The best books about the Holy Grail

7 authors have picked their favorite books about the Holy Grail and why they recommend each book.

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The Quest of the Holy Grail

By Unknown, Pauline M. Matarasso (translator),

Book cover of The Quest of the Holy Grail

This is an early example of mythology being used for a deliberate purpose: in this case, the promotion of Christian chivalric virtue. Full of dreamlike images and allegories, it also had a great influence on early fantasy writing, even if those creating early fantasy tales had never read it. And then, of course, there’s Monty Python.


Who am I?

Graeme Davis has been fascinated by myth and folklore ever since he saw Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in Jason and the Argonauts as a child. While studying archaeology at Durham University, he became far too involved with a new game called Dungeons & Dragons and went on to a career in fantasy games. He has written game sourcebooks on various ancient cultures and their myths, and worked as a researcher and consultant on multiple video games with historical and mythological settings.


I wrote...

Thor: Viking God of Thunder

By Graeme Davis,

Book cover of Thor: Viking God of Thunder

What is my book about?

Thor is best known today as a superhero in Marvel comics and films. In many ways he is the ultimate Viking: bluff, hearty, strong, and direct. And so he was in the earliest surviving stories from Norse myth. The thunder god has survived Roman attempts to conflate him with Classical gods, the bowdlerization of early Christian writers, Nazi attempts to co-opt him and his symbols, and more – and he has done so remarkably unchanged.

The Art of Memoir

By Mary Karr,

Book cover of The Art of Memoir

This book is a blast to read and also packed with insight (the Holy Grail, no?) It’s a collection of short chapters on a wide range of questions that either a baby or seasoned memoirist might ask. How do I find my voice? How do I organize my material? Am I betraying my family? (When Karr asked her own mom if she minded being outed as a knife-wielding alcoholic who set her children’s toys on fire, Mrs. Karr apparently replied: “Oh hell, the whole town knew about that.”) Karr draws on her extensive experience as a best-selling memoirist and teacher of memoir, serving up hard-won wisdom and concrete practical advice. Reading The Art of Memoir is like trapping a celebrity genius in a hotel bar and getting the unvarnished version. You’ll love it.


Who am I?

I’m a philosophy professor who started writing memoir in her mid-thirties. I love the similarities and the differences between memoir and philosophy (to sum it up: both are ways of making sense of your experience, but memoirists are allowed to tell stories, make jokes and break your heart.) On the trail of my obsession with the two, I’ve written a book on the philosophy of memoir and a memoir about philosophy. My sister calls them “your weird book twins.” Whatever! The whole experience has felt like falling in love, and I now want to encourage everyone to give personal writing a shot. 


I wrote...

Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir

By Helena de Bres,

Book cover of Artful Truths: The Philosophy of Memoir

What is my book about?

Artful Truths offers a concise and accessible guide to the philosophical questions that arise when writing a literary work about your own life. Helena de Bres addresses what memoirs are, how they relate to fiction, memoirists’ responsibilities to their readers and subjects, and the question of why to write a memoir at all. Along the way, she delves into many large human questions, including the nature of the self, the limits of knowledge, the idea of truth, the obligations of friendship, the relationship between morality and art, and the question of what makes a life meaningful. Written in a clear and conversational style, Artful Truths offers insight and guidance for those who write, teach, and study memoirs, and those who love to read them. 

War in Heaven

By Charles Williams,

Book cover of War in Heaven

Charles Williams’s books have been described as “supernatural thrillers.” Many later authors have tried to use the theme of a recently-rediscovered ancient holy relic, which various people want to get hold of for good or evil purposes, in this case the Holy Grail or Graal, but few have done it as well as Charles Williams. I’ve read it at least five times, and I also think it has one of the most attention-grabbing opening lines in fiction: “The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse.”


Who am I?

I have degrees in history and Christian theology, and enjoy science fiction and fantasy stories, whether set on earth, or in other worlds, whether real (other planets of our solar system), hypothetical (possible planets in other galaxies), or imaginary (Narnia, Wonderland). But I like those set in this world best, and value them especially for the insights they give into life, the universe, and everything. As C.S. Lewis once said to his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, if we want more of the kind of stories we like, we shall have to write them ourselves. The books I’ve recommended are the kind I like, and I’ve tried to write a few more. 


I wrote...

The Enchanted Grove

By Stephen Hayes,

Book cover of The Enchanted Grove

What is my book about?

Jeffery, Janet, and Catherine spend their summer school holidays swimming and riding horses in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains of South Africa. But then they have to deal with bullying teenagers who are into witchcraft (one of whom has a magical hyena skull), poachers, a witch who lures them into a deadly enchanted grove, and the strange guardian of a cave of Bushman paintings. And just when it seems that things couldn’t possibly get worse, the children stumble across a secret government project that the police think they know far too much about.  

The Da Vinci Code

By Dan Brown,

Book cover of The Da Vinci Code

This book tells a great adventure of Professor Langdon. In his search of the mysterious Da Vinci Code, I’ve learned that the dark side of fantasy and reality mixed in this story. And I always like the story that has the touch of mystical. Also, this story has its rational perspective when compared to reality. That was why this book got pretty phenomenal back then. 😊


Who am I?

I’m an Indonesian writer who loves the idea of supernatural fantasy. I’ve always liked daydreaming. It started when a story suddenly kept playing inside my head like a movie. And that story now became my first fantasy book, Royal Arcanum. Never I imagined I’ll be a full-time writer now. I feel blessed that my family supported my writing career.


I wrote...

Royal Arcanum: Reimagined

By Keefe R.D.,

Book cover of Royal Arcanum: Reimagined

What is my book about?

18-year-old Cathy Charlotte somehow has a soul connection to the ancient Vesperian legend. Not that she knows, until Sylvia Elle, an angel in disguised came to reveal the secret, that Cathy is born from the mother who inherits an Italian royal bloodline. One day, Cathy is astonished to know that her mom is part of the frightening secret fraternity. Her mom doesn't want her to get involved. But the more Cathy is being pushed away, the more she demands the truth.

The fraternity is seeking mysterious knowledge from the Vesperian legend. They deeply believe in the old prophecy; “the one inherits the soul, the one holds the knowledge.” Once the mystery reveals, Cathy terrifies. Before anyone finds out what she knows, Cathy must save herself and her family from the wicked chaos.

Holy Blood, Holy Grail

By Michael Baigent, Henry Lincoln, Richard Leigh

Book cover of Holy Blood, Holy Grail

This book is a near-perfect example of how an ancient myth can spawn a modern urban myth or conspiracy theory. Best known today for having inspired Dan Brown’s blockbuster The da Vinci Code – so much so that the authors unsuccessfully sued Brown’s publisher for plagiarism – this book weaves together fragments of myth and mysticism, strange events from more recent history, and political intrigue to create a fascinating tale about the lost bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalen.


Who am I?

Graeme Davis has been fascinated by myth and folklore ever since he saw Ray Harryhausen’s creatures in Jason and the Argonauts as a child. While studying archaeology at Durham University, he became far too involved with a new game called Dungeons & Dragons and went on to a career in fantasy games. He has written game sourcebooks on various ancient cultures and their myths, and worked as a researcher and consultant on multiple video games with historical and mythological settings.


I wrote...

Thor: Viking God of Thunder

By Graeme Davis,

Book cover of Thor: Viking God of Thunder

What is my book about?

Thor is best known today as a superhero in Marvel comics and films. In many ways he is the ultimate Viking: bluff, hearty, strong, and direct. And so he was in the earliest surviving stories from Norse myth. The thunder god has survived Roman attempts to conflate him with Classical gods, the bowdlerization of early Christian writers, Nazi attempts to co-opt him and his symbols, and more – and he has done so remarkably unchanged.

The Archer's Tale

By Bernard Cornwell,

Book cover of The Archer's Tale: Book One of the Grail Quest

Bernard Cornwell’s fight scenes are what I would call emotional rather than technical. You feel his fights, the vibration of sword against shield, the panic of your feet slipping in the mud, the fear rising up in your guts that will allow only a half-crazed scream to come out of your mouth. If you’re looking for a manual on sword fighting, Cornwell is not your man. But if you want to be put in a character’s armor while someone is trying to skewer him with a spear, no one does it better. I was drawn to this book because it was about an archer, and I know how hard it is to write fight scenes with archers in them. I am an amateur bowyer and having made more than a few bows I know how much skill it takes to make and use these weapons. Cornwell did a lot of…


Who am I?

I love a good fight scene! It doesn’t need to be long and gruesome, but it must be visceral and make me nervous for those involved. Don’t get me wrong, I also love a good first-kiss scene but unfortunately, my past has made me more adept at recognizing and writing one over the other. I started training in martial arts at the age of nine and continued for thirty years. I don’t train much these days but I took up bowmaking a few years back and now spend a lot of time carving English longbows and First Nations’ bows. I recently also took up Chinese archery.


I wrote...

Acre

By J.K. Swift,

Book cover of Acre

What is my book about?

Brother Foulques just wants to stay in Acre and perform his sworn duties as a Knight Justice. Instead, the young Hospitaller Knight of Saint John must undertake a dangerous journey from the Holy Land to a remote village nestled deep in the Alps, the "Spine of the World." His mission: buy 500 peasant boys and return them to Acre to be trained as Soldiers of Christ. Pursued across the Mid-Earth Sea by slavers, Brother Foulques and his charges are about to be thrust into a confrontation with the greatest warriors the East has ever known: the Mamluks. Once warrior-slaves, the Mamluks have overthrown their masters and now turn their eyes on Christendom itself. What chance does one Hospitaller and an army of children have?

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