Books About Greece

If planning a trip to Greece, what are the best books about Greece to read before you go, or to take with you to read while you’re in Greece, to give you that sense of place?

Books about Greece on a bookshelfOne Section of Our Greek Bookshelves!

We’re suckers for books about Greece and must have read dozens if not even hundreds of them over the years. Our shelves are stacked with books about Greece. As well as guidebooks, which you don’t so much read as consult, there are some wonderful personal accounts of travels in Greece.

There are also fascinating non-fiction books, and best-selling novels. These include books written by both Greek authors, like Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis, and by non-Greek authors, like Victoria Hislop’s eternally popular The Island. Wherever you plan to go in Greece, there’s probably a book to get you in the mood, and maybe give you a better insight into life in Greece.

GUIDEBOOKS ABOUT GREECE

Let’s get this over with first, as guidebooks aren’t really the books about Greece that we’re talking about. There are many excellent and thorough guidebooks, either to the whole of Greece, to the Greek islands, or to individual places like Corfu or Athens. We’ve even written some of them ourselves, or contributed to them.

You can see links to some of these on our Greece Book Reviews page. For a general guidebook to the whole of Greece we especially like the Lonely Planet guide, although the Rough Guide to Greece is also very thorough.

NOVELS ABOUT GREECE

The best novels are of course about a particular place, creating an atmosphere, catching the feel of the place and the people who live there… as well as giving you a page-turning story. So it depends where you’re going in Greece.

Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of some novels about Greece that we recommend for different places. These are only a few of our own favourites, but there are many more to be discovered. Most are available on Amazon, but some you might have to try to track down second-hand.

Athens

Apartment in Athens by Glenway Wescott

This remarkable novel was a best-seller when it first came out in 1945, and it still stands up today as a gripping read. A young couple are forced to share their home with a German officer during World War II. This will give you insights into life in Greece during the German occupation.


Deadline in Athens by Petros Markaris

If you enjoy a good crime novel then try this, the first in a series of mysteries featuring Athens detective, Inspector Costas Haritos. They all show what happens in the underbelly of the Greek capital.


The House on Paradise Street by Sofka Zinovieff

This novel also takes readers back to wartime Athens, and it was a best-seller when it was published in 2013. It deals with the events of the war, and the consequences right through to the present day. “A fiercely absorbing, passionate novel,” said The Guardian, one of many glowing reviews.


Stealing Athena by Karen Essex

This clever historical novel is set in two time periods and focuses on two women, with the common theme of the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles. The first woman is Aspasia, the mistress of Pericles, the genius behind the building of the Parthenon and much else in what became known as the Golden Age of Pericles. The second woman is Mary Nisbet, wife of the Earl of Elgin. It’s her perspective on the events that resulted in her husband buying the Parthenon Marbles and taking them away to the British Museum in London. 


The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

The great psychological thriller writer and creator of Tom Ripley, Patricia Highsmith, opens this story in the back streets of Athens. When a conman and a young drifter meet, their paths are forever linked and their adventures also take them to Knossos on Crete


Crete

The Island by Victoria Hislop

This atmospheric family saga became an immediate hit when it was published in 2007, and has never let go. It’s set on Crete, and strongly features the small offshore island of Spinalonga, the former leper colony.


The King Must Die by Mary Renault

If you plan to visit Knossos, read this book first to give you a taste for what life would probably have been like for those that lived there. Several other places in Greece feature in this historical novel, and in others by the same author.


Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis

This Cretan-born writer is a true giant of Greek literature, nominated nine times for the Nobel Prize. Any of his books is worth reading, but if you only have time for one, make it his classic, Zorba the Greek, which will show you the true character of the Cretan people. If you like it, try his Freedom or Death and The Greek Passion too.


Cyclades

The Amulet by Effrosyni Moschoudi

This is a romantic comedy which makes for a great light-hearted holiday read, and is set on the island of Sifnos.


Murder in Mykonos by Jeffrey Siger

This is the first in a series of crime novels about Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, who moves from Athens to Mykonos, though any hopes that his life will be much quieter soon disappear. He finds the remains of a young woman inside a remote church, and must quickly bring the killer to justice before the grim killing affects the island’s tourist trade. Siger has written several other crime novels set on Mykonos, and elsewhere in Greece.


Sunsets in Oia by Sheila Busteed

Selene Doherty has just finished a tour with her band when she learns that her parents have both been killed in riots in Athens. After the funeral, she goes to her summer home on Santorini to try to come to terms with events.


Dodecanese

The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean

Navarone is a fictitious Greek island but this thriller (and very successful movie) is set in the Dodecanese during the 1943 Dodecanese Campaign against the Germans.


Greek Mainland

The Names by Don DeLillo

This book by the highly-acclaimed American author is partly set in the Mani in the Peloponnese. It’s a mix of thriller, mystery, and literary fiction.


The Scapegoat by Sophia Nikolaidou

Based on the true story of an American journalist whose body was found in the sea off Thessaloniki, this author’s debut novel is beautifully written, gripping, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Greek State Prize for Fiction.


Ionian Islands

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

Set on Kefalonia during the Italian occupation of World War II, the novel focuses on three main characters. Pelagia is a beautiful young woman who has two men seeking her affections. One of them is the mandolin-playing Captain Corelli, an Italian officer, and the other is Mandras, a Greek fisherman turned resistance fighter. In the USA the title was shortened to Corelli's Mandolin.


Saronic Gulf Islands

The Magus by John Fowles

This has been named as one of the best 100 novels of all time, and is based on the author’s experiences when he was living and teaching on the island of Spetses. It’s a strange and mysterious novel, not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you get into it then it will grip you to the last page.


NON-FICTION BOOKS ABOUT GREECE

Athens

Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff

The author moves to Athens with her Greek husband and two daughters, and this is her account of her first year discovering the Greek capital. She also discovers the Greek way of life, whether it’s the tricks you need to learn if you want to hail a taxi, or the relaxed Greek attitude to punctuality.


Crete

The Cretan Runner by George Psychoundakis

This is a riveting account of life in the resistance movement against the German occupation of Crete during World War II. Psychoundakis was a young shepherd boy when Germany invaded the island in 1941, but was soon acting as a runner, taking messages through enemy lines, but was eventually captured and tortured.


Ill Met by Moonlight by W. Stanley Moss

Another account of life on Crete during World War II, this is the account of the ambitious, heroic, and possibly foolhardy idea for British soldiers and Greek resistance fighters to try to kidnap the top German, General Kreipe, The aim was not only to capture him but to get him off the island and safely delivered to British Intelligence, based in Egypt.


Dodecanese

Reflections on a Marine Venus by Lawrence Durrell

Durrell’s book about Rhodes, where he lived for a time, is fascinating, funny, historically informative, and beautifully captures the landscape and the people of Rhodes.


Symi 85600 by James Collins

This is one of several books written by the British author about his life on Symi, after he settled there. They are all worth reading if, like us, you wonder what life is really like on a Greek island, should you decide you want to live there.


The Summer of My Greek Taverna by Tom Stone

American Tom Stone lived on Patmos for a time, then moved to Crete, but while there he was offered the chance to return to Patmos and help run a taverna for the summer season. He accepted, and the result is a wonderful and funny book, but also very touching. He also throws in a few recipes. Chicken Retsina, anyone?


Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay

You can read our review about this author’s quest for the deserted places of the Dodecanese islands, an area she knows very well. If you enjoy it, look for her other books about her life on the island of Tilos: Falling in Honey and An Octopus in my Ouzo.


Evia

Evia by Sara Wheeler

This is an excellent and beautifully-written travel book about the five months the author spent on Evia, uncovering its secrets, its history, its people. She stayed in monasteries and she stayed with ordinary families during her journey. 


Greek Mainland

Eleni by Nicolas Gage

Nicholas Gage was eight years old when his mother was tortured and shot for helping her children escape from the communist guerrillas who were occupying their village during the shameful times of the Greek Civil War. This is his account of returning to the village to discover what happened, and to tell his mother’s story.


Mani/Roumeli by Patrick Leigh Fermor

These two travel narratives are evocative accounts of the author’s journeys in the Mani, in the southern Peloponnese, and through the area of Roumeli in northern Greece. The latter finds him staying with nomadic shepherds, and visiting the monasteries of Meteora, amongst many other adventures, while Mani is an account of the area where he eventually chose to settle and live.



Ionian Islands

Afternoons in Ithaka by Spiri Tsintziras

This is what Amazon says about this book: ‘From the first heady taste of tomatoes on home-baked bread in her mother's village in Petalidi, to sitting at a taverna some 30 years later in Ithaka with her young family, Spiri Tsintziras goes on a culinary, creative and spiritual journey that propels her back and forth between Europe and Australia.’


The Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller

This vivid account by the controversial American writer Henry Miller takes him all over Greece, but we’ve included it here as there are some marvellous sections about visiting his friend Lawrence Durrell on Corfu.


My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

Durrell’s hilarious memoir about his eccentric family is a must-read for anyone visiting Corfu. There are elements of fiction in it, but it’s largely a true account of a boy falling in love with nature, but also paying equally observant attention to the behaviour of his family and their Greek friends and neighbours. There are two follow-ups to this justifiably popular book, which was also  turned into a successful TV series.


Saronic Gulf Islands

A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain

Chamberlain lived on Hydra in the early 1960s, a fascinating time to be there as the island was being discovered by poets and artists. The author is also an artist and her illustrations bring the characters and landscapes to life even more.


Some of our other Books pages:

  • Ikaria Book Review

    Ikaria by Meni Valle, brings together the best and healthiest Greek recipes with an evocative travelogue about Ikaria, one of the world’s Blue Zone places.

  • Greece Book Reviews

    Greece Book Reviews on the Greece Travel Secrets website with reviews of the best guidebooks to Greece, the Greek Islands, Athens, Crete and elsewhere.

  • Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese

    The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.

  • Northern Greece Guide

    The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.

  • Wild Abandon

    Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay and published by Bradt Guides is A Journey to Deserted Places of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, including Rhodes and Kos.

  • Monemvasia Book Review

    Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.

  • Lonely Planet Greek Islands

    The Lonely Planet guide to the Greek Islands is a thorough and helpful guide to all the Greek island groups, with Athens included.

  • Lonely Planet Greece

    The latest edition of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Greece is a comprehensive 750-page guidebook to the whole country.

  • Lonely Planet Crete

    Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.

  • Great Greek Poets: Cavafy, Sappho, George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis

    There are many great Greek poets, with two authors winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and names include Sappho, Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.

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