The best books on Vikings: their day-to-day life, achievements, and culture

Else Roesdahl Author Of The Vikings
By Else Roesdahl

Who am I?

Else Roesdahl has a life-long passion for Vikings. She is emerita professor of Medieval Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and has travelled all over the Viking world and taken part in many excavations. She has also organized major international Viking Exhibitions and published academic as well as popular books, for which she has been awarded several prizes.

I wrote...

The Vikings

By Else Roesdahl,

Book cover of The Vikings

What is my book about?

The Viking Age is shot through with the spirit of adventure. For 300 years, from just before AD800 until well into the eleventh century, the Vikings affected almost every region accessible to their ships, and left traces that are still part of life today.

Far from being just wild, barbaric, axe-wielding pirates, the Vikings created complex social institutions, oversaw the coming of Christianity to Scandinavia, and made a major impact on European history through trade, travel, and far-flung consolidation. This encyclopedic study brings together the latest research on Viking art, burial customs, class divisions, jewelry, kingship, poetry, and family life. The result is a rich and compelling picture of an extraordinary civilization.

The Books I Picked & Why

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The World in the Viking Age

By Søren M. Sindbæk (editor), Athena Trakadas (editor),

Book cover of The World in the Viking Age

Why this book?

This well-written and well-illustrated book tells the story of Vikings, their ships, travels, and trade in the context of the global history of the ancient World – reaching from the Atlantic to China and from North Norway to Africa. The Vikings were far from the only great seafarers, warriors, and tradesmen of their time. They were part of far-flung networks, which also traded ideas. Contemporary travel accounts and recent archaeological investigations and finds are important components of this attractive book, written by international specialists.

Chronicles of the Vikings

By R.I. Page,

Book cover of Chronicles of the Vikings

Why this book?

There is no better way to get to know the Vikings than by their own sayings and other contemporary descriptions and stories. This book is a carefully chosen and lively selection of extracts of such sources, from their own rune-stone inscriptions, intriguing poetry and historic writings to English, German and Russian accounts – all set in their context and divided into topics such as ‘All sorts of conditions for men’, ‘Myth, Religion and Superstition’, ‘The Heroic life’ – and ‘The unheroic life’.

Viking Art

By James Graham-Campbell,

Book cover of Viking Art

Why this book?

The Vikings’ lively, intriguing, and carefully executed art is one of their great achievements. This handsome and lavishly illustrated book provides a survey of the development and meanings of Viking art, as well as examples of how the art was used – on ships, buildings, memorials, jewelry, textiles, weapons, and much else. It was an art based on animals in various guises, but plant ornament gradually also came into use, and in recent years many more pictures of human (and semi-human) beings have come to light.

The Vinland Sagas

By Unknown, Keneva Kunz (translator),

Book cover of The Vinland Sagas

Why this book?

The settlement of Greenland and the first visits to America by Europeans are among the most interesting achievements of the Vikings. This took place around the year 1000 AD, and two hundred years later stories of these events were recorded in two sagas: Groenlendinga saga and Eirik’s saga. Not every word should be trusted, but they provide lively and dramatic tales of how it all may have happened and of persons involved. The main events and the chronology are confirmed by archaeology. This small and handy book (find a fairly recent copy of the many paperback editions) is splendid entertainment and also a great companion at site visits.

Viking Poetry of Love and War

By Judith Jesch,

Book cover of Viking Poetry of Love and War

Why this book?

In this small and colourful volume the reader is introduced to a wide range of Viking ‘life’ through poetry – from highly formal and (one may say) cruel poems composed in honour of Viking chieftains and kings on honour, battle, blood, and death, to others on age discrepancies, very attractive men or eternal reputation.

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