From Spiderman to Alexander Hamilton, the 2010s brought us plenty of story adaptations. Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles stands out among all of them. Miller’s award-winning retelling of the Iliad preserves ancient themes: the longing for immortal fame and the irony of a hero’s fall to hubris. At the same time, Miller deepens the story by expanding on the romance between Patroclus and Achilles, which is only hinted at in the Iliad.
If you’re one of the thousands of readers who fell in love with The Song of Achilles, you might be hunting another book just like it. Our list of 14 books like The Song of Achilles will shorten your search! We’ve chosen books that will transport you to the ancient world, books with passionate LGBTQIA+ romances, and books with elements of magic and fantasy. So don’t get lost at sea when you go looking for books like The Song of Achilles. We’re here to guide you!
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14 Books Like The Song of Achilles
Miller has also written a retelling of Circe, in which she dares to draw the wrath of men and gods and is subsequently banished. Read both for book club and use our discussion guide for The Song of Achilles or our book club guide for Circe.
Or, keep reading for a surprising diverse list of reads, each of which captures some interesting element of The Song of Achilles.
The Penelopiad, Margaret Atwood
If you’d like to see some of the beguiling Greek women who hid in the shadows of The Song of Achilles step forward, The Penelopiad is ready to do them justice.
When Penelope’s husband, Odysseus, leaves the small, rocky island of Ithaca to join the Trojan War, she knows it will be years before she sees him again. She doesn’t expect decades. While the gods toy with Odysseus on the high seas, Penelope must use all her cunning to protect herself and her son from the ravenous suitors who have conveniently decided Odysseus is dead.
Author of the famous Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood turns her penchant for strong female characters to the ancient past in The Penelopiad. Rich historical detail and universal emotions combine to make this an unforgettable read.
The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
If you’re a mythology buff who got a thrill each time a new god or goddess popped up in The Song of Achilles, you’ll be equally thrilled as you try to recognize the Zodiac signs who appear as main characters in The Luminaries.
When Walter Moody arrives in a small gold rush town in New Zealand, he strikes gold where he least expects it: in a local murder mystery case involving a dead hermit with a fortune stashed under his floorboards and a suicidal young women with gold sewn into the hem of her skirt. The plot thicken as more and more characters band together to solve the mystery, each bringing more questions than answers.
An experimental novel with a unique setting, The Luminaries is a pure delight for mystery lovers and fans of astrology. Each of the main characters represents a different astrological sign, so you’ll find yourself asking not just who’s a Scorpio and who’s a Leo–but who’s a murderer?
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
If you love historical fiction and classic literature, prepare to be transported by Hamnet, an origin story for Shakespeare’s iconic play, Hamlet.
In sixteenth century England, Agnes is a force to be reckoned with. Flying kestrels, concocting potions, and even reading minds, twenty-six year old Agnes doesn’t expect to find a husband any time soon. When a teenage Latin tutor appears in her village, Agnes is surprised to have met her match. Soon, Agnes and William have three children together, and William has launched his career as a playwright. But when tragedy strikes and William and Agnes lose their beloved, daydreamy son, Hamnet, the couple might lose their will to continue blazing a trail against convention as well.
If you enjoyed reading The Song of Achilles, you will love the way Hamnet harnesses the power of one of humanity’s oldest and most influential stories to drive its own narrative forward. Hamnet and The Song of Achilles also share the distinction of winning the prestigious Women’s Prize for Fiction in the UK.
The Once and Future King, T.H. White
If you enjoyed the time Achilles and Patroclus spent under their magical tutor, Chiron, you’ll love the relationship between Merlin and Arthur in The Once and Future King.
When Arthur (“Wart”) pulls a sword out of a stone at the local fair, his only intention is to help his brother Kay out with a jousting competition. Instead, he has revealed himself as the heir to the throne of Camelot. Along with his new destiny, Wart gets a tutor, Merlin, an eccentric warlock who thinks the best way to teach Arthur to be a just king is to turn him into animals and make him learn the morals of falcons, ants, fish, and geese. All these morals are put to the test when Arthur inherits a fractured kingdom and tries to rally a group of well-meaning knights with deep-rooted vices to his cause.
Full of magic, history, and comedy, The Once and Future King takes a long look at human nature and asks readers to forgive as many mistakes as possible, while trying to do better in the future.
The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam, The Miniaturist is another work of historical fiction that offers you a glimpse into a lost world, glimmering with magic.
Newlywed Nella has begun to doubt she will ever win her husband’s affection, but she changes her mind when he gives her a lavish gift: a dollhouse decorated just like her own new home.
Excited, Nella orders dolls and furniture to fill the house, but the items she receives in the mail from the Miniaturist begin to expose secrets no one outside the house should know. As Nella works at unraveling the mystery of the Miniaturist, the secrets in her own house become increasingly dangerous. Soon, blood begins to spill.
If you enjoyed the magic and prophecies in The Song of Achilles, you’ll appreciate the spooky, clairvoyant dollhouse in The Miniaturist as well. And if you like her writing style, you can also check out Burton’s retelling of the Medusa story.
The Story of a Brief Marriage, Anuk Arudpragasam
The bulk of the Iliad takes place in the Greek soldiers’ camp, wedged between the Trojan battlefield and the sea. The Story of a Brief Marriage explores a similar world, a Sri Lankan refugee camp sprawling along a thin strip of beach.
Dinesh has been fleeing from war for years, and now he’s run as far as he can. He and the rest of the Tamil people hunker on a beach at the edge of Sri Lanka, waiting for the civil war to reach them. Judging by the sound of bombs being dropped nearby, they don’t have long to wait. Dinesh spends his days hiding from the sun under an overturned boat, cleaning his fingernails, and trying to remember the man he once was, until an old man approaches him with an unlikely offer: his daughter’s hand in marriage. As a married couple, Dinesh and Gana are less likely to be conscripted into the army, but when the bride and groom meet, they wonder if they are too emotionally numbed by war even to pretend they’re in love.
A grim, minutely detailed novel, The Story of a Brief Marriage is a reminder that war camps don’t just exist in historical fiction. This novel explores the horrors of war, the strange nature of time when a person is waiting for disaster, and the humanity that endures inside every soldier or refugee.
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
If you fell in love with Achilles’ grace, you will be drawn in by the exquisitely trained entertainers who swirl through Memoirs of a Geisha.
Sakamoto Chiyo is born with a gift. Her mother tells her water runs through her spirit, giving her surprising grace and resilience and startling blue eyes. Chiyo will need all of these gifts to survive the road ahead of her. Sold into a geisha boarding house at nine years old, Chiyo must overcome competitive older geishas, jealous clients and the chaos of war if she is ever to be united with her true love.
Like The Song of Achilles, Memoirs of a Geisha is an evocative coming-of-age story which follows a girl at the mercy of her superiors as she grows into a daring young woman, willing to risk everything to get what she wants out of life.
The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault
If you’re looking for another LGBTQIA+ story set in the friendly world of ancient Greece, The Last of the Wine is meant for you.
Alexias is a golden boy in the Golden Age of Athens. Already rich, beautiful, and athletic, Alexias begins to deepen his spiritual wisdom when he becomes a student under Socrates– alongside the clever young Lysis. When Athens is shaken by the Peloponnesian War, Alexias and Lysis fight to protect the city they love and discover that their love for each other runs even deeper.
Madeline Miller might be the biggest name in adaptations of Greek mythology today, but before the world had Miller, we had Mary Renault. The Last of the Wine displays Renault’s groundbreaking exploration of LGBTQIA+ themes in historical fiction and her ability to bring ancient worlds to life through attention to detail. You can clearly see her legacy in books similar to The Song of Achilles!
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
If you’re a sucker for heartbreaking LGBTQIA+ stories like The Song of Achilles, save some tissues for Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.
Growing up wasn’t easy for Little Dog. When his mother wasn’t worrying about buying groceries with her small salary as a salon worker, she was haunted by flashbacks from the Vietnam War. Chronic stress and grief made her cruel to Little Dog, and his neighbors in small town Connecticut weren’t much kinder, except one farmhand who made Little Dog feel desirable for the first time in his life. Still, when a grown up Little Dog sits down to write a letter to his mother, he finds the beauty hidden in the pain of his childhood.
Having spent his early career as a poet, Ocean Vuong writes with a stark beauty that will impress anyone who is sensitive to style. Like The Song of Achilles, the novel deals with personalities hardened by war and presents love as the only way to heal from war wounds.
Call Me By Your Name (Book #1), Andre Aciman
Another passionate gay romance, Call Me By Your Name maintains the old-world sensibility threaded through The Song of Achilles with its love story unfolding in a quiet Italian villa.
Every summer, Elio and his family return to the same village in the Italian countryside: a drowsy place where Elio bikes, swims, eats fresh fruit, and practices piano. The summer Oliver arrives is different. Only seventeen years old, Elio knows that Oliver, a graduate student assisting his father with research, should be out of reach, but he can’t help noticing that when he stares at Oliver, Oliver stares back.
A tremulous story of a fling that can’t outlast the summer, Call Me By Your Name studies the power of first love to pull us out of stagnation and transform our identities. If you want to see Patroclus and Achilles in a modern setting, this is about as close as you can get!
Beijing Comrades, Bei Tong
Set against the tumult of the communist revolution in China, Beijing Comrades tells the story of two men whose love is tested by the politics of war.
As the son of a wealthy communist party leader, Handong knows just how brutal politics can get behind the scenes of an idealistic movement, and he’s prepared to be just as ruthless as the next person trying to hold on to power. Lan Yu, a young architecture student far away from the political knot at the center of the communist party, chooses to see hope and progress. When Handong and Lan Yu meet, they are overwhelmingly attracted to each other despite their opposing worldviews. But as Lan Yu becomes more savvy to Han Dong’s secrets, their relationship teeters on the brink of betrayal.
Like The Song of Achilles, Beijing Comrade takes a close look at the power dynamics between two men who love each other. Ultimately, the quiet and gentle man may be the downfall of his more powerful partner.
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
If you found yourself clinging to the old world aesthetics in The Song of Achilles, you’ll have no trouble empathizing with the main characters of The Secret History.
When Richard Papen receives a scholarship to attend Hampden University, he jumps at the chance to leave his dried up California home behind. Richard is enamored by the castle-like campus and subtly aristocratic student body at Hampden. Determined to be accepted by the best of the best, Richard worms his way into the exclusive Greek mythology club. But fitting in with the club means Richard will have to help them guard their secrets, and those secrets are as dark as the darkest Greek myths.
A highly atmospheric novel, The Secret History explores the dangers of elitism. If you found yourself maddened by Achilles’ hubris during the Trojan War, The Secret History is sure to touch a nerve as well.
Trail of Lightening (Sixth World #1), Rebecca Roanhorse
If you’d like more gods and monsters, not not necessarily Greek gods and monsters, then check out the Sixth World series from Rebecca Roanhorse. The series is set in a post apocalyptic near future within the Navajo Nation. The main character Maggie is a Dinétah monster hunter. When she is enlisted to find out what happened to a missing girl, she finds much more than she bargained for.
The series features Navajo shamanic traditions, ancient legends and the trickster Coyote. It’s a great pick if you are trying to diversify your author list…and also if you want a main character who kicks butt and takes names.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, Christopher Moore
If you enjoyed seeing an ancient hero humanized through the eyes of his best friend in The Song of Achilles, you’ll enjoy Lamb’s treatment of the life of Jesus Christ.
When Levi (nicknamed Biff) is resurrected from the sands of Israel by the angel Raziel, he expects to be given an important mission. Instead, he is locked in a hotel room and told to write a story: the story of his childhood best friend, Joshua (or Jesus in the Greek translation). As Biff fills in the early, raucous years of Joshua’s life, he keeps one eye on the hotel window, wondering how the world outside has changed and how his story is supposed to change it.
While The Song of Achilles paints a sentimental sheen over the ancient world, Lamb is irreverent and uproariously funny. The novel places a young hero in bizarre situation after bizarre situation, brought on by his unpredictable powers and unusual moral code. Ultimately, the novel affirms Joshua’s command to love even the most unlovable characters you encounter in the wide, whacky world.
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If you like reading classics, then try our list of easy to read classics to add to your TBR. If you want more readalikes with historical elements they look at our books like All the Light We Cannot See or readalikes for The Rose Code.
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