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.

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The books I picked & why

The World in the Viking Age

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

Book cover of The World in the Viking Age

Why did I love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World in the Viking Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Viking Age was ignited by the art of building seaworthy sailing ships and the skills to sail them on the open sea. The growth in seafaring, trade, piracy, and exploration that began to gather momentum during the 8th century CE was not limited to Europe's northern seas, however. Ships, laden with cargo and with seafarers who met foreign cultures, created unexpected connections between people from the Arctic Circle to the oceans south of the equator.

Travel accounts have handed down glimpses of these voyages to the present day. However, it is archaeological discoveries in particular which uncover the story…


Book cover of Chronicles of the Vikings

Why did I love 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’.

By R.I. Page,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Chronicles of the Vikings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Vikings are not known for their literate legacy. Little of what they once inscribed in runes on wood, bone, and stone has survived. However these runic inscriptions are a valuable primary source of information on the Viking Age. They alow us to see the Vikings from their own point of view, unlike the records of prejudiced observers who saw the Vikings only as savage invaders. Chronicles of the Vikings attempts to show the Vikings through their own writings: runic inscriptions left behind, poems of their official skalds, literary works that entertained them, the few prose historical accounts that derive…


Viking Art

By James Graham-Campbell,

Book cover of Viking Art

Why did I love 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.

By James Graham-Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Viking Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book distils a lifetime's study of Viking art. Written by a leading authority, it introduces all the intricate and beautiful art styles of the Viking age. It ranges in time from the first major Viking expeditions overseas around AD 800 to the general establishment of Christianity in Scandinavia some 300 years later. The opening chapter introduces the geographical and historical background to Viking culture; thematic chapters then describe and illustrate the six main Viking art styles, showing how they emerged from and interacted with one another. Delicate metalwork, elaborate wood-carvings and the famous Gotland picture-stones are all discussed. Viking…


The Vinland Sagas

By Unknown, Keneva Kunz (translator),

Book cover of The Vinland Sagas

Why did I love 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.

By Unknown, Keneva Kunz (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Vinland Sagas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



The Saga of the Greenlanders and Eirik the Red's Saga contain the first ever descriptions of North America, a bountiful land of grapes and vines, discovered by Vikings five centuries before Christopher Columbus. Written down in the early thirteenth century, they recount the Icelandic settlement of Greenland by Eirik the Red, the chance discovery by seafaring adventurers of a mysterious new land, and Eirik's son Leif the Lucky's perilous voyages to explore it. Wrecked by storms, stricken by disease and plagued by navigational mishaps, some survived the North Atlantic to pass down this compelling tale of the first Europeans to…


Book cover of Viking Poetry of Love and War

Why did I love 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.

By Judith Jesch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Viking Poetry of Love and War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"They are most famous for being violent invaders of foreign shores but a new book by a University of Nottingham Viking expert shows they were also poetry lovers with a wicked sense of humour! ‘Viking Poetry of Love and War’ by Professor Judith Jesch, of the University’s Centre for the Study of the Viking Age, is the first collection in English with extracts from the full range of Viking poetry published in the UK. The colourful volume published today by the British Museum, is an accessible introduction to the broad poetry ranges of the Vikings, from the highly formal to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vikings, explorers, and the Middle Ages?

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

Vikings Explore 95 books about Vikings
Explorers Explore 81 books about explorers
The Middle Ages Explore 362 books about the Middle Ages

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Far Traveler, Orkneyinga Saga, and The Book of Settlements if you like this list.