The best Norse mythology books 📚

Browse the best books on Norse mythology as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Beowulf

Beowulf

By Seamus Heaney

Why this book?

Beowulf is fascinating because it was written in Angle-land, probably Suffolk, probably in the 900s AD, when the Angles (Southern Scandinavians) held sway, with the Danes in Northumbria and Mercia, before the Anglo Saxons began to create the first truly English dynasty in Alfred the Great. It tells of a hero from Geats (in modern Sweden, possibly in the 600s AD) who rids the king of the Danes of the monster Grendel. Of all the translations Seamus Heany is the most vigorous and beautiful, and I often return to it as a reference.

From the list:

The best books on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives

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Book cover of Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs

Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs

By John Lindow

Why this book?

If you’re looking for a comprehensive reference book on the Norse deities, this is the title to get. In addition to describing the historical context and importance of Scandinavian mythology, the book alphabetically lists, describes, and explains the gods, the goddesses, as well as important mythological artifacts and creatures. It also has a section for additional resources and an excellent index. This is the book I find myself referring back to over and over again to make sure I’ve got my details right in my own writing.

From the list:

The best books on the gods and world of Norse mythology

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Book cover of Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes

Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes

By Carolyne Larrington

Why this book?

There are many books that aim to provide a succinct, coherent introduction to the subject of Norse mythology. Few, however, manage to so with the clarity and authority of Professor Carolyne Larrington’s The Norse Myths: A Guide to the Gods and Heroes. This book deals with all of the critical aspects of the mythos: from Ginnungagap (‘the howling void’) to Ragnarök (‘the doom of the gods’) by way of Yggdrasil the world-tree, the divine families (the Æsir and the Vanir) and the giants who opposed them, as well as the doings of human heroes like Sigurd the Volsung. This…

From the list:

The best books about Norse mythology (from an archaeologist)

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Book cover of Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology

By Neil Gaiman

Why this book?

Gaiman is an exceptional and popular modern storyteller, his work in comics (Sandman), his own novels (such as the superb American Gods) and in various movie adaptations (Beowulf, 2007) demonstrates a deft and agile touch. This is an excellent introduction to the Prose Eddas, with a lively re-telling of the core tales of Norse mythology, from Odin to Loki, the frost giants to the Valkyrie. It’s a quick read which will pique your interest to research further.

From the list:

The best books on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives

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Book cover of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

By Kevin Crossley-Holland

Why this book?

The way these stories are phrased here makes this my favourite set of retellings. Crossley-Holland’s choice of words evokes the original Norse. He uses alliteration, mainly when describing land and sea, and he is very careful to use words that come from Old English, a sister language to Old Norse, in preference to words from Latin, Greek, and post-Latin languages. There are plenty of other retellings that cover similar ground, but none with quite this joy in the energy of the original.

From the list:

The best books for people with a passion for Norse myths and legends

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Book cover of Norse Mythology for Kids: Tales of Gods, Creatures, and Quests

Norse Mythology for Kids: Tales of Gods, Creatures, and Quests

By Mathias Nordvig

Why this book?

Kevin Crossley-Holland published excerpts from his Norse Myths as a book for children. But as a child’s first introduction to the tales, it might be too poetic. I’d recommend, instead, Norse Mythology for Kids by Mathias Nordvig.

Nordvig retells the myths as your wise uncle might—if he happened to be Loki, the trickster god. For Nordvig not only blends different versions of a tale, but he also adds bits he thinks our original sources shouldn’t have left out.

Into that “mist world” at time’s beginning, for instance, Nordvig inserts a loon who helps the goddess Jord build the Earth. It’s…

From the list:

The best books on Norse myths and the gods and heroes of their universe

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