10 books like The Walrus Mutterer

By Mandy Haggith,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Walrus Mutterer. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Middle Passage

By Charles Johnson,

Book cover of Middle Passage

The question of how to portray a historical atrocity like slavery in a work of fiction is obviously monumental. Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, Colson Whitehead, and John Keene have approached this with consummate brilliance by writing the experience and subjectivity of enslaved and formerly-enslaved people. Johnson, however, focuses on the perpetrators: the men who engage in and profit from the capture and trafficking of other human beings. As in Mantel’s novel, the choice of the protagonist is key. Rutherford Calhoun is a ne’er-do-well free Black man from New Orleans who runs away on a ship to escape debts and engagement to a woman whose love he hasn’t done much to deserve. It turns out this ship is bound for Africa to collect a cargo of people, members of the Allmuseri tribe, an ethnicity Johnson invented for his fiction. But along with the people, they are also collecting something much more…

Middle Passage

By Charles Johnson,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Middle Passage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Celebrating Fifty Years of Picador Books

Winner of the National Book Award 1990

The Apocalypse would definitely put a crimp in my career plans.

Rutherford Calhoun, a puckish rogue and newly freed slave, spends his days loitering around the docks of New Orleans, dodging debt collectors, gangsters, and Isadora Bailey, a prim and frugal woman who seeks to marry him and curb his mischievous instincts. When the heat from these respective pursuers becomes too much to bear, he cons his way on to the next ship leaving the dock: the Republic. Upon boarding, to his horror he discovers that he…


The Sea Road

By Margaret Elphinstone,

Book cover of The Sea Road

The ‘sea-fiction’ literary canon is very male-focused. But in the real world, women put to sea too, and were sometimes at the forefront of exploration. Maria, the heroine of my novel, was the first non-native woman to set foot on the northwest coast of America, when she arrived with Francis Drake during his circumnavigation voyage in the summer of 1579. Five hundred years earlier, on the other side of the continent, another female pioneer, Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, explored and settled the Newfoundland coast. 

Gudrid, the ‘Far Travelled’ of Icelandic sagas, is brought to life in this beautifully written and vividly imagined novel. Rich in historical detail and steeped in the mythology and worldview of the Vikings, it’s a thoroughly convincing portrait of an extraordinary woman at the edge of the known world.

The Sea Road

By Margaret Elphinstone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A haunting, compelling historical novel, The Sea Road is a daring re-telling of the 11th-century Viking exploration of the North Atlantic from the viewpoint of one extraordinary woman. Gudrid lives at the remote edge of the known world, in a starkly beautiful landscape where the sea is the only connection to the shores beyond. It is a world where the old Norse gods are still invoked, even as Christianity gains favour, where the spirits of the dead roam the vast northern ice-fields, tormenting the living, and Viking explorers plunder foreign shores.

Taking the accidental discovery of North America as its…


Rites of Passage

By William Golding,

Book cover of Rites of Passage

William Golding surpassed his Lord of the Flies with these novels about a sea voyage to Australia in the early 19th century on a former man-of-war crammed with passengers and crew. In it he explores his usual theme—all that is good and (mostly) bad in human nature and how savagery can so easily erupt.  

Something dark happens in the cramped confines below deck, linked to Reverend Colley, an unhappy on-ship acquaintance of the young aristocrat, Edmund Talbot, who narrates the story via his diaries. 

Talbot sorts the dark secret to his own satisfaction but that’s an unreliable narrator for you! A dark cloud still hangs over the ship, despite some lightness, especially as the old vessel may flounder before it reaches Australia. Stunning—and stunning evocation of shipboard life.

Rites of Passage

By William Golding,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rites of Passage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sailing to Australia in the early years of the nineteenth century, Edmund Talbot keeps a journal to amuse his godfather back in England. Full of wit and disdain, he records the mounting tensions on the ancient, stinking warship, where officers, sailors, soldiers and emigrants jostle in the crammed spaces below decks.Then a single passenger, the obsequious Reverend Colley, attracts the animosity of the sailors, and in the seclusion of the fo'castle something happens to bring him into a 'hell of self-degradation', where shame is a force deadlier than the sea itself.


The Mighty Dead

By Adam Nicolson, Adam Nicolson,

Book cover of The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

Not a novel, but it reads like one, as Nicolson tells the story of how the greatest sea voyage tale of all time – The Odyssey, and its sister epic The Iliad – came to be, with a cast of characters including the Greek heroes, gods and goddesses crossing the land and seascapes of Ancient Greece. 

Nicolson argues that these poems emerged not in the 8th century BC, when they were first written down, but a thousand years earlier in the oral tradition. In them, he sees the origin myths of the people who became the Greeks – the fusion of the native people of the Eastern Mediterranean and invaders from the northern steppes. 

But it is Nicolson’s personal investment in his subject that is so beguiling. A sailor himself, he brings his deep knowledge of the sea, of sailing, navigation, the capriciousness of wind, the knife-edge between…

The Mighty Dead

By Adam Nicolson, Adam Nicolson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Complex, personal, and profound ... a brash and brave piece of writing ... filled with the swords and spears that inflict the carnage of the Iliad." -The Wall Street Journal

Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the Iliad and the Odyssey and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems-transmitted orally across the generations, shaped and reshaped in a living, self-renewing tradition-occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor…


Wild Horses of the Summer Sun

By Tory Bilski,

Book cover of Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland

Tory Bilski hooked me with her first line. I searched riding trips sites by the end of the paragraph. Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is a crafted odyssey. The book gifts us with Icelandic horses, foreign travel exploration, and the human (and herd) dynamic of a group of women who crave to “be Iceland.”

Tory is a writer in all that the craft implies. Her storytelling speaks to the explorer in us. She guides us around each mystical curve and through a physical (and emotional) blinding fog. She swims us across a (gulp) deep lake. We encounter “Tippi Hedren-esk” killer birds and truculent bulls. We hunger for the “gifts of the earth” meals and well-earned, decadent desserts. Ancient Nordic Sagas of trolls, ghosts and a fatal love affair spice the travelogue.

Wild Horses of the Summer Sun

By Tory Bilski,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wild Horses of the Summer Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us.' Virginia Woolf

What if you could steal time out just for yourself each year, a brief reprieve from ordinary life and its responsibilities? Wild Horses of the Summer Sun is author Tory Bilski's witty, sometimes poignant, account of her annual 'horse sabbaticals' to Iceland. She and her travelling companions exhilarate in their freedom, the spectacular scenery, the midnight sun energy and the Icelandic horses that connect deeply to the soul. Each year brings a new discovery about Iceland, about herself and about her relationships with the…


Dark Matter

By Michelle Paver,

Book cover of Dark Matter

I'm a great fan of ghost stories, especially the disturbing, subtly creepy sort, ones which rely on the gradual building-up of tension rather than gore. Dark Matter is one of the best I've ever read. Hero Jack, who is already on the back foot because he is poor and everyone else is privileged, is part of an expedition to the Arctic Circle. Undeterred by the apparent unease of the captain who drops them off, the team arrive in Gruhuken, on the coast of Svalbard – the scene of an appalling past tragedy. The crew members succumb to accidents and illness, and finally Jack is left all alone as the Arctic night begins – a darkness that will literally last for months. I think this is one of those stories that genuinely couldn't be set anywhere else. The Arctic location with its endless dark is frightening all by itself, even before…

Dark Matter

By Michelle Paver,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'What is it? What does it want? Why is it angry with me?'

January 1937.

Clouds of war are gathering over a fogbound London. Twenty-eight year old Jack is poor, lonely and desperate to change his life. So when he's offered the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition, he jumps at it.
Spirits are high as the ship leaves Norway: five men and eight huskies, crossing the Barents Sea by the light of the midnight sun. At last they reach the remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year. Gruhuken.
But the Arctic…


The Last Imaginary Place

By Robert McGhee,

Book cover of The Last Imaginary Place: A Human History of the Arctic World

This book by a distinguished Canadian archaeologist is the finest overview of the human history of the circumpolar region. Its twin concerns are the indigenous peoples of the Arctic and the impact of intruders from the south. It is unusual in its coverage of the Russian and Scandinavian Arctic. The excellent account of the Norse colonies in Greenland feeds into a compelling analysis (through the prism of trade goods) of Norse penetration into the territories of the Dorset and Thule peoples. 

The Last Imaginary Place

By Robert McGhee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Arctic of towering icebergs and midnight sun, of flaming auroras and endless winter nights, has long provoked flights of the imagination. Now, in "The Last Imaginary Place", renowned archaeologist, Robert McGhee lifts the veil to reveal the true Arctic world. Based on thirty years of work with native peoples of the Arctic and travel in the region, McGhee's account dispels notions of the frozen land as an exotic, remote world that exists apart from civilization. Between the frigid reality and lurid fantasy lies McGhee's true interest, the people who throughout human history have called the Arctic home. He paints…


Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

By Simon James,

Book cover of Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

Another, more popularly oriented (and much shorter) discussion of Celtic life by Simon James (with Valerie Rigby), has a different focus: Britain and the Celtic Iron Age. Like the longer, less specific to Britain version by this author, this one gave me a much greater “feel” for the life of my characters before and after the Roman conquest. It’s full of photos and illustrations of Celtic artifacts, many of them collected by the British Museum.

Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain and the Celtic Iron Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Celts are seen as a family of European peoples who spoke related languages and shared many things in common, from art to aspects of religion and social organization. Was the British Iron Age simply part of this supposedly uniform, Celtic world, or was it something much more distinctive, complex, strange and fascinating than we have been led to believe? New research is promoting reappraisals of Britain's prehistory, in ways which challenge many ideas, such as that of a familiar Celtic past. This work discusses the many facets of the lives of Iron Age Britons, drawing on the wealth of…


Women's Lives in Biblical Times

By Jennie R. Ebeling,

Book cover of Women's Lives in Biblical Times

Women played an important role in daily life of biblical Israel, but not much has been written about them. This book uses a fictional character to describe the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel using archaeological, iconographic, and ethnographic information. Each chapter is devoted to a major event in the life of the character, from birth to death, describing in a story-telling manner how women coped, focusing on the specific events, customs, crafts, technologies, and other activities in which an Israelite female would have participated on a daily basis.

Women's Lives in Biblical Times

By Jennie R. Ebeling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives in Biblical Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume describes the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel examining recent biblical scholarship and other textual evidence from the ancient Near East and Egypt including archaeological, iconographic and ethnographic data. From this Ebeling creates a detailed, accessible description of the lives of women living in the central highland villages of Iron Age I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE) Israel. The book opens with an introduction that provides a brief historical survey of Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) Israel, a discussion of the problems involved in using the Hebrew Bible as a source, a…


Skin

By Ilka Tampke,

Book cover of Skin

This beautifully written debut, set in Iron-Age Britain on the cusp of the Roman invasion explores connection to country through the magical lens of druidism. Not only that, it is a page-turner and a love story and left me wanting more…which was good, because Tampke followed up with a sequel—Songwoman. If you are of Celtic heritage, this is a must-read.

Skin

By Ilka Tampke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A visceral tale of ritual, magic and violence' - The Sunday Times

Imagine a world where everyone is born with a 'skin' name. Without skin you cannot learn, you are not permitted to marry, and you grow up an outsider amongst your own people.

This is no future dystopia. This is Celtic Britain.

It is AD 43. For the Caer Cad, 'skin' name determines lineage and identity. Ailia does not have skin; despite this, she is a remarkable young woman, intelligent, curious and brave. As a dark threat grows on the horizon - the aggressive expansion of the Roman Empire…


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Interested in Iron Age, Iceland, and vikings?

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