The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters

  • by Adam Nicolson
  • Narrated by Dugald Bruce Lockhart
  • 9 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction
"A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer.... There's something that hits the mark on every page." (Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman)
From where does Homer come? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant?
The Mighty Dead is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by some of the oldest stories we have - the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble.
In this provocative and enthralling book, Adam Nicolson explains why Homer still matters and how these vital, epic verses - with their focus on the eternal questions about the individual versus the community, honour and service, love and war - tell us how we became who we are.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Long listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize, The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters is the essential audiobook guide to Homer, written by award-winning author Adam Nicolson and narrated by Dugald Bruce Lockhart. Irrespective of time, poets have always attempted to catch the best and worse elements of humanity in their writing, perhaps none more so than the ancient Greek poet Homer who's most notable works include Iliad and Odyssey. In this book, listeners learn of the profound significance Homer's epic war poems have been to our understanding of humanity through the ages. Available now from Audible.

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What the Critics Say

"A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer.... There's something that hits the mark on every page." (Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman)
"Bursting with enthusiasm, erudition and eccentricity: a travelogue, a memoir, a work of literary criticism and, at bottom, an archaeology of the western imagination. Completely thrilling." (Susan Hill, Books of the Year, Spectator)
"Only the hardiest immune systems will be able to resist his unselfconscious adoration of the poet. Anyone who feels they never 'got' Homer should read this book." (Books of the Year, Sunday Times)
"Astounding. Scholarly, but so up-close and personal that you feel it in the guts...it transcends genre...you come away exhilarated." (Sofka Zinovieff, Books of the Year, Spectator)
"A brilliant, passionate, world-wandering love letter to Homer...far more inspirational than any dry academic exegesis. If the only real test of any book about Homer is that it should make you want to go back to Homer, then The Mighty Dead passes in a blaze of glory." (Sunday Times)
"A hosanna to Homeric wandering and wanderlust...breathes new life into an ancient adventure." (Observer)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Often thought provoking, occasionally cringeworthy

What did you like best about The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters? What did you like least?

It's an important literary subject and the writer does a decent job in parts of opening up the text. The writer does a good job of conveying the world in which he believes the Iliad and Odyssey were written.


Would you recommend The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters to your friends? Why or why not?

If someone has a deep interest in Homer and Ancient Greece then yes I would recommend it. However the reader must understand that this book for large parts in discomfortingly pretentious. The writer seems obsessed with linking himself to the Homeric Heroes through his actions and this at times makes the writer look a little foolish. If you can get past these eye rolling sections the book is a very good read.


What about Dugald Bruce Lockhart’s performance did you like?

The spoken performance is fine, it fits very well with the tone of the book.


Could you see The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

Of course not, unless it was on BBC4.


Any additional comments?

It's a bit of a shame that most of the analysis of the Odyssey is squashed into the last real chapter of the book.

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- Richard Bowden

Fascinating book, woeful narration

Adam Nicolson is, by his own admission, a latecomer to appreciating Homer and in this book he writes with characteristic thoughtfulness and insight about how his awakening to the Iliad and the Odyssey have contributed to his understanding of himself and of the meaning of human life. It is a persuasive and at times provocative case, stripped of sentimentalism and illuminated with moments of harrowing autobiography. His language is as visceral and vibrant as the poems themselves. As an audiobook, however, it is let down by the narration which I found rather hurried and breathless. Worst of all was Dugald Bruce Lockhart's pronunciation and misplaced stresses of proper nouns, not only of the classical characters and places, but more generally. To pronounce Titian 'tight-ee-an' for example is just nonsense and the less said about his attempt at Srebrenica the better! The 9hrs were littered with such stumblings, enough to become an annoying distraction from what is a work of compelling erudition.
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- Steven

Book Details

  • Release Date: 26-02-2015
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Limited