The most recommended Iliad books

Who picked these books? Meet our 58 experts.

58 authors created a book list connected to the Iliad, and here are their favorite Iliad books.
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Book cover of Njal's Saga

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Why am I passionate about this?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

This is by all estimation the greatest of the sagas. I would even claim that its excellence allows it to be fairly mentioned in the same breath as the Iliad, Don Quixote, and the tragedies of Shakespeare. It is quite complex and I would suggest, if I am allowed to, my Why is Your Axe Bloody? (2014) as a guide. But the present Penguin translation is a travesty and should be avoided. The best English translation available is the older Penguin translated by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Pálsson (1961) and still available from various used booksellers online. Their translation is as good as a translation can get. Hrafnkels saga is a perfect entry to the sagas because it is short and compact and prepares one for the complexity of Njáls saga

By Magnus and Palsson (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Njal's Saga as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magnusson, Magnus and Palsson, Hermann [transl.]. Njal's Saga. Translated with an introduction by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson. Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1966. 11 cm x 18 cm. 378, (6) pages. Original Softcover. Very good condition with some minor signs of external wear. From the library of swiss - american - irish poet Chuck Kruger. [Penguin Classics]. Contains the following chapters: Introduction; Note on the Translation; Njal's Saga; Genealogical Tables; Glossary of Proper Names; Note on the Chronology; Maps.


Book cover of Fire from Heaven

Jeanne Reames Author Of Becoming

From my list on Alexander the Great.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Jeanne Reames is a professional historian, college professor, and specialist in ancient Macedonia and Alexander the Great. She also earned a degree in creative writing and has published fiction and poetry. She’s been collecting fiction about Alexander the Great for almost 35 years, and previously managed the website Beyond Renault: Alexander the Great in Fiction since WW I, until retiring it after over ten years. She has (almost) every professionally published English-language novel about Alexander, and has penned several articles on Alexander in fiction, including “Alexander the Great and Hephaistion in Fiction after Stonewall,” for The Routledge Companion to the Reception of Ancient Greek and Roman Sexuality (forthcoming).

Jeanne's book list on Alexander the Great

Jeanne Reames Why did Jeanne love this book?

Any recommendation list of novels about Alexander must include Mary Renault, queen of Greek historical fiction. Fire from Heaven covers his childhood/youth and remains many readers’ initial introduction to him. Her knowledge of Greece, both the land and its history, is rich, and she was first to depict, in a positive way, Alexander’s relationship with Hephaistion as more than friendship. Ironically, the book’s publication coincided with the NYC Stonewall Riots in June of 1969. Yet however progressive her view of homoerotic attachments, she paints a troublingly misogynistic portrait of Alexander’s mother Olympias. The book contains a few errors as several critical archaeological discoveries were 10+ years in the future, but historical novelists can’t be faulted for forthcoming finds. Her second novel about Alexander, The Persian Boy, was published in 1972.

By Mary Renault,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The Alexander Trilogy contains some of Renault's finest writing. Lyrical, wise, compelling: the novels are a wonderful imaginative feat - Sarah Waters

Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three, leaving behind an empire that stretched from Greece to India. Fire From Heaven tells the story of the years that shaped him. His mother, Olympias, and his father, King Philip of Macedon, fought each other for their son's loyalty, teaching Alexander politics and vengeance. His love for the youth Hephaistion taught him trust, while Aristotle's tutoring provoked his mind and fuelled his aspirations. Killing his first man in battle…


Book cover of The Iliad

Richard Jenkyns Author Of Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond

From my list on classical literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I spent my career teaching Classics, mostly at Oxford University, where I was a fellow of Lady Margaret Hall and Professor of the Classical Tradition. I have worked on the influence of the ancient world on British literature and culture, especially in the Victorian age, and when being a conventional classicist have written mostly about Latin literature and Roman culture. I have also written short books on Jane Austen and Westminster Abbey.

Richard's book list on classical literature

Richard Jenkyns Why did Richard love this book?

‘Wrath’ is the first word, beginning European literature not with the whimper of infancy but with a bang. The Iliad is ferociously intense, the action remarkably compressed in time and place, despite the poem’s great length (most of it takes place on the plain of Troy over two or three days). It is the quintessence of tragedy, declaring that the quest for glory, the hero’s duty, is inseparably bound up with humiliation and death. But it is a high-spirited tragedy, immensely energetic, with a lust for the ordinary appetites of life. Life is so good: that is what makes the warriors’ deaths so terrible. The gods look on, both fascinated and detached, and through their eyes we see man as both small and great. I recommend Martin Hammond’s prose translation.

By Homer, Martin Hammond,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'The best modern prose translation of The Iliad' Robin Lane Fox, The Times

The first of the world's great tragedies, The Iliad centres on the pivotal four days towards the end of the ten-year war between the Greeks and the Trojans. In a series of dramatic set pieces, it follows the story of the humiliation of Achilleus at the hands of Agamemnon and his slaying of Hektor: a barbarous act with repercussions that ultimately determine the fate of Troy. The Iliad not only paints an intimate picture of individual experience, but also offers a universal perspective in which human loss…


Book cover of Homer and His Iliad

Brett Bourbon Author Of Jane Austen and the Ethics of Description

From Brett's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Philosopher Observer Parent and friend Athlete Explorer

Brett's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Brett Bourbon Why did Brett love this book?

If Robin Lane Fox writes a book, I buy it. I have never been disappointed.

I regularly teach the "Iliad." So, reading Fox’s new book about Homer and the "Iliad" feels like a long conversation about a dear friend. He explores and answers “the questions where, how and when . . . [the "Iliad"] is likely to have been composed.” His answer is that Homer was an oral poet, part of a long tradition of oral poets, but he was also the single illiterate author of the intricate and beautiful story that we now call the "Iliad."  He comes to this conclusion as part of a literary, historical, and archeology investigation that is part scholarships, part mystery, and part love affair.

The book is exhilarating and transformative.

By Robin Lane Fox,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A thrilling study of the greatest of all epic poems, by one of the world's leading classicists

Homer's Iliad is the famous epic poem set among the tales of Troy. Its subject is the anger of the hero Achilles and its dreadful consequences for the warring Greeks and Trojans. It was composed more than 2,600 years ago, but still transfixes us with its tale of loss and battle, love and revenge, guided throughout by the active presence of the gods. Its beauty and profound bleakness are intensely moving but great questions remain: where, how and when it was composed and…


Book cover of The Tale of the Heike

Thomas D. Conlan Author Of Weapons & Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior 1200-1877 AD

From my list on medieval European history to Japanese literature.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with history in general, and the history of Japan, since I was in junior high when I read a book on the samurai. After attending summer school at Harvard in 1985, I resolved to devote myself to the study of Japan. Since then, I have studied at Michigan, Stanford, and Kyoto before teaching Japanese history at first Bowdoin College and now, Princeton University. Although I primarily research Japanese history, I find scholarship pertaining to medieval and early modern Europe to be fascinating as well. 

Thomas' book list on medieval European history to Japanese literature

Thomas D. Conlan Why did Thomas love this book?

A masterpiece. Royall Tyler translates this tale, which had been recited orally by blind monks in the fourteenth century, into beautiful English; the rhythms of the language, its beauty, tragedy, and poetry become accessible to an English-speaking audience for the first time. One of the greatest accomplishments in translation and a must-read for all interested in medieval Japanese warfare and epic war tales.

By Royall Tyler (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Tale of the Heike is Japan's great martial epic: a masterpiece of world literature and the progenitor of all samurai stories. This major and groundbreaking new Penguin translation is by Royall Tyler, acclaimed translator of The Tale of Genji.

First assembled from scattered oral poems in the early fourteenth century, The Tale of the Heike is Japan's Iliad - a grand-scale depiction of the wars between the Heike and Genji clans. Legendary for its magnificent and vivid set battle scenes, it is also a work filled with intimate human dramas and emotions, contemplating Buddhist themes of suffering and separation,…


Book cover of Ransom

Nathalie Abi-Ezzi Author Of A Girl Made of Dust

From my list on where war is not centre stage but present.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I'm fascinated by the experiences that affect people's identity. I want my characters to have this multiplicity and depth too, and since I was born and grew up in Lebanon, an obvious place for me to start was by looking at the impact that war had on people's everyday lives. The characters I write about simply want to get on with the business of living, but can't do this without taking into account the bigger events that are happening around them.

Nathalie's book list on where war is not centre stage but present

Nathalie Abi-Ezzi Why did Nathalie love this book?

An interpretation of part of The Iliad where King Priam journeys to Achilles' camp to beg for the return of his son Hector's body. Malouf gives us access to Priam's thoughts and feelings as he dresses as a carter and drives straight into the enemy camp, wondering at all the things that, as a king, he has never noticed before. Once in the camp, he must face the man who has been dragging his son's body behind his chariot day after day, only to wake up each morning and find it magically restored. This is a story about those who are left behind, told in heart-stoppingly beautiful writing. 

By David Malouf,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In his first novel in more than a decade, award-winning author David Malouf reimagines the pivotal narrative of Homer’s Iliad—one of the most famous passages in all of literature.
 
This is the story of the relationship between two grieving men at war: fierce Achilles, who has lost his beloved Patroclus in the siege of Troy; and woeful Priam, whose son Hector killed Patroclus and was in turn savaged by Achilles. A moving tale of suffering, sorrow, and redemption, Ransom is incandescent in its delicate and powerful lyricism and its unstated imperative that we imagine our lives in the glow of…


Book cover of Gilgamesh: A New English Version

Brooks Hansen Author Of The Unknown Woman of the Seine

From my list on history, myth, and fantasy, as imagination sees fit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like history. I also like myth. And I revere the imagination, the liberal use of which can lead to what many call “fantasy.” Though the portions change, almost all the fiction I’ve written—from The Chess Garden to John the Baptizer to my latest, The Unknown Woman of the Seine—is the product of this recipe. Some moment from the past captures my attention, digs its hooks in, invites research, which begets questions, which beget answers that only the imagination can provide, informed both by experience and by the oldest illustrations of why we are the way we are. Dice these up, let simmer until you’re not sure which is which, and serve.

Brooks' book list on history, myth, and fantasy, as imagination sees fit

Brooks Hansen Why did Brooks love this book?

Why not start with the oldest surviving long-form narrative there is. While purporting to account for the late reign of the very real King of the very real Sumerian city-state Uruk, the epic of Gilgamesh—very like the epics that the Greeks would offer some 4 to 14 hundred years later—trots out a world replete with the goddesses, monsters, magical drums, forests, and sacred undersea plants. The flavor of this world is first and most memorably signaled by the deliberate creation of a rival for its protagonist. Sculpted from river clay, then sexually domesticated by a temple maiden, the wild man Enkidu fights his way into a lifelong bromance with Gilgamesh that eventually confronts each with his own mortality. Again, for being the oldest such tale we know of, and for having to be chiseled on tablets, the whole thing holds up as a very living document, wildly entertaining, psychologically…

By Stephen Mitchell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

An English-language rendering of the world's oldest epic follows the journey of conquest and self-discovery by the king of Uruk, in an edition that includes an introduction that places the story in its historical and cultural context.


Book cover of Iliad

Steven R. Perkins Author Of Latin for Dummies

From my list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school.

Why am I passionate about this?

I like books to grab and hold my attention. That’s what I like about music, too, which is why I co-host a heavy metal podcast when I’m not teaching Latin or writing books and articles. Having taught Latin and Classics for over thirty years from middle school through undergrad, I know what people enjoy about the Greco-Roman world and what they often missed out on in school. I love reading this stuff, too, whether prepping for class, doing research for my next publication, or while listening to head-banging greats of the ‘70s and ‘80s, so dig in and get ready to rock with the Romans and groove with the Greeks!

Steven's book list on the Greeks and Romans you never read in school

Steven R. Perkins Why did Steven love 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 and over.

By Homer, Stanley Lombardo (translator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Iliad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Gripping. . . . Lombardo's achievement is all the more striking when you consider the difficulties of his task. . . . [He] manages to be respectful of Homer's dire spirit while providing on nearly every page some wonderfully fresh refashioning of his Greek. The result is a vivid and disarmingly hardbitten reworking of a great classic." -Daniel Mendelsohn, The New York Times Book Review


Book cover of The War Nerd Iliad

Philip Matyszak Author Of Hercules: The First Superhero

From my list on ancient Rome by ancient Romans.

Why am I passionate about this?

They say true happiness is finding something you love, and getting paid to do it, which makes me one happy bunny. Ancient history has been my passion, my hobby and my job for the past three decades, and I still wake up every morning looking forward to another day of it. Thanks to the internet I can study the classics and still hike in the mountains and kayak the mountain lakes of my corner of British Columbia. It doesn't get better than this.

Philip's book list on ancient Rome by ancient Romans

Philip Matyszak Why did Philip love 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.

By John Dolan, Homer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We recognize the names: Achilles, Odysseus, Zeus, and Apollo. We're taught that The Iliad is a foundational text of civilization. But who has really read the text? Until now, The Iliad was hijacked by academics and used to bludgeon schoolchildren as a boring-yet- mandatory reading.

Poet, novelist, essayist, and former teacher John Dolan revisits this ancient tale and restores it to its ancient glory. The Greeks and Trojans are still fighting. The gods are still interfering. But in Dolan's version, you'll be amazed at how funny, raw, and terrifying this doomed world of war really is. He strips away clunky,…


Book cover of This Hallowed Ground: A History of the Civil War

Prit Buttar Author Of The Reckoning: The Defeat of Army Group South, 1944

From my list on changed my view of history.

Why am I passionate about this?

"History can become a dull and uninteresting subject, but the stories of the past are far more interesting and inspiring than the very best fiction. These stories tell us about how our world came to be, and the paths that our predecessors travelled; and they show us that, despite the decades and centuries that separate us, they were driven and inspired by the same factors that drive and inspire us today." Prit Buttar was a doctor, first in the British Army and then a GP, until retiring in 2019. Less than a year later, he volunteered to go back to work during the current pandemic.

Prit's book list on changed my view of history

Prit Buttar Why did Prit love this book?

I picked up this book while on a study course in the United States – I was based in Washington DC and intended to visit some of the nearby Civil War battlefields, and decided that I needed to know more about the conflict. It was perhaps the first American history book I had read, and immediately I was struck by the very different style of writing when compared with European works.

For a single-volume account of a terrible conflict that did so much to shape the United States, this is probably unmatched. The people involved, from those in high-level political positions to the men and women caught up in the fighting, are brought to life in an unforgettable way.

By Bruce Catton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The classic one-volume history of the American Civil War simultaneously captures the dramatic scope and intimate experience of that epic struggle, by Pulitzer Prize-winner Bruce Catton.
 
Covering events from the prelude of the conflict to the death of Lincoln, Catton blends a gripping narrative with deep, yet unassuming, scholarship to bring the war alive on the page in an almost novelistic way. It is this gift for narrative that led contemporary critics to compare this book to War and Peace, and call it a “modern Iliad.” Now over fifty years old, This Hallowed Ground remains one of the best-loved and…