When you’re counting down the days until your next vacation and start wondering about all the amazing sights you will see and people you will meet while abroad, there’s no better way to satisfy this pre-travel itch than by reading a book based on the area, and when it comes to Greece, there’s plenty of stories to choose from.
From the Acropolis and Balos Lagoon, all the way to the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, there are so many wonderful tourist attractions that can be found in Greece that it not only makes it the perfect place to visit but also a great setting for a book.
With that being said, we have 20 of the very best books about Greece right here that you can start reading for yourself to get you even more excited about your visit or to simply experience the country from the comfort of your own home through these books.
20 Best Books About Greece You Should Buy
Whether it’s a couple spending a romantic getaway on the Greek islands, or a suspenseful crime thriller set in the scorching heat of Athens, there are so many different genres of books based in Greece that it gives you plenty of choice on what to read.
Here are some of the very best and most engaging Greece stories you need to check out for yourself.
The King Must Die By Mary Renault
This book is a re-telling of the life of Theseus with the author, Mary Renault, using modern scholarship and recent historical findings to create an honest, and slightly experimental depiction of this charismatic king, making for a thrilling story where he travels through many areas of Greece including Troizen, Eleusis, Athens, and Crete, discovering what it means to take on the responsibility of an entire country.
When a target is placed on his back, and people start chanting that “the king must die”, Theseus must wonder if this role was really meant for him and if he has what it takes to guide Greece into the unpredictable future.
- Theseus is a very layered and complex protagonist.
- Various exciting destinations make an appearance in the story.
- Themes centered around kingship and royal responsibility.
- A few dark and gruesome scenes can be off-putting to some readers.
The House On Paradise Street By Sofka Zinovieff
Antigone returns to Greece after a 60-year exile when she learns that her only son, Nikita, has died suddenly in a car accident, and while she tries to adjust to a country that has modernized and changed tremendously since the years of Nazi occupation, she eventually reunites with her family.
Since Antigone left her son when he was only 3 years old, it’s fair to say that many of her family members are not thrilled to see her, leading to an emotional story centered around themes of love, regret, and redemption.
- The pacing remains strong from beginning to end.
- The story is gripping right from the start.
- A lot of historical insight into Greece during World War 2 and the Greek Civil War.
- Fairly short for such an ambitious story.
The Names By Don DeLillo
The Names is considered one of DeLillo’s most unique books, featuring a narrator who guides us through the entire story which starts on the rocky and exotic area of Mani, located in the south of the Greek mainland, before extending to locations dotted all over the country.
What starts as a seemingly lighthearted story quickly becomes something a lot more intense and introspective as the narrator reflects on his family, his mistakes, and his life going forward, with DeLillo’s descriptions of Greece being some of the most vivid in any book you will find.
- Fantastic and exotic descriptions of Greece.
- The narrator is a very mysterious character with a lot of depth.
- Side characters get a lot of development.
- Greek terminology is often not explained.
- A Lot of filler throughout the story.
Zorba The Greek By Nikos Kazantzakis
If the title of the book seems familiar, you may recognize it from the 1964 movie of the same name, and while both share the same story, the book does feature many more details and descriptions that really allow you to feel like you’re experiencing Greece along with Zorba as he travels all around the country in the hopes of opening a lignite mine.
Along the way, we see Zorba become very introspective about his childhood while also admiring the culture of Greece and the mystical feelings of peace and tranquility that it can instill in a person, making for a memorable read that is so hard to put down, especially when you know you’re going to be in the country for yourself very soon.
- Zorba is a fun and loveable protagonist.
- Beautiful descriptions of Greece and its surrounding islands.
- Fantastic wordplay makes Greece seem magical and larger than life.
- A lot of quirky side characters.
- The story takes a while to begin properly.
The Odyssey By Homer
Everyone knows that Greece has an incredibly rich history, especially in terms of its mythology, and with so many beautifully written Greek poems from centuries ago being readily accessible to modern readers, there really is no reason not to check some out for yourself.
The Odyssey is one of the most popular, and while it’s fairly short, it grants an incredible insight into a period when Greece was torn apart by ideology and war, making it a must-read for anyone heading to Greece in the near future.
- The book is still very easy to read and understand despite being written centuries ago.
- An intriguing look at how Greece was during the 8th century.
- Plenty of characters to get invested in.
- The story could have benefitted from being a bit longer.
Circe By Madeline Miller
If you want to learn more about Greece, including its culture, history, and traditional customs of the country, you’re not going to want to miss out on reading Circe, a story based around the Greek goddess who is seen as unworthy to stand amongst the other gods, especially her father Helios.
Circe soon runs into a man who she is smitten by, and as the relationship develops, she also starts to learn witchcraft, a power which she struggles to know how to utilize responsibly, and if it should be used as a weapon against those who made her an outcast.
- Circe goes through a very relatable personal journey throughout the story.
- Plenty of attention and detail was given to the other Greek gods.
- A very in-depth explanation of witchcraft and how it works.
- The third act goes on for a little too long.
- Too many subplots can distract from the main story.
Little Infamies By Panos Karnezis
The collection of stories within this book are all set in an imaginative Greek village and features a colorful cast of unique characters, all with their own characteristics and personal secrets which are revealed over the course of the stories.
From the timid but kind-hearted priest to the dumbfounded and frail mayor, this book is a quick and easy read and perfect to flip through while on the plane headed toward your exciting destination.
- A unique set of characters that are all very well-written.
- Fun interactions and banter between the characters.
- Imaginary Greek village is portrayed as being very mystical.
- Not much background is given on the characters until the later stories.
The Dark Labyrinth By Lawrence Durrell
Caves are a huge tourist attraction in Greece, many of which go on for miles and are very deep underground, so when a group of visitors arrives on Crete to explore the famous labyrinth cave, City in the Rock, things take a turn for the worst when a rockslide traps them in with seemingly no way of escaping.
With a unique medley of contrasting characters, all from very different walks of life and with their own personal backstories and secrets, it makes this story a gripping tale full of suspense that gives the reader a detailed look at just one of the many caves scattered around Greece, while also being a story full of spine-tingling suspense.
- Stakes feel very high from beginning to end.
- Each character is very different and unique in their personality.
- Plot twists keep the story fresh and exciting.
- Vibrant and exotic descriptions of Greek caves.
- Comedic segments can feel out of place later in the story.
Something Will Happen, You’ll See By Christos Ikonomou
Set during the early years of the Greek financial crisis, this story takes an honest look at the devastating effects this period had on the people of Greece, and more specifically, how they reacted to it.
While some people commit horrible and heinous acts just to stay alive, others become the victims of these actions, with this book putting a major focus on how prevalent morality is in times of hardship, and if people can even be blamed for their actions when they have no other choice.
- Honest and respectful insight into the 2009 Greek financial crisis.
- Very prevalent themes of morality in times of crisis.
- Different protagonists allow us to see the story from multiple perspectives.
- Some scenes can be overly violent and graphic.
The Island By Victoria Hislop
The Island is a number one bestseller novel that took the literary world by storm when it was first released back in 2007 due to how suspenseful and gripping the plot is from front to back, and because of how seamlessly Victoria Hislop manages to weave together real Greek locations with fictional elements to make for an exciting story about tragedy, war, and passion.
When Alexis notices a tiny and deserted island, Spinalonga, off the coast of Plaka, she becomes entranced by it, and while it may seem like a mysterious afterthought at first, she soon realizes that she, and even her family, have connections to this strange corner of Greece.
- The mystery is captivating and never becomes predictable.
- Alexis is a multi-layered and well-developed protagonist.
- The island is a fantastic setting with plenty of mysteries surrounding it.
- The ending is very satisfying and unexpected.
- The pacing slows down a lot by the middle.
Afternoons In Ithaka By Spiri Tsintziras
Part memoir and part recipe book, this book follows Spiri, and how her search for the best and most delicious recipes brought her to Greece, a country she would fall in love with for its exotic culture, and of course, its mouthwatering cuisines.
If you want a preview of the types of dishes you can expect to see in a restaurant when you land in Greece, or if you just want to read a light and influential story about a young chef hoping to make her dreams come true, Afternoons In Ithaka is a delightful book that can be read easily over the course of a few days.
- The lighthearted tone makes the story fun and vibrant throughout.
- Spiri’s personal story is remarkable and very inspirational.
- Plenty of Greek recipes are found throughout the book.
- Great insight into the wonders of Greek culture and traditions.
- Some chapters can seem a little aimless.
Ariadne By Jennifer Saint
Ariadne may be the princess of Crete, but this doesn’t mean she lives a life free of worry as, while she may have all the riches and attention that she could desire, beneath her golden palace is her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who needs a royal blood sacrifice.
When Theseus arrives to slay the Minotaur, he sparks a relationship with Ariadne, a relationship which could cost her a lot more than she initially realized, including her family, her country, and her status as a princess.
- A female Greek protagonist in a mythological story is very refreshing.
- The relationship between Ariadne and Theseus feels very natural.
- Amazing side characters with important roles within the wider story.
- Not always completely truthful to Greek mythology.
Why I Killed My Best Friend By Amanda Michalopoulou
Set during the radical protests and turmoil of Greek politics in the 1970s, this story follows two girls, Maria and Anna, forming a mutual bond after being forced out of their own countries in Europe and Africa to live in the capital of Greece, Athens.
As the two girls grow closer together due to their feelings of being outcasts in this big and intimidating city, this relationship quickly starts becoming fierce, and feverishly competitive, with the two girls soon becoming “frenemies” as the book explores the destructive feelings that can come as a result of an intensely close friendship.
- An intriguing look at how intense relationships can break down.
- Athens is a beautifully detailed setting.
- Both Anna and Maria go through very different character arcs.
- Very relatable story for many people about migration and fitting into a new environment.
- Lack of interesting side characters.
- The tone can seem inconsistent at many points.
Deadline In Athens By Petros Markaris
The plucky and bright inspector Costas Haritos leads an investigation when an Albanian husband and wife are found dead in their Athens home.
However, what seems like it should be a fairly straightforward case becomes a little more complicated when news reporter, Janna Karayoryi, insists that the case is much bigger than simply murder, and even involves a group of babies.
Costas doesn’t know what to make of the mysterious journalist, but one thing he does believe is that this wasn’t a simple homicide and seems to be a crime much more sinister.
- A spine-tingling story that is perfect for fans of crime mysteries.
- Costas is a very grounded and believable protagonist.
- Good Insight into how detectives work behind the scenes to analyze a criminal case.
- Multiple witnesses and suspicious individuals keep the mystery captivating throughout.
- A lot of Costas’ police colleagues can seem flat and unnecessary to the overall plot.
Scorpionfish By Natalie Bakopoulos
After losing her parents, Mira travels back to Athens and her childhood home to try and relieve some stress and anxiety, and find a new purpose in her life.
When she meets a charming young sailor, the two instantly spark a relationship, leading them to spend several nights discussing every detail about their lives, including their families, hopes, dreams, and previous relationships.
Natalie Bakopoulos manages to make this story captivating and exciting throughout, despite it centering on only two characters for much of the story, with the major theme being vulnerability, and how we can heal our wounds of the past by confiding in others.
- Mira never feels flat or boring with her backstory being gradually revealed in each chapter.
- Athens is described in beautiful detail.
- Plenty of references to local Greek traditions including recipes and dance festivals.
- Characters never venture too far away from Athens.
Love & Olives By Jenna Evans Welch
If you enjoy the classic musical Mamma Mia, you’re not going to want to pass on reading Love & Olives, a story that follows a similar plot to that classic romantic story, but that puts a little more attention on the characters and a much bigger emphasis on the traditions and culture of Greece as a country.
While Liv Varanakis travels to Santorini with the hope of finding love, along with hoping to reunite with her absent father, she also has a deep passion for Greek history, culture, and archeology, making for a much more grounded story that is still as fun and bubbly as its inspiration.
- Lively and vibrant characters.
- Santorini is a beautiful and exotic setting for the story.
- Every side character is unique and quirky in their own way.
- Romance and absent-father plots are perfectly balanced.
- Big emphasis on the beauty of Greek archeology and history.
- The ending is quite disappointing.
Aegean Dream By Dario Ciriello
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read story that isn’t too complex and simply conveys the beauty of Greece to get you even more excited for your big trip, Aegean Dream follows an American couple who relocate to the small and isolated Greek island of Skopelos in the hopes of opening up a skincare business.
You can tell the author Dario Ciriello has a real affinity and love for Greece from the way she describes the country and its people, making this the perfect book to read through when you either want to learn a little more about Greece and its modern atmosphere, or you want a taste of what you can expect to see and experience when you visit for yourself.
- Beautiful descriptions of the island of Skopelos.
- Easy to read through with a straightforward storyline.
- Honest reflection on the couple’s good and bad experiences visiting Greece.
- Plenty of fun and lively side characters.
- The pacing is very slow at the beginning.
My Greek Island Summer By Mandy Baggot
When Becky Rose lands her dream job at a high-end villa on the exotic island of Corfu, she is initially over the moon and jumps at the opportunity, the only issue is that her arrival is a little later than expected as she ends up in Athens.
There, she meets Elias Madras, a young, handsome, and charismatic businessman who is also on his way to Corfu, but who has a few personal demons that he needs to deal with first.
While the two treat one another as strangers, their relationship soon becomes something more, and Becky must decide between her new and exciting job opportunity or spending a getaway with this mysterious but alluring man she’s met by chance.
- Becky is a bubbly and fun protagonist who goes through a lot of development and growth.
- Big emphasis on the idea of fate bringing two lovers together.
- Many different Greek islands and locations are explored in detail.
- Very surface-level explanation of Greek politics and bureaucracy.
The Durrells Of Corfu By Michael Haag
The Durrells are a strange family, mainly because of how often they travel around.
While the family was originally raised in India, a crisis forced them to move to England, however, that only lasted for a few years before they then chose Corfu as their new home.
The truth is however, because of how secretive this wealthy family is about their personal matters, no one knows exactly why they decided to move, and more importantly, what happened to them when they eventually left.
Captivating, nail-biting, and genuinely emotional at many points, while this story begins with the reader knowing next to nothing about the Durrell family, by the end, they’ll know everything, and maybe a little too much.
- The mystery of the Durrell family is incredibly captivating and compelling.
- Revelations come at a good pace to keep the story interesting.
- Other areas outside of Greece are also included in the story.
- Fantastic ending.
- A few smaller plot points remain unanswered by the final page.
The Girl Under The Olive Tree By Leah Fleming
More than 60 years after the Second World War forced her to flee the country she adored so much, a now 85-year-old Penelope Georgiou travels back to Greece and the island of Crete, embarking on a pilgrimage to see the sights she never got the chance to admire when she was younger and reconnect with the people she was close to all those years ago before terror struck the island.
While this book is a very easy and fairly short read that you can easily flip through while on the plane or while relaxing next to the pool, there are a few very emotional scenes that are sure to have you weeping, so keep this in mind before jumping into this beautiful story about nostalgia, regrets, and childhood innocence.
- A beautifully written story that never gets boring or stale.
- Penelope is a very sympathetic character.
- Penelope travels through the entire island of Crete throughout the story.
- Many tourist viewpoints and popular sights are given attention and detail by the author.
- Switching between perspectives can get confusing at certain points.
Whether you want something to read on the plane journey there, or if you’re simply thinking about potentially organizing a sunny getaway to Greece and want to know a little more about it before you make the final decision, the good news is that there are plenty of books based on this gorgeous part of the world that you can jump into right now.
How To Choose The Right Book Based On Greece
Choose A Book Towards Your Interest
Greece as a country has experienced so much throughout the multiple centuries that it has been around that it means there is so much you can read about, and a lot of books will center on specific topics, making it easy for you to learn more about exactly what you’re interested in.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re most interested in Greek mythology, the wars, and political turmoil Greece has faced over the years, or even simply the aesthetic beauty of the country, there are so many books to choose from that all hone in on these specific areas for you to enjoy.
Pick Between Classic Or Modern
Because of how traditional Greece is as a country, and how many great minds and philosophers were born and raised there, it makes sense that there have been plenty of novels written over the years that people in the literature world have labeled as “classics”.
From Plato to Homer, these tales tend to be deep, complex, and very meaningful in the messages and themes they are trying to convey, teaching you plenty of vital life lessons while also giving you a deeper understanding of Greek culture and traditions at the time.
On the other hand, you have modern books, which may not be as dense as their classic counterparts, but tend to be much more accessible and not as heavy-handed with the messaging, so it’s important to know the difference and choose a book depending on what sort of reading experience you want to have.
Specific Setting And Environment
While mainland Greece is jaw-dropping in its beauty and is the home of many of the country’s most popular tourist attractions, including the glorious city of Athens and Mount Athos, there are also literally thousands of islands surrounding the mainland, 200 hundred of which are inhabited and accessible for you to visit.
This gives authors plenty of options on where to set their book, and you can be sure that each and every island has been featured in several different stories, so it can be worth checking where the story of a novel is set, and decide whether it’s somewhere you’d like to learn more about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Classic Greek Books Hard To Read?
Despite what many people may first assume, many of the books written by ancient Greek philosophers and scholars are not as hard to read as you may think, however, this does depend on when the author was writing, and if the book has been edited or translated over the years.
Scholars like Aristotle or Xenophon, who were writing in the classical era, tend to have a much closer writing style to what we have today, and while a few of the terms may seem a little alien to us nowadays, these stories are certainly still readable.
With that being said, if you are on the hunt for more authentic versions of these books that aren’t modified or that don’t feature notes by the editor at the beginning of the book to explain certain translations, then these can be much denser and harder to read through.
What Are The Most Popular Books Based On Greece?
While The Odyssey by Homer is technically the most popular book to come out by a Greek author, in terms of books based on Greece from foreign authors, the most popular currently is The Island by Victoria Hislop, with the book selling over 3 million copies and being nominated for the Book of the Year award at the 2007 British Book Awards.
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