This past summer, I bought a book to treat myself after a long semester of school. I did not expect to unlock a whole genre of my new favorite books: Greek myth retellings.
I spent the rest of my summer diving head first into this selection of books. I loved the whole “Percy Jackson” series as a middle schooler, and these stories are just the leveled-up version. Greek myths mixed with modern language and storytelling — I am now addicted and have finally reignited my love for reading.
If you also loved Greek mythology as a kid, you need to read each of these books.
1. “Circe” by Madeline Miller
Following the story of the daughter of Helios, “Circe” is a soul-wrenching tale about valuing yourself, independence and cutting ties. “Percy Jackson” fans will recall Circe’s less flattering mention Rick Riordan’s “The Sea of Monsters.” However, Miller’s rendition of Circe’s life makes her a much more endearing character, and fully justifies her response to strangers.
Miller paces the story beautifully, building up and slowing down the plot in perfect rhythm. There is almost a musical quality to her sentences and pacing. I felt spoiled by Miller’s artistry with words, and I cannot think of a better composed book I have read, except maybe for her other works.
2. “Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller
“The Song of Achilles” follows the life of Patroclus, best friend and alleged lover of the famous Greek hero, Achilles. The story is about personal growth, forgiveness, communication and, most of all, the experience of love. With a sickening plot twist and gut-wrenching scenes, Miller truly makes her reader’s feel exactly what it is like to go to war.
There are lines in this book that brought me to tears. Miller’s word choices echo deep into your heart and pull you just hard enough to keep reading. The plot moves fast enough to keep readers invested while slowing down enough to punctuate the heaviest scenes. I devoured this book in three days, and honestly would have faster if I did not need to work. If you only read one book from this list, it should be this one.
3. “Ariadne” by Jennifer Saint
The original Greek myths have moral lessons and generally have not-so-happy endings as a result. Saint holds true to this with “Ariadne,” a tale about relationships, motherhood and trusting your gut. This story tracks the lives of Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra, from Minotaur to married life.
The sisters serve as two sides of the same coin, each experiencing life at the same time and reacting very differently. Their marriages, ordeals with childbirth and running a kingdom are so extremely sibling like. Phaedra is strong willed and uncompromising whereas Ariadne is softer and more naïve. In the end, each meet their demise in sharp, dramatic ways, and the book finishes abruptly. Saint gives the reader that true Greek myth feel: Moral lessons overpower a happy ending.
All of these books are available through the Cumberland County Library System. You can request them at the Coy Public Library of Shippensburg to read them for free while on campus, or visit your local library while at home.