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
One 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.
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
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
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.
The Island by
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
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
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.
Murder in Mykonos by
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
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
The Scapegoat by
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
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
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.
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
The Cretan Runner by George
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.
Symi 85600 by James
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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