The best books about the Hero's Journey

Who am I?

I have come to better understand myself as a character in a wonderful story called life. That story, in this lifetime, is bookended by birth and death. It’s my own personal narrative of transformation and it’s ongoing. What will come next on my individual Hero’s Journey? Understanding this story structure provides me with insights and inspiration to make it a good story with a happy ending. It also helps me appreciate that there are many challenges to be overcome along the way.


I wrote...

Serpent Rising

By Victor Acquista,

Book cover of Serpent Rising

What is my book about?

Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards for Best New Age Fiction. A blend of mystery, suspense, adventure, and thriller, book one of The Saga of Venom and Flame recounts a heroine's journey of transformation into a warrior for truth in the great War of the Two Serpents.

Serena Mendez is a pill-popping dysfunctional who is haunted by trauma she experienced in her youth. She is unaware of her latent potential. A clandestine brotherhood hunts her for the threat she represents. To fulfill her true destiny and unleash the power within her blood, Serena journeys to six continents where she uncovers the truth of who she is, and what she must do. A warrior stirs—a Lightbringer… She is Serena Mendez… She is a Candelaria.

The books I picked & why

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The Odyssey

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Book cover of The Odyssey

Why this book?

It doesn’t get any more epic or classic than Homer’s Odyssey. Of the many trials the hero overcomes, outwitting Polyphemus (the Cyclops), and tying himself to his ship’s mast to hear the alluring call of the Sirens, are my two favorites. Everything about this war-weary hero’s saga to return back from Troy to Ithaca is storytelling at its finest. I’ve always loved Greek mythology, and Homer demonstrates the capricious pettiness of the gods as they play games with us mere mortals. When Odysseus finally gets home, everything is changed. He’s changed. At least his dog still recognizes him. Read it and you will understand why this is a story that books are written about.

The Odyssey

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan War has inspired  writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus  survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops  and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens' song  and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his  most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous  suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal  wife, Penelope. Favorite of the gods, Odysseus  embodies the energy, intellect, and resourcefulness  that were of highest value to the ancients and that  remain ideals in out time.

In this  new…

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Why this book?

It’s almost impossible to discuss the Hero’s Journey without paying homage to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This work by a noted mythologist and scholar is so instrumental in helping us to understand the story of humanity. This book helps me to appreciate that we are all storytellers, and our individual and collective stories are rooted in archetypes, myths, and heroic tales. I love his ability to dissect the cross-cultural features of the stories we tell. Campbell’s seminal work is among the most influential books of the twentieth century. It helps me to understand my own personal narrative and human history through the lens of story.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special. The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages…

The Hobbit

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Hobbit

Why this book?

Middle Earth, as depicted in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, is such a magical place! This story absolutely enthralled me in my youth and helped to start a lifelong appreciation of rich fantasy. Wizards and dwarves and, of course, hobbits stimulated my imagination. What’s not to love? 

I studied this book in a college literature course and loved it even more for some of the themes and symbolism. Greed and power and how they both motivate and corrupt are part of the story. Mostly, the tale provides me with a magical place to escape to go on a quest together with Bilbo. As for a Hero’s Journey, it doesn’t get any more classic. Gandalf provides the call to action and the hitherto unassuming Bilbo finds himself on an unwanted and unexpected adventure. His account—There and Back Again—is a story of personal transformation and empowerment. He discovers that he’s got a strength and mettle he didn’t realize he possessed prior to leaving his comfortable hobbit-hole in the Shire. He’s also got a magic ring of power. Hmmm, that could be a problem.

The Hobbit

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

25 authors picked The Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Special collector's film tie-in hardback of the best-selling classic, featuring the complete story with a sumptuous cover design inspired by THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY and brand new reproductions of all the drawings and maps by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely travelling further than the pantry of his hobbit-hole in Bag End.

But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard, Gandalf, and a company of thirteen dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an unexpected journey 'there and back again'. They have a plot to raid…


The Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Lizbeth Zwerger (illustrator),

Book cover of The Wizard of Oz

Why this book?

I love when an author weaves social issues into the plot and character. Baum wrote an extensive political allegory in the guise of children’s literature. You have to know a little about the controversies of the time he wrote the story, especially backing paper currency with precious metals. Gold (yellow brick road), silver (Dorothy’s slippers are silver in the book), and greenbacks (the Emerald City is a metaphor for Washington, D.C.) are all in the story and reflect Baum’s views about the illusory value of paper money. More importantly, he is commentating upon power and wealth and oppression in America.

The narrative structure is a straightforward hero’s (heroine’s) journey–leave the current world (Kansas), travel on a dangerous adventure in a faraway place (Oz), and return home wiser and transformed. I first learned about this in an American history class. The movie adaptation of the book is great, but it doesn’t capture the full meaning and impact of the story. Lions, tigers, and bears–Oh my! I’ve just touched upon some of the symbolism in this political allegory.

The Wizard of Oz

By L. Frank Baum, Lizbeth Zwerger (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

HarperCollins is proud to present its range of best-loved, essential classics.

'"Come along, Toto," she said. "We will go to the Emerald City and ask the Great Oz how to get back to Kansas again."'

Swept away from her home in Kansas by a tornado, Dorothy and her dog Toto find themselves stranded in the fantastical Land of Oz. As instructed by the Good Witch of the North and the Munchkins, Dorothy sets off on the yellow brick road to try and find her way to the Emerald City and the Wizard of Oz, who can help her get home.…


The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

By Christopher Vogler,

Book cover of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

Why this book?

This is an indispensable craft book. While Campbell provides in-depth analyses of myth and storytelling, Vogler takes the structural elements of writing a hero’s journey and provides detailed practical guidance about how to write using this narrative structure. In a sense, Campbell tells us what the ingredients are, but Vogler gives writers, such as myself, an instruction guide on how to mix these ingredients in plot and character arcs. 

Until I heard him speak and understood the depth and detail of this essential guide, I didn’t realize how influential Vogler is. I see that influence in books and movies all the time. Many screenwriters, playwrights, and novelists have benefitted from reading his manual. In so many ways, my writer’s journey is captured by the narrative of a hero’s journey—a call to go on a creative journey, fraught with many challenges and frustrations, and it continues to this day. As Vogler points out, the Hero’s Journey and the Writer’s Journey are the same. Aren’t we all the heroes of our own stories?

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

By Christopher Vogler,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Writer's Journey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally an influential memo Vogler wrote for Walt Disney Animation executives regarding The Lion King, The Writer’s Journey details a twelve-stage, myth-inspired method that has galvanized Hollywood’s treatment of cinematic storytelling. A format that once seldom deviated beyond a traditional three-act blueprint, Vogler’s comprehensive theory of story structure and character development has met with universal acclaim, and is detailed herein using examples from myths, fairy tales, and classic movies. This book has changed the face of screenwriting worldwide over the last 25 years, and continues to do so.

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