes life into ancient tales, from Pandora's box to Prometheus's fire, and transforms the adventures of Zeus and the Olympians into emotionally resonant and deeply funny stories, without losing any of their original wonder.
By Pat Barker
The Iliad is a story of male power, male ego, male violence. But what of the women? The thousands of female slaves in the soldiers' camp - in the laundry, at the loom, laying out the dead? Queen Briseis has been stolen from her conquered homeland and given as a concubine to a foreign warrior, Achilles - she is one of their number, and she will be our witness to history.
By Pat Barker
A daring and timely feminist retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women of Troy who endured it - an extraordinary follow up to The Silence of the Girls from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Regeneration Trilogy.
By Andre Alexis
A bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto veterinary clinic. Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The contemporary take on the apologue offers an utterly compelling and affecting look at the beauty and perils of human consciousness.
By Chigozie Obioma
A heartbreaking story about a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves. Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer's Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
By Natalie Haynes
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, a gorgeous retelling of the Trojan War from the perspectives of the many women involved in its causes and consequences. From the Trojan women whose fates now lie in the hands of the Greeks, to the Amazon princess who fought Achilles on their behalf, to Penelope awaiting the return of Odysseus, to the three goddesses whose feud started it all, these are the stories of the women whose lives, loves, and rivalries were forever altered by this long and tragic war.
By Alexandra Bracken
Every seven years nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines. Long ago, Lore fled that brutal world in the wake of her family's murder, yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods. But Lore's decision to rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost - and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
By Ali Smith
A brilliant retelling of Ovid’s gender-bending myth of Iphis and Ianthe, as seen through the eyes of two Scottish sisters. Girl Meets Boy is about girls and boys, girls and girls, love and transformation, and the absurdity of consumerism, as well as a story of reversals and revelations that is as sharply witty as it is lyrical.
By Colm Tóibín
A retelling of the story of Clytemnestra and her children. Colm Tóibín brings a modern sensibility and language to an ancient classic, and gives this extraordinary character new life, so that we not only believe Clytemnestra’s thirst for revenge, but applaud it. He brilliantly inhabits the mind of one of Greek myth’s most powerful villains to reveal the love, lust, and pain she feels.
By Emily Hauser
Krisayis, the ambitious, determined daughter of the High Priest of Troy, and Briseis, loyal and passionate princess of Pedasus, interweave their tales alongside Homer’s classic story of the rage of Achilles and the gods of Olympus. What follows is a breathtaking tale of love and revenge, destiny and the determination, as these two brave women, the heroes of the Trojan War, and the gods themselves come face to face in an epic battle that will decide the fate of Troy.
By Fran Ross
A pioneering, dazzling satire about a biracial black girl from Philadelphia searching for her Jewish father in New York City. A playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.
By Katharine Beutner
In Greek mythology, Alcestis is known as the good wife; she loved her husband so much that she died and went to the underworld in his place. This compelling new take on the classic story gives voice to the woman behind the ideal: What were her true motivations? And what happened to Alcestis in the three days she spent in the afterlife?
By Madeline Miller
A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly re-imagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner.
By Margaret George
Laden with doom, yet surprising in its moments of innocence and beauty, Helen of Troy is an exquisite page-turner with a cast of irresistible, legendary characters - Odysseus, Hector, Achilles, Menelaus, Priam, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon, as well as Helen and Paris themselves. With a wealth of material that reproduces the Age of Bronze in all its glory, it brings to life a war that we have all learned about but never before experienced.
By Marie Phillips
The 12 Greek Gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 20th century and they are crammed together in a London townhouse and none of them ate too happy about it. Nor are they about their "new" jobs they have to perform (even Gods in today's society have to have a paycheck). However, their world really is turned-upside-down when their mortal housekeeper Alice and her would-be boyfriend Neil get involved. The most zany, amusing, poignant collision between gods and mortals since Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
By Mary Renault
In myth, Theseus was the slayer of the child-devouring Minotaur in Crete. What the founder-hero might have been in real life is another question, brilliantly explored here. Drawing on modern scholarship and archaeological findings at Knossos, Mary Renault’s Theseus is an utterly lifelike figure - a king of immense charisma whose boundless strivings flow from strength and weakness - but also one steered by implacable prophecy.
By Natalie Haynes
From Natalie Haynes, the Women's Prize shortlisted author of A Thousand Ships, comes the retelling of Oedipus and Antigone from the perspectives of the women the myths overlooked. Jocasta is just 15 when she is told that she must marry the King of Thebes. Ismene is the same age when she is attacked in the palace she calls home. With the turn of these two events, a tragedy is set in motion. But not as you know it.
By Jennifer Saint
Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice. When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Ariadne forges a new epic, one that puts the forgotten women of Greek mythology back at the heart of the story, as they strive for a better world.

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