The most recommended Iron Age books

Who picked these books? Meet our 11 experts.

11 authors created a book list connected to Iron Age, and here are their favorite Iron Age books.
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Book cover of The Viking Way: Magic and Mind in Late Iron Age Scandinavia

Lilith Saintcrow Author Of A Flame in the North

From my list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Like any writer, I’m fascinated with what makes people tick and why they act the way they do. Naturally, this means I read a lot of history. I love reference reading; I love researching arcane questions for a tiny detail that will bring a character or their world to life. Creating epic fantasy is an extension of both my drives as a reader and a writer. Pouring myself into characters who inhabit different settings is a deeply satisfying exercise in both craft and empathy, and each history book has some small bit I can use to make my settings more compelling, more enjoyable for readers, and more real.

Lilith's book list on European history books for writing Western epic fantasy

Lilith Saintcrow Why did Lilith love this book?

This is a pretty dense scholarly work, but that very density makes it a cornucopia for anyone interested in how a specific historical culture regarded magic.

I appreciated that while academic, Price is never boring or needlessly obscure; he does a very good job of not only explaining the historical record but also the best guess at how it can be interpreted.

Not only did it teach me a great deal about the Vikings, but it also taught me other strategies and ways of thinking about other cultures’ magical practices, and for a fantasy writer, that’s pure gold.

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Viking Way as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Magic, sorcery and witchcraft are among the most common themes of the great medieval Icelandic sagas and poems, the problematic yet vital sources that provide our primary textual evidence for the Viking Age that they claim to describe. Yet despite the consistency of this picture, surprisingly little archaeological or historical research has been done to explore what this may really have meant to the men and women of the time. This book examines the evidence for Old Norse sorcery, looking at its meaning and function, practice and practitioners, and the complicated constructions of gender and sexual identity with which these…


Book cover of Skin

D.M. Cameron Author Of Beneath the Mother Tree

From my list on literary novels with elements of fantasy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I hold a master's in writing modern stories based on ancient myth and have always been fascinated by the power of mythology and the idea of the archetypal subconscious, combine this with the wonders of the natural world and beautifully constructed sentences, and you have my dream read. All the books on this list, even though two are historical, have a modern sensibility, all celebrate the power of nature, and all are masterful in their execution. Enjoy!

D.M.'s book list on literary novels with elements of fantasy

D.M. Cameron Why did D.M. love this book?

This beautifully written debut, set in Iron-Age Britain on the cusp of the Roman invasion explores connection to country through the magical lens of druidism. Not only that, it is a page-turner and a love story and left me wanting more…which was good, because Tampke followed up with a sequel—Songwoman. If you are of Celtic heritage, this is a must-read.

By Ilka Tampke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'A visceral tale of ritual, magic and violence' - The Sunday Times

Imagine a world where everyone is born with a 'skin' name. Without skin you cannot learn, you are not permitted to marry, and you grow up an outsider amongst your own people.

This is no future dystopia. This is Celtic Britain.

It is AD 43. For the Caer Cad, 'skin' name determines lineage and identity. Ailia does not have skin; despite this, she is a remarkable young woman, intelligent, curious and brave. As a dark threat grows on the horizon - the aggressive expansion of the Roman Empire…


Book cover of The Crow Goddess

Laura Strickland Author Of Daughter of Sherwood

From my list on historical romances with a touch of magic.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I think of the distant past, I imagine it being populated by those who were a bit closer to the magical world than we. The men (or were they wizards?) who raised the standing stones. The druids of the ancient Celtic world. Figures like Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Viking shamans who harbored a kinship with the waters, with the trees, and with the land. The magic of the past is like a song played on a harp, the echoes of which still waft through our world. Some of us can hear those echoes yet, and some of us write about them.

Laura's book list on historical romances with a touch of magic

Laura Strickland Why did Laura love this book?

I picked up this book years ago at my local library by chance, if you believe in chance—which I do not. At that time, I had no idea the narrative of a historical romance could stretch back to Iron Age times, or that I could lose myself in the characters who populated the legends I love. For years, I’d been listening to Celtic music. In Patricia Finney’s wonderful story, I heard that music in the everyday world she created. I discovered how it feels to drive a chariot. Quite possibly, I revisited a past life. I will be forever grateful this book came into my hand.

By Patricia Finney,

Why should I read it?

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


Book cover of Britain and the Celtic Iron Age

Sheila Finch Author Of A Villa Far From Rome

From my list on Roman Britain and the Celts.

Why am I passionate about this?

Sheila Finch is best known as a Nebula-winning author of science fiction, but on a visit back to her first alma mater in Chichester, UK, she encountered a mystery that wouldn’t let her go. Who built the nearby magnificent Roman palace that was just now being excavated at Fishbourne, and why? Months of research later, she came up with a possible explanation that involved a sixteen-year-old Roman mother, a middle-aged Celtic king of a small tribe, and Emperor Nero’s secret plans:

Sheila's book list on Roman Britain and the Celts

Sheila Finch Why did Sheila love this book?

Another, more popularly oriented (and much shorter) discussion of Celtic life by Simon James (with Valerie Rigby), has a different focus: Britain and the Celtic Iron Age. Like the longer, less specific to Britain version by this author, this one gave me a much greater “feel” for the life of my characters before and after the Roman conquest. It’s full of photos and illustrations of Celtic artifacts, many of them collected by the British Museum.

By Simon James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Britain and the Celtic Iron Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Celts are seen as a family of European peoples who spoke related languages and shared many things in common, from art to aspects of religion and social organization. Was the British Iron Age simply part of this supposedly uniform, Celtic world, or was it something much more distinctive, complex, strange and fascinating than we have been led to believe? New research is promoting reappraisals of Britain's prehistory, in ways which challenge many ideas, such as that of a familiar Celtic past. This work discusses the many facets of the lives of Iron Age Britons, drawing on the wealth of…


Book cover of Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel

Oded Borowski Author Of Daily Life in Biblical Times

From my list on life in biblical times.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an archaeologist for over 50 years, I specialized in Household Archaeology, the branch of archaeology that investigates daily life. I was born and spent my childhood in British Mandatorial Palestine and then grew up to adulthood in Israel after it was founded. I spent many years as a kibbutz member in the Northern Negev living near the Bedouin. These experiences brought me close to pre-industrial societies. All my life I was surrounded by archaeological sites, taught biblical archaeology for over 40 years in college and wrote several books and articles on subjects related to daily life in biblical times.

Oded's book list on life in biblical times

Oded Borowski Why did Oded love this book?

Archaeological evidence suggests very strongly that the ancient Israelites were heavily influenced by the previous inhabitants of Syria-Palestine in many aspects of their life including religion and help to identify the integral part that religion played in the social and political worlds of the Israelites and Canaanites. The author examines current anthropological and sociological theories and compares them to ancient materials excavated over the past eighty years, then offers a new way of looking at the archaeological data suggesting the strong relations between archaeological remains from the Middle Bronze Age (Canaanites) to the Iron Age (Israelites).

By Beth Alpert Nakhai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book seeks to demonstrate that archaeological data can provide a strong and independent witness to the religious practices of the ancient inhabitants of Syria-Palestine and help to identify the integral part that religion played in the social and political worlds of the Israelites and Canaanites. By applying current anthropological and sociological theory to ancient materials excavated over the past eighty years, the author offers a new way of looking at the archaeological data. Beth Alpert Nakhai summarises and analyses the archaeological remains from all known Middle Bronze Age through Iron Age temples, sanctuaries, and open-air shrines to reveal the…


Book cover of Stone Heart

Katherine Black Author Of Leverage

From my list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been writing for a long time and reading even longer. I enjoy intelligent books that are well written—not overwritten or over punctuated—and as we all do both of those, I mean that it’s been well edited. And I understand the struggle which is why four of my five choices are from indie authors like myself.

Katherine's book list on dark and twisted psychological thrillers

Katherine Black Why did Katherine love this book?

I loved this book. If I had to describe this novel in one word it would be intelligent. Set in Celtic Ireland in the Iron Age, the language is rich and expressive and Merrigan takes you into his world until you feel you belong there. You are drawn into a time where everything is governed by the gods. The story takes you through the training of the young warriors and druids. With the ongoing conflict over land, and with the people’s lives steeped in superstitious beliefs, we come to care that the outcome falls well with our tribe.

Fionn is born into a simple rural tribe. His life is sweet as he grows to double figures playing with his sisters in the fields. At the age of ten, he is called to serve, and the boys of fighting age are gathered from across the land, taken from their families, and…

By Peter J Merrigan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ireland, 279 BC. A nation at war. For two boys, it will be gruelling. For Ireland . . . it will be bloody.

When the first raiding skirmishes of a foreign army are crushed and Ireland mourns her dead, one king knows their newfound peace is destined to fail. As Overking of Ailigh, Keeper of the North, he calls for the boys of his Celtic tribes to train as formidable warriors under his command.

For Aed, it begins as a fantastical quest. For Ronan, it helps him escape a cruel chieftain. Together, they must train and grow in strength and…


Book cover of The Walrus Mutterer

Nikki Marmery Author Of On Wilder Seas: The Woman on the Golden Hind

From my list on historical sea voyages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historical fiction writer living in a landlocked village in the Chilterns, UK. I became obsessed with long sea voyages while researching my debut novel, On Wilder Seas, which is inspired by the true story of Maria, the only woman aboard the Golden Hind during Francis Drake’s circumnavigation voyage in 1577-1580. I immersed myself in the literature of the sea, in early modern sailors’ accounts of their terrifying voyages, in their wills and diaries, in maps and sea-logs. A ship is the perfect setting for a novel: the confined space, the impossibility of escape, the ever-present danger – and the hostile, unforgiving sea is the ultimate antagonist.

Nikki's book list on historical sea voyages

Nikki Marmery Why did Nikki love this book?

In 325 BC, Pytheas of Massalia travelled to northern Britain and beyond, becoming the first writer to chronicle the midnight sun and describe the distant land of Thule (possibly Iceland). His account, On the Ocean, was lost to history and is now known only through references by other writers. But we do have The Walrus Mutterer, a brilliant fictionalization of those travels, to make up for it.

Rian is a young woman from the Scottish region of Assynt who is being trained as a healer when she is enslaved and forced to join Pytheas’s dangerous voyage of discovery. In poetic, lean prose, Haggith details Rian’s trials at sea, her endurance and strength, and the search for the eponymous walrus-hunter, which takes them into the far north.

The writing about the weather and landscape of this lost world is exquisite. The beliefs and practices of this distant way of…

By Mandy Haggith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Northern Britain, Iron Age. Rian, a carefree young woman and promising apprentice healer, is enslaved by a spiteful trader and forced aboard a vessel to embark on a perilous sea voyage. They are in search of the fabled hunter known as the Walrus Mutterer, to recover something once stolen. The limits of Rian's endurance are tested not only by the cruelty of her captor, but their mysterious fellow passenger Pytheas The Greek - and the merciless sea that constantly endangers both their mission and their lives. A visceral evocation of ancient folklore and ritual, The Walrus Mutterer introduces an unforgettable…


Book cover of Women's Lives in Biblical Times

Oded Borowski Author Of Daily Life in Biblical Times

From my list on life in biblical times.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an archaeologist for over 50 years, I specialized in Household Archaeology, the branch of archaeology that investigates daily life. I was born and spent my childhood in British Mandatorial Palestine and then grew up to adulthood in Israel after it was founded. I spent many years as a kibbutz member in the Northern Negev living near the Bedouin. These experiences brought me close to pre-industrial societies. All my life I was surrounded by archaeological sites, taught biblical archaeology for over 40 years in college and wrote several books and articles on subjects related to daily life in biblical times.

Oded's book list on life in biblical times

Oded Borowski Why did Oded love this book?

Women played an important role in daily life of biblical Israel, but not much has been written about them. This book uses a fictional character to describe the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel using archaeological, iconographic, and ethnographic information. Each chapter is devoted to a major event in the life of the character, from birth to death, describing in a story-telling manner how women coped, focusing on the specific events, customs, crafts, technologies, and other activities in which an Israelite female would have participated on a daily basis.

By Jennie R. Ebeling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women's Lives in Biblical Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume describes the lifecycle events and daily life activities experienced by girls and women in ancient Israel examining recent biblical scholarship and other textual evidence from the ancient Near East and Egypt including archaeological, iconographic and ethnographic data. From this Ebeling creates a detailed, accessible description of the lives of women living in the central highland villages of Iron Age I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE) Israel. The book opens with an introduction that provides a brief historical survey of Iron Age (ca. 1200-586 BCE) Israel, a discussion of the problems involved in using the Hebrew Bible as a source, a…


Book cover of Celts and the Classical World

Sharon Paice MacLeod Author Of Celtic Cosmology and the Otherworld: Mythic Origins, Sovereignty and Liminality

From my list on authentic Celtic mythology, religion, and cosmology.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for Celtic cultures, languages, and traditions comes from my family, where singing and storytelling were common. I worked as a singer and musician, and trained in Celtic Studies through Harvard University. That was an amazing experience, and research in Scotland and Ireland expanded my knowledge tremendously. I taught Celtic literature, mythology, and folklore at numerous colleges, and am Expert Contributor in Iron Age Pagan Celtic Religion for the Database of Religious History at the University of British Columbia, and invited Old Irish translator for the upcoming Global Medieval Sourcebook at Stanford University. I wake up every day excited to share the historical realities of these amazing cultures and beliefs!

Sharon's book list on authentic Celtic mythology, religion, and cosmology

Sharon Paice MacLeod Why did Sharon love this book?

I really think this book has also been underappreciated and overlooked by students and enthusiasts.

It contains a remarkable (and again) unsurpassed collection of written sources from the Iron Age in regard to the history, culture, and religions of the Celtic speaking peoples of ancient Europe. In some places it focuses on interactions between the Celts and population groups from the Mediterranean and other parts of ancient Europe.

But it also goes into a great deal of detail about the Celts themselves; where they lived; the names and activities of many of their leaders, warriors, druids, and others; and fascinating information about their cultures, beliefs, and religions... in accurate historical context which makes for a very engaging - and at times a surprising read.

Without a proper understanding of the historical realities, and the context from which information derives... whether Greek and Roman accounts, inscriptions, other written sources, archeology, and…

By David Rankin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Celts and the Classical World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Standard work in the field which was OP

No competition

Recent surge of interest in the Celtic Studies

Multidisciplinary, easily approachable

Includes 4 new pages on the Roman camp outside of Dublin