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Tip: The Best Bookstore in Greece
Any true bibliophile visiting Greece should make a point of visiting Atlantis Books in Oia, Santorini. An independent bookshop sunk into an enchanting painted cave, Atlantis Books is lined floor to ceiling with books in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Since its opening in 2004, this tiny gem has earned a spot on just about everyone’s “Best Bookstores in the World” lists, all the time remaining true to its friendly, helpful, and utterly adorable vibe.
The Best Books set in Greece
- The Colossus of Maroussi – Henry Miller
In this seminal work of travel writing, the famous author and his friend Lawrence Durrell (see Prospero’s Cell, below) explore the Grecian countryside, Corfu, and Crete just before World War II. Henry Miller has said that of all his books, this is his favorite.
- Corelli’s Mandolin: A Novel – Louis de Bernieres
Sweeping and beautifully-written historical romance in which a young woman on the Greek island of Cephallonia is torn between two love interests amid the island’s Italian occupation during World War II.
- The Corfu Trilogy – Gerald Durrell
Charming series of memoirs that explores a young boy’s move (along with his quirky family, including his older brother Lawrence, whose Prospero’s Cell also features on this list) from Britain to Greece in the 1930s, and his discovery of the wonders of Corfu’s flora, fauna, people, and culture. Recently adapted as an award-wining television series by BBC Masterpiece.
- Eleni – Nicholas Gage
A haunting and inspirational true story in which a New York Times investigative reporter returns to his northern Greek homeland to unravel the mystery of his mother, a heroic woman who struggled to ensure her children’s survival and escape from the violence of the Greek Civil War. Non-fiction that reads like a novel.
- The Island – Victoria Hislop
Historical novel set in a Greek seaside village in World War II. A 25 year-old British woman travels to Crete to untangle the secrets of her mother’s homeland and the former leper colony that haunts her family’s history.
- Little Infamies: Stories – Panos Karnezis
Series of intersecting short stories featuring the disparate and colorful characters who live in a small, unnamed Greek village. Inventive, darkly funny, and lyrically-written.
- Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese – Patrick Leigh Fermor
A travel-writing adventurer, described by some as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Graham Greene,” explores the rugged southernmost tip of the Peloponnese peninsula. Alongside beautiful and florid descriptions of the country (a dictionary is sometimes required) are exerpts on Byzantine history, Greek culture and religion, and more. Companion piece to Roumeli, which chronicles the author’s journey through northern Greece, including the phenomenal Meteora monasteries.
- North of Ithaka – Eleni Gage
The granddaughter of the heroic woman described in the book Eleni (see above) travels to her ancestral Greek village to rebuild her grandparents’ home.
- Prospero’s Cell: Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu – Lawrence Durrell
Eloquent and beautifully-written, this book of travel essays is compiled from the author’s 1935-1939 diary entries, during his time spent living on the island of Corfu. Musings on philosophy and Greek culture are found alongside evocative descriptions and day-to-day adventures with Durrell’s wife, Nancy, and his family. (Lawrence Durrell is the older brother of Gerald Durrell, whose Corfu Trilogy also features on this list.)
- Scorpionfish – Natalie Bakopoulos
A Greek-American woman moves back to her family’s home in Greece after the tragic death of her parents, renews connections with old friends, and is inspired by new neighbors and the surrounding city. Very evocative of the modern-day city and culture of Athens.
- Zorba the Greek – Nikos Kazantzakis
An introverted and bookish narrator moves to Crete in the early 20th century to work on an abandoned lignite mine, and is soon accompanied by a lusty and larger-than-life Greek working man who eventually transforms his way of thinking and of experiencing the world.
The Best Books on Greek History and Culture
- 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed – Eric Cline
A compelling chronicle of the Late Bronze Age systems collapse that vanquished the sophisticated civilizations of the Minoans, Myceneans, Trojans, and and others; ushering in the era that is now known as the First Dark Ages.
- Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times – Thomas R. Martin
An approachable overview of ancient Greek political, military, social, and cultural history from the stone age to the fourth century B.C.
- The Greek Way – Edith Hamilton
The author of the classic text Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes explores the culture and aesthetics of ancient Greece.
- The Iliad/The Odyssey – Homer
The cornerstones of Greek history and literature, and perhaps of literature in general, these epic lyric poems blend history and mythology in their retelling of the Trojan War (The Iliad) and Odysseus’ 10-year journey home afterward (The Odyssey).
- The Life of Greece (The Story of Civilization #2) – Will Durant
This second volume in an eleven-book series that tracks human civilization from ancient China to the early 19th century concentrates on Greece’s contribution to the evolution of modern human civilization, culture, and politics.
- Minoans: A Captivating Guide to an Essential Bronze Age Society in Ancient Greece Called the Minoan Civilization – Captivating History
A rough overview of the basics of Minoan civilization on the Aegean Greek islands. Likely won’t satisfy real history buffs, but makes a good primer before a trip to Crete.
- The Mycenaeans: A Captivating Guide to the First Advanced Civilization in Ancient Greece – Captivating History
The title about says it all here. A quick-and-dirty review of the ancient Mycenaean people, culture, politics, and mythology in mainland Greece.
- National Geographic The Greeks: An Illustrated History – Diane Harris Cline
Exhaustive and well-written overview of Greek history and culture, from ancient times to modern day. Chock-full of great photos, illustrations, and maps.
The best books about Greek Mythology
- Circe – Madeline Miller
The author of Song of Achilles returns to tell the suspenseful tale of Circe, misunderstood witch and banished goddess. New York Times bestseller.
- Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes – Edith Hamilton
Classic and perennially best-selling collection of stories from Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. The 75th Anniversary edition includes beautiful color illustrations.
- Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller
This New York Times’ bestselling novel retells the classic legend of Achilles and the Trojan War from the perspective of Patroclus, Achilles’ steadfast companion and soulmate. Captivating and beautifully-written.
- Treasury of Greek Mythology: Classic Stories of Gods, Goddesses, Heroes & Monsters – Donna Jo Napoli (National Geographic)
Beautifully-illustrated and approachable, this book introduces 25 characters from classic Greek Mythology. A great reference or introduction to mythology for kids, the family tree and “cast of characters” page is especially helpful.
The Best Books on Greek Language
- Get Your Greek On!: Basic Greek in Two Weeks – Peter Schultz
A good beginners’ guide to common words, phrases, and grammar in Modern Greek. It is not transliterated; in this book, Greek words are written in the Greek alphabet, rather than the English alphabet.
- GREEK a language map – Kristine K. Kershul
A small, light, easy-to-pack list of common words and phrases that a visitor might need to use on a trip to Greece. In this guide, Greek words are written using the English alphabet.
- Greek to Me – Mary Norris
Grecophile and New Yorker editor Mary Norris explores her love of all things Greek – and especially the Greek language. Charming and cheeky.
- Learn to Read Greek in 5 Days – Georgios Papadakis (intro to Greek alphabet)
A well-written introduction to the Greek Alphabet, useful for those who want to be able to read Greek, not just speak it.
The Best Books about Greece for Kids
- DK Eyewitness Books: Ancient Greece – Anne Pearson
Loaded with photos, illustrations, and maps, this is an excellent overview to get kids interested in Ancient Greek culture and civilazation.
- Greek Gods and Goddesses Coloring Book – John Green
A good way for older kids to pass the time on the plane and learn about Greek mythology at the same time. (Some of the content might be too advanced for early elementary-aged readers.)
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series – Rick Riordan
A modern children’s book phenomenon that’s second only to Harry Potter in its frenzied fandom, this series follows a young boy’s exciting adventures with the gods and monsters of Greek mythology. See also Riordan’s sequel series, The Heroes of Olympus.
- Ready, Set, OPA! (Young World Travelers) – Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos
With the help of a magical crystal globe, the reader travels through Greece and experiences its history and culture through a child’s eyes.
- This is Greece – Miroslav Sasek
Classic picture book that introduces children to Ancient and modern Greece, with fascinating facts and colorful illustrations of the country’s iconic scenes and landmarks. Written in the 1960’s, but recently updated to include information about modern Greece.
- When To Visit Greece and the Greek Islands
- The Best Places to Go in Greece
- The Best Beaches in Greece
- Mykonos Travel Guide
- Santorini Travel Guide
- Greece Travel Guide
- Italy Travel Guide
- Itinerary for Italy and Greece
- Amsterdam – The Very Best Hotels
- Athens – The Very Best Hotels
- Barcelona – The Very Best Hotels
- Dublin – The Very Best Hotels
- Florence – The Very Best Hotels
- Istanbul – The Very Best Hotels
- Lisbon – The Very Best Hotels
- London – The Very Best Hotels
- Naples – The Very Best Hotels
- Paris – The Very Best Hotels
- Prague – The Very Best Hotels
- Reykjavik – The Very Best Hotels
- Rome – The Very Best Hotels
- Venice – The Very Best Hotels