Taking a few moments in your day to carve out time for yourself, away from screens and connections, is a luxury so few tend to do regularly. When it comes to unwinding for myself, I always find divulging into a story is a salve – especially if the story has magical or ancient themes.
These great adventures and tales of wisdom, help to replenish my soul by taking me on an immersive journey. From an early age, I was fascinated by Greek mythology – studying the beautiful D’Aulaires book my parents gave me, which I am now reading to my son. As an art student, I painted scenes from the myths and classic novels – and even studied Latin as a minor in college. Perhaps it was subliminal, as my father was a classics scholar, and our home was filled with Greek and Latin texts and translations. Or perhaps it is simply the staying power of these characters and their struggles. The emotions and the twists of fate, when elevated to a godly plain, take on a special and unforgettable significance.
What I love about the reads I’m recommending below is the contemporary voice in them that retells the well-worn tales, which confirms the timelessness of the archetypal dynamics and personalities.
Circe, by Madeline Miller
Of all the books I recommend, Circe is the top – a stunning book meant to be savored. The author embodies the witchy nymph goddess whose main claim to fame in most stories is her seduction of Odysseus. Here, we discover her origins, her childhood, dreams and flaws through her own eyes. The writing is beautiful – and bewitching. I felt I knew Circe, as she is pulled between her Olympian origins and the mortals she loves. View on Amazon
Mythos, by Stephen Fry
Diving deeper into the world of Greek myths and legends with a beautiful combination of wit and elegance. From the birth of the universe to the antics of the gods, Fry’s witty retelling reveals the juicy side of these celeb-like characters. There’s humor, drama, pain and sheer absurdity – as the author highlights the humanistic balancing of good and evil. View on Amazon
Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller
There is no way to dive deep into Ancient Greek stories without the mention of the Achilles and the Trojan War. Miller describes the friendship-turned-love story that is the crux of The Iliad’s plot, Homer’s original “song”. This beautiful novel unfolds the life of the demigod from his childhood – as a boy unwillingly marked by destiny. She brings the inner and outer struggles of this hero to the forefront, and the passion of his love amidst the bloody scenes of the 10-year war. View on Amazon
The Odyssey of Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
Here we have not the retold version, but the actual verse of its original author, expressed in a thoroughly contemporary translation. The poetry flows along with a straightforward quality, weaving the epic of this “complicated” (in other translations, wiley, ingenious, shrewd or wise) man in a direct and decidedly unlofty tone. This refreshing style shocked the world of classical scholars – but endeared the text to me and many others who appreciate the author’s bold retake on the ancient verse. View on Amazon
What are your top mythical retellings or myth-inspired books? Please share them with me.
PS – The top image was taken at the Museum at Delphi, Greece by me, with some colorization.