While most readers are acquainted with mythology at an early age, its appeal remains timeless. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that there’s a bewildering assortment of mythology books that have littered the market. After all, the themes discussed in these ancient stories mirror the core concerns and values of humanity like survival, hate, hubris, love, power, and much more.
As a result, mythology remains a renowned inspiration to a myriad of authors across the globe. Some of the top renditions of these myths have turned into bestsellers, ranging from paranormal to literary.
Without further ado, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best myth books of all time to help you invoke your inner deity.
1. The Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus
Being the only work of its kind that has survived classical antiquity, The Library of Greek Mythology is a unique guide to origins of the universe, to the Trojan War. It has been a crucial reference point for classists and authors to date, since its completion back in the 1st and 2nd century.
The Library of Greek Mythology delivers a complete history of Greek myths, telling stories of the prominent families of heroic mythology. It’s also packed with an array of adventures of the main heroines and heroes, such as Helen of Troy, Perseus, and Jason.
As reference work, the book is an indication of how the Greeks perceived their mythical traditions, and a major source for Greek myth, which makes it invaluable. It, therefore, enchants anyone that has an interest in classical mythology.
2. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton
The book brings life to modern readers of Norse, Roman, and Greek myths, compared to other books in the market. These myths are the cornerstone of Western culture because the stories of the ancient deities have sparked human creativity from antiquity to date.
In this book, Edith Hamilton delves into the drama encompassing the wanders of Odysseus and the Trojan War. It’s filled with the dazzling takes of Cupid and Psyche, Jason, the legendary King Midas, and the Golden Fleece.
Readers get to discover the roots of the names of the constellations. They also learn about the reference points for a barrage of works for culture inquiry, literature, and art.
3. The Odyssey by Homer and Translated By Emily Wilson
If you’re on the quest for an authoritative and fresh translation that captures the drama and beauty of an ancient poem, then your search ends here. The Odyssey is a poem that revolves around violence, the repercussions of war, hospitality, family, marriage, travelers, and the desire for home. Its characters are memorable, more so, a ‘complicated’ hero who has an array of tricks, moods, and disguises, before evolving into a well-rounded human being.
The book’s informative yet captivating introduction delves into the Bronze Age milieu which generated the poem’s key themes, controversies about its roots, and the exceptional scope of its influence. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that this version of The Odyssey by The Homer that’s translated by Emily Wilson is held dearly by modern-day readers and scholars alike.
4. Complete World of Greek Mythology by Richard Buxton
Written in a less literary style, Complete World of Greek Mythology focuses on the geographical and historical contexts within which the myths were told. For instance, readers will learn about the broader society and religion that Greek mythology was a part of. They’ll also become well-versed in the roles that certain aspects of the Greeks’ landscape impacted their ancient myths and how ensuing centuries have re-imagined and used Greek mythology.
Nonetheless, possibly the greatest draw of the book for most readers is the 330 illustrations it comes with, 139 of which are in color. These pictures adorn nearly every page of the book and range from Greek landscapes and classic paintings of scenes from Greek mythology to artifacts from ancient Greece.
5. Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod and Translated By M.L. West
Written by Hesiod, Theogony and Works is a must-read for every Greek mythology enthusiast. It’s a prose work that dates back to the end of the 8th century and delivers an excellent structured account of the roots of the 1st deities.
Theogony, that means Genesis of Gods, is one of the key sources that readers have on ancient Greek creation myths. And, its concise and well-organized structure has made it a popular go-to for modern retellings. West’s translation is unarguably one of the best in the market because it’s easy to grasp while maintaining nuance and poetic abundance.
6. Greek Religion by Walter Burkert
Does learning more about the religion associated with Greek mythology tickle your fancy? Then Greek Religion by Walter Burkert is your best bet.
While there is an array of books that contain the fundamentals of the Greek deities and Greek religion, this book digs deeper. It delivers an exhaustive of the Greeks’ deities, implicit and explicit theologies, rituals, perspectives on the afterlife and death, heroism, and sanctuaries.
The book’s last chapters discuss the later developments in the Greek religion, for instance, the ‘mystery’ cults. Throughout Greek Religion, readers get to enjoy the ideal synthesis of conceptual interpretation and factual detail.
7. Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Ellis
It’s the perfect choice for readers that are on the quest for a captivating introduction to Celtic mythology that centers on the actual stories. And, the author delivers this aspect exceptionally well.
Peter’s retellings of the Celtic myths make for an amazing read. Therefore, readers can expect a delightfully told collection of strange creatures, stirring sagas of the deities, heroes, and rulers like King Arthur.
The well-liked legends and myths from the 6 Celtic cultures of Western Europe (Breton, Welsh, Scots, Cornish, Irish, and Manx) are included.
8. The Winter Sister by Megan Collins
Greek myths state that Demeter, who is the Goddess of harvest, has a daughter called Persephone. As the story goes, Pluto abducts Persephone to be his bride, which leaves Demeter distraught. The goddesses’ mourning triggers winter for the first time.
While there are different interpretations of the Persephone myth, Megan Collins reinvents it in modern-day, snow-laden England. What’s even better about the Winter Sister is that it’s a retelling through Persephone’s grief-stricken sister who reveals how loss threads through the survivors’ lives and reweaves their destinies.
9. The Viking Spirit by Daniel McCoy
It’s an ideal option for readers that are on the quest for a timeless grandeur of religion and Norse mythology for the 21st century. Daniel writes the book from a scholarly standpoint but in a concise and captivating style that makes it a fun read.
The Viking Spirit contains gripping retellings of at least 34 epic Norse myths, which is more than other books of the same genre. Concurrently, the book delivers an in-depth overview of the enchanting Viking religion that was part of Norse mythology. You’ll gain insight into the Vikings’ deities, their perception of fate, moral code, death, and the afterlife, the universe’s structure, the role of magic and religious practices.
10. The Poetic Edda by Jackson Crawford
It’s a work of overwhelming beauty and vision. Therefore, it has few rivals in the literature world. The Poetic Edda is an assortment of heroic and mythical poems that were crafted by anonymous poets in Scandinavia during and after the Viking era.
Together, these poems are a composition of the most crucial aspects of Norse mythology and religion. Furthermore, no published English version comes close to bringing out the full extent of the nuance and splendor of the Old Norse myths.
11. The Saga of the Volsungs by Jackson Crawford
The book is an epic retelling of the Volsungs’ larger-than-life deeds and the deities that had a hand in their fortunes, more so, Sigurd, the hero who killed a dragon. The tales of the lost and found treasures, human beings turning to animals and vice versa, ancient European values, myths, and Gods while gaining invaluable knowledge is what the book delivers.
12. The Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt by Erik Hornung
The book targets readers that are familiar with the seemingly amazing and bizarre deities that ancient Egyptians worshipped. But, they want to gain insight into the ancient Egyptians’ perception of divinity or the study of their religion from a solely theological standpoint.
In the Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, Erik explores the terms used by the ancient Egyptians as far as divinity is concerned. They termed divinity as the practice of uniting at least two deities to become one. The book also talks about the deities as enemies of war and chaos, upholders of the cosmos, monotheism, polytheism, the relationship between humanity and the Gods, and much more.
Read: Zeus: God of Thunder
The Bottom Line
Woven into some of the best books, myths of deities, creatures from another realm, kings, queens, warring heroines, and heroes have enchanted mankind for thousands of years. These stories tie everything together to boot. Moreover, the pillars of our civilization like Democracy and more were built by these prominent people.