The best books about knights

28 authors have picked their favorite books about knights and why they recommend each book.

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Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Sir Gawaine is one of the most interesting knights of the Round Table because of how imperfect he is. He’s not the strongest knight in the world -- that’s Lancelot -- and he’s definitely not the most virtuous -- that’s Galahad, who sucks -- he’s a working-class joe who routinely gets in over his head because he loves to swing swords more than he likes thinking about consequences. Sir Gawaine and the Green knight is a story of one of the knight’s most famous capers, and it does not disappoint. The original story was written in Old English, which is barely even English to be honest, so you’re going to need a translation to read it, and who better to translate such a story than J.R.R. Tolkien himself. Yes, that Tolkien. When he wasn’t making elves and humans kiss each other, he was a prolific philologist and translator, and The…


Who am I?

Cory O’Brien, author of such books as Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: a No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology, grew up reading myths and legends of all sorts, and turned that passion into a career with the advent of his extremely serious mythology website. He has always had a fondness for the Arthurian Legend in particular, ever since his father read him Howard Pyle’s King Arthur books as a child, and he realized he could use them as a moral justification for hitting other kids with big sticks.


I wrote...

Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology

By Cory O'Brien,

Book cover of Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology

What is my book about?

From the creator of Myths Retold comes a hilarious collection of Greek, Norse, Chinese, and even Sumerian myths retold in their purest, bawdiest forms! All our lives, we've been fed watered-down, PC versions of the classic myths. In reality, mythology is more screwed up than a schizophrenic shaman doing hits of unidentified... wait, it all makes sense now. In Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes, Cory O'Brien, creator of Myths RETOLD!, sets the stories straight. These are rude, crude, totally sacred texts told the way they were meant to be told: loudly, and with lots of four-letter words.

The Once and Future King

By T. H. White,

Book cover of The Once and Future King

Who wouldn't want a serious dark age romance to open in horror, and then slip into the Disney landscape of the sword in the stone, before delivering a legendary and literary masterpiece? Make no mistake, this is a serious book from start to finish, capturing the full magical significance of the Arthurian legend, in a spellbinding story of incest, intrigue, plot, and counterplot, set against a heart-rending love triangle, and delivering a coup de grace ending, that is full of both despair and hope, for the future of England and humankind.


Who am I?

Born in the era of the space race and The Sky at Night I was entranced by the moon shots, and avidly read sci-fi and fantasy. An atheist, I became fascinated with world religions, largely due to my increased interest in quantum physics. Which seemed, with its explosion of light and energy from the void, to validate intelligent design. I discovered Gnosticism along the way, and found that it mirrored some of my own conjectures: That a creator may be flawed, misguided, or malevolent, and may not be the most powerful entity, or even the devil, in a pseudo underworld, with an unknown, all-powerful, entity beyond.


I wrote...

Lucifer's Child

By Gideon Masters,

Book cover of Lucifer's Child

What is my book about?

"Expert bodyguard required. High possibility of Death. Leave for foreign parts within the week. Three months or less. Dependent on ability to survive. £75,000.”

John read the psycho ad with incredulity. Against all reason, he found himself considering the prospect: He met the criteria: Thirty years a cop. He was an “expert”. Foreign parts? Who cares! Six-month prognosis? Time enough! Early death? No issue! She would remember the man of action he'd always been, not a cancerous and feeble cripple. £75,000 would nicely replenish the savings he'd taken from Helen, chasing non existent cures. He was in..! And so, the irrevocable chain of events were ignited, that would, ultimately, resurrect and rebuild John's psyche, and thrust him to the forefront of the salvation of humanity.

The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny

By Richard W. Kaeuper (editor), Elspeth Kennedy (editor),

Book cover of The Book of Chivalry of Geoffroi de Charny: Text, Context, and Translation

Often said to have been in decline in the later middle ages, this treatise, by a French knight, written for King John II’s Company of the Star, shows that chivalry, although under great pressure, remained a hugely powerful ethos which continued to shape aristocratic life in the fourteenth century. The work details the trials and travails of a life in arms and the ‘worth’ of various military enterprises. Rather poignantly, Charny died at the battle of Poitiers (1356) while bearing the Oriflamme, the French banner.

Who am I?

I was drawn into the study of medieval history through an interest in chivalry and this led to a PhD and various publications on the career and household of Edward the Black Prince (1330-76). He lived through the heart of what’s become known as the late medieval crisis: a period which many contemporaries thought was a prelude to the apocalypse. I’ve been teaching and writing about this period for more than 20 years now and remain fascinated by the contrasts between creativity and utter devastation that characterise the later middle ages.


I wrote...

The Hundred Years War: A People's History

By David Green,

Book cover of The Hundred Years War: A People's History

What is my book about?

The Hundred Years War (1337–1453) dominated life in England and France for well over a century. It became the defining feature of existence for generations. David Green focuses on the ways the war affected different groups, including knights, clerics, women, peasants, soldiers, peacemakers, and kings. He also explores how the war changed government in England and France and reshaped peoples’ perceptions of themselves and of their national character.

The book illuminates the realities of battle and the conditions of those compelled to live in occupied territory; the roles played by clergy and their shifting loyalties to king and pope. Peopled with vivid and well-known characters—Henry V, Joan of Arc, Philippe the Good of Burgundy, Edward the Black Prince, John the Blind of Bohemia—as well as a host of ordinary individuals who were drawn into the struggle, this book reveals not only the Hundred Years War’s impact on warfare, institutions, and nations, but also its true human cost.

Blood Red Horse

By K.M. Grant,

Book cover of Blood Red Horse

Though this book is historical fiction rather than fantasy, and I generally am a fantasy fan, K. M. Grant does wonders in this book. It takes place in King Richard’s crusades and, though the book spans several years, you never feel rushed or disconnected from the characters. It does not pick sides but rather has characters on both sides who come together, not in war, but in their love for a small blood-red stallion. As a huge history fan and an equestrian, this book combines medieval times and a knowledge of horses with a talent of weaving stories. It is superb! I cannot say enough about it.


Who am I?

I’ve been more than lucky to live a life of adventure from the start. My family did things a little unusually – we lived on a boat, we bought a ranch, we trained (and I still train) horses, we traveled, and through it all, we read. My entire adventuring family always had books, even on that boat when we have very little space. We would all go to the main cabin at night and either escape to a new world in novel or, in my case quite often, a note book. I’ll be forever grateful for these experiences because it was adventure shaped who I am as an author and reader.


I wrote...

Ranger of Kings

By C.J.R. Isely,

Book cover of Ranger of Kings

What is my book about?

Stuck as a lowly village boy, Will finds his life changed forever when he is offered a chance to train as a squire of Alamore. Now he has new friends, new training, and a future as a knight! But not everything is as perfect as it appeared at first.

The country is on the brink of war, tunnels beneath the castle hide enemies of the crown, and Will’s own blood may pull him into a battle he never knew existed. As he trains to be a knight, Will is also discovering that there are secrets he never knew existed and that perhaps fate had little to do with his coming to Alamore. Perhaps it had more to do with these dark truths and the mysterious man known only as the Ranger of Kings.

First Test

By Tamora Pierce,

Book cover of First Test

Tamora Pierce can always write great female characters who are strong, compassionate, and all-around role models for young women. In First Test, she introduces Kel, and not only is she all of these things, but she is also more. She doesn’t fall into that perfect imperfect we always see in YA fiction. She is strong, independent (even through romances), and always stands for nobility and those smaller than herself.


Who am I?

I’ve been more than lucky to live a life of adventure from the start. My family did things a little unusually – we lived on a boat, we bought a ranch, we trained (and I still train) horses, we traveled, and through it all, we read. My entire adventuring family always had books, even on that boat when we have very little space. We would all go to the main cabin at night and either escape to a new world in novel or, in my case quite often, a note book. I’ll be forever grateful for these experiences because it was adventure shaped who I am as an author and reader.


I wrote...

Ranger of Kings

By C.J.R. Isely,

Book cover of Ranger of Kings

What is my book about?

Stuck as a lowly village boy, Will finds his life changed forever when he is offered a chance to train as a squire of Alamore. Now he has new friends, new training, and a future as a knight! But not everything is as perfect as it appeared at first.

The country is on the brink of war, tunnels beneath the castle hide enemies of the crown, and Will’s own blood may pull him into a battle he never knew existed. As he trains to be a knight, Will is also discovering that there are secrets he never knew existed and that perhaps fate had little to do with his coming to Alamore. Perhaps it had more to do with these dark truths and the mysterious man known only as the Ranger of Kings.

The Buried Giant

By Kazuo Ishiguro,

Book cover of The Buried Giant

Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant absolutely haunts me. At the heart of Ishiguro’s story lies a terrible act of cruelty and injustice, but his writing is incredibly gentle, sorrowful, and loving. It is a story about the price of memory. I don’t think that it is an argument against bearing witness, but its exploration of what we remember, what it costs us, and what good it does us is quietly and deeply shocking, and so very sad. I am always in awe of the simplicity and dignity of Ishiguro’s style and the originality of his thought.


Who am I?

I am a biographer, and my biography of E.E. Cummings centers on his unjust imprisonment in France during the Great War in dangerously brutal conditions—cold, underfed, and subject to the sadism of the prison guards. It is hard to imagine anything more imperative than writing about injustice. But perhaps for that very reason, it is difficult to write without the consciousness of a deep inadequacy to the task. I feel therefore an enormous gratitude towards those writers, five of whom I have chosen here, whose honesty and courage in writing about injustice serves as an inspiration and a beacon. 


I wrote...

The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War

By J. Alison Rosenblitt,

Book cover of The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War

What is my book about?

The Beauty of Living is a slice-of-life biography of the poet E.E. Cummings. It tells the story of his childhood and his difficult relationship with his father – a socially progressive Unitarian minister whose moral rectitude contained elements of domestic tyranny. It follows Cummings through his rebellious years at Harvard, in a circle of aspiring writers and their shared world of a re-imagined Classical paganism. And it takes us through Cummings’s experiences as a volunteer ambulance driver during the Great War, including the story of his first real love – a Parisian named Marie Louise Lallemand, a sex worker during the war – and the events surrounding his unjust imprisonment and release from a French detention center.

The Red Knight

By Miles Cameron,

Book cover of The Red Knight

I suspect there are few authors who know more about using medieval weapons than Miles (Christian) Cameron. At times there’s a nerdy level of detail in the arms and armour here (one I enjoyed rather than was put off by), but that’s not all there is to this tale. Firstly the fight scenes are just outstanding, breathless, brutal, shocking, and exciting – some of the best I’ve read in any book ever. Secondly, the company led by the Red Knight is a great crew of awful people; flawed, mad, or outright bastards, they’re far from cardboard cut-outs and the book is all the richer for the humanity they display. 


Who am I?

I’ve been writing fantasy for two decades now and still, I can’t resist a foul-mouthed rogue with a grubby soul. They’re usually the most entertaining characters to write and in the long days of plugging away at a book, they’re often the ones that remind you what’s so fun about the job. When I started Stranger of Tempest it was (pretty much solely) with that in mind – I wanted a disparate band of crazed, badass idiots to go on an adventure with and see where it took me. Of course, as I got to know them I found there was more to their tales than that, but it was fun right to the end!


I wrote...

Stranger of Tempest: Book One of the God Fragments

By Tom Lloyd,

Book cover of Stranger of Tempest: Book One of the God Fragments

What is my book about?

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour - a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little, so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. 

Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won't turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough: the mercenaries are less stupid and vicious than most he's met over the years. So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.

Don Quixote

By Miguel De Cervantes, Edith Grossman (translator),

Book cover of Don Quixote

There had to be a choice between this and my other favourite grand classic, Moby Dick, but for me, Cervantes just pips Melville to the post for his sheer, unutterably heartwarming and forgiving consideration of human nature. It's extraordinary how this 400+ year–old novel, one of the very first 'modern' novels has stood the test of time so resiliently, and the answer to that lies, I think in its absolute universality. We can all recognise parts of ourselves in the knight of the sorrowful countenance and his equally heroic squire, Sancho Panza because they are aspects of the same psyche.

For me, the translation by J. M. Cohen is still the best, though if your Spanish is good it's not that daunting in the original. I am always moved when I read this book, and I suppose if there were room, I'd have this in my coffin too!


Who am I?

I think Zoroastrianism got it right: there's a constant knife-edge balance between good and evil, with neither quite winning; but we shouldn't be overconfident that one day that balance will tip to the bad side because that is always more dominant. Art in all forms has served dictators and tyrants as well as criticised them; few works have ever actually changed anything. If they have, it's been through literature most of all. Zola's 'j'accuse' and Sinclair's 'the jungle' are two obvious examples, but all the books I have chosen are powerful tools for self–examination, and as someone who is particularly interested in man's inhumanity to man I have found them useful. 


I wrote...

The Journey Back from Hell

By Anton Gill,

Book cover of The Journey Back from Hell

What is my book about?

The Journey Back from Hell is the result of interviews with Jewish and gentile survivors, from all walks of life, of the Nazi concentration camps. It's the result of talking to people throughout Europe, Israel, the USA, and Canada, a journey I made between 1985 and 1988. The book is now a standard work in the area of Holocaust history. 

The Knight and the Dragon

By Tomie dePaola,

Book cover of The Knight and the Dragon

More than anything I love a picture book where a princess is also a librarian. In this story, the knight and dragon learn everything from books—like tail swishing and building armor, all of which lead to a big, pointless fight that leaves them bruised, burned, and battered. The librarian shows up in a book-mobile and hands the dragon and knight BBQ cookbooks. In the last illustration spread, they are shown with a hopping K& D BAR-B-Q joint. I especially enjoy how the armor and fire-breath that were previously used for fighting each other, are now used successfully for their restaurant venture. De Paola’s simple and colorful watercolors bring the story to life, and show that we can all get along really well! 


Who are we?

The subject of friendship can be explored endlessly, as every friendship is unique. I am especially drawn to stories of unlikely friendships that look at the surprising and interesting ways that we show up for one another. One of the things that I see in all of the stories that Giselle and I have chosen, is that these unusual friendships make a difficult, awkward, or downright scary world a better place to be. 


We wrote and illustrated...

Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks

By Jacky Davis, Giselle Potter (illustrator),

Book cover of Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks

What is our book about?

Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks is the story of two dogs taking daily walks together and is told in four vignettes. Olive is very old and wise, and Pekoe is rambunctious and inexperienced, and even though they are significantly different, they are still the best of friends. Together they explore the woods, enjoy sticks, get caught in bad weather, and confront a mean bully in a dog park.

A starred Kirkus review, calls the book, “A delight.” And says, “Illustrator Potter’s impressively expressive naïve-style watercolor, ink and colored-pencil illustrations perfectly nuance author Davis’ witty text.”

The Wolf Hunt

By Gillian Bradshaw,

Book cover of The Wolf Hunt: A Novel of the Crusades

Gillian Bradshaw is one of the best historical fiction writers I know of, and everyone else should know of her too. The Wolf Hunt is based on Bisclavret, one of the Lais of Marie de France, and fairly drips with historical detail (please use a coaster). The fantasy element is the major plot point, but the magic that allows for it is so subtle and low-key that I nearly forgot to classify the book as historical fantasy. This is a grown-up Catherine, Called Birdy in its ability to evoke a medieval mind and setting, minus the humor, plus more romance. And while there's no floor-scrubbing, it has big floor-scrubbing energy.


Who am I?

I'm an American writer who grew obsessed with all things King Arthur at age 10. Trying to be the best 7th-grade Arthurian scholar in the world set me on a path of life-long learning and research. My historical fantasy novels for children have been flatteringly called "maybe the only [fiction] depiction of the complexities of feudal obligations & responsibilities I've ever seen" by a real medievalist. While that wasn't what I was going for, it speaks to the thing I seek out when I read: total immersion in another world. If you don't feel like you scrubbed pots in the Middle Ages, why would you read about a medieval scullery maid?


I wrote...

Handbook for Dragon Slayers

By Merrie Haskell,

Book cover of Handbook for Dragon Slayers

What is my book about?

Thirteen-year-old Princess Matilda, whose lame foot brings fear of the evil eye, has never given much thought to dragons, attending instead to her endless duties and wishing herself free of a princess's responsibilities.

When a greedy cousin steals Tilda's lands, the young princess goes on the run with two would-be dragon slayers. Before long she is facing down the Wild Hunt, befriending magical horses, and battling flame-spouting dragons. On the adventure of a lifetime, and caught between dreams of freedom and the people who need her, Tilda learns more about dragons—and herself—than she ever imagined.

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