The most recommended Anglo Saxon books

Who picked these books? Meet our 34 experts.

34 authors created a book list connected to Anglo Saxons, and here are their favorite Anglo Saxon books.
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What type of Anglo Saxon book?

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Book cover of Sword of Kings

Ken Czech Author Of Kiss of Frost and Flame

From Ken's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historical novelist Book collector Reader Grandfather and Great Grandfather Trapshooter

Ken's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ken Czech Why did Ken love this book?

This is a continuation of Cornwell's incredible saga of Uhtred of Bebbanburg and the birth of England more than a millennia ago.

If you've never read a Cornwell book, be prepared for a gritty, bloody, and historically accurate description of life and death in that savage era. The Uhtred of this novel has grown older and wiser over the years but finds himself entangled in the intrigues and battles of the royal families.

I've read every one of the titles in this series.

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An oath of loyalty. Two warring kings. A destiny he didn't choose...

England is in turmoil as Vikings and Saxons battle for territory. Rumours build about the fatal sickness of the King, and the country awaits an heir.

A violent clash at sea forces the warrior lord Uhtred to lead his men from his Northumbrian fortress to London and plunge into the eye of the storm. For two kings claim the empty throne, and a new kingdom cannot be born without bloodshed.

Uhtred's sword will leave one king dead and the other victorious. But sometimes it is hard to know…


Book cover of The Way of Wyrd

Tim Rayborn Author Of Qwyrk

From my list on British folklore and customs.

Why am I passionate about this?

Described as a “literary raconteur” and a “virtuoso,” Tim Rayborn admits to nothing, but it’s true that he’s a versatile writer, award-winning editor, and an acclaimed musician. He’s written dozens of books, appeared on more than forty recordings, plays scores of unusual instruments, and visited five continents. Tim lived in England for nearly seven years and has a Ph.D. in medieval studies from the University of Leeds, which he likes to pretend means that he knows what he’s talking about. He has written a large number of books and magazine articles about history, music, and the arts. He will undoubtedly write more, whether anyone wants him to or not.

Tim's book list on British folklore and customs

Tim Rayborn Why did Tim love this book?

This intriguing novel tells the story of a young Christian monk, Brand, who is sent to find and learn from a Saxon shaman/sorcerer, Wulf. The shaman turns Brand’s life upside down, introducing him to a strange, mysterious, and magical world that Brand never imagined existed. Written like a modern spiritual quest, but set in Anglo-Saxon England, the novel is an ingenious combination of old and new, inspired by charms and healings in a thousand-year-old manuscript in the British Library.

By Brian Bates,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The compelling cult classic, now reissued in a brand new edition with a new introduction by Brian Bates. This bestselling fictionalized account of an Anglo-Saxon sorcerer and mystic is based on years of research by psychologist and university professor Brian Bates.

Sent on a mission deep into the forests of pagan Anglo-Saxon England, Wat Brand, a Christian scribe, suddenly finds his vision of the world turned upside down. The familiar English countryside is not what it seems; threatening spirits, birds of omen and plants of power lurk in this landscape of unseen terrors and mysterious forces. With Wulf, a sorcerer…


Book cover of The Buried Giant

G.K. Belliveau Author Of Gods of IMAGO

From G.K.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Professor SciFi/Fantasy obsessed Voracious reader

G.K.'s 3 favorite reads in 2023

G.K. Belliveau Why did G.K. love this book?

Ishiguro is a master at combining both amazing world-building and dynamic and controlled prose. The Buried Giant is a master class in both! But that’s what one expects by a Nobel Prize winning author of The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. But let’s be specific in our praise.

First, let’s take a closer look at the world-building. When a writer chooses a world to populate, he/she steps into the “known/new” dilemma. This is the conundrum of what is out there, what would be derivative, what would be cliché or such a well-trodden path that to use it would ruin my career – and all of this juxtaposed to: what is something new I can say? Well, Ishiguro decides on Arthurian Legend.

That choice alone is so daunting for most writers that they don’t even consider it. Ishiguro not only considers it, dives deep into it, and…

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

*Kazuo Ishiguro's new novel Klara and the Sun is now available*

The Romans have long since departed, and Britain is steadily declining into ruin.

The Buried Giant begins as a couple, Axl and Beatrice, set off across a troubled land of mist and rain in the hope of finding a son they have not seen for years. They expect to face many hazards - some strange and other-worldly - but they cannot yet foresee how their journey will reveal to them dark and forgotten corners of their love for one another.

'A beautiful fable with a hard message at its…


Book cover of The Shining Company

Wendy J. Dunn Author Of The Light in the Labyrinth

From my list on Rosemary Sutcliff for history loving teenagers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian author passionate about history. Alas, not Australian history. That would make my life so much easier. As a child, I loved tales of ancient Greece. That love took me in two directions—Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome—Ancient Rome introduced me to Roman Britain, and the Roman Britain novels of Rosemary Sutcliff. My love of history probably explains why a childhood friend gave me a child’s book of English history for my tenth birthday. One of the book’s chapters told the story of Elizabeth I. As she wont to do in her own times, Elizabeth hooked me, keeping me captured ever since, and enslaved to writing and learning more about Tudors.

Wendy's book list on Rosemary Sutcliff for history loving teenagers

Wendy J. Dunn Why did Wendy love this book?

Sutcliff’s characters and stories are always believable—and show her amazing gift to always make her research invisible to the reader. All her works feed from actual history. She weaves a fragment or story from the past into a rich tapestry of the human experience and makes history live again. This tale shows her skills perfectly. Sutcliff uses as her source Y Gododdin, a period poem, to frame the construction of this coming-of-age story. Sutcliff takes the torch of the poem’s attempt to keep alive the memory of men who fought and died in a sixth-century British battle, comparable to that of the Battle of Thermopylae, to relight it through the eyes of Prosper, Sutcliff imagined British shield bearer. A witness to and one of the few to survive this unwinnable battle, Prosper sings a tale of The Shining Company who sacrificed their lives so others could live.

By Rosemary Sutcliff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Shining Company as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 12, 13, 14, and 15.

What is this book about?

'I saw riders with black eyesockets in glimmering mail where their faces should have been, grey wolfskins catching a bloom of light from the mist and the moon; a shining company indeed, not quite mortal-seeming.' Many years after King Arthur defeated the Saxons, the tribes of Britain are again threatened by invaders. Prosper and his loyal bondsman, Conn, answer the call of King Mynydogg to join a highly skilled army - the Shining Company. Led by the gallant Prince Gorthyrn, the company embark on a perilous but glorious campaign. An epic tale of battles and bravery from the acclaimed historical…


Book cover of The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria

Theresa Tomlinson Author Of A Swarming of Bees

From my list on throwing light into the Dark Ages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent much of my childhood living close to Whitby Abbey and heard many stories of the famous Saint Hilda. As a mother of three, I began writing stories, initially to entertain my children, and eventually published many historical stories for children and young adults – twice shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. I moved back to the Whitby area in my 60s determined to write for an older age group and indulge my lifelong fascination for the Anglo-Saxon period. I took the half pagan Fridgyth character from my Young Adult adventure mystery – Wolfgirl - and developed her role as a warm, curious, flawed, investigator. I'm working on a third Fridgyth the Herbwife novel.

Theresa's book list on throwing light into the Dark Ages

Theresa Tomlinson Why did Theresa love this book?

Good research is so important to me and this is the historical study that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to know more about the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Northumbria. Max Adams has studied the period in detail, but his style of writing is easy to read and sometimes exciting, so much so that I almost felt that I was reading a novel. I love the way Max Adams suggests various possible scenarios, from the written evidence, studies, and archaeology that we have. This is a perfect research book for a novelist, wanting to bring the time period to life. I found that I couldn’t put the book down, once I’d started reading it.

By Max Adams, Max Adams,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A triumph - a Game of Thrones in the Dark Ages' TOM HOLLAND.

The magisterial biography of Oswald Whiteblade, exiled prince of Northumbria, who returned in blood and glory to reclaim his birthright.

A charismatic leader, a warrior whose prowess in battle earned him the epithet Whiteblade, an exiled prince who returned to claim his birthright, the inspiration for Tolkein's Aragorn.

Oswald of Northumbria was the first great English monarch, yet today this legendary figure is all but forgotten. In this panoramic portrait of Dark Age Britain, archaeologist and biographer Max Adams returns the king in the North to his…


Book cover of Elfrida: The First Crowned Queen of England

MJ Porter Author Of Son of Mercia

From my list on that led to my obsession with Saxon England.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a writer of novels set in Saxon England. I studied the era at both undergraduate and graduate levels and never meant to become a historical fiction writer. But I developed a passion to tell the story of the last century of Early England through the eyes of the earls of Mercia, as opposed to the more well-known, Earl Godwin. I’m still writing that series but venture further back in time as well. I might have a bit of an obsession with the Saxon kingdom of Mercia. I’m fascinated by the whole near-enough six hundred years of Saxon England before the watershed moment of 1066, after which, quite frankly, everything went a bit downhill. 

MJ's book list on that led to my obsession with Saxon England

MJ Porter Why did MJ love this book?

As with the book on Athelstan above, this is the first of England’s queen, and the first of England’s queens for whom we have a historical record that she underwent consecration, for which a monograph currently exists. While the author does draw on much post-conquest material, if not for this book I know I would never have begun to consider the queens, as well as the kings, as subjects that I could write about. It’s not the thickest of books, but it is very well written, again adopting a chronological approach, and readers will feel as though Queen Elfrida, whose Old English name was Ælfthryth, feels far more understandable, as opposed to being lost behind the seemingly impenetrable wall of 1066 and the Norman Conquest. It perhaps helps, that Queen Elfrida had quite a scandalous reputation☺

By Elizabeth Norton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Contrary to popular belief, Anglo-Saxon England had queens, with the tenth-century Elfrida being the most powerful and notorious of them all. She was the first woman to be crowned Queen of England, sharing her husband King Edgar's imperial coronation at Bath in 973. The couple made a love match, with claims that they plotted the death of her first husband to ensure that she was free. Edgar divorced his second wife, a former nun, after conducting an adulterous affair with Elfrida, leading to an enmity between the two women that lasted until their deaths.

During her marriage Elfrida claimed to…


Book cover of The History of the Kings of Britain

Murray Dahm Author Of Finis Britanniae: A Military History of Late Roman Britain and the Saxon Conquest

From my list on thinking about King Arthur.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have always loved stories about King Arthur–what’s not to love–Arthurian stories are about the underdog triumphing, destiny, knights and quests, swords (and stones, or lakes), great heroes and villains, and magic. My university studies made me into a military historian (among other things–including an opera singer and a historian of film), and I loved revisiting my love of Arthur in various guises. I have sung him on stage, played him in roleplaying games and miniature wargames, and I have written articles and books about him in film and history. I hope my list of recommendations provokes you to think about King Arthur in new ways!

Murray's book list on thinking about King Arthur

Murray Dahm Why did Murray love this book?

More than any other source, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book is responsible for our modern fascination with King Arthur. I read this for the first time at school and have returned to it again and again.

Written in Latin in the twelfth century, Monmouth claimed to have access to secret books that no other author had read–I found that intriguing all by itself. When he wrote, three of his exact contemporaries were also writing works on King Arthur, and there seems to have been a literary ‘Arthur business’ in the 1130s–why? (It was a period of great disruption in England, and she may have needed a new savior!). Although he goes way beyond the realms of history, I still find Geoffrey charming and inspiring.

By Geoffrey of Monmouth, Lewis Thorpe (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Completed in 1136, The History of the Kings of Britain traces the story of the realm from its supposed foundation by Brutus to the coming of the Saxons some two thousand years later. Vividly portraying legendary and semi-legendary figures such as Lear, Cymbeline, Merlin the magician and the most famous of all British heroes, King Arthur, it is as much myth as it is history and its veracity was questioned by other medieval writers. But Geoffrey of Monmouth's powerful evocation of illustrious men and deeds captured the imagination of subsequent generations, and his influence can be traced through the works…


Book cover of To Be A Queen

Helen Hollick Author Of Sea Witch

From my list on history, mystery, and nautical adventure.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a British author, a USA Today bestseller, scribbling stories since I was 13 but became a published author in the 1990s when I was 40 with a retelling of the King Arthur legend set in the post-Roman 5th century. I then wrote two novels concerning the pre-Norman Conquest era, and am currently writing a cozy mystery series set in the 1970s. I also love tall ships and the sea, particularly the Golden Age of Piracy (diverse subjects, I know!) I enjoyed the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, wanted to read something similar – fun, fantasy, and for adults, but couldn’t find anything... so wrote my own.

Helen's book list on history, mystery, and nautical adventure

Helen Hollick Why did Helen love this book?

If you are interested in early England’s history you would have heard of Alfred the Great – but what of his children, especially his daughter, Æthelflæd, who became The Lady of Mercia, almost, our first English Queen? Set between the years AD 874 and AD 918, Ms. Whitehead’s research about this turbulent period of Viking invasion, and of Æthelflæd's life, is impeccable. All the characters are believable and the writing itself is beautiful. The author handles the politics, the personal feelings, and the warfare with skillful competence. What is so enthralling about this novel is the author's dextrous ability to blend the facts (those few that are known) with her imagined ‘made-up’ scenes and interactions. This is how good historical fiction should be written and how history should be told – as well-crafted, superb storytelling.

By Annie Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked To Be A Queen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is the true story of Aethelflaed, the 'Lady of the Mercians', daughter of Alfred the Great. She was the only female leader of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. It is the tale of one family, two kingdoms and a common enemy. Born into the royal house of Wessex at the height of the Viking wars, she is sent to her aunt in Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when the Vikings overrun Mercia. In Wessex, she witnesses another Viking attack and this compounds her fear of the enemy. She falls in love with a Mercian lord but is heartbroken…


Book cover of Essays in Anglo-Saxon History

Richard Shaw Author Of How, When and Why did Bede Write his Ecclesiastical History?

From my list on Bede and his Ecclesiastical History.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Professor of History at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Canada. Previously a journalist and a diplomat serving in the Middle East, since returning to academia I have published several books and a wide variety of academic articles – winning the 2014 Eusebius Essay Prize. My work is focused on source analysis and the use of sources to reconstruct the truth of the past – especially in the early Middle Ages: as a result, I have been able to discover the date of Augustine of Canterbury’s death; the underlying reasons behind the need to appoint Theodore of Tarsus as bishop; and the essential story of how Bede produced his Ecclesiastical History.

Richard's book list on Bede and his Ecclesiastical History

Richard Shaw Why did Richard love this book?

To my mind, James Campbell was the greatest commentator on early Anglo-Saxon England of the last sixty years.

He was my tutor at Oxford for a course on early Anglo-Saxon history and archaeology, and he inspired me to recognise just how much of the so-called “Dark Ages” can be brought to light via a combination of rigour in analysis and creativity in reconstruction.

Campbell’s seminal articles on Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, included in this edited collection, transformed Bedan studies and set out the path forward for the next generation of scholars, although much more remains to be done – particularly in connection with identifying Bede’s sources and unpacking the chronology of the composition of his History.

If you want to understand the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England, you need to understand Bede’s Ecclesiastical History; and if you want to understand Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, you have to understand Bede. The quest will…

By James Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Essays in Anglo-Saxon History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Campbell's work on the Anglo-Saxons is recognised as being some of the most original of recent writing on the period; it is brought together in this collection, which is both an important contribution to Anglo-Saxon studies in itself and also a pointer to the direction of future research.


Book cover of The Wolf Age: The Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Battle for the North Sea Empire

Andrew Varga Author Of The Last Saxon King: A Jump in Time Novel

From my list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a lifelong student of history. Even as a child I would devour history books or watch documentaries on TV telling tales of past wars of heroic battles. This passion eventually turned into a degree in History from the University of Toronto. I have also visited countless museums, castles, ruins, and historic sites throughout Europe and North America. My particular interest in Anglo-Saxon history came during my university years when I took some Old English language courses. Poems like the Battle of Maldon and Beowulf were my gateway to the rich tapestry of lives and events that made up the Anglo-Saxon era.

Andrew's book list on detailed, fun, and easy to read Anglo-Saxon history

Andrew Varga Why did Andrew love this book?

I've read Anglo-Saxon history. I've read Viking Age history. But this is the first book I've read that combined them together to make a clear picture of the forces that drove these two people against each other.

This book covers the alliances, battles, and the people who were constantly shifting from one person's orbit to another. Although its main focus was England, the book also provides a view of the conflicts going on in Norway and Denmark, to give a holistic view of Northern Europe and what happened when huge armies of Danes and Norwegians came to England, leaving a power vacuum behind them in the north.

By Tore Skeie, Alison McCullough (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the eleventh century, the rulers of the lands surrounding the North Sea are all hungry for power. To get power they need soldiers, to get soldiers they need silver, and to get silver there is no better way than war and plunder. This vicious cycle draws all the lands of the north into a brutal struggle for supremacy and survival that will shatter kingdoms and forge an empire.

The Wolf Age takes the reader on a thrilling journey through the bloody shared history of England and Scandinavia, and on across early medieval Europe, from the wild Norwegian fjords to…