Wine dark seas, charming villages blasted in blue and white, the mighty Acropolis, and whimsical shores studded with olive trees. Is there anywhere as poetically perfect as Greece? For all those who dream of spots that recharge your soul, island hopping, sublime sunsets, and gin-clear waters – we have the best book suggestions to transport you to the land of the gods.
Circe – Madeline Miller
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize in Fiction, Circe is a stunning imagining of Helios’s banished daughter. The Odyssey gives us nothing more than a quick glimpse into the Goddess who turned Odysseus’s men to pigs, but Miller gives us so much more. Sure, there is bloodshed, betrayal, magic and monsters – but there’s also impeccable beauty sewn into each sentence, strong feminist themes, and utterly intelligent writing.
Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
Again, Madeline Miller blows us out of the water with her dazzling prose and ability to bring ancient heroes into the 21st century. Here, we follow Patroclus and Achilles from childhood and through the Trojan war. Tragic, beautiful, and tackling the everlasting battle between the fates and the human heart – Miller’s descriptions of Greece have such colour and beauty that they will instantly transport you to run barefoot alongside the little demi-god in the cool mountain air.
The Odyssey – Emily Wilson
The very first translation of the worlds greatest book by a woman. We are super excited to sink our teeth into Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey. Everyone knows the tale of Odysseus trying to make it home after the Trojan war. But Emily captures the epic in a whole new light, lending a crisp and lean narrative approach and a vivid style. Monsters, men, and the song of the sirens – it’s no wonder this is considered the most wonderful adventure story of all time.
The Iliad – Homer
If you loved The Odyssey then The Iliad serves up even more drama. The Iliad came before The Odyssey and recounts the last few weeks of the Trojan war. This is where you will get Homer’s original version of the battle between Agamemnon and Achilles, along with stripped back sentiments on worship and war. Reading The Iliad before taking a trip to Greece lends lashings of mythology to those already magical shores.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Berniers
Set in the days of the Second World War, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is a heart-wrenching look at the complications of love during the war. Scandalous affairs, political and personal allegiances, and a lyrical style of writing showcase a modern interpretation of the Homer-like themes. We say skip the Nicolas Cage movie in favour of curling up beneath the orange tree with this one.
The Island - Victoria Hislop
A swift summer read; Victoria Hislop’s The Island may be about leprosy but its also about love, courage, and calamity. While The Island may not have the weight of other works of literature, Hislop is deft at describing Greece in all her glory. Bringing to life the narrow village streets, the taste of fresh fish at ramshackle tables beside the shore, and life of the leper community on the Cretan island of Spinalonga – the fact that it borrows from Crete’s true history adds even more fascination.
Eleni – Nicholas Gage
Not a work of fiction and it may not make you fall in love with Greece in a sentimental way, but it does lend shape and structure to the country’s epic history. The story of Nicholas Gage’s own mother drops the veil on life behind the iron curtain. Under the communist regime, his mother defied tradition and fought to help her three children escape; she was caught, imprisoned, and murdered, but this book is all about celebrating her heroism in the face of a truly dark period of history.
Zorba the Greek
The story of an unfettered and energetic spirit and the riches of friendship, Zorba is considered one of the great characters in fiction. Two men meet, become unlikely friends, and try and build a mining empire in Crete – the premise is simple but the scenery is epic. Emerald islands, sunlight bathing the shore, the wafting scent of sharp mint and raw landscapes – sifting through this story is a pure sensory pleasure.