10 Essential World Mythology Books for Beginners

Myths have inspired writers, artists and scholars for centuries, serving as inspirations for great artists from Shakespeare and Tolkien to J.K. Rowling and Neil Gaiman. Even after the deities and heroes of the mythical past have faded into the background, becoming naught but mere fictional characters, their stories continue to charm generations of readers and viewers. And in practically all media today—from books to films to computer games—they remain alive.

With so many compilations to choose from, it’s difficult to pick the ones that are ideal for beginners in the genre. Well, here are ten mythology books from around the world that should be in the reading list of any reader who wants to know about mythologies.

1. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton

Edith Hamilton retells tales of the Greek gods, goddesses and heroes using sources from various writers. The book also contains ample stories from Roman and Norse mythology.

2. Bulfinch’s Mythology by Thomas Bulfinch

This is a collection of European and Oriental myths and legends including Classical, Norse, Celtic, Arthurian, Hindu, and Egyptian.

3. Popol Vuh, translated by Dennis Tedlock

Popol Vuh is a compilation of stories from the creation of the world according to the Maya to the exploits of the first four men who fathered the human race.

4. The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians by E.A. Wallis Budge

A collection of the translated works of the ancients found mostly in tombs, E.A. Wallis Budge tried to provide an exhaustive account of the life of ancient Egyptians and how religion has influenced them in so many ways.

5. The Edda Volumes 1 and 2 by Winifred Faraday

This is an account of the study and history of the Eddas, the primary source for Norse myths and heroic tales. It includes an account of the gods and goddesses of Asgard until their defeat in Ragnarok and the tales of heroes of the North.

6. Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race by T.W. Rolleston

Celtic myths are divided into cycles. This book is a great introduction to all these cycles because it gives a nearly complete account of everything from the Mabinogion to the Ossian cycle.

7. National Epics by Kate Milner Rabb

National Epics is a collection of 17 of the world’s most loved tales of gods, heroes and villains. It serves as an introduction to the epics like the Ramayana to John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

8. Myths and Legends of the North American Indians by Lewis Spence

The book covers most of the major myths of the various North American Indian tribes. Lewis Spence also provides possible interpretation of these myths.

9. Japanese Mythology A to Z by Jeremy Roberts

No book has covered Japanese mythology comprehensively. This anthology, however, is the closest to have achieved that because it was able to differentiate the influences by ancient Japanese religion, Ainu, Shinto and Buddhist beliefs.

10. Myths of Babylonia and Assyria by Donald A. MacKenzie

The author provided an exhaustive account of the history of Mesopotamia and tried to connect the myths as shaped by the rich and often tumultuous history of the region.