100 books like Beyond the Northlands

By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough,

Here are 100 books that Beyond the Northlands fans have personally recommended if you like Beyond the Northlands. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

J.G. Harlond Author Of The Doomsong Sword

From my list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a Viking battlefield, in an English coastal village once raided then occupied by Norsemen. We had ancestors who lived on the Isle of Orkney, and in the Celtic south-west. From a young age, I read Norse and Celtic myths and legends, and went on to study history and philosophy – and then became an author. Now, I have family in Sweden and grandchildren of Ash and Elm. My list offers pure escapism, but also shows how our ancestors lived in an age with no electricity or compulsory schooling. It’s the wonderful combination of the ‘other world’ myths and history that I believe makes us who we are. 

J.G.'s book list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories

J.G. Harlond Why did J.G. love this book?

This very readable non-fiction is an account of how the people we call the Vikings lived and why they went a’viking.

Historian Neil Price describes in an easy-to-comprehend manner the Scandinavian world of long ago – when gods, spirits, and humans co-existed in a brutal axe-age. The author explains strange superstitions and how the belief in supernatural beings affected daily life.

Readers also learn about the terrible climate catastrophe that made northern lands virtually uninhabitable, and where Viking explorers sailed to in search of fertile land and treasure. My own family background gives me a strong connection to this history and its special mythology. 

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Children of Ash and Elm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020

'As brilliant a history of the Vikings as one could possibly hope to read' Tom Holland

The 'Viking Age' is traditionally held to begin in June 793 when Scandinavian raiders attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, and to end in September 1066, when King Harald Hardrada of Norway died leading the charge against the English line at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This book, the most wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of the current state of our knowledge, takes a refreshingly different view. It shows that the Viking expansion began generations before the…


Book cover of The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

This is a pretty dense scholarly work, but that very density makes it a cornucopia for anyone interested in how a specific historical culture regarded magic.

I appreciated that while academic, Price is never boring or needlessly obscure; he does a very good job of not only explaining the historical record but also the best guess at how it can be interpreted.

Not only did it teach me a great deal about the Vikings, but it also taught me other strategies and ways of thinking about other cultures’ magical practices, and for a fantasy writer, that’s pure gold.

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Magic, sorcery and witchcraft are among the most common themes of the great medieval Icelandic sagas and poems, the problematic yet vital sources that provide our primary textual evidence for the Viking Age that they claim to describe. Yet despite the consistency of this picture, surprisingly little archaeological or historical research has been done to explore what this may really have meant to the men and women of the time. This book examines the evidence for Old Norse sorcery, looking at its meaning and function, practice and practitioners, and the complicated constructions of gender and sexual identity with which these…


Book cover of Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ivarr to A.D. 1014

Rory Naismith Author Of Early Medieval Britain

From my list on Britain in the Early Middle Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Early Medieval English History at the University of Cambridge. I also work on relations with the rest of Britain, and between Britain and its European neighbours, especially from an economic and social point of view. My interest in early medieval history arose from the jigsaw puzzle approach that it requires: even more so than for other periods, sources are few and often challenging, so need to be seen together and interpreted imaginatively. 

Rory's book list on Britain in the Early Middle Ages

Rory Naismith Why did Rory love this book?

‘Viking’ really refers more to an activity than an ethnicity, and has developed an unhelpful amount of baggage in modern times. This book, however, is about vikings red in tooth and claw who fought, raided, and conquered across Britain, but did so as conscious and coherent historical figures rather than an aggressive force of nature. Through delicate source-work that traverses several linguistic and cultural divides, Downham traces the activities of a powerful Scandinavian dynasty that played a formative role in the history of Britain and Ireland across the ninth and tenth centuries.

By Clare Downham,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Vikings plagued the coasts of Ireland and Britain in the 790s. By the mid-ninth century vikings had established a number of settlements in Ireland and Britain and had become heavily involved with local politics. A particularly successful viking leader named Ivarr campaigned on both sides of the Irish Sea in the 860s. His descendants dominated the major seaports of Ireland and challenged the power of kings in Britain during the later ninth and tenth centuries. This book provides a political analysis of the deeds of Ivarr's family from their first appearance in Insular records down to the year 1014. Such…


Book cover of The Vikings: Wolves of War

Tom Shippey Author Of Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings

From my list on Vikings through archaeology and research.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a retired professor of medieval literature, and taught at six universities, including Oxford and Harvard. I have published widely on Old English, Old Norse, and on my predecessor at Birmingham, Leeds, and Oxford, JRR Tolkien. I think it’s vital for academics to break out of their enclosed communities and engage with the interests of the general public – especially in areas where the public has shown keen interest, like the literature, history, and archaeology of the Vikings, all of which deserve to be taken together.

Tom's book list on Vikings through archaeology and research

Tom Shippey Why did Tom love this book?

Dr Arnold’s book begins with the grisly cenotaph discovered at Repton, which may well be the burial-site of Ívarr the Boneless. His book combines historical, literary and archaeological sources to give a balanced and comprehensive survey of the Vikings, briefly and at an affordable price. The best book to put into a student’s hands.

By Martin Arnold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This concise and balanced history traces the 300-year saga of the pirates and warlords who poured out of Scandinavia between the eighth and eleventh centuries, terrorizing, conquering, and ultimately settling vast tracts of land throughout Europe. Undaunted by the might of the Arab caliphates and the Byzantine Empire, they founded Russia, originated the bloodline that came to rule France, and created a North Sea empire that included England. They also established settlements across the North Atlantic, notably in Iceland and Greenland, and their adventurous spirit and extraordinary seafaring skills led them to explore and briefly build colonies in North America.…


Book cover of Styrbiorn the Strong

Rowdy Geirsson Author Of The Scandinavian Aggressors

From my list on re-imaginings of ancient Scandinavian stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

Mostly, I’m a writer of (hopefully) humorous books and articles largely focused on Vikings and Norse mythology, but I also write non-fiction articles about Scandinavian history, art, and culture. I’ve always been fascinated with the Viking Age, and read as much fiction and non-fiction on the subject as I am able. I’ve discovered many great novels dealing with the “whole Northern thing” (W.H. Auden’s term for Tolkien’s fascination) ranging from realistic historic fiction to highly original urban fantasy that utilizes the standard Norse tropes, but truly imaginative retellings that remain faithfully grounded in the plot points of the ancient stories are rarer. These are my favorites. 

Rowdy's book list on re-imaginings of ancient Scandinavian stories

Rowdy Geirsson Why did Rowdy love this book?

E.R. Eddison was an early fantasy novelist best known for The Worm Ouroboros, but like Poul Anderson, he also took a serious interest in bringing the ancient stories of the North into the modern age. Styrbiorn the Strong was his effort to capture the adventure of the old sagas by recreating a presumably lost full-length saga about the titular character. With Styrbiorn the Strong, Eddison built a convincing and original saga-inspired story from the fragments that exist about him (remaining references to Styrbiorn exist in Flatey Book, Eyrbyggja Saga, and the Heimskringla). The book was originally published in 1926 and features the sort of verbose and eloquent language typical of novels of that era, which itself is very un-saga-like, but is a joy to read. 

By E.R. Eddison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

E. R. Eddison's classic saga novel now in paperback-includes for the first time Eddison's remarkable letter of introduction and his unabridged closing note

Styrbiorn the Strong tells the grand tale of Styrbiorn Olafsson, heir to the Swedish throne and known both for his impressive size and strength and his unruly, quarrelsome nature. Denied his birthright and exiled from Sweden, Styrbiorn becomes the leader of the Jomsvikings and sets out to reclaim the Swedish throne in the epic Battle of Fyrisvellir. A rediscovered classic, Styrbiorn the Strong is a tale reminiscent of the Old Norse sagas, a historical novel from one…


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

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

From my list on the viking period.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Max's book list on the viking period

Max Adams Why did Max love 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.

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Far Traveler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Five hundred years before Columbus, a Viking woman named Gudrid sailed off the edge of the known world. She landed in the New World and lived there for three years, giving birth to a baby before sailing home. Or so the Icelandic sagas say. Even after archaeologists found a Viking longhouse in Newfoundland, no one believed that the details of Gudrid's story were true. Then, in 2001, a team of scientists discovered what may have been this pioneering woman's last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland, just where the sagas suggested it could be. Joining scientists experimenting with…


Book cover of The Viking Achievement

Linnea Hartsuyker Author Of The Half-Drowned King

From my list on understanding the Vikings.

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

Linnea's book list on understanding the Vikings

Linnea Hartsuyker Why did Linnea love 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.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an account of the Norsemen in the period A.D. 800-1200, and is written primarily for the general reader but will also serve the needs of many university students.


Book cover of Seven Viking Romances

Michelle Styles Author Of A Viking Heir to Bind Them

From my list on Viking romances to escape into on a rainy afternoon.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2005, the Bookseller declared the Viking romance to be officially dead and never, ever coming back. However, they hadn’t consulted Harlequin Historical editors who researched the actual sales and desires of their readers. When my senior editor asked me if could I write one, I duly obliged with Taken by the Viking. The book beat lofty expectations, and the revival began such that the Viking period now ranks up there with Regency in terms of popular time periods for the line. The following list is some of the Viking set romances that I have escaped into on mainly rainy afternoons.

Michelle's book list on Viking romances to escape into on a rainy afternoon

Michelle Styles Why did Michelle love this book?

These seven actual sagas (really more adventure stories) from the Viking era have it all – famous warriors, thrilling adventures, and intrepid women.

My favorite of the seven is Halfdan Eysteinsson which has a great hero and an even better heroine – Ingigerd who swaps places with her maid and earns her place as a warrior and avenges her father’s death before finding true love. Not to be missed.

By Hermann Palsson (translator), Paul Edwards (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Combining traditional myth, oral history and re-worked European legend to depict an ancient realm of heroism and wonder, the seven tales collected here are among the most fantastical of all the Norse romances. Powerfully inspired works of Icelandic imagination, they relate intriguing, often comical tales of famous kings, difficult gods and women of great beauty, goodness or cunning. The tales plunder a wide range of earlier literature from Homer to the French romances - as in the tale of the wandering hero Arrow-Odd, which combines several older legends, or Egil and Asmund, where the story of Odysseus and the Cyclops…


Book cover of From Gang Leader to the Lord's Anointed: Kingship in Sverris Saga and Hakonar Saga Hakonarsonar (The Viking Collection, Studies in Northern Civilization, Vol 8)

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

An excellent account of this supremely intelligent Machiavellian rogue and wit of a Norwegian king by the eminent Norwegian historian and namesake Sverre Bagge. King Sverrir’s saga was written by an Icelander with the king looking over his shoulder and apparently dictating portions of it. Nothing quite captures a medieval insurgency any better than this saga when read through the lens of Bagge’s astute commentary. 

Book cover of Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings

Nancy Marie Brown Author Of The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women

From my list on Vikings, their humor, and their world.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nancy Marie Brown is the author of seven books about Iceland and the Viking Age, including The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, and the award-winning Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. Her books combine extremes: medieval literature and modern archaeology, myths and facts. They ask, What have we overlooked? What have we forgotten? Whose story must not be lost? A former science writer and editor at a university magazine, she lives on a farm in northern Vermont and spends part of each summer in Iceland.

Nancy's book list on Vikings, their humor, and their world

Nancy Marie Brown Why did Nancy love this book?

Why do the Vikings seem so modern? Tom Shippey thinks it’s their attitude toward losers. They “knew that in the real world, conditions aren’t fair.” Heroes are trapped, outnumbered. Their luck runs out. “That doesn’t make you what we call ‘a loser,’” he writes. “The only thing that would make you a loser would be giving up.”

The Vikings showed their spirit by refusing to take death seriously. “What was best was showing you could turn the tables, spoil your enemy’s victory, make a joke out of death,” Shippey writes, and in Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings he shares dozens of examples.

Viking death-jokes are “often marked by Bad Sense of Humour,” Shippey admits. But they explain a lot about why this culture continues to fascinate us.

By Tom Shippey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Laughing Shall I Die as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this robust new account of the Vikings, Tom Shippey explores their mindset, and in particular their fascination with scenes of heroic death. The book recounts many of the great bravura scenes of Old Norse literature, including the Fall of the House of the Skjoldungs, the clash between the two great longships Ironbeard and Long Serpent and the death of Thormod the skald. The most exciting book on Vikings for a generation, Laughing Shall I Die presents them for what they were: not peaceful explorers and traders, but bloodthirsty warriors and marauders.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Vikings, sagas, and Europe?

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