13 Mythological Retellings for Fresh Takes on Familiar Stories

Posted by Sharon on April 16, 2020
While some tales are old as time, every so often a writer comes along with a fresh take that can make us see a familiar story in a completely different way. In the last several years, inventive reimaginations of myths and folktales from around the world have ruled the bestseller lists.

Can't get enough of retellings? We've rounded up 13 of the most popular recent releases by looking at titles published in the last three years with at least a 3.5 star rating from Goodreads members. 

Don't forget to add any books that catch your eye to your Want to Read shelf, and tell us about your favorite retellings in the comments below!

Here's the list, starting with the most popular by star rating:
 

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What story does it retell? Homer's Odyssey
You should read this book if you like: Sungods behaving badly, seawitches, Greek mythology, complex heroines, monsters, magic, The Song of Achilles, turning terrible men into pigs


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What story does it retell? Rumpelstiltskin
You should read this book if you like: Uprooted, women helping women, interlocking narratives, love stories, impossible tasks, winter wonderlands, confronting antisemitic stereotypes


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What story does it retell? Many versions of the Trojan War
You should read this book if you like: New perspectives on old tales, forgotten women, vignettes, lots of characters, lots of narrators


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What story does it retell? Aladdin
You should read this book if you like: Genderswapped stories, the Ottoman empire, political intrigue, fantastical worlds, djinn, magic carpet rides into whole new worlds


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What story does it retell? Vasilisa the Fair
You should read this book if you like: Russian folktales, bleak winters, atmospheric prose, compelling villains, bad priests, trickster demons, the first book in a trilogy


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What story does it retell? Norse mythology
You should read this book if you like: Norse mythology, American Gods, Good Omens, pretty much any Neil Gaiman take on pretty much any type of myth


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What story does it retell? Sophocles' Antigone
You should read this book if you like: Booker Prize nominees, Goodreads Choice Award nominees, Muslim representation, modern settings for classic plays, siblings, immigrant stories


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What story does it retell? Homer's Iliad
You should read this book if you like: Books about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, faithful retellings in very different settings, soldiers who just want to stop fighting, James Joyce


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What story does it retell? Beowulf
You should read this book if you like: Stories that examine modern motherhood, female warriors, experimental prose, the epic wrath of suburban women


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What story does it retell? Homer's Iliad
You should read this book if you like: Side characters taking center stage, reminders about the brutality of war, heroes who aren't very heroic


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What story does it retell? Mexican folklore, with a dash of Cinderella and Hades and Persephone
You should read this book if you like: The Jazz Age, Mexico, roadtrips, gods of death, Mayan mythology, the underworld, slow burn romance


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What story does it retell? A variety of East and South Asian myths
You should read this book if you like: Anthologies, short stories, authors like Roshani Chokshi, Reneé Ahdieh, Melissa de la Cruz, and more


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What story does it retell? Aeschylus' Oresteia 
You should read this book if you like: Vengeful wives, family dysfunction, tragic downfalls, The Testament of Mary, stabbing terrible men in baths


Which mythological retellings do you love? Let's talk books in the comments!
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Comments Showing 1-50 of 58 (58 new)


message 1: by Esther (new)

Esther I saw Circe leading the list and I immediately knew I was in for a treat. Now I have 10 pending books.


message 2: by Nino (new)

Nino This list is definitively missing Stephen Fry's books "Mythos" and "Heroes", which retell Greek mythology

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold
Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests and Adventures


message 3: by Beth (new)

Beth Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse also definitely belongs on this list - it's a brilliant retelling of Navajo mythology mixed with climate change and monster hunting.


message 4: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Nino wrote: "This list is definitively missing Stephen Fry's books "Mythos" and "Heroes", which retell Greek mythology

Mythos: The Greek Myths Retold
[book:Heroes: Mortals and Monsters, Quests ..."


Came here to say this.
Also Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad.


message 5: by Sofia (new)

Sofia Goncalves I have read Circe and it’s one of my favourite books


message 6: by Katy (new)

Katy "stabbing terrible men in baths"

you have my attention


message 7: by Pavel (new)

Pavel Great list!
I guess the choice of just 13 books was deliberate :) I would have also added Unnatural Creatures and The Buried Giant.


message 8: by TMR (new)

TMR This all sounds wonderful. And go girlpower! 👏🏼👏🏼


message 9: by JD (new)

JD I'd add this (though it's a play): Mourning Becomes Electra.


message 10: by ROBERT (new)

ROBERT Great.


message 11: by Crystal (new)

Crystal Cichanowicz I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin...


message 12: by Saadia (new)

Saadia Till We Have Faces
CS Lewis retells Cupid and Psyche


message 13: by Frank (new)

Frank Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective.


message 14: by coty ⚡ (new)

coty ⚡ Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

sorry that people haven't written good books about mythological men lately? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


message 15: by Megan (new)

Megan Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

Wow, life is hard, huh? Too bad you only have thousands of other books to read that feature men or have a male POV.


message 16: by Erin (new)

Erin Megan wrote: "Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

Wow, life is hard, huh? Too bad you only have thousands of other books to rea..."


Truth!


message 17: by Megan (new)

Megan Crystal wrote: "I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin..."

Yeah, it is definitely it's own story. That is a huge stretch.


message 18: by Sara (new)

Sara This list skews very heavily toward Western mythology and folklore. Of 13 titles, only 3 are based on stories with origins outside of Europe, while a 4th reinterprets a classical Greek play through a Muslim lens. I would like to see a more balanced list with better representation from African, Arab, Asian, and Indigenous traditions.


message 19: by Free_dreamer (new)

Free_dreamer Sara wrote: "This list skews very heavily toward Western mythology and folklore. Of 13 titles, only 3 are based on stories with origins outside of Europe, while a 4th reinterprets a classical Greek play through..."

I agree, a few more non-western titles would have been nice. But still an interesting list.


message 20: by Dee (new)

Dee Indysmash wrote: ""stabbing terrible men in baths"

you have my attention"


Sofia wrote: "I have read Circe and it’s one of my favourite books"

House of Names is a short book but I read it several times over to get my head around the planned family violence. Yet the chapter on Orestes in exile brought much needed relief when their only focus was survival. Great Read.


message 21: by Summer (last edited Apr 16, 2020 11:03AM) (new)

Summer Not sure I would characterize The City of Brass as an Aladdin retelling. That is misleading at best and highly reductive of the work at worst. But us Middle Easterners should feel lucky that it’s even mentioned on this list, right? 🙄


message 22: by Catherineclms (new)

Catherineclms In currently working my way through The Cannongate Myth Series


message 23: by Chris (new)

Chris Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

I was thinking the same. There’s a clear agenda they’re trying to push here.


message 24: by Roseanne (new)

Roseanne I love this list. Thanks everyone for suggestions. :)


message 25: by Rari (new)

Rari Marks Crystal wrote: "I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin..."

I thought the same thing. I wondered if I was just clueless! But dang this is an excellent series isn't it?


message 26: by Adarah (new)

Adarah The Gaiman one gave me a laugh :

Book - Norse Mythology
Retells - Norse Mythology
You'd like this if you liked - Norse Mythology


message 27: by Christina (new)

Christina Bagni Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

Yikes.


Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell Seconding that "yikes"


message 29: by Thomas (last edited Apr 16, 2020 04:28PM) (new)

Thomas I'm sorry, but where's "Persephone's Fall?" That one has just got to be here.
Persephone's Fall


message 30: by Cat (new)

Cat Megan wrote: "Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

Wow, life is hard, huh? Too bad you only have thousands of other books to rea..."


Basically


message 31: by Ariel (new)

Ariel Deathless by Catherynne Valente


message 32: by Aryame (new)

Aryame Aryame اريد مساعدة كتاب التعصب الرياضي لم يفتح هل من مساعدة؟


message 33: by Demanda ☾ (new)

Demanda ☾ Indysmash wrote: ""stabbing terrible men in baths"

you have my attention"


mine too


message 34: by Gretchen (new)

Gretchen Pierce "Crystal wrote: "I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin..."

Yeah, a huge stretch, although it is based on lots of Middle Eastern mythology.


message 35: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Saadia wrote: "Till We Have Faces
CS Lewis retells Cupid and Psyche"


I love this book


message 36: by Martin (new)

Martin Stephen Fry’s mythological retellings are very good. His two books are on par or better than the works of Robert Graves.


message 37: by M.F. (new)

M.F. Hopkins Great list.


message 38: by Jesse (new)

Jesse This turned up and I at once ran over.


message 39: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson. 2018 Booker Finalist; retelling of Oedipus.


message 40: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Country was my favourite read of last year. Unfairly overlooked for prizes. I liked it much better than both Silence of the Girls and A Thousand Ships (quite disappointed by both of those).


message 41: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Lindsay wrote: "Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

Everything Under, by Daisy Johnson. 2018 Booker Finalist; retelling of Oedipus."


Good catch, I'd forgotten about that one! It's not obvious if you don't know the Oedipus story.


message 42: by Max (new)

Max These are some fun suggestions! My TBR pile just got higher. :-)


message 43: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Robertson Moutis Circe is one of the best books I have ever read. I also enjoyed The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier, a retelling – or reexamination – of the Amazon/Troy myth.


message 44: by Bri (new)

Bri Caldwell Crystal wrote: "I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin..."

Agreed...an odd description for an excellent story.


message 45: by Bri (new)

Bri Caldwell Chris wrote: "Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

I was thinking the same. There’s a clear agenda they’re trying to push here."


Maybe the agenda is just....good books?


message 46: by Frank (new)

Frank Bri wrote: "Chris wrote: "Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

I was thinking the same. There’s a clear agenda they’re trying ..."

Maybe the agenda is just....good books?


Bri: your response, and that of others, does not fit the stats of the book lists of previous months. "good books" is subjective, so that was not the subject of my post.


Psychowellnesscenter I was hoping to have an Indian Mythological reteller here... nice collection though


message 48: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Crystal wrote: "I would not have called The City of Brass a gender swapped retelling of Aladdin..."

Nor would I. Not at all.


message 49: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Frank wrote: "Yet another list where the majority of books deal with feminist issues or take the woman's perspective."

If you aren't reading these books for that reason, you are missing out. Some great stuff here.


message 50: by María Clara (new)

María Clara Baricco's Ilíada. Wonderful retelling.


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