The best books about the Trojan War

2 authors have picked their favorite books about the Trojan War and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of A Song of War

A Song of War

By Christian Cameron, Libbie Hawker, Vicky Alvear Shecter

Why this book?

If a racially diverse, gender-bending, often raunchy, always nuanced, new take on an old tale sounds like a good read to you, then pick up this “novel-in-parts.” Both the racial and sexual fullness reflect historical reality, although they’ve ordinarily been left out. Retelling the Trojan War from its early causes to its tragic but still hope-infused end, the authors gave this rendition a compelling depth that will make you savor the old tradition with some new spice on your tongue.

From the list:

The best books set in the Trojan War

Book cover of A Thousand Ships

A Thousand Ships

By Natalie Haynes,

Why this book?

Chapter Thirty-Five. The whole of this book is fascinating—the way it is linear according to the story of each character it focuses on (the women caught up in the Trojan War, primarily) rather than trying to tell us the story linearly of the war itself was a stroke of literary genius as a means by which to piece together the mess of the war without struggling to balance the multitude of character perspectives that would have existed simultaneously in any one moment. But Chapter Thirty-Five, that glimpse of the muse Calliope and her perspective on the events being recorded by…

From the list:

The best books retelling Greek myths

Book cover of The Iliad

The Iliad

By Homer, Robert Fagles (translator),

Why this book?

I am cheating a little here because ‘Homer’ can refer to either the Iliad or the Odyssey or both. Either way, those are the two foundational works of ALL western literature and of much ‘world’ literature besides. They are both very very long verse epics, originally composed and handed down orally by a combination of memory and performance improvisation, but eventually committed to writing in the Greeks’ then-new alphabetic script. 

If there was just one poet called Homer, his genius lay in his selection of a single unifying theme for both monumental poems – the anger of Greek hero-warrior Achilles…

From the list:

The best books about ancient Greece and their world

Book cover of Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

Hand of Fire: A Novel of Briseis and the Trojan War

By Judith Starkston,

Why this book?

Hand of Fire was one of the first books to truly win me over on Achilles as a real hero worthy of romanticism and admiration. Starkston’s exploration of Briseis’s character and her relationship to and with Achilles is so well-wrought, pulling both from the Hittites (the empire in which Briseis was born) and the Greek mythology and archeology. The way she weaves the two cultures together to create this story, priming Briseis for Achilles’s arrival to create a narrative that gives Briseis both power and agency is absolutely masterful. I loved that Starkston didn’t shy away from the supernatural hallmarks…

From the list:

The best books retelling Greek myths

Book cover of Age of Bronze Volume 1: A Thousand Ships

Age of Bronze Volume 1: A Thousand Ships

By Eric Shanower,

Why this book?

This graphic novel is an absolute gift to anyone interested in both many of the lesser-known but no less fascinating narrative digressions of the Trojan War cycle and the visual exploration of what the late bronze age might have truly looked like. Shanower has given so much attention to period details and clothing, to the settings and backgrounds of palace, ship, and landscape. If you’re like me and you struggle to really see what the archaeological record has presented to us in rough floor plans and surviving artworks as a whole picture of life and living, this is an absolute…

From the list:

The best books retelling Greek myths

Book cover of Toy: Lord of the Silver Bow

Toy: Lord of the Silver Bow

By David Gemmell,

Why this book?

Okay, I’m taking some liberties here. Gemmell’s series is actually set during the Trojan war rather than ancient Rome, but there are constant references to “The Seven Hills,” so I’ll make an exception. I read this book when I was still in grade school and instantly fell in love with historical fiction, and ancient history in general. This book was fundamental to getting me started on the path of writing historical fiction. And to my delight, the story is just as impressive and moving now as it was then. This is the Trojan War like you’ve never seen before, and…

From the list:

The best novels set in Ancient Rome

Book cover of The Iliad

The Iliad

By Gareth Hinds,

Why this book?

The Iliad is not a book on strategy. Nor on tactics, nor on logistics, nor on command and control, nor on any other individual aspect of warfare about which any number of lesser authors have written. An epic poem, it provides an unparalleled panorama of men (and, playing a secondary yet crucially important role, a few women) at war: the hope, the despair, the fear, the elation, the kindness, the rage, the horror, the love and the sex (which both increases the horror and to some extent makes up for it). All intertwined, and all pulsating along with the human…

From the list:

The best books on war, full stop

Book cover of Helen of Sparta

Helen of Sparta

By Amalia Carosella,

Why this book?

Carosella offers another, refreshing take on Helen. This Helen takes control of her life and tries to defy fate (and the gods do their darndest, as usual in Greek mythology, to make her and everyone else miserable). Carosella’s engaging novel develops the characters’ jealousies, passions, and loyalties, as well as bringing the reader directly into the ancient Greek world. I enjoyed the sense of interconnectedness between different parts of this Greek and Mediterranean world, Troy, Sparta, Egypt, Mycenae, and Athens. This accurately reflects the current understanding of this exotic world. I appreciate a flexible view of all the legendary mythology…

From the list:

The best books set in the Trojan War

Book cover of The Penelopiad

The Penelopiad

By Margaret Atwood,

Why this book?

This book had to be high up on my list because it’s the book that really inspired my own writing! I first read it during my PhD in Classics at Yale, and I was immediately captivated by it – both the premise (retelling the Odyssey from Penelope’s point of view) and Atwood’s brilliantly laconic, first-person narration. It’s both witty, clever, and complex – you want to read and re-read it just to unravel all the different layers as you begin to discover the different angles Atwood has on Odysseus’ fantastic tale. Also, written in 2005, this book really was way…

From the list:

The best books that put a new twist on the Odyssey

Book cover of The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

By Pat Barker,

Why this book?

Pat Barker writes superbly about the human costs of war, and in this book she re-tells Homer’s Illiad from the perspective not of the foot soldiers, the cannon fodder of ego-driven politician/heroes, but from the perspective of the vanquished women reduced to slavery and concubinage - Breseis, awarded to Achilles after her city is sacked, fought over by Agamemnon, Andromarche, Hector’s widow, reduced to slavery after her entire family has been slaughtered, Polyxena, the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, sacrificed by the Greeks... It is a sensuous, visceral retelling of the story, provocative and evocative. You become part of that…

From the list:

The best forgotten (or untold) histories of war

Or, view all 18 books about the Trojan War

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