Books · Read If You Like

Read, If You Like: a Variety of Greek Mythology Books

I began this post when the Ever Given was still stuck in the Suez, but better late than never (which is the attitude you should take with your Christmas present deliveries, eh). I was hoping to read Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey this year to add it to the list, but then I went to university instead. Well, we know which would have been cheaper. Anyway, here is my (current, will be updated when I get my mitts on a few titles I’ve seen floating around the internet) list for anyone who is a mythology nerd, or knows a mythology nerd and wants to get them a Christmas present but their options are limited because I closed my shop this year…* There is fiction! There is non fiction! And all the authors are women because this is my website and I can ignore Robert Graves if I want to!

*Might reopen in January depending on if I can be bothered

Read A Thousand Ships (Natalie Haynes, 2019) if you like:

  • Multiple perspectives
  • Grumpy goddesses
  • Heart breaking scenes of [spoiler unless you know the story of the Trojan War already]
  • Banging one liners. So much of this book is eminently quotable.
  • Ancient Greece and its general geographic surroundings
  • Stabbings
  • It’s very stabby.

Read The Silence of the Girls (Pat Barker, 2018) if you like:

  • Stories about the Trojan War from the Trojan side
  • The realities of war. There are no euphemisms or mentions of women being ‘kidnapped.’ Barker calls a spade a spade, you know
  • It really is quite grim in places but I liked that about it; your mileage may vary.

Read Pandora’s Jar (Natalie Haynes, 2020) if you like:

  • Sarcastic non fiction that’s also really factual and educational
  • I find non fiction quite hard work most of the time, but Pandora’s Jar was very absorbing. I was predisposed to like it, because I love Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics, feminism and Greek myth, but at the start I was a bit unsure if I’d struggle. I didn’t, because it’s well written (yes, I am doing a humanities degree, why do you ask)
  • Beyoncé references
  • Wonder Woman references
  • (who says that the classics have no impact on modern history)
  • Enough information that you can be interesting (or quite annoying) at dinner parties for the rest of forever. Would you like to hear about how Medusa is one of the earliest examples we have of victim blaming? Or about how Euripides’ Medea was quoted at first wave feminism events in the 19th century? Or how we’ve conflated the story of Pandora with the story of Eve? I can go on about this forever mate.
hardback copy of 'Pandora's Jar' by Natalie Haynes
Did you know they released a red version of the cover for Christmas? Because ancient Greece and the Christmas story both have… infanticide?

Read The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller, 2012) if you like:

  • Queer rep
  • Look it’s just very gay
  • (I’m assuming that if you’re here, that is a selling point and not a reason to write in)
  • A look at the Greek side of the Trojan War, particularly from off the battlefield
  • A look at Achilles, who was the most enormous sulky child this planet had seen until Trump took office
  • I mean, you sort of like him in this. Achilles isn’t a sympathetic character in most depictions, because he is very stabby and entitled in a way that rich kids of Instagram can only dream of
  • (You won’t like him in any of the other books I’ve suggested)
  • (I’ve included this book because no one else could have made Sulky McSulkface sympathetic. All the awards for Ms Miller, please, plus extra for irritating all those pearl-clutching purists who didn’t think Achilles and Patroclus could be lovers, possibly because they’ve never noticed any Greek vase decorations.)

I can’t wait to do an updated version of this once I’ve finally read The Odyssey. Did you know Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate it into English? I knew there was a reason I fall asleep every time I try to read Homer, ha.

If you are so inclined, I have a Bookshop.org list of these titles; if you buy one of them through the link I get half a penny or something. I’m going to have to revisit my classics and myth-y to read list; there’s a translation of Beowulf that looks epic, pun intended, and I’ve only read the first of Stephen Fry’s mythology series. I think I read a good Neil Gaiman non fiction book on Norse mythology a while back too? Ugh, I’m off to go and smile at a book.

Look after youselves!

Francesca


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