100 books like Viking Age Iceland

By Jesse L. Byock,

Here are 100 books that Viking Age Iceland fans have personally recommended if you like Viking Age Iceland. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ 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 Age of the Vikings

Donovan Cook Author Of Odin's Betrayal

From my list on learn about the Vikings and their gods.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved history, especially European history, and fell in love with the Vikings and their mythology after reading the first book of the Last Kingdom Series by Bernard Cornwell. One of the reasons I wanted to write Viking fiction is because I was keen to learn more about these amazing people who had such a large influence on European history, but had been stigmatized by the Christian religion. I really wanted to learn about who they were as a people and how they saw their world through their religion and their interactions with Christian nations around them.

Donovan's book list on learn about the Vikings and their gods

Donovan Cook Why did Donovan love this book?

This was one of the first books I read when I decided to write about Vikings and I found it a treasure trove filled with information about the daily lives of the Scandinavians, away from raids and the shield walls.

It told me everything I needed to know about what Vikings wore, what they ate and how they cooked their meals. I learnt about the hierarchy of the ruling classes and how they traded with the nations of the Middle East. It is filled with information about their religion, how they felt about life and death, and much more.

By Anders Winroth,

Why should I read it?

3 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.

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?

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 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.


Book cover of Kin

Elizabeth Bear Author Of All the Windwracked Stars

From my list on understanding the Viking mindset and relationship with the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm the granddaughter of a Finno-Swedish immigrant and I grew up on his stories and insights. Because he came from the melting-pot generations of immigrants, he kept very little of the traditions of his origins, but his culture and sense of his ancestral home informed my interests. For as long as I can recall, I've been trying to fill in the gaps in that cultural experience, which led me to researching and writing about Viking and Nordic history and culture, and visiting the Nordic countries whenever I've been able to manage it.

Elizabeth's book list on understanding the Viking mindset and relationship with the world

Elizabeth Bear Why did Elizabeth love this book?

It's probably not by accident that three of the five books on this list are by Icelandic authors, as so much of the history and mythology of that nation is tied up with its Viking heritage. This novel, while somewhat unevenly paced, is a vivid depiction of life in Medieval Iceland, where kinship and honor were the basis by which human society clung to an unforgiving landscape. Its thematic emphasis falls on entrapment and isolation, and it offers a gorgeous sense of a premodern Nordic landscape.

By Snorri Kristjansson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'For Vikings done right, come to Snorri Kristjansson' - Mark Lawrence

'Truly entertaining' - Yrsa Sigurdardottir

'A dark mystery in a dark age brought vividly to life' - Robert Fabbri

Everyone loves a family reunion.

970: For the first time since Helga was adopted, her family will be gathered in one place. But her siblings are coming with darkness in their hearts.

Everyone knows their father, the Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson, has a great chest of gold hidden somewhere on his land - and each of his heirs is determined to find it.

Then one morning Helga is awakened by…


Book cover of The Faroe Islanders’ Saga

Judith Jesch Author Of The Viking Diaspora

From my list on medieval books about Viking Islands.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham and have been teaching, researching, and writing about all aspects of the Viking Age and its aftermath for many years. My particular expertise is in the poetry, sagas, and runic writings of medieval Scandinavia. To understand these, it has been important to me to follow in the footsteps of the Vikings from the Baltic to North America, to see the places they were familiar with, and to experience the traces of their culture in those places. These books tell the stories which will guide the armchair traveller on the same voyages.

Judith's book list on medieval books about Viking Islands

Judith Jesch Why did Judith love this book?

North of Britain, the Vikings encountered the uninhabited Sheep Isles, or the Faroes, before they went on to discover their better-known settlement of Iceland. Connections remained close, and in the 13th century, an unknown Icelandic author wrote this swashbuckling tale of the wealthy merchants and farmers who lived in these small and craggy islands in the Viking Age, their inter-island rivalries, and their tricky relationships with the rulers of their Norwegian homeland.

Book cover of The Book of Settlements: Landnámabók

Judith Jesch Author Of The Viking Diaspora

From my list on medieval books about Viking Islands.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of Viking Studies at the University of Nottingham and have been teaching, researching, and writing about all aspects of the Viking Age and its aftermath for many years. My particular expertise is in the poetry, sagas, and runic writings of medieval Scandinavia. To understand these, it has been important to me to follow in the footsteps of the Vikings from the Baltic to North America, to see the places they were familiar with, and to experience the traces of their culture in those places. These books tell the stories which will guide the armchair traveller on the same voyages.

Judith's book list on medieval books about Viking Islands

Judith Jesch Why did Judith love this book?

What other nation can boast that it has a written account of the first people to inhabit it? Iceland was an uninhabited, volcanic island until the arrival of Vikings from Scandinavia and elsewhere in the 870s. This book, written in the 13th century, is a catalogue of some 3000 individuals who link the settlement period to the time of writing. Of these around 400 (including 13 women) are remembered as the landnámsmenn or original ‘land-takers’ who settled, distributed, named, and cultivated this empty land. In amongst the lists and genealogies are wonderful short anecdotes about their families, feuds, and adventures in their new-found land.

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

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The laws of Mediaeval Iceland provide detailed and fascinating insight into the society that produced the Icelandic sagas. Known collectively as Gragas (Greygoose), this great legal code offers a wealth of information about early European legal systems and the society of the Middles Ages. This first translation of Gragas is in two volumes.


Book cover of A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse

Tory Bilski Author Of Wild Horses of the Summer Sun: A Memoir of Iceland

From my list on memoirs by women who love horses.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was a horse-crazy young girl whose passion for equines went dormant for 30 years. It reawakened when I turned 40, and I was again a lovelorn teenager, daydreaming about horses, plotting treks, swooning over the mere sight of an equine, even if it was online. One day in the late 90s at the dawn of the Google search engine, I happened upon a picture of a beauty, a dark horse with a thick mane blowing in the wind. It was an Icelandic horse, the photo taken on a misty green tussock in Iceland. That was it for me. I focused my equine passion (fair to call it an obsession) to that horse and that country.  

Tory's book list on memoirs by women who love horses

Tory Bilski Why did Tory love this book?

Nancy Marie Brown’s book came into my life at a most prescient time in my own horse history. I discovered her book at just the moment I was discovering this then rare breed, the Icelandic horse. In the late 1990s, Brown goes to Iceland searching for the perfect horse (gaedingur in Icelandic). The country was very different from the tourist magnet it is today. It was wilder, more isolated, less traveled. Brown is there in pursuit of a horse or two to bring home. She first arrives with her husband and eight-year-old son after a family trauma. They stay in a broken-down house, “a concrete box” without modern amenities. She tries her best to learn and converse in the native tongue with the local farmers. As she tests drive all the horses, the reader learns all about Icelandic horses and horse-buying. What adds such depth to this book is…

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Good Horse Has No Color as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After several visits to study the medieval Icelandic sagas, Nancy Marie Brown returns to Iceland to search for the perfect horse, one she can bring back to her Pennsylvania farm and make her own. She arrives shaken by tragedy, uncertain of the language, lacking confidence in her riding skills, but determined to make her search a success. She finds inspiration in the country’s austere and majestic landscape, which is alive with the ghosts of an adventure-filled past. In the glacier-carved hinterland, she rides a variety of Icelandic horses—some spirited, willful, even heroic; others docile, trusting, or tame. She also meets…


Book cover of The World in the Viking Age

Else Roesdahl Author Of The Vikings

From my list on the day-to-day life of Vikings.

Why am I passionate about this?

Else Roesdahl has a life-long passion for Vikings. She is emerita professor of Medieval Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark, and has travelled all over the Viking world and taken part in many excavations. She has also organized major international Viking Exhibitions and published academic as well as popular books, for which she has been awarded several prizes.

Else's book list on the day-to-day life of Vikings

Else Roesdahl Why did Else love this book?

This well-written and well-illustrated book tells the story of Vikings, their ships, travels, and trade in the context of the global history of the ancient World – reaching from the Atlantic to China and from North Norway to Africa. The Vikings were far from the only great seafarers, warriors, and tradesmen of their time. They were part of far-flung networks, which also traded ideas. Contemporary travel accounts and recent archaeological investigations and finds are important components of this attractive book, written by international specialists.

By Søren M. Sindbæk (editor), Athena Trakadas (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Viking Age was ignited by the art of building seaworthy sailing ships and the skills to sail them on the open sea. The growth in seafaring, trade, piracy, and exploration that began to gather momentum during the 8th century CE was not limited to Europe's northern seas, however. Ships, laden with cargo and with seafarers who met foreign cultures, created unexpected connections between people from the Arctic Circle to the oceans south of the equator.

Travel accounts have handed down glimpses of these voyages to the present day. However, it is archaeological discoveries in particular which uncover the story…


Book cover of All the Horses of Iceland

Kate Heartfield Author Of The Valkyrie

From my list on transporting you to a foggy valley in medieval Europe.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've always been fascinated by the way history feels inherently uncanny, as we inhabit the same places as people long dead. I suppose that’s why the novels I write tend to be in historical settings, and they tend to have a speculative twist. For much of my working life, I was a journalist, so I love the research part of writing historical fiction. I tend to be drawn to old stories, and I especially love looking at those stories from angles I haven't seen before. Two of my novels bookend the European Middle Ages: The Valkyrie, set in the 5th century CE, and The Chatelaine, set in the 14th century CE.

Kate's book list on transporting you to a foggy valley in medieval Europe

Kate Heartfield Why did Kate love this book?

This is a slim book and it's told in an intimate, lyrical voice that feels like it's speaking directly to you from the period – which, in this case, is the 9th century CE.

All the Horses of Iceland follows a Norse trader through Rus to Mongolia in the company of Khazars. It's a ghost story, with notes of sadness mixed with wonder. And while it is possible to trace the journey and pick up on historical signposts, the book doesn't acknowledge that it knows when and where its reader might be – which bolsters the illusion of reading something very old.

By Sarah Tolmie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked All the Horses of Iceland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A hypnotic historical fantasy with gorgeous and unusual literary prose, from the captivating author of The Fourth Island.

Everyone knows of the horses of Iceland, wild, and small, and free, but few have heard their story. Sarah Tolmie’s All the Horses of Iceland weaves their mystical origin into a saga for the modern age. Filled with the magic and darkened whispers of a people on the cusp of major cultural change, All the Horses of Iceland tells the tale of a Norse trader, his travels through Central Asia, and the ghostly magic that followed him home to the land of…


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Interested in the Middle Ages, Iceland, and Vikings?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Middle Ages, Iceland, and Vikings.

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