Raise your hand if you were the mythology kid in elementary school. 🙋
I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology, but that interest has multiplied within the past year or so thanks to a little musical called Hadestown. Since yesterday marked one year since I saw Hadestown on Broadway (*sob*), I figured I could celebrate that while staying on brand by talking about some of the books I’ve read that involve Greek mythology.
All of these books include elements of Greek mythology, whether they’re retellings or simply include mythological figures. I’m always looking for more recommendations, so let me know if you’ve read anything that isn’t on this list!
Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
I mean, it’s pretty much impossible to make a list like this without including the Percy Jackson series. I can credit these books for much of my early obsession with mythology, and my first thought when anyone mentions any of those mythological figures is still always their Percy Jackson portrayal.
This series, in case you somehow didn’t know, follows a boy named Percy Jackson who discovers that his father is a Greek god. Tons of myths are brought into the story, and each of the books is loosely based on a famous Greek story (i.e. The Lightning Thief is the story of Orpheus, The Sea of Monsters is The Odyssey, etc.). I’m not sure where you’ve been all these years if you haven’t read this series yet, but you should probably go do that now.
Persephone by Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky, translated by Edward Gauvin
This middle grade graphic novel is a loose retelling of the story of, you guessed it, Persephone. In this version, Persephone is a young girl, daughter of the magician Demeter, who ventures into the underworld trying to uncover the secrets of her heritage.
I loved that this version of the story focuses so much on Persephone (as the title would imply), exploring her character separate from the characters who usually dominate her myths, Hades and Demeter. To me, this felt like a Studio Ghibli film — the art is gorgeous, and everything from the character design to the storytelling itself feels whimsical and soft and lovely.
The Song of Achilles and Circe by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles retells the story of The Iliad, told from the perspective of Patroclus and focusing on his relationship with Achilles. The book follows Patroclus through his entire life, including the Trojan War.
Circe tells the story of the witch from The Odyssey, and instead of vilifying her like many of the myths, it turns her into a fully rounded character. Many other Greek myths are woven into Circe’s story, which spans hundreds (thousands?) of years of her immortal life.
Both of these books are masterpieces, but what I especially appreciate is how they reimagine these stories that have become engrained in our cultural consciousness from a different point of view. Instead of seeing Achilles’ downfall from his own perspective, we see it through the eyes of the man who loved him. Instead of Circe showing up for two chapters of The Odyssey before disappearing, Odysseus shows up for two chapters of Circe before disappearing (one of my favorite fun facts about this book!).
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black by Marcus Sedgwick, Julian Sedgwick, and Alexis Deacon (illustrations)
This story is told partly through prose, partly through poetry, and partly through illustrations, following a young man in 1944 London who is injured after a bombing. Everyone tells him that his brother is dead, but he believes that if he ventures underground, to London’s “Underworld,” he can find his brother and bring him back.
I loved the feel of this book — dreamlike and otherworldly, to the point that you never know exactly how much is real and how much is the narrator’s imagination. This doesn’t so much retell as the Orpheus myth as take inspiration from and incorporate it into a new story. It’s the kind of book that I could probably read over and over, taking something new from it each time.
Lovely War by Julie Berry
Oh look, another Greek myth + World War book! The premise of Lovely War is that the goddess Aphrodite, after being caught with her lover Ares, tells a story to her husband, Hephaestus, to explain why Love and War are inevitably tied together.
Even though the main storylines of this book follow two young human couples during WWI, the framing device of the Greek gods observing humanity, sometimes interfering but mostly just watching, is what makes this book truly stand out to me. It’s a human story told by gods who can never fully understand them, which is always a fascinating story to me.
Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Okay, even though Lore Olympus is a webcomic, not a published book, I couldn’t not include one of my favorite Greek mythology stories of the past year! (Go read Lore Olympus here.) This comic tells the story of Hades and Persephone, though it draws in plenty of other Greek gods and characters as well. It has the feeling of a soap opera — incredibly dramatic and compelling so that you just can’t look away. I love the character designs and I’m always so impressed with the creator’s storytelling prowess. I just can’t get enough of this comic!
There are still plenty of books involving Greek mythology on my TBR, including…
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
A retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of the women who are usually overlooked, particularly Achilles’ slave Briseis? I definitely need to read this.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Yes, this is yet another Iliad retelling from the perspective of the women (I believe focusing more on the women of Troy?), and I absolutely want to read this one too.
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a sucker for a Hades and Persephone retelling, so I’m all in for this YA version.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
From what I understand, this isn’t a retelling but rather the story of a bunch of classics students (essentially doing with Greek myths what If We Were Villains did with Shakespeare?).
Summerlong by Peter S. Beagle
Yet another Hades and Persephone retelling? This one with elements of magical realism and set in my home state? Yes and yes.
Lore by Alexandra Bracken
This one doesn’t come out until next January but I’m very excited for it! To be honest, I don’t know a ton about the story, but it’s Alexandra Bracken and Greek mythology, so I’m in.
Have you read any of these Greek mythology books? What’s your favorite Greek myth? What books involving Greek mythology do you recommend?