If you don’t already know, I absolutely love mythology! I currently study Classical Civilisation, and next year at university I want to study Classics and English. I’ve always been fascinated by Greek myths so this list is heavily focused on Greek mythology, but while at university I would really like to study mythology from other cultures too.
I enjoy reading the original texts, but I get that they can be intimidating to a lot of people, so I thought I’d list some mythological books which I love. This list includes the original texts, retellings, YA and middle grade books. So hopefully there’s something for everyone!
The Iliad and the Odyssey are classic texts. The Iliad tells the story of the Trojan War, focusing also on the anger of the Greek warrior Achilles. The Odyssey follows Odysseus after the Trojan War, and everything he encounters on his journey home.
I will always recommend reading the original texts, although I get that they are intimidating. But don’t be frightened – it’s okay if you don’t understand what you’re reading! I read the Iliad for the first time when I was about 13 and I enjoyed it but kind of had no clue what was going on. I’ve now read it about 3 times and studied it so I definitely know a lot more. But don’t be afraid to research as well as reading, or even read some retellings too!
Literally all his series have some sort of mythology weaved in so I’ll talk about them all together. Percy Jackson was what got me obsessed with Greek Mythology and it’s a great introduction for both kids and adults as it’s a fun middle grade series. For retellings of myths in a funny and memorable way, see Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods/Percy Jackson and the Greek Heroes.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Greek mythology
Heroes of Olympus: Greek and Roman mythology
Trials of Apollo: Greek and Roman mythology
The Kane Chronicles: Egyptian mythology
Magnus Chase: Norse mythology
I absolutely love Madeline Miller’s books. I first read The Song of Achilles years ago and I remember it making me so emotional. TSOA, as you can probably tell, follows the life of Achilles and also focuses on his relationship with his companion Patroclus.
I read Circe in 2018 and it was one of the best books of the year. Circe is the story of Circe, a nymph and witch who ends up living in exile on a deserted island. This book was on many prize lists, which doesn’t surprise me. I definitely think it’s a good way into mythology, especially if you like women’s fiction!
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
This is a recent read of mine! It’s a retelling of the Trojan War mainly from the perspective of Achilles’ slave Briseis. I really enjoyed this retelling since it focused heavily on the women (who are not very present in the Iliad) and especially the Trojan women, which shows the “enemy” in a new light. This wasn’t a difficult read, and I’d recommend it even if you haven’t read the Iliad.
The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
The Penelopiad centres around the wife of Odysseus, Penelope, who is in the Odyssey but not that much. It’s a very short book and easy to get through. I thought it was really interesting how it focused on events that weren’t particularly significant in the Odyssey and I loved learning more about Penelope. This is definitely easy to read without any prior knowledge.
With a lot of these mythological books, you can read them without reading the original texts and still love them. However, I’d recommend giving the older texts a try because it might increase your enjoyment – I know it definitely did for me (especially with Percy Jackson) and I’ve discovered a whole new genre of books I want to read.