The best books on the stories and epics of Norse mythology

The Books I Picked & Why

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

By Ingri D'Aulaire, Edgar Parin D'Aulaire

Book cover of D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

Why this book?

It might seem strange to include a children’s picture book on a “Best Books in Norse Mythology” list, but D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths was my first exposure to the old Scandinavian tales when I was a young adult, and it stuck with me through the years. Not only are the illustrations wondrous, but the stories are told in a simple way that anyone can understand. I’ve found it hard to visualize concepts like Yggdrasil, aka the World Tree that supports the cosmos and the Nine Realms, but this book brought the World Tree to life in my mind’s eye. I continue to consult this little gem of a book from time to time and always smile at its delightful illustrations.

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Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman

Book cover of Norse Mythology

Why this book?

I’ve loved Neil Gaiman’s way with words since his groundbreaking Sandman comic series, so when I heard he was writing his version of the Norse myths, I jumped on the audiobook. Gaiman is an incredible storyteller who weaves complex, visceral stories that dig at your soul. Not only did this book refresh my education on the old myths, but Gaiman made them come to life in a way no one else can. Norse Mythology was the perfect starting place for me as I prepared to write my own story centered around the gods of the Vikings. I highly recommend the audiobook. Gaiman narrates it himself and does so beautifully. You won’t regret it.

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The Prose Edda

By Snorri Sturluson, Jesse L. Byock

Book cover of The Prose Edda

Why this book?

You can’t have a “Best of Norse Mythology” list without including this groundbreaking tome. Sturlusson was a thirteenth-century Icelander who was one of the first to physically document the Scandinavian myths, whose traditions had been passed down orally. He penned the Edda as a sort of handbook for skaldic poets to use when writing verse. The Edda is considered by many as the most important source for Norse mythology in existence. While conducting research for my series, the Prose Edda became my go-to bible for all things Norse. Every god, every story, every place you can imagine is included in this book. It is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to learn more about Norse mythology.

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Nordic Runes: Understanding, Casting, and Interpreting the Ancient Viking Oracle

By Paul Rhys Mountfort

Book cover of Nordic Runes: Understanding, Casting, and Interpreting the Ancient Viking Oracle

Why this book?

This book veers off the path of mythological source material into the land of metaphysics. It contains explanations and interpretations of Norse runes and how they were (and still are, by modern pagans) used for divination. The first part focuses on lore surrounding the runic alphabet—often called “Elder Futhark” runes, which can be traced back to Viking times. Part two discusses rune staves, which are formed by combinations of the individual runes to create powerful symbols. The book ends with a section on rune casting. In my research about Nordic runes, I found this book quite helpful and enlightening.

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The Wanderer's Havamal

By Jackson Crawford, Unknown

Book cover of The Wanderer's Havamal

Why this book?

This Old Norse poem was part of the collection of works included in the Poetic Edda, written around 1300 CE and collected by Snorri Sturlusson. It centers around the god Odin and includes advice for life and love, the story of Odin’s self-sacrifice on the World Tree of Yggdrasil, and eighteen spells Odin claims to know. The book provides revealing details about life in Viking times, but my favorite part is the section on spells, which include healing, manipulating metal so weapons do less damage, escape artistry, redirecting curses, calming winds, and even resurrection. Hávamál isn’t as popular as some of the other poems, but it’s worth a read for the insights into the god Odin and what makes him tick.

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