The best books for researching Vikings

Ian Stuart Sharpe Author Of Old Norse for Modern Times
By Ian Stuart Sharpe

Who am I?

Ian Stuart Sharpe likes to imagine he is descended from Guðrum, King of the East Angles, although DNA tests and a deep disdain for camping suggest otherwise. He is the author of two novels set in his alternate Vikingverse, the All Father Paradox and Loki’s Wager. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. It took him thirty years, but he has finally realised his dream.


I wrote...

Old Norse for Modern Times

By Ian Stuart Sharpe,

Book cover of Old Norse for Modern Times

What is my book about?

Have you ever wanted to wield the silver tongue of Loki, or to hammer home your point like a Thundergod? Old Norse is the language of legends and the stuff of sagas, the inspiration for Tolkien and Marvel, for award-winning manga and epic videogames. It is the language of cleverly crafted kennings, blood-curdling curses, and pithy retorts to Ragnarök. Old Norse for Modern Times gives you the perfect phrase for every contemporary situation:

Battle-cries to yell on Discord: "Do I look to be in a gaming mood?" Sýnisk þér ek vera í skapi til leika?"

Mead hall musings: "This drink, I like it! ANOTHER!" Líkar mér drykkr þessi! ANNAN!"

With over 500 phrases inside, it is the perfect guide for Vikings fans, whether they are re-enactors, role-players, or simply in love with Ragnar.

The Books I Picked & Why

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The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings

By Lars Brownwort,

Book cover of The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings

Why this book?

Lars Brownworth’s The Sea Wolves is a great place to begin your Viking voyage. Like any good Norse raid it is breathtaking and action-packed. It has a wide scope, colouring in all the corners of the Viking world, from the Vinland to Byzantium. It is easy to digest, and as swaggering as it is educational.


The Age of the Vikings

By Anders Winroth,

Book cover of The Age of the Vikings

Why this book?

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth is a more scholarly tome but far from pedestrian. This book takes you on a tour of the life and times of a Norseman, describing not just how they fought, but how they lived – detailing their poetry, politics, settlements, and ships. The Vikings you think you know are paper thin, two dimensional caricatures – Winroth makes sure the real deal leaps off the page and disabuses you of stereotypes.


Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

By Neil Price,

Book cover of Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Why this book?

The newest book on the list, Price doesn’t just deal with the what and when of the Viking phenomenon, he seeks to understand the how and why. The result is a fascination exploration of the Norse mind, that rivals any journey on a longship.


The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

By John Haywood,

Book cover of The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

Why this book?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what value is an illustrated, annotated map complete with key dates and a timeline?! Most books carry a few maps that help orientate you to the text, but this atlas is a treasure trove. It provides a visual context that is hugely helpful in understanding how the world of the Vikings evolved.


The Viking Wars: War and Peace in King Alfred's Britain: 789 - 955

By Max Adams,

Book cover of The Viking Wars: War and Peace in King Alfred's Britain: 789 - 955

Why this book?

Sometimes you have to walk a mile in another warrior’s boots. The Viking Wars tells the history of Britain in the Viking period, and shows how they weathered the storm. Being an Englishman, this book really made me feel like I was standing in a muddy field, facing the oncoming storm. The heroes of the history books become the protagonists in a life or death drama that literally helped shape the world we know today.


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