The best Iliad books 📚

Browse the best books on the Iliad as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of The War Nerd Iliad

The War Nerd Iliad

By Homer, John Dolan

Why this book?

Don't look for some high-brow version full of pseudo-Shakespearean language. Homer's story is a blood-and-guts tale (literally) of hard-bitten heroes, feuding among spiteful gods and bombastic military commanders. Try John Dolan's version from Feral house publishing, deliberately written as he imagined the story was first told – by soldiers sitting around a campfire exchanging yarns.

From the list:

The best books on ancient Rome by ancient Romans

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Book cover of The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

By Adam Nicolson

Why this book?

Not a novel, but it reads like one, as Nicolson tells the story of how the greatest sea voyage tale of all time – The Odyssey, and its sister epic The Iliad – came to be, with a cast of characters including the Greek heroes, gods and goddesses crossing the land and seascapes of Ancient Greece. 

Nicolson argues that these poems emerged not in the 8th century BC, when they were first written down, but a thousand years earlier in the oral tradition. In them, he sees the origin myths of the people who became the Greeks –…

From the list:

The best books about historical sea voyages

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Book cover of War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad

War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad

By Christopher Logue

Why this book?

Logue’s modernist reworking of the Iliad – the Trojan war - mother of all Mediterranean contests, is quite unlike anything you’ll ever read. Logue doesn’t translate, he remakes. It’s as cinematic as a film script, cast in a poetic language as brilliant as anything in modern times, full of jump cuts, staccato effects, and startling contemporary references. The violence of the fighting has a slamming immediacy (‘Dust like red mist/Pain like chalk on slate’), the Mediterranean – ‘the sea that is always counting’ - glimmers and sighs, the Gods behave like spoiled children, helicopters go whumping over the dunes.

From the list:

The best books on the Mediterranean world

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Book cover of Iliad

Iliad

By Homer, Stanley Lombardo

Why this book?

I get it. People read Homer’s Odyssey because of the adventures and gods and monsters, but for me, his best was his first epic poem, The Iliad. The opening word of the story is “rage,” and the action never stops until the last line. From clashing swords to souls sent down to the house of death, this could have been a heavy metal opera if only Homer had played an electric guitar instead of a lyre. I chose the Lombardo translation because it captures best the action and heroism and pulse-pounding excitement that keeps me reading this one over…

From the list:

The best books on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school

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Book cover of The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

By Pat Barker

Why this book?

Pat Barker writes superbly about the human costs of war, and in this book she re-tells Homer’s Illiad from the perspective not of the foot soldiers, the cannon fodder of ego-driven politician/heroes, but from the perspective of the vanquished women reduced to slavery and concubinage - Breseis, awarded to Achilles after her city is sacked, fought over by Agamemnon, Andromarche, Hector’s widow, reduced to slavery after her entire family has been slaughtered, Polyxena, the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, sacrificed by the Greeks... It is a sensuous, visceral retelling of the story, provocative and evocative. You become part of that…

From the list:

The best forgotten (or untold) histories of war

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Book cover of The Iliad

The Iliad

By Homer, Robert Fagles

Why this book?

I am cheating a little here because ‘Homer’ can refer to either the Iliad or the Odyssey or both. Either way, those are the two foundational works of ALL western literature and of much ‘world’ literature besides. They are both very very long verse epics, originally composed and handed down orally by a combination of memory and performance improvisation, but eventually committed to writing in the Greeks’ then-new alphabetic script. 

If there was just one poet called Homer, his genius lay in his selection of a single unifying theme for both monumental poems – the anger of Greek hero-warrior Achilles…

From the list:

The best books about ancient Greece and their world

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