Books Inspired by Mythology for Your Reading List

The National Herald

The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Photo: Simon & Schuster

As summer draws to a close, here are a few books to add to your reading list which you might have missed while away on vacation. With the days getting shorter and the weather cooling off, slightly, now is the time to build up that to-be-read pile to see you through the rest of the year. Books inspired by Greek mythology have always been popular, since ancient times in fact. The exploits of the Olympian gods continue to offer a treasure trove of themes and characters that inspire creative works by Greek and non-Greek writers alike.

At the Palaces of Knossos: A Novel for children by Nikos Kazantzakis, is a retelling of the myth of King Minos, Theseus and Ariadne, the Minotaur, Daedalus and Ikaros. The book, adapted from the draft of a typewritten manuscript, was translated into English by Themi and Theodora Vasilis, and edited by Theodora Vasilis in1988. Kazantzakis also wrote The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel inspired, of course, by Homer’s Odyssey. He began writing it in 1924 and finished in 1938. The book is divided into 24 rhapsodies and consists of 33,333 lines.

“A continuation of Homer’s epic poem, Kazantzakis’ own Odyssey finds Odysseus once again leaving Ithaca on finding that the satisfactions of home and hearth are not as he remembered them. Following an encounter with the former Helen of Troy (now returned to her husband, the king of Sparta, after the ignominious defeat of the Trojans), Odysseus gradually wends his way to Egypt and southward, grappling all the while with questions about the nature of God. Considered by Kazantzakis himself to be one of his most important works, The Odyssey takes readers on a richly imagined quest for adventure and understanding with one of literature’s most timeless characters,” according to the book description.

The National Herald

At the Palaces of Knossos by Nikos Kazantzakis. Photo: Amazon

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips allows readers to catch up with the Olympian gods. According to the book’s online description, “Being a Greek god is not all it once was. Yes, the twelve gods of Olympus are alive and well in the 21st century, but they are crammed together in a London townhouse-and none too happy about it. And they've had to get day jobs: Artemis as a dog-walker, Apollo as a TV psychic, Aphrodite as a phone sex operator, Dionysus as a DJ. Even more disturbingly, their powers are waning, and even turning mortals into trees – a favorite pastime of Apollo’s – is sapping their vital reserves of strength.

“Soon, what begins as a minor squabble between Aphrodite and Apollo escalates into an epic battle of wills. Two perplexed humans, Alice and Neil, who are caught in the crossfire, must fear not only for their own lives, but for the survival of humankind. Nothing less than a true act of heroism is needed-but can these two decidedly ordinary people replicate the feats of the mythical heroes and save the world?”

Circe by Madeline Miller is a fascinating retelling of myth, recasting the character of Circe from the Odyssey as the protagonist of her own story. From the very first pages, Miller captures the reader’s attention and draws them into what is essentially an epic family saga with strong, unforgettable characters.

The book begins with Circe’s birth as the daughter of the sun god Helios and a nymph who was herself a daughter of Oceanos, the divine personification of the sea. Her childhood progresses rapidly since divine beings do not follow the growth cycle of mortal beings and we are soon drawn into the story with the punishment of the Titan Prometheus for stealing and giving humans fire. This is not the first time Miller has been inspired by Greek myth. Her first novel, The Song of Achilles, reimagined Homer’s Iliad and was published in 2012.

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At the Palaces of Knossos by Nikos Kazantzakis. Photo: Amazon