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.

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The books I picked & why

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

Why did I love 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.

By Lars Brownwort,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In AD 793 Norse warriors struck the English isle of Lindisfarne and laid waste to it. Wave after wave of Norse ‘sea-wolves’ followed in search of plunder, land, or a glorious death in battle. Much of the British Isles fell before their swords, and the continental capitals of Paris and Aachen were sacked in turn. Turning east, they swept down the uncharted rivers of central Europe, captured Kiev and clashed with mighty Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

But there is more to the Viking story than brute force. They were makers of law - the term itself comes…

The Age of the Vikings

By Anders Winroth,

Book cover of The Age of the Vikings

Why did I love 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.

By Anders Winroth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships to explore. The Age of the Vikings tells the full story of this exciting period in history. Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage. He not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavors in…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Children of Ash and Elm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


'As brilliant a history of the Vikings as one could possibly hope to read' Tom Holland

The 'Viking Age' is traditionally held to begin in June 793 when Scandinavian raiders attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, and to end in September 1066, when King Harald Hardrada of Norway died leading the charge against the English line at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This book, the most wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of the current state of our knowledge, takes a refreshingly different view. It shows that the Viking expansion began generations before the…

Book cover of The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

Why did I love 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.

By John Haywood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Viking marauders in their longships burst through the defences of ninth-century Europe, striking terror into the hearts of peasants and rulers alike for two centuries. But the Vikings were more than just marine warriors and this atlas shows their development as traders and craftsmen, explorers, settlers and mercenaries. With over sixty full colour maps, it follows the tracks of the Viking merchants who travelled deep into Russia, of Viking mercenaries who served in the emperor's bodyguard at Constantinople, and Viking mariners who sailed beyond the edge of the known world to North America.

Book cover of Aelfred's Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age

Why did I love 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.

By Max Adams,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Aelfred's Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The story of Aelfred the Great, his war against the Vikings and the foundations of modern Britain.

In AD 865, a 'great host' of battle-hardened Norse warriors landed on England's eastern coast, overwhelmed East Anglia with terrifying swiftness and laid the North to waste. Ghosting along estuaries and inshore waters, in 871 they penetrated deep into the southern kingdom of Wessex, ruled over by a new and untested king, AElfred son of AEdelwulf. It seemed as though the End of Days was come.

Max Adams tells the story of the heroic efforts of AElfred, his successors and fellow-kings of Britain,…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vikings, the Norsemen, and Vikings?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Vikings, the Norsemen, and Vikings.

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Vikings Explore 95 books about Vikings

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