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I haven’t been to Greece before, but it is HIGH on my list of places I want to go. (Along with about 20 other places too, of course.) Until I get there though, these books set in and about Greece will have to do.
There are so many great books here, and as an adult I’m realizing that Greek mythology is actually so much more interesting than I gave it credit for in school. Greek stories and mythology are, after all, a huge foundation for our modern storytelling. And I am loving the recent resurgence of books of Greek myths retold from marginalized perspectives (there are several on this list!).
But we have so many other great books about Greece here too — whether you are looking for contemporary fiction, history, travel memoirs, or books about Greece for kids.
Novels Set in Greece
Circe by Madeline Miller
Madeline Miller’s Circe has been hugely popular in recent years, and with good reason. Miller’s writing is both lyrical and propulsive. In this novel set in ancient Greece, she tells the story of Circe, the daughter of a Greek Titan who is exiled to an island. Here she comes into her powers and crosses paths with some of the most well-known figures of Greek mythology, including Deadalus and Icarus, Jason and Medea, and Odysseus. For fans of just really excellent fiction. This is one of my favorite books I read in 2021. (And if you love Circe, definitely don’t miss The Song of Achilles.)
Honestly, We Meant Well by Grant Ginder
When the Wright family travel to Greece over the summer they are all on the brink of disaster in their personal lives. Sue Ellen recently found out her husband had an affair; her husband, Dean, is trying to be welcomed back into the family; and their son Will is making questionable choices in his efforts finish school. But even the sunny Aegean sea won’t help them escape their problems. For fans of contemporary fiction and dysfunctional family dramas.
Outline by Rachel Cusk
In this literary novel, a writer travels to Athens to teach writing. In the course of her time there she has conversations with other people about their lives. It is these stories that form the novel, and her listening to other people is what forms her character for the reader. This is an introspective novel for fans of literary fiction, and it is the first book in a trilogy.
Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos
Following the death of her parents, a woman named Mira moves back to their apartment in Athens. There she discovers the world of her past, a new kind of present, and a friendly neighbor whose conversations on their respective balconies she looks forward to each night. This is a quiet novel about grieving, family, art, and love. For fans of literary fiction.
A Separation by Katie Kitamura
After separating from her husband, the narrator of A Separation is told her husband is missing in Greece. Since no one knows about their situation, she agrees to go look for him. But what she finds changes everything she thought she knew. For fans of slow burn mysteries.
Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki, Translated by Karen Van Dyck
Three Summers was first published in 1946, and it tells the stories of three sisters over the course of three summers in the Greek countryside of the 1930s. Over the course of these years the sisters come of age, learning about love, family, and what it means to grow into a woman. Now a classic Greek novel, this is for fans of coming-of-age stories and modern classics.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
There is a recent trend of books about ancient Greece from the perspective of women whose stories haven’t been told (see Circe above and even more books below) and I am here for it. Here we have Briseis, kidnapped by Achilles before the Fall of Troy. The Silence of the Girls examines The Iliad from the perspective of women who have traditionally been in the background. This may be for you if you love classics retellings, great writing, and hearing history from new voices. (Related: for a short story with a modern take on Greek mythology, Pat Barker’s Medusa is fantastic.)
Daughters of Sparta by Claire Heywood
Here’s another book about the Fall of Troy from the perspectives of women, this time that of Helen of Troy and her sister Klytemnestra. They are two Queens who have put up with far too much, and the decisions they make have major ramifications. For fans of classic re-tellings.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
Another book examining Greek myths from the perspective of women! From the women of Troy to the goddesses pulling strings to Penelope waiting for Odysseus, here we have the events of the Trojan War retold from new voices. For fans of classic and feminist re-tellings.
Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
Ariadne is a princess of Crete who seems to live a charmed life, except for the fact that her brother, the Minotaur, is trapped downstairs. This is a classic Greek myth — Theseus arriving to the defeat the Minotaur, and Ariadne falling in love with him and helping him with his mission. This would also be a great companion read to Circe since Ariadne is Circe’s niece and makes an impactful appearance in that story. For fans of classic re-tellings.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
This book, first published in 1946, is a well-known Greek modern classic. Zorba lives life with enthusiasm, and his story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator who Zorba travels to Crete with to work in a mine. For fans of modern classics.
The Island by Victoria Hislop
Set on the island of Crete, Alexis travels to her family home to learn more about her mother’s past. She is given a letter to take to a family friend; and when she meets him, the history of her family’s connection to the island begins to be revealed, including their connection to a local leper colony. (If you’re interested in leper colonies, also check out Moloka’i on our Hawaii book list.) For fan of historical fiction.
Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres
On the Greek island of Cephallonia during WWII, the Italian army marches in for an occupation. In the middle of it, a woman named Pelagia is caught between two possible loves: a local fisherman and an Italian captain. This popular novel set in Greece (which was turned into the movie Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) is for fans of historical literary fiction.
Take a trip with a great book — check out these books set in Scotland!
Non-Fiction Books About Greece
Mythology – Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton
Edith Hamilton’s Mythology is THE quintessential book about Greek myths. It covers all the classic myths, from the titans and gods to the heroes of the Trojan War and more. And it includes lesser known myths, gods, and heroes. For fans of mythology.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
Think Greek myths are boring? Think again with Stephen Fry’s Mythos. Here he retells the Greek myths, reimagining them with humor and meaning you might not have considered before. I’ve heard this is great on audio, although the print copy also includes artwork — so you’ll have to take your pick. This is also the first book of a trilogy. For fans of mythology with a bit of flair and ancient stories.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
When the Durrell family has had it with the dreariness of England, they decide to move to the Greek island of Corfu, where charm and adventures await them. This memoir is the first in a trilogy about the author’s childhood in Corfu. And you might recognize the story — it was made into the PBS Masterpiece series The Durrells in Corfu. For fans of memoirs and family stories.
The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller
In this classic travel book, Henry Miller travels through Greece with his friend Lawrence Durrell (the brother of Gerald Durrell, which means this book might make a good pairing with My Family and Other Animals). They explore the countryside, villages, and beaches of Greece, in a travelogue that is also full of history and philosophy. For fans of travel memoirs.
Eurydice Street: A Place In Athens by Sofka Zinovieff
As a student in Greece, Sofka Zinovieff fell in love with the country. Years later, she decides to return there to live along with her husband (who is Greek) and their two young daughters. This is her memoir of leaning how to live in Greece — from sending her daughters to a new school, to navigating becoming a citizen, to adapting the Greek way of life into their own family. For fans of ex-pat memoirs.
Afternoons in Ithaka by Spiri Tsintziras
In this memoir, set between Greece and Australia, Tsintziras recalls her rich childhood memories and her family’s Greek heritage. Interspersed throughout the stories are recipes of Greek food the author grew up eating, showing the reader both the cultural importance of food in Greek culture but also in family life. For fans of memoirs with food.
Eleni by Nicholas Gage
Eleni combines investigative journalism with personal memoir, as Gage travels to Greece to uncover the story of his mother. In 1948, Greece was in the middle of a civil war and children were being abducted and sent away. But Gage’s mother sacrificed everything so he and his siblings could escape to safety. For readers who love narrative non-fiction and aren’t afraid of tragedy.
The Rise of Athens: The Story of the World’s Greatest Civilization by Anthony Everitt
Our world wouldn’t be what it is today without everything that happened in Ancient Athens. Here, Everitt examines both the rise of Athens and its democracy, as well as the decline and this influential city. This book is for readers who love history.
Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen by Mary Norris
In this travel memoir, Mary Norris not only travels to Greece but also immerses herself in the language. And this isn’t just about learning Greek; she dives into its origins, its meanings, and the way Greek has influenced other languages. This book is for fans of travel memoirs and language geeks.
Children’s Picture Books Set in Greece
Mr. Semolina-Semolinus: A Greek Folktale by Anthony L. Manna and Christodoula Mitakidou, Illustrated by Giselle Potter
When she rejects all her suitors, Areti decides to make a man for herself out of ingredients in the kitchen. But when an evil queen steals him, she must go on a quest to rescue him. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
The Orphan: A Cinderella Story from Greece by Anthony Manna and Christodoula Mitakidou, Illustrated by Giselle Potter
This folk tale from Greece tells the story of a young orphan who finds help from Nature after being treated terribly by her stepmother. Her life changes when a prince visits their village. Children will appreciate the familiar Cinderella story told in a way they may not have heard before. Recommended ages: 4-8 years.
Let’s Visit Athens!: The Adventures of Bella & Harry by Lisa Manzione, Illustrated by Kristine Lucco
Tour Athens with Chihuahuas Bella and Harry! Visit landmarks and learn about history, culture, language and more. This is a great introduction to Greece for young kids. Recommended ages: 5-10 years.
Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, Illustrated by Josée Masse
This book about Greece has fun with poetry and perspective. Each story is told in two poems — one that tells the story as we know it, and one that puts the poem in reverse for a new way of thinking about it. It’s all paired with peaceful and imaginative illustrations. Recommended ages: 6-9 years.
This is Greece by Miroslav Sasek
We love Sasek’s “This is…” series set across the world, and this book about Greece takes children through the country, introducing them to landmarks and culture. Since this was first published in 1966, it may appear a bit dated, but it is still worth visiting. Recommended ages: 7-8 years.
Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths by Lucy Coats
When you think of books about Greece, you likely think of mythology. Here, Atticus is a storyteller who set out on a journey through Greece to take-part in a Storytelling Festival. On his way, of course, he can’t resist telling all his favorite stories — the Greek myths we all know and love, presented here for younger children. Recommended ages: 7-9 years.
Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters by Donna Napoli, Illustrated by Christina Balit
This beautiful treasury of Greek mythology breaks myths up by character, pairing each story with a full page illustration and sidebars with interesting facts. This is the perfect book for kids interested in mythology, with approachable short stories on everyone from Zeus to Helen of Troy. Recommended ages: 7-11 years.
Middle Grade and YA Books Set in Greece
Zeus the Mighty: The Quest for the Golden Fleas by Crispin Boyer
This imaginative take on Greek mythology has the gods and goddesses turned into animals, all housed in the Mount Olympus Pet Center in Athens, Georgia (so, ok, not exactly Greece.) Zeus, the hamster, is the one in charge here, and in this story he must find the golden fleas before the other gods *ahem pets* rebel. This is the first book in a series. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
Where Is the Parthenon? by Roberta Edwards, Illustrated by John Hinderliter
We may think of the Parthenon as Athens’ most famous ruins, once a temple to Athena. But its history is even more fascinating that that, as site for both religious worship and army use. This book for kids tells the history of the Parthenon, and would be perfect if you’re planning a family trip to Athens. Recommended ages: 8-12 years.
The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
The Percy Jackson books have been bestsellers for YEARS, taking young readers on fast-paced adventures through the Greek myths. In this first book, the Greek gods enter Percy’s every day life as he is accused of stealing Zeus’s lightning and must go on a quest to find it. Recommended ages: 9-12 years.
Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
In this young adult book set in Greece, teenage Liv has the opportunity to travel to Santorini and reconnect with her father while helping him with his research on the lost city of Atlantis. But when she gets there, not only does she discover that things are more complicated, she also discovers her father’s cute assistant. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin
In the middle of high school, Zona’s journalist dad announces they are moving to Greece for six months for a story. While Zona also dreams of being a journalist, this isn’t great news because she isn’t too keen on meeting her estranged family. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
Quiver by Stephanie Spinner
Atalanta is a girl warrior who can beat anyone in a footrace. But when her father demands she marry (and she’s already promised herself to Artemis), they compromise — she’ll marry whoever can beat her. But of course, the gods are going to interfere. This is a re-telling of a Greek myth for young adult readers. Recommended ages: 12 and up.
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