The best Viking books 📚

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

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Book cover of The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women

The Real Valkyrie: The Hidden History of Viking Warrior Women

By Nancy Marie Brown

Why this book?

Recent genetic research on the human remains of a 10th-century Viking grave excavated in 1878 in Birka, Sweden, rocked the world of Viking studies when it determined that the warrior buried with numerous weapons and two horses was not male, but female. I loved how this author imagines what that woman’s life might have been like. She also suggests that the woman buried in the Birka grave was merely one of many female Viking warriors, offering data drawn from archaeological finds, from historical accounts, from language studies, and from the sagas to support the theory that ‘shield maids’ really did…

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The best books on early Medieval England and Scandinavia

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

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

By Neil Price

Why this book?

Neil Price was recommended to me by Marissa Lingen, a fellow science fiction author of Nordic descent with a passionate interest in Scandinavian history, and she was absolutely right. I have another of his books, The Viking Way, on my queue right now. 

This book is the modern social history of the Vikings that I always wanted and could never quite find before. It's gigantic, comprehensive, and focused far more on the personal lives of individuals than on endless lists of kings, wars, and begats--which differentiates it from others such as Kenneth Harl's recorded lectures at The Great Courses…
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The best books for understanding the Viking mindset and relationship with the world

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Book cover of The Age of the Vikings

The Age of the Vikings

By Anders Winroth

Why this book?

The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth is a more scholarly tome but far from pedestrian. This book takes you on a tour of the life and times of a Norseman, describing not just how they fought, but how they lived – detailing their poetry, politics, settlements, and ships. The Vikings you think you know are paper thin, two dimensional caricatures – Winroth makes sure the real deal leaps off the page and disabuses you of stereotypes.

From the list:

The best books for researching Vikings

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Book cover of Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World

Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World

By Jóhanna Katrín Friðriksdóttir

Why this book?

In the “traders vs. raiders” approach to Viking history, women stay home and look after the farm while the men go off on adventures. Three books published in the 1990s by Judith Jesch and Jenny Jochens brought the lives of these women out of the shadows, showing how vital their role was.

In Valkyrie: The Women of the Viking World, Jóhanna Kristín Friðriksdóttir brings these early studies up to date. With her mastery of detail from the Icelandic sagas, Friðriksdóttir follows an ordinary Viking woman from birth to death. She tells stories of women who are bold and successful,…

From the list:

The best books on Vikings, their humor, and their world

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Book cover of Viking Age Iceland

Viking Age Iceland

By Jesse L. Byock

Why this book?

Almost everything we know about the Vikings—their gods and heroes, their history and myths, their values and fears—comes from texts written down on parchment in medieval Iceland. Yet the Icelandic sagas and Eddas are biased. They explain very little about the Vikings in the east (and get wrong much of what they do describe). Their world is not the Viking World, which stretched from Constantinople to North America, but Viking Iceland.

Jesse Byock brings all this material together in Viking Age Iceland. First published in 2001, this immensely readable book is a classic that has not yet been bettered. It…

From the list:

The best books on Vikings, their humor, and their world

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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.

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

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