Books to Read if You’re Going to Greece

Here we are, another week of Covid-19-induced lockdown later, and here’s another post from me containing book recommendations; this time books to get you in the mood for Greece…or perhaps you’re reminiscing? Either way, a literary feast awaits. Unique to Greece’s literary offerings are the many incredible sagas of Greek mythology. Or perhaps you prefer fiction, memoirs, poetry? Greece has inspired it all.

My visits to Greece started with childhood family holidays and I’ve been lucky enough to continue visiting over the years. The Greek islands hold a special place in my heart (the sea, the sunsets, the food!) Here, in no particular order, are some reading recommendations from me.

Greek Mythology

Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton

A trip to Greece without a basic knowledge of the epic tales of Greek mythology would be a waste! This is a massive book packed full of exciting tales of the many adventures and whims of the Greek Gods and the poor mortals who got in their way.

Circe by Madeleine Miller

Much maligned witch Circe gets to tell her story in this adaptation of several Greek myths, including the Odyssey. The novel recounts episodes involving well-known mythological characters, told from Circe’s fascinating perspective.

The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller

This novel retells the story of the Trojan war and also explores the friendship between Achilles and Patroclus. Told with humour, the story follows the obligations and adventures of the young men and really dives into what they meant to each other.


Those Who are loved by Victoria Hislop

Set initially during the WWII occupation of Greece and then during the civil war that ensued, this novel tells the story of a teenage girl’s experiences during this period of extremes, and of a family being torn apart by the situation around them. Reading this, I learned a lot about Greece’s turbulent recent history and found the story both fascinating and heart-breaking.

The House on Paradise Street by Sofia Zinovieff

Ideology is pitched against humanity in this novel which follows widow Maud as she investigates her late husband’s complicated past, exposing a terrible family feud and unimaginable decisions. The story shares recent Greek history, family differences during turbulent times, and ultimately explains why a woman abandoned her baby during the Greek civil war.

The Island by Victoria Hislop

A daughter’s desire to know more about her mother’s past takes her to Crete where she uncovers her intriguing family history, including her great-grandmother’s sacrifices to support a former leper colony.

The Thread by Victoria Hislop

This love story and family saga crosses between modern day and the 1920s. At times harrowing, it is based in Thessaloniki, and tells the story of a young girl separated from her mother while escaping a fire in the city. It introduces the reader to a lot of the history of that area.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

A tenderly and humorously told love story about an Italian officer posted on Cephallonia in 1941 and a local girl, set against the backdrop of World War II.

The Girl Under the Olive Tree by Leah Fleming

An 85th birthday celebration takes a woman back to Crete and through her memories of the invasion in May 1941, expose a long-buried secret.


My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

Hilarious account of the idyllic childhood spent on Corfu by a budding naturalist, with extra comedy provided by his long-suffering mother and the many adventures of his eccentric siblings, and their encounters with locals.

The Iliad by Homer

For lovers of the classics, Homer’s epic 8th century poem detailing the final weeks of the Trojan War and siege of Troy, will be a delicious feast.

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