The most recommended books about the Odyssey

Who picked these books? Meet our 51 experts.

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

Sylvia Kelso Author Of Everran's Bane

From my list on journeys in them.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a child, I wanted to be either a chook (chicken) farmer or an archaeologist. In high school, my Latin teacher gave me a copy of The Hobbit and changed my passion to travel, which, for Australians, mostly means, Overseas. In second year University, The Lord of the Rings cemented that longing, and I have "travelled" Overseas almost annually ever since. But a long research trip for a historical novel taught me that the best travel is a journey: travel with a purpose. And whether or not I'm on a plane, train, bus, or foot myself, some of my favourite reading has always been books with journeys at their heart. 

Sylvia's book list on journeys in them

Sylvia Kelso Why did Sylvia love this book?

Journeys are most often linear – Here to There – or circular – "There and Back Again." The Odyssey is actually a return leg in the most traumatic and perennial circular journey: going to war, and then, getting back. "Wily" (in modern terms, read, "sneaky," "trickster")  Odysseus left Troy a famous warrior, but takes seven years to get home. The fabulous episodes of that journey, the Cyclops, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Circe, and Calypso, the wreck in Phaeacia that leaves him bereft even of clothes, have grounded the Western imagination. But the concluding little things – the recognition scenes, the dog that dies, and the nurse who doesn't – push that epic past into a close, human Now.

By Homer, T.E. Shaw (translator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus' journey home from the Trojan War has inspired  writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus  survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops  and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens' song  and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his  most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous  suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal  wife, Penelope. Favorite of the gods, Odysseus  embodies the energy, intellect, and resourcefulness  that were of highest value to the ancients and that  remain ideals in out time.

In this  new…


Book cover of Rules for Visiting

Genevieve Scott Author Of The Damages

From my list on featuring complex female friendships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love to read and write about complex characters and particularly the “unlikeable” female character. Many readers connect with my characters because they are flawed—they don’t always think or do what we want them to, or what we think they should do, which is often (frustratingly) the case with the real-life people we love and care about. Real, complex people exist in real, complex relationships, including friendships that don’t always serve them—or that do serve them, but in unconventional or superficially unclear ways. I think that reading about contradictory, inconsistent, and confused characters in relationships helps us to be kinder and more empathetic people—and, quite possibly, better friends. 

Genevieve's book list on featuring complex female friendships

Genevieve Scott Why did Genevieve love this book?

Friendship takes work. These ongoing, necessary maintenance efforts are not the dramatic material of most friendship novels, but this book is all the more admirable for examining its realities.

This book tells the story of May, an independent, not unhappy but somewhat lonely woman on the brink of 40, who hasn’t made much effort with her far-flung friends—or any friends—in years. Presented with a 30-day leave from her job as a gardener at a university, she makes plans to visit four old friends for a few days each.

May is warmly welcomed, though the reunions are often stilted, sometimes awkward, and that’s what makes them honest: you can’t skip the hard parts when you’re learning a new rhythm, even with an old friend. Post-pandemic, this is an especially good book for people trying to find their way back to IRL friendships.

By Jessica Francis Kane,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BESTSELLER!

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY: O Magazine * Good Housekeeping * Real Simple * Vulture * Chicago Tribune
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE SUMMER BY: “The Today Show” * “Good Morning America” * Wall Street Journal * San Francisco Chronicle * Southern Living
 
An INDIE NEXT LIST Pick

Shortlisted for the 2020 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 
Long-listed for the 2020 Tournament of Books

"Fun, hilarious, and extremely touching."—NPR

A beautifully observed and deeply funny novel of May Attaway, a university gardener who sets out on an odyssey to reconnect with…


Book cover of Switch Bitch

Jackson Ford Author Of The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind

From my list on swear words in the title.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jackson Ford is the author of The Frost Files series, including The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind and Random Sh*t Flying Through the Air. He may or may not be the alter ego of author Rob Boffard, a South African author based in Vancouver, but he is definitely 100% a jackass.

Jackson's book list on swear words in the title

Jackson Ford Why did Jackson love this book?

The book may not have much swearing in it, but it has one of the best titles ever. It sounds like an insult drawn from an obscure meme. Dahl is a master of the short story, and here you get four of them, including his fabulous character Oswald Hendryks Cornelius.

By Roald Dahl,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Switch Bitch four tales of seduction and suspense are told by the grand master of the short story, Roald Dahl.

Topping and tailing this collection are The Visitor and Bitch, stories featuring Dahl's notorious hedonist Oswald Hendryks Cornelius (or plain old Uncle Oswald) whose exploits are frequently as extraordinary as they are scandalous. In the middle, meanwhile, are The Great Switcheroo and The Last Act, two stories exploring a darker side of desire and pleasure.

In the black comedies of Switch Bitch Roald Dahl brilliantly captures the ins and outs, highs and lows of sex.

'Dahl is too good…


Book cover of Leaves of Grass

Blythe Roberson Author Of America the Beautiful?: One Woman in a Borrowed Prius on the Road Most Traveled

From my list on nature and freedom.

Why am I passionate about this?

Since I was a kid I’ve loved being outdoors, scrambling up rocks and smelling trees, exploring. But during the years I worked an office job in New York City, I was able to hike and feel truly free only rarely. So I quit my job to go on a Great American Road Trip to national parks and other natural areas in our country. Here are some of the books that, to me, best encapsulate that feeling of loving nature so much it opens up whole worlds inside of you.

Blythe's book list on nature and freedom

Blythe Roberson Why did Blythe love this book?

A bookseller once said to me, “There are your heroes, and there are your heroes heroes.” Walt Whitman is both.

He is the OG. I love the man so much that the first tattoo I ever got was a line from one of his poems. Whitman can write a poem whose premise is basically “What’s the deal with grass?” and make you weep. He can write a 50-page poem that I actually want to read and that, my friends, is a magic trick.

If you love travel and nature and being alive you can read my new book or you can just read the Whitman poem “Song of the Open Road.” I need to move on to the next rec before I convince myself to get another Walt Whitman tattoo.

By Walt Whitman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Features several of Whitman's most famous poems including 'I Hear America Singing', 'I Sing the Body Electric' and 'One's-self I sing'.


Book cover of Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

Roger E. Backhouse Author Of Founder of Modern Economics: Paul A. Samuelson: Volume 1: Becoming Samuelson, 1915-1948

From my list on 20th century economists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Roger E. Backhouse has been a Professor of Economics and the University of Birmingham (in the UK) for many years, specializing in the history of economic ideas, and has written several books on contemporary economics and where the ideas came from. Knowing that many people lose interest when economics gets technical, he has picked biographies of modern economists who have led interesting lives as well as contributing to the development of their discipline, defining “modern” economists as ones who were active during his own lifetime, a criterion that excludes John Maynard Keynes, on whom several outstanding biographies have been written.

Roger's book list on 20th century economists

Roger E. Backhouse Why did Roger love this book?

I have picked this book because it tells a story that should interest anyone even if they have no interest in technical economics. Albert Hirschman was born into a Jewish family in Berlin and in his teens became politically committed as a socialist, at a time when the rise of the Nazi party made this a dangerous activity. The book tells the story of his exploits in Germany and occupied Europe before he ended up in the United States, where he made his career as a specialist on economic development, spending a significant part of his life advising the government of Colombia.

Hopefully, the book gives an account of Hirschman’s economic ideas in a way that will make sense even to readers who don’t know any economics, but even without that, it is a sufficiently gripping story of the life of an exile from inter-war Germany who ended up as…

By Jeremy Adelman,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Worldly Philosopher chronicles the times and writings of Albert O. Hirschman, one of the twentieth century's most original and provocative thinkers. In this gripping biography, Jeremy Adelman tells the story of a man shaped by modern horrors and hopes, a worldly intellectual who fought for and wrote in defense of the values of tolerance and change. This is the first major account of Hirschman's remarkable life, and a tale of the twentieth century as seen through the story of an astute and passionate observer. Adelman's riveting narrative traces how Hirschman's personal experiences shaped his unique intellectual perspective, and how his…


Book cover of The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

Nikki Marmery Author Of On Wilder Seas: The Woman on the Golden Hind

From my list on historical sea voyages.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historical fiction writer living in a landlocked village in the Chilterns, UK. I became obsessed with long sea voyages while researching my debut novel, On Wilder Seas, which is inspired by the true story of Maria, the only woman aboard the Golden Hind during Francis Drake’s circumnavigation voyage in 1577-1580. I immersed myself in the literature of the sea, in early modern sailors’ accounts of their terrifying voyages, in their wills and diaries, in maps and sea-logs. A ship is the perfect setting for a novel: the confined space, the impossibility of escape, the ever-present danger – and the hostile, unforgiving sea is the ultimate antagonist.

Nikki's book list on historical sea voyages

Nikki Marmery Why did Nikki love this book?

Not a novel, but it reads like one, as Nicolson tells the story of how the greatest sea voyage tale of all time – The Odyssey, and its sister epic The Iliad – came to be, with a cast of characters including the Greek heroes, gods and goddesses crossing the land and seascapes of Ancient Greece. 

Nicolson argues that these poems emerged not in the 8th century BC, when they were first written down, but a thousand years earlier in the oral tradition. In them, he sees the origin myths of the people who became the Greeks – the fusion of the native people of the Eastern Mediterranean and invaders from the northern steppes. 

But it is Nicolson’s personal investment in his subject that is so beguiling. A sailor himself, he brings his deep knowledge of the sea, of sailing, navigation, the capriciousness of wind, the knife-edge between…

By Adam Nicolson, Adam Nicolson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"Complex, personal, and profound ... a brash and brave piece of writing ... filled with the swords and spears that inflict the carnage of the Iliad." -The Wall Street Journal

Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the Iliad and the Odyssey and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems-transmitted orally across the generations, shaped and reshaped in a living, self-renewing tradition-occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor…


Book cover of On Gold Mountain: The 100-Year Odyssey of a Chinese-American Family

William F. Deverell Author Of Kathy Fiscus: A Tragedy That Transfixed the Nation

From my list on family in California.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of the American West and a professor at the University of Southern California. I also direct the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West. I love the way very smart and ambitious family histories illuminate the fascinating (or sometimes mundane) lives of people in the past and, at the same time, use those stories to help us understand bigger-picture issues, eras, and all the turbulence of American life. That little-girl-in-the-well book I wrote is the first time I’ve attempted family history. It was so hard to try to get it right but, at the same time, exhilarating to think that maybe I did.

William's book list on family in California

William F. Deverell Why did William love this book?

Richly woven history of immigration, family, and the California Dream as refracted through Chinese newcomers and their Chinese American descendants. The author has two very powerful tools at her disposal – penetrating historical sensibility and a great novelist’s ear for language. Across time and space, family stories, and passed-down memories endure. They all come together in this wonderful book in which California alternates between background and foreground through both hope and disappointment.

By Lisa See,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Out of the stories heard in her childhood in Los Angeles's Chinatown and years of research, See has constructed this sweeping chronicle of her Chinese-American family, a work that takes in stories of racism and romance, entrepreneurial genius and domestic heartache, secret marriages and sibling rivalries, in a powerful history of two cultures meeting in a new world. 82 photos.


Book cover of The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley: A Poet's Journeys Through American Slavery and Independence

David W. Stowe Author Of How Sweet the Sound: Music in the Spiritual Lives of Americans

From David's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Curious Creative Compassionate Reflective Moody

David's 3 favorite reads in 2023

David W. Stowe Why did David love this book?

I admit that I picked up this book mainly because I’m researching the musical scene of revolutionary-era Boston. I figured this new book would offer some state-of-the-art context I could learn from. But even apart from my pragmatic motive, it was a stimulating read.

Wheatley is such an unlikely figure you would almost have to make her up. Kidnapped at around age seven from West Africa, she was shipped to America and purchased by a genteel Boston couple. They quickly recognized her genius.

Within a few years, she was reading the Bible, of course, but also English poets Pope and Milton, not to mention Virgil, Ovid, Terence, and Homer. All the while working as an enslaved servant. 

Wheatley’s first poem was published when she was thirteen. She received national acclaim three years later for an elegy she wrote for the British evangelist George Whitefield. At eighteen, Wheatley sailed to London…

By David Waldstreicher,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[An] erudite, enlightening new biography . . . [Waldstreicher’s] interpretations equal Wheatley’s own intentional verse, making it a joy to follow along as he unpacks her words and their arrangement.” ―Tiya Miles, The Atlantic

“Thoroughly researched, beautifully rendered and cogently argued . . . The Odyssey of Phillis Wheatley is [. . .] historical biography at its best.” ―Kerri Greenidge, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

A paradigm-shattering biography of Phillis Wheatley, whose extraordinary poetry set African American literature at the heart of the American Revolution.

Admired by George Washington, ridiculed by Thomas Jefferson, published in London, and…


Book cover of The City and the Stars

Michelle Evans Author Of The X-15 Rocket Plane: Flying the First Wings Into Space

From my list on to contemplate our place in the universe.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for science and technology is the fault of my father, who first took me to Edwards AFB when I was five years old. He would pawn me off on a colleague to keep me busy while he would do the work he needed to do. That meant that I got to wander around the hangars, watching all the fascinating things happening to take the X-15 into space, and getting to meet the people who made it all happen. That passion spilled over into science fiction as well, along with the idea of trying to discover what the universe was not only like, but what it could be.

Michelle's book list on to contemplate our place in the universe

Michelle Evans Why did Michelle love this book?

Those who know me, understand that Arthur C. Clarke has been my favorite author for as long as I can remember, and they would probably be surprised at my pick of this novel over his most well-known book 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Childhood’s End. Let me put it this way, I’ll recommend anything written by Clarke, but this book stands out for me because of its profound look at the far future of humanity, which has fallen nearly to the point of extinction. It is a work that serves as a warning to us all, but also shows how one person can change the trajectory of an entire society, bringing it back from the brink in order to move once again among the stars.

By Arthur C. Clarke,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Clarke's masterful evocation of the far future of humanity, considered his finest novel

Men had built cities before, but never such a city as Diaspar. For millennia its protective dome shut out the creeping decay and danger of the world outside. Once, it held powers that rule the stars.

But then, as legend has it, the invaders came, driving humanity into this last refuge. It takes one man, a Unique, to break through Diaspar's stifling inertia, to smash the legend and discover the true nature of the Invaders.


Book cover of The Iliad

Rachel Kousser Author Of Alexander at the End of the World: The Forgotten Final Years of Alexander the Great

From my list on ancient goddesses heroines from a woman’s viewpoint.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, I was fascinated by Greek mythology. Through myth, I encountered many powerful female characters—Athena was my favorite—but I felt frustrated by how women’s lives were told in my books. My interest in Greek myth and curiosity about untold stories led me to become a Classics professor. I love teaching and writing about women in the ancient world, helping people to understand how they navigated their lives. Luckily for me, many recent books across various genres, from novels to translations to histories, have illuminated the lives of ancient women. There’s so much more to read than when I was growing up! 

Rachel's book list on ancient goddesses heroines from a woman’s viewpoint

Rachel Kousser Why did Rachel love this book?

This book is an epic about a war fought over a woman (Helen, the “face that launched a thousand ships”), yet this is the first major translation by one. Emily Wilson’s translation sounds fresh and up-to-date yet stays closer to Homer than the versions I encountered growing up.

I love how Wilson treats Homer’s women, avoiding the clichés and derogatory language used by previous translators. And her work has the narrative drive that Homer deserves, making this very old, very familiar story a real page-turner.

By Homer, Emily Wilson (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

When Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey appeared in 2017-revealing the ancient poem in a contemporary idiom that "combines intellectual authority with addictive readability" (Edith Hall, The Sunday Telegraph)-critics lauded it as "a revelation" (Susan Chira, The New York Times) and "a cultural landmark" (Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian) that would forever change how Homer is read in English. Now Wilson has returned with an equally revelatory translation of the first great Homeric epic: The Iliad.

In Wilson's hands, this exciting and often horrifying work now gallops at a pace befitting its battle scenes, roaring with the clamour of arms, the…