The most recommended Old Norse books

Who picked these books? Meet our 27 experts.

27 authors created a book list connected to Old Norse, and here are their favorite Old Norse books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of Old Norse book?


Book cover of Collected Fictions

Ogi Ogas Author Of Journey of the Mind: How Thinking Emerged from Chaos

From my list on the great and marvelous mystery of consciousness.

Who am I?

I am an artist and mathematical neuroscientist. I’ve spent my life cracking some of reality’s greatest mysteries, including consciousness, self-consciousness, language, music, suffering, pain, anesthesia, compassionate love, extraterrestrial communication, and autism.

Ogi's book list on the great and marvelous mystery of consciousness

Ogi Ogas Why did Ogi love this book?

To fathom the mystery of consciousness, one needs to be ready to violate the entrenched convictions of conventional mindscience and let your mind roam freely over more inventive and limber perspectives.

Such as the literary inventions of Jorge Borges. His short stories/essays (it’s never really clear which category is more appropriate) are all wildly creative and astute models of sentience. I learned more about consciousness from “The Library of Babel,” “Tlön," Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” and “The Lottery of Babylon” than I did from any neuroscience text.

By Jorge Luis Borges, Andrew Hurley (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Collected Fictions as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

All of Borges' dazzling fictions have been freshly translated and gathered for the first time into a single volume - from his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through the immensely influential collections Ficciones and the The Aleph, to his final and never before translated work from the 1980s, Shakespeare's Memory.

Book cover of The Saga of the Volsungs: With the Saga of Ragnar Lothbrok

Jackson Crawford Author Of The Wanderer's Havamal

From my list on Norse myths from direct sources.

Who am I?

Jackson Crawford, Ph.D., taught Norse mythology at multiple universities (including UCLA, Berkeley, and Colorado) for over a decade before becoming a full-time public educator on Old Norse myth and language via his translations and Youtube channel in 2020. He is passionate about presenting the authentic, undistorted medieval stories in clear, thrilling, modern English.

Jackson's book list on Norse myths from direct sources

Jackson Crawford Why did Jackson love this book?

The closest thing to a "novel" from medieval Scandinavia, The Saga of the Volsungs was written down in the 1200s in Iceland by an author who knew the poems about the Volsungs in the Poetic Edda, but also knew a vast wealth of additional poems about them that are otherwise lost to us. Rather than transmit the poems directly, this unknown author chose to attempt to put together a cohesive story of the sprawling generations of this family, beginning with the fathering of their first ancestor by the god Odin and continuing through all the events that lead Odin himself to engineer the death of its last generations. Here we have dwarves forging magic swords, dragon-slayers, Valkyries laboring under the weight of ill-considered oaths, and star-crossed lovers seeking bloody revenge. This volume also includes the medieval "fanfic" sequel, The Saga of Ragnar Lothbrók, written shortly after The Saga of the…

By Unknown, Jackson Crawford (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From the translator of the bestselling Poetic Edda (Hackett, 2015) comes a gripping new rendering of two of the greatest sagas of Old Norse literature. Together the two sagas recount the story of seven generations of a single legendary heroic family and comprise our best source of traditional lore about its members-including, among others, the dragon-slayer Sigurd, Brynhild the Valkyrie, and the Viking chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok.

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.

Who am I?

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…

Book cover of The Prose Edda

Jake Jackson Author Of Norse Myths

From my list on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives.

Who am I?

I write about mythology, history, art, music, and cosmology. I also write science fiction. Mythology for me is an expression of a people trying to explain the world around them within the limits of their own knowledge. We are the same. Our search to understand the origins of the universe are limited by our language and mathematics, as were the Scandinavians who discovered countries for the first time, always expanding their horizons and adapting their legends accordingly. The Vikings had a rare vitality that sprang from every mythic tale and I love to explore both the deep origins of their worldview, and their influence in the cultures of today.

Jake's book list on Norse mythology from a wide range of perspectives

Jake Jackson Why did Jake love this book?

For serious readers of Norse mythology, its origins in literature and early culture the Byock translation of the 13th-century text by Snorri Sturluson presents the Viking equivalent of Heroditus’ Histories of the Ancient Greeks and the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. It’s a thrilling read and forms the basis of all modern versions of Viking legend. I still refer to this, years after first reading it.

By Snorri Sturluson, Jesse L. Byock (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The most renowned of all works of Scandinavian literature and our most extensive source of Norse mythology

Written in Iceland a century after the close of the Viking Age, The Prose Edda tells ancient stories of the Norse creation epic and recounts the battles that follow as gods, giants, dwarves and elves struggle for survival. In prose interspersed with powerful verse, the Edda shows the gods' tragic realization that the future holds one final cataclysmic battle, Ragnarok, when the world will be destroyed. These tales have proved to be among the most influential of all myths and legends, inspiring works…

Book cover of The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180–1280)

William Ian Miller Author Of Hrafnkel or the Ambiguities: Hard Cases, Hard Choices

From my list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas.

Who am I?

Purely by accident I stumbled on to a 1961 Penguin translation of Njáls saga and it was a transformative moment in my life. I signed up for Old Norse the next term, and never looked back. The sagas were incomparably intelligent in matters of psychology and politics and interpersonal interaction. And then told with such wit. How could the utter miracle of the fluorescence of so much pure genius on a volcanic island in the middle of nowhere not grab you? And what confluence of friendly stars would allow me to spend a life teaching and writing about them in a law school no less, paid as if I were a real lawyer? 

William's book list on the Icelandic and Norse sagas

William Ian Miller Why did William love this book?

This is from the master of saga studies of the past half-century. His knowledge of Old Norse literature is unsurpassed. He takes you through how the miracle of the sagas came about. Moreover, he writes well. His prose is clear and elegant. I also wish to steer readers to a perfect gem of an article Andersson wrote that actually manages to say something quite new about the more than a century-old fight in saga studies as to whether the sagas owe their excellence to an oral culture or to a written one: “Sea Traffic in the Sagas: Quantitative Reflections” in The Creation of Medieval Northern Europe: Essays in Honor of Sverre Bagge, edited by Leidulf Melve and Sigbjørn Sønnesyn (Oslo: Dreyer, 2012), 156–75.

By Theodore M. Andersson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Growth of the Medieval Icelandic Sagas (1180–1280) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book, Theodore M. Andersson, a leading scholar of the Norse sagas, introduces readers to the development of the Icelandic sagas between 1180 and 1280, a crucial period that witnessed a gradual shift of emphasis from tales of adventure and personal distinction to the analysis of political and historical propositions. Beginning with the first full-length sagas and culminating in the acknowledged masterpiece Njals saga, Andersson emphasizes a historical perspective, establishing a chronology for seventeen of the most important sagas and showing how they evolve thematically and stylistically over the century under study.

Revisiting the long-standing debate about the oral…

Book cover of Women in the Viking Age

Linnea Hartsuyker Author Of The Half-Drowned King

From my list on understanding the Vikings.

Who am I?

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?

Myths about viking women abound, but Judith Jesch’s book is grounded in what we can know from the archeological, historical, and literary record. That still paints a vivid picture of the Viking women who remained in the traditional feminine sphere, and those who ventured into men’s. As Women in the Viking Age reveals, Viking women were farmers, housewives, managers of hundreds of servants, explorers, priestesses, rich benefactors, and war-leaders. In many ways, their lives were more varied than men’s.

By Judith Jesch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women in the Viking Age as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Well-illustrated, closely argued and fascinating. GUARDIAN

This is the first book-length study in English to investigate what women did in the Viking age, both at home in Scandinavia and in the Viking coloniesfrom Greenland to Russia. Evidence for their lives is fragmentary, but Judith Jesch assembles the clues provided by archaeology, runic inscriptions, place names and personal names, foreign historical records and Old Norse literature and mythology. These sources illuminate different aspects of women's lives in the Viking age, on the farms and in the trading centres of Scandinavia, abroad on Viking expeditions, and as settlers in places such as…

Book cover of The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings

Ian Stuart Sharpe Author Of Old Norse for Modern Times

From my list on researching Vikings.

Who am I?

Ian Stuart Sharpe likes to imagine he is descended from Guðrum, King of the East Angles, although DNA tests and a deep disdain for camping suggest otherwise. He is the author of two novels set in his alternate Vikingverse, the All Father Paradox and Loki’s Wager. He once won a prize at school for Outstanding Progress and chose a dictionary as his reward, secretly wishing it had been an Old Norse phrasebook. It took him thirty years, but he has finally realised his dream.

Ian's book list on researching Vikings

Ian Stuart Sharpe Why did Ian love this book?

Lars Brownworth’s The Sea Wolves is a great place to begin your Viking voyage. Like any good Norse raid it is breathtaking and action-packed. It has a wide scope, colouring in all the corners of the Viking world, from the Vinland to Byzantium. It is easy to digest, and as swaggering as it is educational.

By Lars Brownwort,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In AD 793 Norse warriors struck the English isle of Lindisfarne and laid waste to it. Wave after wave of Norse ‘sea-wolves’ followed in search of plunder, land, or a glorious death in battle. Much of the British Isles fell before their swords, and the continental capitals of Paris and Aachen were sacked in turn. Turning east, they swept down the uncharted rivers of central Europe, captured Kiev and clashed with mighty Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire.

But there is more to the Viking story than brute force. They were makers of law - the term itself comes…

Book cover of Norse Myths: Gods of the Vikings

Alice Mills Author Of The World Treasury of Myths & Legends

From my list on Norse myths and legends.

Who am I?

Alice has had a passion for myths ever since reading Greek myths as a small child. Alice's most recent book is a retelling of myths and legends worldwide. As well as editing several anthologies for children, she has published a book on mythology and another on the fantasy writer Mervyn Peake, and she has many scholarly publications on fantasy and children's literature.

Alice's book list on Norse myths and legends

Alice Mills Why did Alice love 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.

By Kevin Crossley-Holland,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

With colour artwork by Gillian McClure, a collection of Norse myths.

Book cover of Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film

Natacha Guyot Author Of The Science is Out There: Scully's Feminism in The X-Files

From my list on women in American film.

Who am I?

I’ve been creating female-fronted Science Fiction stories since I was a child. My love for Star Wars motivated me to go to film school and then spend years working on the representation of women in Science Fiction movies, TV series, and video games. I’ve written about characters like Leia Organa and Hera Syndulla in Star Wars, Dana Scully in The X-Files, Sarah Connor in The Terminator, and Elisabeth Shaw in Prometheus. I have recently started sharing some of my research on Medium. Some of the books on this list have supported my research for over 15 years while I discovered others during my doctoral studies. 

Natacha's book list on women in American film

Natacha Guyot Why did Natacha love this book?

This book has been central to my research on women in Science Fiction although I am not a Horror fan.

Given how often women are thrown through gendered-based violence in different genres, Clover’s study brings many useful points for not only Horror itself, but also thrillers, action films, and Fantasy.

It investigates different facets of women’s representation and their fight against sexualized trials. My favorite chapters are those on the body in the slasher film, the discussion on women’s stories versus men’s stories, and the revenge narrative.

By Carol J. Clover,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Men, Women, and Chain Saws as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From its first publication in 1992, Men, Women, and Chain Saws has offered a groundbreaking perspective on the creativity and influence of horror cinema since the mid-1970s. Investigating the popularity of the low-budget tradition, Carol Clover looks in particular at slasher, occult, and rape-revenge films. Although such movies have been traditionally understood as offering only sadistic pleasures to their mostly male audiences, Clover demonstrates that they align spectators not with the male tormentor, but with the females tormented--notably the slasher movie's "final girls"--as they endure fear and degradation before rising to save themselves. The lesson was not lost on the…

Book cover of Norse Mythology

Patricia Furstenberg Author Of Dreamland: Banat, Crisana, Maramures, Transylvania, 100-WORD STORIES, Folklore and History

From my list on short stories to make you dream about travelling.

Who am I?

My upbringing in refined Bucharest, surrounded by books and Romania's rich folklore, as well as my youth excursions in the idyllic Transylvanian countryside, instilled in me a love for storytelling. Although I have a medical degree, my insatiable curiosity about historical figures' lives, journeys, and the landscapes they encountered has driven me to investigate and write about these enthralling tales. This allowed me to share the wonders of travel through historical and contemporary fiction with a strong historical foundation - and a dog or two. On my blog I share enchanting gems from Romania’s past, while on social media I promote Romania’s history and culture under the hashtag #Im4Ro.

Patricia's book list on short stories to make you dream about travelling

Patricia Furstenberg Why did Patricia love this book?

I'd heard a lot about Norse myths on social media recently, but I was unfamiliar with them. 

The idea of Gaiman weaving his narrative magic through the tapestry of these ancient tales intrigued me, and it surely made for an exciting read.

Even if you're unfamiliar with Norse mythology (as I was), this retelling will awe you with the strangeness and wonder of these ancient tales. Norse Mythology is more than a book; it's an invitation to a hypnotic world inhabited by gods, giants, undead goats, betrayals, a mischievous squirrel, elves, dwarves, and Valkyries.

This collection is an enthralling journey through a selection of Norse myths, narrated with Neil Gaiman's trademark wit and simplicity.

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

10 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…