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. Not only that, but many popular Hollywood films have adapted these myths. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have seen a lot of ancient Norse gods such as Thor and Loki. We have also been introduced to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, where we meet gods from all over the world and from different times. However, the thing about the silver screen is that the stories told there aren’t always historically accurate. Which is understandable, they have to make TV entertaining. If you want to get back to the basics and learn all about the gods you have seen on TV and many others that you may never hear of otherwise, the only option is to turn to books. The best books on myths cover the gods and mythical creatures as they are truly depicted by the cultures from which they come.
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
Without further ado, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best myth books of all time to help you invoke your inner deity.
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
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
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.
13. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
If you’re a nerd for mythology and haven’t read American Gods, then it’s time to change that. While Neil’s writing perfectly weaves together modern culture and ancient myths, this book is as upfront about it as it gets.
Shadow Moon, who plays the hero, embarks on a journey across America, tangling with Gods and Goddesses from an array of ancient religions. He finds himself entangled into a divine, strange war that pits old deities against new ones.
14. The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
If you’re a dork for Greek mythology, you’re probably well-versed in a broad range of myths and legends like Ariadne and Arachne. While you think you know it all, Robert Graves gives a conclusive overview of Greek Mythology in his book.
It retells Greek mythology for a modern audience with a barrage of illustrations and interpretations. It arms you with the much-needed literary ammunition to explain how the legendary movie 300, got its facts wrong.
15. African Myths by Jake Jackson
You don’t often hear that much about African myths, but the continent has some of the most fascinating gods in history.
Anansi from West Africa is just one them, a shape-shifting god who, in the form of a spider, tried to hoard all of the world’s wisdom. African myths are as fascinating as the continent itself, and African Myths by Jake Jackson gives you a candid look at the different gods throughout the continent.
Through this book, you will see that, despite the cultural diversity that exists in the continent, there are a number of shared beliefs and even gods among the African people. This book is as eclectic as it gets, offering you a range of stories from creation myths to animal fables and trickster adventures… all of which have a moral lesson behind them.
16. The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore by Michael Dylan Foster
The Japanese culture is by far one of the most fascinating in the world. Perhaps the one thing that they are universally known for is the highly disciplined order of the Samurai. Apart from that, however, the Japanese have an exceptionally colorful mix of myths and legends that has to do with some of the most terrifying sea creatures you will ever hear about.
The Book of Yōkai brings you a detailed description of these creatures. Complete with illustration, this book seeks to better explain the Japanese culture and shows you why Anime and Manga borrow so heavily from its works.
17. Voices of the Winds: Native American Legends by Margot Edmonds and Ella Clark
Native Americans were very closely tied to the environment and the world around them. They believed that the gods frequently roamed among the living in the form of animals such as Eagles and even the might Bison. Voices of the Winds is a collection of more than 100 Native American stories that give you a clear insight into their culture, beliefs, and moral lessons.
You have probably heard of this one. The story goes that after discovering that his wife was cheating on him, King Shahriyar, one of the most vengeful Kings of all time, executes her. He then begins sleeping with every virgin he can find only to execute them all the very next morning. After a while, there are no more virgins to be found in all the land. So the vizier’s daughter sacrifices herself by volunteering to be the King’s new bride.
To keep him from acting on his jealous thoughts and vengeful nature and killing her, Sultana Scheherazade tells him endless tales of fascinating exploits by famous Arabian characters such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves as well as exploits of Sinbad the Sailor.
1001 Arabian Nights is a collection of the tales she weaves over 1001 evenings keeping the King so enthralled that he forgets to end her life.
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.