14 July 2024

Dive into Greek Culture: Must-Read Books for Your Summer Journey

When you visit a new country, one of the most profound ways to truly feel its vibes and immerse yourself in its essence is through its literature. The stories, myths, and narratives crafted by local authors offer an intimate glimpse into the soul of a nation, revealing its history, culture, and the everyday lives of its people. This summer, embark on a literary journey to Greece, a land where ancient ruins whisper tales of gods and heroes, and modern cities buzz with vibrant life. Here’s a curated list of books that will transport you to the heart of Greece, enriching your travel experience and deepening your connection to this enchanting country.

The Living Past of Greece: A Time-traveller’s Tour of Historic & Prehistoric Places •by Andrew Robert Burn
• Publisher: Little, Brown and Co., Boston and Toronto, 1980
• Overview: This comprehensive guide takes readers on an exploration of Greece’s historical and prehistoric landmarks. From the ancient ruins of Crete and Thera to the classical splendor of Athens and the medieval remnants scattered across the country, this book is a must-read for history buffs and travelers alike.

Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller • Overview: Written 82 years ago, this book remains a timeless portrayal of Greece. Miller’s poetic descriptions of Crete, Corfu, Athens, Poros, Hydra, and Delphi capture the beauty of travel, discovery, and the good life. His nine-month stay in Greece resulted in a love letter to the country that will have you booking a ticket in no time.

Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis • Overview: This classic novel, originally titled The Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas, celebrates the joys of life through the adventures of Zorba on Crete. Kazantzakis crafts a tale that has inspired an Academy Award-winning film, a musical, and countless readers to embrace the spirit of living fully.

Wildcat Under Glass (To Kaplani tis Vitrinas) by Alki Zei • Overview: A beloved children’s book that resonates with adults, this story is set on the island of Samos in 1936. It follows two sisters whose lives are upended by political turmoil, offering a poignant coming-of-age tale that intertwines Greek history and politics.

The Island by Victoria Hislop • Overview: British author Victoria Hislop’s bestseller unveils the secrets of Spinalonga, a leper colony off Crete. The story follows Alexis as she unravels her family’s past, revealing the hidden histories of four generations. This gripping tale was adapted into a popular Greek TV series, To Nisi.

Prospero’s Cell by Lawrence Durrell • Overview: Durrell’s travelogue, inspired by his four years in a Corfu village, offers a nostalgic glimpse into a Greece that few will ever experience. Written during the outbreak of World War II, it captures the timeless beauty and self-discovery that Greece offers.

Why I Killed My Best Friend by Amanda Michalopoulou • Overview: Set against the backdrop of the 1970s Greek dictatorship, this novel explores the intense friendship between Maria and Anna. Their relationship evolves amidst political turbulence, making this a compelling read that delves into themes of education, family, and identity.

Zigzag Through the Bitter-Orange Trees by Ersi Sotiropoulos • Overview: This modern classic weaves together the lives of four disparate characters, offering a darkly humorous and surreal portrait of contemporary Greece. Winner of the Greek State Prize for Literature, it’s a joy to read and a profound exploration of modern Greek life.

A Concise History of Greece by Richard Clogg • Overview: Clogg’s expert condensation of modern Greek history is an engaging and thorough read. Spanning from the end of Ottoman rule to the new millennium, it provides a comprehensive understanding of Greece’s complex economic and political landscape.

Something Will Happen, You’ll See by Christos Oikonomou • Overview: This collection of contemporary short stories paints an evocative picture of life in the neighborhoods around Piraeus. Despite the challenges faced by the characters, their resilience and hope shine through, making this a poignant and necessary read.

Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell • Overview: Originally a play and later an iconic film, Shirley Valentine follows a housewife’s journey of self-realization in Mykonos. This empowering tale will leave you smiling and inspired.

The Fratricides by Nikos Kazantzakis • Overview: Set during the Greek Civil War, this novel centers on Father Yanaros, a priest navigating the tensions in his village. Kazantzakis’ portrayal of the war’s destruction against the backdrop of Greece’s natural beauty is both heavy and absorbing.

Outline by Rachel Cusk • Overview: This atmospheric novel follows an English writer teaching a creative writing course in Athens. Through sketches of the lives she encounters, Cusk explores themes of distance and intimacy, making for an absorbing and thought-provoking read.

These books offer a rich tapestry of Greek culture, history, and modern life. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a lover of fiction, or someone seeking to understand contemporary Greece, these reads will provide you with a deeper appreciation of this captivating country.

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