From the ancient Greek civilization to the Byzantine Empire, and modern-day culture, there’s no denying that Greece is a country rich in history and mythology.
Its influence on Western civilization is undeniable and its beauty is truly unparalleled. It’s a destination with plenty to offer travelers thanks to its idyllic neighboring islands and delectable cuisine and its understandably fascinated authors for centuries.
By exploring Greece’s rich literary heritage, visitors can add depth and context to their traveling experience. It can help them appreciate its cultural heritage and better understand the significance of the many sights they’ll encounter during their visit.
Still, with the sheer wealth of incredible literature exploring this magical destination available, finding the right books for your interests can be somewhat challenging. To help you make the right decision, we’ve compiled a list of the best books about Greece, spanning fiction, non-fiction, genres, and history. Let’s get started.
Non-fiction Books About Greece
My Family and Other Animals is a delightful memoir by British naturalist Gerald Durrell, who lived on the Greek island of Corfu with his family during the 1930s. The book is a charming and humorous account of Durrell’s childhood experiences on the island, and it offers a fascinating window into the island’s unique wildlife and culture.
Durrell’s vivid descriptions of Corfu and humorous anecdotes about its locals capture the essence of the island’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. He also chronicles his eccentric family members as well as his love and fascination for the local flora and fauna and the fascinating wildlife he encounters on Corfu.
Overall, My Family and Other Animals is a captivating account of a young boy’s adventures in Greece, showcasing the country’s natural wonders, vibrant culture, and welcoming people. It’s the perfect read for those looking for a lighter take on Greece’s history and culture.
Personally, this has been a favorite of my reads about Greece.
Next up on our list of Greece books, we have The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller. The book is a poetic and philosophical travelogue reflecting on Miller’s travels to Greece in the early 1930s and his experiences with its people, culture, and landscape.
Miller’s writing style is deeply personal and his descriptions of the county are full of admiration and wonder while exploring themes of identity, creativity, and spirituality. He portrays it as a place of spiritual and artistic inspiration. His encounters with locals like his friend and mentor, the writer, George Katsimbalis offer insights into late 1930s Greek life.
All in all, the book is a lyrical affirmation of the importance of travel, and Miller’s desire to understand the country and its people, while celebrating its cultural and artistic heritage.
It’s an absolute must-read for those yearning to experience Greece through the eyes of a passionate visitor.
The Greek Islands is a travelogue by British author and poet Lawrence Durrell, who spent time on the Greek islands in the 1950s. The book is a riveting account of Durrell’s travels, which blends elements of history, and personal reflections to portray the islands as a place where time stands still.
Through his evocative writing, Durrell explores the islands’ unique architectural features, landscapes, and cuisine, while capturing the beauty and charm of these destinations. He also touches on their significance in shaping Greece’s identity, the islands’ role in ancient Greek mythology as well as the country’s troubled past and its struggle for independence.
Needless to say, The Greek Islands is a masterclass of travel writing offering powerful insights into Greek island culture and lifestyle. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of Greece, its islands, and its rich cultural heritage, making it a great read for anyone planning a visit.
A fun fact about this book is that it’s written by the older brother of ‘My Family and Other Animals’, number 1 on our list!
4. A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Greece by Nigel McGilchrist
Arguably one of the best history of Greece books, A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Greece is a comprehensive guidebook to the many archaeological sites of the country.
The book covers all the major archaeological sites in Greece, from the world-famous Acropolis in Athens to lesser-known sites like Olympia and Delphi.
What sets A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of Greece apart from other guidebooks is its depth of historical and cultural analysis. Each site is described in detail, with information on its historical significance, architectural features, and the cultural context in which it was created.
As a bonus, it’s generously illustrated with photographs and maps that help readers to visualize the sites while providing practical information for visitors. Plainly put, the book is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in understanding the history and culture of Greece, as it offers a deep dive into the country’s fascinating past.
5. The Athens of Demosthenes by John W. Roberts
The Athens of Demosthenes is an insightful study of the history of Athens during the time of the famous orator Demosthenes. It provides fascinating insights into ancient Greek politics and society during the fourth century BCE when Athens was at the peak of its global power and influence.
Throughout the book, Roberts maintains a clear and engaging style that makes the subject matter easily digestible for history buffs and casual readers alike. He provides a richly detailed account of Athens’ history covering everything from its pivotal role in the Peloponnesian War to the development of its democracy.
He also delves into its cultural achievements in art, philosophy, and literature as well as the controversies of Athenian society, like the practice of slavery, and their treatment of women.
As such, it almost goes without saying that it’s essential reading for anyone interested in ancient history and Greek civilization.
Likely one of the most famous Greece books, The Histories is an ancient work by Greek historian Herodotus that’s widely considered to be the first historic text in Western literature. The book is a beguiling, first-hand account of the events and characters that led to the Persian Wars and the rise of the Greek city-states, such as Athens and Sparta.
Herodotus provides a thorough exploration of the political background of ancient Greece while offering an absorbing window into the country’s beliefs, customs, and traditions. Other topics include the Peloponnesian War, the origins of democracy, and the interactions between the Greeks and the Persians, which shaped the development of Western society.
In short, The Histories is an invaluable resource for scholars or anyone with a passing interest in ancient Greece. It’s been instrumental in developing our understanding of the ancient world and remains a classic work of literature to this day.
The Greek Myths is a seminal work exploring the mythology of ancient Greece.
It’s a great introduction to the country’s lore and it’s had a profound impact on the understanding of its relation to the culture and history of Greece.
The book examines an extensive generation-spanning collection of stories, from the creation of the world to the stories of monsters, gods, goddesses, and heroes. He offers detailed analyses of these stories, which are certain to spark your imagination and leave lasting impressions, to reveal their symbolic meanings and cultural significance.
It’s an invaluable resource for those interested in Greek mythology, literature, philosophy, or art and it’s still widely read and referenced today, reflecting its contemporary relevance.
Fiction books about Greece
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia during World War II. Possibly one of the most famous romance books set in Greece, it follows the endearing love story of a local woman named Pelagia and an Italian soldier named Captain Corelli.
De Bernieres masterfully blends elements of Greek mythology and history throughout the story, while offering a poignant and powerful exploration of love and the human experience. The novel also explores the impact of the war on the island, while delving into the themes of identity and belonging.
Everything considered, the book is not only a gripping tale of love and war, but an accurate document of the island’s customs and a reflection of Greece’s complex history. As a result, it’s become a beloved tribute to the resilience and courage of the Greeks during times of hardship and a well-deserved literary classic.
No list of Greek books would be complete without The Iliad by Homer. The poem chronicles the Trojan War and centers around the wrath of Achilles, the Greek army’s greatest warrior, and his feud with Agamemnon, the Greek commander-in-chief.
With its vivid characters, detailed battle descriptions, and exploration of themes like honor, and fate, it’s been a source of inspiration for writers, artists, and philosophers for centuries. It’s had a profound impact on Greek culture and is both one of the earliest works of Western literature and the most famous epic poems in history.
It also played a role in shaping the country’s national identity and military culture, while being a valuable historical document offering insight into the ancient Greek world. To top it all off, the ancient poem offers moving commentary on the human condition, making it well deserving of a spot on visitors’ reading lists.
Zorba the Greek is a novel by beloved Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis. It tells the story of a young intellectual who travels to Crete and meets a larger-than-life character named Zorba.
The book is full of Greek culture and traditions, which capture the essence of Greek society while exploring the contrasts between intellectualism and passion. It portrays the traditional Greek way of life, which emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment, enjoying life’s pleasures, and embracing human emotions.
Moreover, it depicts the struggles the Greek people experienced in the early 20th century, including poverty, political instability, and cultural identity crisis. The novel also investigates the relationship between man and nature and emphasizes the Greek connection to the land and the importance of respecting nature.
As might be expected, it’s become a timeless classic, and for good reason, making it essential reading for anyone interested in traditional Greek life or literature.
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Considered one of the best books set in Greece, The Song of Achilles is a novel by Madeline Miller, which retells the story of Achilles and his lover, Patroclus, from The Iliad. The book is an absorbing love story set against the backdrop of the Trojan War, and it beautifully captures the essence of ancient Greek culture and mythology.
Through Miller’s portrayal of Achilles and Patroclus, readers gain insight into the ideals of honor, bravery, and loyalty that were prized in ancient Greek society. Additionally, the novel highlights the central role that mythology played in shaping the beliefs and practices of the ancient Greeks, from their religious rituals to their understanding of the natural world.
It also invites readers to reconsider their assumptions about the myths and legends that have shaped Western culture for millennia. Unsurprisingly, it’s become a testament to the enduring power and relevance of ancient Greek storytelling.
The Odyssey is another epic poem by Homer and it recounts the Greek hero Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan War. It’s a classic of Western literature and a Greek cultural cornerstone since it’s a testament to the Greek’s love of adventure, heroism, and the importance of wit in overcoming obstacles.
The poem offers an enthralling and timeless tale of adventure, courage, and determination by exploring the obstacles Odysseus faced along the way. Naturally, it provides readers with a glimpse into ancient Greece as well, making it a must-read for anyone with an interest in the country’s history or culture.
The only surviving trilogy of Greek tragedies, The Oresteia tells the story of the House of Atreus and its bloody cycle of revenge. The play explores themes of justice, vengeance, and the relationship between gods and mortals, offering a powerful glimpse into the ancient Greek mindset.
It played a significant role in the development of Greek theatre, as it introduced the trilogy format and the use of a chorus. It also marked a shift in focus from mythological heroes to more relatable, human characters.
The play’s enduring popularity and lasting influence in both Greek and world literature serve as a testament to its timeless themes and universal relevance. So, if you ask us if you’re looking to get better acquainted with ancient Athens, this could be just the book for you.
Well, what do you know, we’ve reached the end of our list. We hope this article has made finding the perfect book about Greece catering to your interests easier.
Ultimately, the decision will boil down to your tastes, but we highly recommend picking up a copy of the ever-popular Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Its charming descriptions are certain to stay with you long after you’ve finished the book and its timeless themes are guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.
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