Another post for #Norsevember! This time, I’m chatting about the best non-fiction books that I’ve read on the Viking era.
I’ve read quite a few in my time, so hopefully you will find one here to your tastes. Also, if you’ve read any Viking non-fiction books that I’ve missed, please add them in the comments below.
HORRIBLE HISTORIES BY TERRY DEARY
Horrible Histories are a great history set for children – and Vicious Vikings is no exception.
Great for introducing children to the culture, time setting, and customs, be prepared to find out the most gruesome of facts. There are lots of fun quizzes and stories too – an excellent book for encouraging engagement with history.
DK VIKINGS BY PHILIP STEELE
The DK Vikings history book is a little tamer than the Horrible Histories series. Less poo facts, more focus on the culture. Also lots of pictures and diagrams. More suited to the serious child scholar!
This is the perfect book for a child who is doing history topic work at school or already enjoys reading about history.
THE VIKING WARRIOR BY BEN HUBBARD
This is a lovely book. Very nice for the coffee table.
This is quite a hefty book, with a focus on the warrior and weaponry of the age. There are lots of pictures and photos which are wonderful and really help build up a picture of what life was like in this era.
My favourite chapter in this book was on ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ Here we find out what weapons warriors would have used (there would have been differences depending on wealth and status), and what the weapons were made of. Find out about Hardbeen’s berserkergang, how the Vikings felt about their gods and war, and how the longship was used to conduct raids.
Also there are maps!
If you are interesting in the era, this might be the best place to start. I found the book quite immersive and it gives a great oversight into many areas of Viking life, without going into too much detail. The pictures, drawings, and photos are the most extensive I have seen in any book on this era. It also retells some of the sagas of the era, and these are always entertaining reads.
RIVER KINGS BY CAT JARMAN
River Kings is a great book and an easy read. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the Vikings as explorers. How far did they travel? What did they do?
Most movies and TV documentaries focus on the English and French invasions, but as this book shows, they also traveled to Ireland, Baghdad, Byzantium, and Russia.
One of the most interesting chapters in the book was on the slave trade and the effect it had on women. Cat Jarman looks extensively at the reasons for the huge rise in the slave trade, why women were impacted the most, and who was buying them.
Also, very interestingly, DNA analysis and isotope testing makes it way into the book. It gives for a wonderful space where history and science can meet, and is used often to support the authors ideas and theories.
THE CHILDREN OF ASH AND ELM BY NEIL PRICE
What a wonderful book.
Not only do we discover much about the Vikings, but we learn about how the culture was formed. This is much more focused book and gives much insight on who the Vikings were as a people. Though it does discuss their raiding and trade routes, Neil Price delves into the Viking perspective first.
My favourite chapters were 3 (Age of Winds, Age of Wolves) and 7 (Meeting the Others), which focused very much on the culture of the Scandinavians before the ‘Viking age’ and how religion was observed. Both these chapters have gone so in depth, and for those who are real history fans, it has a lot to offer.
The passages on jewellery alone show this. Not only do we learn about what adornments men and women wore, but we also discover the regional differences in taste. Neil Price has endeavoured to look at the culture from various regions, rather than as a collective, and is certainly the most nuanced book I’ve read in that regard.
Neil Price holds the Chair of Archaeology at Uppsala University – and the depth of his knowledge and research shines through.
This is a dense read, and probably most enjoyable for those who already have some understanding of the era and belief systems. If however, you are a fan of this period, I have no doubt you will really enjoy this book!
ALFRED’S BRITAIN BY MAX ADAMS
Adding this book as a must read for fans of The Last Kingdom series. If you want to go behind the story of Uhtred, this book is for you. Obviously, this is a very British lens to look through as it focuses on King Alfred and how he dealt with the Viking invasion.
Very enjoyable and fun for those who have picked up some facts from Bernard Cornwell and want to delve further into this period of history – and discover what was fact and what was fiction.
Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your comments and am happy to answer any questions on the books covered.
Shauna Lawless is an author and her upcoming series is a historical fantasy set in 10th century, Ireland. The first book, The Children of Gods and Fighting Men is now available to pre-order.
She lives with her husband, three children, and a cheeky sproodle called Chewy.