100 books like Laughing Shall I Die

By Tom Shippey,

Here are 100 books that Laughing Shall I Die fans have personally recommended if you like Laughing Shall I Die. 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.

Who am I?

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 Age of the Vikings

Ian Stuart Sharpe Author Of Old Norse for Modern Times

From my list on researching Vikings.

Who am I?

Ian Stuart Sharpe likes to imagine he is descended from Guðrum, King of the East Angles, although DNA tests and a deep disdain for camping suggest otherwise. He is the author of two novels set in his alternate Vikingverse, the All Father Paradox and Loki’s Wager. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. It took him thirty years, but he has finally realised his dream.

Ian's book list on researching Vikings

Ian Stuart Sharpe Why did Ian love this book?

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth is a more scholarly tome but far from pedestrian. This book takes you on a tour of the life and times of a Norseman, describing not just how they fought, but how they lived – detailing their poetry, politics, settlements, and ships. The Vikings you think you know are paper thin, two dimensional caricatures – Winroth makes sure the real deal leaps off the page and disabuses you of stereotypes.

By Anders Winroth,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Age of the Vikings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Vikings maintain their grip on our imagination, but their image is too often distorted by myth. It is true that they pillaged, looted, and enslaved. But they also settled peacefully and traveled far from their homelands in swift and sturdy ships to explore. The Age of the Vikings tells the full story of this exciting period in history. Drawing on a wealth of written, visual, and archaeological evidence, Anders Winroth captures the innovation and pure daring of the Vikings without glossing over their destructive heritage. He not only explains the Viking attacks, but also looks at Viking endeavors in…


Book cover of Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World

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.

Who am I?

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?

In the “traders vs. raiders” approach to Viking history, women stay home and look after the farm while the men go off on adventures. Three books published in the 1990s by Judith Jesch and Jenny Jochens brought the lives of these women out of the shadows, showing how vital their role was.

In Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World, Jóhanna Kristín Friðriksdóttir brings these early studies up to date. With her mastery of detail from the Icelandic sagas, Friðriksdóttir follows an ordinary Viking woman from birth to death. She tells stories of women who are bold and successful, others who are battered and victimized.

She hopes to introduce us, she says, “to the diverse and fascinating texts recorded in medieval Iceland, a culture able to imagine women in all kinds of roles carrying power.” Like the mythical valkyries of her title, these are “women who decided.” To learn…

By Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE 2020 CUNDILL HISTORY PRIZE Valkyries: the female supernatural beings that choose who dies and who lives on the battlefield. They protect some, but guide spears, arrows and sword blades into the bodies of others. Viking myths about valkyries attempt to elevate the banality of war - to make the pain and suffering, the lost limbs and deformities, the piles of lifeless bodies of young men, glorious and worthwhile. Rather than their death being futile, it is their destiny and good fortune, determined by divine beings. The women in these stories take full part in the power struggles…


Book cover of Viking Age Iceland

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.

Who am I?

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?

Almost everything we know about the Vikings—their gods and heroes, their history and myths, their values and fears—comes from texts written down on parchment in medieval Iceland. Yet the Icelandic sagas and Eddas are biased. They explain very little about the Vikings in the east (and get wrong much of what they do describe). Their world is not the Viking World, which stretched from Constantinople to North America, but Viking Iceland.

Jesse Byock brings all this material together in Viking Age Iceland. First published in 2001, this immensely readable book is a classic that has not yet been bettered. It should be on every Viking enthusiast’s shelf.

By Jesse L. Byock,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Medieval Iceland was unique amongst Western Europe, with no foreign policy, no defence forces, no king, no lords, no peasants and few battles. It should have been a utopia yet its literature is dominated by brutality and killing. The reasons for this, argues Jesse Byock, lie in the underlying structures and cultural codes of the islands' social order. 'Viking Age Iceland' is an engaging, multi-disciplinary work bringing together findings in anthropology and ethnography interwoven with historical fact and masterful insights into the popular Icelandic sagas, this is a brilliant reconstruction of the inner workings of a unique and intriguing society.


Book cover of Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

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

From my list on Vikings through archaeology and research.

Who am I?

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 Barraclough not only traces Viking voyages north, south, east and west, she has followed in their footsteps. She was knighted with the penis-bone of a walrus by the Polar Bear Society of Hammarfest, saw the runestones commemorating those who “died in the east with Ingvar,” and mapped saga accounts of Newfoundland. Grisly information about Icelandic “necropants” and the Greenland hero “Corpse-Lodin.” This book has particularly beautiful color plates.

By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dying days of the eighth century, the Vikings erupted onto the international stage with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen may be best remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, but this is far from the whole story. Throughout the Middle Ages, long-ships transported hairy northern voyagers far and wide, where they not only raided but also traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered unfamiliar races, and embarked on pilgrimages
and crusades.

The Norsemen travelled to all corners of the medieval world and beyond; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands…


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.

Who am I?

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.

Who am I?

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 Styrbiorn the Strong

Rowdy Geirsson Author Of The Scandinavian Aggressors

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

Who am I?

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 Laxdaela Saga

Michelle Styles Author Of A Viking Heir to Bind Them

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

Who am I?

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?

One of the great Viking sagas, and supposedly written by a woman or a group of women.

Certainly it has a female focus and features one of the great complicated heroines – Gudrun Osvif’s-daughter. Essentially a tale depicting the settlement of an Icelandic valley, Gudrun with her various men and how she manages her life including how she accidentally destroys the life of the man she loves best.

One of the substories revolves around a Viking princess, taken as a slave, and how she manages to carve a new life for herself, finding love in the process.

By Magnus Magnusson (translator), Hermann Palsson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Written around 1245 by an unknown author, the Laxdaela Saga is an extraordinary tale of conflicting kinships and passionate love, and one of the most compelling works of Icelandic literature. Covering 150 years in the lives of the inhabitants of the community of Laxriverdale, the saga focuses primarily upon the story of Gudrun Osvif's-daughter: a proud, beautiful, vain and desirable figure, who is forced into an unhappy marriage and destroys the only man she has truly loved - her husband's best friend. A moving tale of murder and sacrifice, romance and regret, the Laxdaela Saga is also a fascinating insight…


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.

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.

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…


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