The best folklore books

28 authors have picked their favorite books about folklore and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

By Clarissa Pinkola Estés,

Why this book?

I am in love with Women Who Run with the Wolves! I was given a copy of it a few years ago, and though I'd read parts of it in the past, this time it felt like every word was written for me! I have been transformed by reading this book, and I now use it as a source book for teaching my women’s groups. Every time I read a passage, I feel deeply connected to my soul and my wild nature and am reminded of what I know deep within: that I am powerful beyond belief when I…

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Book cover of The Elves And The Shoemaker

The Elves And The Shoemaker

By Jim LaMarche, Grimm Brothers,

Why this book?

Christmas is a wonderful time for magical tales that children love. In this one, a poor but good-hearted cobbler is rewarded for his honesty during the night, when clever elves sneak into his shop and make shoes for him to sell. It gives children the chance to imagine invisible helpers, and also the thrill of doing good deeds in secret.
From the list:

The best classic Christmas books

Book cover of One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale

By Demi,

Why this book?

This is a classic mathematical fable that has been brought to life by several authors. Demi sets the story in India, and it’s marvelous to watch how quickly the numbers add up when you take a single grain of rice and double it day after day. The illustrations, inspired by traditional Indian art, are breathtaking, and may well inspire your child to create their own mathematical art. At the very least, they’ll start demanding more tasty rice dishes at the dinner table.

From the list:

The best books for helping your kids fall in love with math

Book cover of Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom

Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom

By Lawrence W. Levine,

Why this book?

Though the title suggests a rather exclusive focus on black culture, this incisive yet impassioned book shows that culture continually evolving and adapting, as traditional African practices and beliefs interacted with those of the whites who first enslaved African peoples and later consigned them to the hardship and humiliation of the Jim Crow system. The result is a brilliant, engaging, almost seamless narrative of the ongoing cultural synthesis that shaped the identities of both blacks and whites, in the South, and ultimately, throughout the nation.
From the list:

The best books that "tell about the South"

Book cover of Inside the Villains

Inside the Villains

By Clotilde Perrin,

Why this book?

Lift the flaps and take an intimate peek inside the villains and find what really makes them tick. Through a twist in classic fairytale storytelling and a sophisticated design, this book has reimagined the inner workings of the iconic fairytale witch, giant, and wolf. Pull levers and tabs, discover objects on strings, and open flaps to discover the real truth about the villains. Brilliantly creative and exploratory.

From the list:

The best picture books for kids who delight in details

Book cover of Hawaiian Mythology

Hawaiian Mythology

By Martha Warren Beckwith,

Why this book?

First published in 1940, Hawaiian Mythology is an astonishingly comprehensive compilation of native Hawaiian stories and beliefs that, had it not been for the systematic – even dogged – efforts of people like Martha Beckwith may have never survived to today. This is a book to dip into, especially if you find yourself in Polynesia. The stories are factual, often unembellished, which allows you a glimpse into the soul of Pacific peoples. This book also explores the connections between (remote) Hawaii and other island groups in the western Pacific whence its people came, bearing oral memories that seeded the geography…

From the list:

The best books on ancient oral traditions

Book cover of Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i

Pig-Boy: A Trickster Tale from Hawai'i

By Gerald McDermott,

Why this book?

This is one of my favorite picture books. To me, the main character is life itself. A mischievous, greedy, daring, vulnerable, colorful aliveness. The strong colors and the bold shapes of the illustrations demonstrate the raw intensity of life. And the theme of Grandmother loving Pig-Boy unconditionally is one mothers would resonate with. Such a treat!

From the list:

The best picture books beyond good and bad, right and wrong

Book cover of The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus

The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus

By Uncle Remus,

Why this book?

This recommendation might be construed by some as dated and possibly insensitive, but the wisdom of the trickster derived from African folktales in the Antebellum Deep South are worth consideration. The story of the Tar Baby is ubiquitous, and teaches to respect brains over brawn…“What ever you do, don’t throw me in the briar patch!”

From the list:

The best parable books that teach valuable lessons

Book cover of The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales

The Stinky Cheese Man: And Other Fairly Stupid Tales

By Jon Scieszka, Lane Smith (illustrator),

Why this book?

Let’s be honest – most fairy tales are boring and predictable and lame. But not these! In this book, Jon Scieszka turns classic stories on their head and plays with the idea of what a fairy tale should (and could!) be. Instead of the Gingerbread Man, we get the Stinky Cheese Man. “The Princess and the Pea” becomes “The Princess and the Bowling Ball”, Little Red Riding Hood is replaced with Little Red Running Shorts, and the Really Ugly Duckling doesn’t turn out to be a swan after all – he just turns into a really ugly duck. This book…

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The best children’s books for goofy kids

Book cover of The Lion & the Mouse

The Lion & the Mouse

By Jerry Pinkney,

Why this book?

Jerry Pinkney beautifully tackles Aesop’s fable, The Lion & the Mouse. His version is wordless except for a few, potent calls from the animals in the savanna. Pinkney’s luminous watercolor illustrations depict alive and intricate landscapes and animals. Life is shown to be rich, beautiful, and dangerous as a mouse narrowly escapes the talons of an owl, only to stumble upon a magnificent lion. The lion kindly sets the mouse free, and later in the story when the lion is captured by hunters, the mouse hears his mighty roar and comes to his aid, nibbling away the ropes. Once…

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