Welcome to a literary journey through the rich tapestry of Greece, where mythology, history, and culture come alive. Whether you’re an avid traveler or simply seeking an immersive reading experience, this curated list is your gateway to exploring the captivating world of 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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Table of Contents
Classic books set in Greece
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
My Family and Other Animals is written by British naturalist and author Gerald Durrell. It’s the first novel in his delightful Corfu Trilogy, a series of books on Greece following his family’s move from England to the sunny Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s.
Durrell, the youngest member of the family, charmingly recounts his childhood, family dynamics, and the island’s vibrant fauna. From the eccentric locals to a menagerie of creatures, this book paints a vivid and comical portrait of their lives.
Plus, if you enjoy this book, you can always explore Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods, the second and third books in the series. 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, penned by the renowned Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis and first published in 1946, is an iconic entry in the realm of Greek books. At its core, this novel is a dual narrative, intertwining the lives of two distinct people.
The story follows a young Greek intellectual’s quest to escape academia, with the spirited Alexis Zorba as his unexpected mentor. Together, they venture to the island of Crete to revive a dormant lignite mine, yet the true treasure of the novel lies in Zorba’s philosophical musings on life.
This timeless masterpiece celebrates life, resonating as a testament to the richness of the human experience. It’s even transcended borders to earn global recognition, including 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. While it begins as an exploration of George Katsimbalis, a Greek poet and storyteller, this book transcends its subject to become a mesmerizing self-portrait of Miller himself.
This literary odyssey takes readers on a journey through the enchanting landscapes of Athens, Crete, Corfu, Poros, Hydra, and Delphi. As Miller vividly describes these picturesque locales, he paints a vivid tapestry of Greece’s cultural and natural wonders.
Alongside Katsimbalis, the “Colossus” of the narrative, readers encounter iconic figures like Lawrence Durrell and Theodore Stephanides. In the pages of this timeless work, Miller’s prose resonates with the influences of literary giants like D. H. Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway.
Eleni by Nicholas Gage
This emotionally gripping narrative delves into the tragic realities of the Greek Civil War. Born in Lia, near the Albanian border, Gage’s personal connection to the tumultuous period lends a poignant authenticity to this 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 a cold-blooded execution.
Nicholas Gage’s quest to uncover the truth about his mother’s fate led him to leave behind his career as a New York Times investigative reporter and return to Greece. This choice makes Eleni an unforgettable exploration of love, sacrifice, and the enduring legacy of a remarkable woman.
Mani by Patrick Leigh Fermor
In Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, Patrick Leigh Fermor takes readers on an extraordinary voyage through the enchanting landscapes of southern Greece. Among the finest books on Greece travel, it immerses us in Mani, an isolated region at Europe’s southernmost tip.
Thanks to its natural borders, Mani is a place where history and tradition seamlessly intertwine with the modern era. Fermor effortlessly blends adventure, travelogue, and memoir as he embarks on a journey among the resilient mountain-dwelling Greeks.
Through his words, we delve into Maniot history, folklore, and customs, where myth and reality are inseparably woven together. Mani is a mesmerizing tribute to a land where the past continues to shape daily life.
Little Infamies by Panos Karnezis
This collection of 19 short stories is set during the 1950s in a small Greek village. Karnezis masterfully weaves the villagers’ lives together, including the priest, doctor, bus driver, and even a centaur.
In this world, the past, especially the haunting memories of Nazi occupation during World War II, lingers like a shadow. Interestingly, the stories offer a darkly humorous and often cruel glimpse into the villagers’ lives, revealing their “little infamies” and secret crimes.
Karnezis paints a stark portrait of Greek village life, where the encroachment of modernity threatens traditional ways. With his keen eye for the human condition, he invites readers into a world that’s both universal and utterly compelling.
Best books about Greek mythology
Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is a spellbinding voyage into the realm of Greek mythology. In fact, this novel offers a fresh perspective on the Odyssey through the eyes of the witch Circe.
As the daughter of Helios, Circe is born with a unique disposition, setting her apart from her divine family. Exiled to a deserted island by Zeus due to her burgeoning powers in witchcraft, she embarks on a transformative journey of self-discovery.
Miller delves deep 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 among Greece books retells the legendary conflict from the viewpoint of Patroclus, Achilles’ beloved companion.
It traces the emotional evolution of their relationship, with a central focus on their deeply romantic connection. However, their destinies are forever altered when they’re chosen to siege Troy in the name of Helen of Sparta.
Set in the Greek Heroic Age, this novel delves into the complexities of love, friendship, and destiny, all while navigating the gods’ capricious nature. Madeline Miller’s masterful storytelling earned The Song of Achilles the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction in 2012.
Mythos: The Greek Myths Reimagined by Stephen Fry
Mythos is a standout among books on Greece history and ancient Greek culture. With his unique blend of wit, humor, and storytelling prowess, Fry takes readers on a contemporary journey through Greek mythology.
He reshapes the tales of Zeus and the Olympians, adding modern humor and emotional depth while preserving their timeless wonder. Moreover, this remarkable book showcases artwork inspired by these myths and offers insightful notes from the author.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
When Ariadne meets Theseus, brought to Crete as a sacrifice, they hatch a daring plan to defy the gods themselves. Choosing love over family, Ariadne finds herself exiled to Naxos, 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 deep into one of the most notorious figures of Greek mythology: Clytemnestra. Often overshadowed by her sister Helen, we follow her path from Spartan princess to her tumultuous marriage to Agamemnon.
The author offers readers a deeper understanding of Clytemnestra’s motivations, convictions, and the events that shaped her into the formidable woman she became. Enduring abuse, loss, and grief, she ultimately decides to take revenge.
Set against the backdrop of Ancient Greece, this blazing novel is a gripping tale of power, prophecies, love, and the unforgettable queen who wielded 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 is a thought-provoking book about Greece, offering a fresh perspective on the Iliad. In fact, it tells the story from the viewpoint of Briseis, a woman whose life is irrevocably altered by the brutal Trojan War.
As queen of a neighboring kingdom, Briseis is captured and becomes the concubine of Achilles, one of Greece’s greatest warriors. Through her eyes, readers gain insight into the lives of the countless women who were often marginalized and erased by history during this tumultuous period.
Barker’s narrative is unflinching in its portrayal of the horrors of war, yet it also reveals the resilience and strength of the women who lived through it. In vivid prose and meticulous detail, The Silence of the Girls revitalizes mythological tales for a deeper understanding of ancient life.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
This 2019 novel by Natalie Haynes delves into the ancient world, offering a fresh perspective on the mythological Trojan War. It brings to life the voices of women who have long remained silent in the epic narrative.
As the city of Troy falls to the Greeks, the devastation ripples across the realms of gods and mortals, reaching from Olympus to distant Greek islands. Narrated by Calliope, the goddess of epic poetry, this book explores the war’s impact on women such as Penelope, Hecuba, and Cassandra.
It weaves together their stories, shedding 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 takes a fresh perspective on Greek myths, giving women a rightful place in these ancient tales. Through wit and insight, she reimagines epic poems and stories, shedding light on mythic female characters who have often been sidelined or vilified.
Haynes explores the stories of women like Jocasta, Helen of Troy, Medea, and Medusa, revealing their complexities and motivations. She also offers a powerful account of the goddesses of Mount Olympus, including Hera, Aphrodite, Athene, and Circe.
Pandora’s Jar reevaluates these millennia-old myths and encourages readers to question why women in these stories have been unfairly portrayed for so long. It’s one of our top books to read before going to Greece!
The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
The Greek Way is one of the best books about Greece history, transporting readers to the golden age in the fifth century BC. Hamilton explores the works of renowned figures like Homer, Pindar, and Aeschylus, as well as the philosophical contributions of Socrates and Plato.
Despite being six decades old, this masterful book breathes life into ancient Greece, connecting the questions of that era to the present day. Hamilton’s deep understanding of Greek culture, literature, and philosophy makes this book a treasure trove for anyone intrigued by antiquity.
Historical fiction books set in Greece
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 on the island, passing his healing wisdom to his daughter, Pelagia.
Life remains relatively peaceful even with the Italian invasion, thanks to the presence of the mandolin-playing Captain Antonio Corelli. Despite Pelagia’s engagement to a young fisherman named Mandras, she and Captain Corelli are drawn into a passionate affair.
Love amidst the turmoil of war is fraught with complexities 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 and is a testament to the enduring power of love and resilience amidst chaos.
The Island by Victoria Hislop
The Island takes readers on a journey alongside Alexis Fielding, who embarks on a quest to uncover her family’s enigmatic past. Her mother, Sofia, has never been forthcoming with information; so, Alexis decides to take things into her own hands.
Armed with a letter addressed to her mother’s friend Fontini, Alexis ventures to Plaka, a small Cretan village. Here, she discovers that her mother’s childhood village overlooks the once-deserted island of Spinalonga, a former leper colony.
Meeting Fotini in person, Alexis finally learns 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, unveiling the human behind the legendary hero Theseus. Drawing on modern scholarship and archaeological findings, she’s able to weave together myth and history into a lifelike portrayal of Theseus.
Beginning with his early years, this novel follows his transformation into a charismatic king driven by both strength and prophecy. As he ventures 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 invites readers on a captivating journey to the picturesque Greek island of Santorini. Liv Varanakis has a complex relationship with her father, who abandoned her when she was young, leaving behind their shared love for the lost city of Atlantis.
So, when Liv receives a postcard from her father inviting her to Greece to assist with a National Geographic documentary, she reluctantly embarks on the trip. As she grapples with her complicated relationship with her father, she encounters Theo, her father’s good-looking assistant.
She also finds herself enchanted by Santorini’s beauty—its sunsets, turquoise waters, charming villages, and delectable cuisine. Plus, the more she explores the island, she begins to uncover 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 making others’ lives perfect. However, her own life takes unexpected turns when a fateful accident leads her to work with 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.
Chloe must determine her true feelings and identify who she can really trust before it’s too late. The Greek Escape is at the top of our list for books to read in Greece this summer!
The Summer House in Santorini by Samantha Parks
The Summer House in Santorini is a captivating and heartwarming story that transports readers into the world of Anna Linton, who finds herself at a crossroads in life. With a broken heart and a stalled career, she escapes to the enchanting island of Santorini to sell a house left to her by her late, estranged father.
As she lovingly restores the house, her life also undergoes a transformation, and the idyllic setting begins to work its magic on her heart. Against the backdrop of this picturesque Mediterranean paradise, Anna not only falls for the island’s beauty but also for the irresistible charms of Nikos.
This is one of our top books to read before visiting Greece if you want a light summer read!
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