The best books about Crete

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Crete and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Report to Greco

Report to Greco

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Why this book?

This Cretan writer, who is most often identified as a Greek, asks us to probe our deepest identity, to be honest with ourselves. I think that that should be the first premise of an honest writer…an honest person. When you are born you are told early what to believe. Why you should believe. Who you and what you should believe or not believe in. At some point in your own life, you must resolve what you yourself accept for your own belief system. You should determine what is or is not important to you. Only then can you live YOUR…
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Book cover of Doctors Wear Scarlet

Doctors Wear Scarlet

By Simon Raven,

Why this book?

Simon Raven had a marked fascination for the supernatural that first manifested in an early novel Doctors Wear Scarlet, which was cited by Karl Edward Wagner (himself an award-winning American writer, poet, editor and publisher of horror and writer of numerous dark fantasy and horror stories), as one of the thirteen best supernatural novels. The story is set against Raven’s customary background of academia and University life and has a distinctly macabre and spine-chilling theme. It starts harmlessly enough with a young man’s infatuation for a beautiful Greek girl, but Chriseis is no ordinary holiday love affair; three friends…
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Book cover of The Moon-Spinners

The Moon-Spinners

By Mary Stewart,

Why this book?

I read this during my steamy adolescence. Written in the sixties, there are no love scenes, but when the plot forces heroine Nicola Ferris to curl up next to injured and extremely attractive Mark, pent-up eroticism bursts from the pages. The romance is magnified by the setting in the mountains of Crete, imbued with “the smell of the lemon-flowers, the clicking of the mill-sails and the sound of spilling water; the sunlight dappling through the leaves on the white anemones…all this seemed to rush together into a point of powerful magic, happiness striking like an arrow, with one of those…

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Book cover of Soldier, Prisoner, Hunter, Gatherer: The Incredible True Story of Kiwi Horrie Woods, and His Battle for Survival During World War II

Soldier, Prisoner, Hunter, Gatherer: The Incredible True Story of Kiwi Horrie Woods, and His Battle for Survival During World War II

By Don Woods, Ken Scott,

Why this book?

An epic account of Kiwi soldier, Horrie Woods, fighting the Germans in Greece and Crete to his eventual capture and incarceration in a pow camp in eastern Europe. What makes this book so unique is that the memoir was transcribed by his son Don Woods, from the actual diaries Horrie kept during his four years in captivity. A true story of survival.
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Book cover of Zorba the Greek

Zorba the Greek

By Nikos Kazantzakis,

Why this book?

In my own novel, Once We Were Here, I wrote in a passage towards the beginning that “Greeks have a word for everything.” And while that might be true, the second part of it is that the words we have can often be impossible to translate because a single Greek word can mean so many things, all at once. Kefi is one such word, and rather than try to effectively sum up something that has no direct English equivalent, the best thing to do is recommend this book, as kefi is something the infamous title character Zorba possesses in…

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Book cover of The Alexandria Quartet

The Alexandria Quartet

By Lawrence Durrell,

Why this book?

I recently reread the novels that make up this 1950s quadrilogy - Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea - and was not only blown away by their lyricism, which holds up remarkably well, but also by Durrell's brilliant dissection of modern love and its psychic fallout. Gerald Durrell famously wrote the much-loved My Family and Other Animals, the book that turned me into a writer, but his more literary older brother nails the transcendent poetry and heartache at the core of our famished, eternal search for love. But he goes one better: through literary innovation, fixed beautifully in time in…
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Book cover of Freedom and Death

Freedom and Death

By Nikos Kazantzakes,

Why this book?

Kazantzakis is perhaps most famous for being excommunicated after he wrote The Last Temptation of Christ, but I think his best book is Freedom and Death. Freedom and Death was described as Kazantzakis’ “modern Iliad,” but it is more than a tale of heroes and war. It is about the struggle of the Cretan people for liberty and their desire to end the Ottoman occupation of their island at the end of the 19th century. In spite of the obvious morality of the cause of freedom, Kazantzakis paints a complex picture in which there are no obvious…

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Book cover of Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine

Vineyard Tales: Reflections on Wine

By Gerald Asher,

Why this book?

Gerald Asher is a wine writer who is celebrated for his range, his knowledge, his ability to see below the surface of things, and his compelling writing style. This book of essays about wine is one of my favourites, ranging as it does from wines with food, in which he goes in unexpected directions, to whether or not and how to decant wines, to drinking wine in Greece surrounded by the gods, to wines from Portugal and California and Oregon and Italy and France. He takes me to places I’ve never been and to wines I’ve never drunk, all with…

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