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Posted on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 : 6 a.m.

This Week's Recommended Read: 'The Odyssey' by Homer

By Melissa LR Handa


Haven't read Homer's epic work of poetry since your school days? It may be worth another look.

Preview… If you’re looking for a crash course in ancient Greek mythology, there is perhaps no better choice of reading material than the exciting epic poem “The Odyssey.” The details of Odysseus’ heroic journey home from the Trojan War were kept alive through oral tradition for hundreds of years before Homer ever set pen to parchment—which means every detail works together to weave a fascinating and rhythmic tale.

Athena, goddess of wisdom, is on Odysseus’ side. Unfortunately, Poseidon, god of the sea, wants for his destruction. Every time Athena helps him gain some ground, Poseidon finds a way to introduce new difficulties to our hero. Odysseus faces angry gods, lustful goddesses and princesses, tempting sirens, the deadly Scylla and the Charybdis, the haunted underworld, the cursed cattle of the sun, a hungry Cyclops and oh-so much more.

When he finally returns home, more than 10 years after the war’s end, he finds that a group of hostile suitors have taken over his palace in Ithaca. They are all vying for his wife Penelope’s hand; ultimately whoever she chooses will be made the new ruler. The suitors also have secret designs to murder Odysseus’ son, Telemachus, thus removing their last remaining obstacle.

Penelope, the faithful wife, has through a variety of tricks and stalls been able to put off choosing a groom thus far. Will Odysseus make it home in time to save his family and the kingdom? Even if you already know how the tale ends, it’s so exciting getting there that you won’t want to pass up the opportunity to give “The Odyssey” another look or to read it for the very first time.

You may like this book if… you like Greek mythology; you enjoy epic adventure tales, you like stories written in verse; the thought of gods meddling in the lives of mortals appeals to you; you’re intrigued by fantastic elements; you’re looking for something different than much of contemporary literature; you like reading books for free online. You may not like this book if…you don’t like stories that couldn’t really happen; poetry annoys or confuses you; it bothers you that the male gods can take on lovers whenever they want but when Calypso wants the very same thing she isn’t allowed to have it; you don’t like how Penelope remains faithful for so many years but Odysseus engages in a string of love affairs. Melissa LR Handa is the founder and organizer for the Ann Arbor Classics Book Group and the Lead Books Contributor for Her goal is to make classic literature more accessible to the everyday reader.