Friday, August 24, 2012

Mythology Books.

Part of the reason I haven't been making much progress on my project lists is that I have been absorbed in reading for the mythology course I am teaching this fall. I have two sections of the class (it will be all juniors and seniors), and I'm really excited about it! While I consider myself decently versed in Greek myths, I'm not as comfortable with myths from other regions and cultures. Since finding out I had the class, I've been trying to dabble a bit in everything. I do have a course outline, courtesy of another teacher, so I should be okay if I stumble onto something I am unsure of!

In any case, I've been purchasing books left and right that I think might help me gain a little more knowledge. I'd like to share them all with you to see if you have any further suggestions and, well, to maybe get you to add one or two to your TBR pile. :) Hey, what are friends for, right?

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

This is actually the only "textbook" we have for the class, but it is a pretty standard overview of mythology, particularly the Greeks. I think Hamilton's book is pretty well-known and revered, so I'm excited to use it with the kids. There is a lot of great stuff in here, and most of it is pretty approachable, so it should be a great fit with the class (which should be a big mix of students and skill levels).

I have some easier activities planned for the first two weeks of school which revolve around the book and easing the kids back into a "school" frame of mind, so this will be a great place for us to start!

American Indian Myths and Legends edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz

I really wanted to supplement the materials I was given, so I thought that pulling in some stories from the Americas would be a great way to do so. This book kept popping up in my searches online, so I caved and ordered it. It is pretty extensive and covers multiple tribes. Some of the stories are pretty similar to one another, but I found some great stories that I'm going to pull in to my units (a great flood story and one about the trickster Coyote).

I will say that a couple of the stories shocked me in regards to their sexuality and content. Needless to say, those stories won't be read in class, and this is a book I won't lend out to students.

World Mythology edited by Donna Rosenberg

When I asked on twitter a few weeks ago for book recommendations, Sarah suggested this as a title to check out. I found a copy and ordered it, thinking this would be a great way to get myths from a variety of places.

Needless to say, I really like this volume. The myths are diverse in origin and I think they are written in a way that my high schoolers will enjoy them. There have been a few I haven't been a fan of, but I have marked quite a few to share with my students. There is great background information here!

The Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland

This was another title that kept popping up when I was searching for books. While there are some Norse myths that are already in the material I was given, I figured why not have more to look at! :)

I really enjoyed the introduction of this book. Of all the sources I've looked at, I think this one had the easiest terminology to understand (yep, will definitely be using it). I also really enjoy the stories. Loki is a favorite of mine, so whenever he pops up, you know it'll be a fun story. :) I will say, however, that you need a bit more background to understanding who the gods/goddesses are before you begin reading. If you had no prior knowledge of any Norse gods/goddesses, you might be a bit confused at first.

World Mythology edited by Roy Willis

I stumbled on this book yesterday when I was strolling through Barnes and Noble. I'll admit it was the green that grabbed me at first. :) After flipping through it in the store, I knew I had to get it. Unlike the other books I've mentioned, this is more of a reference book. There is some great information about myths and themes between cultures that I really liked. It also has a very broad and diverse range of myths and information. I see this more as a book I will use than something I will share with my students.

I'm also a big fan of the images in this book, as well as the biographical sketches of different people.

Mythology (Visual Reference Guide) edited by Philip Wilkinson and Neil Philip

This last title is another that jumped out at me in the bookstore yesterday. What I really liked about this one is the condensed version of the information and the fabulous layout of the pages (summaries and images intermingled). This will be an invaluable reference book for me since it is easy to find information about all of the myths, as well as bright images to share with my classes. I can see myself turning to this one when a kid asks me a random question I don't know the answer to! :) I also think the summarized stories will be a great resource for those kids who need the story to be reinforced a bit more!

There you have it! The mythology books I am using to guide my way in this class. As always, I would love to hear recommendations for more sources and stories that I could use. Right now the class is set up rather thematically-creation, heroes, the underworld, floods, etc-but I am open to suggestions. I am also thinking of having the students look at modern mythology in connection with super and comic book heroes. Any help anyone could give would be much appreciated!


  1. If you are looking for something a bit different, try the graphic novel Trickster. It's a collection of Native American tales.

    What a great course to teach!

  2. I am so jealous that your high schoolers get to learn about all this awesome stuff. We never got to do anything that diverse at secondary schook here in the UK.

  3. I adore Norse mythology (much more than Greek) and the Holland book was my introduction to it. I look forward to your posts on this subject! Sounds like you're going to have a very fun teaching year. :)

  4. Sounds like a great course! I was first introduced to mythology in my high school Latin class; each Friday we would read a few myths, and it was always my favorite part of the day. I would have loved to take a class dedicated to mythology!

    Edith Hamilton's books is very good; I got it when I was 14, so I can definitely vouch for its accessibility for high school students. In addition to Greek myths, it also has a tiny bit of Norse mythology at the end.

    Joseph Campbell is also a great mythologist to check out. I recently read his "The Power of Myth" and absolutely loved it. He uses myths from all over the world to discuss common themes in mythology and what they say about humanity. Here's the link if you'd like to read my review:
    Campbell also has some other well-known books that I haven't read, such as The Hero With a Thousand Faces, which is about the hero's journey and the mythic pattern of world creation and destruction.

  5. My husband studied mythology as part of his theology degree and the big green book was like his bible at times! I liked Karen Armstrong's introduction to myth but it is very short.

  6. I so well remember the Hamilton edition of Mythology, and my class has long loved some version called D'Auliers' Greek Myths. It seemed that reading Riordan's Lightning Thief series helped their understanding of mythology, or at least it spurred more reading of it.

    I notice you're reading Shusako Endo in your sidebar. I've not read the book you've listed, but I dearly loved Wonderful Fool and Silence. Looking forward to hearing how you like this author!

  7. All study of Greek mythology should begin with Edith Hamilton. Have you read any Joseph Campbell? He more interested in the social-science-y aspects of myth and their place within the social fabric but he could be a great addendum to any course on mythology.

  8. There was a special exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago a number of years back with the text based on Joseph Campbell's "The Power of Myth." The modern interpretation of that was through "Star Wars." (Yes, the actual exhibit was the original Star Wars costumes.) The basic structure of myths is there: the young hero (often an orphan) sets out on a journey guided by a wise man. He has to engage in a series of battles and must take some time in a "retreat" to submit himself to the guru to learn the ways of the ways of the "force." (you get my drift) So as you are comparing flood stories and creation stories, you might also want to come up with the basic framework for myths and then see how the classical heroes and the modern heroes are similar. (I think you can compare Luke Skywalker to Telemachas and go from there.)

  9. Allie this sounds like such a fantastic class. I hope that you will be posting through out the year the process.

  10. I'm so envious of your high schoolers, this course sounds like it's going to be great fun! It's probably got something to do with differences in the Dutch educational system, so I completely missed out on this in school. Greek/Roman mythology was part of Latin and Greek class, but other than that, it was up to the students to dive into the classics.

    I may have added a few of these books (want!!) to my expanding tbr list. Thanks a lot for that :p

  11. You get to teach the best stuff. I've been inspired by your reading choice and picked up Indian Folk Tales and Legends. I know nothing about Eastern legends. I'm super excited.

  12. I've read some Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs by John Lindow before and really enjoyed what I've learned. Lucky students, I used to love studying Greek and Scandinavian myths back in the day. I need to go back to it really soon.

  13. I am so glad you like the World Mythology book! It was a textbook from college, and I still love it. I am also a big fan of Norse Mythology, but it has been awhile. Native American myths always intrigue me (especially that anthropology major in me) and I grew up surrounded by the Iroquois Nation who have an amazing world creation myth. I wish I could take your class!