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Best Books on the Legend of King Arthur

King Arthur

King Arthur

My favourite books on Arthur, King of Britain

I've always been fascinated by Arthur, who was the man who inspired such a long-lasting legend?

You've heard of the chivalrous knights, of many-towered Camelot, of shining gallantry and of bloody battles beneath the pageantry and pomp. You also know the tales of thwarted love, of deception, and of betrayal. The startling wizard, the faithful friend and the search for the Holy Grail. But was there ever a real Arthur? I believe there was.

I met Arthur when I was 9, and I still avidly read about the legend. These are my favourite books, simply the best books on Arthur, King of Britain

Personal Favourites

The search for Arthur seized my dreams when The Boy's King Arthur Sir Thomas Malory's History of King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table Edited for Boys By Sidney Lanier fell into my hands. I was 9 years old and ensorcelled!

The mysteries of that far away mist-shrouded land held me captivated and and motivated my studies for almost 40 years.

Since then I must have read every new novel, (many good, many more bad, but most of them predictably indifferent) and I'm left with my personal favourites.

Sword at Sunset - Rosemary Sutcliff

The late Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical novels, wonderful stirring novels not fantasy, and she gave us a painstaking and imaginative reconstruction of the desolate time when the Legions marched away from Britain forever.

The Mists of Avalon

You must have read this classic from the pen of Marian Zimmer Bradley by now.

If you haven't, this interpretation of Arthur told from the perspective of powerful women characters can be summed up in one word - masterpiece. I'll say that twice - masterpiece.

The focus, and the protagonist of this book is not Arthur, but Morgaine. We have met her in earlier tales as the enemy of Arthur, but in this book she is his sister and a priestess of Avalon.

The book also paints deep portraits of the other women around Arthur -- his mother, Igraine, his wife Gwenhyfar, Morgause, queen of Lothian, and Vivienne, Lady of the Lake.

Do you have the Mists of Avalon?

Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy

The story of Merlin, the magical wise man who mentored Arthur.

The Merlin Trilogy is a classic of the Arthurian genre. Mary Stewart presents her fantastical but realistic character, Merlin, in an spellbinding portrayal. Memorable and awe inspiring. I can't recommend them highly enough.

The books are The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, and The Last Enchantment.

You'll be entranced and engrossed by this magical story of Merlin, Arthur's wizard mentor.

Merlin has been portrayed many times, but Stewart's vision is unique. A classic. I just love this interpretation, utterly believable and a great yarn as well.

The last book, (we can call it a trilogy no longer), The Wicked Day, is the story of Mordred and his rebellion against Arthur, an act which brought both of their lives to a terrible end.

I revelled in reading once more Stewart's spectacular story of Merlin. If you haven't read these then you're in for a wonderful treat!

If only I could give more than 5 stars!f only there were more writers to tell tales as grand as these!

Mary Stewart - Three books bundled together

The Once and Future King

This book is strangely hard to describe. It's amusing, a comedy with some hysterical twists and at the same time an expose of the brutality of violence, domination and dictatorship. Witty, ironic, pacifistic, perceptive and superbly crafted.

Yet another dimension to the re-telling of Arthurian legend and in one word - whimsical

The Pendragon Cycle

A breathtaking work by acclaimed author Stephen R. Lawhead.

I'm always looking for tales of the Matter of Britain and, while there are great numbers out there, I'm hard to please. Can you recommend a good one? I want a good, enthralling story, I love historical accuracy (as far as possible), but I also love fantasy and if some basis of historical fact is laid down for a fantasy flight, I am more than eager to read.

But the author must be able to write well, I've seen too many that fall down with poor structure and even poorer English. Stephen R.Lawhead is a great storyteller, he has studied and loves his subject and he can write.

In his trilogy, the Pendragon Cycle, the emphasis is not on Arthur, for the story and the great events that shaped the world are placed fairly and squarely in the hands of Merlin.

Five Books in the Pendragon Cycle

There's a fifth book in the series as well. This final is the familiar tale of Arthur transformed - and brought to its unfamiliar conclusion

Bernard Cornwell - a thrilling series

I really like Cornwell's depiction. It's hard hitting and shouts of the truth. There are a lot of battle accounts in these books, details of strategy and details of the bloody fighting. I'm not usually happy with battle scenes but Cornwell explains the overall plan and, besides, the stories themselves are so good I can overlook any gore.


Arthurian Legends and Celtic Tradition

For the serious reader, a classic work by Jean Markale, a man part Breton, part-Irish, and all Celt.

Markale's grandmother, close to the forest of Brocéliande, told the boy the ancient strange legends, and he subsequently devoted forty years to studying and teaching the history of the Celtic peoples.

Markale is the author of many books about the civilisation of the Celts, particularly on the place of women in the Celtic world.

Every student of mythology has at least one Markale on the shelf. A brilliant man, and King of the Celts is a brilliant book.

The Celtic Heritage

Classics on King Arthur

The core myths of the Celtic peoples centre on the great cycle of stories based on the life and exploits of King Arthur.

These legends link Arthur to a common poetic idea of Britain as a kind of paradise of the West, with a primeval unspoiled past. Together they add up to the greatest theme in the literature of the British Isles.

I've listed here what I call my 'reference' books on Arthur.

Discover the 'real' King Arthur

by Geoffrey Ashe

Who was Arthur? Ashe believes he has found the real historical man. A well written and compelling insight into myth and reality and a fascinating look at life in the turbulent times of the Saxon Tide.

Ashe writes with passion, and he understands a great deal about history. In this book he brings us the facts behind the legend of King Arthur and arrives at his conclusion of Arthur's identity.

A powerful read and as gripping as any good detective novel.

Do I agree with his conclusions? I'm not quite sure ..

This book isn't easy to get but there are some Sellers on Amazon who stock it. It's a fascinating work and I keep picking up my copy to look at something in it again.

What's your opinion on King Arthur?

Do you recommend another book on King Arthur? Got a favourite?

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

What do you think about this Book List?

Melissa Meadow from United States on February 29, 2020:

Wonderful article.

I've loved all things King Arthur for as long as I have memory. So happy to have found another who shares this fascination!

Mists of Avalon is a book that I could not put down. I think I read it in less than 3 days, only stopping when I had to. This book changed my life. Love it.

Think I'll read King of the Celts next. Sounds wonderful.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 26, 2019:

Hi. This is great. Thanks for sharing.

Patricia Skeete from USA on November 23, 2018:

King Arthur books are ones of my favorite. A lot of movies on this theme are great as well.

mobilporno from Singapore on May 26, 2015:

I really love King Arthur books and read The Mists of Avalon. Really mystic and readable book.

Thanks for hub.

Jess P on February 01, 2015:

Jack Whyte's Camulod Chronicles are incredible. The first book, The Skystone blew my away. I have read them all several times...

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on January 12, 2015:

Ah, The Once and Future King ... I remember reading that as a class assignment years ago and loved it. I've always loved the stories of King Arthur in both book and film.

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on February 14, 2014:

I've been fascinated by the Arthurian legends since I was a girl. I've read quite a few of the books on your list; I think The Mists of Avalon and the Mary Stewart books are my favorites. Sounds like King of the Celts will be in my future. Great job on a favorite topic. Happy Valentine's Day!

BarbaraCasey on August 31, 2013:

I've read most on your list, but will now look for King of the Celts, which I hadn't heard about. Thanks!

sierradawn lm on August 12, 2013:

Most Excellent! I inspected your page most closely, and can find nothing that you have left out of your Arthur Legends Lens. I am speaking as one who has read each of these books, some of them many many times.

mariacarbonara on August 05, 2013:

The Arthur lengends are great stories and probably a mixture of fact and fiction

kaseyrivenburgh on July 25, 2013:

Great collections.

geoffoeg on July 22, 2013:

Seeing John Boormans movie Excalibur started my love of the King Arthur legend. I really enjoy Mary Stewart. I think I will check out Bernard Cornwell's books.

CannyGranny on June 14, 2013:

You can't beat Mary Stewart!

pepys on June 09, 2013:

Some of the best times I have had were with Mary Srtewart´s books.

Sandy Dell from Lenore, Idaho on May 30, 2013:

When I was a very little girl, my grandfather use to tell me tales about King Arthur! When I became an adult and started my own reading, I discovered that my grandfather's father was from Cornwall, England where the legend of King Arthur was said to have happened. Maybe more to the stories that my grandfather told me than just stories!!

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on April 21, 2013:

Such a wonderful collection. Glad to see the Merlin books included. Blessed

oztoo lm on April 21, 2013:

As a kid my favorite books were about King Arthur, Galahad, The Man in the Iron Mask etc. Never liked girly stories much. I guess it always made me intrigued by medieval history. Thanks for this wonderful list. I can see I have quite a bit of reading to catch up on.

MaggiePowell on April 19, 2013:

Mallory's "Le Morte d'Arthur"... but I loved Mary Stewart and Marion Zimmer Bradley.

poppy mercer from London on April 19, 2013:

This is a brilliant collection of books Susanna, and some I haven't read but will now. The once and future king, the grail, the land, the wounded king; old as time, these themes re emerge every century in a new guise in our literature, physically and esoterically. The Matter Of Britain endures.

anonymous on March 29, 2013:

Legends of the Lost Lands

Loretta Livingstone from Chilterns, UK. on March 26, 2013:

I've been reading a couple of novels about him by Helen Hollick, which I enjoyed. I really rather hope he existed.

BrickExpert on March 19, 2013:

Good, comprehensive list! Thank you!

DvdMovieGirl on March 11, 2013:

Nice Lens and very useful. All these centuries later the English and Welsh are still fighting over Arthur - he was Welsh of course :-)

Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on March 05, 2013:

Wonderful Susanna!

anonymous on February 19, 2013:

I have been looking for some new books about ancient cultures. This lens hit the spot!

LouisaDembul on February 18, 2013:

The legends of King Arthur have always captivated men. Have featured this lens on my review of World Without End.

gordon-bruce-art on February 16, 2013:

very good lens. Lot's of helpful info for someone who is a history buff.

mtg724 on February 04, 2013:

The mysteries of king Arthur especially the magic surrounded within the dark ages and merlin is quite interesting. Great lens.

BarbaraCasey on January 24, 2013:

I've read most of the books on your list (Cornwell's Excalibur currently, in fact)... and made a note of the ones I've missed. Great resource.

miller83 on January 24, 2013:

Great lens. Fascinating subject. I love the mystery surrounding king Arthur.

Science-Fiction-Fan on January 21, 2013:

I believe there was a very real historical Arthur

anonymous on January 20, 2013:

I love author

Gregory Moore from Louisville, KY on January 14, 2013:

Great list. I'd love to know more about the man behind the legend (other than what Hollywood has portrayed).

askformore lm on January 13, 2013:

Thank you for a great list about the legendary King Arthur.

norma-holt on December 31, 2012:

A new blessing on this lovely lens and may you have a wonderful, successful and happy 2013. Hugs

Stephanie from Canada on December 30, 2012:

This is a great list! I may need to get some reading done...

SkipARockRecords on December 01, 2012:

I've got to say I enjoyed this lens very much. I just started a lens on king arthur myself. Gives me an idea of what to do next.

LoriBeninger on November 12, 2012:

I too have loved the Arthurian legend since an early age and wrote a thesis on it in college: how the focus of the legend changed depending upon the age in which the individual writer lived. The protagonist in my historical fiction adventure "Embracing the Elephant" is named Guinevere - not for a love of the woman, but for the love of the tales. Excellent lens (with SOME stories I haven't yet read). "The Once and Future King" remains my favorite because of its complexity and richness.

AnnaSt777 on October 11, 2012:

Really love your page!

writergrey on October 03, 2012:

I love Mary Stewart's version and reread it. Thanks for the suggestions!

anonymous on September 21, 2012:

My father loved the stories of King Arthur and other historical fiction of the British Isles. Nice trot down memory lane for me.

LuizAvila on September 19, 2012:

Excellent!

PostcardPassion on September 07, 2012:

Really impressed with this lens. Loads of reading options to consider

CoolFool83 on September 03, 2012:

I'll have to check out these books! Thanks.

anonymous on September 01, 2012:

Few months back I was following the Adventures of Merlin superb fantastic have no other words for this Series.

mueedahmad on July 24, 2012:

The awesome pictures has been added in the lens and so much valuable stuff has been posted in the lens. Thanks for creating such a great squidoo lens.

Jan 1980 on July 20, 2012:

King Arthur deserve this lense,i like all King Arthur movies,shows and etc.In tv show Merlin Arthur is younger and his acts are not so good.

anonymous on July 19, 2012:

I've written a very different Arthurian novel called STONE LORD...it takes the legend back to its roots in the bronze age, the era of Stonehenge. A much more primitive Arthur, a world where the spirits of Ancestors rule, a time of dagger and axe, burial mound and sacred henge. It's due out around October time. I have a blog stone-lord.blogspot.com.

cmadden on July 15, 2012:

I, too, loved "The Mists of Avalon."

ZainHamza LM on July 15, 2012:

Great book and a great lens on Squidoo. You have done a brilliant job. Thanks a lot.

Paul Turner from Birmingham, Al. on July 04, 2012:

Great book list. I have Lawhead's Taliesan but have not read it yet.

Agapantha on July 04, 2012:

King Arthur is the best. There are great books on Arthurian legend here

malena10 on July 02, 2012:

I love Legends of King Arthur! Really like watching movies about him.

anonymous on May 26, 2012:

Remember Lancelot's song C'est Moi! from Camelot? "Tis I, I humbly reply"? Well, I've spent my life writing what I (obviously) believe to be a truly superior Arthurian novel, one that is very faithful to the best literary precedents (Malory, Tennyson, T.H. White, etc.). The book is available TODAY 5/26 for FREE Download on Amazon. I would LOVE to know what you and your readers think about the novel. And if you like it, you'd be discovering a new author. Title: The Cynningwydd: The King of the Wood --google it and click on Amazon and you'll be on the page instantly. Thanks for even this much of your time, Althair.

HughSmulders LM on May 17, 2012:

Brilliant lens! Arthur is the hero of my childhood. It doesn't matter, was he real or not. Anyway, the story is legendary))

Mark Falco from Reno, Nevada on May 09, 2012:

The Mists of Avalon was a great book to be sure. I haven't read any of the others on here yet but I've heard great things about Stephen Lawhead's trilogy which is currently waiting patiently on my bookshelf.

Kathryn Wallace from Greenbank, WA, USA on May 01, 2012:

Susan you have outdone yourself here, you've gotten me all stirred up. My favorite is Mists of Avalon, but there are sooo many good ones here. Some I haven't read yet, TY for the recommendations.

Karen1960 on April 14, 2012:

Great list! I love the Stephen Lawhead and Bernard Cornwell series. Also enjoyed Helen Hollick's trilogy, not shown here.

melissiaoliver on April 05, 2012:

Who can forget the 'original' Arthur story that started it all off, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur? A bit heavy going due to the old language, but well worth it.

7thStone on March 20, 2012:

Great Lens! I had an Arthurian Mythology class while attending school in London and it was such fun to visit Tintagel and Glastonbury as part of the course, in fact years later after I met and married my husband I dragged him to Glastonbury (quite a drag considering we were living in the US in Pennsylvania :)

JimDickens on March 13, 2012:

My favorite was The Once and Future King. That was a fascinating tale. I also like the Merlin show on the Scifi channel.

Renee Jaco Whitfield from Bogalusa, Louisiana , United States of America on March 12, 2012:

I've always been fascinated with all tales movie & books alike on King Arthur and the Knights Of the Roundtable = ] thanks for sharing this!

ezmedia on March 12, 2012:

Very interesting. Great list of books related to Arthur.

It is amazing how such a topic can hold such widespread interest . . . and yet we will never know for sure.

Be seeing you.

Tjoedhilde on March 05, 2012:

Really great collection on King Arthur. This particular legend is one of my very favourite one. I saw some books here I haven't read so I might have to check them out! :)

GOT LM on February 26, 2012:

Nice work

zillermil on February 23, 2012:

I used to love King Arthur stories. Reading Mists of Avalon when younger was definitely eye-opening.

TenPoundTenor on February 21, 2012:

Great lens. I just finished Stephen Lawhead's Robin Hood series, I'll have to try these now.

Malu Couttolenc on February 08, 2012:

Great list of books about King Arthur. I enjoy reading all about him :)

Malu Couttolenc on February 08, 2012:

Great list of books about King Arthur. I enjoy reading all about him :)

vkumar05 on February 07, 2012:

Some great collection. Thanks for sharing. Great lens.

KarenCookieJar on February 05, 2012:

I enjoyed The Mists of Avalon.

KarenCookieJar on February 05, 2012:

I enjoyed The Mists of Avalon.

anonymous on February 05, 2012:

The Silurian at Lulu did the author end up finding a publisher, I don't know what planet I'm on but I only recently found out about self publishing

awakeningwellness on January 03, 2012:

My fascination with Arthur and Merlin started when I read the Mary Stewart trilogy as a teenager and it is still going strong. :)

Terrie_Schultz on January 02, 2012:

I am fascinated by Arthurian legend. This is a great list.

writergrey on December 29, 2011:

I was interested by your review of the Silurian. And glad to see favorites like The Once and Future King and Mary Stewart's series.

Paul Turner from Birmingham, Al. on December 17, 2011:

Outstanding resource!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2011:

Came back to bless this lens. My husband reads all of King Arthur he could get. I enjoyed Winter King.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 08, 2011:

Came back to bless this lens. My husband reads all of King Arthur he could get. I enjoyed Winter King.

anonymous on December 03, 2011:

Thank you for compiling a list of novels on the legend of King Arthur. My December will be taken up with lots of reading from your list. Again, much appreciation from me, truly.

hughgrissettsr lm on November 24, 2011:

loved your lens! i read and enjoyed mary stewart's arthur-related books.

WriterJanis2 on November 15, 2011:

I recently watched a show on TV where they showed the church that Merlin was baptised in as an adult. I think in time enough evidence will be found to show he was real.

Mona from Iowa on November 13, 2011:

I loved the Mists Of Avalon as well as its sequel. So many good King Arthur books yet to read. This is a wonderful resource.

Iudit Gherghiteanu from Ozun on November 07, 2011:

thank you for such a list about King Arthur, i started too with Sir Thomas Malory's King Arthur, which is having such a humorous side, and great historical info too, so it was difficult to get interested after that in other King Arthur story.

Silencespeaks on November 05, 2011:

I love to read about king Arthur. You provided great collection.

spartakct on November 01, 2011:

Wonderful collection, nice lens!

pinkrenegade lm on October 27, 2011:

Loved the Merlin trilogy! I love knowing more about King Arthur! I follow every story about Camelot, Merlin, Uther, the famous sword es caliber, basically anything and everything that tells about this once great man.

WayneDave LM on October 20, 2011:

This is a great list, and I have read a few. I may well get round to reading some more of them. I loved King Arthur from watching Disney's Sword in the Stone as a child. Thanks for the lens, it's great.

franstan lm on September 26, 2011:

This is an awesome book list. I have added some of the titles to my Christmas wish list.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 23, 2011:

Our family is a big fan. My husband just bought The Winter King in Kindle only to realize he has already read it but I haven't so I'll read this once I finish Korea. Thanks for the list.

AlleyCatLane on September 21, 2011:

I have read a couple, but found a number of others I'd like to read. Thanks for the list.

anonymous on August 18, 2011:

I think, I need to catch up with reading these books, they sound great. Though I am an avid reader, I have still a lot to read.

MagpieNest on August 11, 2011:

I was expecting to see Bernard Cornwell here, I enjoyed his Arthur books (I see he's over in the sidebar.) My kids are already steeped in Arthurian legend at 3 and 4. We go and see the round table (it's not the real one, but it is old) regularly.

Paul from Liverpool, England on August 11, 2011:

I always think of The Once And Future King as two great books crammed into one cover.

Excellent lens, Angel Blessed

Paul from Liverpool, England on August 11, 2011:

I always think of The Once And Future King as two great books crammed into one cover.

Excellent lens, Angel Blessed

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on August 10, 2011:

First, I love the Arthurian legend and have read almost all the books here! My fave of all time is Mary Stewart. When I was giving away my books, hers could not go.Awesome lens and blessed.

cdevries on August 09, 2011:

I love several of your choices: Mary Stewart's novels and The Once and Future King! Have you read Steinbeck's The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights? Great lens.

phoenix arizona f on June 27, 2011:

All of these books look fantastic!

CarynJSwift56889 on June 12, 2011:

Arthur king is a great man, many years ago, my teacher also told me some stories of him~

Spook LM on May 28, 2011:

I must admit I haven't read any King Arthur books since when I was a child. Beautifully presented lens.