14 epic books like ‘The Song of Achilles’

14 epic books like ‘The Song of Achilles’

In Reading Lists by Lanie Pemberton

14 epic books like ‘The Song of Achilles’

We Everand editors recall mid-2020 when The Song of Achilles made its way back onto The New York Times bestseller list. We were confused because this book came out in 2012, and there wasn’t a TV or movie adaptation to drive new hype. Then we learned about BookTok, and everything made sense.

Miller’s novel continues to trend, and it’s easy to understand why: This imaginative reinvention of Homer’s epic The Iliad is a moving childhood friends to lovers tale with immersive world-building. Lyrical writing draws readers into an ancient world of gods and mortals with vivid imagery and rich detail. After I was sufficiently floored by this novel, I moved on to Miller’s Circe (which is equally amazing and beloved). And then my search continued, because I couldn’t get enough.

If you’re also wondering what to read if you like The Song of Achilles, rest assured I’ve already been down that road — and I’m here to offer you what I wish I had back then: a list of books similar to Miller’s novel.

The books featured here include other mythology retellings, sweeping epics about war and identity, and gay love stories for the ages. They all remind me of Miller’s new classic in some way, but the one that plays on all my emotions with each reread is A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes.

1. Galatea by Madeline Miller

If you can’t get enough of Miller’s work after reading The Song of Achilles, try her short story, which is a feminist reimagining of the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea.

The original tale focuses on a sculptor who falls in love with a statue and prays to the gods to bring the figure to life. In Miller’s retelling, we hear the statue’s point of view, offering a new angle on the classic that inspired George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (and by extension films like My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman).


2. The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault

The Last of the Wine is similar to The Song of Achilles in several ways, including its setting and central romance. It follows Alexias and Lysis, two young men studying under Socrates in ancient Greece. They form a close friendship, and then fall in love, while the Peloponnesian War rages between Athens and Sparta. 

After training as a nurse, award-winning author Renault moved from the U.K. to South Africa, where she found more freedom to write about LGBTQ+ characters (and live happily with her own lifelong partner, whom she met in nursing school). 

Miller fans may also enjoy Renault’s The Persian Boy and The Charioteer.


3. Ithaca by Patrick Dillon

While The Song of Achilles retells The Iliad, this book is inspired by Homer’s more widely known epic poem, The Odyssey.

Homer’s original work is the storied account of Odysseus’ long journey home after winning the Trojan War. In this remix, we hear the perspective of his teenage son, Telemachus, who sets out to discover what became of his father.

Ithaca adds a fresh angle to the classic, revealing the fallout of Odysseus’ departure and long absence from his wife and son. Adventures (and misadventures) abound, making this a fun and fairly breezy read (especially compared to the classic). 


4. Mythos by Stephen Fry

Acclaimed writer, comedian, and actor Fry employs his myriad charms in this retelling of several Greek myths, transporting readers to Mount Olympus and beyond. His witty asides and wry observations infuse newfound fun into stories often considered ambitious reads, making them accessible to more readers.

Mythos is the first in a trilogy, followed by Heroes and Troy. Fry also wrote a play titled Mythos: A Trilogy, which premiered in 2018. 


5. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

A lowly peasant girl resigned to a dismal fate from birth rises from the ashes to claim a new destiny. To do so, she assumes her dead brother’s identity as Zhu Chongba. 

Zhu slowly climbs the ranks of a rebel army fighting against the Mongols and transforms from survivor to conqueror. However, her hunger for power also grows, as does her willingness to engage in morally gray and, at times, brutal actions.

Parker-Chan’s epic reimagination of the Ming dynasty will surely satisfy fans of The Song of Achilles for its historically rich setting, nuanced characterizations, and themes of destiny and identity.


6. Wrath Goddess Sing by Maya Deane

Deane brilliantly reimagines the warrior Achilles, presenting the classic Greek character as a trans woman battling not only for victory in war, but for her very identity. Goddess Athena offers Achilles the female body she’s longed for. In return, Achilles must fight to rescue Helen of Troy. But Deane cleverly reinvents this iconic character as well, creating a cunning enemy for Achilles rather than a damsel in distress.


7. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Like Miller, Haynes has made a name for herself by retelling classic myths. Her catalog includes Stone Blind, Pandora’s Jar, and more. But A Thousand Ships is hands-down my favorite, and it’s often compared to Circe and The Song of Achilles. 

This fresh take on the stories surrounding the Trojan War puts a spotlight on characters who, despite being intelligent and heroic, were previously ushered to the sidelines. I’m talking, of course, about the women. 

The perspectives in this novel are wide-ranging, from Helen and Penelope to the goddesses Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite. But each one exudes strength and gives readers an alternate perspective on well-worn myths.


8. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Here’s another story that places Greek women at the forefront while offering a similar reading experience to The Song of Achilles.

This novel follows Princess Ariadne, who defies her father and the gods by helping Theseus kill her brother, the Minotaur. Unlike the original myth, Ariadne and her sister, Phaedra, have agency (and starring roles), with the story examining the long-term consequences of Ariadne’s actions. 

Saint followed this compelling novel with more Greek myth retellings in Elektra and Atalanta.


9. Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman

Call Me By Your Name is a modern classic and a staple of LGBTQ+ literature. Readers who loved The Song of Achilles for the deep, transformative love between Achilles and Patroclus shouldn’t miss Aciman’s novel.

In 1980s Italy, 17-year-old Elio meets 24-year-old Oliver, who’s staying at Elio’s father’s Mediterranean villa. Their attraction to one another is instantaneous, despite attempts to deny it, and a whirlwind summer romance changes their lives forever. 

Aciman recreates the intoxicating thrill of first love in this book that inspired an Academy Award-winning film adaptation starring Timothée Chalamet.

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10. House of Names by Colm Tóibín

Tóibín, the award-winning Irish author of The Magician and Brooklyn, retells the story of Queen Clytemnestra, wife of King Agamemnon and sister to Helen of Troy. 

When Agamemnon leaves to fight in the Trojan War, Clytemnestra rules the city of Mycenae alongside her lover, all while plotting to kill Agamemnon upon his return. (To be fair, he sacrificed their daughter in the name of winning the war.)

House of Names gives broader context to Clytemnestra’s choices in a compelling and fraught tale of betrayal, heartbreak, and the quest for power.


11. Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

In Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, the princess Lavinia never says a word, even though her fate is being decided by the male heroes depicted in the classic Greek myth. Le Guin, a legendary speculative fiction writer who authored the beloved Earthsea Cycle series, gives voice to Lavinia and expands her story in this gripping reimagining.


12. Beijing Comrades by Bei Tong

This book about a passionate — and forbidden — love between two Chinese men was originally published anonymously as an online serial. It took decades for it to be translated into English, and to this day it has never been officially published in China. The identity of the pseudonymous author remains unknown. 

Beijing Comrades follows the decades-long secret relationship between Chen Handong and Lan Yu, backdropped by social and political upheavals, including the Tiananmen Square massacre. With lyrical prose and unflinching honesty, it’s a gripping portrayal of love’s triumphs and tragedies in the face of adversity.

14 epic books like ‘The Song of Achilles’

13. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Master fantasy author Gaiman adds flavor and flair to classic characters like Thor and Loki (popularized by the Marvel Cinematic Universe) in this remix of stories originating from medieval Norway and Scandinavia.

Any audiobook narrated by Gaiman is automatically guaranteed to soothe, and his literary fantasies always entertain. For more escapades involving mythology and lore in a modern setting, try American Gods next.

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14. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Song of Achilles and A Court of Thorns and Roses are both sweeping fantasies and BookTok sensations. While Miller’s novel reimagines an ancient Greek poem, Maas’ ACOTAR series takes fairy tale themes and twists them into something entirely new and unexpected.

Book one introduces Feyre, a young girl who’s taken on the responsibility of feeding her family after her father loses everything. Feyre is proud, fierce, loyal, stubborn, and clever. Her journey takes her from her human world into the fae world, where she’s forced to make impossible decisions that begin to change her world view.

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About the Author: Lanie Pemberton

Lanie is a San Diego-based freelance writer who loves reading crime thrillers and nonfiction about animals and the natural world. When not writing and reading (or writing about what to read), Lanie spends as much time as possible at the beach with her husband and pampered pittie, Peach.