The Greatest "Mythology" Books of All Time

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This list represents a comprehensive and trusted collection of the greatest books. Developed through a specialized algorithm, it brings together 268 'best of' book lists to form a definitive guide to the world's most acclaimed books. For those interested in how these books are chosen, additional details can be found on the rankings page.

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Mythology

Mythology is a category of books that explores the myths, legends, and folklore of various cultures and civilizations. These books delve into the stories, beliefs, and traditions of ancient societies, providing insight into their values, customs, and way of life. Mythology books often feature gods, goddesses, heroes, and monsters, and offer readers a glimpse into the supernatural and mystical aspects of human existence. Whether retelling classic tales or exploring new interpretations, mythology books provide a fascinating window into the rich and diverse tapestry of human culture.

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  1. 1. The Odyssey by Homer

    This epic poem follows the Greek hero Odysseus on his journey home after the fall of Troy. It takes Odysseus ten years to reach Ithaca after the ten-year Trojan War. Along the way, he encounters many obstacles including mythical creatures, divine beings, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, back in Ithaca, his wife Penelope and son Telemachus fend off suitors vying for Penelope's hand in marriage, believing Odysseus to be dead. The story concludes with Odysseus's return, his slaughter of the suitors, and his reunion with his family.

  2. 2. One Thousand and One Nights by Unknown

    This is a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories are told by a young woman, who must weave a new tale each night for her husband, a king, to delay her execution. The tales are filled with magic, adventure, love, and betrayal, and include well-known stories such as "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves", and "The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor".

  3. 3. Epic of Gilgamesh by Unknown

    This ancient Mesopotamian epic follows the story of Gilgamesh, a demigod king who rules over the city of Uruk. Unhappy with his reign, the gods create a wild man named Enkidu to challenge him. However, Gilgamesh and Enkidu become close friends and embark on several adventures together, including defeating the demon Humbaba and killing the Bull of Heaven. After Enkidu's death, Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with finding immortality, leading him on a journey to meet Utnapishtim, the only human who has been granted eternal life. The narrative explores themes of friendship, mortality, and the meaning of life.

  4. 4. Metamorphoses by Ovid

    "Metamorphoses" is a classical epic poem that narrates the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. The narrative is filled with stories of transformation, focusing on myths and legends of the Greek and Roman world. The tales, which include the stories of Daedalus and Icarus, King Midas, and Pyramus and Thisbe, among others, are all linked by the common theme of transformation, often as a punishment or reward from the gods.

  5. 5. Household Tales by Brothers Grimm

    "Household Tales" is a collection of German fairy tales that includes popular stories such as "Cinderella", "Little Red Riding Hood", "Hansel and Gretel", and "Snow White". These narratives, often featuring magical elements and moral lessons, have been influential in shaping Western popular culture. The tales range from the whimsical and humorous to the dark and cautionary, reflecting a wide array of human experiences and emotions.

  6. 6. Mahabharata by Vyasa

    The book is an English translation of the ancient Indian epic, originally written in Sanskrit, which tells the story of a great war that took place between two groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The narrative explores themes of duty, righteousness, and honor while also featuring a rich array of gods, goddesses, and supernatural beings. It is not only a tale of war and conflict, but also a profound philosophical and spiritual treatise, containing the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred text of Hindu philosophy.

  7. 7. Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en

    "Journey to the West" is a classic Chinese novel that follows the adventures of a Buddhist monk and his three disciples, a monkey, a pig, and a river monster, as they travel from China to India in search of sacred Buddhist scriptures. Along the way, they face a series of challenges and obstacles, including battling demons and overcoming their own personal weaknesses. This epic tale is a blend of mythology, folklore, and fantasy, and is also a commentary on the practice and principles of Buddhism.

  8. 8. Ramayana by Valmiki

    The book is an ancient Indian epic poem which follows the journey of Prince Rama as he embarks on a quest to rescue his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana, the demon king. The narrative explores themes of morality, dharma (duty/righteousness), and the struggle between good and evil. The story is not just about Rama's battle against Ravana, but also his spiritual journey and the importance of upholding one's duties and responsibilities.

  9. 9. Mythology by Edith Hamilton

    This book is a comprehensive guide to ancient Greek, Roman, and Norse mythologies, providing detailed accounts of various gods, goddesses, heroes, and other mythological creatures. It includes well-known stories like the Odyssey and the Iliad, along with lesser-known tales, and analyzes their significance in the cultures they originated from. The book also delves into the origins of these myths and their influence on later civilizations, offering readers a deep understanding of ancient cultures and their belief systems.

  10. 10. The Golden Ass (Metamorphoses): Or Metamorphoses by Apuleius

    This classic novel follows the protagonist, a young man who is transformed into a donkey after meddling with magic he doesn't understand. His journey takes him through a series of adventures, where he encounters a variety of characters from different walks of life and gets into all sorts of trouble. Through his experiences, he gains a deeper understanding of the human condition and the world around him. The narrative also includes several mythological tales and allegories, including the famous story of Cupid and Psyche. Eventually, the protagonist regains his human form through divine intervention, having learned valuable lessons about life, love, and humanity.

  11. 11. The Suppliants by Aeschylus

    "The Suppliants" is a classic Greek drama that revolves around a group of fifty women who flee from Egypt to avoid marrying their cousins, seeking asylum in the city of Argos. The King of Argos is torn between offering them protection or facing the wrath of the Egyptians. The play explores themes of democracy, law, and the struggle between the sexes. The drama ends on a cliffhanger, with the Egyptian suitors arriving to reclaim the women and threatening war.

  12. 12. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    A recently released convict discovers that his wife and best friend died in a car accident. He then meets a mysterious stranger who hires him as a bodyguard. As they journey across America, it is revealed that the stranger is an old god, traveling to rally his fellow forgotten deities to wage a war against the new American gods born from society's modern obsessions with media, technology, drugs, celebrity, and more. The story blends elements of fantasy, mythology, and Americana to explore themes of faith, belief, and the nature of American identity.

  13. 13. The Golden Bough by James George Frazer

    "The Golden Bough" is a comprehensive study on mythology and religion, exploring the common themes found in different cultures around the world. The author uses a wide range of sources to argue that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, which in turn was replaced by science. The book delves into various rituals and customs, including the concept of the dying god in mythology and the role of fertility rites in agriculture. The author's theories have had a profound influence on both literature and anthropology.

  14. 14. Children of Gebelawi by Naguib Mahfouz

    "Children of Gebelawi" is a novel that allegorically presents the stories of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed through the lives of characters in a Cairo neighborhood. The patriarch, Gebelawi, has five children, each representing a different prophet or religious figure, and their struggles mirror the religious and philosophical conflicts of the 20th century. The book explores themes of power, faith, and redemption, and it sparked controversy upon publication due to its portrayal of sacred figures.

  15. 15. Sandman by Neil Gaiman

    "Sandman" is a dark and fantastical series that follows the character Dream, also known as Morpheus, one of the seven Endless who personify certain universal concepts that transcend beyond gods. The narrative explores Dream's realm and responsibilities, his interactions with humans, gods, and his own family, as well as the consequences when he is captured and subsequently escapes after 70 years. The series is renowned for its blending of myth, history, and contemporary issues, creating a richly nuanced universe that delves into the nature of storytelling itself.

  16. 16. Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock

    In "Mythago Wood," a man named Steven Huxley delves into the mysterious depths of Ryhope Wood, a forest that holds ancient and mythical creatures known as mythagos. As he explores the ever-changing landscape, Steven encounters his deceased father's mythago, a powerful and seductive woman named Guiwenneth. Drawn into a world of magic and danger, Steven must confront his own desires and confront the dark secrets that lie within the heart of the wood.

  17. 17. Mythologies by Roland Barthes

    This book is a collection of essays that explore the layers of cultural and societal meanings that are imbued in everyday objects, activities, and phenomena. The author decodes the symbols and signs embedded in things as varied as wrestling, soap detergents, toys, and even the face of Greta Garbo. The book is a pioneering exploration of semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, and it challenges readers to question and understand the cultural connotations and ideologies that are presented as natural or given in our everyday lives.

  18. 18. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

    This book explores the theory that important myths from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which the author calls the "monomyth." It outlines the stages of this monomyth, which include a hero's call to adventure, a descent into the underworld, and a triumphant return. The book also discusses how these universal patterns can provide a framework for understanding human experience and the world around us.

  19. 19. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter by Unknown

    "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" is a classic piece of Japanese literature that follows the story of a bamboo cutter who finds a tiny girl inside a glowing bamboo stalk. The girl grows into a beautiful and desirable woman, attracting numerous suitors including the emperor. However, she reveals that she is not from Earth, but from the moon and is eventually taken back, leaving the bamboo cutter and her suitors heartbroken. The tale is a poignant exploration of love, loss, and the transient nature of beauty.

  20. 20. The Theogony by Hesiod

    "The Theogony" is an ancient Greek epic poem that explores the genealogy of the gods. The narrative begins with the primordial deities Chaos, Gaia, and Eros, then progresses through the generations of Titans, Olympian gods, and mortal heroes. It provides an account of the struggles and power dynamics among these divine beings, culminating in the reign of Zeus as the king of the gods. The poem is a significant source of Greek mythology and offers insights into the ancient Greeks' worldview and their understanding of the universe's origins.

  21. 21. Grendel by John Gardner

    "Grendel" is a thought-provoking novel that retells the epic Beowulf from the perspective of the monster, Grendel. The book explores themes of existentialism, morality, and the nature of humanity as Grendel navigates his lonely existence and interacts with various characters, including the heroic Beowulf. Through his introspective musings, Grendel challenges traditional notions of good and evil, ultimately questioning the purpose and meaning of life.

  22. 22. Italian Folktales by Italo Calvino

    This book is a comprehensive collection of 200 traditional Italian folktales, meticulously gathered from different regions of Italy. The stories range from humor to horror, from fairy tales to moral lessons, from whimsical to deeply symbolic, showcasing the rich cultural heritage of Italy. These tales, translated and retold, provide a fascinating insight into the folklore, traditions, and beliefs of Italian people.

  23. 23. The Palm-Wine Drinkard by Amos Tutola

    This novel follows the story of a man from Nigeria who is addicted to palm wine. After his tapster (the man who taps palm trees to make his wine) dies, he embarks on a journey into the spirit world to find him. Along the way, he encounters a host of supernatural beings and experiences a series of bizarre and thrilling adventures. The book is a unique blend of Yoruba folktales, surrealism, and fantasy.

  24. 24. The Marriage Of Cadmus And Harmony by Roberto Calasso

    "The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony" is a unique exploration of Greek mythology. The narrative follows the journey of Cadmus, a Phoenician prince, and his marriage to Harmony, a goddess. The book delves deep into the complex and rich tapestry of Greek myths, presenting them as a continuous and ever-evolving story. It offers fascinating insights into the gods, heroes, and monsters of ancient Greece, while also drawing connections to modern life and thought.

  25. 25. The King Must Die by Mary Renault

    This novel is a historical fiction that reimagines the myth of Theseus, a young man who believes he is the son of Poseidon. He grows up in the palace of his mother's husband, King Pittheus of Troizen, but later ventures out to discover his true father. His journey leads him to Athens, where he overthrows the cruel King Minos, and to Crete, where he becomes a bull-leaper and eventually kills the monstrous Minotaur. The book explores themes of destiny, heroism, and the struggle between old and new religious practices.

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