The best books for epic adventures at the beginning of time, and at the end of the world

Who am I?

Years ago, a young helicopter pilot struggled through thick fog to fly to his base in Southern Turkey. Through the mist, he briefly glimpsed a strange, Stonehenge-like ruin beneath his helicopter. The pilot would one day learn it was the excavation of Göbekli Tepe, a megalithic complex over 12,000 years old. These ruins were already ancient before the Great Pyramids were even built. I was that helicopter pilot, and this event inspired me to imagine the world that birthed Göbekli Tepe. That experience, and my five book recommendations, propelled me to write Black Sea Gods, the first novel in the epic fantasy series The Chronicles of Fu Xi.


I wrote...

Black Sea Gods: Chronicles of Fu Xi

By Brian Braden,

Book cover of Black Sea Gods: Chronicles of Fu Xi

What is my book about?

Before the Age of Mythology, there were Black Sea Gods.

The fish have disappeared from the sea. The animals have vanished from the land. All humanity, and even the gods, tremble under the specter of a pending cataclysm. A terrible curse has been cast by a mysterious power, one intended to destroy everything, even the gods. Humanity's last hope rests solely with a wandering demigod, a simple fisherman, and a banished slave girl. Beset on all sides by ancient foes, both immortal and mundane, they must act quickly to avert this dark curse. Over seven days, the defining struggle of gods and humans begins under the onslaught of a powerful force whose true purpose remains shadowed.

The books I picked & why

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The Odyssey

By Homer, Martin Hammond (translator),

Book cover of The Odyssey

Why this book?

All adventures begin with The Odyssey.

Before there was Don Quixote, Huckleberry Finn, or Bilbo Baggins, there was brave Odysseus. It was Homer who first taught us what it means to desperately desire “to make it there and back again.” For me, The Odyssey struck a personal cord. As a warrior who once answered his nation’s call, it often wasn’t the battles in far distant lands, but the journey home, that was most difficult. Home, that beautiful, powerful word, holds great magic for Odysseus, and for me, too. Many ideas can send a hero on an adventure, but only love of home can bring him back again. These are the greatest adventures of all, and why The Odyssey is foundational for my own novel.

The Odyssey

By Homer, Martin Hammond (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Muse, tell me of a man: a man of much resource, who was made to wander far and long, after he had sacked the sacred city of Troy. Many were the men whose lands he saw and came to know their thinking: many too the miseries at sea which he suffered in his heart, as he sought to win his own life and the safe return of his companions.' Recounting the epic journey home of Odysseus from the Trojan War, The Odyssey - alongside its sister poem The Iliad - stands as the well-spring of Western Civilisation and culture, an…

Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization

By Graham Hancock,

Book cover of Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization

Why this book?

“We are a species with amnesia.” – Graham Hancock. 

There was human history before there was human history, and traces of that lost time can be found in our myths and legends. In his breakout 1996 book, Fingerprints of the Gods author Graham Hancock puts forth the exciting, and highly controversial possibility that, thousands of years before the Egyptian and Mesopotamian civilizations, there may have been an advanced, global human civilization. He postulates this civilization was annihilated in a world-shattering catastrophe. Now, a quarter of a century after publication, science is slowly catching up with Hancock’s hypothesis.

Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization

By Graham Hancock,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Fingerprints of the Gods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Could the story of mankind be far older than we have previously believed? Using tools as varied as archaeo-astronomy, geology, and computer analysis of ancient myths, Graham Hancock presents a compelling case to suggest that it is.
 
“A fancy piece of historical sleuthing . . . intriguing and entertaining and sturdy enough to give a long pause for thought.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
In Fingerprints of the Gods, Hancock embarks on a worldwide quest to put together all the pieces of the vast and fascinating jigsaw of mankind’s hidden past. In ancient monuments as far apart as Egypt’s Great Sphinx, the strange Andean…

The Stand

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Stand

Why this book?

What happens after the End of the World? Is the end really the end? Stephen King’s classic masterpiece about the ultimate battle between good and evil following civilization’s collapse wrestles with this very concept. In his timeless epic, King explores the personal toll inflicted on those few who survive Armageddon, and how they react to being pawns of greater powers, both holy and unholy. When I read it the first time, I asked myself how I would react if I were one of King’s characters. Which side would I truly be on? King’s themes of good and evil, and what side we flawed humans would choose, works so well because his characters are so relatable. The Stand deeply impacted my writing style, and my own novel.

The Stand

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

15 authors picked The Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by virus and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Soon to be a television series.

'THE STAND is a masterpiece' (Guardian). Set in a virus-decimated US, King's thrilling American fantasy epic, is a Classic.

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams.

Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of…


The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One

By Jean M. Auel,

Book cover of The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One

Why this book?

“Archeology” is the study of human prehistory through the excavation and analysis of artifacts and other physical remains. Author Jean M. Auel humanized what archeologists coldly classified as the human sub-species Homo Neanderthalensis, and changed literature forever. In her 1980 breakout novel The Clan of the Cave Bear she breathed life into bits of bone, stone chips, and cave art and, in the doing, made Neanderthals real to millions of readers. Jean M. Auel gave Neanderthals real hopes, fears, love and inner darkness. Through the eyes of a Cro-Magnon girl named Ayla, Auel saw Neanderthals not as primitive brutes, but fully realized people. This fictionalized humanity of what previously was only abstract scientific theory profoundly inspired me as a writer, and influenced my novel.

The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One

By Jean M. Auel,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Clan of the Cave Bear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by…

Nart Sagas from the Caucasus

By John Colarusso,

Book cover of Nart Sagas from the Caucasus

Why this book?

Every myth has an origin, a root. Perhaps the root of all human mythos originated deep in the mountains that lay east of the Black Sea. Nart Sagas from the Caucuses, by John Colarusso, brims with exciting stories of an ancient mythological race of heroic demigods called Narts. These stories were almost lost to history when the Caucus mountain tribes suffered genocide at Russia’s hands. Through “linguistic archeology,” Colarusso rediscovered and breathed new life into this nearly extinct folklore. The author postulates the Nart Sagas not only heavily influenced more familiar European and Asian myths, but may pre-date them and may be the direct link to humanity’s Indo-European roots.

Nart Sagas from the Caucasus

By John Colarusso,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nart Sagas from the Caucasus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Nart sagas are to the Caucasus what Greek mythology is to Western civilization. This book presents, for the first time in the West, a wide selection of these fascinating myths preserved among four related peoples whose ancient cultures today survive by a thread. In ninety-two straightforward tales populated by extraordinary characters and exploits, by giants who humble haughty Narts, by horses and sorceresses, Nart Sagas from the Caucasus brings these cultures to life in a powerful epos. In these colorful tales, women, not least the beautiful temptress Satanaya, the mother of all Narts, are not only fertility figures but…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in good and evil, prehistory, and explorers?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about good and evil, prehistory, and explorers.

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