The most recommended books on the Norsemen

Who picked these books? Meet our 21 experts.

21 authors created a book list connected to the Norsemen, and here are their favorite Norsemen books.
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Book cover of The Vikings

Don Hollway Author Of The Last Viking: The True Story of King Harald Hardrada

From my list on to make a history buff into a history expert.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a history buff—one can never be expert enough—by looking to the past I hope to glimpse the future, but mostly to make sense of the present. Power, greed and sex have driven people since before history was written, but there have always been those willing to die for something more. What causes are worth such dedication? Who were these people who were willing to give all? I was never in the military (my contact lenses are thick as bottle caps) but I try never to write battle porn, only to tell their stories as accurately and entertainingly as I can.

Don's book list on to make a history buff into a history expert

Don Hollway Why did Don love this book?

I’m actually recommending the entire run of history books from Osprey Publishing. You’re not a history buff until you have a shelf full of Ospreys. With over 2,300 titles (and counting!) in dozens of series, there’s almost no period they don’t cover, from ancient times until recent events. Each book is profusely illustrated and incredibly detailed, yet a slim read—a quick but worthwhile introduction into their respective topic. They focus on military history, but include plenty of background info, enough to make you an instant authority on your chosen era. For The Last Viking I got an overview with The Vikings, The Varangian Guard 988–1453, and Saxon, Viking and Norman, before my deep dive into the primary Greek, Byzantine, and Scandinavian sources.

By Ian Heath, Angus McBride (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this worthy addition to the Elite series, Ian Heath transports us to the time of the Vikings examining their epic journeys and the ships they made them in, their methods of warfare - the organisation of their armies and tactics employed, their appearance and equipment and the general history of these fascinating warrior-explorers. His authoritative text is backed by many fine illustrations and photographs including 12 stunning full colour plates by Angus McBride, one of the world's most respected military artists.


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

Nancy Marie Brown Author Of Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths

From my list on Norse myths and the gods and heroes of their universe.

Why am I passionate about this?

Nancy Marie Brown is the author of seven books about Iceland and the Viking Age, including The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman, and the award-winning Song of the Vikings: Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths. Her books combine extremes: medieval literature and modern archaeology, myths and facts. They ask, What have we overlooked? What have we forgotten? Whose story must not be lost? A former science writer and editor at a university magazine, she lives on a farm in northern Vermont and spends part of each summer in Iceland.

Nancy's book list on Norse myths and the gods and heroes of their universe

Nancy Marie Brown Why did Nancy love 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 a tale I’m familiar with from Native American mythology, but as Nordvig asserts, the Norse stories “are still alive.” And to keep them that way, we need to make them our own.

By Mathias Nordvig,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Norse Mythology for Kids as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

Awaken a sense of adventure (and maybe a Kraken) with a collection of Norse mythology for kids 8 to 12

What is more awesome than the hammer-wielding thunder-god, Thor; the Queen of Asgard and all-knowing goddess, Frigg; or the gigantic sea serpent, Jormungand? Norse Mythology for Kids transports you into the Nordic lands where extraordinary creatures like giants, dwarfs, elves, and monsters walked among fearless gods and goddesses.

Featuring timeless stories from such countries as Iceland, Norway, and Denmark, this is your entryway into the magical world of Scandinavian folklore. With vividly detailed illustrations that pair with each myth, you’ll…


Book cover of The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

Max Adams Author Of Aelfred's Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age

From my list on the viking period.

Why am I passionate about this?

I study and write about the Early Medieval period, and in a series of books about its most important characters, its archaeology and landscapes, I've tried to share my lifelong passion for this most obscure and tantalizing period of our history – what we still call the Dark Ages. From the two most shadowy centuries after Rome's fall (The First Kingdom) to Northumbrian King Oswald (The King in the North), who brought Christianity into pagan Anglo-Saxon England, and a walking, riding, sailing tour of Britain's Dark Age lands and seas (In the Land of Giants), I see a continuity of rich cultures, vibrant politics and regional characters that help us to understand how and why we are like we are.

Max's book list on the viking period

Max Adams Why did Max love this book?

Nancy Brown's search for one of the most intriguing characters of the sagas, Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir, is both a detective story and an evocation; a travelogue and history. It brings the adventuring spirit of the age to life; and in exploring this most fascinating and intrepid woman – the first European to give birth on American soil – it warns us not to forget half of the Viking population.

By Nancy Marie Brown,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Five hundred years before Columbus, a Viking woman named Gudrid sailed off the edge of the known world. She landed in the New World and lived there for three years, giving birth to a baby before sailing home. Or so the Icelandic sagas say. Even after archaeologists found a Viking longhouse in Newfoundland, no one believed that the details of Gudrid's story were true. Then, in 2001, a team of scientists discovered what may have been this pioneering woman's last house, buried under a hay field in Iceland, just where the sagas suggested it could be. Joining scientists experimenting with…


Book cover of Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Tim Rayborn Author Of Northern Mythology: Tales from Norse, Finnish, and Sámi Traditions

From Tim's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Historian Norse mythology enthusiast Musician Cook

Tim's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Tim Rayborn Why did Tim love this book?

This new book is the best one-volume history of the Vikings and the Viking Age available. It sometimes reads like a thrilling novel, taking the reader deep into this mysterious and often misunderstood world.

Price explodes many misconceptions about the Viking Age and the people who lived in it while presenting fantastic new information in the fields of archeology, history, and literature to give us a clearer picture of the time.

It’s an absolute must-read for anyone interested in Norse history, spirituality, and culture and was invaluable background reading for my book.  

By Neil Price,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Children of Ash and Elm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2020

'As brilliant a history of the Vikings as one could possibly hope to read' Tom Holland

The 'Viking Age' is traditionally held to begin in June 793 when Scandinavian raiders attacked the monastery of Lindisfarne in Northumbria, and to end in September 1066, when King Harald Hardrada of Norway died leading the charge against the English line at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. This book, the most wide-ranging and comprehensive assessment of the current state of our knowledge, takes a refreshingly different view. It shows that the Viking expansion began generations before the…


Book cover of The Vikings: Wolves of War

Tom Shippey Author Of Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings

From my list on Vikings through archaeology and research.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a retired professor of medieval literature, and taught at six universities, including Oxford and Harvard. I have published widely on Old English, Old Norse, and on my predecessor at Birmingham, Leeds, and Oxford, JRR Tolkien. I think it’s vital for academics to break out of their enclosed communities and engage with the interests of the general public – especially in areas where the public has shown keen interest, like the literature, history, and archaeology of the Vikings, all of which deserve to be taken together.

Tom's book list on Vikings through archaeology and research

Tom Shippey Why did Tom love this book?

Dr Arnold’s book begins with the grisly cenotaph discovered at Repton, which may well be the burial-site of Ívarr the Boneless. His book combines historical, literary and archaeological sources to give a balanced and comprehensive survey of the Vikings, briefly and at an affordable price. The best book to put into a student’s hands.

By Martin Arnold,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This concise and balanced history traces the 300-year saga of the pirates and warlords who poured out of Scandinavia between the eighth and eleventh centuries, terrorizing, conquering, and ultimately settling vast tracts of land throughout Europe. Undaunted by the might of the Arab caliphates and the Byzantine Empire, they founded Russia, originated the bloodline that came to rule France, and created a North Sea empire that included England. They also established settlements across the North Atlantic, notably in Iceland and Greenland, and their adventurous spirit and extraordinary seafaring skills led them to explore and briefly build colonies in North America.…


Book cover of Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga

Linnea Hartsuyker Author Of The Half-Drowned King

From my list on understanding the Vikings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of historical fiction. When I was in my teens, my family embarked on a project to trace our ancestry and identify our living relatives. Through church records in Sweden and Norway, we found that Harald Fairhair (Harfagr), the first king of Norway is one of our ancestors. Those explorations gave me the seeds of my first novel of Viking-Age Norway, The Half-Drowned King, and the subsequent books in the trilogy.

Linnea's book list on understanding the Vikings

Linnea Hartsuyker Why did Linnea love this book?

One of the best ways to envision a historical period is to see its artifacts. Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga is a companion to a Smithsonian exhibit of the same name and contains a rich trove of images and descriptions of viking physical culture, along with essays about the archeology of their discovery, and how they were used in the exploration of the North Atlantic, and the eventual journey to the New World.

By Elisabeth Ward, William F. Fitzhugh,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Replete with color photographs, drawings, and maps of Viking sites, artifacts, and landscapes, this book celebrates and explores the Viking saga from the combined perspectives of history, archaeology, oral tradition, literature, and natural science. The book's contributors chart the spread of marauders and traders in Europe as well as the expansion of farmers and explorers throughout the North Atlantic and into the New World. They show that Norse contacts with Native American groups were more extensive than has previously been believed, but that the outnumbered Europeans never established more than temporary settlements in North America.


Book cover of The Last Light of the Sun

J.G. Harlond Author Of The Doomsong Sword

From my list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on a Viking battlefield, in an English coastal village once raided then occupied by Norsemen. We had ancestors who lived on the Isle of Orkney, and in the Celtic south-west. From a young age, I read Norse and Celtic myths and legends, and went on to study history and philosophy – and then became an author. Now, I have family in Sweden and grandchildren of Ash and Elm. My list offers pure escapism, but also shows how our ancestors lived in an age with no electricity or compulsory schooling. It’s the wonderful combination of the ‘other world’ myths and history that I believe makes us who we are. 

J.G.'s book list on factual fantasy for coming-of-age Viking stories

J.G. Harlond Why did J.G. love this book?

The publisher’s blurb for this novel says: "In the stirring tradition of Northern Europe's heroic sagas, Kay brings to life an unforgettable world balanced on the knife-edge of change."

The lives of three young people, a Celt, an Anglo-Saxon and a Viking, coincide in this unforgettable story full of action and elements of the supernatural. Kay mixes history and fantasy in his own special way to create a frightening yet tender coming-of-age tale.

A beautifully written page-turner.

By Guy Gavriel Kay,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Last Light of the Sun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful, moving saga evoking the Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures of a thousand years ago from the acclaimed author of The Fionavar Tapestry.

“A historical fantasy of the highest order, the work of a man who may well be the reigning master of the form.”—The Washington Post Book World

Bern Thorkellson, punished for his father’s sins, denied his heritage and home, commits an act of vengeance and desperation that brings him face-to-face with a past he’s been trying to leave behind...

In the Anglcyn lands of King Aeldred, the shrewd king, battling inner demons all the while, shores up…


Book cover of The Viking Achievement

Linnea Hartsuyker Author Of The Half-Drowned King

From my list on understanding the Vikings.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a writer of historical fiction. When I was in my teens, my family embarked on a project to trace our ancestry and identify our living relatives. Through church records in Sweden and Norway, we found that Harald Fairhair (Harfagr), the first king of Norway is one of our ancestors. Those explorations gave me the seeds of my first novel of Viking-Age Norway, The Half-Drowned King, and the subsequent books in the trilogy.

Linnea's book list on understanding the Vikings

Linnea Hartsuyker Why did Linnea love this book?

This is one of the first books of Viking history that approached the Vikings on their own terms rather than their effect on Christian Europe. It illuminates areas of their lives like Viking technology, laws, and social organizations, and then how Viking explorers, traders, and raiders exported those abroad. As I began researching my Viking novels, this was one of the books that brought me into the Viking world the most fully.

By P.G. Foote, D.M. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is an account of the Norsemen in the period A.D. 800-1200, and is written primarily for the general reader but will also serve the needs of many university students.


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

Thomas Williams Author Of Viking Britain

From my list on Norse mythology (from an archaeologist).

Why am I passionate about this?

Dr. Thomas Williams is a bestselling writer, historian, and archaeologist. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he was a curator of the major international exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend at the British Museum in 2014 and earned his PhD at UCL’s Institute of Archaeology. He wrote Viking Britain and Viking London. 

Thomas' book list on Norse mythology (from an archaeologist)

Thomas Williams Why did Thomas love 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 is an excellent introduction to the subject that includes retellings of many of the most important myths alongside illustrations and vital historical and literary context. If you are just beginning your journey into this realm of monsters and gods, there are few better places to start.

By Carolyne Larrington,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Who were the Norse gods - the mighty AEsyr, led by Odinn, and the mysterious Vanir? In The Norse Myths we meet this passionate and squabbling pantheon, and learn of the mythological cosmos they inhabit. Passages translated from the Old Norse bring this legendary world to life, from the myths of creation to ragnaroek, the prophesied end of the world at the hands of Loki's army of monsters and giants, and everything that comes in between: the problematic relationship between the gods and the giants, in which enmity and trickery are punctuated by marriages and seductions; the (mis) adventures of…


Book cover of Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas

Tom Shippey Author Of Laughing Shall I Die: Lives and Deaths of the Great Vikings

From my list on Vikings through archaeology and research.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a retired professor of medieval literature, and taught at six universities, including Oxford and Harvard. I have published widely on Old English, Old Norse, and on my predecessor at Birmingham, Leeds, and Oxford, JRR Tolkien. I think it’s vital for academics to break out of their enclosed communities and engage with the interests of the general public – especially in areas where the public has shown keen interest, like the literature, history, and archaeology of the Vikings, all of which deserve to be taken together.

Tom's book list on Vikings through archaeology and research

Tom Shippey Why did Tom love this book?

Dr Barraclough not only traces Viking voyages north, south, east and west, she has followed in their footsteps. She was knighted with the penis-bone of a walrus by the Polar Bear Society of Hammarfest, saw the runestones commemorating those who “died in the east with Ingvar,” and mapped saga accounts of Newfoundland. Grisly information about Icelandic “necropants” and the Greenland hero “Corpse-Lodin.” This book has particularly beautiful color plates.

By Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the dying days of the eighth century, the Vikings erupted onto the international stage with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen may be best remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, but this is far from the whole story. Throughout the Middle Ages, long-ships transported hairy northern voyagers far and wide, where they not only raided but also traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered unfamiliar races, and embarked on pilgrimages
and crusades.

The Norsemen travelled to all corners of the medieval world and beyond; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands…