Full of high drama, flawed characters, and exciting plots, Greek myths have been entertaining and enlightening people for thousands of years. When you read these stories, it’s easy to see why: They seek to capture important insights into human nature, while also offering moral lessons.
Books based on mythology, especially Greek myths, have risen in popularity over the last decade with a boost of mythology retellings in recent years. Mythology-inspired books are at the top of bestseller lists and often dominate on TikTok. From the children’s and middle reader book resurgence in myth-centered stories beginning with Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series to the decade-long dominance of Madeline Miller's retellings featuring Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey characters, the interest in fiction inspired by mythology is stronger than ever.
Instead of coming from one canonical text, these tales evolved out of an oral tradition where they were told and retold, and later written and rewritten. This gives writers flexibility in retelling and reinterpreting the mythic stories. Plus, many readers feel a sense of connection and sometimes even nostalgia for these characters and their arcs since a lot of us grew up reading about mythology in school.
From bestselling new classics to contemporary romance, there are many mythic retellings to choose from. Here are just a few of our top picks to read or listen to today.
Miller’s retelling of the Iliad, focusing on the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus is emotional, deep, and highly dramatic. It inspired a trend of readers posting videos on TikTok of themselves crying after finishing the novel. The friendship and love between Achilles and Patroclus is so strong, but their bond will be tested by the gods and the harsh realities of war as Achilles yearns to fulfill his glorious destiny.
Ariadne is most known from the myths of Theseus and the Minotaur. She is the princess of Cree who defies her father and the gods by helping Theseus kill her brother the Minotaur. This story examines not only an exciting tale, but also the long-term consequences of her actions throughout her life. From the kingdom she betrays to her future with Theseus to her beloved sister Phaedra, the relationships in this story are deeply compelling.
In Homer’s The Odyssey, Penelope is the faithful wife of Odysseus who waits at home for 20 years while her husband is away fighting in the Trojan War. She raises a son, rules over the kingdom of Ithaca, and manages to keep her suitors from forcing her to remarry. But famed writer Margaret Atwood reimagines the story from Penelope and her maids’ perspectives in a story that isn’t quite as simple and definitely doesn’t cast Odysseus as the hero.
This retelling also focuses on the Trojan War, but it tells the story from the point of view of the female characters. The perspectives are wide-ranging, from Penelope to the Trojan women who are overtaken by Greek soldiers, to the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. This wide range of characters gives the book an epic feeling as the many heroines in this story find their lives and fates intertwined with each other.
Instead of focusing on one myth or character to retell, in this book, the acclaimed writer and comedian uses short stories to retell many myths within the same collection. He divides the book into two sections: one focuses on creation myths and the first and second order of gods, including the Titans; the other chronicles the rise of the Olympians. The stories are simply and humorously told, with informative details scattered throughout relating to archeological findings, maps, and explanations of major themes.
This Hades and Persephone retelling was one of the most hyped romance novels of 2021. It uniquely imagines a contemporary world where citizens within the city of Olympus inhabit the positions related to Greek gods and goddesses. Zeus and Hades are hereditary titles that get passed down generation to generation. Demeter is an elected position for the person who controls the city’s food supply. In this world, Demeter’s daughter Persephone does the unthinkable and runs away to Hades to escape an unwanted engagement with Zeus. Hades agrees to protect Persephone by pretending to be in a relationship with her to get revenge on Zeus. But what starts as revenge turns into a romance that is equally erotic and emotional.
This novel retells the story of the Greek queen Clytemnestra. She is the wife of Agamemnon and the sister to Helen of Troy. While her husband was away fighting, she ruled over the city of Mycenae. But instead of submitting to the archetype of the good and faithful wife, she took a lover and plotted the murder of her husband when he returned from war. She is judged by history and cursed by the gods, but the story explores whether she was in the right all along. After all, her husband sacrificed her eldest daughter to make the winds blow in a certain direction. And he returned from war with a lover himself.
About the Author: Alison Doherty
Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.