As an aficionado of all things Greek, I invite you to join me on a literary journey through Greece–a country where mythology, history, and culture come alive. Whether you’re an avid traveler or a voracious reader, this curated list is your gateway to exploring Greece through the written word.
From timeless tales of Greek mythology to contemporary narratives, embark on an adventure through the 21 best books about Greece! So, get cozy in your favorite reading nook and prepare to be transported to a place where the past and present seamlessly intertwine.
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Classic books set in Greece
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
My Family and Other Animals, the first novel in the Corfu Trilogy, recounts the charming tale of his family’s move from England to Corfu in the 1930s.
As the youngest family member, Durrell humorously shares anecdotes about his childhood. For example, he covers his family dynamics and the island’s lively fauna–from eccentric locals to a delightful menagerie of creatures.
If you enjoy this book, explore the sequels Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods. You may also be familiar with Durrell’s older brother, Lawrence Durrell, who achieved fame as a novelist and poet.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
Zorba the Greek is an iconic Greek novel, first published in 1946 by Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis. This dual narrative intertwines the lives of two distinct characters: a young Greek intellectual and a spirited mentor, Alexis Zorba.
Together, they revive a dormant lignite mine on the island of Crete. However, the novel’s true treasure lies in Zorba’s philosophical musings on life. This timeless masterpiece celebrates the richness of the human experience, earning global recognition and a successful film adaptation in 1964.
The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller
This pre-World War II travelogue is a luminous gem in the realm of books about Greece travel. Initially centered on Greek poet George Katsimbalis, it transforms into a mesmerizing self-portrait of author Miller.
The literary odyssey journeys through Athens, Crete, Corfu, Poros, Hydra, and Delphi, vividly capturing Greece’s cultural and natural wonders. Alongside Katsimbalis, readers encounter figures like Lawrence Durrell and Theodore Stephanides.
In this timeless work, Miller’s prose resonates with influences from literary giants like D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway.
Mani by Patrick Leigh Fermor
In Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, Patrick Leigh Fermor immerses us in Mani, an isolated region at Europe’s southernmost tip. Thanks to its natural borders, Mani seamlessly intertwines history and tradition with the modern era.
Fermor effortlessly blends adventure, travelogue, and memoir as he explores the resilient mountain-dwelling Greeks. Through his words, we delve into Maniot history, folklore, and customs, where myth and reality are inseparably woven together.
Eleni by Nicholas Gage
This emotionally gripping narrative explores the tragic realities of the Greek Civil War. Born in Lia near the Albanian border, Gage’s personal connection to this tumultuous period adds poignant authenticity to the harrowing tale.
Amidst the 1948 civil war, Eleni Gatzoyiannis, his mother, defied convention to safeguard her children, including a young Nicholas. Her selfless act, arranging their escape from communist insurgents, exacted an unimaginable cost: imprisonment, torture, and cold-blooded execution.
Nicholas Gage’s quest to uncover the truth led him to leave behind his career as a New York Times investigative reporter and return to Greece, making Eleni an unforgettable exploration of love, sacrifice, and a remarkable woman’s enduring legacy.
Little Infamies by Panos Karnezis
This collection of 19 short stories, set in a small Greek village during the 1950s, masterfully weaves together the lives of various characters. For example, you’ll meet a priest, doctor, bus driver, and even a centaur.
Against the backdrop of lingering memories from Nazi occupation in World War II, the stories offer a darkly humorous glimpse into the villagers’ lives, exposing their “little infamies” and secret crimes.
Karnezis paints a stark portrait of Greek village life, where modernity encroaches upon traditional ways. With a keen eye for the human condition, he invites readers into a compelling world that blends the universal and the specific.
Best books about Greek mythology
Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is a spellbinding journey into Greek mythology, providing a fresh perspective on the Odyssey through the eyes of the witch Circe. Born with a unique disposition as the daughter of Helios, Circe is exiled to a deserted island by Zeus due to her burgeoning witchcraft powers.
Miller delves into Circe’s origin story, intertwining her encounters with legendary figures like Hermes, the Minotaur, Jason, and Medea. The novel vividly portrays her solitary life, honing mystical skills and facing mythological wonders and dangers.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles immerses readers in the epic Trojan War drama within the tapestry of Greek mythology. This gem retells the legendary conflict from the viewpoint of Patroclus, Achilles’ beloved companion, tracing the emotional evolution of their deeply romantic connection.
Their destinies take a dramatic turn when chosen to siege Troy in the name of Helen of Sparta. Set in the Greek Heroic Age, the novel delves into the complexities of love, friendship, and destiny, navigating the capricious nature of the gods.
Madeline Miller’s masterful storytelling earned the book the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.
Mythos: The Greek Myths Reimagined by Stephen Fry
Mythos stands out among books on Greece history and ancient Greek culture. Fry’s unique blend of wit, humor, and storytelling prowess takes readers on a contemporary journey through Greek mythology.
Reshaping the tales of Zeus and the Olympians with modern humor and emotional depth, he preserves their timeless wonder. This remarkable book also features artwork inspired by these myths and insightful notes from the author.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Growing up in Crete, Princess Ariadne, King Minos’ daughter, lives in the shadow of the fearsome Minotaur and its labyrinth, a reminder of their family’s shame. Meeting Theseus, brought as a sacrifice, they hatch a daring plan to defy the gods.
Choosing love over family, Ariadne finds herself exiled to Naxos and abandoned by Theseus, who later marries Phaedra. The novel traces the separate paths of these sisters, marked by sorrow, betrayal, and suspicion, leading to a poignant reunion.
Ariadne amplifies the voices of the overlooked women in Greek mythology, revealing their strength in the face of vengeful gods.
Clytemnestra: A Novel by Costanza Casati
Casati’s debut novel delves into the notorious figure of Greek mythology: Clytemnestra. Overshadowed by her sister Helen, we follow her path from Spartan princess to her tumultuous marriage with Agamemnon.
The author provides insight into Clytemnestra’s motivations, convictions, and the events shaping her into the formidable woman she becomes. Enduring abuse, loss, and grief, she ultimately seeks revenge.
Set in Ancient Greece, this gripping novel tells a tale of power, prophecies, love, and the unforgettable queen wielding death as her weapon of justice. Clytemnestra is a must-read for fans of Greek mythology!
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The Silence of the Girls offers a thought-provoking perspective on Greece and the Iliad, telling the story from the viewpoint of Briseis, a woman profoundly affected by the Trojan War.
As the captured queen of a neighboring kingdom and Achilles’ concubine, Briseis provides insight into the lives of marginalized women during this tumultuous period. Barker’s unflinching narrative portrays the horrors of war while revealing the resilience and strength of women.
In vivid prose, The Silence of the Girls revitalizes mythological tales for a deeper understanding of ancient life.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
In Natalie Haynes’ 2019 novel, the mythological Trojan War gets a fresh perspective, delving into the ancient world and giving voice to the silent women of the epic narrative. As Troy falls to the Greeks, the devastation spans from Olympus to distant Greek islands.
Narrated by Calliope, the goddess of epic poetry, the book explores the war’s impact on women like Penelope, Hecuba, and Cassandra. Weaving their stories together, it sheds light on the fatal decisions and feuds that ignited the conflict and its aftermath.
A Thousand Ships is a powerful exploration of the untold experiences of women during a legendary era.
Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes
In Pandora’s Jar, Natalie Haynes offers a fresh perspective on Greek myths, reimagining ancient tales with wit and insight to give women their rightful place.
She explores the complexities and motivations of characters like Jocasta, Helen of Troy, Medea, and Medusa, alongside a powerful account of Mount Olympus goddesses Hera, Aphrodite, Athene, and Circe.
The book reevaluates millennia-old myths, challenging the unfair portrayal of women in these stories and encouraging readers to question these narratives. It’s one of our top books to read before going to Greece!
The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
The Greek Way stands out among books on Greece history, offering a journey to the fifth century BC golden age. Hamilton explores the works of figures like Homer, Pindar, and Aeschylus alongside the philosophical contributions of Socrates and Plato.
Despite its six-decade age, the book breathes life into ancient Greece, connecting questions of that era to the present day. Hamilton’s profound understanding of Greek culture, literature, and philosophy makes it a treasure trove for anyone intrigued by antiquity.
Historical fiction books set in Greece
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
This famous novel transports readers to the enchanting Greek island of Cephallonia during the early days of World War II. Dr. Iannis practices medicine, passing his healing wisdom to his daughter, Pelagia.
Life remains peaceful despite the Italian invasion, thanks to the mandolin-playing Captain Antonio Corelli. Despite Pelagia’s engagement to Mandras, she and Captain Corelli are drawn into a passionate affair.
Love amidst wartime complexities unfolds as allegiances shift, friendships crumble, and the horrors of conflict affect everyone. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin captures the essence of life during this tumultuous period, testifying to the enduring power of love and resilience amidst chaos.
The Island by Victoria Hislop
The Island follows Alexis Fielding on a quest to uncover her family’s enigmatic past. Frustrated by her mother’s silence, Alexis takes matters into her own hands, armed with a letter to her mother’s friend Fontini.
In the Cretan village of Plaka, she discovers her mother’s childhood connection to Spinalonga, a former leper colony. Meeting Fotini reveals the profoundly tragic and hidden story of her family.
The Island is a potent historical novel delving into hidden secrets and past sorrows, highlighting the transformative force of revelation.
The King Must Die by Mary Renault
In The King Must Die, Renault skillfully delves into Greek history, revealing the human behind the legendary hero Theseus. Drawing on modern scholarship and archaeological findings, she weaves myth and history into a lifelike portrayal.
Beginning with his early years, the novel traces his transformation into a charismatic king driven by strength and prophecy. Venturing through Eleusis, Athens, and Crete, readers witness his evolution from a playful youth into a courageous leader who confronts the Minotaur.
Romance books set in Greece
Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
Love & Olives takes readers on a captivating journey to the picturesque Greek island of Santorini. Liv Varanakis receives a postcard from her estranged father inviting her to assist with a National Geographic documentary in Greece.
Although she reluctantly accepts the offer, things take a turn when she meets Theo, her father’s handsome assistant. Enchanted by Santorini’s beauty, Liv explores the island, uncovering secrets beyond Atlantis, leading to a heartfelt, life-changing adventure of love and self-discovery.
The Greek Escape by Karen Swan
In The Greek Escape, Chloe Marston escapes heartbreak by leaving London for New York, where she excels at her job. However, her life takes an unexpected turn when she meets Joe Lincoln, a charismatic client.
When her ex, Tom, reappears in Manhattan, Chloe seizes the opportunity to accompany Joe to Greece, hoping for clarity about her future. She faces a complex choice as she becomes torn between Tom, her longtime love, and the magnetic yet enigmatic Joe.
The Greek Escape is at the top of our list of books to read in Greece this summer!
The Summer House in Santorini by Samantha Parks
The Summer House in Santorini is a heartwarming story that transports readers into the world of Anna Linton. At a crossroads in life with a broken heart and a stalled career, Anna escapes to Santorini to sell a house left by her late father.
As she lovingly restores the house, her life transforms, and the idyllic setting works its magic on her heart. Against the picturesque Mediterranean backdrop, Anna falls for the island’s beauty and Nikos’s irresistible charms.
This is one of our top picks for a light summer read before visiting Greece!