The best books for understanding the Vikings

Who am I?

I am a writer of historical fiction. When I was in my teens, my family embarked on a project to trace our ancestry and identify our living relatives. Through church records in Sweden and Norway, we found that Harald Fairhair (Harfagr), the first king of Norway is one of our ancestors. Those explorations gave me the seeds of my first novel of Viking-Age Norway, The Half-Drowned King, and the subsequent books in the trilogy.

I wrote...

The Golden Wolf Saga: The Half-Drowned King

By Linnea Hartsuyker,

Book cover of The Golden Wolf Saga: The Half-Drowned King

What is my book about?

An exhilarating saga of the Vikings that conjures a brutal, superstitious, and thrilling ninth-century world and the birth of a kingdom—the debut installment in a historical literary trilogy that combines the bold imagination and sweeping narrative power of Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander. Centuries ago, in a blood-soaked land ruled by legendary gods and warring men, a prophecy foretold of a high king who would come to reign over all of the north...

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Viking Achievement

By P.G. Foote, D.M. Wilson,

Book cover of The Viking Achievement

Why this book?

This is one of the first books of Viking history that approached the Vikings on their own terms rather than their effect on Christian Europe. It illuminates areas of their lives like Viking technology, laws, and social organizations, and then how Viking explorers, traders, and raiders exported those abroad. As I began researching my Viking novels, this was one of the books that brought me into the Viking world the most fully.

Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

By William F. Fitzhugh, Elisabeth Ward,

Book cover of Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

Why this book?

One of the best ways to envision a historical period is to see its artifacts. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga is a companion to a Smithsonian exhibit of the same name and contains a rich trove of images and descriptions of viking physical culture, along with essays about the archeology of their discovery, and how they were used in the exploration of the North Atlantic, and the eventual journey to the New World.

Women in the Viking Age

By Judith Jesch,

Book cover of Women in the Viking Age

Why this book?

Myths about viking women abound, but Judith Jesch’s book is grounded in what we can know from the archeological, historical, and literary record. That still paints a vivid picture of the Viking women who remained in the traditional feminine sphere, and those who ventured into men’s. As Women in the Viking Age reveals, Viking women were farmers, housewives, managers of hundreds of servants, explorers, priestesses, rich benefactors, and war-leaders. In many ways, their lives were more varied than men’s.

Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Book cover of Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

Why this book?

Snorri Sturluson wrote many of the Icelandic Sagas from which we draw our knowledge of Vikings and Norse mythology. Though he lived in post-Viking 12th century Iceland, understanding his context and remarkable life is key in understanding how we perceive Vikings today. Snorri, as Brown says, is the Homer of the North, but we know a great deal more about him than Homer, from his tempestuous homelife, and his political machinations to his violent end. I picked up this book wanting to learn more about Vikings but ended up both entranced and frustrated by Snorri’s larger-than-life personality.

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

By Ingri D'Aulaire, Edgar Parin D'Aulaire,

Book cover of D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

Why this book?

Why am I including a children’s book? Because this is where it all started for me, with these beautifully illustrated stories of Thor, Oddi, Freya, Sif, frost giants, dwarves and gods. My father read this book to me before I could read it myself: a wonderful distillation of the myths from the Eddas, full of evocative drawings of its characters and settings, from the opening view of the nine realms, to their fall at Ragnarok.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in vikings, the Norsemen, and Norse mythology?

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

Vikings Explore 78 books about vikings
The Norsemen Explore 17 books about the Norsemen
Norse Mythology Explore 53 books about Norse mythology

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Norse Mythology, Norse Mythology, and The Prose Edda if you like this list.