Gosh, this is just such a beautiful book. The cover is both gorgeous to look at and lovely to touch, and the interior illustrations exceptionally good-looking. Kudos to Sara Richard for her terrific illustrative work here, depicting the old stories in flowing lines that blend the best of Arts Deco and Nouveau for a fresh, modern feel that’s still visibly rooted in the classic.
Text-wise, Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, And Heroes Handbook entirely lives up to its cover, featuring accessible, informative biographies of the major deities, heroes and monsters who populate the ancient Greek mythology that lives on still in the popular imagination. Liv Albert’s chatty tone points out the problematic nature of a lot of these handed-down stories, which serves to underscore a theory I read about — and bear with me here for a second — how the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers are a modern-day equivalent of the squabbling, dramatic but ultimately heroic pantheon and their supporting characters and villains. The most popular stories a society tells are the ones that reflect their own values, and how that changes through the ages is a fascinating, and I’d say vital, field of study. As such, the upcoming and more explicitly Greek-mythos-based The Eternals will be such a boon to enthusiasts like myself and Ms Albert, who also runs the popular podcast Let’s Talk About Myths, Baby, which brings these ancient stories to the masses and breaks them down into ways we can better understand and evaluate them in modern contexts.
While GM:tGGaHH is squarely aimed at people just now wanting to get to know the deal with Greek mythology, it also provides a wealth of interesting material for those more familiar with the subject. I hadn’t realized till this book, for example, that Dionysus was the only one of the main Pantheon with a mortal parent! While the scope of this book can only hint at why, it makes for an excellent jumping-off point for people who want to learn more.
Overall, this is an impressive package lovingly put together by people who clearly know their stuff. It serves as a primer that makes it a point to not forgive the rampaging misogyny of ancient times, thereby impressing upon readers that that stuff has happened but is not okay, which honestly is a reassuring thing for readers who might be alienated by said misogyny from delving into the riches of mythos. It also underscores the fact that you can love the classics without buying into their baser aspects, as Ms Albert does here by not sugarcoating any of the bad stuff. Bonus: she also points out the sex-positive and queer aspects of the myths that have often been obscured in the last few centuries. It’s so fascinating to see her do the work of viewing these stories explicitly through the eyes of modern progressive society. The only flaw of this book is that it made me hungry for so much more.
Greek Mythology: The Gods, Goddesses, And Heroes Handbook by Liv Albert with illustrations by Sara Richard will be published tomorrow March 30th 2021 by Adams Media and is available from all good booksellers, including
Want it now? For the Kindle version, click here.