Last Updated on December 17, 2022 by Maggie McKneely
Are you planning a trip to the land of olives and feta cheese? Here is a list of the best books about Greece to read before you go!
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Books about Greece
The birthplace of democracy and the Olympics. The land of feta cheese, endless olive groves, and french fries stuffed in gyros (….ok so some Greek food is better than others). All of those instagrammable islands like Santorini and Mykonos, and the plethora of ancient temples and ruins all over the countryside. The list of things that make Greece an incredible destination is endless. Which means that there is an equally endless list of books written about Greece worth reading.
But since you don’t have an endless amount of days to read all of those books, I asked some fellow travel bloggers for their top recommendations of books about Greece to read before a trip there. On this list, you’ll find classics like The Odyssey, books about Greek mythology, real-life stories about living in Greece, and even a cookbook to bring some of your favorite recipes to your own kitchen. No matter you’re reading style, you’re bound to find a book here to help inspire your next trip or relive some great memories!
Greek to Me
If you are looking for one of the most fun, easy-to-read, yet informative books about Greece, Mary Norris’ Greek to Me is the perfect book for you.
Mary Norris is a New York Times best-seller and also nicknamed the “Comma Queen.” Her writing style is witty, sharp, and filled with humor. In Greek to Me, she writes about her personal love for anything related to Greece. She covers both her personal journey through Greece and some of the most fascinating things about Greek culture, history, and language, such as how the alphabet originated in Greece, It’s a fun way to learn about how the Greek alphabet shaped the English language we use today.
Even if you’re not interested in learning about the Greek alphabet or gods, Greek to Me is still a great read. I mean, who wouldn’t want to read about a solo female traveler’s experience with Greece and its people? (Greek to Me is also one of the best Greek gifts, in case you need ideas!).
Recommended by: Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
My Greek Taverna
Some of the best memories of travel include food and Greece is certainly no exception. The amazingly fresh, tasty dishes that you ate at the friendly casual restaurant in a blue and white painted taverna as the sun sets over the Aegean of the Mediterranean Sea – My Greek Taverna by Ionna Pavlaki transports you back there to that experience and lets you bring the experience home.
This book of 65 recipes is, quite simply, exquisite. It brings together the best-known and best-loved Greek taverna dishes and it does so in such a way that you’ll be able to easily pick up the necessary ingredients without shipping them home from Greece in your suitcase. Written with incredible enthusiasm, but also clearly and with specific instructions, the recipes are easy to follow and will help you to deliver mouth-watering renditions of some of the best tavern dishes enjoyed in Greece. You’ll be able to easily recreate these dishes whether you pick up the ingredients from your local store, supermarket, or even grow your own vegetables in your own garden – as the author does!
Recommended by: Sarah from Lets Grow Cook
It’s All Greek To Me!
The title really says it all. It’s All Greek To Me!: A Tale of a Mad Dog and an Englishman, Ruins, and Retsina – and real Greeks is a wild real-life tale. Author John Mole tells his story of being an Englishman that dreamt of a life on a paradisiac Greek island. To achieve that dream, he made his family move to the isle of Evia. However, the acquired property was far from their dreams. They had no access to a road, no water, no electricity, no roof, no windows, nothing but a ruin with tons of goat dung. With no previous experience, Mole started to renovate the property in the traditional style with the help of the villagers.
The book humorously relates the misadventures the family experiences in order to adapt to the new way of life. Language mishaps and cultural differences are narrated with honesty and humor. Each page brings in a little more of the culture and history of Greece.
Anyone that has ever visited Greece can relate to at least one adventure, making it one of the more relatable books about Greece. For people that haven’t been to Greece yet, it’s still entertaining and paints a vivid picture of rural Hellenic life. Those wanting to move to Greece will change their mind…or not.
Recommended by: Raluca from Travel with a Spin
Greece is steeped in history and mythology – a past so well documented and so well preserved that even now, thousands of years after its historic heyday, we have access to the art and writings of its people!
The Odyssey – an epic poem attributed to Homer – is the oldest piece of literature in the world that’s still widely read. It’s a step back in time; it follows the heroic king Odysseus through his trials and challenges on a ten-year journey home after the Trojan War. On this journey, he is tried and tested, battling fearsome Greek monsters and appealing to the gods to aid him.
The ancient novel, written around the 8th century BC, is incredible to read before and during a trip to Greece. It gives you a new perspective as you look out over the sparkling waters of the Aegean, or explore the tall ruins of the Acropolis (a must-visit if you only have one week in Greece). As if you can peek around a curtain into the past when that Acropolis was the busy hub of an exciting empire and the Aegean Sea was dotted with the merchant and war vessels that helped shaped the ancient world. It’s also just great fun!
This is one of the most important classics in the world and one of the absolute must-read books about Greece before a trip there. You won’t regret it!
Recommended by: Katja from TravelInHistory
If you’re interested in myths and legends from ancient Greece, then reading Mythos by legendary comedian Stephen Fry is a must. The book includes a small collection of some of the more pivotal Greek myths and is a great introduction to the ancient gods and their stories. Just be aware that many of the heroic legends aren’t covered – if you’re interested in the fall of Troy or the journey of Odysseus, you’ll have to wait for the sequel.
The stories in this book cover Hesiod’s Theogony, which includes the birth of the gods and the creation of the first humans. This section is fascinating reading before a trip to Greece as it gives you the context for Greece’s powerful and often capricious gods. This is vital in understanding the culture and beliefs behind the most famous ancient Greek sites, most of which are dedicated to the gods. Other tales include quirky, transformative stories from Apuleius’s Latin novel The Golden Ass and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which are set throughout the ancient Greek world.
While there are many good books about Greece and its myths, Stephen Fry manages to make them accessible to modern readers. The stories are easy to read and there’s often a touch of humor which makes them a very easy way to learn about Greece’s gods and their adventures.
Recommended by: Roxanne from Faraway Worlds
Zorba the Greek
One of the best books about Greece to read before your trip is Zorba the Greek. Not only is it a captivating window into life on Crete in the aftermath of WWI, but it is also an engaging and thought-provoking philosophical novel. It is written by Nikos Kazantzakis, widely recognized as the greatest Greek author of the modern age. It is the book that the award-winning film, Zorba the Greek, is based on (one of the best movies to watch before your trip to Greece). The book and movie differ but are both worth enjoying.
The story revolves around two central characters: the intellectual and bookish narrator, and his companion, Zorba – one of the largest and most memorable characters in all literature. Zorba lives life in the moment, laughs, and dances, even in the face of life’s sorrow. This difference between the men allows Kazantzakis to explore the struggles between the mind and body, God and man, responsibilities and freedom, and how to be happy in the face of suffering.
The story unfolds on Crete, where Kazantzakis was born and raised. Through his masterful storytelling, you will be transported to the island and discover a lot to look forward to on your trip. You will also gain a much richer understanding of the history and culture of Greece which will make your trip even better.
Recommended by: Erica from Trip Scholars
This is one of my favorite Greek myth retellings of all time. Madeline Miller’s captivating tale about a relatively unknown Greek figure told in elegant prose is one of the best books about Greece to read before your trip.
Circe is the retelling of the life of the book’s namesake, Circe. Most of us only know her as the witch on the island that Odysseus visited who turned sailors into pigs. But Miller gives her a much larger role in Greek mythology than just that. As the daughter of Helios, the mightiest of the Titans, Circe is destined to live an extraordinary but difficult life. After Zeus banishes her to a remote island, Circe hones her skill in witchcraft and crosses paths with some of the most famous figures in Greek mythology – the Minotaur, Daedalus and his son Icarus, and, of course, Odysseus.
As a lone woman who stands against the wrath of the gods and refuses to conform to their will, Circe constantly finds herself having to make difficult choices to protect what she cares about. Madeline Miller’s story is beautiful, moving, and unlike any other retelling done before.
Recommended by: Maggie (Me!) of Pink Caddy Travelogue
Sappho’s Leap by Erica Jong is a historical fiction story of mythical proportions, set on the beautiful Greek island of Lesvos. Considered one of the greatest love poets the world has ever known, this tale follows Sappho from her homeland of Lesvos (also spelled Lesbos) to the realms of Hades, via the land of the Amazons, Delphi, and Egypt. Set 2,600 years back in time, the book tells of romance, seduction, and myth.
Travelers to Greece, and in particular the island of Lesvos, will find this beguiling romance an inspiring peek into the charms of the island. In fact, the main square of Mytellini (the main city on the island) is home to a large statue of Sappho, watching over the town.
Getting to know Sappho is a window into an important part of the island, and into Greece’s history. This read is one of the most inspiring, romantic, and wondrous books about Greece – the perfect way to become absorbed in the history, myth, and culture before (or during!) your Greek travels.
Recommended by: Anna from Anna Meanders
Have you read any of these? Have any other recommendations for books about Greece? Let me know in the comments!
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I love reading and always endeavour to read at least a couple of books treated to the country I am about to travel to. This is a great list.
Thank you, this is a great list! Travel based reading is my favorite!
Wow, your reading list covers many, many genres of books about Greece. I’ve read a few of these, and was impressed that you included Stephen Fry’s work, as Greece travel always involves the old gods and myths. That type of work I believe is essential to understanding the place. I just finished reading “The Way of Herodotus”, written about the Greek who is considered the father of history (like, the first historian) and even though it covers much territory outside Greece, it’s brilliant for understanding the place.
Greece was one of my last trips (late 2019) before the pandemic hit, and I highly appreciate it for that. I’ll get back there sometime.
Excellent post. I love to read at least one related book before traveling so I feel more connected to the places I explore.
What a fantastic collection of books about Greece! I really appreciate the wide range since each perspective offers a deeper understanding of the country!
Wow, this list reminds me why I had a thing for Greek myths and literature as a teenager. Greece is still on my bucket list, and one day it will be the right time.
I, admittedly, don’t know too much about Greece. I’d be interested in reading a few of these books just out of interests sake, I don’t know if I’ll ever make it there in person. ‘Greek to Me’ sounds like an adventure worth reading and ‘It’s All Greek to Me,’ sound very interesting! Imagine that, moving to a new country and finding nothing but rumble to contend with. His wife was one patient woman.
I love reading books about a country when I’m in that particular country. As I’ll be visiting Greece in a few months time, I shall be saving this post. Circe appeals to me, so I will keep an eye out at the airport for that one.
This post is kind of fresh and a nice change. I would have never discovered these books on my own. Out of the ones that you have listed, my choice would be Greek to Me. In general, I prefer travel books and travelogues, so I guess this is the best fit. Thanks for sharing the list.
I love reading, and especially the travel genre. There’s no better escape than reading about a place you’ve travelled to to relive those memories.
I would be interested in the Greek Taverna and try those 66 recipes.
Great list. Reading before or after a trip is a great way to get excited about your destination and then relive the memories you made.
I love having a good book to run to when I can’t actually catch a flight – thanks for sharing!
I don’t think I’ve read any books about Greece before, but I think I’ll add a couple of these to my list as we’re hoping to visit Greece next year!
What a great collection of books. I love reading books about the country I’m visiting, especially if the said country has a significant and exciting history. I have yet to make it to Greece, but I will park this post to refer to later. Thanks for sharing.
What a great list! Greece is SO high on my bucket list! Now I am going to have to read them all before visiting. Thanks for sharing 🙂