10 Best Books About Greece Update 05/2022

Because Greece may be one of the most-talked-about places in the world, choosing this list has been both fun and painful. During my first trip there more than 30 years ago, I was inspired by a lot of different kinds of books, not just novels. I haven’t always chosen the best ones, though. There is a lot of good non-fiction about Greece. I’d pick Patrick Leigh Fermor and Henry Miller, but I also wish I could have chosen more Greek authors, because the last few years have inspired some great writing (check out Austerity Measures if you like poetry, and there are several novels). If you are an English-speaking person, this is the one for you. It’s called “a trip to Greece in troubled times.” These books may take you there and lead you to other things.

The Odyssey by Homer

Some people think this isn’t a book, but I think it’s one of the first. I’ve never been on a Greek ferry and not thought about Odysseus, who was both magnificent and mercurial. And the stories about Greece! “Rosy-fingered dawn” is a fact. Take a good look at the “wine-dark sea” at the right time. Some people don’t like it. You have to choose the best translation. A fan of Lattimore, Fagles, and Fitzgerald: Me, too! I’m also very excited to read a new book by Emily Wilson, as well. There must be a reason why I’ve read the same book in several different versions, even though I didn’t do very well with Greek. It’s the base for all reading.

The King Must Die by Mary Renault

Mary Renault was one of the writers who sent me to Greece in the first place, and she was one of the first people I met. The first time I read her was when I was in my early teen years. Her “historical” interpretations of myth are still a favorite. This and its follow-up, The Bull from the Sea, are both retellings of the life of Theseus. The first book takes place in the Peloponnese, Crete, and Athens, all places that have played a big role in my life. Renault doesn’t avoid the hard parts of these stories. People don’t have any real heroes in this place, and there is a lot of dark stuff as well As someone who likes Game of Thrones, Renault might be a good place for you to go next.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

A lot of the people I asked about what book makes them think of Greece’s landscape and smells said this one. I’m not 100% behind it, but I agree in general. It’s like the movie, which looks beautiful but has some things that aren’t so great, like the lead actor. In the book, it’s some of the politically-based caricatures of the communist resistance during the Second World War. A lot of people were upset when it came out. Some of my Greek friends won’t touch it. But its depiction of a lost Kefalonia, the still-beautiful island on which it is set, is just right. Finally, Pelagia is someone many people who live in Greece will recognize. She is feisty and passionate, and many people who live in Greece will recognize this about her.

Little Infamies by Panos Karnezis

Karnezis has said that the unnamed village in Little Infamies may not even be Greek, even though the names and other things point in that direction. I like to picture it in the Peloponnese, but maybe that’s because that’s the area I know the best. A series of short stories that link together show the local way of life, and anyone who has lived in this area before will find it very real. When you visit Greece, you’re always on the lookout for a centaur to show up and start talking to you. Even the mythological touches make sense. When Karnezis writes about people, he always shows them a lot of love.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

My second cheat is that this is more of an autobiography than a comic book, but it does read like a comic book and a lot of it is fiction. For example, Larry, or Lawrence, didn’t live in the same house as the others. He also said the book was “very wicked but very funny.” For its descriptions of Corfu and the landscape and nature in general, the book is a lot of fun. It makes you both happy and sad that your family isn’t like this one, and that’s why it’s on this list. When a friend of mine said this recently, “I can still hear the cicadas and see the lizards scurrying over sun-drenched rocks,” I thought it was the best way to describe it.

Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture by Apostolos Doxiadis

People should remember that the Greeks were also very good at science, math, and logic, even though there is a lot of mythology going on around them at the moment. Not that this book doesn’t make you feel. Uncle Petros is a mathematician who can’t solve a problem and is usually seen as a failure. Only his nephew, who hasn’t been named, thinks he can be changed. Avoid being afraid of math because this is a study of how people interact with each other. It’s in between all this that we get a very good picture of a certain part of Athens, with its old houses and apartments, courtyard gardens, and elegant decay. This is how it looks:

Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakis

This is a list of some of the books I’ve read about Greece. Crete, especially its mountains and southern coast, was one of my first loves in the country. I also need to add some Kazantzakis. Zorba is too obvious, but I still think it’s worth seeing. It took its inspiration from the Peloponnese, even though it was set on Crete. During the Turkish occupation, Captain Michalis (the original title of the book) tells a dark story. The fact that the Turkish bey is his blood brother shows how complicated things were at the time. It all turns into a real tragedy, but it also shows how much the characters and the author love their island.

The Dark Labyrinth by Lawrence Durrell

Caves are important in Greece because they connect our world to the one that is hidden away. Both Herakles and Orpheus took the same way to get to Hades, and Theseus’s labyrinth is sure to be a different one. Once, I climbed down a steel ladder into a deep cave in the Cretan mountains and stayed there for hours. Toward the bottom, there was a shrine to a local saint that was only lit up by my small torch. It looked a little scary. I had a panic attack, and a lot of it was caused by this book, which was an interesting mix of adventure story, mythology, and horror that I found very interesting. That “chthonic” feeling that you get when you look at the blue sky and blue water of Greece can be found in this book. It’s not a masterpiece, but it does a good job of capturing it.

The Names by Don DeLillo

It’s all about dark undercurrents, but this little-known book by a well-known author gets right down to business when it comes to Greece. A lot of it is set in the Mani, which is on the southern mainland and is very rocky and often deserted. My family lived there for a long time. These tower houses and small Byzantine chapels make the area look beautiful, but there’s always something lurking in the background. A breeze through olive trees: “Wind blew across the olive fields, causing wild tremors, a kind of panic, and the treetops to turn silver.” Anyone who has been to this part of the world when it isn’t asleep will know this right away.

Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths by Lucy Coats and Anthony Lewis

In fact, I’ve spent many evenings reading this book to my kids. If you don’t believe me, check out the Robert Graves version of the Greek myths. Children seem to be able to understand them better than adults. There is a great idea behind this collection. He leaves his home in Crete to go to a festival of stories near Troy. He travels through a lot of Greece on the way. Starting with the birth of Zeus, he tells the myths that are relevant to the area. Then he talks about the Trojan War. If you thought it was a book for kids, you’d be wrong. I’d happily read this to myself, and a lot of what I know about Greek mythology comes from this.

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