I never had to read this book in high school or college, though I probably should have. Apparently it is used more than Thomas Bulfinch’s, which is one I picked up on my own. I can understand why they would lean toward Hamilton over Bulfinch, due to the language and the scope and the time period they were written in. How interesting they were both American, though. You would think such a topic would be infiltrated by the Brits (I can only think of Roger Lancelyn Green…).
This was one of the most informative books I’ve read on mythology. Using the most prominent versions of the myths, Hamilton gives not only facts about the ancient tales but context. I don’t feel like Bulfinch gave much context. I feel like he was writing for a more classically-minded audience anyway. I had to look stuff up when reading his because he assumed much. Hamilton chooses the simplest explanations and the most graceful narratives to explain the stories. Half the time, I don’t think Bulfinch captured the whole picture of myth — only what he found interesting.
Other observations about this book include: Hamilton focuses a lot on the heroes, which I find a tad boring at times. But not because of her writing, just the subject matter. I also found it odd that she even bothered to tack on the Norse myths at the end of this. They take up only about 10% of the actual book — at the very end. Why’d she even bother, really? Her excuse is that they make up part of the Western culture too. But she does not seem to know these myths as well or, at least, have as much to say about them. But she does seem to cover the most relevant points and at least an effort is made to include them.