The best books about the Viking period

Max Adams Author Of Aelfred's Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age
By Max Adams

Who am I?

I study and write about the Early Medieval period, and in a series of books about its most important characters, its archaeology and landscapes, I've tried to share my lifelong passion for this most obscure and tantalizing period of our history – what we still call the Dark Ages. From the two most shadowy centuries after Rome's fall (The First Kingdom) to Northumbrian King Oswald (The King in the North), who brought Christianity into pagan Anglo-Saxon England, and a walking, riding, sailing tour of Britain's Dark Age lands and seas (In the Land of Giants), I see a continuity of rich cultures, vibrant politics and regional characters that help us to understand how and why we are like we are.

I wrote...

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

By Max Adams,

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

What is my 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 had come.

Max Adams tells the story of the heroic efforts of AElfred , his successors and fellow-kings of Britain, to adapt and survive in the face of an apocalyptic threat; and in so doing, to lay the foundations of the nations of modern Britain in all their regional diversity.

The books I picked & why

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The Northmen's Fury: A History of the Viking World

By Philip Parker,

Book cover of The Northmen's Fury: A History of the Viking World

Why this book?

Every subject needs a really sound, comprehensive introduction – and Parker's book is just that: a big, chunky history of the Vikings in all their guises, as traders, raiders, explorers, and entrepreneurs.  It's very well illustrated with photos and maps, lucidly written, and with a passion for the subject that is infectious. If you're looking for just one book to see you through the Vikings, make it this one.

The Vinland Sagas

By Unknown, Keneva Kunz (translator),

Book cover of The Vinland Sagas

Why this book?

When I write about any period, I want to go back to the original sources: The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the charters and, especially for the Viking period, the sagas. They may not be contemporary with the tales they tale – of adventure and murder, treasure, intrigue, and betrayal – but there is no more evocative way of hearing the 'voice' of far distant times and places. The Vinland Sagas, which includes the Saga of the Greenlanders and the Saga of Eirik the Red, tell of the great voyages to the west in search of Vinland. They are thrilling and accessible in a good English translation – a must-read for any Viking enthusiast.

Vikings of the Irish Sea

By David Griffiths,

Book cover of Vikings of the Irish Sea

Why this book?

This may not look, at first sight, like a book for the general reader. But in my research into the period I have found no more useful, better written, or more thought-provoking work. David Griffiths is, like me, an archaeologist; and he knows his material. How the Vikings explored, conquered, and settled the lands in and around the Irish Sea is a story of marvellous sculpture and enigmatic burial mound; of silver, towns and landscape. A very fine book.

The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Book cover of The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

Why this book?

Nancy Brown's search for one of the most intriguing characters of the sagas, Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, is both a detective story and an evocation; a travelogue and history. It brings the adventuring spirit of the age to life; and in exploring this most fascinating and intrepid woman – the first European to give birth on American soil – it warns us not to forget half of the Viking population.

The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

By John Haywood,

Book cover of The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings

Why this book?

If I'm to understand a period and a theme, I want maps: lots of them and packed with information. John Haywood's beautifully presented series of full-colour thematic and chronological maps is a perfect companion for the curious reader and student of the Viking period. It has good thematic summaries, plenty of illustrations and helps one to understand the sheer breadth and pace of Viking activity across Europe and beyond in the two centuries after the first raid on Lindisfarne. Invaluable.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in vikings, explorers, and the Norsemen?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about vikings, explorers, and the Norsemen.

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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