Greek gods photo by Ken Baker
As of July 2023, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & The Olympians was ranked 17 as the bestselling book series of all‐time with 180 million copies sold.1 In a keynote address given to the International Reading Association, Riordan discussed that “Mythology has something for every reader“ and “Greek gods appeal to elementary school kids, but it's really in middle school that the stories of the Greek heroes achieve full resonance.“ He also talked about how he was a reluctant reader until age 12 when a teacher introduced him to Lord of the Rings, which was inspired by Norse mythology.2
It's not just books primarily based on mythology that have the potential to convert non‐readers or reluctant readers into book lovers. Books inspired by or that simply have ties to mythology can have that same power. As an example, the number one bestselling book series of all‐time with 600 million copies sold,3 is said to have 35+ connections to Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Native American, and other mythologies.4 That series is of course, Harry Potter. While books inspired by mythology might not be for everyone, they could be the key to getting your reluctant reader to fall in love with books.
Mark of Thief trailer art by Cameron Gardner
You might know Jennifer A. Nielsen for her New York Times bestselling book, The False Prince, but she has more than a dozen other books to her name. As one of my favorite authors, her books do a great job of pulling you into the worlds she creates.
Nielsen's ability to make her settings come alive I believe is rooted in her response to a question I asked her about one of her series steeped in Roman mythology. Nielsen said,
My series, MARK OF THE THIEF, is a story set in Ancient Rome, with magic. In writing this series, I learned how important it is to visit the place of the story. Though it's not always possible, if you can swing it, it makes a difference. No online picture can replace actually standing on the floor of the Colosseum or walking through the ancient markets.
Check out the MARK OF THE THIEF book trailer.
Mythology has played a significant role in many of my yet-to-be-published fantasy books. I believe stories with ties to any culture's mythology have a strong ability to pull in all types of readers, even reluctant readers. Why is that? The answer is resonance.
The late bestselling author, Dave Farland, talked about how in music resonance is used to describe how a melody draws power from what came before, and how in literature it can do the same thing. To me, that's what mythology can do in books, whether it's a light or strong touch of mythology. We're drawn to the familiar, especially to those things that can spark our imagination.
Heart with Taormina image by Ken Baker
Recently my wife, a few friends, and I visited Italy. I lived in Sicily and southern Italy forty years ago. Since then, I've always longed to return. Our visit was all that I hoped for.
Italy is a country of breathtaking beauty. Its people exude kindness and unsurpassed passion. Its language sings like an engaging melody. But what I love most are the emotions that its rich culture stirs within me. And of course, ancient roman mythology has embedded itself deep within that culture.
If you enjoyed this newsletter or my others, please share them with any book lovers you know, including librarians, teachers, writers, and book‐loving readers.
Also, special thanks to Jennifer A. Nielsen's willingness to contribute to this month's newsletter.
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Copyright 2001-2023 by Ken Baker
How to Care for your T-Rex pictures by Dave Coverly
Old MacDonald had a Dragon pictures by Christopher Santoro
Brave Little Monster pictures by Geoffrey Hayes
Cow Can't Sleep pictures by Steve Gray