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Looking for an unconventional narrative to read? Try epic books that will keep you hooked to the plot till the end.
Epics are one of the most cherished genres in literature. They mostly deal with myths, legends, heroic deeds, history, philosophies, tales, and other theories. Besides this, they are also used to pass down traditions and values to the next generation.
Check out our top picks from this segment in our list.
Best Epic Books to Read
1. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
This book by Gregory David Roberts is said to be inspired by the author’s real-life incidents. The book begins with Robert – an armed robber and heroin addict, escaping from the Australian prison two years after being sentenced to imprisonment. He comes to Bombay under an alias and befriends a local man Prabhakar who takes him to his village. There, Prabhakar’s mother gives Roberts a Maharashtrian name Shantaram. On the day of their return, both the men get robbed, and Shantaram is forced to live in slums. The book provides details about the eight years he spends in Bombay’s underworld after that.
The book narrates the character’s ordeal to adjust to a new place, witness epidemic outbreaks, marital conflicts, and the realm of the underworld.
2. The Odyssey by Homer
The Odyssey is one of the two Greek poems written by Homer. It talks about the Greek hero Odysseus who ruled over Ithaca. After the Trojan War ends, Odysseus heads back to his home to his wife and son. The journey takes him nearly 10 years to return. He witnesses numerous hurdles and dangers during this time, including his encounter with monsters, cannibals, etc. A shipwreck caused by Zeus further causes trouble. All his men die, and Odysseus has washed ashore on the island of Ogygia, where he meets Calypso. She persuades him to remain there with her as her lover for seven years, post which he is let free.
This book has numerous references to Greek intertexts that add to the rich narrative.
3. Paradise Lost & Paradise Regained by John Milton
Written in the form of verses, Paradise Lost & Paradise Regained by John Milton describes in detail the Fall of Man. The book contains 12 small volumes that are devoted to a different Biblical episode. The verse introduces readers to two separate stories – one about Lucifer and the fallen angels, and the other about Adam and Eve. Satan, along with his allies, is banished and commanded to live in Tartarus for the rest of their lives. As an act of revenge, he plans to corrupt God’s new creation – Humankind. He tempts Eve to eat the forbidden apple, which kick starts the fall of humanity. When Adam learns about Eve’s sin, he replicates it, and both face God’s wrath. The poet also speaks of the reversal of this loss in the brief epic – Paradise Regained.
This narrative details the passions, temptations, disobedience, and redemption of humankind.
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
An engaging piece of work, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, emphasises the collapse and rise of a town within a century. The book follows the story of the Buendia family. For years, the Buendia’s have lived in solitude and complete peace, with occasional visits from a band of gypsies. However, the family is caught between the misfortunes imposed by the Latin American societies. The new technology and foreign settlers bring prosperity that turns into a massacre by the Columbians.
This book has been a pioneer in the emergence of magical realism where dreamlike elements, time, fate, ghosts, and humour are used to enhance the narrative.
5. The Iliad by Homer
This book precedes the events of the Odyssey and narrates the few last weeks of the Trojan War. The narrative begins with capturing of two beautiful maidens – Chryseis and Briseis, and the destruction caused after that. Events lead to Achilles’ withdrawal from the battle and the Greek Gods taking sides to fight with each other. On hearing the news of his beloved friend Patroclus’ death, Achilles jumps back into play. He plans to kill Hector to avenge his friend’s death and succeeds in his mission. A furious Achilles lashes Hector’s body to the back of his chariot and drags it to the battlefield. But in the end, he hands over the corpse to Hector’s mourning father.
The Iliad focuses on the theme of love and friendship, which leads to the war and brutal massacre of soldiers thereafter.
6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Written by Leo Tolstoy, this book journals the events of the Russian invasion by the French and the impact of this revolution on the Russian aristocrats. The narrative builds on five aristocratic families. It has three main characters – an illegitimate son of a count fighting for his inheritance, a prince who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon, and a beautiful young maiden who both the men love. It brings together characters from diverse backgrounds and showcases them in a heroic light as they struggle to break free from the chaos.
The book emphasises the need for family happiness and how it is the ultimate reward for spiritual suffering.
7. The Epic of Gilgamesh
A notable piece of Babylonian Literature The Epic of Gilgamesh is a translated version of the original epic. The contents of this translation are sourced from 12 Mesopotamian tablets. It follows the life of Gilgamesh – King of Uruk, and Enkidu – who was sent to stop him from oppressing the inhabitants of his kingdom. The king is in search of eternal life and takes a long and dangerous journey to discover its real truth.
This book emphasises the theme of mortality and that every man, whether rich or poor, must accept life and death as they are.