The best mythology books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about mythology and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Primitive Mythology

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of Primitive Mythology

Campbell, to me, is the dean of writers on myth. I met him once, through a professor at Hollins University who, at her graduation, had awarded Anna, my wife-to-be, the first three volumes of The Hero of a Thousand Faces, as a prize in English Literature (the fourth, Creative Mythology, was yet to be published).

After we met, I learned that Campbell had edited the Penguin Portable Jung – and it is that book that set me on a course of study and writing on myth and literature that I have pursued ever since.

As a final note, Campbell also co-authored A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, a book that many years later led me into James Joyce’s masterwork, Finnegans Wake – to me, the apotheosis of mythic literature.

Primitive Mythology

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The author of such acclaimed books as Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth discusses the primitive roots of mythology, examining them in light of the most recent discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, and psychology

Who am I?

A certain idea kept cropping up in my reading, triggered perhaps by Richard Dawkins's conception in The Selfish Gene, of the “meme.” It seemed that the meme had a life of its own. Then I came across Richerson’s and Boyd’s Not by Genes Alone, and they laid it out: cultures evolve. And they evolve independently of the genes—free of genetic constraints in an idea or thought to contribute to its own survival. That is up to the multitude of people who happen to come across it. I now have a new book readying for publication: How Cognition, Language, Myth, and Culture Came Together To Make Us What We Are.


I wrote...

Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind

By Thomas T. Lawson,

Book cover of Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind

What is my book about?

Carl Jung, Darwin of the Mind is a review and an explanation of Jung's thought set in an evolutionary context. Jung explored the human psyche throughout his long life. His writings, of astonishing scope and depth, elaborate on imagery that can be found in rituals, myths, and fables worldwide as well as in the dreams, visions, and fantasies of his patients and himself. Jung pursued common threads of meaning to the point of becoming deeply versed in the esoterica of Eastern mysticism, Gnosticism, and alchemy. Taken collectively, Jung's works develop a coherent theory about how the psyche is constructed. The author demonstrates that Jung's concept of a collective unconscious structured by archetypes meshes well with accepted views of evolution and can be squared with the most rigorous science of today. 

Lancelot

By Giles Kristian,

Book cover of Lancelot

Kristian was also inspired by Bernard Cornwell, and this elegiac Arthurian novel openly proclaims his debt. Set in the same 5th-century world, Kristian tells the story of the famous love triangle from the perspective of the dashing wife-stealer, Lancelot.

The language he uses is poetic and poignant; and while we know in our hearts it will all end tragically, you can’t help cheering for Lancelot and his love Guinevere, and feeling sympathy for poor Arthur, and hoping it will all work out happily somehow.

Lancelot

By Giles Kristian,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

________________

Conn Iggulden called it 'a masterpiece' while The Times hailed it 'a gorgeous, rich retelling of the Arthurian tale' . . .
________________

In Britain, Rome's legions are but a distant memory.

And Uther Pendragon is dying.

Enemies stalk the land.

Into this uncertain world a boy is cast - an outsider, plagued by memories of those he's lost.

Under the watchful eye of Merlin, the boy begins his journey to manhood. He meets another outcast, Guinevere - wild, proud and beautiful. And he is dazzled by Arthur - a warrior who carries the hopes of the people like…


Who am I?

I discovered writing in my twenties when I was living alone in a hut in a remote village in Indonesia with no electricity. I began a novel to fill the lonely acres of time and found myself transported by my own imagination. I realised this interior world was one I could happily inhabit for life. It took me years to get there; I was a journalist for 15 years, and 44 before my first novel—Outlaw, about a gangster-ish Robin Hood—was published; but I haven’t stopped writing fiction since. I now have 17 novels under my belt, some of them bona fide bestsellers, and aim to keep writing till I drop. 


I wrote...

Book cover of The Last Berserker: Fire Born 1

What is my book about?

The greatest warriors are forged in the flames—and that is exactly what my heroes Bjarki Bloodhand and Tor Hildarsdottir yearn to be as they travel south from Scandinavia into Saxony, towards the Irminsul, the One Tree that links the Nine Worlds of the Middle-Realm. In this holy place, they hope to summon their animal spirits so they can enter the ranks of the legendary berserkir: the elite fighters of the North. When the Christian Franks annex Saxony, in 772AD, vowing to force their faith on the pagans at the point of a sword, Bjarki and Tor join their Saxon brethren in resisting the might of the Frankish invader, who will one day be called Charlemagne.

Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman,

Book cover of Norse Mythology

This has to be the best modern adaptation of the original Norse myths. Neil Gaiman has adapted them into something fun, easy to read, and super entertaining. The Thor and Loki tales were easy to get into, and at times hilarious! I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the original Norse myths. This is more entertaining than reading the source material, and I think Neil Gaiman did a great job captivating the original spirit.

Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Norse Mythology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman stays true to the myths in envisioning the major Norse pantheon: Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin's son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki-son of a giant-blood brother to Odin and a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the…


Who am I?

While writing my YA series based on Norse mythology, I did a ton of reading and research, and fell more in love with the mythology each day. I’ve been a huge fan of the Thor movies since the beginning, and between that and my Icelandic heritage, I find that I always gravitate to books about Norse mythology. There are a lot of viking books and TV series, but it’s a little harder to find books and shows specifically about the mythology, so I hope you find this list interesting as you dive into the nine Norse worlds and all of their gods and creatures!


I wrote...

The Valkyrie's Daughter

By Tiana Warner,

Book cover of The Valkyrie's Daughter

What is my book about?

Sigrid, a stable hand who dreams of becoming a valkyrie, crosses the nine worlds in search of the mythical eight-legged stallion, Sleipnir.

The Valkyrie’s Daughter is a YA LGBTQ+ Fantasy featured on BuzzFeed, Goodreads Most Anticipated YA Books for July, Gizmodo, Paste Magazine, Tor, Book Riot, and more.

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

I have to include this book because, just as it was for the original Star Wars film, it was a direct inspiration for my first novel. To be a good writer, you have to be aware of the existing patterns and how it relates to the collective unconscious. And Joseph Campbell dedicated his life to understanding the impact of storytelling and mythology and how it relates to the growth of civilization. If you’ve never read this book, it may just blow your mind. It is a bit long though, so you may want to find an audiobook version.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Hero with a Thousand Faces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Joseph Campbell's classic cross-cultural study of the hero's journey has inspired millions and opened up new areas of research and exploration. Originally published in 1949, the book hit the New York Times best-seller list in 1988 when it became the subject of The Power of Myth, a PBS television special. The first popular work to combine the spiritual and psychological insights of modern psychoanalysis with the archetypes of world mythology, the book creates a roadmap for navigating the frustrating path of contemporary life. Examining heroic myths in the light of modern psychology, it considers not only the patterns and stages…

Who am I?

I consider myself a seeker. Several experiences, such as experiencing the buzzing that Robert Monroe mentions, seeing objects with my eyes closed, and meeting a spirit guide, led me to realize that the universe is more mysterious than what science can explain. Perhaps we will develop the technology to measure these phenomena someday. Or maybe we already have? The US Army's “Stargate Project,” deemed as unhelpful, is one example, but what about the projects they haven't declassified? It’s fun to think about. Combined with a huge interest in astronomy, I enjoy learning from a variety of sources, never holding anything tightly, because what we know is always changing.


I wrote...

The Truth Beyond the Sky

By Andrew M. Crusoe,

Book cover of The Truth Beyond the Sky

What is my book about?

On the anniversary of his mother’s disappearance, Zahn recovers an extraordinary meteorite. Conflicted, he hides the object, until he’s awoken one night by a tapping at his window. There’s more to what Zahn found than he could have ever imagined, and he’s swept up into a galactic adventure with a cryptic captain and a living starship.

Along the way, he encounters a species bent on consuming entire stars. They’re heading toward his planet, and only the Tulari, a stone that can heal the wounds they cut into space, offers any hope. When Zahn lands on a moon stolen by these creatures, he makes a breakthrough, finally learning his mother’s fate, and is faced with a decision that could save his world or doom it forever.

Q

By Christina Dalcher,

Book cover of Q

What happens when you take the meritocracy to extremes and you can only access the best of food and housing etc when your Q is the highest? Dalcher creates an interesting future world, damning of social engineering and genetic manipulation, and reminds us that it was less than a hundred years ago that certain war-hungry fellas (and a few women) salivated over thoughts of a perfect Aryan race. A great page-turner but with a few ‘Deus ex Machina' plot twists with which I’m still struggling. Nevertheless a very worthy read.

Q

By Christina Dalcher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

**CHRISTINA DALCHER'S GRIPPING NEW THRILLER FEMLANDIA IS AVAILABLE TO PRE-ORDER NOW!**

'Terrifyingly plausible' Louise Candlish
'Devastating and brilliant' Woman & Home
'Thought-provoking' Alice Feeney
'Shocking . . . A powerful tale' Cosmopolitan
'Timely' Kia Abdullah

IN THIS WORLD, PERFECTION IS EVERYTHING.

It begins as a way to make things fairer. An education system that will benefit everyone. It's all in the name of progress.

This is what Elena Fairchild believes. As a teacher in one of the government's elite schools for children with high 'Q' scores, she witnesses the advantages first-hand.

But when Elena's own daughter scores lower than expected,…


Who am I?

I love writing historical fiction. I enjoy the research and creating long-lost worlds filled with little-known historical accuracies that intrigue my readers. It is no surprise then that I enjoy reading about the future - the other side of the coin. I always find it interesting to see how writers create a post-apocalyptic society. What was the catastrophic event? (TCE) What caused it and how do the different characters react to adversity when their old world is taken away from them? Inevitably they have to survive in the new system but will they have learned their lesson or will they return to their old ways?  


I wrote...

The Candlelit Menagerie

By Caraline Brown,

Book cover of The Candlelit Menagerie

What is my book about?

For fans of The Greatest Showman and Water for Elephants, The Candlelit Menagerie grabs hold and pulls readers into the dim halls of the exotic animal emporiums of London, over two centuries ago.  

Set in late eighteenth-century London, this haunting debut novel features Lillian, a freakishly tall woman who struggles to fit into society. Each morning, she wakes in her tiny maid's room in a too-small bed to the sound of a lion roaring nearby on the Strand. When she investigates she discovers an exotic animal emporium. At first, Lillian is repulsed by the stench and squalor, but there, in the menagerie, Lillian finds her natural home befriending wild animals brought from around the world, stolen from their habitats, misfits like her. But when her unborn baby dies in an accident, the solution is set to upend the order of even Lillian's unusual existence.

Book cover of Things We Say in the Dark

One of the most daring and original voices I have read in recent years. 

I admire Kirsty Logan’s boldness in imagining and describing personal viewpoints and her unique interpretation of possible alternate realities. She shows the courage to commit to ideas and storylines that are original, innovative, and beyond the imagination of most people.

The two darkest stories are "Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by", a menacing tale of abuse, kidnapping, and violence, and "Half Sick of Shadows". The latter is profoundly moving and disturbing and almost unbelievable in its callousness.

A writer whose progress I will follow with interest.

Things We Say in the Dark

By Kirsty Logan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Things We Say in the Dark as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Gripping . . . You won't put it down' Sunday Telegraph

A shocking collection of dark stories, ranging from chilling contemporary fairytales to disturbing supernatural fiction.

Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool. Couples wrestle with a lack of connection to their children; a schoolgirl becomes obsessed with the female anatomical models in a museum; and a cheery account of child's day out is undercut by chilling footnotes.

These dark tales explore women's fears…


Who am I?

I enjoy stories that bring together diverse themes, such as family life, myths and legends, quests, and cutting-edge science, in an uncomplicated way. I love hidden communities, where accepted rules do not apply, allowing the development of original storylines. The suggestion that there is something on the edge of the supernatural, yet grounded in reality, the weirdest of events retaining a rational explanation. My writing has been inspired by the films of David Lynch. I admire his ability to evoke a sense of menace and a fear that things are not as they seem, leaving much to the reader’s imagination.


I wrote...

Another Life

By Owen W. Knight,

Book cover of Another Life

What is my book about?

Imagine: if we could combine dreams and reality in a world where we live forever.

Oliver believes his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Haunted by the memory of a mysterious woman he encountered thirty years ago, and obsessed with finding her, he embarks on a journey embracing grief, hope, myths, and legends to find her. He is drawn into diverse worlds, from ancient rural beliefs and traditions to emerging medical science, as he and the reader are led to question the boundaries between dreams, reality, and imagination.

Boy, Snow, Bird

By Helen Oyeyemi,

Book cover of Boy, Snow, Bird

This book is almost too beautiful for words, and reading it you feel like you are falling into a haunted magic mirror where identity and race are explored alongside a host of deep simmering emotions: anger and forgiveness, fear and vanity. A sort of dizzying intergenerational retake on Snow White.

Boy, Snow, Bird

By Helen Oyeyemi,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I’m an American author and writing teacher both at Harvard and Oxford’s online programs. I've mostly written poetry and nonfiction, then in 2021 I published my first novel, She Never Told Me about the Ocean. I started writing the book when my daughter was born as a way to explore the complicated feelings and fears that suddenly washed over me. The book—like a daughter—outgrew my plans and expectations for it. It became, unexpectedly, a mythology of mothers and daughters. For two decades I've studied fairy tales and myths. Fairy tales deal in fears and the stories we tell ourselves to feel safe—which is why I read them and use them in my writing.


I wrote...

She Never Told Me about the Ocean

By Elisabeth Sharp McKetta,

Book cover of She Never Told Me about the Ocean

What is my book about?

Magic. Mothers. Daughters. Birth, love, and death. Enchanted islands. Underworlds. Plant medicine. Generations learning to understand each other through the stories we tell and hear. In the words of one of my favorite authors, Arthur Golden, “She Never Told Me about the Ocean is a heroine's journey through forgiveness, birth and rebirth, all the while treading the line between honoring the dead and feeling paralyzed by them. She has offered us a complicated portrait of mothers and daughters, cupped inside one another like nesting dolls.” 

Goddesses in World Mythology

By Martha Ann, Dorothy Myers Imel,

Book cover of Goddesses in World Mythology

If you try to learn about the cultural history of the sacred female cross-culturally, you are likely to encounter the attitude in our patriarchal society that Goddesses couldn’t really have been widespread or ever been very important. A handy refutation can be found in this book, which contains information on over 11,000 Goddesses, nymphs, spirits, and deified women around the world. Grouped according to geographic regions, each entry gives you not only the translation of the Goddess’s name but also her story. That is, it’s a biographical dictionary because it gives the characteristics and the mythology associated with each Goddess. If you read through the entries for any one region, you will become immersed in a deeply poetic sense of the resonant cultural history underlying later developments.

Goddesses in World Mythology

By Martha Ann, Dorothy Myers Imel,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This biographical dictionary contains 11,500 entries for goddesses from around the world and throughout time. Each entry contains area location, associated attributes, and a brief description. Many entries also contain brief retellings of the main myth pertaining to that goddess. This book is intended for religion students and scholars; those interested in New Age.

Who am I?

I have always been interested in cultural history. In my early 30s, I realized that Greek mythology was a late, patriarchal revision of the earlier Goddess-centric myths. After much research, I reconstructed several pre-Olympian myths in my book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. This was one of the first books of the Women’s Spirituality movement, which began in the 1970s and is still going strong. A few years later, I edited an anthology of 50 voices, The Politics of Women’s Spirituality. Thus I am a foremother of that movement, which is a bountiful exploration of authentic spiritual experience in women’s lives.


I wrote...

Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths

By Charlene Spretnak,

Book cover of Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths

What is my book about?

For thousands of years before the Olympian myths of Greece were created, the spiritual presence of the Goddess in her myriad forms was the focus of religion and culture. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece pieces together what is known of the original, Goddess-centered myths, which are relevant to the contemporary emergence of a spirituality based on our embeddedness in nature. Drawing from evidence in archaeology, classics, and early Mediterranean histories, I present a recreation of the pre-Olympian myths of Gaia, Pandora, Themis, Aphrodite, the Triad of Artemis/Selene/Hecate, Hera, Athena, and Demeter and Persephone. Critics called this book “a well-documented text that reads like poetry" (San Francisco Chronicle) and “a basic text of the goddess movement that has spread through feminist and ecological circles" (Boston Globe).

Dark Descendant

By Jenna Black,

Book cover of Dark Descendant

What are you supposed to say when you find out that you’re the descendant of an actual god? The heroine, Nikki, wakes up to discover that she is now immortal and has supernatural powers, thanks to being a descendant of Artemis. Of course, no one can tell her exactly what those powers are or how to use them. The first book in the series follows her adventure as she learns how to use her supernatural gifts to hunt along with her skills as private investigator. Along the way, the sparks burn with a passionate attraction to a fellow god descendant, Jamaal, who has the powers of Kali and a difficult temper. It’s a great urban fantasy series that taps into a lot of different mythologies and keeps the action at full tilt.

Dark Descendant

By Jenna Black,

Why should I read it?

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


Who am I?

I love stories where people have fantastical powers, especially if they’re set in our world. I grew up with Marvel and DC telling me stories about people who could always be counted on to save the day. But I had a frustration. Those comic stories often ended badly when it came to relationships. If a character was in love, they invariably broke up, or the love interest was kidnapped or killed. I’ve collected these awesome examples of stories where superpowers don’t mean being alone. They capture the blend that I’ve tried to create in my own books: an exciting story full of adventure that can also warm the heart.


I wrote...

Revelations: Book One of the Lalassu

By Jennifer Carole Lewis,

Book cover of Revelations: Book One of the Lalassu

What is my book about?

Superpowered burlesque dancer, Dani, and psychic child therapist, Michael, must work together if they want to save their kidnapped loved ones. Dani has spent a lifetime rejecting her family’s role as elite members of a secret society of those with extraordinary gifts. Michael is an enthusiastic comic geek whose secret dream has always been to save the day. Their intense attraction has the potential to unlock an age-old divine danger and they’ll need to make the ultimate hero’s choice: Save the world? Or save each other?

Book cover of Falling in Love with Hominids

In this short story collection, SFWA Grand Master Nalo Hopkinson gives us heaps of imagery to roll around in with delight and horror. Calling a snowflake “six-clawed” or relating a tree’s memory of how it “felt to unfurl your leaves to the bright taste of the sun” all add to the mood-heavy stories of a teenager overcome by her desires after swallowing a cherry pit, children who must survive their parents’ frightening transformations, and more. Through all the tales, humanity shines through, our rough edges and our beautiful scars. And the characters themselves play with language to pass the time.

Falling in Love with Hominids

By Nalo Hopkinson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Falling in Love with Hominids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Who am I?

Born to three generations of poets, I’ve always appreciated a certain quality in the prose I read: lyricism. I want to catch my breath at a beautiful turn of phrase or gasp when I figure out a metaphor’s double meaning. My own writing seeks to reproduce that joy of discovery while preserving the plot-forward conventions of good speculative fiction. The books in this list balance literary style and genre expectations. Snatches of song, poetic prophesies, the perfect comparison—I hope these jewels delight my readers as much as they’ve delighted me in these works.


I wrote...

Wings Unfurled

By Rebecca Gomez Farrell,

Book cover of Wings Unfurled

What is my book about?

Wings Unfurled returns readers to the kingdom of Lansera, picking up six years after the main characters Vesperi, Serra, and Janto first learned they were the embodiment of the prophesied bird of creation. Mythical monsters are rampaging their way through Lansera, and a new horror is brewing from the same land as the invisible claren they once defeated. With the king ailing and the princess missing, they must find the strength to raise the bird again. But will this menace, with the might to drain a moon, devour them first?

Or, view all 21 books about mythology

New book lists related to mythology

All book lists related to mythology

Bookshelves related to mythology