My Greek Books: Top picks
Each year, I read about 50 books, most by authors of Greek descent or those I refer to as PhilHellenes—they write about Greeks, Greece, or set their books in Greece. Their love for our homeland really shines through.
I typically don’t like to play favorites or say anything was “the best” of the year, because I know what it takes to write a book. I have great respect for those who take the time, effort, and energy to open their souls and let them bleed on the page.
I’ve truly enjoyed all the books featured on My Greek Books and always recommend them. I’d love to list all of them here. Nonetheless, I’ve compiled a list of some that have really stayed with me, in no particular order, with my reviews. Click on the month name under the titles to read more about the authors and the books.
The Village House by Soulla Christodoulou
Soulla Christodoulou’s love for Cyprus shines through in all her work. I’ve not been to Cyprus, but reading her words made me move it higher on my list of places to travel. Soulla’s characters are real and relatable, and their stories draw you in. A quick and delightful read, The Village House will tug at your heartstrings and make you re-evaluate the meaning of home and happiness.
The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine
I had high expectations for The Stranger in the Mirror, and I was not disappointed. The story hooked me early and I couldn’t put it down. I’d stay up way too late to read and then couldn’t get to sleep thinking about it. Just when I thought Addison was reunited with her family and that would be the end of the story, it hit me like a sucker punch. Hold on to your hats, because Liv Constantine delivers the goods, with a story chock full of suspense and plenty of twists and turns to keep you glued to the page.
A Recipe for Daphne by Nektaria Anastasiadou
Istanbul is on my list of places to visit, and this book transported me there. Nektaria Anastasiadou skillfully traversed the cultural divide to bring us an enchanting tale of the storied city where the past still haunts its residents. She pays tribute to the small-but-mighty and proud Greek community of Istanbul, and highlights how people try to quiet the ghosts of the past to live together in peace, at this crossroads of East and West. I’m looking forward to her new book.
Taxi to America: A Greek Orphan’s Adoption Journey by Stella Nahatis
In her debut work, Stella Nahatis shares the story of a childhood interrupted and the separation of sisters. It’s the story of how fate tore two young girls from the only life they knew and sent them to the unknown. Stella shares her struggles as a young girl who not only had to assimilate into a new family, but also into a new country. This story will pierce your heart and stay with you. Yet, it’s a story of resilience, perseverance, and the power of family bonds.
Unpacking for Greece: Travel in a Land of Fortresses, Fables, Ferries, and Feta by Sally Jane Smith
I’m so happy Sally embarked on this trip, not just for herself, but for the amazing experiences she shared with us. Her eloquent and beautiful descriptions are so vivid, you’ll travel right alongside her. You’ll see and feel every moment of her journey, as she grows and changes and comes to terms with much in her life. Her solo trip—and her story—is not just a travel memoir. It’s a story of re-learning to trust oneself, opening to possibilities, making peace with the past, and cruising with confidence through middle age. Bravo!
The Purchased Bride by Peter Constantine
I could not put this book down. Often I seek out works about this tumultuous period in history in effort to learn more, and this one did not disappoint. I loved learning more about the time period. This is a story of war and the ultimate sacrifice. We see in this story just how far people will go in desperate times. But more than that, since we know this is based on a true story, there is a happy ending. Maria prevailed, had a family—and a successful grandson who could share her story. History is rough, but stories like this are not only about survival, but also the importance of sharing the past, no matter how difficult, so we don’t repeat it.
My Xanthi by Stephanie Cotsirilos
My Xanthi is a powerful story about life, family, justice, and war—and the decisions we make that sometimes challenge our principles. This novella packs a punch. Stephanie Cotsirilos adeptly crafted an intriguing story that will draw you in from the first moment and keep you on the edge of your seat. The ending knocked me off my feet. This story will stay with me. Add it to your list.
Kipris by Michelle Christophorou
Michelle Christophorou packs so much emotion and depth into these 64 pages. She has a rare gift of economy of words—in so few, she tells so much. Through her stunning prose, you’ll feel all the feels right alongside her characters. These vignettes could easily stand alone but woven together create a powerful narrative. Drawing on history, myth, and magic, Kipris is an unforgettable story of tragedy, love, political upheaval, family, and the ties that bind. It’s a quick read, and you won’t be able to put it down. In fact, you’ll likely read it again. And then again. I’m looking forward to reading more from this gifted author.
Gold in the Streets by Mary Vardoulakis
From the very first page, I couldn’t put this book down. Mary Vardoulakis paints a vivid portrait of immigrant life, from discrimination, low wages, language barriers, and cultural challenges. While reading, I couldn’t help but think about my father’s early days in the US; surely this is like what he experienced. I hadn’t previously thought about the pressure to assimilate in this way—from George being prompted to shave off his beard so he’d didn’t look like a villager, but then his uncle chastised him for it because he was losing his “Cretan-ness”—to a woman choosing to no longer wearing a headscarf, balancing the pull of the why or why not. All these things affected their job prospects and their psyches.
Mary Vardoulakis was such a gifted writer. I don’t know if she published anything else. I researched, but came up short, though I’ll keep an eye out. Gold in the Streets is a fantastic depiction of the early Greek immigrant experience, with its hardships, its great possibilities—and nostos. This is a must read.
Finding this book will not be easy, as it was published in 1945. Check secondhand bookstores, libraries, and online. It’s worth it.
YaYa’s Big Black Purse: Drama of a Greek Mama by Tassie Kalas
The book is a work of fiction, but I had to ask Tassie again if it was really a memoir, because I saw my life on those pages. Growing up Greek-American, and now as a mom of teenagers, I could relate to so much in this book. Tassie Kalas’ heartfelt reflections on growing up Greek, to becoming a young mom, then a mom with grown children are heartfelt. These poignant stories will take you back through your own life. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry—and you’ll clamor for more.
Wrapping up My Greek Books for 2023
If I’m honest, every book I reviewed this past year is a favorite. I’m so looking forward to 2024, where my list of reads for My Greek Books is steadily growing. What will I read next? Stay tuned to find out.
What were some of your favorite reads this year? Share them in the comments.
Looking forward to more amazing My Greek Books in 2024. Happy New Year!