The Best Books On Vikings

By Tom Shippey

The Books I Picked & Why

The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

By Neil Price

The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

Why this book?

Many thousands of Viking graves have now been excavated, and all one can say is, the Vikings were weirder than we ever imagined. They lived in close contact with “circumpolar” people, and their graves show evidence of shamanism, sexual ambiguity, witchcraft, inexplicable rituals. Valkyries, shield-maidens, berserks, weapon-dancers, all come into consideration. Vikings will never seem the same again. A hundred figures and tables.


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Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

By Neil Price

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Why this book?

This is another door-stopper of a book from Professor Price. It begins before the Viking Age, with the development of a “gangster culture”, probably exacerbated by the volcanic eruptions of the mid-sixth century, which may have killed off 50% of the population of Scandinavia: the “Fimbulwinter” of Norse myth. Most such histories are based on the accounts of the Vikings’ victims. This one sees the Vikings as they saw themselves. 20 color plates.


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Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough

Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

Why this book?

Dr Barraclough not only traces Viking voyages north, south, east and west, she has followed in their footsteps. She was knighted with the penis-bone of a walrus by the Polar Bear Society of Hammarfest, saw the runestones commemorating those who “died in the east with Ingvar,” and mapped saga accounts of Newfoundland. Grisly information about Icelandic “necropants” and the Greenland hero “Corpse-Lodin.” Particularly beautiful color plates.


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Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014

By Clare Downham

Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014

Why this book?

This book traces, first, the career of Ívarr the Boneless as recorded in Irish and English sources, and second, the long struggle between his descendants and those of King Alfred, which dominated British and Irish history for 150 years. Dr Downham shows that, without Ívarr, neither England, Scotland, Wales nor Ireland would be the way they are. A challenge to nationalist histories, through the life of an anti-hero.


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The Vikings: Wolves of War

By Martin Arnold

The Vikings: Wolves of War

Why this book?

Dr Arnold’s book begins with the grisly cenotaph discovered at Repton, which may well be the burial-site of Ívarr the Boneless. His book combines historical, literary and archaeological sources to give a balanced and comprehensive survey of the Vikings, briefly and at an affordable price. The best book to put into a student’s hands.


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