The most recommended books about legends

Who picked these books? Meet our 33 experts.

33 authors created a book list connected to legends, and here are their favorite legend books.
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What type of legend book?


Book cover of Tales of Ancient Egypt

Angela Cecil Reid Author Of Nile Cat

From my list on deciphering ancient Egypt.

Why am I passionate about this?

For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by a family mystery. Names such as Howard Carter, Tutankhamun, and Didlington Hall permeated my childhood along with phrases such as ‘a mummy’s curse’ and ‘financial disaster’. Something had happened years before I was born, which no one would discuss. As an adult I decided to search for the truth, and on the way found inspiration to fulfil a long held ambition, which was to write. I discovered that my family had played a vital, but often forgotten, role in Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun. Our story is of wealth lost, extraordinary characters, passion and tragedy, but through it all Egypt winds like a twist of golden thread.

Angela's book list on deciphering ancient Egypt

Angela Cecil Reid Why did Angela love this book?

This was my introduction to ancient Egypt. I was twelve when I was given this book. I was immediately entranced by the beautifully told stories not only of the gods, but also of magic, shipwrecks, princesses, and thieves.

Egypt is an extraordinary country entirely reliant for thousands of years on the annual inundation of the river Nile. If the water levels were too low there was starvation, and too high there were devastating floods. In some places, the fertile area is a little wider than the flight of an arrow. With life so precarious, it is not surprising that the afterlife became so important to all Egyptians and that they spun so many myths to explain the inexplicable, and give structure to their world.

This book is a great introduction to understanding the ancient Egyptians for anyone, but particularly for younger readers of 10+.

By Roger Lancelyn Green,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

These stories include the great myths - of Amen-Ra, who created all the creatures in the world; of Isis, seaching the waters for her dead husband Osiris; of the Bennu Bird and the Book of Thoth. But there are also tales told for pleasure about magic, treasure and adventure - even the first ever Cinderella story.

Book cover of Genuine Deceit

Joan Hall Author Of Cold Dark Night: Legends of Madeira

From my list on mystery and suspense…with a bit of legends and folklore.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always enjoyed mystery and suspense stories—Agatha Christie and Mary Higgins Clark being two of my all-time favorite authors. Throw in some legends and folklore, and I’m hooked. I like well-crafted stories that keep me turning the pages. Those that stump me in figuring out the mystery are a plus for me. I love books with descriptive settings that place me, as the reader, in the heart of the action.

Joan's book list on mystery and suspense…with a bit of legends and folklore

Joan Hall Why did Joan love this book?

With a title like Genuine Deceit, how could I not pick this book? How can deceit be genuine? The suspense begins in chapter one and doesn’t let up until the end.

The characters are well-developed, the story is perfectly paced to keep a reader’s interest, and there are plenty of red herrings, but not enough to reveal the truth until the last pages. The touch of romance between the main character and a former Navy SEAL is an added plus.

By Joy York,

Why should I read it?

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

Book cover of Golem

Hannah Batsel Author Of A is for Another Rabbit

From my list on with super-detailed illustrations to stare at.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I fall in love with a fantasy world, I want to consume as much of that world as possible. That’s why I’m drawn to illustration that is so dense with worldbuilding elements. In my own work, I started indulging this obsession by creating tiny one-by-three-inch books that contained fully-illustrated alien worlds before eventually moving on to bigger books like A is for Another Rabbit, a book crammed so full of hidden jokes, Easter eggs, and thousand-rabbit-wide crowd scenes that my hand hurt by the end of it. Extreme detail is a way of prolonging the delight and discovery inherent in reading picture books, and I intend to keep pushing it to the limit!

Hannah's book list on with super-detailed illustrations to stare at

Hannah Batsel Why did Hannah love this book?

Golem’s illustrations are certainly not detailed in the same way as the others on this list; the imagery in this retelling of the Golem of Prague story is composed entirely of colorful cut paper, layered and woven into bold, dynamic scenes. Whereas the first four books I’ve recommended invite hours of poring over worldbuilding detail and density of information, Golem compels readers to marvel over the construction of its illustrations. How does the golem pierce through the spidery paper web of paper smoke? How are the sheets stacked to imply depth and shadow? Is this seriously all paper?! 

By David Wisniewski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Retold from traditional sources and accompanied by David Wisniewski's unique cut-paper illustrations, Golem is a dramatic tale of supernatural forces invoked to save an oppressed people. It also offers a thought-provoking look at the consequences of unleashing power beyond human control. The afterword discusses the legend of the golem and its roots in the history of the Jews. A Caldecott Medal Book.

Book cover of The Arthurian Encyclopedia

Helen Fulton Author Of A Companion to Arthurian Literature

From my list on sensible stories about King Arthur.

Why am I passionate about this?

I came to the Arthurian legends through the medium of medieval Welsh literature, a subject that had intrigued and challenged me since I was an undergraduate. I found the language impenetrable and yet beautiful, while the literature it encoded was fascinatingly unlike the literary traditions of England and France. I wanted to connect with a version of Arthur that preceded the romance traditions of France and England and bears witness to a much older culture and social organisation. Though I've learned to love other versions of Arthur, and indeed I teach the Arthurian legends as part of my academic work, the stark drama of the Welsh poems and tales continues to intrigue me.

Helen's book list on sensible stories about King Arthur

Helen Fulton Why did Helen love this book?

This was one of the first Arthurian reference books and remains one of the best.

Its comprehensive scope, covering Arthurian legends and characters across many European literatures, provides answers to all possible questions about the world of Arthur. The format of short alphabetical entries is perfect for browsing – you will find all you need to know about the Bleeding Lance or the ‘Gargantuan Chronicles’ among many other lesser-known Arthurian curiosities.

I found this book invaluable when I was preparing my own book and I still dip into it when teaching students.

By Norris J Lacy (editor), Geoffrey Ashe (editor), Sandra Ness Ihle (editor) , Marianne E. Kalinke (editor) , Raymond H. Thompson (editor)

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Discusses the literary, musical, and film versions of the story of King Arthur and surveys the characters, themes, and history of the Arthur legend

Book cover of The Visigoths in History and Legend

David M. Gwynn Author Of The Goths: Lost Civilizations

From my list on the Goths of history and legend.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in New Zealand, about as far from the Roman world as one can get, I got hooked on history as a child and began university life as an ancient and medieval double major, studying everything from the classical Greeks and Romans to Charlemagne and the Crusades. By the time I came to Oxford to write my PhD, I decided that my greatest interest lay in the dramatic transformation which saw classical antiquity evolve into medieval Christendom. I've been fortunate enough to write and teach about many different aspects of that transformation and I'm currently Associate Professor in Ancient and Late Antique History at Royal Holloway, in the University of London. 

David's book list on the Goths of history and legend

David M. Gwynn Why did David love this book?

The Visigothic kingdom of Spain was long dismissed in older books as a barbaric backwater, the darkest point of the so-called Dark Ages. Yet it was, in truth, a vibrant cultural centre for more than two centuries, until falling to the forces of Islam in 711. Hillgarth’s fascinating book gives an excellent short survey of Visigothic history, and then explores how the legends surrounding the Goths were developed and exploited by later Spanish generations, from the Christian Reconquista and the sixteenth-century Golden Age to modern times. This creation of an idealized Gothic past provided inspiration and a sense of identity in Spain, in sharp contrast to Italy where the Goths were depicted during the Renaissance as the savage destroyers of classical civilization.

By J.N. Hillgarth,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This book explores one of the central myths of Spain: the idea that Spanish culture arose from that of the Visigoths. It begins with a sketch of Visigothic history, then proceeds to explore attitudes towards the Goths and legends and myths that developed around them from late antiquity to the twentieth century; such ideas proved influential among those who saw the Goths as their spiritual, if not literal, ancestors. The focus is on the myth of the Goths as expressed in literature of a broadly historical nature; many authors have played a significant role in forming and shaping this myth,…

Book cover of Imagining England's Past: Inspiration, Enchantment, Obsession

Charlotte Mullins Author Of A Little History of Art

From my list on the British landscape.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Yorkshire and spent many happy hours as a teenager wandering about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, looking at giant Henry Moores in the rolling landscape. I subsequently trained as an art historian and have spent the last thirty years writing about art, from the YBAs to our prehistoric roots. A Little History of Art was borne out of this journey. Increasingly I have been drawn to researching what art can tell us about British history. My bookshelves groan with monographs but these five volumes have helped me think more deeply about Britain’s landscapes and its past. I hope they will do the same for you.

Charlotte's book list on the British landscape

Charlotte Mullins Why did Charlotte love this book?

I read an early proof of this book (it is published on 13 April 2023) and was hooked from the first page.

Owens opens with footfall on medieval castle stairs and the tread of time – only the stairs she walks on are seventeenth-century copies and are part of the ongoing mythologising of England’s past.

She covers King Arthur and the Crusades, Beowulf and Tennyson, Shell tourist guides, and the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. Her excellent earlier book Spirit of Place (Thames & Hudson) is focused more squarely on the British landscape but this new book connects to the myth of England, how it has been and still is constructed in all our minds.

Eye-opening and beautifully written.

By Susan Owens,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Imagining England's Past takes a long look at the country's invented histories, from the glamorous to the disturbing, from the eighth century to the present day.

England has long built its sense of self on visions of its past. What does it mean for medieval writers to summon King Arthur from the post-Roman fog; for William Morris to resurrect the skills of the medieval workshop and Julia Margaret Cameron to portray the Arthurian court with her Victorian camera; or for Yinka Shonibare in the final years of the twentieth century to visualize a Black Victorian dandy?

By exploring the imaginations…

Book cover of Britain Begins

Brian Haughton Author Of Haunted Spaces, Sacred Places: A Field Guide to Stone Circles, Crop Circles, Ancient Tombs, and Supernatural Landscapes

From my list on folklore and traditions of ancient sacred places.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by ancient sacred sites since I first visited the ancient Rollright Stones on the Oxfordshire/Warwickshire border decades ago. I am interested in how the study of folklore and local traditions can be used in conjunction with archaeology to trace the origins and purposes of ancient monuments. I am an author and researcher who has had seven books published on the subjects of ancient civilizations, prehistoric monuments, and supernatural folklore. Born in Birmingham, England, I am a qualified archaeologist with a BA in European Archaeology from the University of Nottingham, and an MPhil in Greek Archaeology from Birmingham University.

Brian's book list on folklore and traditions of ancient sacred places

Brian Haughton Why did Brian love this book?

I was attracted to this book as it uses the most up-to-date archaeological evidence together with new work on DNA and other scientific techniques to tell the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples, from around 10,000BC to the eve of the Norman Conquest. Whilst there are new archaeological discoveries made every week, one or two of which could potentially challenge some of the ideas in this work, at the moment it is the most up-to-date book on the subject which we have, and as such should be treasured.  

By Barry Cunliffe,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The last Ice Age, which came to an end about 12,000 years ago, swept the bands of hunter gatherers from the face of the land that was to become Britain and Ireland, but as the ice sheets retreated and the climate improved so human groups spread slowly northwards, re-colonizing the land that had been laid waste. From that time onwards Britain and Ireland have been continuously inhabited and the resident population has increased from a few hundreds to more than 60

Britain Begins is nothing less than the story of the origins of the British and the Irish peoples,…

Book cover of The Aeneid of Virgil (Translated by Allen Mandelbaum)

Damian Dibben Author Of The Colour Storm

From my list on that bring history to life.

Why am I passionate about this?

The mission I have set myself as a novelist is to bring the past alive in the most engaging way; to try to tell some of the great tales of history as current, prescient stories. I want to open a reader’s mind, but also offer an escape, to fantastical places. My first novel for adults, Tomorrow, is told through the eyes of a dog who doesn’t die, whose quest for his similarly immortal master takes him through the wars of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and through every tottering court of Europe. My second, The Colour Storm, out in June 2022, is set in the art world of the Renaissance and is about the search for a new colour. The pigment has arrived in Venice and every artist of the day, from Leonardo to Michelangelo, is in fierce - perhaps murderous - competition to find it first.

Damian's book list on that bring history to life

Damian Dibben Why did Damian love this book?

Historical fiction is by no means a modern concept. Two thousand years ago, the Roman poet, Virgil, sets his epic tale in the distant past. Aeneas and his men voyage through Europe, North Africa, and the underworld, encountering physical and emotional devastation before arriving on Italian shores to found Rome. Elements may be fantastical but that past comes to life with the brilliant, bracing clarity of a spring morning.

By Virgil, Allen Mandelbaum (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Aeneid of Virgil (Translated by Allen Mandelbaum) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Aeneas flees the ashes of Troy to found the city of Rome and change forever the course of the Western world--as literature as well.  Virgil's Aeneid is as eternal as Rome itself, a sweeping epic of arms and heroism--the searching portrait of a man caught between love and duty, human feeling and the force of fate--that has influenced writers for over 2,000 years.  Filled with drama, passion, and the universal pathos that only a masterpiece can express. The Aeneid is a book for all the time and all people.

Book cover of A Booke of Days

Felicity Pulman Author Of Shalott: Into the Unknown

From my list on time-travels through history and/or legends.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write novels for children, YA, and adults, most of which reflect my fascination with history, mystery, crime, and fantasy. I particularly enjoy writing timeslip novels, exploring how the past can inform the present and vice versa. I recently updated and revised my award-winning Shalott trilogy, which visits both the historical past and also the quasi-medieval world of Camelot in a reinterpretation of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and with reference also to The Lady of Shalott, the wonderful and mysterious poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. (A reviewer recently compared my Shalott trilogy with the novels of Diana Gabaldon = wow!)

Felicity's book list on time-travels through history and/or legends

Felicity Pulman Why did Felicity love this book?

This remarkable ‘novel’ opens (and closes) with the author being given a journal written by Roger, Duke of Lunel, ‘l’Escrivel’, from whom he claims to be descended. This diary forms the bulk of the novel, and it seems to be a translation of a real diary, an intimate and detailed account of the penitent Roger’s journey to Jerusalem in company with other pilgrims on the First Crusade. At times poetic and beautiful, Roger lays bare his innermost reflections on his faith, his sexuality, his guilty love for his friend’s wife, and his search for his soul and for redemption. In excruciating detail, we also learn of the venality, ambition, and greed of those in charge of the various crusader armies who seek power and position in their conquered territories, and the absolute brutality of the conquering crusaders who, in the name of Christ, slaughter, behead and burn all those men,…

By Stephen J. Rivele,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A young French nobleman, Roger, Duke of Lunel, leaves his home to join the forces to recapture Jerusalem, yet the holy crusade turns horribly wrong as he witnesses savagery, betrayal, and deceit all around him, and he begins to believe that he will neverreturn home

Book cover of Hawaiian Mythology

Patrick Nunn Author Of The Edge of Memory: Ancient Stories, Oral Tradition and the Post-Glacial World

From my list on ancient oral traditions.

Why am I passionate about this?

Becoming immersed in oral cultures was a massive wake-up call for me! Taught to privilege the written over the spoken word, as most literate people are, it took me years of living in the Pacific Islands, travelling regularly to their remoter parts, to appreciate that people who could neither read nor write could retain huge amounts of information in their heads – and explain it effortlessly. We undervalue orality because we are literate, but that is an irrational prejudice. And as I have discovered from encounters with oral traditions throughout Australia and the Pacific, India, and northwest Europe, not only are oral traditions extensive but may be thousands of years old.

Patrick's book list on ancient oral traditions

Patrick Nunn Why did Patrick love this book?

First published in 1940, Hawaiian Mythology is an astonishingly comprehensive compilation of native Hawaiian stories and beliefs that, had it not been for the systematic – even dogged – efforts of people like Martha Beckwith may have never survived to today. This is a book to dip into, especially if you find yourself in Polynesia. The stories are factual, often unembellished, which allows you a glimpse into the soul of Pacific peoples. This book also explores the connections between (remote) Hawaii and other island groups in the western Pacific whence its people came, bearing oral memories that seeded the geography of Hawaii and directed the nature of its human occupation, probably hundreds of years before Europeans even knew the Pacific Ocean existed.

By Martha Warren Beckwith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ku and Hina―man and woman―were the great ancestral gods of heaven and earth for the ancient Hawaiians. They were life's fruitfulness and all the generations of mankind, both those who are to come and those already born.

The Hawaiian gods were like great chiefs from far lands who visited among the people, entering their daily lives sometimes as humans or animals, sometimes taking residence in a stone or wooden idol. As years passed, the families of gods grew and included the trickster Maui, who snared the sun, and fiery Pele of the volcano.

Ancient Hawaiians lived by the animistic philosophy…