The best books inspired by Greek mythology

Jordanna Max Brodsky Author Of The Immortals
By Jordanna Max Brodsky

The Books I Picked & Why

The Song of Achilles

By Madeline Miller

Book cover of The Song of Achilles

Why this book?

Before Miller introduced readers to the inner life of the Odyssey’s famous sorceress in her wildly popular Circe, she breathed life into a minor character in Homer’s other great epic, the Iliad. In a book I find more compelling and satisfying than Circe, Miller retells the story of the Trojan War through the eyes of Patroclus, best friend to the great hero Achilles. The Song of Achilles is both a magical coming-of-age tale and an unconventional love story that begins long before the ships set sail for Troy. Patroclus is deeply mortal; Achilles is the son of a goddess, endowed with phenomenal skill in battle. As myth and legend unfold around them, their friendship evolves into a love story every bit as epic as that of Helen and Paris.

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The King Must Die

By Mary Renault

Book cover of The King Must Die

Why this book?

Mary Renault’s deep research illuminates the most elusive and fascinating aspects of classical life, from the Labyrinth to the Eleusinian Mysteries and beyond. The King Must Die and its sequel, The Bull from the Sea, tell the story of Theseus, slayer of the Minotaur and great king of Athens. As a hero from the generation before the Trojan War, his story is essential for understanding later legends. Renault places her compelling characters in a propulsive plot full of adventure, adultery, and magic to transport readers to an unforgettable world of gods, heroes, and monsters.

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By Stephen Fry

Book cover of Mythos

Why this book?

For those who find Edith Hamilton’s Mythology a bit dry for the modern day, Stephen Fry’s Mythos: The Greek Myths Reimagined presents a comprehensive anthology of the major myths, retold with verve and humor for an adult audience. Fry may be best known as a humorist and actor, but he’s also got serious classical chops. He interweaves his immensely readable myths with thoughtful analysis, the occasional scholarly footnote, and helpful illustrations. An excellent resource and a great read.  

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By Ovid, Allen Mandelbaum

Book cover of Metamorphoses

Why this book?

Ancient Roman poet Ovid gives us the definitive versions of nearly 250 different myths, most involving transformations of men and women into beasts, trees, or flowers. If that sounds dull, know that there’s more incest than Game of Thrones and more bloody mutilation than a Quentin Tarantino flick. Some tales, like that of Orpheus and Eurydice, are well-known. Others, like the story of the fleet-footed Atalanta, should be. For anyone interested in writing their own story inspired by Greek myth, Ovid’s Metamorphoses provides an invaluable source of inspiration. Read Allen Mandelbaum’s excellent poetic translation for the most authentic experience.

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Lovely War

By Julie Berry

Book cover of Lovely War

Why this book?

At the height of World War Two, Aphrodite meets Ares and Hephaestus in a Manhattan hotel room, seeking to finally make peace between her husband and her lover. To do so, she tells the story of two young couples amid the killing fields of World War One, battling war and racism alike in their determined quest for love. Lovely War is a YA novel thoughtful enough for adults, one that interweaves a gripping historical romance and the profound themes of  Greek myth.

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