8 Books to Take on Your Trip to Greece This Summer
On your journey, why not take a travelogue with you and read some of the fascinating stories and experiences by some of the world’s most prominent writers.
Here are eight really awesome travel-related books that will be the perfect accompaniment on your own personal journey to Greece this summer.
The Stronghold: Four Seasons in the White Mountains of Crete by Xan Fielding
During the Second World War, Xan Fielding served for two years as an officer in the British Special Operations Executive on German-occupied Crete, where he ran an intelligence network in cooperation with the Cretan resistance movement.
Seven years later, Fielding returned to Crete to spend a year traveling in the island’s White Mountains (the “stronghold” of the title), revisiting sites of his wartime exploits and seeking out former comrades who had returned to their peacetime lives. His sojourn resulted in this remarkable memoir, a documentary-like record of days spent among Cretan peasants blended with history and literature—a travelogue like no other.
Robert Messenger in his foreword to the book wrote: “The Stronghold is a blending of history and culture with experience, but one wedded to fidelity. Fielding never arrives; there is no great journey of self. There is just a question answered about the war and youth…he can’t shake Crete, as no man can shake the formative experience of his youth.”
The author himself wrote: ”This book of mine does not claim to be a serious sociological work; it is simply the account of a more or less carefree year spent among people who seem to fit so perfectly into their startling surroundings that at times I imagined it was not the landscape that conditioned their lives but their personalities that had conditioned the landscape.” Get this book here.
Eurydice Street by Sofka Zinovieff
A fascinating memoir of life in today’s Greece by an English anthropologist who marries a diplomat, moves to Athens with two daughters. As they ‘become Greek” she sharply observes interplay of past and present in Greek customs, habits, outlooks. The Economist called this book “A witty and engaging account of life in Athens” and is considered a contemporary must-read for the visitor to the sprawling Greek capital city. Get this book here.
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Disarmingly personal and intensely philosophical, Report to Greco is a fictionalized account of Greek philosopher and writer Nikos Kazantzakis’s own life, a sort of intellectual autobiography that leads readers through his wide-ranging observations on everything from the Hegelian dialectic to the nature of human existence, all framed as a report to the Spanish Renaissance painter El Greco. The assuredness of Kazantzakis’s prose and the nimbleness of his thinking as he grapples with life’s essential questions—who are we, and how should we be in the world?—will inspire awe and more than a little reflection from readers seeking to answer these questions for themselves. Get this book here.
Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor
The Mani, at the tip of Greece’s—and Europe’s—southernmost promontory, is one of the most isolated regions of the world. Cut off from the rest of the country by the towering range of the Taygetus and hemmed in by the Aegean and Ionian seas, it is a land where the past is still very much a part of its people’s daily lives.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, who has been described as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Graham Greene,” bridges the genres of adventure story, travel writing, and memoir to reveal an ancient world living alongside the twentieth century. Here, in the book that confirmed his reputation as one of the English language’s finest writers of prose, Patrick Leigh Fermor carries the reader with him on his journeys among the Greeks of the mountains, exploring their history and time-honored lore. Get this book here.
Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece by Patrick Leigh Fermor
Roumeli is not to be found on present-day maps. It is the name once given to northern Greece—stretching from the Bosporus to the Adriatic and from Macedonia to the Gulf of Corinth, a name that evokes a world where the present is inseparably bound up with the past.
Roumeli describes Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wanderings in and around this mysterious and yet very real region. He takes us with him among Sarakatsan shepherds, to the monasteries of Meteora and the villages of Krakora, and on a mission to track down a pair of Byron’s slippers at Missolonghi. As he does, he brings to light the inherent conflicts of the Greek inheritance—the tenuous links to the classical and Byzantine heritage, the legacy of Ottoman domination—along with an underlying, even older world, traces of which Leigh Fermor finds in the hills and mountains and along stretches of barely explored coast. Get this book here.
The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell
The trilogy that inspired ITV’s six part television series The Durrells. Three classic tales of childhood on an island paradise – My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell – are available in a single edition for the first time in The Corfu Trilogy.
Just before the Second World War the Durrell family decamped to the glorious, sun-soaked island of Corfu where the youngest of the four children, ten-year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses.
Through glorious silver-green olive groves and across brilliant-white beaches Gerry pursued his obsession . . . causing hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family. Durrell’s memories of those enchanted days gave rise to these three classic tales, loved by generations of adults and children alike, which are now available in one volume for the first time. Get this book here.
Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis
A stunning new translation of the classic book—and basis for the beloved Oscar-winning film—brings the clarity and beauty of Kazantzakis’s language and story alive.
First published in 1946, Zorba the Greek, is, on one hand, the story of a Greek working man named Zorba, a passionate lover of life, the unnamed narrator who he accompanies to Crete to work in a lignite mine, and the men and women of the town where they settle. On the other hand it is the story of God and man, The Devil and the Saints; the struggle of men to find their souls and purpose in life and it is about love, courage and faith.
Zorba has been acclaimed as one of the truly memorable creations of literature—a character created on a huge scale in the tradition of Falstaff and Sancho Panza. His years have not dimmed the gusto and amazement with which he responds to all life offers him, whether he is working in the mine, confronting mad monks in a mountain monastery, embellishing the tales of his life or making love to avoid sin. Zorba’s life is rich with all the joys and sorrows that living brings and his example awakens in the narrator an understanding of the true meaning of humanity. This is one of the greatest life-affirming novels of our time.
Part of the modern literary canon, Zorba the Greek, has achieved widespread international acclaim and recognition. This new edition translated, directly from Kazantzakis’s Greek original, is a more faithful rendition of his original language, ideas, and story, and presents Zorba as the author meant him to be. Get this book here.
Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller
Like the ancient colossus that stood over the harbor of Rhodes, Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi stands as a seminal classic in travel literature. It has preceded the footsteps of prominent travel writers such as Pico Iyer and Rolf Potts. The book Miller would later cite as his favorite began with a young woman’s seductive description of Greece.
Miller headed out with his friend Lawrence Durrell to explore the Grecian countryside: a flock of sheep nearly tramples the two as they lie naked on a beach; the Greek poet Katsmbalis, the “colossus” of Miller’s book, stirs every rooster within earshot of the Acropolis with his own loud crowing; cold hard-boiled eggs are warmed in a village’s single stove, and they stay in hotels that “have seen better days, but which have an aroma of the past.” Get this book here.
The Magus by John Fowels (who also wrote The French Lieutenant’s Woman, later made into a movie with Meryl Streep) seems like it also belongs on this list 🙂
From Wikipedia: The Magus (1965) is a postmodern novel by British author John Fowles, telling the story of Nicholas Urfe, a young British graduate who is teaching English on a small Greek island. Urfe becomes embroiled in the psychological illusions of a master trickster, which become increasingly dark and serious. Considered a metafiction, it was the first novel written by Fowles, but the third he published. In 1977 he published a revised edition. In 1999 The Magus was ranked on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 93 on the editors’ list, and 71 on the readers’ list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 67 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.
Interesting list. Thank you. I am between Corfu trilogy and Roumeli . Maybe both.
There are so many books about Greece that get no press–here’s a short list:
The Long Shadow by Loretta Proctor
The Thread by Victoria Hislop
Stealing Athena by Karen Essex
the Green Shore by Natalie Bakopoulos
The Consolation Prize by Irene Livadopoulos
and my absolute favorite Astradeni by Eugenia Fakinou
and so many More