The best King Arthur books

6 authors have picked their favorite books about King Arthur and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Le Morte D'Arthur

Le Morte D'Arthur

By William Caxton, Sir Thomas Malory,

Why this book?

If you’re interested in the Arthurian Legend, Thomas Mallory is a great place to start. He’s not the first guy to write about King Arthur and his knights (that honor is widely attributed to French poet Chrétien de Troyes), but he is possibly the first writer to collect all the scattered legends into one cohesive narrative. He’s also the only guy to do it while imprisoned for attempting to overthrow the government/having sex with another guy’s wife, at least as far as I know, and that passion for insurrection and adultery definitely shows through in his work. It’s a very…

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The best books on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Book cover of Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel

Arthur Rex: A Legendary Novel

By Thomas Berger,

Why this book?

Arthur Rex tells the same story as Le Morte D’Arthur, but in a radically different way. Where Mallory idolizes the knights and nobles of Arthur’s court, Thomas Berger paints them in the most unflattering light possible. Everyone is a cretin, a sex maniac, or both, and their backwards morals are used as clever mirrors of our own modern moral failings. Arthur Rex is probably the funniest version of the Arthurian Legend that I’ve read. It’s got its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek. Even so, the ending managed to make me cry, so props to Berger for capturing the full…

From the list:

The best books on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

Book cover of Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature

Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature

By O.J. Padel,

Why this book?

Oliver Padel is a linguist specializing in early Welsh and Cornish and as such the ideal guide to Arthur’s presence in early Celtic literature. While acknowledging that the earliest datable instances come in the Historia Brittonum in 829-30, his view is that Arthur began as a figure of Celtic mythology and was only later converted into a pseudo-historical figure fixed in the past. In that sense, the early Arthur is the individual in the Historia Brittonum in the section called Mirabilia (Wonders), where he is used as a way of explaining landscape features and the names given to them, who…

From the list:

The best books about the origins of King Arthur

Book cover of Concepts of Arthur

Concepts of Arthur

By Thomas Green,

Why this book?

Green’s book is a great read, very scholarly, and inclusive of a great deal of comparatively early source material on Arthur. If you want a good discussion of how you could go from a figure of Celtic myth to one of history, again and again in multiple stories, this is the best guide to that journey and deserves a hearing, whether ultimately you agree with it or not. You’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I am not persuaded, despite my considerable respect for the arguments made herein, largely for the same reasons as I noted in looking at…

From the list:

The best books about the origins of King Arthur

Book cover of The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature

The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature

By Rachel Bromwich (editor), A.O.H. Jarman (editor), Brynley F. Roberts (editor)

Why this book?

This is a volume of papers by lots of different scholars each speaking to their own specialism. This provides a brilliant introduction to numerous parts of Arthur’s story as it began and was then carried through inside the Celtic World both before and after its eventual transmission to England and France, where it took off so spectacularly. Reading through this provides insight into the development of Arthur in what must be assumed to have been his original setting. The book is getting a bit old now and there is a replacement in the offing but it is still a great…

From the list:

The best books about the origins of King Arthur

Book cover of The Warlord Chronicles

The Warlord Chronicles

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why this book?

Ok, so it’s a trilogy rather than a single book – an epic retelling of the legend of King Arthur and his knights – but what a trilogy! No one who’s read these books will forget what it feels like to have the life squeezed out of them at the centre of a shield wall, with spear-blades edging inexorably closer...

Like The King Must Die, The Warlord Chronicles recount a legend with so much verve and detail you’re left thinking this must be the way it really happened. Above all, it’s a moving study of heroes at the end…

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Book cover of Avalon High

Avalon High

By Meg Cabot,

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love a new take on the Arthurian Legend of King Arthur? This fairly light-hearted story tells of King Arthur and his friends reincarnated in modern times. Age-old legends, it seems, never die… and now present-day teenagers Will and Elaine must fight the same battles for good to triumph over evil. It’s a modern twist on a classic love story, and a lot of fun.

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The best novels about reincarnation for kids and teens

Book cover of Spring Song: Book One in The Seasons Cycle

Spring Song: Book One in The Seasons Cycle

By Cassia Hall,

Why this book?

Silverian Stables isn’t technically a ranch, as it is in a fantasy story and the stable is more a place where the horses of the knights, travelers, and other high-born’s horses are kept, but in only a few pages I was sold and ready to start the long trek up Mount Saddle. The stables become a focal point in book two where the Stable Master is one of the main characters. We get a loving peek into her life and the lives of those caring for the horses. The horses that fill the stables feel like ones I have known…

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Book cover of The Merlin Trilogy

The Merlin Trilogy

By Mary Stewart,

Why this book?

Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy (and the companion novel, The Wicked Day) creates an immersive world and is so enjoyable to read. The characters are alive and the words flow across the page like gentle pixie dust lulling you into a world of enchantment. There is no magical system per se but the magic is present in glimpses like sunlight off the surface of a broken mirror, only allowing us to perceive hints of its reflections. Even for those well-versed in Arthurian legends, the unique perspective of Merlin takes us on a new adventure. I loved the elements of philosophy…

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Book cover of The Winter King

The Winter King

By Bernard Cornwell,

Why this book?

Another era of history. Britain after the Roman occupation, during the Saxon invasion. It’s a retelling of the Arthur myth, from the point of view of an old Briton warrior who recounts the battles Arthur led against the Saxons. Historical fiction at its best, I love this series so much. It depicts an England before it was England, with a people struggling to recover their identity after centuries of Romanization. All the characters are there, Arthur, Merlin, Nimue, but they are all different. And nothing is as you thought. The author shows a world that could have been the origins…

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