Recommend me an enjoyable Greek Mythology read.

After watching Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and The Clash of the Titans I have a renewed interest in finding some enjoyable reading material about Greek Mythology.

What do you guys recommend? It would be especially helpful if it’s available via Project Gutenberg, or some other free format that where I could read it on my laptop or my iPhone.

Can’t go wrong with the basic classic “Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes” by Edith Hamilton. I got a softcover copy for $1 at a library booksale.

bullfinch’s if you can find it.

Clash of the Titans by Alan Dean Foster. I’m positive it’s as accurate to the source material as possible! :wink:

Homer’s Odyssey is surprisingly fresh for a book that’s about 3000 years old.

For kids’ books, the Percy Jackson ones aren’t bad. They sure beat the hell out of that rancid movie.

There’s always Wonder Woman.

I was introduced to mythology through Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, which I recommend.
You can’t go wrong with the original classics – the Iliad and The Odyssey in Fitzgerald’s or Fagels’ translations. If you’re really into it, get the Penguin translations of the Voyage of Argo (Argonautica), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
For fun intros, there are

Don’t Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth Davis

Mythology for Dummies by Blackwell

For intros to various mythologies, I’d suggest the Paul Hamlyn series, iff you can find them. They combine intros to the various mythologies with lots of photos of artwork:

If you’re looking for something different, there’s the comic book Greek Street, which retells classic Greek myths in a modern London setting.

Personally, I’d recommend against the true classics (if you’ve never read them.) The Odyssey reads about like this:

Odysseus was trapped in the cave. The monster in the cave was fierce and for 40 days and nights Odysseus planned his escape. At the end of this time, he rushed out and pierced the monster through its eye to escape.
He rushed down to the beach, there to encounter a horrible sea monster. The monster and the man wrestled but Odysseus was able to snap the creature’s neck.
He made a craft upon which to sail, heading out into the green seas.
A storm soon capsized his ship and Odysseus was cast into the waves, soon to be clutched in the tentacles of the horrible Kraken. But then, flashing his sword mightily, the mighty hero cut his way free.

Etc. In any one page he might get into and out of any couple of dozen emergencies, each begun and resolved in no more than a paragraph or two (slight hyperbole, but not far off). It’s more like a list than a story. True, there are people who seem to enjoy that.

More of an Iliad sorta guy, ain’tcha?
Or gasp don’t tell me… you’re into the Aeneid? :eek:

If you feel adventurous enough to shift to a novel based on Hindu mythology, I highly recommend Zelazny’s “Lord of Light.”

No offense, but have you actually read the Odyssey? Homer spends more time detailing how the Cyclops’ eye was scorched by Odysseus’ plunging the stake into it than you have cited there. His experience with the Cyclops takes up a whole book of the poem – which is 24 books long. It’s not a list – it’s incredibly detailed and allusive.

No joke. Here’s the relevant passage from one on-line translation:

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Texts/Odyssey/Odyssey09.html

A) Yes, I have read it.
B) I did specifically say that I was using hyperbole.
C) Let’s examine earlier in the chapter you reference:

The tale of the sacking of the town of the Cicones: About 200 words (the actual sacking in fact takes only half of one sentence)
The tale of sailing North and being racked by storms, losing many men: About 200 words
The tale of meeting the Lotus-eaters: About 200 words

Those are not minor events. Who the heck are the Cicones and why are you killing their men and raping their women? How did you take over an entire city? Why would you do so when you’re simply on your way home?

Even when the book is nice enough to spend more than a paragraph on any one topic, there’s still never any examination of why the characters are doing what they are doing. Their actions are listed as a list of progressive actions. The idea of remarking upon what a character is thinking, dialogue between him and those around him, etc. are all things that hadn’t yet been invented in how people write. It’s like if you look at the art of the Ancient Egyptians that you find in the kings’ burial chambers, it might very well be the finest craftsmanship of its time. But that doesn’t mean that by modern standards it isn’t glorified child’s scribblings.

The Odyssey is like that. It’s almost certainly at the pinnacle of literature for its time, but at the same time, by modern standards it’s horribly simplistic in its presentation of the world and its characters. Personally, I’m happy enough to read through ancient literature, but I wouldn’t ever recommend it to someone else without a warning that the standards of ancient literature are far behind the standards of modern literature. You’re not going to get in-depth character study, you’re not going to get 20 pages of description of the towns, social roles, speculations, dialogue, etc. If you can appreciate the talent of the writing in comparison to its day, then that’s all well and good, but if you’re approaching it from a modern standpoint, there ain’t a publisher out there who’d look at something of this quality and say anything other than that it’s overly condensed, featureless crud that no one would want to read.

Let me also note that the last paragraph in my previous post was almost 300 words in length.

Robert Graves, the novelist and poet most famous for I CLAUDIUS/CLAUDIUS THE GOD, wrote my favorite: The Complete Greek Myths. He also wrote on Hebrew and Celtic myths among others. After him, or before if you’re on a budget, I’d go with Edith Hamilton as said in the first response- she’s a classic for a reason.

An aside: when I was in 7th grade at a Christian private school, one semester we had mythology instead of Bible study. That was great. I wish that more schools today offered it as a course as 2500 years later they can still hold the attention of pubescant teens and they furnish you with allusions you’ll keep from then on. (I remember how happy I was when somebody mentioned a politician who was a complete incompetent due to creating an agency he couldn’t manage and that got hopelessly away from him and saying “Oh, it’s like Phaeton and the chariot!” and while I don’t even remember which politician that was I remember thinking “Hey, these Greek myths have kind of a deeper meaning— I can’t wait to tell my wife! I mean, my mother!”

I don’t do Aeneid. :wink:

Kelly McCullough’s Ravirn books are quite fun.

I recommend Mary Renault’s The King Must Die for its take on Theseus.

In high school, my Latin class focused on mythology and culture one day a week. Today, I remember less than 1/3 of the language stuff, but almost all of the mythology. It’s just interesting.

As for reading suggestions. Thomas Holt–“The Walled Garden”. It is fiction, but all the gods are there and it is so well-written and fresh and funny. You’ll never hear the old myths in quite the same context again after reading it.

He also has a good one called “A Song for Nero” but that is set in Rome, and is more about the people than the gods, although they do pop in some.