The best books on mythology and its impact on the world

Who am I?

Graeme Davis has been fascinated by myth and folklore ever since he saw Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in Jason and the Argonauts as a child. While studying archaeology at Durham University, he became far too involved with a new game called Dungeons & Dragons and went on to a career in fantasy games. He has written game sourcebooks on various ancient cultures and their myths, and worked as a researcher and consultant on multiple video games with historical and mythological settings.


I wrote...

Thor: Viking God of Thunder

By Graeme Davis,

Book cover of Thor: Viking God of Thunder

What is my book about?

Thor is best known today as a superhero in Marvel comics and films. In many ways he is the ultimate Viking: bluff, hearty, strong, and direct. And so he was in the earliest surviving stories from Norse myth. The thunder god has survived Roman attempts to conflate him with Classical gods, the bowdlerization of early Christian writers, Nazi attempts to co-opt him and his symbols, and more – and he has done so remarkably unchanged.

The books I picked & why

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Why this book?

Campbell’s work on the phenomenon of mythology came to prominence in the late 1970s when George Lucas named this book as an influence on the story of Star Wars (known today as Episode Four: A New Hope). While the field has advanced since the book was first published in 1949 and there has been some backlash in response to Campbell’s sudden Star Wars popularity, there is still a lot here that is interesting, especially the idea that some story structures have a cross-cultural appeal because they speak to a part of the human mind that is common to all of us.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special. The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages…


Myth: A Biography of Belief

By David Leeming,

Book cover of Myth: A Biography of Belief

Why this book?

This short book takes a deep dive into the nature of mythology and its relationship to the human mind. As well as the mythologies of past civilizations, Leeming examines modern-day myths and cultural beliefs and shows how myths are living and evolving things that serve a human need to understand the universe. If you have ever wondered what makes a myth a myth, or why everyone seems to have them, this book has some interesting answers.

Myth: A Biography of Belief

By David Leeming,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell wrote that mythology is "the wonderful song of the soul's high adventure." In Myth, David Leeming considers the role this "wonderful song" has to play in a world increasingly dependent on scientific and technical information.
Exploring classic works such as the Song of Songs, the Tao Te Ching, the Rg Veda, the New Testament, and the Indonesian myth of Hainuwele, Myth reveals the cultural energies that ancient "mythmakers" sought to corral in their creations. Leeming argues that myths are, by definition, evolving creations that live on in the work of modern-day "mythmakers" such as W.B. Yeats, Virginia Woolf,…


The History of the Kings of Britain

By Geoffrey of Monmouth, Neil Wright (translator), Michael D. Reeve (editor)

Book cover of The History of the Kings of Britain

Why this book?

In the history of almost every culture, there comes a point where the tales of gods and heroes begin to fade into recorded mortal history. In Greek mythology, Homer’s account of the Trojan War in the Iliad is that point. In British history, Geoffrey of Monmouth recounts the transition without consciously meaning to do so. Written in the 12th century before there was a difference between myth and history, this book interweaves the two as it tries to tell the early history of the British Isles. It is also notable as an early source on King Arthur and Merlin.

The History of the Kings of Britain

By Geoffrey of Monmouth, Neil Wright (translator), Michael D. Reeve (editor)

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The History of the Kings of Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This imaginative history of the Britons, written in the twelfth century, is the first work to recount the woes of Lear and the glittering career of Arthur. It rapidly became a bestseller in the British Isles and Francophone Europe, with over 200 manuscripts surviving. Here, an authoritative version of the text is presented with a facing translation, prepared especially for the volume. It also contains a full introduction and notes.

MICHAEL REEVEis Kennedy Professor of Latin Emeritus at the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge; Dr NEIL WRIGHT is a Senior Language Teaching Officer at the Faculty of History, University…


The Quest of the Holy Grail

By Unknown, Pauline M. Matarasso (translator),

Book cover of The Quest of the Holy Grail

Why this book?

This is an early example of mythology being used for a deliberate purpose: in this case, the promotion of Christian chivalric virtue. Full of dreamlike images and allegories, it also had a great influence on early fantasy writing, even if those creating early fantasy tales had never read it. And then, of course, there’s Monty Python.

The Quest of the Holy Grail

By Unknown, Pauline M. Matarasso (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Composed by an unknown author in early thirteenth-century France, The Quest of the Holy Grail is a fusion of Arthurian legend and Christian symbolism, reinterpreting ancient Celtic myth as a profound spiritual fable. It recounts the quest of the knights of Camelot - the simple Perceval, the thoughtful Bors, the rash Gawain, the weak Lancelot and the saintly Galahad - as they journey through danger and temptation to reach the elusive Holy Grail. But only one of them is judged worthy to see the mysteries within the sacred vessel, and look upon the ineffable. Enfused with tragic grandeur and an…


Holy Blood, Holy Grail

By Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln

Book cover of Holy Blood, Holy Grail

Why this book?

This book is a near-perfect example of how an ancient myth can spawn a modern urban myth or conspiracy theory. Best known today for having inspired Dan Brown’s blockbuster The da Vinci Code – so much so that the authors unsuccessfully sued Brown’s publisher for plagiarism – this book weaves together fragments of myth and mysticism, strange events from more recent history, and political intrigue to create a fascinating tale about the lost bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalen.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail

By Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Holy Blood, Holy Grail as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is the traditional, accepted view of the life of Christ in some way incomplete?

• Is it possible Christ did not die on the cross?
• Is it possible Jesus was married, a father, and that his bloodline still exists?
• Is it possible that parchments found in the South of France a century ago reveal one of the best-kept secrets of Christendom?
• Is it possible that these parchments contain the very heart of the mystery of the Holy Grail?

According to the authors of this extraordinarily provocative, meticulously researched book, not only are these things possible — they…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Holy Grail, myth, and France?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Holy Grail, myth, and France.

The Holy Grail Explore 7 books about the Holy Grail
Myth Explore 58 books about myth
France Explore 690 books about France

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Oxford Companion to World Mythology, and A Moveable Feast if you like this list.