Last updated on April 22nd, 2021 at 04:20 pm
This list of 20 of the most gripping novels set in Greece is here to satisfy your wanderlust until you visit our sunny home country or to help you rekindle your warmest memories if you’ve just got back from there.
When we’re planning a trip, either abroad or in Greece, there’s no better way to prepare for all the goodness that awaits in the destination we’re visiting than read a book set there. But even if we aren’t actively preparing for a trip, travel literature is our go-to genre when we feel the need to relax and decompress.
Actual travel aside, there’s nothing more soothing than drifting with our minds to faraway lands and reading the fictional or real stories of people seeing the sun from the other side of the globe. Or, since we are on the topic of books set in Greece, from a dreamy island in the Cyclades, for that matter.
Another thing we enjoy immensely is to read a novel about the place we just left behind once we’re back from a trip. This way it feels that we’re holding on to the tastes, smells and sounds of that place for a little while longer.
If you’re anything like us and you plan to visit or have already visited our home country, this list of some of the most amazing fiction books set in Greece is exactly what you need. Therefore, without further ado, here’s our selection of the best novels set in Greece. This list is by no means exhaustive. It includes some of our favourite travel books and a few more that are on our to-read lists.
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20 Amazing Books Set in Greece
1. It’s All Greek To Me (John Mole)
It’s All Greek To Me by John Mole deserves to be at the top of our best novels set in Greece list for two reasons. First, it’s an utterly funny book and who doesn’t need a good laugh? Secondly, we love the title as it’s the very idiom that inspired our brand name. 💙
In a quest to turn his dream of living the never-ending summer in Greece into reality, John Mole buys a house in a village in Evia, a rural part of the country that has nothing to do with glamorous resorts and celebrity holiday-makers. It sounds like heaven, right? Only that this house has no electricity, no running water and, well, not even a roof, a floor, doors or windows. To the dismay of his wife, kids and crazy dog.
However, with hard work, splendid weather and the warmth of the locals’ smiles, John and his family manage to turn these absolute ruins into the summer paradise they always dreamt of. The book follows the family’s journey through the culture and mentality of rural Greece and it’s one of our favourite novels set in the countryside.
Why read It’s All Greek To Me:
It’s an easy read, funny to hilarious at times, nostalgic and sweet.
2. Zorba The Greek (Nikos Kazantzakis), a Classic Novel Set in Greece
Probably you’ve all seen, or at least heard of, Zorba The Greek, one of the most renowned movies set in Greece, starring Anthony Quinn as the main character. But did you know that this Academy Award-winning 1964 film was based on a classic novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis, one of the most famous Greek authors?
Zorba The Greek is considered one of the best modern Greek novels of all time. The story follows the friendship between a reserved young man and a larger-than-life character, Alexis Zorba. The latter is regarded as one of the most extraordinary figures in world literature. Zorba is a man who lives life to the fullest, though his morals are quite questionable.
This novel provides insight into what life was like in rural Greece at the beginning of the 20th century. With the barren mountains of Crete as the perfect backdrop, Kazantzakis unfolds a story that seems idealistic at first but becomes almost unbearably cruel towards the end.
No matter if it’s considered one of the greatest Greek fiction books, Zorba The Greek has been criticised for the misogynistic manner in which it depicts female characters. However, we should always keep in mind that the book was published in 1946. Therefore, all it does is paint a vivid picture of how things were back then. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses for women. Sadly, it’s still not all roses for women in many parts of the world, especially in rural areas.
Why read Zorba The Greek:
It’s a masterpiece of Greek literature, a classic Greek novel that’s heartwarming but also gruesome.
3. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Louis de Bernieres)
Here’s another novel set in Greece that became famous after the film by the same name was released in 2001. That said, the film’s plot deviates from the novel’s storyline. Apparently, that was done in an effort to create a film that’s less tragic than the book it was based on and to satisfy viewers willing to pay for a cinema ticket to watch a love story with a happy ending.
Written by British author Louis de Bernieres, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is indeed a love story set in Kefalonia, one of the prettiest islands in the Ionian Sea. However, the novel explores the theme of love from various perspectives. From fleeting love that is driven by lust to deep and long-lasting love to even parental love.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is one of the most heartbreaking novels set during WW2. The main characters are Pelagia, a young Greek woman, and Antonio Corelli, an Italian army captain. The two meet and fall in love in Kefalonia, while the Greek Island is under Italian and German Occupation. Although the theme of love is central to the novel, the cruelty of war is also omnipresent and is held responsible for many of the characters’ decisions and actions.
Why read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin:
It’s among the most famous novels set in WW2, a multi-layered love story that’s hard to put down.
4. The Island (Victoria Hislop), One of The Best Historical Novels Set in Greece
Continuing on the historical novel genre, we can’t think of a better example of historical fiction set in Greece than Victoria Hislop’s debut work, The Island. This is one of the most remarkable novels set in Crete. It touches upon a story often left untold in our country. The one about Greece’s leper colony.
The main character is Alexis, a 25-year-old woman who resents her mother for refusing to share any details about the family’s past with her. The only piece of information Alexis has is that her mother grew up in Plaka, a small village on the Greek Island of Crete. Alexis decides to visit Plaka on a quest to unveil her family’s mysterious past.
When Alexis arrives in Crete, she finds out that Plaka faces Spinalonga, a now uninhabited islet that the Greek leper colony used to call home for much of the 20th century. From that moment onwards, Alexis embarks on an emotional and filled with surprises journey into her family’s past.
Why read The Island:
It’s a historical novel that brings the living conditions in Europe’s leper colonies into the spotlight.
5. The Thread (Victoria Hislop)
Victoria Hislop has the unique gift of writing exquisite historical fiction. It feels as though the stories she narrates are based on her own memories and as though the places she writes about are all her homelands. After The Island, she wrote another novel set in Greece. This time the plot unfolds in multi-cultural Thessaloniki in Northern Greece.
The Thread is a novel spanning almost one hundred years of significant historical events that forged the city’s character. From the 1917 Great Fire of Thessaloniki to the 1922 Great Fire of Smyrna and the destruction of Asia Minor, the story jumps to 2007 when the main character sets off on a journey to discover, and ultimately preserve, his past.
The Thread has been criticised for having somewhat flat characters. However, the indisputable protagonist of this novel is the city itself. The characters’ personal stories are only there to help tell the tale of Thessaloniki’s troubled past. The novel sheds light on one of the darkest chapters in the country’s recent history. The aftermath of the Great Fire of Smyrna and the impact it had on the Greek populations that lived in Asia Minor.
Why read The Thread:
It’s an easy read about a difficult historical era.
6. The Magus (John Fowles)
Included in the list of the 1000 novels everyone must read, The Magus is one of the most critically acclaimed novels set in Greece. A fine example of metafiction, The Magus is one of John Fowles’ best-selling novels. That said, it isn’t the easiest novel to read. You may finish the book without having fully understood what it was all about. But that’s part of its charm.
The plot follows Nicholas, a young Oxford graduate, who accepts a position as an English teacher on a remote Greek Island. Soon, he becomes bored, disillusioned and overcome with loneliness. It’s then that he stumbles upon a mysterious wealthy Greek man that initiates Nicholas into a series of mind games that have a lot of twists and turns in store for readers.
The Magus is set on Phraxos Island. Why haven’t I heard about this island before? you may wonder. Well, it’s because it doesn’t exist. Phraxos is a fictional island but it’s based on a real one: Spetses. The author drew from his personal experiences as an English teacher on Spetses Island to set the novel’s premise.
Why read The Magus:
It’s one of the best books set in Greece, a lyrical story written in an innovative way.
7. My Family & Other Animals (Gerald Durrell)
We feel that this novel needs no special introduction. My Family & Other Animals is the first and most famous book in Gerald Durrell’s The Corfu Trilogy and among the dreamiest novels set by the sea.
The novel is an autobiographical but often fictionalised account of the years the author spent as a child with his family on the Greek Island of Corfu (1935 – 1939). The story follows the family’s adventures as they struggle to adapt to a new country with a different mentality and culture than their own. The narration is funny and lighthearted for its most part.
Central to the story is Gerald’s love for animals. Throughout the novel, there are hilarious incidents related to the animals and insects that formed part of the boy’s private menagerie, to the dismay of his family.
When you’re done reading the novel, don’t miss the chance to watch The Durrells, a wonderful TV series set in Greece that’s based on The Corfu Trilogy. Filmed on sunny Corfu, The Durrells is lighthearted and nostalgic at the same time and it will make you feel that you’ve known and loved this family your entire life.
Why read My Family & Other Animals:
It’s a delightful novel, a nostalgic trip to the long-gone innocence of our childhood years.
8. The Colossus of Maroussi (Henry Miller)
As mentioned above, the Durrells spent five years in pre-war Greece. It was in 1939 that Henry Miller visited the country by invitation of fellow writer and friend Lawrence Durrell, Gerald’s oldest brother. It seems that Miller enjoyed Greece a lot as he decided to call it home for nine whole months.
During his stay in Greece, Miller did a lot of travelling across the country. While in Athens, he met and became friends with George Katsimbalis, a Greek intellectual and storyteller, who is the main character in Miller’s novel The Colossus of Maroussi.
Apart from a brilliant account of Miller’s friendship with Katsimbalis, the novel is a fine example of travel writing but also the author’s tribute to the beauty and peacefulness of Greece on the eve of the Second World War. An image that appeals to everyone who’s ever had or is doomed to have a crush on our home country.
Note: Maroussi is a suburb north of Athens.
Why read The Colossus of Maroussi:
It’s regarded as Henry Miller’s best work ever, a love letter to an idealised version of Greece.
9. The Jasmine Isle (Ioanna Karystiani)
The Jasmine Isle holds a special place in our list of the best novels set in Greece for us. The reason is simple. It’s set in and narrates the story of one of our favourite Greek Islands. A blessed land that feels like a second home to us: Andros.
This novel is about the tragic love story between Spiros and Orsa, two young people who fell desperately in love and dreamt of spending their lives together but fate (and their families) had different plans for them. Suffice it to say that it’s among the most heartbreaking romance novels set in Greece we’ve ever read. To understand the implications surrounding this love affair, it’s important to know the context in which it flourished and, ultimately, perished.
The Jasmine Isle feels like a biographical account not of one person but of a place and its people: Andros Island. Back in the 1930s, this Cycladic Island was a maritime superpower. The original Greek title of the novel, Μικρά Αγγλία (Micra Anglia, which translates to Little England), is indicative of the important place Andros held in shipping worldwide. Little England was the island’s nickname.
Back then, Andros felt like an island inhabited solely by children and women. Most local men were employed in the shipping industry, which meant that they were almost always away. The Jasmine Isle explores this peculiar reality for women living on Andros Island and how it affected their lives. It’s also a unique account of Greece’s maritime history. With a notoriously complex writing style, it’s not an easy read, but it’s definitely worth the effort.
The book has been made into one of the best films set in Greece in the last decades. Therefore, apart from reading The Jasmine Isle, make sure you watch Little England too if you ever have the chance.
Why read The Jasmine Isle:
It’s one of the best Greek novels set in the 1930s and 1940s.
10. The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir (Tom Stone)
We love novels set in summer. Especially when they’re about the most extraordinary Greek Islands. In this case, Patmos. Even though it’s one of the most important places of worship for Christians from all over the world, Patmos has managed to retain its authentic character and off-the-beaten-path quality. Probably, this is why Tom Stone fell in love with the island and Greece when he first visited back in 1969.
The book narrates the author’s adventures when he ventured to become a businessman in a foreign country. It all started when, despite the warnings of those closest to him, he made the big decision to co-run a traditional restaurant in Patmos.
As a bonus, the book features the author’s mouthwatering recipes. With wonderful descriptions of the Greek Islands and recipes for some of the country’s most popular dishes, reading this novel is a definite win-win.
Why read The Summer of My Greek Taverna: A Memoir:
It’s an honest memoir of bittersweet moments, which proves that not all that glitters is gold.
11. Murder in Mykonos (Jeffrey Siger), a Crime Novel Set in Greece
Just as you thought we’d completely neglected all of you crime fiction lovers out there, this novel set in Mykonos, the most famous of all Greek Islands, is here to quench your mystery-solving thirst.
The plot follows Andreas Kaldis, the island’s new police chief, as he tries to solve a case that entails dead bodies, women who go missing and numerous suspects scattered across Mykonos. His only ally is the nearly retired local homicide chief. Soon, the detectives’ efforts become a race against time as they are faced with the impossible task of finding the killer before she/he strikes again.
The detectives’ work becomes all the more difficult as they try to solve the case before the media can destroy the island’s reputation.
Why read Murder in Mykonos:
It’s a good crime story that unfolds in a gorgeous setting.
12. The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller), One of The Best Novels Set in Ancient Greece
Did you really think we’d leave you without any Ancient Greece novels? Although not one of those books set in Greece as we know it today, The Song of Achilles is a must-read for all mythic and historical fiction enthusiasts out there and definitely deserves a place in our list of the most amazing novels set in Greece.
In essence, The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s take on Homer’s Iliad, as told by the perspective of Patroclus. The author presents the special bond between Achilles and Patroclus in a way that no textbook ever dared to. Achilles and Patroclus were two men passionately in love, willing to die for one another.
For centuries on end, the romantic relationship between Achilles and Patroclus has always been implied. From ancient scripts to modern-day scholars, it’s always been there. But everyone chose to look the other way and talk about a glorious friendship between the two men instead.
However, The Song of Achilles is the most explicit celebration of this epic love affair. A passion that was meant to change the very course of history as the consequences of the main characters’ actions determined the outcome of the Trojan War and its aftermath. Just a quick reminder that we’re in the sphere of mythology here rather than history.
Why read The Song of Achilles:
It’s a heart-breaking yet cathartic love story that is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
13. Chasing Athens (Marissa Tejada)
Chasing Athens is one of the sweetest novels set in Athens. A love poem to the Greek capital sprinkled with fleeting images of the jaw-droppingly beautiful Greek Islands.
The book narrates the story of Ava Martin who followed her husband to Athens, Greece when he accepted a job there. Little did she know that, apart from all the expat life challenges she had to face, she’d soon find herself all alone in a country that wasn’t her own, as her husband decided to ask for a divorce after their relocation.
Although at first the only plausible scenario for Ava seemed to be to go back home to the USA after this unexpected change in her life, she decided to linger in Athens for a little while longer. With the help of her two Greek friends, Ava gradually began to enjoy life in Greece and her newfound and cherished independence.
Why read Chasing Athens:
It’s a brilliant piece of writing about a woman’s journey towards independence and self-evolution.
14. Afternoons in Ithaka (Spiri Tsintziras)
Afternoons in Ithaka is one of those novels about Greece that leave a delicious taste in your mouth. Spiri Tsintziras recounts her memories of Greece in the most nostalgic and tasty way.
The narrative is split between Greece and Australia. But it’s the Greek tastes, aromas and scenery that run throughout the novel and make it an excellent read for anyone who’s even remotely interested in all things Greek.
The focus of the book is food. The author tells her family’s story through their beloved recipes, many of which are included in the book, to our utter delight. All of this served with a sprinkle of culture and a pinch of history.
Why read Afternoons in Ithaka:
It’s a delightful read that combines the beauty of Greece with food.
15. The House On Paradise Street (Sofka Zinovieff)
The House On Paradise Street is one of the most eye-opening books set in Athens. Although a work of fiction, it’s a valuable source of historical information about our home country’s recent history, spanning a period from the Second World War to the troubled 2000s.
The plot follows a family’s journey through some of the most difficult times in the history of Modern Greece. From the German Occupation during the Second World War and the Civil War that followed to the Greek Junta (1967 – 1974) and, ultimately, to the financial crisis and the riots and incidents of police violence of the 2000s.
Sofka Zinovieff wrote a gripping novel that manages to teach history without ever being daunting. Keep in mind that, although very easy to read, the narration can get quite dark at times.
Why read The House On Paradise Street:
It’s an excellent way to get a deep understanding of what it means to be a Greek nowadays.
16. Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens (Sofka Zinovieff)
Contrary to the darkness of the previous novel, Sofka Zinovieff narrates her struggles as an expat living in Athens in a lighter, funnier way in Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens.
The novel explores the everyday life struggles of the author and her family as they try to adapt to their new lives. With the Greek capital serving as the perfect backdrop for her story to unfold, the author explores the historical events that forged Athens and made it the city that it is today. She does so without refraining from sharing hilarious tales about the most mundane of things, such as learning how to hail a taxi.
If there’s one thing that may keep some readers from falling in love with this book, it’s that the story seems to be told from a rather bourgeois perspective, with the characters moving in the same circles as politicians and famous journalists of the time. Yet, nobody can argue that this whole lifestyle is a huge part of Greek society, too. And this novel does a great job portraying it.
Why read Eurydice Street: A Place in Athens:
It’s a brilliant account of Modern Greek history with a focus on the country’s golden days.
17. Nights of Rain & Stars (Maeve Binchy)
Nights of Rain & Stars is set in Aghia Anna, a seaside town on a Greek Island. The location is too generic to be real and it could have been inspired by countless places in Greece. However, fictional or not, Maeve Binchy’s Aghia Anna never fails to transport readers to a quintessentially Greek scenery that’s hard to resist.
The plot follows four complete strangers from various countries and with different backgrounds who happen to be at the same restaurant when tragedy hits the otherwise peaceful coastal town. From that moment onwards, the four main characters get to know each other better and help one another confront their demons.
The novel explores multiple storylines at the same time while seeking solutions to each character’s tormenting issues. It turns out that there’s nothing a warm smile and a stunning island can’t fix.
Why read Nights of Rain & Stars:
It’s an easy comfort read with a happy ending.
18. The Girl Under The Olive Tree (Leah Fleming)
Yet another of the best fiction books set in Crete, The Girl Under The Olive Tree is a moving story of secrets and precious memories.
The premise of the novel is built around the main character’s, Penelope’s, 85th birthday celebration in Crete. This celebration coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Crete. The latter took place in May 1941. As Penelope remembers the time she served as a Red Cross nurse during World War II, the story unfolds not only from her perspective but also from the point of view of a former German soldier who’s also present at the birthday party.
Although a work of fiction, the book touches upon actual historical events with a focus on the cruelty and atrocities of war. For this reason, it’s among the saddest novels set in Greece on this list.
Why read The Girl Under The Olive Tree:
It’s a good novel illustrating one of the most significant instances in Greek WW2 history.
19. Mani: Travels in The Southern Peloponnese (Patrick Leigh Fermor)
We couldn’t leave an author that’s been described as Britain’s greatest living travel writer during his life out of this list. An avid traveller from a very early age, Patrick Leigh Fermor wandered around the globe and, thankfully, put his travel stories down to paper, thus inspiring future generations to roam the world just like he did.
Mani: Travels in The Southern Peloponnese is a memoir of the time the author spent in one of the most off-the-beaten-path regions in Southern Greece. A rugged piece of land at the southernmost tip of Europe, Mani is presented as an isolated and often hostile region with harsh people and unique traditions that have roots as old as Time itself.
Apart from an account of the author’s personal experiences in Mani, this Greece travel book is also an invaluable source of information on a region’s history, culture, art, myths, and customs.
Why read Mani: Travels in The Southern Peloponnese:
It’s a marvellous read, focusing on one of Greece’s most authentic regions.
20. A Greek Affair (Linn B. Halton)
We saved the best for last. That’s not to say that this particular book is in any way better than the rest of the novels set in Greece featured on this list. Nor is it some kind of 100 novels to read before you die material. It’s just that we have a special bond with Linn B. Halton’s A Greek Affair. You see, the book’s main character is a travel blogger and we can’t help but relate.
The novel starts on a sad note. Leah, the main character, is abandoned by her husband and left with her two-year-old daughter and a huge debt. Fast forward seven years and Leah is a prestigious travel blogger, whose job is to visit the most beautiful destinations around the world. Greece is one of them.
The author’s descriptions of sun-kissed Greece are enough to help readers travel to our warm home country without even moving. On top of that, the book is a lesson on resilience and hope, but also a tribute to absolute escapism.
Why read A Greek Affair:
It’s an optimistic story of love and second chances.
Which Are Your Favourite Novels Set in Greece?
We’re pretty sure there are a lot more fiction books set in Greece that are definitely worth a place on our list. Since we’re always on the lookout for new amazing novels to read, we’re open to your suggestions as to which books about Greece or novels set in Europe we should add to our to-read lists.
So, are any of your favourite novels set in Greece missing from our list?
Let us know in the comments!
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