Reference Books Part 2

Good evening everyone!  Today I have another set of reference books for you.  There are plenty of these to come, and the range of how they could help varies greatly, but I want to build a little bit on Part 1’s theme.  So, this week I have three more books on mythology.  Within these books are hundreds upon hundreds of pages on mythological figures, heroes, items, tales, and places.  From ancient Greece to the Celts to India to China, these books have it all.  Generally speaking some mythologies feature more heavily and/or are better detailed.  However, I chose these three from my shelf for the breadth of information they contain.  Keep in mind that the material of a myth is not always agreed upon and different people focus on different aspects.  Viewing a variety of mythology encyclopedias will have much overlap, but you will also find unique or better explained information within each one.  Hopefully you will see such a book that you would like to pick up!

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of World Mythology (Arthur Cotterell & Rachel Storm)

First up is a book I really enjoy for the way it is laid out.  This book presents itself as an A-Z guide and it does that very well, presenting content in an alphabetical fashion.  However, it is not all jumbled together.  Instead the book is broken into different chapters, each of which contain the mythologies of a certain region or people.  For example chapter one is about the myths of ancient Greece and Rome while chapter six contains myths from East Asia.  Within each chapter is more than just section after section of gods and other myths.  There are also special two-page sections covering a topic that is relatively important to that chapter, but also mythologies as a whole.  These stand out from the rest of the book by use of colored boarders and they talk about topics such as heroes and underworlds.  All in all this book presents you with a lot of information about a variety of mythos, all presented very well.  Included are numerous works of art important to those mythologies and maps of regions they talk about.  If you want a good, basic mythology book this is at the top of my list.

Myths & Legends (Philip Wilkinson)

Next we have a book that has been on my shelf for a while now.  One of the reasons I picked this up was for it’s layout.  This book is very similar to the other book, but takes a more categorical approach.  Each chapter is about a region of the world so, unlike the last book, Europe is all within one chapter.  Sub-chapters exist breaking the book into mythologies in a way the previous book was broken into their chapters.  What makes this book stand apart from that one is the greater number of mythologies that it contains  Included are Africa, Oceana, and the Americas which are not really included in The Illustrated Encyclopedia.  The only downside to this book is that it is presented a bit haphazardly.  There is a great deal of information here and certain topics get their own sections (like Loki) but the result is a somewhat haphazard display of mythology.  Nevertheless some of the more important or at least prominant features of a mythos are included.  Loki qualifies for such in the Norse myths, but other examples include the Rainbow Snake, Gilgamesh, and the Book of the Dead.  This book also has a huge number of images and illustrations and probably ties the last one near the top of my “must buy” list.

Myths & Legends (John Pemberton)

Ok, I know what you are thinking.  Why do so many of these books have the same title?  Well it’s all in the subtitles, but I agree it is a bit annoying.  Anyways, this book is another must have.  Forewarning though, it is not as detailed as some others you can get.  It is a bit shorter and arguably covers even more ground than a lot of others.  But that is why you should get it.  The book has a whole lot and, to make up for the short space, has much fewer images.  What is nice is all that variety, which is presented incredibly well.  The book is broken down into parts that contain different regions of the world.  Each of those is broken down into sections within that region, so that this book is more clear and specific.  For example Japan and China have clearly separated sections as do North America, the Caribbean, and Mesoamerican myths.  The book isn’t just great because of that though.  The topics included are varied and interesting as well.  There are pieces on everything from Tibetan myths to cannibals and Kama Sutra to sasquatch.  For its variety, you definitely should add this book to your shelf!